The host of "Kimchi Chronicles" and the author of "The Kimchi Chronicles" companion cookbook, Marja Vongerichten is eager to share her passion for Korean cuisine and its approachability, health benefits and the familial spirit of the Korean table.
The Kimchi Chronicles Begin
The premiere episode introduces the basics of Korean cooking, beginning with, of course, kimchi. Jean-Georges and Marja are joined in the kitchen by their real-life neighbors, actors Hugh and Deb Jackman. Together, they prepare two iconic Korean dishes - bibimbap, beef bulgogi and barbeque that can rival Texas. Then, preview the remaining 12 episodes.
The Rice Chronicles
Rice, the bread and butter of the Korean table, is explored from Busan, Korea's second largest city, all the way to Seoul. Along the way, Marja and her dear friend, the actress Heather Graham, learn about instant rice, tteok (a pasta-like ingredient made of ground rice) and visit Bibigo, a new chain of contemporary restaurants serving fresh variations of bibimbap. Back in New York, Marja and Jean-Georges create their own version of bibimbap, along with sushi-like kimbap, kimchi fried rice and Jean-Georges' famous ginger fried rice.
The Jeju Chronicles
Jean-Georges teams up with the "Julia Child" of Jeju Island, the Hawaii of Korea and a veritable paradise. They shop for ingredients at the sprawling 5-Day Market and return to an authentic folk village where they cook over open fires. Later, Jean-Georges and Marja spend an afternoon in the green rolling hills of the Amore Pacific Tea Gardens with their daughter Chloe. Back at home, the Vongerichten family whips up a spicy kimchi jjigae soup and a hearty, healthy seaweed soup topped with crisp slices of pork belly.
The Seafood Chronicles
Diving into one of the most amazing Korean traditions, Jean-Georges visits with the Haenyos of Jeju Island, who free-dive for seafood off the rocky coast. Jean-Georges feasts on fresh sea urchin, a dream breakfast for a world-renowned chef. Then, he enjoys a fortifying seafood stew at Baekrok Haegwon restaurant, a Korean-style bouillabaisse filled with clams and crab. Marja explores gyejang, another famous crab preparation. She samples two different versions, first at Gwangjang Market in Seoul and then at Pro-Gan-Jang-Ge-Jang in the company of her friend, Diana. Marja takes the experience home and prepares homemade gyejang and together, Marja and Jean-Georges make Jeju Island-inspired dishes, including steamed mussels with seaweed and sea urchin, and a Korean seafood stew. Lastly, Jean-Georges prepares his iconic crab fritters - with a Korean spin.
The Bean Chronicles
The variety of bean-based dishes in Korean cuisine testifies to Korea's ingenuity and resourcefulness. In this episode, Marja travels to Chodang to see artisanal tofu made the old-fashioned way - with fresh soybeans and ocean water - and then enjoys a four-course tofu meal bound to convert any tofu nay-sayer into a fan. Marja then learns about what goes into one of her favorite Korean foods, bindaddeok, a pancake made of freshly ground mung beans. The tangpyungchae served in Seoul's Yongsusan restaurant inspires Jean-Georges to make a version at home in New York. He also recreates a tofu-stuffed citrus dish inspired by Seoul's Doorei restaurant. Marja contributes her bindaddeok recipe and makes a simple, flavorful spicy tofu stew.
The Beef Chronicles
This episode traces the history of beef by tapping into Korea's religious, political and economic evolutions. Marja and her friends, food experts Diana and Jennifer, enjoy bulgogi in Seoul. Then, Marja samples bulgogi again in Andong, the spiritual capital of Korea, at a restaurant that produces thousands of ceramic jars of deonjang, a soybean paste that flavors much of Korean cooking. Marja and her dear friend, the actress Heather Graham eat beef for breakfast. At home in New York, Jean-Georges tops an Australian steak with kimchi butter for his neighbor Hugh Jackman and also grills galbi (sliced short ribs). The episode ends with Marja and Jean-Georges eating bibimbap with bulgogi on-board a Korean Air plane.
The Fish Chronicles
A peninsula surrounded on three sides by water, Korea is a haven for fish lovers. Marja visits Sokcho, where most of her Korean family resides, to see the gigantic octopus come ashore in Daepo Port. Later, she enjoys a memorable meal of simply grilled shellfish in a seaside restaurant. In Busan, the world's fifth-largest port city, Marja and her dear friend, the actress Heather Graham, sit down for a meal in the fish market, an experience only rivaled by Jean-Georges' three-course seafood breakfast inside of Noryangjin, Seoul's bustling fish market. In their home kitchen in New York, Marja and Jean-Georges grill shellfish with chili and butter, fry crispy, beer-battered fish and onion rings, and grill whole sea bass flavored with Korean soybean paste and rice ale.
The Seoul Food Chronicles
This fast-paced episode features the best of South Korea's innovative capital city - from royal court cuisine to late-night drinks and snacks consumed exclusively in pop-up tents. Marja and Jean-Georges also share their favorite historic temples and palaces, enjoy the striking fashion and even take a spin in an amusement park. Seoul, located just 30 miles from the 38th Parallel that separates North and South Korea, is also home to Doorei, the Vongerichten's favorite restaurant in Korea. Their visit inspires the couple to make pajeon pancakes and fork-tender braised short ribs.
The Chicken Chronicles
Beginning in Andong, the spiritual capital of Korea, Marja participates in the area's festive masked dance ritual and learns about the local salted mackerel before getting into jjimtak, Andong's real specialty. Along Chicken Alley, Marja and her adopted cousin April sample tons of the spicy stir-fry made with chicken, noodles and vegetables. Next Marja hits up Chuncheon for dakgalbi, their famous chicken dish flavored with gochujang, the red pepper paste that informs nearly every Korean dish. Samgyetang, a fortifying broth featuring an entire chicken stuffed with sticky rice and lots of garlic and ginger, proves a real chicken soup for the Seoul. Finally, Marja feasts on fried chicken, her favorite food of all time. At home in New York, Jean-Georges woos Marja with his version of sweet and sticky fried wings and barbequed chicken, and Marja shows him her roots with her version of samgyetang.
The Noodle and Dumpling Chronicles
Like an Italian with a bowl of spaghetti or tortellini, nothing satisfies a Korean more than eating a bowl of noodles or dumplings. In Korea, slurping is not only permitted, it is considered a compliment to the cook. This episode features a restaurant in Seoul known for its nenngymyun, an unusual dish of elastic buckwheat noodles served with ice-cold beef broth. Marja also visits a spot known for the best kalgooksu, or hand-cut noodles, and another beloved restaurant famous for its hefty portions of mandoo (dumplings) . At home in New York, Marja prepares jajangmyeon her favorite comfort food of chewy noodles with savory black bean sauce. Both Marja and Jean-Georges interpret refreshingly cold noodle soups and Jean-Georges puts his spin on chapchae, the popular Korean noodle and vegetable stir-fry. Let the slurping begin.
The Pork Chronicles
As opposed to the lean-is-better preference in the United States, Koreans love their pork full of fat - and flavor. In this episode, Marja, her dear friend, the actress Heather Graham, and an expert food blogger named Daniel eat classic pork barbeque at Heukdonga restaurant in Seoul. They also stop by Songgane Gamjatang, where Seoul's taxi drivers convene for pork bone soup and the grand pork dish known as bo ssam. At home in New York, Marja makes her own version of the cabbies' favorites and Jean-Georges prepares a delicious, fast stir-fry of sliced pork and colorful vegetables, and improvises a simple, tasty barbeque sauce to coat ribs, chops and even pork feet. Marja and Heather conclude the episode with a visit to a Buddhist temple.
The Street Food Chronicles
Much like the entire continent of Asia, street food is hugely popular in Korea and many of the most beloved dishes in the country come from street carts and stands. In this episode, Marja and Jean-Georges eat street food all over the peninsula, including silkworm larvae, hoddeok, sweet pancakes filled with peanuts and sugar, and Dragon's Beard, a candy made of stretched honey and nuts. At home, Marja makes her version of bindaddeok, her signature take on this simple pancake made of freshly ground mung beans shallow-fried until browned and crisp. Jean-Georges puts his spin on street food, incorporating Korean flavors into hot dogs with kimchi relish and lobster rolls, much to the delight of his neighbor, actor Hugh Jackman. He also prepares a chicken sandwich and a few cocktails, including a Korean bloody Mary made with kimchi. Covering Korean nightlife too, this episode also features Marja's recipe for buddae jjigae, a soup that doubles as the Vongerichten hangover cure.
The Kimchi Chronicles Conclude
The final episode in the series begins in the ethereal countryside where Marja spends a day with the "Alice Waters of Korea" and learns the authentic way to make kimchi and holiday dishes to celebrate the new year. Marja and Jean-Georges also taste royal court cuisine and Marja visits Sanchon Restaurant in Seoul for a transformative meal of temple cuisine. Marja joins her Korean family in the northern beach town of Sokcho for a picnic and then brings the spirit home to New York for a roast pig celebration with the Vongerichten family. Marja also prepares easy birthday seaweed soup and Jean-Georges uses Korean flavors in baeckeoffe, the classic Alsatian dish he loved as a child.