The Korean Flavors of My Youth Star in These Party-Ready Recipes

Fusion food can be cringey, conjuring up images of ’90s-era trends in which East-meets-West flavors collided on the plate (wasabi mashed potatoes, anyone?). Culinary overlap, on the other hand, is a natural expression of identity for those of us who live across cultures—and it tastes great.

Somyeon noodles with marinara sauce. Meatballs seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce. Always pizza with kimchi on the side. These cross-cultural combinations may sound familiar if you are the child of immigrants, as I am. Growing up in New York City, I had access to a dizzying array of foods, including charred lamb gyros, perfectly spiced Jamaican patties, and succulent pernil.

This exposure, along with the traditional Korean cooking I ate at home, shaped my tastes. My family infused Asian flavors into almost everything we ate, which felt like a concession at times (sometimes you just want a plain old sloppy joe like any other kid, you know?). Today, however, that same impulse is practically a fad: I’ve seen gochujang on chain restaurant menus and bulgogi taco kits at the supermarket. I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to be immersed in so many culinary traditions at the same time. I now do. Mixing cuisines is not a trend or a compromise for many of us; it is a natural part of cooking in our multicultural kitchens.

Consider these recipes a love letter to my younger self, a mash-up of traditional dishes and flavors from my childhood: Miso swirled into chocolate chip cookies marries kalbi jjim with Jewish braised brisket. Not fusion, but not non-fusion either. It’s all comfort food, rooted in nostalgia and comfort—neither here nor there, but seemingly, and now comfortably, everywhere.

Two bowls filled with shrimp scampi udon with doenjang butter sauce and slices of lemon with a glass of ros and a fork...

An Italian American favorite gets an Asian spin with chubby udon noodles and a dab of assertive Korean doenjang in the garlicky soy-butter sauce.

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Scattered furikakeranch snack mix including pieces of chex pretzels goldfish and oyster crackers on a pink surface

Like all good snack mixes, this one is a reliable crowd-pleaser, hitting all of the sweet and salty notes. Plus, it’s wide open to swaps and modifications.

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Platter of brisket and gravy on white tablecloth.

This hearty crowd-pleasing roast is a mash-up of two beloved culinary staples: tender Jewish brisket and sweet-savory Korean braised short ribs known as kalbi jjim.

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Three pieces of a kimchi quesadilla on a plate with lime wedges next to a jar of kimchi and a bowl of kimchisour cream...

Is there ever a bad time for a quesadilla? This one is easy, cheesy, and the ideal use for that jar of kimchi that’s been hanging out in the fridge.

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Closeup of a gochujang sloppy joe on a bun with ridged potato chips and pickles behind it

When it comes to sloppy joes, the sloppier the better. Smoky-sweet Korean gochujang lends a hum of heat to this version.

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Chewy chocolate chip cookie lovers: Here’s another to love. Bolstered by brown butter, macadamia nuts, and miso, it’s got depth, balance, and personality.

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Platter of soy garlic popcorn chicken and rice cakes with a serving on a plate and a smaller plate of discarded toothpicks.

Crispy bite-size chicken and chewy rice cakes are made downright irresistible with a sticky, sweet, garlicky glaze.

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