We kick off a new series exploring the diverse culinary traditions of communities in our region. First up: a trip to Northern Virginia’s Korea Town. We learn about the foundations of Korean cuisine, its link to Korean-American culture, and get some expert tips for the best local restaurants.


  • Hisoo Shin Hepinstall Author, "Growing up in a Korean Kitchen: A Cookbook"
  • Terry Hong Media Arts Consultant, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program
  • Todd Kliman Food and Wine Editor, "Washingtonian" magazine

For a list of restaurants discussed on the show, click here for our interactive map

View Local Restaurant Worldtour in a larger map

Sample Recipes###

Chogaenun Kimchi Bokkum (Seared Scallops with Kimchi)

Recipe by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall

I made this recipe with two most unlikely ingredients: spicy kimchi and delicate and succulent scallops. With additional ingredients, pears and summer squash, it makes a perfect marriage in look, texture and flavor.

Serves 4


1 pound bay scallops, about 1 inch in diameter
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon sweet rice powder or corn starch
1 cup clear chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, skinned and sliced into slivers
1 Korean pear, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 tablespoons dry white vermouth
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 large sweet green onion, cut into 1/2 inch rings
1/3 cups well matured whole cabbage kimchi, white stem part only, cut into 1/2 inch dices (optional)
1/2 pound summer squash, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, shredded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:

1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1 tablespoon pine nuts, finely chopped


Wash scallops in chilled water and pat dry. Place in a large colander in one layer and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. In a small bowl, dissolve the sweet rice powder in the chicken stock and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add garlic. Saute for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl. Increase the heat to medium high, until very hot. Add scallops and pears in one layer and sear both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Add vermouth and sprinkle the lemon juice. Saute one more minute and transfer to a bowl. Add sesame oil, green onions, and kimchi. Saute for 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl beside the scallops and pears. With a paper towel, clean the skillet and add olive oil. Heat over high heat and add the summer squash and mushrooms in one layer. Cook until golden brown, 1 minute per side. Transfer to the bowl with the others. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the stock. Boil for 1 minute. Return all ingredients back to the skillet, add butter and toss all lightly. Add the black pepper. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the garnish. Serve with rice and green salad.

Fired Chicken (Tak Bulgogi)

Adopted from Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall, “Growing Up In A Korean Kitchen”

In this recipe, tender chicken breasts are marinated and then seared and cooked in a cast iron skillet. The result is crusty and juicy chicken with rich caramelized sauce. It makes a delicious entre and is a breeze to prepare. This timeless Korean classic will please everyone.

Serves 4

4 skinless and boneless chicken breast halves, 6-8 ounces each
For the marinade: (makes about 1 cup):
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup dry white vermouth
3 green onions, white and pale green part, finely minced
8 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
4 walnut halves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1and 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sea salt
4 tablespoons canola or olive oil for cooking
1 tablespoon chopped pine nuts for garnish

Place each chicken breast between two sheets of wax-paper. Flatten with a wooden mallet, until each piece is about one and a half times its original size, keeping the original shape. In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients and mix well. Place the chicken breasts in a large bowl and spoon the marinade over each piece. Wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In a 12-inch or 14-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the chicken, in a batch or all at once, and cook for 3 minutes per side, or to the desired doneness, flattening with a spatula to prevent curling. Turn only once. Repeat if necessary with the remaining chicken. Save the wonderfully caramelized pan juice to spoon over the chicken before serving. On a cutting board, cut each piece diagonally into thin slices. Divide on to individual plates, in a fan out pattern. Drizzle the caramelized pan juice over the chickens. Sprinkle pine crumbs and parsley over for garnish. Serve hot with steamed rice and any fresh green salad.

Red Hot Soft Bean Curd Stew (Sundubu-jigae)

Recipe by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall

This is my version of a popular dish found in all Korean restaurants. It is a comfort food we grew up with.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 cloves garlic, grated
2 strips pork belly slices (samgyeopsal), sliced into 1 inch pieces
2 cups kimchi, diced
4 green onions, white and pale green part, cut into thin rings
3 packages silken or soft bean curd (dubu), about 1 pound each, crumbled
4 medium size shrimp, with shell and deveined
4 cups chicken stock
2 hot green peppers, cut into thin rings
2 hot red peppers, cut into thin rings
3 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean hot red pepper powder) or to taste
4 eggs
1 large sweet green onion, white and pale green part only, cut into thin rings
Pinch of salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, pork, kimchi and green onions. Saute for about 3 minutes. Add bean curd and chicken stock. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Stir in Korean hot red pepper power and add peppers, reserving some for garnish. Again, bring it to a vigorous boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and crack and separately drop in 4 eggs. Cover for a few seconds, until eggs are sunny side up. With a ladle, divide into 4 ceramic bowls. Garnish each with green onions. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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