• Seung Hee Lee's Pantry •
Korean-born Seung Hee Lee had us at “Natural wine is a natural fit for Korean food.” After some light Instagram stalking, we were completely hooked—on her approachable cookbook Everyday Korean, her mouthwatering IG feed, and her IRL pop-up dinners. Whether it’s on the ‘gram or in her book, Seung reimagines the flavors of Korea through revamped Korean-American fusion dishes like Bulgogi Hot Pockets and “Slutty” Tofu—all of which she pairs with natty wine. (And this is all when she’s not working full-time at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta!) After dedicating years to recreating the Seoul food she grew up with, Seung has finally figured out what works in the home kitchen; below she shares her favorite rice (she buys 15 lbs. at a time), her one-and-only garlic press (“There are many like it, but THIS is the one.”) and her go-to woman-owned and -operated Korean food importer. Read on to see how Seung reimagined her Korean kitchen when she moved to the States, from punchy family-farmed Korean chili flakes to sweet & funky matriarch-made strawberry gochujang.
Shop Seung’s Pantry:
“As a Korean-born cook, about 80% of my foods incorporate flavors of Korea. I love using gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes) to spice up my pasta, ganjang (soy sauce) to season braising liquid, for example. My kitchen is as minimalist as it can be. I recently finalized a divorce and had to move away from my dream kitchen, but I am happier than I ever was with my kitchen. For me, it’s all about the essentials: one chef’s knife, one cast iron pan, one saucepan, two dutch ovens… you get the idea.
I travel to find inspiration. One of obsessions is France: I visited 6 times in 2017-2018. I am fascinated by the modern interpretation of bistro dishes by young international chefs, combining unusual ingredients together, with minimal intervention, relying on fresh seasonal ingredients with incredible technique. Since then, my go-to dish is a crudo of seafood with bitter greens like radicchio, topped with perilla seeds (to show my Korean roots), perilla oil, and gochujang vinaigrette.
Markets & shopping
I love shopping at the Buford Highway Farmers Market - this place has everything from Korean cucumbers to Georgian (country not state) chili paste. I also supplement Korean ingredients at the H-Mart, as they tend to carry more diverse Korean products.
I have a recipe folder of traditional royal recipes from the Taste of Korea institute (where I trained on weekends for 4 years during college and grad school in Seoul). I often flip through these folders to get re-inspired around Korean cuisine.
A Mouthful of Stars: Kim Sunée’s (my co-author) first cookbook featuring global recipes)
Wine Food: I love wine and reading about foods that pair nicely with certain wine always intrigues me)
Turnip Greens & Tortillas: I live in the South after all!
To Sum it Up
Pantry item she can't live without: Red boat fish sauce
Her go-to inspiration cookbook: The recipe book from the Taste of Korea
Her most trusted kitchen tool: sharpened Chef’s knife
Adjectives that describe her pantry style: Simple, spicy, and essential
Her all-time favorite market: Buford highway farmers market
Women she pines for: Jennifer J Yoo, the owner of Gotham Grove
Women made food products she pines for: I love all the high quality Korean pantry products that are led by matriarchs (Kisoondo, Artisan Fermentary, Hanega) and family owned. I am so happy that @gothamgrove (woman owned and operated) imports to the US. It really helped me achieve my standards in recreating Korean flavors outside Korea.
Her favorite music to jam out to in the kitchen: Cardi B
Her favorite wines & producers: Gut Oggau in Oggau, Austria made by Eduard and Stephanie Tscheppe, Minimus pinot gris from Oregon, Cidrerie du Vulcain (cider made in Switzerland by Jacques Perritaz), Chateau de Béru where my friend Athénaïs makes Chablis with so much care and love , Matassa skin contact wines in the South of France, Rennersistas (two sisters making wine in Burgenland in eastern Austria).