There are many paths to becoming an oenophile. For Seung Hee Lee, co-author of Everyday Korean, the similarities between wine aromas and those found in traditional Korean food are what stirred an interest. While you might be tempted to reach for beer or soju to round out your Korean meal, Lee says wine often makes the best match.
“If you think about Korean flavors as being as varied as cheese, then it’s easier to pair with wine,” she says. Here, she shares some of her favorite Korean-inflected dishes and accompanying pours.
Kimchi Mac and Cheese
This recipe pairs the classic comfort food with the fermented, garlicky flavors of kimchi. Lee recommends a wine with a little bit of funk. “A superlight red that’s slightly carbonic, slightly funky and easy to drink would be great with this,” she says. “A skin-contact white or orange wine works great, too.”
Gochujang-Cured Pork Belly
Rubbing and roasting pork belly with gochujang (a fermented chili paste) creates a spicy-sweet protein that would be the star of any barbecue spread. “Northern Italian reds with high acidity pair really well with this, or a Champagne,” says Lee.
Adding kimchi to small pancakes creates an appetizer with great flavor. When you pick a wine, opt for bubbles, says Lee. “A pét-nat with bubbles mimics the bubbles that naturally happen in kimchi fermentation,” she says.
Grilled Salmon with Gochujang Mayo
Combine gochujang with mayonnaise and serve it on salmon for a dish with enough richness to pair with a light red wine, says Lee. “I would pair the salmon with a high-altitude Pinot Noir,” she says. The fruitiness will play well with the savory, sweet and slightly spicy flavors of the gochujang.