A Family-Focused Korean-American Thanksgiving

Chef Sohui Kim mixes her Korean flavors with classic American dishes to create the perfect feast. We partnered with Ford to highlight first-generation families and the new traditions they create to bring together their past and present.

Chef Sohui Kim still remembers her first Thanksgiving. She and her family celebrated the holiday soon after they immigrated to the United States when she was 10. "Thanksgiving was this entirely new concept to us," she says. "We were super-excited to be part of this American holiday, and in a way, it was our first opportunity to celebrate this new chapter in our lives."

They ate traditional Korean food, like kimchi and pajeon and bulgogi at Thanksgiving, before they decided to also include the most traditional American one: a turkey. It wasn't, however, perfect. "We overcooked it," she remembers. "We had never really roasted. You see, there're no ovens in Korea." But her family kept at it, adding mashed potatoes and other staples over the years.

Today, Kim, who owns two restaurants—The Good Fork and Insa—in Brooklyn, has a husband and two kids, and Thanksgiving remains a family affair. "Because I am a chef, I place such importance on food," she says. “And as a mother and an immigrant, I think that food has everything to do with creating community and creating a sense of family."

She'll make japchae, a traditional Korean noodle dish that her children love, but also recruit her children to help with the pork and chive dumplings. They'll mix the ingredients together, then sit around a table and fill the dumpling wrappers together while chatting and laughing. The noodles and dumplings are then served along with more traditional fare like fall roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. “Itʼs really a festive, fun holiday time for us,” Kim says. “Food has always been important to my family and it has this incredible power to bring people together. And I hope I pass that feeling on to my children.”

And Kim certainly doesnʼt forget about the turkey. "Sometimes we deepfry it," she says. "Some years we brine the turkey or do a dry salt rub. But you'll always find—fingers crossed—a perfectly cooked turkey on our Thanksgiving table."

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JAPCHAE: SWEET POTATO NOODLES

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

6 oz Dangmyun, dried and can be found in most Asian markets
1 TB sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1-2 TB grapeseed Oil
½ onion, sliced thinly
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 TB ginger, grated
8 oz crimini mushrooms, stem off and sliced thin
1 bunch spinach, arugula, green cabbage or swiss chard leaves, washed
1 small red, yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced into thinly to julienne
1 TB grated garlic, 2-3 cloves of garlic
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB sugar
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp sesame oil
1 TB sesame seeds
3 egg yolks
2 scallions, sliced thin on a bias

HOW TO MAKE IT

Cook the noodles in boiling water til done, about 5-7 minutes (refer to the package as cooking times vary slightly). Drain and rinse in cold water. Toss with sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar. Set aside in a large bowl.

Heat up oil in a saute pan and saute the onions for a few minutes til soft. Season with a pinch of salt and toss in bowl with noodles.

Cook carrots the same way for a minute to a minute and a half. Put in bowl.

Add a bit more oil to pan and cook mushrooms but this time adding the grated ginger. Allow the mushrooms to exclude all liquid and cook til pan is almost dry. Place in bowl.

Cook off greens in same pan with a bit more oil for about 2 minutes. Drain off liquid and place in a separate bowl to catch all the leftover water.

Saute off the bell peppers for a minute or two and place in bowl with noodles.

Squeeze excess water from greens and place in bowl with noodles. Toss the whole batch with more soy sauce, sugar, grated garlic, black pepper, sesame oil and seeds. Add more seasoning if necessary.

Beat 3 egg yolks and pan fry for a thin crepe. Place on cutting board and slice thin julienne strips. Garnish with egg ribbons, sesame seeds and sliced scallions.