The Intersection of Korean and Cajun Cuisine at Kjun

The different evening, a gaggle of buddies, sitting round a West Village dining-room desk for the primary time in a protracted whereas, collectively gasped. A cardboard takeout field, its flaps rigorously folded to permit for air flow, had been opened to disclose a beneficiant pile of arrestingly lovely potato chips: nearly weightless, but crunchy; as shiny, clear, and subtly bubbled as stained glass; slicked with brown butter and honey and dusted in Cajun spices. Fried to order by the chef Jae Jung, they are a spotlight, amongst many, of the menu for Kjun, a pickup-and-delivery-only Korean-Cajun restaurant she’s been operating since April, first from a dormant catering kitchen on the Upper East Side and now from the basement of a espresso store within the East Village.

For now, Kjun is takeout and supply solely, partly in order that Jung can hold operations small and have a hand in each order.

Potato chips—the honey-butter selection has been a craze in Korea since 2014, and the Cajun-inspired flavors produced by Zapp’s, in Louisiana, because the nineteen-eighties, are some of the very best snacks on the U.S. market—had been only one of the intersections that jumped out at Jung as she thought-about two of the meals cultures closest to her coronary heart. Born and raised in Seoul, she inherited her ardour for cooking from her mom, who for a few years owned a kimchi restaurant, operating by way of three thousand heads of cabbage a yr. Though her mother and father urged her to keep away from the enterprise, the decision proved too sturdy: in her late twenties—“my last chance to go big,” she advised me lately—she flew to New York to enroll, sight unseen, within the Culinary Institute of America.

Her shrimp-and-oyster po’boy is layered with tomato kimchi and sauce rémoulade, and completed with cilantro and sliced radish.

“One of my friends in Korea said, ‘If you go to America, you gotta go to New Orleans,’ ” Jung recalled. Jazz Fest instantly endeared the town to her; New York, to a local of Seoul, was acquainted territory—New Orleans was like one other planet. When it got here time at the C.I.A. to do an externship, she returned to New Orleans, spending a number of months, in 2009, within the kitchen at August, a contemporary-Creole restaurant, having fun with the afterglow of the Saints’ Super Bowl win, experiencing Mardi Gras, and studying to understand brass-band music. For 4 and a half years after commencement, she cycled by way of some of the town’s most well-known institutions, together with Dooky Chase’s, whose beloved proprietor, Leah Chase (who died in 2019), Jung thought-about a buddy and a mentor—“my Creole grandmother,” Jung stated.

Many of the menu’s gadgets are bracingly spicy, however loads of others present cool reduction.

All the numerous strategies Jung discovered for making gumbo contributed to Kjun’s, which begins with a darkish roux and consists of pasture-raised hen and andouille sausage. The conventional accompaniment of rice reminded her of soup in Korea, which can also be usually served with rice, plus kimchi; selecting up her mom’s mantle, Jung makes a number of varieties of it utilizing greens widespread within the American South, the place, of course, pickles additionally reign. The gumbo comes with a facet of okra, brined in salt and vinegar for at least two months; tomato kimchi serves as condiment, layered atop a creamy rémoulade, in a wonderful po’boy that includes cornmeal-fried shrimp and oysters on a crusty French-style loaf that Jung will get from a Vietnamese bakery. Almost every little thing is spicy, however there are pockets of reduction: a cool watermelon salad, with each recent cubes and pickled rind, in a yuzu-honey French dressing; silky white grits with mascarpone and provolone.

Pork ribs are seasoned with a Cajun spice combination and glazed in a Korean-style barbecue sauce.

For months earlier than she launched Kjun—the achievement of a longtime dream that she started to plan for in earnest after she left her job as Café Boulud’s sous-chef, at the tip of 2019—Jung made fried hen each single day, in an effort to excellent her recipe. “At some point, I really couldn’t swallow it,” she stated. “I would take a bite and spit it out.” Her tenacity paid off: the ultimate, phenomenal product is marinated in buttermilk and gochujang earlier than it’s coated in a Cajun-spiced Korean pancake batter containing rice flour, cornstarch, and potato starch, which helps make it additional crispy, as does frying it twice. Like the chips, the hen is available in a field whose flaps have been folded to keep off any trace of sogginess, packed by Jung herself. “I touch everything,” she stated. I’d eat something she touched. (Dishes $9-$45.) ♦


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