Curry & Kimchi

Flavor Secrets for Creating 70 Asian-Inspired Recipes at Home


By Unmi Abkin

By Roger Taylor

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In their western Massachusetts-based restaurant Coco & The Cellar Bar, chefs Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor create well-balanced, boldly flavored signature dishes shaped by Abkin’s Korean and Mexican-American upbringing. In Curry & Kimchi, they open their kitchen secrets up to the home cook, sharing their foundational dressings, salsas, broths, and infused oils and the dishes that feature them, through recipes that are delightfully simple to execute and beautifully complex in flavor. Honey Miso Dressing lends full-bodied taste to Honey Miso Noodle Salad, while Shoyu Ramen Broth (made in an Instant Pot) is the key ingredient in Coco Shoyu Ramen. Other favorites include a Korean-inspired take on Bolognese sauce for Korean Spaghetti and Korean Sloppy Joes, Chow Fun Sauce (for Coriander Shrimp Chow Fun), Scallion Ginger Jam (for Clay Pot Miso Chicken), and Ponzu Sauce (for Miso-Glazed Cod Rice Bowl). Together with vivid restaurant photography that shows elegant plating suggestions, Abkin and Taylor’s recipes give home cooks the building blocks to preparing meals with remarkable clarity of flavor.



to Guy and Jeanine Saperstein, who have helped so many, including us, to follow their dreams.


Our Roots

Part 1: Dressings and Salads

Korean Hot Pepper Dressing

Grilled Shrimp, Asian Pear, and Watercress Salad

Honey Miso Dressing

Honey Miso Noodle Salad

Jalapeño Lime Dressing

Orange, Mango, and Avocado Salad

Orange Ginger Vinaigrette

Chinese Chicken Salad

Togarashi Dressing

Broccoli Salad

Red Wine Vinaigrette

Zesty Jalapeño Cabbage Slaw

Part 2: Sauces and Salsas with Main Dishes

Spicy Szechuan Peanut Sauce

Dan Dan Noodles

Instant Pot Recipes

Manchamanteles Salsa

Pork Carnitas Tacos

Scallion Ginger Jam

Clay Pot Miso Chicken

Shoyu Ramen Broth and Tare

Coco Shoyu Ramen

Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

Hoisin-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

Plum Sauce

East-West Rice Bowl

Korean Hot Pepper Sauce

Grilled Short Rib Tacos


Thai Peanut Sauce

Thai Chicken Rice Bowl

Korean Bolognese

Korean Spaghetti

Korean Sloppy Joes

Chow Fun Sauce

Coriander Shrimp Chow Fun

General Tso's Sauce

General Tso's Tofu

Vegan Coconut Curry

Steamed Kabocha Squash and Tofu Rice Bowl

Cilantro Salsa Verde

Chili Con Carne

Green Thai Curry

Salmon and Green Thai Curry Rice Bowl


Miso-Glazed Cod Rice Bowl

Teriyaki Sauce

Salmon Teriyaki Bento Box

Phad Thai Sauce

Shiitake Mushroom and Tofu Phad Thai


Macaroni and Cheese

Part 3: Condiments, Pickles, and Infused Oils

Spicy Miso Paste

Lime Shallot Crème Fraîche

Thai Cabbage

Kalbi Marinade

Soy-Cured Eggs

Miso Marinade

Seasoned Bean Sprouts

Seasoned Carrots

Pickled White Onions

Quick Kimchi

Xander's Cucumber Pickles

Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms

Pickled Japanese Turnips

Pickled Ginger

Ginger Oil

Chive Oil

Chile Oil

Togarashi Oil

Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar

Szechuan Oil

Everyday Equipment

Everyday Ingredients

Thank You


Metric Conversion Charts

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Our Roots


I really wish I could tell you something about my mother, but she left soon after I was born. I'd like to think she was a good cook. My story started in South Korea, as part of a family that struggled to keep a roof overhead and dinner on the table. My father was a neon sign artist and an alcoholic. My older sister, Sunmi, cared for me as well as she could during the long stretches when my father was unable to do so.

A huge part of my relationship to food has to do with the lack of it. My family wasn't wealthy or even particularly stable. More often than not, we were homeless and hungry. In the last few months before I was sent to an orphanage, we sometimes slept on rooftops and searched for food wherever we could find it.

One of my first memories of food is when I was four or five, staring at a fruit stand across the street from where I was waiting for my sister. Bananas were piled up on a table, and I had never seen anything like them before. I knew they were food because they were stacked near fruits that I recognized; I just had no idea what they were. I was pretty sure they would be amazing and I really wanted one. I think of this often when I eat a banana. I don't take it for granted.

When I was six or seven, I was adopted by a Jewish American man and a Mexican woman and eventually moved to the United States. I soaked in the Jewish food traditions of my father's family and spent summers with my mother's family in Mexico. To this day, I have a soft spot for hamantaschen and pan dulces, as they represent the acceptance and love of my new family, in two new countries.

My families, then and now, gave me the strength and will to follow my passion, food, wherever it led me — from California to France, Morocco, and Massachusetts. They supported me when I spent countless hours in professional kitchens across the country, learning and absorbing whatever I could in order to make and capture new memories of food, and when I opened three restaurants of my own.

I never thought much about writing a cookbook until I reflected on my distinctive food heritage and I realized that I did indeed have my own special and unique perspective on food. My experiences both as a chef and as a mother have shaped the way I cook, creating food that is clear and vibrant, simple and easy to execute, and — above all — delicious.


My father is a baker and my cousin is a chef, so some of my earliest memories are the sights and sounds of professional kitchens: crashing pans and silverware on plates, and more often than not, cursing (sometimes in several languages). I started working in restaurants when I was 15, washing dishes, and I never looked back.

One doesn't survive in the restaurant industry for long without developing an eye for efficiency. There is a subtle art to creating a menu that dazzles while still being sustainable for the people producing it. This skill has served me well in my 17-year working relationship with Unmi, and in our 14-year marriage. Between Unmi's passion for flavor and feeding people and my ability to pare unnecessary steps and ingredients without sacrificing the soul of a dish, we have created a book full of recipes that we are proud of. We hope they become a part of your life the way they have become a part of ours.


I'm lucky to be growing up in a restaurant like my dad did, and I feel proud that it is named after me! Some of these recipes have been my favorites for years, like the mac and cheese. I like it so much that one time when I was in preschool, I invited my whole class for lunch without telling my parents. Uh-oh! I taste-tested almost all of the things in this book, and they are really good for kids!

The Secret Ingredient

Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar

You'll see that a number of recipes in this book contain seasoned rice wine vinegar. The key to many Asian dishes is finding a balance between salt, sweet, and acid, and nothing delivers all three quite like seasoned rice wine vinegar.

Why are these elements of flavor so important? Acid and salt amplify other flavors, and the sweetness helps balance out salt and acid. You can certainly purchase a bottle at the store, but we rely on this unique and potent blend so much that we have been making our own using organic rice wine vinegar and honey instead of sugar (see recipe). Don't underestimate the power of adding a splash to a sauce or dressing that needs a little something extra to make it sing!

Coco Principles

This book represents a chance for us to relate some of our accumulated knowledge and experience from decades of working together in our restaurants, including our present restaurant, Coco and the Cellar Bar, in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Our success lies in our ability to simply execute clarity of flavor. Our straight–forward methodology is easy for the home cook as well, and we hope to inspire you to create exciting, flavorful, globally inspired food in your own kitchens. We have enjoyed creating this book immensely and are delighted to share some of our philosophies for creating memorable meals for family and friends. In the back of this book you will find lists of our everyday equipment and ingredients that help us make these dishes at home.

Seasoning One of the most important things an inexperienced cook at Coco must learn is to have a healthy respect for the power of proper seasoning. We tell these young cooks that the key to maximizing flavor and texture is to understand exactly what a given amount of salt will do. That understanding comes over time, usually with sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, results. One way to increase the odds of success is to use the same type of salt every time you cook, so that you can become familiar with it. We prefer Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt for seasoning during the cooking process, and Maldon Sea Salt Flakes for finishing plates. We find Diamond Crystal to be a pure, consistent product, and because of the flake shape of the grains, a packed teaspoon of Diamond Crystal contains considerably less salt than a packed teaspoon of table or sea salt. This means there is less chance of over-salting your dishes as you are getting used to your salt. Maldon is a much more delicate and flakier salt. Just a few flakes sprinkled over the top of a dish adds an unmistakable crunch and pop of salinity that really wakes up a plate.

A Note on Alternative Sweeteners

One of the most profound shifts in cooking today is the use of sweetener alternatives in place of refined sugar. Cooks are making the switch for a number of reasons, including health and sustainability. We prefer mild honey, like clover or wildflower honey, and coconut nectar because they don't have a large impact on the flavor profile of a dish. Wherever it makes sense, we have included sugar alternatives.

Balance A principal concept that sets the food at Coco apart is the constant pursuit of balance. We look at the interaction between six components — salt, spice, fat, acid, sweet, and umami — and try to find balance among them. It is easy for most people to identify when a bite is too salty or too acidic; too spicy or cloyingly sweet. When these aspects of flavor are working together, however, most people don't notice the balance — they just recognize it as delicious. The cooks at Coco all have to ask themselves over and over, "What is this missing?" or "Why does this still taste flat?" Making delicious food requires a great deal of tasting, and just as much critical examination. A perfect example of these principles at play is a well-made bowl of ramen.

Planning Making good food isn't usually the result of some epiphany, where the first time you try something it works perfectly and the recipe is set in stone. We all have to assess how well something works the first time we try it and adjust accordingly the next time. By planning ahead and prepping some ingredients the day before, we can make sure everything comes together on the plate in a timely fashion.

A Note on Umami

Umami is a combination of the Japanese words for "delicious" and "taste" and describes a very primal savoriness that we associate with Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, steak, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, and — especially — ketchup. The most famous (or infamous) chemically manufactured source of umami is MSG or monosodium glutamate, but there are plenty of other man-made sources of glutamate as well, like soy sauce and fish sauce.

Presentation Presenting food in an appealing and attractive fashion can be as tricky as preparing it properly. Arranging a plate requires a light touch and a confidence that comes from lots of experience. In order to take some of the guesswork out of presentation, we have included four-step progression photos for many of the recipes. These will give some insight into how we approach plate construction — and some inspiration for your own plates!

Joy We'll be the first to admit that it isn't easy to keep the stresses of the modern world from affecting our outlook on life, but our frame of mind has a profound effect on our cooking. If you are angry or preoccupied, you are more likely to skip steps or miss the subtle cues that can be the difference between a good meal and a great one. We try to maintain a sense of gratitude and joy about our circumstances, and we try to remember how lucky we are to be able to do what we love and feed our friends, family, and guests.

Flavor Balance and Sauces

A bowl of ramen is a perfect example of the importance of flavor balance. The deep meatiness of the chicken and pork broth needs the contrast of the salty sea elements in the dashi, and both of those need to be balanced by the umami-packed tare. The toppings add important layers as well — from the sweet brightness of the pickled shiitake mushrooms to the creamy fattiness of the soy-cured egg and the spice from the togarashi oil. We've spent years perfecting the flavor components of the dishes in this book, so that they will come together perfectly each time.

Our ramen recipe is also a great example of how a well-crafted sauce embraces and supports the main ingredients in a dish. We think the foundation that is laid by a well-balanced sauce is so important that we have organized the recipes in this book around the sauces. We first provide a recipe for a sauce, and then present a dish that includes that sauce.

Part 1Dressings and Salads

These salads are just as good as those in our restaurant, but they are particularly favorable to the home cook thanks to sturdier ingredients like broccoli or noodles and dressings that you can make a day or two ahead of time.

Korean Hot Pepper Dressing

Yield: 1 cup

The flavors in this dressing — slightly sweet, somewhat spicy, and rounded out by the sesame oil — remind us of the little house salads you get at Korean or Japanese restaurants. It is strong enough to stand up to the grilled shrimp in our Grilled Shrimp, Asian Pear, and Watercress Salad.

  1. 1.Stir together in a large bowl, then let macerate for 30 minutes:
    • 12 cup Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar
    • 14 cup lime juice
    • 112 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 teaspoons gochugaru
    • 2 teaspoons mild honey
    • 12 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  2. 2.Whisk in slowly:
    • 14 cup neutral cooking oil
    • 12 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
    • 12 teaspoon Togarashi Oil

Storage: This dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Topping for Rice

At the restaurant, we noticed a cook drizzle some of this dressing over a bowl of rice topped with toasted nuts and sliced avocados. We thought it made a fantastic pre-dinner snack!

Grilled Shrimp, Asian Pear, and Watercress Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Impromptu salads are the best salads. In season, just about any salad can be modified depending on what is available. This salad is a perfect example of that. If you can't find Asian pears, use Bosc pears — or any ripe, sweet, and juicy pears for that matter. Persimmons would be beautiful too. We've even replaced the shrimp with roasted shiitake mushrooms to great success.

  1. 1.Preheat grill to high heat.
  2. 2.Combine in a large bowl:
    • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and cleaned
    • 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
    • Salt
  3. 3.Season shrimp well with salt and toss to coat. Carefully place shrimp on grill grates and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove shrimp to a plate and allow to cool.
  4. 4.Fan out on the serving plate:
    • 14 Asian pear, thinly sliced
  5. 5.Cover with:
    • 1 cup watercress
  6. 6.Top the watercress with the grilled shrimp.
  7. 7.Drizzle over the salad:
    • 2 tablespoons Korean Hot Pepper Dressing
  8. 8.Finish the salad with:
    • 1 scallion, sliced
    • 12 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
    • Pinch of flaky sea salt

Plating Progression Photos

One of the most fun and important parts of cooking is presentation. You might have heard that people eat with their eyes as well as their mouths. When a dish looks beautiful, we begin to salivate for it — preparing ourselves to eat it. How a food looks can be just as important as how it tastes. Where it makes sense, we have included progression plating photos to help you present the dish beautifully.

Honey Miso Dressing

Yield: 2 cups


  • “Curry Kimchi has an effortless way of exploring the diversity of flavors throughout Asia, and the world. These dishes are thoughtfully balanced, beautifully prepared, and full of vibrant seasonal ingredients — and most of all, I love the way cooking is a joyful and creative process in Unmi’s hands.” — Alice Waters, Chez Panisse

    “This innovative cookbook delivers bold yet balanced flavors, opening up a world of exciting flavors to cooks at any level. I’m thrilled to bring the recipes of these very thoughtful chefs into my kitchen.” — Virginia Willis, James Beard Foundation Award-winning cookbook author and chef 
    “When I read Unmi’s story, it made me want to run into the kitchen and cook from this book. I fell in love not only with her warmth but also her sincere relationship to food. She may have just made an Asian cook out of me!” — Joanne Weir, James Beard Foundation Award-winning cookbook author, chef, and host of Weir Cooking on PBS

    “Chef Unmi Abkin has created a name for herself with a series of fusion-flavored restaurants in the Pioneer Valley of New England. In this debut cookbook, Abkin and Taylor (her partner and co-owner) take us on a swift, highly focused tour of Abkin’s idiosyncratic culinary landscape. Where else will you find Instant Pot pork carnitas tacos rubbing shoulders with General Tso’s tofu, or Korean bolognese with gochujang and miso paste? Sharply curated and intensely sauced, Abkin’s creations are both manageable enough for the weeknight routine and eccentric enough to disrupt it.” — NPR's Favorite Books of 2019

    "James Beard Award semifinalist Abkin brings her unique perspective to this collection of 70 recipes inspired by her Korean, Mexican-American, and Jewish heritage and her experience preparing Asian inspired cuisine." — Booklist

On Sale
Oct 29, 2019
Page Count
176 pages

Unmi Abkin

Unmi Abkin

About the Author

Unmi Abkin and Roger Taylor are the co-owners and chefs at the popular Easthampton, Massachusetts–based restaurant Coco & The Cellar Bar, which hosts over 30,000 visitors a year. With 40 years of kitchen experience between them, they’ve mastered freshness and clarity of flavor in their simple global recipes. Unmi Abkin, a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, was born in Korea and raised in northern California by her Mexican-American family. She attended the California Culinary Academy and worked in Chez Panisse and Boulevard before opening Coco. Roger Taylor is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. 

Learn more about this author