The other night a group of friends, sitting around a West Village dining table for the first time in a long time, gasped. A cardboard take-out box, the flaps neatly folded for ventilation, had been opened to reveal a generous stack of strikingly beautiful potato chips: almost light, but crunchy; as shiny, transparent and subtly bubbled as a stained glass window; smeared with brown butter and honey and sprinkled with Cajun spices. Fried to order by Chef Jae Jung, they’re a highlight, among many, on the menu at Kjun, a Korean-Cajun pick-up-and-delivery-only restaurant that she’s been running since April, first from April. ‘a dormant catering kitchen on the Upper East Side and now from the basement of a cafe in the East Village.
Potato chips – the honey-butter variety has been all the rage in Korea since 2014, and the Cajun-inspired flavors produced by Zapp’s, Louisiana since the 1980s are among the best snacks in the U.S. market – n was just one of the intersections that jumped at Jung as she considered two of the food cultures closest to her heart. Born and raised in Seoul, she inherited her passion for cooking from her mother, who for many years ran a kimchi restaurant, producing three thousand heads of cabbage a year. Although her parents urged her to avoid the business, the call turned out to be too strong: in my late twenties – “my last chance to grow up,” she told me recently – She flew to New York to enroll, without seeing her, at the Culinary Institute of America.
“A friend of mine in Korea said, ‘If you’re going to America, you’ve got to go to New Orleans,’” Jung recalls. Jazz Fest immediately attached the city to him; New York, to a Seoul native, was familiar territory, New Orleans was like another planet. When the time came for an internship at the CIA, she returned to New Orleans, spending several months, in 2009, in the kitchen of August, a contemporary Creole restaurant, enjoying the afterglow of the victory of the Saints at the Super Bowl, experiencing Mardi Gras, and learning to enjoy marching band music. For four and a half years after graduation, she cycled through some of the city’s most famous establishments, including Dooky Chase’s, whose beloved owner Leah Chase (deceased in 2019), Jung considered a friend and mentor – “my Creole grandmother,” Jung said.
All of the many methods Jung learned of making okra have contributed to Kjun’s, which starts with a dark red and includes pasture-raised chicken and andouille sausage. The traditional side dish of rice reminded him of soup in Korea, which is also often served with rice, plus kimchi; Taking on his mother’s mantle, Jung makes several varieties using vegetables common in the southern United States, where, of course, pickles also reign supreme. Okra is accompanied by okra, cured in salt and vinegar for at least two months; Tomato kimchi serves as a condiment, layered on top of a creamy remoulade, in an excellent po’boy of fried cornmeal shrimp and oysters on a crispy French bread that Jung gets from a Vietnamese bakery. Almost everything is spicy, but there are pockets of relief: a salad of fresh watermelon, with both fresh cubes and pickled zest, in a honey yuzu vinaigrette; silky white grains with mascarpone and provolone.
For months before launching Kjun – the fulfillment of a long-held dream that she started seriously planning after quitting her job as sous-chef at Café Boulud in late 2019 – Jung made fried chicken every day. , in an effort to perfect his recipe. “At one point, I really couldn’t swallow it,” she said. “I took a bite and spat it out.” Its toughness paid off: the final and phenomenal product is marinated in buttermilk and gochujang before being coated in a Korean Cajun-spiced pancake batter containing rice flour, cornstarch and cornstarch. potato, which helps make it even crispier, just like double frying. Like the crisps, the chicken comes in a box with the flaps folded back to avoid any traces of tempera, packed by Jung herself. “I touch everything,” she said. I would eat anything she touched. (Main courses $ 9- $ 45.) ♦