Photos by Rory Gunderson
Chul Kim had never worked in a restaurant. He had, however, just walked away from a decade working in the Financial District. “I just one day felt like I hadn’t made anything,” he said. “I was trying to figure out what to do with myself, and my two interests came down to food and drinking.” And thus, Dokebi—the Williamsburg joint famous for its Korean tacos—was born. We drove around Brooklyn and Queens with Chul as he picked up ingredients, told stories about building the restaurant from the woodwork up, reminisced about the parties of Dokebi’s early days, and expounded his own theories of Korean cuisine.
These mushrooms aren’t grown in the wild, though they’re certified organic. Hydroponics, Kim explains, means they’re dirt-free.
Byoungi Choi has been the manager of Flushing’s Han Ah Reum, a Korean market, for the past five years.
Baby carrots from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program) that brings produce to Dokebi from the Catskills.
Kim outside Dokebi with Madalyn Warren, the farmer who runs the CSA. She also supplies organic fruit and vegetables to other Brooklyn restaurants like Superfine, Diner, Marlow & Sons and Cookshop.
Dokebi’s brunch menu includes Kimchee Bloody Marys and Huevos Koreanos—eggs over easy topped with kimchee and chipotle crema.
This paste (made up of puréed fruit and vegetables, including Korean pears, apples and Spanish onions), will be mixed with chili flakes, chili powder and chives, and then stuffed and spread between the leaves of the Napa cabbage and allowed to ferment for 36-48 hours.
“I have people who look like Wonderbread coming up to me and going ‘I make my own kimchee,’” Kim says.
This is the part where Kim, with the help of his kimchee chef Mrs. Kim (no relation), dismembers his enemies, eating their stomachs to absorb their culinary powers. Kidding. That’s totally cabbage (soaked in kimchee juices).
Korean sea salt, one of the ingredients used in preparing the cabbage for kimchee.
The interior of Dokebi, much of which was salvaged from a failed tapas restaurant nearby.
Bean sprouts, reconstituted sea kelp in a creamy white sauce, seaweed, teensy, tiny fish, radish kimchee, cabbage kimchee.
Farmers (and sisters) Jen and Madalyn Warren, and Chul Kim.