Crossroads No. 1: Korean Ragu

The first installation of "Crossroads," a new column featuring stories and recipes from Asian immigrant families living and cooking in the United States—carrying on their heritage in ways that are unique to them. This month's edition: Chicago-based chef Won Kim (Kimski) and his mother Sun Hee.

Crossroads No. 1: Korean Ragu

The first installation of "Crossroads," a new column featuring stories and recipes from Asian immigrant families living and cooking in the United States—carrying on their heritage in ways that are unique to them. This month's edition: Chicago-based chef Won Kim (Kimski) and his mother Sun Hee.

by Mike Sula

illustrations by Mary Rednikova

All Sun Hee Kim wanted was to persuade her three boys to eat their vegetables. All they wanted was salty, greasy pizza and burgers. Her eldest was especially picky, turning up his nose at the array of vegetable side dishes she put on the table to accompany the soup, rice, and occasional grilled mackerel or bulgogi she served the family most evenings.

It certainly wasn’t easy. Sun Hee worked 11 to 13 hours a day, pressing shirts and folding laundry at the dry cleaners where she found work after emigrating from Seoul and landing in Chicago in the early ’80s. “My mom was pretty stubborn,” says son Won Kim, who joined his mother in the city’s far northside West Rogers Park neighborhood at the age of one. “She was pretty adamant about keeping true to Korean food and making sure we don’t lose sight of what she grew up with. We were asshole kids. We were trying to be Americanized and assimilate and eat hoagies and roast beef sandwiches.”

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