Choi Esther - Choi, Esther

Esther Choi

Biography

Mŏkbar chef /owner Esther Choi grew up cooking traditional Korean food with her Korean-native grandmother. So while Esther was born in New Jersey and her early childhood spent in the state’s ocean-side town of Egg Harbor, Esther was always keenly aware of her Korean heritage. That awareness morphed into immersion when her family moved to Korea for three years, because her parents wanted to assure their children would cherish Korean culture. Their goal was enthusiastically embraced by Esther, whose mission is to broaden New Yorkers’ understanding and appreciation of Korean culture through her food.

Esther’s... READ MORE

Mŏkbar chef /owner Esther Choi grew up cooking traditional Korean food with her Korean-native grandmother. So while Esther was born in New Jersey and her early childhood spent in the state’s ocean-side town of Egg Harbor, Esther was always keenly aware of her Korean heritage. That awareness morphed into immersion when her family moved to Korea for three years, because her parents wanted to assure their children would cherish Korean culture. Their goal was enthusiastically embraced by Esther, whose mission is to broaden New Yorkers’ understanding and appreciation of Korean culture through her food.

Esther’s formal training as a chef began at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), continuing in the kitchens of ilili and La Esquina, as well as that of the Food Network. However, Esther began her professional education at 14 when she started working part-time in restaurants.

Since the 2014 opening of her first venture, Mŏkbar, Esther has been hailed as a “New Rising Chef” by Food Republic and in 2015 was named a “Zagat 30 under 30” NYC Culinary Rockstar. Mŏkbar was also acclaimed as the Village Voice’s 2014 Reader’s Choice “Best New Restaurant” and was awarded “Best Kimchi” in 2015 by Epoch Taste.

Now Esther has expanded the Mŏkbar brand with the debut of Mŏkbar Brooklyn across Flatbush Avenue from The Barclays Center. There, she focuses on serving authentic Korean soul food the way it is presented in Korea with multiple harmonious vegetable-driven small dishes called “Banchan”, accompanying various protein staples.

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What is your ultimate meal? Kimchi jjigae is absolutely a classic favorite for me. It's comforting and always reminds me of great memories.

Recipe Name:
Halmoni Dumplings

Recipe Ingredients:
2 packages dumpling wrappers (about 84 wrappers total)
1 medium zucchini, thinly julienned
1 tablespoon salt
8 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 pound ground pork
5 ¼ ounces green cabbage, chopped
1 cup kimchi, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium Spanish onion, diced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fish sauce, preferably Three Crabs brand
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Recipe Instructions:
Salt the zucchini and toss well. Let sit for about 20 minutes to remove the water. Drain, then squeeze the liquid out in cheesecloth until completely dry.
Squeeze the tofu in cheesecloth until all moisture is drawn out.
Stir together the prepped zucchini, pork, cabbage, kimchi, garlic, and onion. Add the soy sauce, cornstarch, fish sauce, and sesame oil.
Wet the outer shell of a dumpling wrapper with warm water. Scoop about ½ tablespoon of the filling in the center and pinch together. Make folds in the wrapper so that it will not open during cooking.
These dumplings can be deep-fried, pan-fried, steamed, or poached in soups.