What do you prefer on your latkes — dwenjang sour cream or yuzu pear sauce? That will be the question come the fifth night of Hanukkah at one very unique, very drool-inducing Korean-Hanukkah pop-up extravaganza in Brooklyn.
The brains behind this delicious Hanukkah mash-up is Irene Yoo, a 31-year-old photo manager at Food Network who has been hosting “Yooeating” pop-ups once every month or two since 2015, each with a different theme inspired by the Korean food she was raised on.
So why is she setting her sights on Hanukkah? While Yoo is not Jewish, she grew up in Calabasas, California, “where multiple synagogues were within walking distance… elementary school teachers brought latkes for their students, and Jewish delis were the local after-school hangout.”
On the menu at the Korean-Hanukkah pop-up will be traditional mainstays of both cultures, blended into culinary perfection: matzah ball wang-mandu (king dumplings); brisket and ramen kugel; chopped liver with kimchi, crispy chicken skins, and schmaltz; challah and fish; and the aforementioned latkes with special toppings.
Yoo actually sees a lot of similarities between Jewish and Korean food, telling The Nosher, “Neither shies away from the weird stuff (gefilte fish vs. odeng fish cakes) or from using every part of an animal.” The likenesses go beyond food, too. “I feel like we are both peoples that have experienced great hardships and oppression in war, which has made us even stronger in fighting for our identity as a race and as a community. We all also grew up with strong mother figures who are always asking if you ate enough food while questioning your life choices.” Yuh-huh.
With the help of her partner, Nick Dodge, and her guiding “Star of David,” Alex Distell, Yoo will be cooking up everything on the menu from 5 p.m. until midnight (burning the midnight oil, if you will) at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg. Food will sell from $5 – $11, a la carte.