Judy Joo runs three popular Korean restaurants called Jinjuu, two in London and one in Hong Kong. I first met the Iron Chef regular and Cooking Channel host at the Gin Trap, a restaurant on Nevis in the West Indies. We’d been seated at the same table for a dinner by Seamus Mullen that was part of a mangotastic junket. A few days later, at the Nevis Mango and Food Festival, she was demo-ing how to make Korean barbecue for a big tent full of Nevisians. She started the presentation by asking if anyone in the crowd knew where Korea was. A few hands went up. Then she showed the audience some chopsticks and half-jokingly asked if people on the island knew what they were. Her co-presenter, a Nevisian woman, said that she’d have to tell the group how to use chopsticks. The whole thing was very charming in a We Are the World sort of way.
Later on in the day, I met up with Joo to get more acquainted and to throw some standard Extra Crispy breakfast-related questions her way. We talked for about 20 minutes, and then a mango festival staff member waved her over to do the next thing.
Extra Crispy: What’s your go-to what's your weekday breakfast?
Judy Joo: It changes and depends how much time I have. But being Asian, I can eat anything for breakfast, so I will have whatever is left over in my fridge. It doesn’t matter if it's pizza or Chinese food or leftover bibimbap. I will scarf that down. If I’ve got absolutely nothing, I will probably make either oatmeal or eggs, I would say. Something fast, like a quick scrambled eggs and protein.
Is scrambled your go-to egg preparation?
Yeah, pretty much. Just because it cooks the fastest, so you don't have to wait around for it. It’s about speed. Sunny-side-up, you've got to wait. Omelets require too much work, so it’s pretty much scrambled, yeah. With anything I can just kind of throw in.
What if you’re making breakfast for other people?
That’s a whole different story. I’ll generally make eggs because I like to eat eggs. Or I’ll make omelets, like really nice omelets or, you know, gyeran-jjim. That’s just whipped eggs or like beaten eggs, and then you add some chicken stock and some shrimp, some scallions, some… whatever you have, little bit of salt, some fish sauce, some soy sauce, and you steam it, so it’s like a steamed egg custard. Or you can do it cowboy-style, like in most Korean restaurants, and just throw it all on the stove until it boils, and it just cooks like that.
The other other night we were talking about how in Korea people tend not to eat anything considered breakfast food. Why do you think that is?
Because breakfast is just any other meal. It doesn't matter what it is. Like, I’ll eat kimchi fried rice for breakfast with an egg, and that’s awesome. Love that! If I had the time I’d probably eat that every single day, and I don't care if my breath smells like kimchi afterwards. I think it’s just cultural, but that’s most of Asia. In most of Asia, you just eat whatever the hell is around. It’s rice and it’s fish, and wherever you get all your proteins.
So you’re here at a mango festival, and mangoes and Korean food is not an age-old combination. How have you been incorporating it?
No, it’s not a logical combination at all. But like most Asian foods, there's a little bit of sweetness in everything, whether it's sugar or pear or whatever so we just kind of took out the pear element and replaced it with mango or mango purée. And mangoes also like spice, a little bit of chili and things like that is quite common, so making something like a mango kimchi or last night we served a mango kimchi salsa, and it was really tasty.
What did you eat for breakfast growing up?
Anything… although my mom would kind of do American breakfast sometimes too, like sausage and bacon and eggs.
And you liked it?
Yeah, it was good. I mean who doesn’t love bacon and sausage?
Our entire brand is basically built on people liking bacon, so...
Yeah exactly. And of course I went through a sugary cereal phase, but I don't really eat cereal anymore. Maybe granola, but that's about it.
Do you have a guilty pleasure cereal?
Honey Nut Cheerios. And sugar smack pops...
The pops? The big yellow...
Sugar smack pops?
No no no. I’m combining two cereals. The big orange—no, the big yellow... Pops, they’re called.
Oh, Pops. Just Pops.
Pops are good.
I tried the Oreo cereal recently, and it was kind of gross. You just feel awful afterwards. It’s like I just ate a bowl of sugar.
How is breakfast and brunch in London different than in New York?
It’s different in the sense that the English breakfast is with baked beans and mushrooms and tomato and, of course, a Scottish breakfast has haggis and kippers and all this fish and stuff like that, but I actually like baked beans a lot. Baked beans on toast. And they have all these funny things like bacon sandwiches, bacon butties, and sausage butties and all these things. They just throw anything into bread. Yeah, it’s good. Cheese toasties are a big thing. Otherwise known as grilled cheese, but they toast them. Marmite’s good—a lot of marmite. I love marmite.
I can’t eat marmite.
No? Oh, I love marmite.
We just did a video where the staff had to eat marmite, a big tablespoon of it.
Oh no, you don't do it like that.
Do you have a go-to brunch drink?
I love bloody marys.
How do you do your bloody marys?
We do an awesome kimchi bloody mary at Jinjuu. It’s super spicy. It’s made with soju instead of vodka, so it’s Korean, and we infuse the soju with black pepper and celery so it has depth and complexity to it, and then plus the kimchi juice, which adds a whole other level of length to it, and it keeps going and going and going.
Where are you on pulp or no-pulp orange juice?
Crispy or flimsy bacon?
Crispy! Crispy bacon! Who wants flimsy bacon? Oh my gosh.
What do you think people do wrong with breakfast? Like breakfast pitfalls?
People who just have, like, a cigarette and coffee.
So like a chef's breakfast?
Yeah, basically… cigarette and coffee. Or I don't know, I guess I don't think you can do breakfast wrong. Whatever floats your boat I think. I can’t handle too much sugar in the morning, it just ruins me, but a lot of people love it. It’s fine, everybody knows their own body. I have friends who just do like cigarette, coffee, and a coke, which I think is just disgusting.