The London Couple That's Bringing Korean Food the Attention it Deserves

April  8, 2016

Chicken and potato stew with honey, garlic, and chiles; battered cod and zucchini with soy and vinegar dipping sauce; pine nut and rice porridge; shaved ice with sweet red beans and vanilla ice cream.

These are the kinds of colorful, generous flavors Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo are bringing to London.

Their cookbook Our Korean Kitchen is the first of its kind in Europe and particularly in the U.K., where we have very few quality Korean restaurants and the typical home cook is more likely to reach for a Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese recipe than a Korean one.

Shop the Story

There are few stones left unturned in the culinary world here, but Jordan and Jina have found one. And it's their favorite food in the world.

Photo by Issy Croker

In the couple’s North London kitchen, there are small echoes of Korea everywhere: plates and bowls they picked up on their travels, Korean products stacked on the shelves, and Korean labels that Jina has stuck to every apparatus to help Jordan brush up on his reading skills.

Jordan Bourke grew up in Ireland. After training at Ballymaloe Cookery School, he went straight into the kitchens of Petersham Nurseries, Skye Gyngell’s Michelin-starred seasonal restaurant. Since then, he has published two cookbooks, The Guilt Free Gourmet and The Natural Food Kitchen, which was shortlisted for a Guild of Food Writers Award. His work has appeared in national and international publications like Vogue, the Times, Elle, and BBC Good Food, and he has appeared on culinary shows for the BBC, Channel 4, and Fox International.

But it is his work recent exploration of Korean cuisine that has made him one of the most recognizable names on the British food scene lately.

Photo by Issy Croker

Jordan’s love affair with Korean food began with another love affair. He first met Rejina Pyo, a Seoul-born fashion designer, in a “really bad” bar in central London. Shortly after they met, Jordan moved to New York City and the two didn’t see each other again until Jordan’s return a year later. In 2011, they wed in Ireland. Then again in Seoul in 2012.

It was through Jina that Jordan discovered true Korean food. “I could cook him whatever I wanted at the beginning, and he would find it amazing! So it was easy for me!” jokes Jina.

Photo by Issy Croker

"I remember her cooking me this traditional sweet potato noodle dish on one of our first dates, and I just fell in love with it,” Jordan says. “I didn’t know a lot about Korean food. It was such a learning curve.”

He began accompanying Jina on her trips back to Seoul, joining her mother in the kitchen as she cooked traditional family recipes. He wanted to learn every inch of this cuisine, which had been a mystery to him for so long. “It was hard for Jordan to learn from my mum in some ways. She doesn’t speak English, but they bonded over cooking,” Jina says. “Korean people grow up around home cooking, so it’s a natural thing to them. Jordan was trying to learn from my mum and she had no idea what measurements she used. She’s never used a measuring spoon or a weighing scale to cook with.”

Photo by Issy Croker

After learning the ways of the Korean home kitchen, Jordan worked in a few restaurants to learn the nuances of traditional recipes from locals. Then, upon returning to England and despairing at the lack of authentic Korean food, Jordan and Jina began hosting pop-ups, supper clubs, and cooking demos.

“The food in Korea is so incredibly good,” Jordan says, “but we’d come back here [to London] and try to find some, and it was just always so poor. That’s part of the reason we wanted to start this, to show people the proper flavors of home cooked Korean food.” They started drawing up the first drafts of Our Korean Kitchen when they saw the positive response.

The book blends Jina’s culinary heritage and Jordan’s classical training. "We knew we had to do something traditional, and reflect the real food of Korea," Jordan explains. "Practically every recipe in that book is a traditional Korean recipe. They have hundreds and hundreds of recipes that are totally unique" to the region.

Photo by Issy Croker

Jordan and Jina’s project has come at a time of growing interest in Korean culture in the U.K. Along with the rise of K-Pop (Korean pop music) and K-Drama (Korean television shows), Korea’s complex, vibrant cuisine is being recognized now more than ever before.

“Every friend I take to Korea is amazed that they’ve never tried the food before,” Jina says. “They all want to make it at home but have no idea how. The dishes are simple, but when the ingredients are unfamiliar, it can take a little push to get people to try to make it themselves. That’s why we wanted to do the book.”

Photo by Issy Croker

For lunch at Jordan and Jina's, we were served bibimbap with a tableful of toppings. Juicy marinated beef, cucumber, daikon radish, shiitake mushrooms, and a sunny yellow egg sat upon a bouncy bed of white rice. And with this, Jordan and Jina offered us baby anchovies, tiny pieces of dried squid, mushrooms marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil, pickled garlic, and the most potent, warming, kimchi we’d ever tried.

“Koreans would make all of these extra bits, and they last for months,” Jordan explains as we dip into each little bowl. “They’ll make a quick rice or soup and they get out all of these fermented or preserved foods and suddenly it looks like a feast! The tables there just groan with food. It’s very resourceful cooking.”

Photo by Issy Croker

“When it comes to food, Koreans really take care of others,” Jina says, mingling the ingredients together before filling our bowls. “When you’re eating in a group at the table, everyone looks after each other.”

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Best friends Issy and Meg have spent the last decade sitting across tables from each other, travelling the world knife and fork in hand. Photographing bowls of steaming noodles, exotic street food and some of the world's most exciting cooks, Issy makes up the photography side of the duo, while Meg records each bite in words. Considering their equal obsession for food and each other, it was inevitable that the two would eventually combine to become The Curious Pear, intent on bringing you reviews, food features and interviews with the culinary crowd, as well as pieces on their favourite eating spots from around the world. The Curious Pear are the contributing Food Editors at SUITCASE Magazine, bringing you a weekly food column at, as well as contributing for Time Out, Food52, Life & Thyme, Trends on Trends, Guest of a Guest and more!


Betsey April 11, 2016
Looks like Korean food requires a lot of dishwashing.
JIN April 10, 2016
Great article. I am so buying this cook book :-)