TikTok Star Joanne Lee Molinaro Shares Culture and Family Recipes in “The Korean Vegan Cookbook”

Of the many appetites we indulge in via social media and the internet – connection, entertainment, attention, the list goes on – vegan chef and author Joanne lee molinaro feeds an incredibly universal and natural urge to feed. Throughout 2020, Molinaro has become a social star TikTok video app, where she shares vegan recipes, techniques and food stories to her subscribers, who now number nearly three million. Molinaro’s parents were born in what is now known as North Korea, and she was raised in a family culture that cherishes food, once intimately familiar with scarcity and hardship. She is now sharing a new book, “The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Thoughts and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen. Molinaro joined ‘City Lights’ host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the unique language of family love of food that The Korean Vegan celebrates.

Interview highlights:

On why Molinaro’s videos sparked such a strong reaction in 2020:

“There was a lot going on back then that I think made it easier to amplify my videos. First, we were all isolated. We were all stuck in quarantine, literally across the world, so people were literally hungry for content, and the kind of content that tended to bring people together virtually since we couldn’t do it physically, ”he said. said Molinaro. .

“While I was cooking, I was talking about my mom and dad, who, quite frankly, I missed a lot because I didn’t see them much in my forties. Or I would talk about what it was like growing up as an Asian American in Chicago or why I love this particular food that I cook. And I think what I was trying to recreate was that really special and intimate moment that you often have in your kitchen with your mom or dad or your family members, or with your friends, or even sitting at a table when you You organize a dinner with your closest group of friends. These were things we couldn’t participate in anymore, and I wanted to recreate that on TikTok.

Food is emotional:

“For my family, food was a way, especially for women – my mother, grandmothers and aunts – to show love and affection. Love and affection don’t come easily in my family, and especially in my culture. We don’t say ‘I love you’; I don’t think I ever heard that from my mother, ”Molinaro said. “It’s more just ‘Here I made you gyeran husband’, and in this way she shows us her love. And because of that, throughout my childhood, these times when we got together in family to break bread together, to share food together, were among the most loving moments in my memory because it is in this breaking of the bread that there was a kind of implicit communication of love, support , solidarity, understanding.

“It was probably the lowest point of my whole life, and I remember my mom and dad took us to dinner because it was my birthday, just a few weeks after I finalized my divorce,” Molinaro said. . “I remember my dad, as we were eating naengmyun together, he raised his glass and said ‘Congratulations’, and I thought he was congratulating me on my birthday, which I thought was very. strange. And it turned out he was congratulating me on my divorce, and it was such a powerful and emotional moment, and it’s no coincidence that it happened while we were having dinner together.

On the contribution of Korean tradition to vegan cuisine:

“When the idea of ​​going vegan was first brought to me by my then-boyfriend, now husband, I was like, ‘No, you can’t. I’m Korean. ‘ I didn’t think it was possible, and of course what it did was manifest complete naivety and ignorance of what Korean food really is. Much of it is vegetables and plants. These panchans, which are these side dishes, are all veggies, beans, and plant foods that can be marinated in fish sauce and things like that, but that’s really the only thing that takes them out. from the vegan area.

“Because Korea has been such a poor country for so much of its existence, meat was not something that was on the dinner table very regularly; certainly not at home. We [had] mainly vegetables, and sometimes meat dishes and fish dishes. So if you really dig a bit and pull that thread, you’ll find that in reality Korean cuisine is definitely not one-dimensional enough to just wrap grilled meat. And also, in my opinion, you take some of that Korean barbecue sauce and pour it over mushrooms, eggplant, bok choy, whatever you want – it’s going to be just as delicious. You won’t miss the meat, trust me.

“The Korean Vegan”, a new cookbook by Joanne Lee Molinaro, is now available in all major booksellers. More information is available at


@thekoreanveganStory about Hahlmuhnee and my father. ## AdobePartner ## kimbap ## korean food ## 먹방 ## mukbang

original sound – Joanne L. Molinaro (이선영)

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