I was honored to be invited by the Decatur Book Festival this year to do a cooking demo and book signing. It’s one of the biggest book festivals in the US, and I was excited by the idea of going to Decatur, Georgia, which I had never been to (and is part of Atlanta), and also to meet my readers in Georgia. Killing 2 birds with one stone? It sounds cruel, but it was true!

I fell in love with Decatur and its people. I experienced true and total southern hospitality from everyone I met. My cookbook editor, Rux Martin, met me there and through her and her friends I met so many interesting, passionate people who showed me many aspects of the local cuisine and shared everything with me.

Of course, these guys all had something to do with food! I met Susan Puckett, the author & journalist who was the food editor Atlanta Journal-Constitution, John Kessler who was the food critic there for 19 years (& who really loves food!), who is the chef behind Taqueria del Sol (who showed me his homegrown fresh spiciest peppers), as well as countless restaurant owners, chefs, cookbook authors, and lovers of all kinds of food.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 8.02.04 PM

Decatur is a small city, but it has a lot of good restaurants and is full of friendly people. I was also surprised to see how popular Korean food is there, and many people I met were real Korean food lovers. My readers seem to be everywhere these days! Another writer at the festival spotted me in the hotel lobby: “Oh, Maangchi! I’m your big fan! Can I have a photo with you?” One of the concierges at my hotel recognized me and said: “I make kimchi all the time with your recipe! Good to see you here!” His coworker confirmed that she tasted his homemade kimchi and she loved it.

For my cooking demo I did 3 recipes from my cookbook: Shrimp porridge, spicy cucumber salad, and sweet salty fish cakes. My cooking demo started at 12:30 pm on a hot steamy Saturday. But nobody in the audience seemed to care about the heat, they were totally absorbed by what I was saying, some people even writing it down! They were all such passionate foodies, I felt very honored to be there. I could easily see my long time readers in the crowd: they were smiling at me the whole time!

The staff of the Decatur book festival prepared everything perfectly. Fresh cold deveined shrimp was inside the fridge, rice was soaked, and minced garlic, chopped green onions, tablespoons of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, hot pepper flakes were in small bowls waiting for me. It felt a little strange for me because at home, filming my videos, I do everything by myself. They made my life a lot easier, and I was so impressed by how organized they were.

After the demo, I signed anything anyone wanted signed. Here you go! Many people were lining up to get my autograph. Most people were my readers except for a few people. One lady said, “This book will be included in my collection of 6,000 cookbooks!” I thought it’s so funny: why does she collect so many cookbooks? She should make a cookbook library someday!

My readers came from all over the place. Some were local students who’ve been cooking Korean food for years, and some people came from out of state to see me, driving hours and hours. One of them told me she started Korean cooking right after I shared my recipes when I lived in Toronto, Canada. When I heard this, I felt like she was a long time friend. I said: “You met me through my website 8 years ago when I lived in Canada, then I moved to New York, and now I came here to Decatur where you are living, and you’re still watching my videos!” I felt a little goose bumps because of my excitement. Isn’t it amazing? I had a great time in Decatur meeting my readers, cooking, meeting the locals and trying their local food. Here are some photos from my trip:

My cooking demo

Maangchi cooking at the Decatur Book Festival “Someone already sliced onion for me! I’m so honored because I feel I’m treated very nicely here! : )” scallions at the Decatur book festival “Let’s add generous amount chopped green onion!” John Kessler at the Decatur Book FestivalThe food critic John Kessler introduced me to everybody: “Maangchi will show us how to make 3 Korean dishes now!” crowd at the Decatur book festival I don’t remember what made them laugh loudly but that’s so cool! At least they were not bored!

Maangchi at the Decatur book festival

The demo countertop was a little too high for me. They had to give me some wooden boxes to stand on so the crowd could see me a little more! : )

photographers at the Decatur book festival

Book festival staff showed off the dishes I made. “I want to take a photo of this!”

Book signing

browsing at the Decatur Book Festival

She looks so cool! I love her tattoo, sunglasses, and the purple dress! This fashionable lady is my fan!

Maangchi booksigning

My lovely readers waited very patiently for their turn to get my autograph!

Maangchi reader at the Decatur Book Festival

Maangchi reader at the Decatur Book Festival

Maangchi readers at the Decatur Book Festival

Maangchi fans at the Decatur Book Festival

Maangchi fans at the Decatur Book Festival

Maangchi fan at the Decatur Book Festival

This lady lived in Korea for years. She speaks Korean fluently and is a taekwondo master!

Maangchi fan at the Decatur Book Festival


Chef Eddie Hernandez of the super-popular Taqueria del Sol restaurant in Decatur (everyone in town calls it “Taq” for short, and there are huge lineups) spent an evening showing us his food and the traditional Mexican ingredients he uses.


Deep-fried Taco dumplings that looked like mandu!


Eddie showed us the chiles he grows and uses in the restaurant. He said, the hottest ones are Reapers and the second hottest are Scorpions, third are Ghosts, and the fourth hottest is Habanero. I always thought Habanero is the spiciest pepper. I was so interested in learning about these peppers. He gave me some samples to take home, and I’m going to try to grow my own!


I saw this for the first time in my life. The Huitlacoche or “corn truffle,” which is a fermented corn silk used to give flavor in cooking. It’s savory, rich and earthy, kind of like a mushroom. I picked it up and put it into mouth and chewed just as others did. It tastes cold, crispy and a little sweet.

I had a great time in Georgia, and again I want to thank everyone I met for treating me so well, with true hospitality. Thank you!


  1. It was so good to meet you! I am very happy we drove from NC to be able to finally meet you. I love cooking your recipes and if you ever find yourself in Asheville NC let me know and I could show you a few good restaurants and our small Korean market.

    See full size image

Leave a Reply

You must create a profile and be logged in to post a comment.