South Korea, Seoul — There’s something new in town to tempt your taste buds. Chowon Lee recently opened MYAKU-A with her partner Yulri Kim, offering Japanese-inspired vegan menu and cooking classes. In their recent interview with HAE, the duo explained that they want a future where people have easy access to clean ingredients and good recipes, a philosophy which is neatly encapsulated in the name, MYAKU-A.
Myaku is a mythical creature in Japanese folklore. The legend tells of how this beast developed an affinity for human-kind and took it upon itself to protect them from evil. In hopes of continuing Myaku’s work in South Korea, Chowon Lee opened MYAKU-A, a space that doubles as a vegan restaurant and a cooking class studio.
The genesis of MYAKU-A takes place in Sapporo, Japan. One day, Chowon showed up unannounced at “Itadakizen,” a vegan restaurant in Sapporo, and asked for an unpaid culinary apprenticeship. Amazingly, the owner, Haruyama Akiko agreed to take Chowon under her wing. (The “-A” in MYAKU-A comes from the first letter of her teacher’s first name, Akiko, as an homage to her sensei.) Chowon spent the better part of the subsequent year learning the ins and outs of Japanese vegan cuisine.
Fast forward to February 2020, Chowon drew up a blueprint of what would later become MYAKU-A, and got to work with her partner, Yulri Kim. The entire construction process took two weeks and was carried out in a strictly DIY manner. Neither had any prior woodworking experience, but that did not deter them from purchasing scraps of secondhand wood and piecing them together. They managed to build a full kitchen with a bar table for dining guests and two large wooden tables for classes. The first thing one notices as one enters MYAKU-A are the two large wooden pillars that hold up the overhead pantry. Chowon later told me that they were once part of a beautiful Hanok, a traditional Korean-style house.
What Chowon and Yulri are trying to do with MYAKU-A is to render themselves obsolete. That may sound strange at first, but what that really entails is their determination to bring about a future where everyone has access to organic produce and the ability to cook delicious homemade meals. They’ve chosen to go about it by designing a space where people can experience firsthand what that’s like.
Tucked away in a quaint, little neighborhood in the northernmost district in Seoul, MYAKU-A is changing the world one vegan meal at a time. Watch the first episode of the newly launched HAE Presents series to learn more about MYAKU-A and the duo that runs it.