This article was originally published in our September 2021 issue.

While nearby Springfield is home to a plethora of Asian restaurants—Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean fare—tucked away on the outskirts of Nixa lies Yi’s Korean Restaurant, which was opened by Ruth Jolly in 2017.

Nestled among a row of small stores along busy Massey Boulevard, this restaurant serves traditional Korean food. Owner Ruth is proud to bring her style of Korean cooking to southwest Missouri.

Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, Ruth learned to appreciate the feeling of satisfaction she gleaned from cooking alongside her mother and grandmother as a child. During those early years, her father, who was an engineer, brought home important business guests to enjoy a family-cooked dinner. These warm memories would stay with her when she relocated to southwest Missouri with her husband, whom she met while he was stationed in Korea in the Air Force. The joy of hospitality and sharing a family meal, often communal, resurfaced many years later, when she would open up her small restaurant.

The menu at Yi’s features well-known Korean specialties, such as the marinated thin-sliced beef dish bulgogi, the popular rice and vegetable bibimbap bowl topped with a fried egg, and Korean stewed dishes known as jjigae. Other popular dishes such as stir-fried squid, Korean chop suey, grilled Korean short ribs, and salted grilled mackerel round out the classic Korean fare offered on her menu. Ruth says many of her customers are not familiar with Korean food and how it differs from other Asian global cuisines that have been popular in Springfield. Her guests are often pleasantly surprised when select dishes are accompanied with bowls of her fermented and marinated cold vegetables such as daikon, Korean radish, broccoli, cucumber, and of course cabbage kimchi, the most famous dish with an ancient Korean history.

Kimchi in Korea includes a variety of fermented cold dishes made with different vegetables; however, the most well-known is the salt-fermented spicy napa cabbage kimchi. After the salting and brining process, it is marinated with a paste made with dried ground chili flakes (gochugaru), ginger, garlic, daikon radish, and in many recipes, dried shrimp and other ingredients. Traditionally, this hot spicy condiment known for its probiotic properties was made at harvest time with the family and in many cases with others in the village. They would salt, marinate, and press the cabbage and store it underground to be served throughout the year. On the menu at Yi’s, Ruth’s style of cabbage kimchi finds its way into other dishes as well.

For diners who may be unfamiliar or less adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, Ruth offers some Japanese- and Chinese-style dishes, such as ramen noodles with chicken, beef, vegetables, or shrimp, and stir-fry dishes, as well as egg rolls and miso soup.

Although her menu is based on traditional Korean dishes, Ruth tries to keep current with popular foods in her homeland. Her sister still lives there and relays the current culinary trends in Seoul. Ruth incorporates some of those ideas in her menu on occasion.

312 N. Massey Blvd., Nixa • Yi’s Korean Restaurant on Facebook