Make That Funky Kimchi White Boy

August 20, 2006

Over at eG Forums we have a few discussions going (1) (2) pertaining as to why Korean Food has not become “mainstream” in the United States. I’ve offered up a couple of different theories, one of which is that Korean food is so incredibly in-your-face bold and assertive and incorporates certain flavors and combinations in such an intensity that many Americans might find off-putting — that being the fact that so much of Korean food is fermented or pickled, and that they use massive amounts of chile and garlic.

Be it as it may, I’m a huge fan (1) of Korean food (2). I’ve been told by other Koreans that I am practically an honorary Korean, because I have such a high tolerance for spicy and garlicky, and I actually LIKE to eat Kimchi.

Kimchi can be a challenge for those that aren’t used to it. The heavy garlic and red chile spice combined with a very long fermentation (some Kimchis are fermented for MONTHS) can practically melt the chrome off a Harley Davidson exhaust manifold and so will your breath after eating it afterwards. But there are some Kimchis that aren’t fermented very long and are much closer in fermentation to a “new ” Kosher pickle, although they maintain the heavy garlic and chile profile. One of these is Oi Kimchi, or cucumber Kimchi. It’s one of my favorites. And if you have a huge bumper crop of cucumbers in your garden, its a great thing to do with them besides making Kosher Dills or the endless tomato cucumber salads.

Today, I actually tried making Oi Kimchi for the first time. I went to my local H-Mart to pick up the necessary ingredients.

Koreans use so much garlic that they buy it pre-peeled in huge quantities. Each of these containers represents about one meal’s worth for the average Korean family. No I’m not joking — a week supply is like a half a gallon, and they sell those too. One container will be sufficient for our purposes.

Get a bunch of fresh scallions.

Find a nice hand of ginger.

Here’s where we get into the specialty ingredients. This big sucker is a Moo (pronounced Moo, like what the cow does) or a giant Korean radish. It has a texture and flavor similar to a French-style pink radish, somewhat spicier than a Daikon. If you can’t find one of these, Daikon will do, and you can grate up some regular pink radishes into the mix for flavor.

Kimchi chile flakes. Get the medium coarseness one. All the brands are basically the same.

If you don’t have a Korean grocery near you, try getting it online.

Brine shrimp, which is optional. It adds that extra something. You can also get some shucked oysters too, which is also commonly used in Kimchi recipes. This stuff is very salty and if you do use it, I’d cut the salt from the recipe in half.

Your Kimchi Mise-en-place:

  • 2 lb UNWAXED Cucumbers or Kirbys for pickling. Mine came from my garden.
  • 1 Korean Mul Radish or 1 Daikon and 4 or 5 pink radishes
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 4Tbsp Garlic — minced
  • 1Tbsp Ginger — fresh, minced
  • 2Tbsp-4Tbsp Kimchi chile
  • 1.5Tbsp Salt (use only 1Tbsp if you got the brine shrimp)
  • 1Tbsp Sugar

Optional:

  • 1Tsp of Brine Shrimp, thoroughly mashed

You will also need a large container such as several quart size deli containers or a 1 or 1/2 gallon plastic tub or big Tupperware container.

After washing I cut off the ends of the cucumbers (it’s bitter) and sliced them lengthwise and then into 2 inch long half-barrels.

I cut up the radish into 3 peices and cut off the outside skin with a chef’s knife.

I grated one of the big radish pieces and got about 8oz of radish plus radish water.

I put the grated radish into a clean dishrag (a cheesecloth would be optimal) and wrung the radish water into my large container along with the reserved radish water from the bowl. This should yeild about 1 cup of radish juice total.

Next I took 1 Teaspoon of brine shrimp and ground them into a paste in the mortar and pestle.

I put the cucumber slices into the container (with the radish juices) along with the grated radish, cut up scallions, cubed up radish from another big piece (rest was put in the fridge in water for a snack), brine shrimp paste, 4tbsp of garlic, 1tbsp of grated fresh ginger, 1Tbsp of salt (or 1.5Tbsp if without the brine shrimp), 1Tbsp of sugar, and 2-4Tbsp of Kimchi Chile flakes depending on how hot you like it. Mix up well, and then add approximately 2 cups of water until everything becomes covered.

Let stand at room temperature (72 degrees) for 48 hours with lid or plastic wrap covering, then transfer to deli containers or smaller Tupperware in the fridge. Give to friends. Share and eat.

Oi Kimchi is great as a side dish to Bulgogi or Korean Short Ribs (Kalbi) with short grain rice.


NYC Dining: Fairway Market

August 18, 2006

Fairway Market
2350 12th Ave, New York, NY
(212) 281-2504

In terms of high end grocery shopping, there are a few well known outlets in NYC, such as Citarella, Dean and Deluca, Whole Foods, Gourmet Garage and Zabars, but for my money, if I’m going to do groceries in Manhattan, my pick would be the Fairway Market on 125th Street on the West side.

Fairway is one of the few places in Manhattan that makes sense to shop if you are coming in from the ‘burbs and you have a car. There’s a huge parking lot right off the 125th Street exit on the West Side Highway (and right across the street from the very excellent Dinosaur Barbecue, if you want to make it a shopping and dining trip) so its a good option for us bridge and tunnel folks. The produce and cheese and meats and fish are excellent, if not a tad expensive. However the quality is excellent and I would venture to say there are few places in the entire metro area that have the selection and variety that Fairway has. Perhaps Stew Leonards is comparable in some aspects (I love the meat section) but it’s not in Manhattan.

A new type of ovoid-shaped mediterranean onion.

One of the many ethnic grocery sections. This one is for British foodstuffs.

Bread and cheese area.

Fairway imports a number of different olive oils under its own brand. I particularly like the Greek Kalamata oilve oil ($15)

Now, on to the bad points. There are NUMEROUS ACCOUNTS of people having horrible experiences with the rudeness of customers and staff at Fairway. I myself on my last visit had this particular experience, just last week:

I completely forgot that Fairway prohibits photography within the store. So of course, like a dumbass, I was snapping away like a Japanese tourist on speed, getting photos for eG and Off The Broiler. I had gotten to about my 20th picture when I hit the bread/cheese area where they have the olive oil tastings set up, when a short man, that was conversing with the Kosher supervising rabbi that was there, who proclaimed to be the General Manager, got up right in my face and said

“Put that goddamn camera away now!”

I said “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize” and shoved it in my pocket. I profusely apologized further and explained to him that I wanted to take pictures for OTB and eGullet, and he said “I don’t give a damn who you are or what web site you have. Unless you want to get me excited, and you don’t want to do that, you’ll stop doing what you’re doing right now.”

I walked away about 20 feet and went into the cold room
(where, unfortunately, I did not take photos because of the reasons above) for a few minutes to escape the guy, where Rachel was looking at the oysters. After explaining to Rachel what had just happened I then headed over to try some olive oil at the tasting area. A few other customers were there looking at the olive oil, where there’s a sign that says “only dip once”. Before any of the customers could put a piece of bread in the oil, he starts yelling at the top of his lungs at them.

“NO DOUBLE DIPPING! THATS GODDAMN DISGUSTING!”

The guy turned bright red and then yanked a few of the plastic containers away, I guess to refill them with uncontaminated oil.

If this was the guy’s normal state, I don’t want to see him when he gets excited.


NYC Dining: Astor Wines and Spirits

August 15, 2006

Astor Wines & Spirits Inc
399 Lafayette St (At 4th Street) New York, NY
(212) 674-7500

After our Dim Sum lunch on Sunday, the group of us walked up the block to Astor Wines and Spirits, which many people beleive is the best wine store in the entire city. Back in March, Astor moved from its original location on Astor Place (where it had been since 1946) to a new, warehouse sized facility on Lafayette Street.

The new Astor Center building on Lafayette.

The new store is attractive and holds a huge amount of bottles. Astor’s prices are right on the money too, despite the fact of being in Manhattan.

This is a special display they had up for rose wines and sparklers. I admit, I picked up a nice rose sparkling cava they had, as well as a cremant.

The main room extends quite deep. There’s also a special refrigerator controlled room for the special vintages.

The refrigerated, tempature controlled room.

There’s a large refrigerator along one of the walls that has pre-chilled wines and Sakes.

The liquors wall. If Astor doesn’t carry it, it probably doesn’t exist in NYC.

The superpremium rums section, a dangerous place for me to be. The four bottles on the right hand side of the center shelf are Rhum Agricole from Martinique in the French West Indies, recently imported into the US by Ed Hamilton of Caribbean Spirits (and eGullet’s Minister of Rum). We got a podcast in the hopper with Ed at NYC’s Pegu Club that I think you’ll really enjoy.


NYC Dining: Dim Sum at Chinatown Brasserie

August 14, 2006

Chinatown Brasserie
380 Lafayette Street
New York, New York
212-533-7000

We’ve covered Chinatown Brasserie before — but as it was the first night of service, the complete Dim Sum menu wasn’t yet fully established, and I wanted to try more. This last weekend, prompted by Frank Bruni’s perplexing 1-star review (which I can’t in good conscience agree with) I had Sunday dim sum at the restaurant with my wife and four friends.

I have to say that Chinatown Brasserie is producing some of the most exceptional and high-quality dim sum items in the city, albeit at prices that are considerably above the norm (about 3 times more than your average Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, such as Ping’s, or Dim Sum Go Go). However, Chinatown Brasserie isn’t competing with these places. All of the restaurant’s dishes are cooked fresh to order (no steam carts) and are ordered a la carte, and the ambiance of the restaurant rivals something more like a Chinese Balthazar than a 22 Mott Street. I think its a wonderful place to have a very classy Dim Sum lunch, with some nice cocktails, in a very cool atmosphere. However, If you’re looking for Chinese restaurant bargains it’s not the place for you.

While some of the people I brought took exception to the cost of the items and the portioning, everyone said the quality and flavor of the dishes were exceptional. There wasn’t a single dish we didn’t like.

Click the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more food photos and commentary 

Read the rest of this entry »


Cobbler Ah Do Declare

August 12, 2006

Next to pecan pie, the dessert which screams “The South” for me is cobbler, peach cobbler in particular. I managed to pick up some really nice peaches from the Teaneck Farmers Market on Thursday, and they were so ripe that they all needed to be eaten, right away. I was originally going to make them into peach ice cream, but Rachel got the idea of turning them into cobbler, after remembering the incredible one we had at Varmint’s Second Occasional Pig Pickin’ back in September of 2005.

Unlike pies, cobblers don’t require anywhere near as much fuss — for the one we made tonight, you just pour the batter for the crust into a big casserole with some melted butter, plop the fruit mixture on top, and bake. The results are just as spectactular, albeit a bit messier.

Have a look at this really easy recipe by Paula Deen. The only thing we did different was use 2 cups of blueberries and 2 cups of peaches.

If you want to try another interesting cobbler, which has biscuits on top, check out the one by my buddy Brooks Hamaker (“Mayhaw Man”) from New Orleans.


In Praise of the Double Thick Cut Pork Chop

August 10, 2006

Last night, Rachel cooked up the double thick cut pork chops I got from Kocher’s. This would have been another Nice Weather = WEBER entry, but I was permanently attached to my computer for about 13 hours yesterday working on a client web server issue, and thus the mighty metal grill stayed cold that evening. However, I must say, the regular cast iron pan does wonders for thick pork chops — the meat came out perfectly done and juicy.

I had marinated the chops above in a similar method to Josh Ozersky’s competition entry at Grill Kings (click for video) from a few weeks ago, but with some minor modifications. To his blend of soy sauce, lime juice (he used lemon originally) garlic and white vinegar, I added mustard and a bit of orange juice, and let them marinate the whole day. Rachel then prepared a fresh teriyaki glaze according to our tried and true formula along with some nice fried rice and a cucumber salad recipe by eG Society member Shalmanese.

I gotta say, after 13 hours of banging at the computer, double thick cut pork chops really hit the spot.


NJ Dining: Indian Chef Restaurant Group (CLOSED)

August 7, 2006

February 2010 update: Indian Chef and Veggie Express have both closed. Tandoori Chef has been under new ownership for the last 3 years, and we did a recent re-visit here.

Indian Chef (In International Food Warehouse)
370 Essex St # A, Lodi, NJ
(201) 587-1087

Indian Food is often criticised for being too overly spicy, but I think that’s somewhat of a generalization. Certainly, there are a lot of spices involved in Indian Cuisine, but its possible to temper what spices you use and still have great Indian dishes that do not overwhelm the quality of the ingredients. One of the places that has mastered that philosophy is Indian Chef, in the International Food Warehouse in Lodi.

A view of the Dining Room from within International Food Warehouse.

Urad Vada

Fried appetizer sampler with Pakora, Vedai, Samosas

Spring Dhosa

Kati Rolls, with lamb and egg

Indian Chef’s Tandoor oven, viewable from the ordering window.

Chicken Tandoori, one of the best preparations I have ever had.

Mixed Tandoori Kebab Platter.

Chicken Malai Kebab. Marinated overnight in yogurt, it was incedibly juicy and moist.

Curry Area

A trio of curries. Chicken Tikka, A Vegetable Pakora Curry (Below) and Egg/Eggplant Curry (Right)

Tandoori Chef
258 Main St, Hackensack, NJ
(201) 457-0057

After their success in opening Indian Chef, the owners, Deepak Singh and Vishu Sethi, decided to ressurect the closed Dragonel/Dhaaba space on Main Street in Hackensack. The two restaurants are joined by a connecting hallway and it shares waitstaff. However, they have two separate kitchens. Tandoori Chef could be said to be a larger, formalized version of Indian Chef, focusing on Tandoor Halal meat dishes and traditional Punjabi cuisine, whereas Veggie Express is an inexpensive vegetarian restaurant focusing on Dhosas, Chaat and Tandoor breads. Either way, they are great Indian restaurants to visit, depending on your mood and dietary preferences.

Tandoori Chef dining room.

Chicken Biryani

Chef’s Tandoori Platter

Malai Kofta

Garlic Naan

Rice Pudding

Veggie Express
258 Main St, Hackensack, NJ
(201) 457-1557

Urad Vadai

Iddly Chaat

Bhel Puri

Rose Lassi

Paper Dhosa

Sambhar Soup (Goes with Dhosa)

Paper Masala Dhosa, barrel view

Paper Masala Dhosa (Cut Open) with Tomato and Coconut Chutneys

Chile/Tomato Utthapam

Lemon Rice

Kadi Pakora Chawal, Dumplings in Yogurt Sauce

Vegetable Curry

Chola Bhatura, a type of spicy Punjabi Chickpea Curry, served with Puffy Bread (Below)

Kashmiri Paratha with Potatoes, Nuts and Raisins

Gobi Paratha with Spiced Cauliflower

Gulab Jamun (Dessert Item)


The Most Honorable Way To Eat a Jersey Tomato

August 5, 2006

Having just gotten back from Matt Hassett’s funeral I was hungry, and I needed something to jar me out of my depressed state. I couldn’t handle anything heavy as the weather is still pretty brutal, so Rachel cut up one of the big tomatoes we got from Ploch’s Farm in Clifton, picked a bunch of nice basil leaves from our garden and made us a nice Caprese Salad. Here’s how she does it:

Make only in the summer with vine ripened, preferably home grown, tomatoes! This can be made fresh, layering it on the serving plates, or do as I do and prepare it 30-60 minutes ahead, allowing the juices to develop.

1   Large Tomato
8 oz Fresh Mozzarella
1/3 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil (best quality)
    Fresh Basil leaves
    Salt
    Pepper
    Crusty Bread (for service)

Take a big juicy home grown or farm stand, locally grown tomato (to be fair to those not in New Jersey). Frankly, this really isn’t worth doing with store bought tomatoes unless they are really ripe and in season. For one large tomato you’ll need one small (or half a large) ball of fresh mozzarella. Slice both into 1/4 inch slices. Pour some salt & grind some pepper into a small mise en place dish, taste the mozz. If it is salty, then use equal proportions of salt to pepper, if unsalted, use about 2:1 salt:pepper. You’ll need about 1/3 cup of best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil and several sprigs of basil, fresh from your garden.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a tall container, I use a quart size deli/soup container. Add a small sprinkle of S&P and a basil leaf or two (tear the big ones, leave the small pretty ones whole) and lay on a slice of tomato. Sprinkle of s&p, drizzle of oil, basil, slice of mozz. Spinkle of s&p, oil, basil, tomato. Continue until you use everything up. If you have leftover oil, pour it on. Put an airtight lid on the container.

Allow to marinate while you get the rest of the meal together. Turn the container over occasionally. Serve, layering the tomatoes & mozz, pour on a little of the oil/juices, eat with a slice of crusty bread. You can sprinkle on a bit of vinegar at service, I prefer a mild one, like Sherry Vineger from Spain, or maybe a good red wine vinegar over Balsamic. Mmm, summer on a plate.

In my mind, there’s no more honorable way to treat a Jersey Tomato.


Goodbye Matthew.

August 3, 2006

I have just received word that one of eGullet’s forum hosts, Matthew Xavier Hassett has passed away at the tender young age of 22.

The above photo pictures him having a good time with his foodie friends, at the eGullet Society China 46 Fundraising dinner back in late January of this year. This is just how I remember him, when I drove him home to his parent’s house in Teaneck after a night of Chinese New Year festivities that cold winter evening.

I remember how we talked about how he dreamed of someday cooking at a restaurant as a head chef or owning his own place. He carried himself so well and was such a fun guy to be around.

Here is an excerpt of an email that eGullet Society forum host Melissa Goodman sent me that Matthew wrote to her some months ago:

My love of food has been with me since I can remember. I had one of those “Suzy Homemaker Easy Bake Ovens” when I was five or so, not to mention my playdo kitchen. I have experienced eating out and fine dining since a very since a very young age, to my parents credit they taught me the rules early and the one time I made a scene in a restaurant I was taken to the car by my dad and went hungry that night needless to see it has not happened again. I have eaten in France, England, and Japan. I enjoy all cuisine but my preference is classical French bistro fare. Cooking wise I can thank my mother, as I am sure most of us can, for starting my interest. I always remember being her sous. I gradually overcame her as a cook (she said that not me). I love cooking from recipes, but my passion is going to the market seeing what is good and going from there.

My only plan is to within the next year start culinary school probably CIA and well then the world is my oyster, as they say.


Matthew’s post record on eGullet is indicative of a young person with an intense passion for fine food and dining, and although I didn’t know him very well, I feel like he lived a lot in his short life. He ate at all the finest restaurants in New York City and could hold very intelligent discussions and opinions on them for such a young kid. Frankly, I didn’t know he was only 22 years old until hearing of his passing today, for in so many ways he was far beyond his years. At 22 I didn’t have the sophistication in understanding restaurants, wine, spirits and cuisine like he did, and I’m still catching up with him with many of the places in NYC I have yet to eat at.

Goodbye Matthew. At my next fine meal, I’ll be toasting to you.

If you’d like to leave condolences for Matthew’s family, please click on this link for Volk Leber Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers donations in his memory to the Hemophilia Association of NJ (HANJ) 197 Route 18 So. Suite 206 North, East Brunswick, NJ 08816 would be greatly appreciated by the family


NJ Dining: Wondees

August 2, 2006

Wondee’s Fine Thai Food Noodle
296 Main St, Hackensack, NJ
(201) 883-1700

Thai Food is a popular cuisine in New Jersey, and no major town lacks a Thai restaurant. Be it as it may, when I want the authentic taste of Bangkok, my “go to” restaurant has got to be Wondee’s, in Hackensack.

Wondee’s certainly isn’t a fancy restaurant like its rival across the street, Bangkok Garden, and it doesn’t emphasize plating and presentation like some of the newer Thai restaurants in the Bergen County area like Kratiem, Thai Chef, Ridge Thai, or Pawana. But what it lacks in atmosphere and fussyness on the plate, it makes up for in value and flavor — which is why it’s the preferred eating destination for many of Northern NJ’s Thai residents.

Both the Tom Yum Goong (above) and Tom Kha Gai (below) are authentic renditions of the classic Thai soups, with a lot of galangal and lemongrass in it.

Pad Kaprow (Basil and Chili) Fried Rice is a real knockout.

These are special green long Thai eggplants sauteed with basil, pepper and chicken.

Moo Ping, marinated grilled pork with a spicy chili dipping sauce, is one of my favorite appetizers.

This Pad Thai is made with Bean Thread noodles, which I prefer to the standard rice noodle preparation (which you can also order). Other noodle dishes I like here are the Pad Siew (Soy Sauce Noodles) and The Spicy Kee Maow “Drunken” Flat Noodles.

Larb Gai

Fried Crispy Thai Catfish with Green Mango Salad with Cashew Nuts

Pumpkin Custard (dessert)