Kung Hei Fat Choi! – Radish Cakes with Kimchi

kung heiEvery year lunar new year is a wonderful opportunity to gather friends, make lots of food and celebrate together.  In true Cantonese spirit we had a rowdy time.  Some glimpses of traditional practices that I remember from my childhood growing up in Hong Kong –  Late night flower markets with strings of naked tungsten lights strung overhead.  Spring so fully embodied by pink peach buds poking out from a tangle of bare branches and glossy bulbs of narcissus bursting white and gold from sleek green leaves.  Huge round tables filled with food and five separate conversations juggled with skill by fast talking aunties, hands waving and voices rising in a merry mashup of indignation, mirth and scandal.  Daylong preparations in the kitchen where clever hands and patient steps work steadfastly towards the glory of consumption. New clothes, lucky packets filled with money, trays of candy, dried fruits and watermelon seeds. Bright red paper with fresh black calligraphy inviting prospects with a few well placed words, joss sticks and fire crackers and visits to spruced up grannies who ply you with ancient candy and squeeze your arms. In true South China style I remember a cacophony of good will and a tumultuous amount of good food. :)

turnip Ozuke_chopping_vegatables_mushrooms IMG_1071 IMG_1065 IMG_1063I started my preparations the week before curing pork belly from a friend’s farm. This method “laap yuk” works wonderfully well in Colorado’s dry and temperate climate.  I keep my house cooler than most (around 67 degrees) which also worked out perfectly.  The technique was simple first I submerged 2×4 inch strips of pork belly in a half and half mix of tamari and rose scented rice wine (mui gwai lo), pressed the meaty pieces under the liquid for 24 hours (room temperature).  I then used butcher’s twine to hang the bacon in my kitchen with a steel bowl under on the counter to catch any dripping fat etc.  It then hung and cured for 5-7 days.  As it cured you could see the outer skin dry out, a sweet rice wine smell emanate and a matte sheen from the fat curing on the surface.  I still have two pieces of this precious cured pork in my fridge it is so simple and really is a marvel.

This year I decided to make Radish Cake a traditional new year dish and also a favorite dim sum dish.  (You know the cart with the griddle top that goes around… in Cantonese “Lor Bak Go”).  I got the recipe from my best friend Des who lives on Cheung Chau Island in Hong Kong.  He got the recipe from asking his Aunties.  He said it was very difficult to decipher because they were all talking at once and arguing.  I am allergic to shellfish so I substituted the shrimp and scallop with shitake mushrooms, my home made bacon and some finely chopped kimchi.  Next year I think I might use dehydrated kimchi for better textural contrast…  however the kimchi worked out fantastically giving the Radish Cake a great spicy flavor.

robert cake8 pounds of Daikon Radish (grated – traditionally done by child labor)
600g of sharp rice flour (plain rice flour NOT glutenous or sweet rice flour)
1tblspn salt
a small lump of rock sugar
1 cup of small diced cooked pork belly (crispy is good!)
1 cup of squeezed dry finely chopped kimchi (next year I will dehydrate!)
1 cup of diced shitake mushrooms
black and white pepper
dried shrimp dried scallop dried fish – (if you’re not allergic to it it’s great! soak in water first then dry fry to prepare)

In a massive wok..fry up the radish with salt/sugar/seasoning

cover wok allow to soften and release juice

once radish is soft drain out the radish juice and mix it with rice flour to make a solution

prep other ingredients. (fry bacon, squeeze and chop kimchi etc.)

mix rice paste solution with soft radish and mix in other ingredients.

at this stage do a taste test by making a small pancake in a frying pan.

make your final adjustments. (we like lots of white pepper!)

Steam for 1 hour (small tin) 1hour 30 min for a big one.  Cool completely before cutting.  Cut in slices and fry up on a griddle til outside is crispy.

Serve with cut spring onions, srirracha and hoisin sauce.

Where to get the best Ramen and the not so secret Ozuké ingredient

As you know, ramen is all the rage. It has been for a while now. Ask anyone where to get the best ramen and they will likely have a very passionate response. In fact, finding the best ramen has almost become an urban sport, the winner gaining social status, emphatic pride, and maybe even a few dates.

Unfortunately, when something becomes insanely popular, it can also become insanely expensive. Not all ramen spots are pricey, but there are certainly a lot of pricey options out there. What if you are just as obsessed with ramen as everybody else, but are shackled by your budget?

We are here to tell you that making ramen does not require alchemy—especially with the super power of delicious kimchi. So why not make your own?

Like an embedded reporter, I photographed as a friend made ramen for dinner. I pretended to be experimenting with a new camera as I lined up the ingredients and snapped away. Herein these photos lies the secret to making delicious, easy and inexpensive ramen that doesn’t come in a microwavable cup.

When I walked in the house I noticed two things immediately: An amazing aroma and my growling stomach. The broth had been simmering for some time before my arrival.

This particular cook was rather secretive about his broth, I think because his strategy was to add a little of this, and add a little of that, until the flavor reached its zenith. He did however excitedly use some juice from Ozuke’s Kale & Collards Kim Chi. He poured it right into the broth, right in front of my camera.

Ozuke in Broth

Not pictured: How incredible the house smelled as the broth was simmering.

As I arranged the ingredients that were set out for the meal to “try out my new camera,” there were hints of what the broth contained. Beside the kimchi you’ll notice Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, Sriracha, natural rice vinegar, white pepper, turmeric, black sesame oil, and even Jamaican Jerk seasoning.

Ingredients

We can also see almost everything else that the ramen will include once it is plated: ramen noodles, ginger root, garlic cloves, shallots, carrots, radishes, a lime, a jalapeno, green opinions, cilantro, and shitake mushrooms. Not pictured: four eggs and one cucumber.

Radishes

Isn’t there something so dangerously fun about jalapenos?

Mushroom Close

I confess I didn’t see what role the ginger played in the meal, but I suspect it was used in the amazing broth.

Ginger

While the broth continued to simmer, our chef of the evening grabbed a knife. He cut up the green onions, the carrots, the radishes, the mushrooms, the cucumber, the jalapeno, the shallots, and pulled the leaves from the cilantro.

Green Onion Carrots

After that, there was some cooking to do. Four eggs were cracked and scrambled with black pepper.

Eggs

After that, there was some cooking to do. Four eggs were cracked and scrambled with black pepper.

RamenCooked Shrooms Egg Onion

After all the prep was done, the stage was set like this. Everything is fresh and simple, the signature of a good, healthy meal.

Prepped Ingredients

As our chef for the evening began to plate the food, it was confirmed that he was an artist. He took his time laying each ingredient on each plate at a time so that the patterns matched from plate to plate.

Close up Plated No Broth

And after everything was arranged just so, he poured in the broth we’d been salivating over, making each dish almost complete. The cherry-on-top to this ramen dish was our Kale & Collards Kim Chi—a grand finale indeed.

Plated Above

Yes, it was delicious.

Now let’s review. Making a delicious ramen meal at home is something all of us can do. There is very little cooking involved, there is ample room for creativity, the ingredients are simple and few, and as long as kimchi is involved, you’re going to love it

Good Food Awards 2015

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When Mara told me last January that she was buying the entire plum and cherry harvest from a young farmer she had met through the Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, I must admit, I was a tad unsure about buying all that fruit. We mostly make kraut, kimchi and various other pickled delights but the fermented fruits, popular throughout Asia as well as parts of Latin America, were a new exploration for us. In the very early days of our business (before we actually even knew it was a business) we had harvested wild plums from my family’s land in Lyons and made a batch of umeboshi to share with friends but this was a great deal more fruit, with more on the line. Flash forward to harvest and our crew stemming a zillion cherries, elephant heart plums arriving plump and sweet- such elegance and flavor, a process of balancing sweet, salty and tart coupled with adding the zing of live food. They were on their way to becoming something very tasty.

In September, we submitted to the Good Food Awards with these new products and heard back in November that we were finalists. The news had the wonderful rush of risk paying off but also of the tendril of our process, our creativity and our care out in the world.

This month we went to San Francisco to accept our award and to meet many other excellent food crafters from all over the country. We wore lipstick, we were humbled in the presence of gustatorial greats like Mark Bittman, Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl. We ate many wonderful things and drank our fair share too. We made new friends, worked a souk style Farmer’s Market on Saturday at the Ferry Building (which was so outrageously busy we had to hide in bed and watched Girls for a few hours to recover) and took in the foggy goodness of the city. Thank you to Sarah Weiner and the rest of the GFA crew for putting together such an cool gathering of food nerds, hats off to all the other winners and if you are local and want to taste the goods- Umeboshi: Salted Paonia Plums and Cheriboshi: Salted Paonia Cherries are now available at a Whole Foods and other independent grocers near you.

 

Pickle Prose by Andy- Cabbages & Kumquats

We are thrilled to have Andy Gladstone- foodie, writer, neighbor- guest blogging for us this week. Enjoy the ride!

cabbages & kumquats

Zukemono bowed her head softly, in a subtle, silent and submissive manner belying her fierce passion, power and potencies.  She lightly turned and returned to the kitchen, and having absorbed the spectacular visual vibrations pulsing from the delicious pinkpurple Colorado sunrise, she felt ready to direct that organic cleansing energy toward a wondrous culinary treat.  Just as surely as the sun had scrubbed the night from black to light (and using much of the same energy), Zukemono would transform her lethargic sliced cabbage into a lively, high-steppin’ tangy fusillade of exploding transformative flavor.  As a form of soothing meditation, and in preparation for her morning cabbage capers, Zukemono gently allowed her gaze to settle on the finely sliced red cabbage reclining lightly in its silver bowl.  The light in her eyes reflected the sweetest mysteries of the universe, a light unbounded by the mortal laws of humans, laws which exist for no reason other than to filter us from the terrifyingly incomprehensible complexity and simplicity (different strokes for different folks) of our vast universe.  The energy emanating from her eyes played with the cabbage; first, gently ruffling the slices as if a gust of wind wafted over the bowl, then with a touch more vigor slowly swirling them within the bowl as if with a large wooden spoon, and finally, with one long, deep smooth inhaleexhale, coupled with a lowering of her eyes, Zukemono utilized her harmonic energy to send the cabbage tumbling into the air, gaily dancing several feet above the bowl.  Oh how those cabbage cavorted, bathing in  and absorbing the life affirming energies of the universe, swirling in a manner common to both the whirling dervishes and grateful dead twirlers of yesteryear.  After an irrelevant amount of time, the cabbage slices, now thoroughly exhausted, ecstatically free of all thought, healthily rid of the carbon-dioxide traces of old breath & trembling with the overwhelming inherent power within the purity of Now were finally, fully ready for their plunge to pickledom.

Of course there’ll be a chorus of scoffing skeptics singing, even as the cruciferae joyfully frolic to the rhythms of their whiny declarations.  Yes even the naysayers, with their soulless vision of a blackwhite logical world, helplessly resound with cosmic music every time they open their mouths to deny its very existence.  Just as Nero pickled while Rome burned. The carefree cabbage know, if you can’t beat ‘em, dance to ‘em.  Not that Zukemono would ever wish this tale to be told.  She knew reactions to her curious attunement with the beating heart of mother earth could bear far too many parallels to the Salem witch trials of 1692 and that there had been far too little human evolution since that time.  Only a closer look at the still photo (taken moments before the red cabbage waltz) explains how this story clambered across the table, scampered along the kitchen floor, scurried out the back door and escaped into a world where the magic music of the universe oft terrifies and demands are made for tax-payer funded ear plugs, blinders, and prisons.

It’s the kumquats (no, those aren’t eggs!!), stealthily pretending to languish languidly in a bowl.  In fact, they are maintaining laser-like focus, poised to pick up even a hint of vibration emanating from that large pile o’ cabbage beside them. If ever there was a loose-lipped fruit, bursting out of its skin to make mischief of an innocent cabbage promenade, it’s most certainly those juicy kumquats.  Truth be told kumquats have been a bit jealous of cabbage since first they met.  From the beginning kumquats suffered from a bit of an inferiority complex, to them it seemed size mattered.  And though they were universally praised for their luscious fragrance and spectacularly tart sweetness they always considered the cabbage an obnoxious vegetable due to its showy, lackadaisical style, the way a single head would slouch to fill a bowl designed for 30 or more kumquats. The final straw, however, was the kumquats awareness of the pizzazz produced by a pickled cabbage.  Despite their diminutive physical stature they had lorded their opulent tangy nectarous palette-tickling abilities over the cabbage.  Once they discovered that their vulgarly large & lazy acquaintance could set off its own set of spectacularly flavorful mouth-watering gymnastics it was time to make the Hatfields & McCoys (of the future) look like a couple of BFFs.

 

 

Good Medicine and Digestion

Often in the depths of winter I get hit with a serious humdinger of a flu and this year was no exception. I returned home from a lovely holiday with my family and after a few days I had the distinct feeling of being pulled down by a heavy weight that has kept me in bed for three days now. Being sick is not all bad. It seems to be part of a ritual of renewal  that happens for me at this time of year, usually around the Celtic festival of Imbolc.  Having some time to rest and think about ones life and ones health can create an odd sort of inspiration- just the thought of walking around and feeling good seems a true blessing and it makes you want to continue to realize that blessing and take good care of the carriage. I have (along with a stack of long neglected New Yorkers, Harpers, and Atlantics) been re-reading Green for Life, Nourishing Traditions and some other oldies but goodies that encourage balanced, sustainable good health. I also cut out a page from an old NYTimes Magazine by Mark Bittman about going mostly vegan as a way Ozuke Shirtto boost your energy and improve the state of the planet. I have been reading about pH balance in the body and as it turns out food protein, which is vital for maintaining your health, can also create an acidic condition in your body’s pH balance.  An acidic body pH condition facilitates accelerated aging, system degeneration and increased susceptibility to sickness and disease.

What else affects pH and causes it to become unbalanced? A mild acidosis condition (an overabundance of acid in the blood) can be caused by improper diet, but also by poor lifestyle habits or toxic emotional states. The amount of acid in the body can increase through ingestion of acid-forming foods, but it can also be affected by an abnormal metabolism or kidney malfunction. As we age, our body’s systematic removal of excess acid has begun to slow down which is why you sometimes feel like you need a new carburetor.
Although it seems a bit illogical, our bodies metabolize acid foods as alkaline and metabolize alkaline foods as acid. Acid foods (citrus fruits, vegetables, vinegar and other fermented foods- zuké!) all become alkaline when consumed and metabolized and so are called “Alkaline-forming foods”.On the other hand, alkaline foods (meats, flour, sugar, soft drinks, alcohol, aspirin and various medications) are metabolized by the body into “acid-forming foods.” That’s why the average American diet of hamburgers and processed food can and usually does contribute to a condition called “mild acidosis.” Although eating some acid-forming foods is okay, it is best if we consume 60-80% alkaline-forming foods for optimum health.

So, there you have it- along with a new found addiction to Downton Abbey  and a pile of used handkerchiefs I have a renewed resolve for revitalizing with more simple pH balanced foods, plenty of deep breaths and a healthy dose of gratitude.

Clarifying Butter

In honor of simplicity I chose to make my own Ghee this week. I’ve often bought ghee from the store before and even though I have a middling tolerance for dairy products I seem to have no problem digesting butter or ghee.  The smell of ghee on the frying pan is simply delightful and I’ve recently enjoyed using rendered fats in my cooking, saving chicken fat from the last roast that we did inspired a round of excellent chopped liver (onions cooking in chicken fat illicit an awe inspiring drool worthy smell), and saving lard from a recent pork roast made some of the most beautifully textured oven roast potatoes.  One of these days I want to do some lard and flour baking.  That is what they would use when I was a kid to make Dan Tarts (chinese style puff pastry with egg custard), the smell of warm lard is a sure fire flashback to my youth, I am quite sure that pork fat is one of the cornerstones of traditional Cantonese cooking. There’s been much written recently on the undue vilification of saturated animal fats. All I can really add to that conversation is that I was extremely relieved to hear that fat free milk is bad for you.  I have always been drawn to fats, seared fish sends happy shivers down my spine, avocados make me smile and along with strawberries they were a very rare childhood treat (berries and avocados were very hard to find in Hong Kong in the eighties). As long as I can remember I had a deep love affair with fat.  I’m the weirdo that will cut a slab of fat off my steak and eat it first before diving into the lean meat and one time age ten when I got in trouble for fighting with my mom I went to the store and I bought her a gorgeous rib eye steak to express my deep remorse and future good will.  As far as minimally processed foods, fats and rendered fats are perfect…  butter is made of the following emulsion:  the two dissimilar substances are butterfat (roughly 80%) and water (roughly 17%) along with about 3% milk solids. The emulsion breaks on being heated and the components separate. Clarified butter is nothing more than pure butterfat. Fats will keep you full for longer, they help to balance moods, provide essential fatty acids for cell development and body processes and we cannot generate these fatty acids ourselves, they must be received from an external source.

So now that I have prayed for a sufficient amount of time at the temple of tummy I’ll post that recipe :) Clarified butter is so simple to make and a superior tool to cook with as it resists high heat sauteeing and has a mellow and comforting flavour.

Ingredients

1lb Unsalted Butter

Method:

Melt butter on medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Skim off the first foam that forms on the butter’s surface.  Reduce heat and continue to let butter simmer.  You will see the liquids separate from the butterfat as the butter boils.  Its quite pretty – roiling and rolling globules of golden emulsified liquid. After the butter has bubbled away for about seven to ten minutes a second foam will form.  Take butter off heat and let it cool for fifteen minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer with cheese cloth.  Make sure to stop before straining liquids at the bottom of the pan. Note, you will see those three distinct parts in separation: milk solids you skim off the top, butterfat in the middle and water settles to the bottom.

Store in a sealed glass jar.  You can keep it at room temperature for up to a month.

 

 

Art meets Process

sheep-pig

Andrew Plotsky’s film on pork butchery. Caution: Some images may be graphic for some viewers.

“His favorite cut of a pig? The trotter, or the foot. “If you have a trotter on a plate, you should feel blessed and not say ‘Ew,'” he says. “They’re kind of everything a chicken wing dreams of being.”

I simply had to share this film.  I found the following article this morning on NPR.  This work is inspired and inspiring.  Connect, create and feed the future.  Thank you Andrew Plotsky.

NPR: How One Former Vegan Learned to Embrace Butchering