Sunday, December 1, 2013
This 20-pound batch of pogi kimchee will be ready by mid-December—quartered heads of cabbage are brined, stuffed with radish and scallions, then smothered in Korean chili paste (gochuchang) then cold-fermented for about five to six weeks. Most people are familiar with mak kimchee, made with chopped-up salad-sytle Napa cabbage. I perfer pogi kimchee; it has more layers of flavor.
I gave a lecture at the Mulberry Street Library yesterday. Through the magic of PowerPoint I demonstrated my cookbook project and the process of lactic acid fermentation. There’s a popular assumption that kimchee is a vegetarian-vegan food. Although my kimchee is in fact vegan, authentic kimchee employs refined anchovy sauce, dried shrimp, raw oysters and in some regions of Korea the use bone marrow or raw pheasant meat. In part it is ying-yang philosophy of eating with the deeper flavors of kimchee derived from a source protein. I use chitin from mushrooms, the same protein found in shellfish. But two kimchee questions come up often: Does kimchee have to be so spicy? Does it have to be salty?
Salt is ubiquitous to the lacto-fermentation process; it conditions plant matter by breaking the cell walls and it creates a suitable environment for lactobacillus to colonize and populate. As recently reported in the Journal of American Medical Association, “A new report finds no evidence that drastic reductions of dietary salt reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke or death.” So regular dietary salt is not terrible for our diet. Being a savory guy, I welcome this news.
There are many varieties of Korean kimchee that do not use pepper flakes. White kimchee (beak) uses the same fermentation method, but without pepper—same as with water kimchee (mul) which is served as a refreshing, cold summer soup. One person at the lecture said she uses paprika because her husband can no longer have spicy foods; it’s not a bad idea, there are so many components to the flavor of kimchee, heat is just one of them. I’ve tried many combinations and types of dried chili, including the Syrian Aleppo pepper. But there is no substitution for dried, coarsely ground Korean pepper (gochucaru); it’s sweet and hot with a grassy, smoked fragrance.The texture is never bone dry, the flakes are always soft and pliable.
In Korea’s culinary history, special foods were dyed magenta or red using plants such as Cock’s Comb seed. The introduction of chili is attributed to the Japanese invasion of the Korean peninsula; the Japanese openly traded with the Portuguese who brought New World foods such as eggplant, sweet potato, corn, squash and chili. Some dispute is taken since Europe and continental China traded goods regularly via the Silk Road (aka, the Suli)—most notably after the Oriental expedition of Marco Polo (1271-1292).
But the use of fresh and dried chili in Korean cuisine occurred more recently, circa 1590. Since most Korean terrain is mountainous and not ideal for agriculture, early Koreans relied on salt-preserved foods to sustain themselves during the long winter months. Korean food diversified during their Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) with the addition of fresh and dried chilies. Food from that time forward was prepared and preserved with red pepper. The addition of using a source of protein in kimchee fermentation is noted the 1670s. In the 1800s fermented fish sauce became more popular (source: “Gyuhab Cheongseo”). The use of seafood further inland also marked people of wealthy class. Still popular to this day, the whole-head cabbage style of kimchee came about in the 1800s. Korean gochucaru is a very unique chili that has become the corner stone of Korean cuisine. The ingenuity of survival bloomed into a culinary and social aesthetic. Although not all kimchee is spicy red-hot, it’s a flavor that I crave and love.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Join Kimcheelicious for a lecture about the history and process of fermentation by Antonio Limuaco, founder of Kimcheelicious, a project that explores innovative ways of preparing traditional fermented Asian foods for the way Americans cook and eat. Followed by a free kimchee tasting!
Saturday Nov. 30 at 2pm
The New York Public Library
Mulberry St. Branch
10 Jersey Street
New York, NY 10012
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Sweet potato and kimchee vegan empandas in a gluten-free crust are a big hit! These are signature snacks I’m creating for Deb Goldstein of Levine’s General Store, a Brooklyn-based GF food purveyor. The filling is made with sweet potatoes, roasted corn and my Hanguk Saffron (dried kimchee seasoning). WOW! The kimchee flavor and aroma bloom with heat with notes of ginger, garlic and Korean chili.
Initially I didn’t give gluten-free recipes much space in my Kimcheelicious cookbook, it will now have a good share. Just last night my friend, Sarah Kelly, told me she was recently diagnosed with celiac disease—an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. The immune system attacks and damages the villi which lines the small intestine, preventing the absorption of nutrition. The result is malnutrition. Currently wisdom dictates to exclude gluten-based foods, which can prove to be difficult. But Sarah has changed her diet and the way she eats... and carries an EpiPen.
According to Austin-based nutritionist, Holly L’Italien (Merritt Wellness Center), epigenetics (external environment influencing our DNA) is a strong possibility for this growing problem. Ms. L'Italien has helped me greatly advising me on nutritious recipes. In 2010 Mayo Clinic research reported that one in a hundred Americans were diagnosed with celiac disease, but many more go undiagnosed. We are what we eat, and the food on our tables has changed so much—over processed, chemically treated to prolong storage. Over the coarse of 50 years our modern wheat has been genetically modified to yield more sugar than nutrition—speculation is that this may be a cause for gluten intolerance and celiac disease in North America.
I am not gluten-intolerant, but I find it disturbing how many people I’ve met are, especially children. These GF vegan hand-pies may not necessarily be the end-all answer, but boy-oh-boy are they good hot or cold!
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Mr. Paul Calvo, the company owner, would turn down the music leading everyone in thoughtful prayer of thanks... Dankalu yan si Yu'us ma'ase po' todos... maila fan, chumocho hamyu! The trays were uncovered as two lines formed flanking the long banquet tables... fat kids first (that meant me). My favorite dish was the sweet and sour pork—red, tart and tangy! I always think of it as Guam’s soul food. In recent light of Typhoon Haiyan’s massive path of destruction to the Philippines, I’m reminded me of how we survived super Typhoon Pamela in 1976. Trees and houses were toppled, jungle areas were stripped bare and concrete buildings and roadways collapsed into rubble. The island was left without power and pumping water, for some folks up to 8 months. Despite the tragedy of loss, I’m also reminded of the generosity of neighbors, outdoor cooking over hardwood fires, playing kickball in the dark and sharing dinner with family and friends around the kerosine lamp. That year I very much looked forward to the Calvo’s Insurance Christmas party. As we near the holidays, I have much to be thankful for. My heart goes out the people of Tacloban and Filipino friends and family who now live in a terrifying aftermath. My grandmother would always reminded us pray for the unfortunate ones and count our blessings.
As I finish the Kimcheelicious cookbook I saved the best for last: Sweet and Sour Kimchee Chicken made with my Napa cabbage kimchee (beachu) and crushed pineapple, right out of the can. This meal brings back fond memories of people and a quirky island childhood. I’m also including instructions for using seitan instead of meat.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
My buddy Chris moved recently. As he streamlined his move I became the recipient of 96 small Ball jam jars. WIN!! These are the perfect size for my kimchee samples for tastings—2 oz each to be exact. I gave him a jar of my fermented Korean radish (kkakdugi) and a pack of my Hanguk Saffron to show my gratitude. Chris Faga is partner and owner of Blissville Kitchen, eponymous of its Long Island City neighborhood in Queens. On their menu they specialize in comfort foods, like Mac ‘n’ Cheese, hearty grilled sandwiches, house-smoke beef jerky and fine cheese platters. I can’t say enough about Chris’ cooking; there’s a bit of each borough in every bite. The next time you find yourself wandering through LIC, stop in for a bite. Forget that diet and enjoy a taste of Queens.
Friday, September 27, 2013
|Space, the next frontier|
OFI provides facilities for manufacturing gluten and animal free foods. Mike Schwartz is also operations partner of Bad Ass Organics—he was busy was bottling kombucha that day. I don’t know how he juggles everything, but when you love what you do it lightens the burden of task. I met the folks at the natural juice company and got see the organic olive oil manufacturer’s set up. On my way out I introduced myself to Karen Freer, an OFI tenant and partner in FreeBread, Inc., a gluten and nut free bakery. I just followed my nose towards the sweet aroma of bread. She said “I have nothing but great things to say about these people!” as she motioned to Angie with a full pallet of freshly-baked gluten-free bread. Although many Americans enjoy naturally aged cheese, a cold beer, fine wine or a breakfast yogurt, fermentation is still an odd word in the US. Meanwhile a movement towards natural foods is on the rise.
All this talk about food made me hungry, so I went in search of a familiar flavor. I took the subway a little further into Jackson Heights and meandered my way to below the elevated 7 line past Ecuadorian and Colombian restaurants and Chinese markets. There I found Little Manila on 69th Street. Filipino food is a mainstay on Guam’s banquet tables.
I had a toro-toro lunch at Fiesta Grill. I tried to speak some Tagalog, but resorted to pointing because I forgot what most of these dishes are called. They had quite spread of hot Filipino food—whole fried fish, two kinds of pork, crispy lechon, pancit, sauteed marungay greens, sweet rice cakes steamed in banana leaves and the infamous blood stew. I had the grilled pork and pancit with a generous helping of rice for $7.50. Each table had the essential sauces: patìs, coconut vinegar with garlic and soy sauce. For those who are more daring, they had fermented shrimp paste (bago-ong) at the side counter.
As I closed my eyes I could almost hear my grandmother yelling “Eat now!” over the fence, and we’d come running. With the next bite I could hear my dad yelling “Close the door!” over the clanging of plates, as he pointed at the AC. And as with all family meals we sat down as a family and ate with our hands.
The food was not as good as my mom’s home cooking, but it was as delicious as I remember. I don’t have many relatives out here, and I’ve come to the conclusion I’m the only guy from Guam in New York. So home-town foods are very rare for me. Yet I wanted more. Right next door I saw Pan de Sol in the window at Fritzie’s Bakery. I walked in a bought a bag for $3.50. I was so tempted to rip into it on the train home; I could smell the sweet dough through the plastic wrapper. But I practiced restraint and when I reached home I prepared it the way my father did—lightly toasted with a shaved sharp cheese and very light dusting of sugar. Along with lapsong sausage and scrambled eggs, this was the typical Sunday breakfast before rushing off to church.
It’s funny how the food can jog your memory take you to a far away place, or how a wonderful smell can be more like a time portal than an olfactory sensation. They say you can never go home, but it’s good to know that some of the familiar sweet things in life are only a train ride away.