ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Monthly Archives: May 2016

Battle of the Kimchi; Hipster vs Korean Grocery

Kimchi is a living things, so it can vary quite a bit over time, even from a careful maker.  However, I thought I would compare the kimchi made by artisanal foodie hipsters (Farmhouse Culture) vs standard kimchi sold in the Korean grocery store.

Now, is it fair to call the Farmhouse Culture team artisanal foodie hipsters, well, I don’t personally know the people who make it.  However, they make it in Santa Cruz, and sell it out of wooden barrels at high end farmers markets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even if the people at Farmhouse Culture are not hipsters, they are certainly making it for and selling it to, hipsters.

Anyway, I digress.

The two different kimchis are quite different; you can see right away that the color and overall look is quite different.  The Farmhouse Culture version is much greener with visible carrot.  The Cham Kimchi is much redder, with visible red pepper flakes.  This difference is recapitulated in taste, with the Farmhouse kimchi having a much more green vegetable flavor, perhaps because of the leeks.  The Farmhouse also had strong ginger notes.  They were roughly equally spicy, but the Cham Kimchi tasted of more red pepper flavor.  You can buy giant bags of red pepper flakes at a Korean grocery, and in addition to the piquancy of the capsaicin, there is a very distinct pepper flavor.  It’s a lot less sweet than some of the other popular pepper types (e.g. jalapeño) and more astringent.  The Farmhouse also had more of the effervescence of a fermented food (but that might have more to do with timing of eating relative to packaging).  The Cham Kimchi had more fresh and rigid, chewy texture of the cabbage.

In terms of production, the Farmhouse seems to be entirely vegan, while the Cham Kimchi does use some shrimp flavoring.

I think if I were cooking with kimchi, I’d prefer the Cham, as it is more structurally robust and will add spiciness to the dish.  For just eating and snacking on kimchi, the Farmhouse has more complex and sweet flavors, adding to something else you are preparing (e.g. a fried rice) might add unexpected flavors and remain a less distinct element of the dish.

It’s worth noting at the Farmhouse Culture also makes a smoked jalapeño sauerkraut which is a little spicier than their kimchi.  It has a lovely, rich smoky favor that would be a complement to many other dishes, although it’s a bit too spicy (for me at least) to eat on its own.  I could see it as a great way to combine with something fairly bland (like a bowl of rice) to make a really tasty meal.

Happy probiotic snacking!

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Some tasty fusion treats in Honolulu

I particularly enjoy in Hawaii as I really like the fusion of Japanese techniques and Polynesian ingredients, and there are many other fusion influences (Portuguese, American, Filipino, etc.), so I thought I’d go through some of the unique and very delicious things you can get there.

First, Chef Morimoto is a celebrity chef known for starring on both the Japanese Iron Chef, but also the American version as well.  He has a string of restaurants around the world, but his branch in Honolulu, in addition to being a wonderfully elegant restaurant with lots of delicious things on the menu has something special.  It is pineapple tempura with jamon iberico on top and a wasabi tzatziki sauce.  This four way fusion (Japanese, Hawaiian, Spanish and Greek) dish is just fantastic.  The salty ham gets you first with the crunchy tempura, and then the wonderfully sweet and tart pineapple juice fills your mouth.  So good.  As a side note, pineapple is technically originates from Brazil, but now it is strongly associated with Hawaii.  Apparently the lack of pollinators are also what makes pineapples from Hawaii so delicious (they don’t get seeds) and why hummingbirds (which can pollinate pineapple) are barred from the Hawaiian islands.

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Photo from Paige S on yelp.

Second, another piece of deliciousness from Honolulu is the kalua pork Cubano from Waikiki Brewing Company.  Kalua pork is a very traditional slow cooked pork dish, the mainstay of luaus.  The Floridian style sandwich has the kalua pork, ham, homemade dill pickles, and Dijon mustard and then is cooked in a sandwich press.  Served up with one of the delicious brew pub beers (for example the amber ale), it’s pure deliciousness.

Third, if you’re looking for something a little (although not too much) lighter, then you may want to try some musubi‘s from one of the many Iyasume locations around Honolulu.  They have some main cafes and some express locations.  The Japanese o-nigiri rice ball might be most easily compared with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or maybe sandwich more generally) in the US; it’s a basic and simple snack that can be taken anywhere.  Miyamoto Musashi took them as snacks when he adventured around, at least in the novelization of his life, so they have a storied history.  It’s basically rice wrapped in dried seaweed to keep it packaged and contained.  Lots of fillings can be added, although I tend to prefer ume plums, pickled mustard greens (takana), cooked salmon, and beef and ginger.  In Hawaii they specialize in spam musubi, the spam can be marinated in a teriyaki like sauce and then browned slightly before putting it on the rice ball.  I like a variant which includes a little bit of shiso leaf and Takuan pickle.  Takuan is named after Takuan Soho the legendary Zen monk and tea ceremony master who serves at the mentor and spiritual guide for Miyamoto Musashi in the aforementioned text.  So when you are eating your musubi, it’s appropriate to have a moment of Zen.

Happy eating!