ramen and pickles

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

Category Archives: Pickles

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!



Umami Burger, Pickle Plate – again

I mentioned the Umami Burger pickle plate  in a previous post.

I visited the location in San Francisco this time and tried the pickle plate.  The carrots and cucumbers were good.  I was less enthusiastic about the other pickles.  I don’t even remember what they were now.  However,  I thought I would share the photo for completeness.


Torshi Pickles

If you’re looking for a spicy pickle that will go well with a range of cuisines, I’d recommend you take a look at the “Hot Marinated Vegetables” from Sadaf.   It’s a spicy version of Persian torshi pickles.  There is cabbage, peppers, carrot, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, mint, and garlic in a vinegar base.

The aromatic herbs give it a good fresh, herbal, fresh note.  However, it is very spicy, so if you can’t handle capsaicin, beware.  You could mix this in with a mild giardiniera if its too spicy on its own.

These would pair well with Persian food of course, but also middle eastern food in general, Indian food, or as a spicy relish for a European meat and potatoes type of meal.   It is chopped fine enough that you could use it as a relish on a hot dog or sausage in a  bun or as a sandwich/burger spread.

It’s pictured here in the middle.  On the right is one of my favorite torshis, Sima’s Mixed Vegetables.   This is my second or third jar of this stuff from Sima Foods.   It seems like a very high quality product, with a nice and rich, subtle flavor.  It’s nicely packaged, in a manner that makes it look something like the artisinal Bay Area foods.    Overall, I also highly recommend the Sima mixed vegetable pickles.  It is not spicy like the Sadaf, and it’s chopped into larger chunks, but it’s quite good and great pairing for not only Persian food, but things like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, stuffing and gravy.

Also pictured are some homemade pickles: curried cauliflower with garlic and some dill green beans.


Mt Olive Bread & Butter

I saw this Mt Olive brand of pickles and thought I should grab some, if only because I loved the name so much.  Nothing says tasty brine like the word olive, and I love that is from a town actually called Mt Olive in North Carolina.




I got the Bread & Butter pickles, as I’ve been on a bit of a kick for them lately.   I had some of Bubbies Bread & Butter left over from the second jar of those that I got, so I could compare them head to head.  The Mt Olive brand was a little bit sweeter, although overall it seemed less complex, it didn’t have some of the additional rich bits of peppery flavor that the Bubbies had.  So I’m going to have to go with having the Bubbies being the winner for the Bread & Butter pickles.

As a side note, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the Bubbies little kosher dills.  But I will save that an a review of some these delicious Japanese pickles for another day.







Happy Girl Kitchen, Bread ‘n Butter

These are the bread and butter style pickles from Happy Girl Kitchen.   They are pretty tasty, with a nice sweetness.  Lots of sweet onion in there.   Overall, they are good.  I like what Happy Girl Kitchen has going on, and I like visiting their store.  They serve some good vegetarian food, with a rotating set of different things available for lunch, and then even make beverages like lemonade.  However, this small pickle jar was $8, and I’m not sure I can really rationalize that long term.  If that price point is not a deterrent, then they are definitely worth a try.





Bubbies and Golchin, Bread and Butter vs Giardiniera

Today I’m going to talk about two very different pickles.   The first are the Bread and Butter chips from Bubbies.   Basically, I thought these were absolutely delicious.  They had a light sweetness, not too cloying, with some nice crunch and mouthfeel.  You can tell by the picture that I rapidly finished off the whole jar.  Definitely a recommend if you like Bread and Butter  pickles.  Bread and Butter pickles are cucumber slices, pickled with some sugar, onion, fennel and celery.   Giving them a sweetness and mildness, contrasting with the ubiquitous dill. These would go good with a sandwich or when grilling.   The story is that their name comes from the fact that when money was in short supply, you could put some of these pickles between some slices of bread, and they would work as a sandwich on their own.  I didn’t try this with the Bubbies, but I could definitely see putting them between a couple of slices of pumpernickel, maybe with some brown mustard, and that could be a meal on its own.  Although, I might like mine with some kettle cooked potato chips or something.     IMG_0450 The second type of pickle, is a mixed pickle.    Giardiniera (which I can never spell right) is an Italian style of pickle.  It usually cauliflower, carrot, and celery, often with red pepper, olives, onions, etc.  pickled in oil and salt.  This version from Golchin (a Persian food company) is pickled in vinegar with a little bit of ascorbic acid.   Giardiniera is often a little side dish with a lot of light Italian foods, or you can see it on a plate with olives.   Sometimes the peppers in it are quite spicy. I am bit more used to the olive oil based version, which has a much richer flavor, although I guess the more traditional Italian version is with vinegar.   Overall, the Golchin version was decent.  Vegetables had a nice flavor, maybe a touch too salty.  However, it seemed to be missing a bit of pizazz.  I put some freshly ground black pepper on it, and it opened the flavor up quite a bit.   It is interesting to me that this mix is very similar to the Persian pickle known as Torshi, which is maybe why Golchin is selling it.   The whole big jar was only 3.99, so I think that is quite a deal, as in essence this serves as a ready made small salad type accompaniment for many meals.  Again, I didn’t really love it, but as it is not as heavy as the olive oil based versions, it would be a lighter accompaniment for food.   You could keep a jar in the cabinet, and break it out if you wanted to add a bit of something colorful to a plate. Overall, giardiniera is one of the most beautifully colored foods which can sit in a jar for years in the cupboard before you crack it open, so it deserves some credit for that all on its own. In terms of this offering from Golchin, it’s okay, but I am not in love with it.  I much prefer some of the wide range of more spicy torshi type “mixed” pickles that Golchin sells.  However, other people like more mild fare. IMG_0452

Sonoma Brinery Kosher Dills and Ozuké Citrus Kraut

So today, I’m going to review a couple of fermented pickles from some small production companies.  

Sonoma Brinery is located, surprisingly enough, in Sonoma County in Healdsburg.   Healdsburg is a lovely town with lots of vineyards and wineries around.  Their “Manhattan style” kosher dills are a nice, crunchy fermented dill.  I’m not sure it really tastes quite the same as the dill pickles from the kosher delis or pastramis places of Manhattan, although that might be a trick of my taste memory.  A lot of shops will sell full and half sours (more or less fermented), and I think the Sonoma Brinery pickles fall somewhat in-between.  They also seem to have a slight bit more of a peppery hotness to them then I associated with a Manhattan style kosher dill.  However, they are still really good and I would recommend them if this is the style of pickle you are looking for.  They have a nice crispness, a nice little hint of spiciness, with the fermented tang and a tiny bit of the effervescence on the tongue.  I’m looking forward to trying some of their other products.


Ozuké is a brand from Boulder, Colorado.  Zuke is a Japanese word for pickle, and I really like the concept of what they are doing.  They are making traditional fermented foods in somewhat Asian style, with a sort of modern Western spin on them.  For example, the idea of fermented cabbage with some citrus and ginger flavor is very Japanese.  However, the more traditional version would be with napa cabbage flavored with yuzu.  Here they are using Western cabbage and lemon.    They produce a wide range of different interesting products which I have no tried yet.  They have a pickled cucumber with green tea.  They have a red cabbage kraut with orange calendula flowers with orange peel which sounds good and looks beautiful.    They have a kimchi made from kale and collard greens (so hipster compliant).  

At first I was a bit disappointed in this particular cabbage and lemon mixture, mainly because I was thinking of some of the really delicious napa/yuzu pickles that I have had in Japanese restaurants.  A lot of very Japanese sushi places around here will make there own home napa/yuzu pickles which are really exceptional.  Western cabbage and lemon is much less subtle and much more flavorful, at first a bit over-powering.  And the lemon after-taste is quite strong.  Also, the kraut seems quite acidic, even more so than regular cabbage kraut.  The flavors don’t blend together as well as I might have hoped, for example the lemon has such a strong note that it just sort of hits you early and then hangs out after the regular kraut flavor, which would be a mild acidity (fermented cabbage without the traditional Western flavorings like caraway and garlic is a bit bland and just acidic).   I would like to ramp down the lemon and maybe ramp up the ginger.  The cabbage had a nice chewiness to it.  However, this one is starting to grow on me with time as I get used to it.    It pair well with something like a grilled steak.   The lemon flavor wouldn’t probably go well with most sausages, but a salted steak or chicken breast might be a good match.  It would go well with a Japanese style grilled mackerel (saba shioyaki) and rice.  I was trying to imagine a good vegetarian pairing, and it might be something with fatty richness but not much acidity on its own.  Maybe olive oil marinated and grilled shitake mushrooms, something like that.

New England Pickles

One of the nice things about being in New England  in the summertime is the abundance of nice farm stands.  It was also nice to see that the supermarkets had some relatively local fresh pickles for sale.  So I’m showing one of each type here.  The Kosher dills are from Farm Ridge Foods in NY, and they were quite tasty and fresh with a good crunch.



These are some bread and butter pickles that we picked up at a farm stand in New Hampshire.  They were nicely sweet, with pickled onion included.  They were great as an accompaniment to pretty much every kind of summer food, such as stuff from the grill.

IMG_0114Some tasty farm pickles for sure!  Hope you can get something similar at your local farm stand this summer.



Ramen Shop in Oakland, Redux

Today it was back to the Ramen Shop in Oakland for another visit.  For those visiting, it has a very nondescript exterior, so may be a bit hard to find if it is your first time.  The ambience inside is friendly, a bit on the darker side giving it a more lounge/bar feel, and the Saturday night crowd definitely made it feel like it was a bit of a “scene”.  There is a bar in the front, which serves some great cocktails, and has an interesting beer and sake list.  I didn’t get any drinks this time, but some people in my group got some interesting concoctions which they enjoyed tremendously.

Ramen Shop, 5812 College Ave, Oakland, CA

Ramen Shop, 5812 College Ave, Oakland, CA

The pickle plate was again spot on, with five different things to sample.  The black, Spanish radish was delicious.  I also really liked the cabbage, which was a bit spicy.

Ramen Shop, Pickle Plate

Ramen Shop, Pickle Plate

Ramen Shop Menu

Ramen Shop Menu

Shio Ramen

Shio Ramen

I got the shio ramen.  One of my complaints last time was that the broth tasted artificially thickened, perhaps with carrageenan.  I didn’t taste that way to me this time round.  The broth was quite good, nice flavor and consistency.  I liked the mizuna; I don’t remember having that as a green last time.   The noodles were good, I was probably being a bit too picky last time around.   This time there was a chicken meatball in the ramen.  I’m not sure I’m really into it.  I haven’t been able to get into meatballs in my pho either.  The only meatball soup I like is Italian wedding style.  I also like a good matzo ball soup, which is  almost vegetarian meatball.  Anyway, maybe I just need to get used to ramen with meatballs.  Although, they were tasty.  Again, the egg was fantastic, although you only get 1/2 of an egg.

I didn’t try the vegetarian ramen this time, but it looked quite good.  Overall, a tasty place, and I like their constantly evolving menu and interesting use of ingredients.  i had absurdly high expectations the first time I went, so it is nice to go this time and just be able to enjoy myself and have some good ramen.  It’s quite good.  Unfortunately, it’s quite far from where I live.

Ramen Shop, Noodle Machine

Ramen Shop, Noodle Machine







Pernicious Pickle Review

I thought today I would review some cucumber pickles from the Pernicious Pickling company in Costa Mesa, CA.



I am going to compare these pickles with Golchin’s Persian style pickles (the Golchin pickles are actually made in India).    A comparison of what the different pickles look like is below.

We are comparing the sweet bread & butter pickles and the spicy habanero hotties.    Consistency and mouthfeel-wise, the Pernicious pickles are very soft, almost too soft as they have only a little crunchiness.    The bread & butter are very sweet, and sugar is listed as an ingredient.  They have a nice rich flavor, and you can get some of the bits of onion with is included.  They mustard and cumin give it overall an enjoyable taste.  The spicy pickles are certainly spicy.  They also have a nice subtle sweetness, probably from the garlic and the fact that apple cider vinegar is used for pickling these.  The bread and butter had a little crunch, but the spicy pickles had essentially none.  They were spicy, but I was able to comfortably eat a few with plain crackers; however, everyone’s tolerance varies and my spicy tolerance is probably pretty high.  Overall a tasty couple of pickles, although I think in the future I’d like to try some of their other offerings to see if I can find something with some more crunchiness.



If you are interested in Persian pickles, there is a nice discussion and comparison of a few kinds:  http://mypersiankitchen.com/persian-pickled-cucumbers/

The golchin Persian cucumber pickles are quite good, nice bit of crunchy snap to them compared to the Pernicious, even though I can tell they have been pickled for a while.   They have some subtle sweetness that comes from the garlic I presume.    I’ve you’ve gotten pickles at a falafel joint, you’ve probably had essentially the same thing.

Finally, I will leave you with some pickle duct tape, in case you need to tape your pickle jars together or something.  So keep on “dilling with it” as the tape says.