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Super Food Nerds: Make Your Own Kimchi

Once kimchi has gotten its hooks into you — stinky and fiery as it may be — life becomes unthinkable without the fermented Korean dish. It makes masochists of those who happily endure its scorch — even Super Food Nerds like myself. Kimchi packs the earthy-fruity wallop of a good hot sauce, the crunch and tang of a great pickle, and, rumbling beneath it all, a funky-savory-umami bass note uniquely its own. Any food that can do one of those things well deserves a place in your kitchen. A food that excels at all three is, quite simply, indispensable.

As I embarked on the quest to develop a worthy kimchi recipe, I enlisted the help of my colleague Esther Choi, a marvelous chef who, having grown up in a traditional Korean kitchen, has kimchi pretty much coursing through her veins.

What I learned from Esther could fill a book; I’ll stick to the highlights. According to Esther, kimchi is more method than dish. There are hundreds of harvest-preserving kimchis: summer kimchis, fall kimchis, kimchis meant for eating fresh and those meant to see you through a season. Once you get the hang of the method, nearly any vegetable can be kimcheed. I once tasted watermelon rind kimchi Esther made; it was spectacular.

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Best Barbecued Bites from Cook Out NYC 2011

Grilled Chicken from Jimmy's No. 43

Flame-Grilled Whole Chickens. Photo: Roberto Ferdman

We’re at the height of summer and running out of time to cook up all the delicious grilled foods and serve all the ice-cold, boozy drinks we planned on enjoying before summer’s end. But we decided to put these cooking adventures on hold last weekend to try some of the best barbecue New York City has to offer.

We joined the hordes of hungry ticket-holders that flocked to Governor’s Island for Cook Out NYC, a celebration of everything and anything seared to perfection over a piping hot flame. Just as we had hoped, there was no holding back: From kimchi-topped hot dogs to grilled buffalo tongue, each kiosk did its best to separate itself from the crowd.

We made sure to keep tabs on all our favorite bites to share with you. Check out the round-up and find some inspiration for your next summer BBQ.

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DIY Kimchi Recipe

Aside from judging pickles and standing in line for hours at various street food vendors at last year’s Bay Area Eat Real Fest, I also attended the adjunct Eat Real Lit Fest. It featured a wide range of brainy foodies alternately reading from their works or extemporizing on the topic of street food and other burgeoning trends.

One of the highlights was local chef Richie Nakano. Cribbing from his notes and brandishing his inked arms, he regaled the audience with the saga of how he left a stable kitchen gig to launch his own street food business, Hapa Ramen. On opening day, exhausted from an all-night noodle-making session, faced with missing valves and other logistical problems, Richie was exasperated. But he persevered and went on to become one of the hottest street vendors in the city of San Francisco, as well as one of my more regular lunch treats on market days at the Ferry Building.

Richie’s ramen is worth the trip, for sure, but should you find yourself at his booth, don’t forget to order the extra carton of kimchi and pickles for just a buck more. Richie uses seasonal veggies for the pickles, which rest on a bed of salty-spicy kimchi.

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