Archives for category: Kimchi

This is what the outside of Chuko looked like at 6:45 PM yesterday. Not dark, not cold, not windy. It was light, bright, blue skies at a quarter to 7. I’ve been wanting to visit Chuko since it opened back in August, a couple months after I moved to the neighborhood, and not a moment too soon. Just as I was missing my old haunts in Williamsburg and complaining there was no good food in these parts (I know, I know, I was naive), I read about Chuko. Brought to us courtesy of two Morimoto alums, Jamison Blankenship and David Koon, Chuko serves up bowls of housemade ramen in miso and soy broths, with or without meat. Housed in the former Nick’s Diner space, Chuko, meaning “second hand” in Japanese, was refurbished with a long wooden bar, and shows off an original hundred-year-old brick wall.

I’m a little behind schedule because it’s taken me seven months to visit this place on Vanderbilt Ave., a ten-minute walk from my apartment. So with the sun refusing to set on the early spring evening, I made my way across Atlantic Avenue, the new Nets Stadium casting shadows to the west, church and state mingling to the east (below).

I was meeting my regular Sunday-night partner, Karen, for steaming bowls of soup and whatever sides might entice. It was early enough that the place was pleasantly crowded with families slurping noodles—toddlers, strollers and all—until about 8 pm when they cleared out to make way for the stroller-less. The menu is straightforward: four kinds of ramen, all for $12 (miso-scallion, pork-scallion, soy-scallion, vegetarian-miso), and small plates, all for $7, including crispy Brussels sprouts, pork gyoza, chicken wings, and a kale salad. The specials last night were kimchi pork ramen in a red miso broth, and spicy pickles.

Let’s face it, I can’t resist kimchi or pork or red miso, so you know what I ordered.* Karen had the vegetarian miso ramen with market vegetables. We split the kale salad with sweet potato chips, raisins, and a miso dressing. Half the kale was a crunchy, addictive tempura, and the rest of the kale tasted like kale chips, so we basically loved this dish.

*I’m reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, a birthday present from Karen actually (do you think she’s trying to tell me something?), maybe by the time I’m done I’ll take my ramen sans pork too.

I don’t know if we have Morimoto to thank, or the research trips Blankenship and Koon took to Japan, but this ramen was the real deal. It reminded me of ramen I slurped in 2009 on the outskirts of Tokyo on a hot, steaming August afternoon after Yuji and I were kicked out of a public swimming pool (long story). I’m excited that I actually found the photo I took at that meal, below. I tried, really tried, to eat ramen the Japanese way, making loud sounds as you suck the noodles through your lips.

At Chuko, the red-miso broth, topped with a soft egg and scallion shavings, was salty, soulfoul, earthy, and got increasingly spicy the longer it mingled with the kimchi.

So we slurped until we could slurp no more, then walked out into the cool night air. Yes, it was finally dark outside. I could get used to Sundays at Chuko.

Chuko 552 Vanderbilt Avenue (corner of Dean St.), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Cash Only.

Laura eating a "pickle dog"

Home to millions of bacteria

This post here is by my dear friend Laura in Madison, infirm just hours before boarding a plane for a long journey to the southern hemisphere. Here she shares a favorite kimchi recipe, a ballast during the winter months in this cold Wisconsin college town. Laura – rest up, drink lots of water before flying, and keep eating fermented cabbage.

Kimchi helped me survive my first winter in Wisconsin, and today we’re at the end of the batch. Shortly after we moved into our new place, a five-liter Harsch ceramic crock arrived in the mail, a wedding gift from California. I could hardly lift the box. And it actually went to the neighbor’s house because I had misremembered our new address in Madison.

Fermentation is a magical process. Pressing colorful vegetables into a dark ceramic hole and days later hearing bubbling and popping noises coming from the kitchen is both exciting and disconcerting. The formation of some rotten mutant poison vegetable might be happening in my kitchen. But this bacteria is the good kind.

I followed an online video by Maangchi for easy Kimchi. The definitive moment is when Maangchi says that two cups of crushed red pepper is “spicy”. And was it ever. This kimchi was so red hot that everyone who devoured it had tears, either of joy, tolerance, or anguish. Next time, I might try Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation, and use half as much red pepper.

I didn’t follow the recipe very well. I left out the squid and the fish sauce and didn’t really measure most of the ingredients. Instead of eating it fresh, I let it ferment in the crock for an entire week. Fermentation might be magical, but it’s also forgiving. You don’t even need the ceramic crock; a glass jar will do the trick if you are brave enough to occasionally remove bacterial surface scum.

This red, warming, spicy concoction helped on days that were icy and gray. We gave much of it away to friends and family, but the batch has lasted for months. I usually get nervous about aging groceries, tupperware at the back of the fridge and unwelcome chemical reactions transpiring in my kitchen, but there is something so mysteriously comforting when good bacteria does its magic.

The last few bites

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