Archives for posts with tag: Miso

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.

Yesterday may have been the coldest day of winter so far. I don’t have proof to back that up except it was the first day I’ve worn tights under my jeans and had to use a scarf to cover my face and not just my neck. Also, I passed at least two people on the street who had near-frozen icicles of snot dripping down their nose. Even my yoga class went from an attendance of twenty the week before, to a measly six brave souls.

Luckily I remembered what my eighth-grade science teacher in Vermont taught me about layering: loose layers, wool is preferred, leave enough room for air to circulate and heat up, and most importantly tuck everything in so no skin is exposed in any way. New England common sense, of course, but wizardry to a girl from Long Island who never owned a pair of gloves.

So it was the perfect day to make soup. But instead of the usual hearty favorites—mushroom barley, bean chili,  chowder —my friend Jill and I settled on this carrot-ginger-miso recipe from one of our favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. While not hearty per se it was warming and comforting and will keep you on track for hitting your new year’s whatchamacallits by being all healthy and vegan and whatnot.

We served the soup with a crunchy cucumber salad with ginger, sesame, and scallion from Cook’s Illustrated and a dark rye bread that Jill made with cocoa and espresso (it’s like your toast and coffee in one). Accompanied with the latest episode of Downton Abbey I forgot all about the blustery cold outside. (Will Matthew and Mary get together already, jeez.)

I’m publishing the recipe as is, but Jill and I agreed we’d make a few adjustments in the future. For one, the consistency was very puréed, almost baby-food-like, which, don’t get me wrong, can be enjoyable. But I’d increase the vegetable broth. Next, the recipe only calls for 1/4 cup white miso, but I’d ratchet that on up to 1/2 c if you’re feeling bold. As is you could barely discern the miso flavor. Finally, I’d add a tablespoon or two of rice wine vinegar if you have it, it was missing just a tiny acidic zing. But otherwise I really enjoyed it and would definitely make again.

Carrot-Ginger-Miso Soup
Makes 4 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 regular or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled or smashed
1 tbsp finely chopped or grated ginger (or more)
4 c vegetable broth
1/4 c white miso paste, or more
Toasted sesame oil, for drizzling
2 scallions, very thinly sliced, for garnish*

Heat the oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and ginger. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Purée soup in batches in blender or with an immersion blender. In a small bowl whisk together the miso and 1/2 cup of the soup. Stir the mixture back into the pot of soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional miso.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and scallions.

*You can do a quick pickle of the scallions by letting them marinate in a mixture of 6 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp salt, and 1 1/2 tsp sugar while you’re making the soup.

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