Ozuké style Kimchi Grilled Cheese

thumb_600Visiting Santa Fe recently I was introduced to these sandwiches and could not wait to get back and reverse engineer it so that I could make it with Ozuke kimchi. It is both hearty and satisfying and yet feels good on the belly because of the kimchi.

For two people

4 slices of good sourdough bread
a lot of unsalted organic butter
4 oz of cheese – I used a combination of swiss and gruyere but goat cheddar would work really well, too
4 oz Ozuke kimchi

Preheat a cast iron pan over medium heat and melt some butter in it. The secret to great grilled cheese is butter so be generous. Then butter one side of all four slices of bread. Put them in the skillet butter side up and let them get warmed up. When you flip them put cheese on two slices of bread and let the cheese melt. Turn the heat down so that the bread does not over cook. When the cheese is melty divide the kimchi onto the two cheesy breads and then put the cooked sides of the other bread on top so that when you flip the buttered side goes in the skillet. Keep cooking till the kimchi warms up and everything is gooey.

Serve with an Ozuke pickle on the side.

Where to get the best Ramen and the not so secret Ozuké ingredient

As you know, ramen is all the rage. It has been for a while now. Ask anyone where to get the best ramen and they will likely have a very passionate response. In fact, finding the best ramen has almost become an urban sport, the winner gaining social status, emphatic pride, and maybe even a few dates.

Unfortunately, when something becomes insanely popular, it can also become insanely expensive. Not all ramen spots are pricey, but there are certainly a lot of pricey options out there. What if you are just as obsessed with ramen as everybody else, but are shackled by your budget?

We are here to tell you that making ramen does not require alchemy—especially with the super power of delicious kimchi. So why not make your own?

Like an embedded reporter, I photographed as a friend made ramen for dinner. I pretended to be experimenting with a new camera as I lined up the ingredients and snapped away. Herein these photos lies the secret to making delicious, easy and inexpensive ramen that doesn’t come in a microwavable cup.

When I walked in the house I noticed two things immediately: An amazing aroma and my growling stomach. The broth had been simmering for some time before my arrival.

This particular cook was rather secretive about his broth, I think because his strategy was to add a little of this, and add a little of that, until the flavor reached its zenith. He did however excitedly use some juice from Ozuke’s Kale & Collards Kim Chi. He poured it right into the broth, right in front of my camera.

Ozuke in Broth

Not pictured: How incredible the house smelled as the broth was simmering.

As I arranged the ingredients that were set out for the meal to “try out my new camera,” there were hints of what the broth contained. Beside the kimchi you’ll notice Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, Sriracha, natural rice vinegar, white pepper, turmeric, black sesame oil, and even Jamaican Jerk seasoning.


We can also see almost everything else that the ramen will include once it is plated: ramen noodles, ginger root, garlic cloves, shallots, carrots, radishes, a lime, a jalapeno, green opinions, cilantro, and shitake mushrooms. Not pictured: four eggs and one cucumber.


Isn’t there something so dangerously fun about jalapenos?

Mushroom Close

I confess I didn’t see what role the ginger played in the meal, but I suspect it was used in the amazing broth.


While the broth continued to simmer, our chef of the evening grabbed a knife. He cut up the green onions, the carrots, the radishes, the mushrooms, the cucumber, the jalapeno, the shallots, and pulled the leaves from the cilantro.

Green Onion Carrots

After that, there was some cooking to do. Four eggs were cracked and scrambled with black pepper.


After that, there was some cooking to do. Four eggs were cracked and scrambled with black pepper.

RamenCooked Shrooms Egg Onion

After all the prep was done, the stage was set like this. Everything is fresh and simple, the signature of a good, healthy meal.

Prepped Ingredients

As our chef for the evening began to plate the food, it was confirmed that he was an artist. He took his time laying each ingredient on each plate at a time so that the patterns matched from plate to plate.

Close up Plated No Broth

And after everything was arranged just so, he poured in the broth we’d been salivating over, making each dish almost complete. The cherry-on-top to this ramen dish was our Kale & Collards Kim Chi—a grand finale indeed.

Plated Above

Yes, it was delicious.

Now let’s review. Making a delicious ramen meal at home is something all of us can do. There is very little cooking involved, there is ample room for creativity, the ingredients are simple and few, and as long as kimchi is involved, you’re going to love it

Good Food Awards 2015

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When Mara told me last January that she was buying the entire plum and cherry harvest from a young farmer she had met through the Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, I must admit, I was a tad unsure about buying all that fruit. We mostly make kraut, kimchi and various other pickled delights but the fermented fruits, popular throughout Asia as well as parts of Latin America, were a new exploration for us. In the very early days of our business (before we actually even knew it was a business) we had harvested wild plums from my family’s land in Lyons and made a batch of umeboshi to share with friends but this was a great deal more fruit, with more on the line. Flash forward to harvest and our crew stemming a zillion cherries, elephant heart plums arriving plump and sweet- such elegance and flavor, a process of balancing sweet, salty and tart coupled with adding the zing of live food. They were on their way to becoming something very tasty.

In September, we submitted to the Good Food Awards with these new products and heard back in November that we were finalists. The news had the wonderful rush of risk paying off but also of the tendril of our process, our creativity and our care out in the world.

This month we went to San Francisco to accept our award and to meet many other excellent food crafters from all over the country. We wore lipstick, we were humbled in the presence of gustatorial greats like Mark Bittman, Alice Waters and Ruth Reichl. We ate many wonderful things and drank our fair share too. We made new friends, worked a souk style Farmer’s Market on Saturday at the Ferry Building (which was so outrageously busy we had to hide in bed and watched Girls for a few hours to recover) and took in the foggy goodness of the city. Thank you to Sarah Weiner and the rest of the GFA crew for putting together such an cool gathering of food nerds, hats off to all the other winners and if you are local and want to taste the goods- Umeboshi: Salted Paonia Plums and Cheriboshi: Salted Paonia Cherries are now available at a Whole Foods and other independent grocers near you.


The Kimchi Crowd

There it sits in your fridge staring straight back at you. And it’s alive! Your head is spinning…how am I supposed to eat Ozuké’s Kale and Collards kimchi? Is this too gourmet for someone like me? Too health-nutty? Will people scoff at me if I ask them what to do, because I should already know? You find following a recipe to be surprisingly difficult. Where can you turn?


While social media definitely has its problems, it does make it possible for us to ask a large group of people a question at the same time. They call it “crowd sourcing,” we call it “asking for help.”


That said, if you’re feeling unsure about how to eat your Ozuké’s Kale and Collards Kimchi, ask your friends on the social media platform of your choice. You may be surprised at all the ideas (and genuine enthusiasm) you will receive.


We decided to try this theory out and wrangled a person to post this very question on Facebook. Better still, she was admittedly clueless about kimchi. She wrote:


“Hi friends who cook. I have some kale and collards kimchi. What should I make with it? What should I eat it on? I’d love some ideas. (Remember, I don’t eat meat aside from fish)”


The responses that she got were from all over the map. Both men and women were excited to share their favorite way to eat kale and collards kimchi. Here is a snapshot of what we’re calling the Kimchi Crowd:


1.Amber Russell, Lyons, Colorado

“Black bean and sweet potato soft shell tacos topped with avocado and kimchi. It’s a huge hit with our kiddos.”

Kimchi Amber

The Russells are a family of 5 from Lyons, Colorado who have been meat free for over ten years. They adore the outdoors and are self-proclaimed tree and dog huggers.

2.Cate Peebles, Brooklyn, NY

“Yum. I would serve it with a grilled, meaty fish, like Halibut or Sea Bass. If you went straight veg, maybe smoky black beans and rice…all of that together would be magical.”

kimchi cate peebles

Cate is a poet who is currently the copywriter/editor at Murray’s Cheese in New York City.

3.Joshua Hedges, Nashville, TN

“Homemade ramen. Throw all of that in there! Especially the kimchi juices. Poach an egg in it too if you do eggs. Just don’t use whatever flavor packet comes with your noodles and make your own broth with soy sauce, Sriracha, kimchi juice, ginger, black pepper, and lime. I actually make these quite often.”

Kimchi Josh Hedges

Josh is the owner-operator at Raveyard Records, and cooks vegan meals for Khan’s Desserts in Nashville.

4.Kristel Anne Allen, San Francisco, CA

“With black or brown rice and the kimchi as is, I’d be a happy camper:)”

Kimchi Kristel Anne Allen

Kristel is a Psychotherapist Intern at Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center in San Francisco and the East Bay, CA.

5.Evan Creem, Brooklyn, New York

I make everything into tacos…so…. TACOS! Or Garlic and Nappa Kimchi with kale cooked in lemon juice over a bed of quinoa and sage butter salmon filet. Or Citrus and Ginger Kimchi on spicy vegan hot dogs for snacky time.”

Kimchi Evan Creem

Evan is a freelance video producer and a legal administrative assistant at Marsh & McLennan Companies is New York City.

6.Jeanie Kirk, Portland, Oregon

This might sound crazy, but kimchi of all kinds is delicious on top of peanut butter toast.”

kimchi jeanie kirk

Jeanie is a researcher currently preparing for doctoral studies focused on environmental anthropology, specifically the human impacts of climate change manifesting in migrations due to sea level rise.

Needless to say, our guinea pig was happy with her results. Now she has at least six different ideas about how to enjoy her Kale and Collards Kimchi. Are you part of the Kimchi Crowd? We’d love to hear your ideas too. Tell us your favorite way to eat Ozuké’s Kale and Collards Kimchi in the comment section below—you just might be saving someone who is too nervous to ask.



Fermentation Guest Blog by Andrea Rossi


Bright, accomplished nutrition therapists, chefs, and home-cooks fill the room. We are devout foodies in the most literal sense. We make our own almond milk, kefir, yogurts and champion DIY cooking to our clients and anyone else that will listen to our recipes and rambles. Diana Walley of Every Bite Counts Nutrition, and the host of the fermentation class that brings us together, introduces the day with the shared desire: “We need to encourage people to get back into the kitchen.”


I am here to teach a simple class on vegetable fermentation. I decided, based on discovery of 20lbs. of farmer’s market pickling cucumbers, that a basic kimchi and pickles are the seasonal cultures of choice for our gathering. I come prepared with Mason jars, freshly harvested garlic, backyard grape-leaves, and other bright, local vegetables. Before the class begins, I line the clear, classic Mason jars along the bartop, strategically stack books by fermentation pioneers, Sandor Katz and Sally Fallon, and place Ozuke’s crisp pickles in green-tea brine and a yellow, tangy citrus kraut on display, a gracious donation from Willow and Mara, and soon-to-be snacks for our attendees.


I have a singular obsession with decomposition- compost chemistry, autumnal decay, fungi of the saprophytic variety, and fermentation- yet until now, my adventures in microbial matter have been solitary, something I had not shared in practice nor taught. Yet, despite my kitchen confinement, the act of fermentation always has felt incredibly connective in its process and history.

Fermenting is a basic formula really. Water, vessel, air, temperature, and matter (i.e. vegetable, fruit, etc.) of choice – these elements create a framework for us to interact with the microbial world. Each determines our ferment’s progress and flavor. Slight changes in temperature, access to oxygen, vegetable cut, and water quality inform the culture we create, crisp, tangy, and satisfying or a demoralizing moldy dud. These elements combined promote culturing, cultivating certain beneficial bacteria that will keep our food preserved longer, tastier, and infused with beneficial bugs for our bodies and bellies.

I stand at the front, as women happily shred cabbage, grate ginger, and mince garlic, and describe the elements of fermentation, how we monitor and develop our ferment through awareness of this matrix, and about the abundant creativity that comes from understanding how they react and interact. Botany of Desire by Michael Pollen describes how plants use the human emotion of desire to propagate their life. Similarly, I believe, kimchi, kombucha, and our living foods use our desire for its tangy goodness to bring us into a deeper awareness of environment. Our ability to culture requires our commitment and ability to see systems, to understand interactions, to stay attuned to each individual element and how it relates to the whole.

I do not have a baby, a plant, a dog, or other entity dependent upon me. Burping kimchi, monitoring invisible microbes, saying sweet-nothings to pickles are my late-20s expressions of nurturance. This unconscious maternal substitution, always something I relayed to friends with humor, captures this living food’s gifts beyond balancing the flora in our modern bellies.

Busy hands, laughing smiles, and passionate chatter fill our gathering as we set-about creating our take-home ferments. And, in this moment, I am impressed by how our kimchi seems to culture beyond the pint-sized confines of its glass vessel, but replicates and initiates culturing community that goes beyond the jar or bottle into our daily lives.

Harvest 2014

We had the good fortune of serving our ferments at Sustainable Settings annual Harvest Dinner in Carbondale this weekend. It was a glorious autumn evening and the menu was off the hook. We served cheriboshi from Paonia cherries, Rocky Ford melon and proscuitto which went fast!

All the food was prepared with produce from the biodynamic gardens and the meat was all raised and butchered on the farm as well.

Brook and Rose Le Van and wonderful stewards of this beautiful place and it was an honor to spend some time with this community. They are working right now to preserve the pristine water ways of this valley against fracking.  You can learn more here.

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Ume Ceasar Salad Dressing

A million years ago, I was a chef in New York. Sometimes when I say that, I feel like it must be an exaggeration, it was so far away and long ago, was it real? Then I look at the scars on my hands from accidents in the kitchen ( blowing up a Viking range with a batch of roux for instance) and I think, “Oh, right, I did do that.”

Much of what I cook now, I learned first in a restaurant and then adapted for family life. This recipe stuck with me for years. It came out of my favorite job, working under Myra Kornfeld at Angelica Kitchen in the East Village. Myra is an absolute genius about food. Myra taught me to make this in a huge industrial blender, and since, I have messed with it and scaled it down to family-sized amounts. It makes a great Caesar Salad dressing but it also tastes awesome over greens, as a dipping sauce for anything, or as the dressing for a veggie bowl. This dressing has a fondness for crumbled nori, too, as a topping.

The ume plums from Ozuké are sweeter and less salty than the store-bought ume paste we used at the restaurant, so you can add more than this recipe calls for if you want more ume love in your dressing.

Ume Caesar Dressing


2 cloves garlic

2 tsp. dijon mustard

3 Ozuké ume plums, pitted (make sure on this or you will kill your blender)

3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

3 Tbs. lemon juice

1 Tbs. white miso

4 oz. silken tofu

1/3 cup grapeseed or other mellow oil

2/3 cu. olive oil

salt to taste – or add more ume


Put everything in the blender and blend till it’s dressing.


If you have a less vigorous blender, one that leaves chunks, you can blend the ume, garlic, mustard, and a ¼ cup of the oil first, till it’s a paste, then add everything else.

Occu Pie Dinner


If there were a food that should live and remain in my diet’s 1% it would be cheese.  I’d be happy to keep it that way.  Somehow, perhaps it’s my Asian genes but rich, creamy, funky cheese tends to set my digestive system on for a riot. It doesn’t stop me from loving it, relishing in it and doing the stilton dance in the very midst of its enjoyment but it simply does not bode well for me in the long run. My best friend is visiting us from London for the holidays and I finally went to Cured with him. Cured (located downtown Boulder) has been carrying our pickles since they opened and I have another friend who works there so I really should have no excuse to have waited for so many months to pay a visit.  I just knew that it would be an event and so I held off out of respect for said event. http://cheese-porn.tumblr.com/

My friend Des likened it to being in a brothel – a cheese brothel. There they were, so sumptuous, barely contained by their soft fuzzy raiment, their waxy outer layers flashing barely hidden blue and yellow veins at us.  It felt so intimate. Usually there would be some layer of plastic or a cold frosty refrigerated barrier between us and these farm raised hand crafted delights but no, there they were, room temperature, cave aged and ready to be plucked away, wrapped in parchment and devoured with shameless gusto by grabby hands and crusty loaves.  I won’t even go into the meaty fermentation – let’s just say that we bought some Spanish Ibérico ham and it was ridiculous. It would be even more ridiculous for me to continue here in this conceit of the fancy bordello and for me to wax ever more eloquent minuets around the glory of that immaculate slab of meat.  I would invariably embarrass myself, offend a few feminists and perhaps ruin another perfectly good shirt with drool. The ham became a conversation cornerstone for our holiday festivities. I even put a few precious slices into the chicken broth I made for Christmas Eve Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). What strikes me as funny; especially since I’ve been waiting a long while to write this article, it’s been jostling about inside of me for weeks now; what really gets me is that it’s all peasant food…  I spent one hundred and fifty dollars at Cured, Boulder’s fancy new meat and cheese mecca, on food of the common people. I bought crusty bread, salt, duck fat, fancy ham, three cheeses whose recipes were each over two centuries old, local beer, coffee and chocolate. This classy embrace of simple hand crafted food reminded me somewhat of Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel The Diamond Age. His future world had mastered nanotechnology and folks poor and wealthy were capable of manufacturing all of their needs using replicators that literally built all of their material desires from a molecular level.  From ham sandwiches to mattresses everything was built one atom at a time and when the item was finished with, consumed it would be thrown back into the machine, broken down and made into something else brand new. Now the New Victorians and New Confucians of this future world treasured hand crafted goods.  One would need to have great wealth to own and ride a horse, have another person farm real food for them or hand craft their paper or soap. Anyone can press a button and have the machine version of their desires pooped out into their microwave oven-like device but the more mechanized the world, the more valuable time and true effort become.

There really is a lot to be said for quality and authenticity. I get it I really do. I work with my hands. In my restaurant days I’d see a lot of big box produce flying in the back door getting a slap and tickle and hawked out through the front door as fancy fine dining, it didn’t take much to get folks excited… batter it and fry it, juilienne or brunoise, get your sharp yanagi and slice it up like a ninja. There was enough bustle in the culture of the restaurant so that origins could be forgotten for a while, people were there for the greatest show on earth, one which they could gaze, smell, taste and savor their way through. Lots of drinking and yelling helps too (both were encouraged in the Sushi world where I cut my teeth as a chef). The idea of origin was only really thought of in the late nineties and early aughts world of sushi as an exotic tag. This Bluefin tuna came from Croatia, this king mackerel from the straights of Japan, this Salmon is from Alaska’s Yukon River, only open to US fishing boats for one week in an entire year. Eventually however the bubble burst. Rising gas prices laid the scene for a rude awakening. We were eating petroleum. Each shishito pepper, each unagi slice, carefully staged and manufactured half a world away and sent off nestled in dry ice and styrofoam. Questionable fish farming practices came to light, dangerous use of chemicals from the Chinese manufacturers. I quit sushi in 2008. It was making me sick. I had developed a dangerous throat closing allergy to shellfish and the idea of massive beautiful Bluefin being rounded up during their mating season in the Mediterranean, fattened in a ranch then sold off for a whopping 40,000 dollars a fish turned my stomach. An article on our depleted oceans in the National Geographic that year likened the slaughter of these 600 pound behemoths to the wholesale slaughter of Buffalo in 19th Century USA, excepting the fact that these massive herds of fish being underwater, their shocking culls were less visible. Imagine our outrage if we had some tangible visual representation of this oceanic defilement.

Of course this is just a tiny cross section in the massive outrage that is occurring within our food systems. Finally we live in a world that is technologically capable of feeding the world’s population so why are we faced with still more and more discrepancy of wealth the very poorest of us disenfranchised to the point of not being able to even put a seed in the ground and use the basic power and wealth of the planet on which we live? It all boils down to the corporatization of food, to unfettered monopolies. Mass suicides of subsistence farmers in India –farmers told that the crops of their ancestors that they have been growing in the very cradle of the civilized world since the origins of the words used to describe these very actions – these crops are now patented or they are modified so that their fruit bears no seed, forcing the very poorest farmers in the world to buy new seed year after year. The poor are in the stranglehold of these massive conglomerates more so than ever before in human history. Power, land and money have always been in the hands of the few but the major difference is the now severed connection between human beings and a nurturing earth. Peasant food – wild game, mushrooms, cabbage, cheese, pickles and fruit laid aside for the winter time. Hard work made these items attainable. Direct from nature, time, knowledge and effort could create truly wonderful sustenance from these basic materials and yet now instead of nurturing the masses these items are hard sought, the realms of food nerds, specialists with fancy shops on high street. I know a little bit of what it is like to be poor. I shopped at Walmart on and off for a year after I got laid off from my last head chef job. I had a certain amount of shame attached to the fact, I was however lowering my weekly shopping cart from about 150 dollars a week to about 70, it made a huge financial difference during a very uncertain time. I tried to remain positive about it. I argued a certain solidarity with my Latino coworkers. We had jammed out in the kitchen to the same jolly polka beats, cutting boxes of baby artichokes until all of our fingers were stained brownish black and now we were shopping in the same place. I pulled my Jetta up alongside their pickup trucks in the massive parking lot. I bought beef cheeks, tongue and tripe, items that definitely were not available at Wholefoods. I enjoyed the easy availability of fresh frozen green chiles and fresh frozen posole. I encouraged organics by buying what became available through that retailer arguing to myself that any support for good farming practices even via a massive big box retailer like Walmart had to be a good thing. But all the while I had a subterranean feeling of dread. I was the only person in this whole massive football field of groceries and Chinese made crappy goods that had come in with her own grocery bags. The time that I forgot my bags I watched in horror as my checkout lady threw single items in thin plastic bags and double bagged anything larger than two pounds in weight. My sinking feeling landed with a hard thump in the deepest part of my gut with the realization that no matter how I rouged and powdered it the fact still remained that I was eating from the machine. Love, care and nurture were diminishing from my food… the machine was feeding me and I was feeding it. I was finally awake to a supreme irony – here I was impoverished carefully putting each dime I could scrape together into the eye of the pyramid. They had won. There they were collecting my money, my spirit and my hope and I was dumb enough, desperate enough to travel down that road.

To say that food has played a large part in my personal and spiritual development would be an understatement. Feeding and eating are a large part of who I am and what I believe I am here on this planet to do. One of my most powerful food realizations came with an experience of killing and butchering an animal. It was 2001. I was living in the mountains in Colorado, 9,000 feet above sea level. A friend at that time traveled regularly back and forth from the Navaho reservation in Arizona. He brought us a goat. The goat was tethered for a day in the upper field of the house where we were staying, we fed it hay. The next day I held the goat. Andrew slit its throat. I saw its eyes flash up at me in a moment of knowledge, at the very same instant one of the horses a quarter mile away in the lower field cried out splitting the clear mountain silence. Andrew and I held the goat close and strong until it bled out and went limp. We strung it up on a tree and I did most of the butchering. The logic of fur, bone, meat and fat made perfect sense to my chef’s mind. I had butchered many mostly whole animals, fish and animal parts before, but this was the first time that I had seen the whole process through. We took the goat’s liver. Shiny, plump and ruby red, I sliced and sautéed it in butter with salt and pepper. We ate it still pink and slightly chewy in the middle. Never before had food had such power over me. It was like a drug. Life force surged through me and made me feel drunk, aggravated and horny. This was real food. Our goat had eaten nothing its whole life but sage grass under a crisp blue sky. Its death had come through my own intention, by my hand and with my thanks, my effort and energy had opened and partitioned its body, I had to think carefully about what I would do with guts, heart and kidneys. Every single thing that I had eaten before that point had been a masquerade, an appropriation. This life force that I was feeling now had been stolen from me, sucked out by machines, crowded together in an uncaring pen, pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, sprayed by aeroplanes, partitioned by plastic and marched, uniformed onto shelves under the cold glare of neon lights and regional managers. Even in the time of the pharaohs this essential power was available to all people, this pure clean energy from a living and healthy planet. Even the darkest days of the dark ages, your tithes might go to the church, you might be afraid of a burning hellish afterlife, but you could always milk a cow and be nurtured in honest, goodly energy. Today with access to information from across the globe in our back pockets we eat mostly shadow food. Only the wealthiest of us can afford to eat from nature: the rest suck from the glom of the machine, too uninformed, afraid or tired to truly connect with our planet and with one another. The solution is so simple. It’s not an all or nothing embrace of ploughshares, we don’t all of us suddenly need to trade our Priuses in for tractors or give up our Labradors for goats and chickens. We simply need to be aware, to take time and make effort where our feeding is concerned. With this awareness not only do we return to truly nurturing our bodies and our planet we can learn to support the people around us who, no longer happy with consuming from plastic and cardboard smothered with trite logos have instead become producers, artists and artisans. Our beliefs craft our reality. All we need to do to change the status quo is to one meal at a time quit buying in to it. I love the imagery of the pyramid turned into a tree. We are the 99%. We are the roots. We are deeply embedded in a life giving Earth. May we all flourish.








Our recent trip to Honolulu found Desmond, my four and a half month old son ready for food.  He was so absorbed in what everyone else was eating, no wonder, our family reunions are serious food experiences.  My Grandfather’s 95th birthday celebration brought Wong family relations together from all over the globe.  Large round tables of raucous conversation and group cheers for each new course as it was brought to the table, all this focus on community and flavor my baby boy started yelling for attention.  I think once you discover how great eating is it’s hard to just watch from the sidelines.  He would literally holler until someone put something in his mouth.  Little man doesn’t have any teeth yet and most of what the grownups were eating was too rich, greasy and/or chewy for a brand new eater to handle. Good thing almost every Chinese restaurant has some Jook bubbling away somewhere in the house.  Jook is a thin rice porridge that is often served with peanuts and shavings of sweet pork jerky on top. (I would much prefer to have Porkfloss on top of jook than these doughnuts I found on an incredulous expatriate’s indiosyncratic Mainland China blog.)

porkfloss on doughnuts?!

It has long been used as a food for infants and convalescent adults and is pretty much ubiquitous throughout Asia.  Known as congee in India and Cambodia, as Jook in South East Asia and Korea, and Zhou in Putonghua speaking China.  Common ingredients mixed in this simple rice and water porridge include lean pork and preserved duck egg, chicken, squid, kimchi, green onions, ginger and just plain for little ones or for troubled digestion.

I used the opportunity of having so many aunties in one place to ask for tips on how to make the perfect Jook.  My attempts at home seemed to differ quite dramatically from the smooth perfectly seasoned offerings one finds in restaurants.  It takes a little bit of practice and filtering to understand what five sisters have to say across an enormous table speaking in very close and overlapping proximity and cancelling one another out with volume and hand gestures.  It’s always a good time watching my mom and her brothers and sisters in action. I imagine all nine of them as young adults, calling on one another (unabashedly) to pull their own weight and heartily creating fun at every given opportunity. Gravesweeping is a common family gathering.  Food and drink are put out for the hungry ghosts and the general area is cleaned up, weeded and tidied.  Our family doesn’t just light incense, we take our expression to a whole new level – Auntie Lo did an interpretive dance on my Grandmother’s grave (she studies ballroom dance) and Uncle Tony put a lit cigarette in the ground near the headstone. My grandmother was pretty much pregnant between the ages of nineteen and thirty three, you’ve got to figure that she was always alive to the possibility to have a little party whenever she could.

So what I could discern from the kerfuffle that followed my question – great jook can be made following these guidelines.  Mix a little salt and oil with your rice.  Add 12 cups of water per one cup of rice.  Restaurants and Jook Joints use broken rice for a finer texture, one can always duplicate this by running rice through a food processor very quickly before use. Add rice, oil, salt mix to already boiling water.  Cook as slowly as possible.  Use broth for a deeper flavor or when making chicken or turkey jook.

I added some Konbu (kelp) to my version for extra mineral goodness, and a teaspoon of flax seed for some of those good omega fatty acids.  I also used the crock pot to make the whole endeavor easier than pie.

Dessie’s Chow


1 cup Brown Rice; 12 cups Water; piece of konbu rinsed in the sink; 2 tsp Ghee; 1/2 tsp Sea Salt; 1 tsp flax seeds.

Mix all ingredients except water, add water.  Put on High in crockpot til bubbling (1hr) then turn down to low.  Let it go for at least 4 hours.  I let it cook overnight.  Salt to taste.

Some great serving suggestions…  chopped up leftover meats.  Zuké :), furikake (seaweed, salt and sesame seeds), you can even make a sweet cereal by adding dried fruit, cinnamon and maple syrup.

Come Thanksgiving I assure you this is what I’ll be doing with the leftovers, boiling turkey carcass broth then making some slowcooked brown rice goodness.  Sleepytime happy turkey triptomine jook has got my name all over it.

Experiments at Ozuke

We are experimenting again in the esoteric kitchen. As many of you know, these live foods can have a mind of their own. Mara and I joke that we are pickle wranglers out on the wild fermentation frontier. They bubble and go flat, they get mushy and change color and occasionally they do just exactly the right thing and taste fresh, lively, sour, a little salty and full of flavor. Bingo.

We would like to add some more to our herd, so here are our experiments for this week:

Fennel, wild green apple and juniper berries

Curry sauerkraut with mustard seed and coriander

and a roasted hatch green chile version which we think might be just the thing.

Keep your eyes out on the open range and yeeehaah.