Trust Me…

by Ed, 1:16pm

When I was seven and grandma watched us while our parents were at work, I would do little experiments in the kitchen with Vicki as my designated taste-tester and sous chef. One of the more infamous experiments was when I decided to toast a hot-dog bun, slathered it with butter and sugar, and topped it with soy-sauce. Despite her protests I was able to convince Vicki to eat it, and not surprisingly she gagged.

For all those culinary disasters, there were also some early successes, like when we would microwave bologna, just to the point that it curled up on its sides, stuff it with sushi rice, put a little kimchi in there, and then giddily eat it as a “Korean taco”. To a 7 and 5 year old, paired with a frosty-glass of barley tea, and watching “Reading Rainbow“,  that’s about as good as it gets.

The reason that I bring this up is that every once in a while, when I announce a new dish idea to Vicki, I can see that look in her eye that means she’s remembering the taste of that salty-sweet hot dog bun. Today was one of those instances.

So I’ve been working on the menu, and specifically I needed to create a signature fish dish that was both light and hearty. I mentioned the idea of doing Halibut, paired with a kimchi and pork-belly broth, to Vicki, and by her reaction of “Uhmm….Okay”,  it didn’t take a mind-reader to tell that she was doubtful that I would be able to pull it off. To be fair, when I first told Jenny about the dish, she was a bit skeptical as well. My reaction,”Trust me…it’ll work.”

Tastes like this

So here’s where my head’s at. I want to create a fish dish that evokes and reminds of a wooded forest. At the same time I want this dish to be light, and hearty, like crisp autumn air, yet with enough depth that it could sustain a lumberjack. So I’m thinking Halibut, pan seared, with lots of thyme. Halibut is a hearty fish that has a very clean flavor, and I want to give the dish more character by adding something that has a bit of punch, but not so much piquancy that it sets the mouth on fire.

Halibut- Not so pretty to look at, but tasty to eat

My 1st step is to make a kimchi broth, by braising pork-belly with kimchi, kimchi pickling juice, a little ginger, and chicken broth. After the pork-belly is nice and soft, I pull it out and then strain the resulting liquid. I then reduce the liquid to about 1/2 so that I’m able to attain a nice body in the kimchi broth. Having introduced the chicken stock, the kimchi broth has lost a lot of its fire/spiciness, but still has enough heat to remind you that its there.

Making kimchi, and no, I'm not related to these lovely ladies

The next step I take is to add a starch element to the dish. This dish is meant to be rustic, so I go with Yukon golds that I bake until light and fluffy , and then I crush them gently with a fork.

The last element is a vegetable component, and although mushrooms aren’t really vegetables, I know that they’ll be the perfect accompaniment to the dish. Plus, I had just recently gotten my hands on some beautiful mushrooms, donated by our generous friend Roger, and I couldn’t let them go to waste. I clean and reserve these mushrooms, and I’ll cook them a’ la minute in a hot pan with a lot of room so that they can get nice and crispy with thyme, and a garlic clove, to bring out their woody flavor.

So here’s how it went:

I heat up the broth, and then take the reserved pork belly and some fresh kimchi and  brunoise them, which roughly means small perfect cubes. I add the pork-belly to the broth, and place it over low heat, so that it can warm up. I fire up the burners and in one pan I start searing the halibut. In another pan I start sautéing the mushrooms. At the same time I throw the potatoes that I fluffed, into the oven so that they can get nice and toasty. When all is done, I start composing my plate. In a small pasta bowl, I lay down my pork-belly and kimchi brunoise. I then pour my kimchi broth, that I’ve brightened up  with chopped cilantro, so that it fills 1/3 of the bowl. On top of this I lay my potatoes in the middle, and then circle the potatoes with my mushrooms. Last I lay the Halibut, which after searing I lightly smeared with a delicate-horseradish mustard and a sprinkling of toasted bread-crumbs, just to add a little crunch on top.

Heres the dish, minus the bread crumbs. Note to Self: I need to get a better camera, and maybe take a photography class.

Vicki looks at the dish and expecting a stew, is pleasantly surprised that it doesn’t look how she imagined. I take a taste, and I’m excited by its flavor. This is a dish that is French in technique, European and Korean in ingredients, yet captures a feeling that is both pleasantly unique and familiar. To me it’s a dish that could have only been made with the influence of different cultures and continents. It’s not forced together, it makes sense, and because of this, it’s wholly American.

Vicki tastes it, and I wait for her reaction. She smiles, takes a small leap while simultaneously clapping her hands, and tells me what I’m already thinking “This is going on the menu.”



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12 responses to “Trust Me…

  1. theoriginalgsong

    that sounds delicious actually… send some to cali =)

    • Ed

      Let me see if I have any dry ice and frequent flyer miles that I can convert to same-day shipping, and we’ll see what I can do. =p

  2. sunny

    you are so creative! all i can imagine is the kim chee jji ghae flavor – i need to try this one day!!

    • Ed

      That’s what Vicki said, “we aint serving no jji-ghae!”, but she was happy with the result. Hopefully you can come visit soon and have the same reaction. Miss you Sunny =)

  3. Jane

    Wow, it’s so exciting to read about how everything is slowly coming together! I have to admit that your description in the beginning also left me skeptical as well (esp the kimchee!) but it sounds like it turned out great! Can’t wait to try it in the restaurant!!!

    • Ed

      Hopefully not too slow=) We just got our new kitchen equipment and the place is starting to look how we hoped. Can’t wait to show you guys the space, and can’t wait to have you as a regular =)

      Like the title of the post says “Trust me..” it should make your tummy happy.

  4. annpan

    i feel like i was listening to and watching ratatouille.

    all these combination of flavors…sounds yum!
    i wish i can try it…NOW.

    can’t wait to visit again…hopefully soon.

  5. mb

    lucky for you, you’ve got the rare treat of having the brutally honest vicki kim on your team, so when you get a reaction like that, you can trust you’ve got something special brewing. points for originality in combinations and style…cant wait to taste it!!

  6. Steve


    The dish sounds amazing, I love the fact you introduced something unfamiliar (kimchi) and braised it with something no one can say no to (pork belly) and marinated them in something close to home (chicken broth)… Hate to mention this, but it reminds me a little bit of someone who is adored by the NYC food critics for attempting to bring Korean cuisine mainstream… Who Vicki considers to be overrated 🙂

    Contrary to Vicki, I actually love salted sweets… Yum, bread with caramelized butter and soy sauce… Maybe you should introduce some childhood inspired dishes!!!

    There is a big hype on the Taiwanese pork bun eatery, Baohaus that specializes in gua bao, they tweak the traditional recipe a bit by introducing cherry Coca-cola with the flash fried pork season with sweet peanut powder, pickled mustard greens and cilantro.

    Or maybe chocolate glazed ribs at Kittichai or Dr Pepper BBQ ribs at Roaring Fork…

    Cannot wait for the opening…

  7. Wishin’ I had read this post b4 our dinner last night. Would love to have discussed this dish with you both. Can’t wait to see what other flavor spells you’ll put us all under with this “progressive American” menu. 🙂

    Btw, your salad last night was ON POINT. Good job, Leaguer!

    • Ed

      Thanks for the encouragement, I was really happy with the way the salad turned out. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking going from a conceptualized idea into something tangible. Whenever you want to talk food, or anything else, don’t hesitate to drop a line. Also, we’re always looking for input on our menu, and want to make sure that what’s on it not only tastes good but makes sense with our theme as well. Its never good when you go into a restaurant and the menu seems hodge-podge, it kind-of conveys the sense that there wasn’t any thought put into it.

      Also give us the heads-up when your brother comes into town=)

  8. Christina

    Sounds delish! And your description of Vicki at the end is so on point… the jump with hand clapping action is so signature. Great job guys!

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