Tuesday, August 31, 2010

going fermental

japan and korea have been playing footsie in the ocean for a long time, so naturally they've had time for some potlucks and shared some recipes. while i had certainly heard of kimchi before i lived here, i didn't know it was korean (hard to believe there was a time i didn't know that!), and i don't think i'd ever tried it. slowly that began to change, first with kimchi nabe, then a few bites of actual kimchi at yakiniku restaurants, and after a very good korean drama in which they were always conspicuously eating it, finally an all-out obsession with the stuff. i've taken to eating it with almost every meal on almost anything...eggs, baked potatoes, avocados, rice, burritos. it doesn't hurt that it's been called one of the world's healthiest foods. i love it so much that i began to worry about being deprived of it on my return to the states. my mom did some reconnaissance and reported it's expensive in my small hometown. the solution seemed obvious: learn to make it myself.
turns out it's even easier than i imagined. i found this recipe and gave it a shot.

raw hakusai. i love that you wash it after you've brined it, 'cuz it's easier.

the wilted, brined hakusai.

adding the red pepper paste. i didn't know if i got the right pepper because there were a baffling number to choose from, and all in japanese.

after adding the green onions, ginger, and garlic. i skipped the fish oil.

i also added brown sugar instead of his apple/pear substitute because i didn't have an apple or a pear (and with the fruit prices in japan, that would have tripled the cost), but i did add a small onion blended in water, which made it liquidy enough. note to self: blend the ginger and garlic with the onion next time so they don't have to be chopped.

finally wrangled into a clean but non-sterile jar with the lid loosely on. notice the height of the liquid.

while i was waiting for it to do its thing, i started wondering if i should be worrying about botulism. i've never done any canning, so i don't know anything about it, but after poring over websites far and wide, i learned that the conditions of lacto-fermentation are totally wrong for botulism bacteria, which helped me breathe easier.

twenty-four hours later, it was bubbling up a storm and had expanded a lot! i was so excited about this obvious sign of fermentation that you'd think i, myself had caused it to ferment! i left it another ten hours or so.

the finished product! not as red as korean kimchi, but a lot spicier and more garlicky than the store bought stuff here.

this foray into fermentation has definitely whet my appetite for more! i'd like to try cucumbers next!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

kuma et ichigo

my friend megan is 9 months pregnant, so as soon as my summer vacation started, i was on a bus to tokyo hoping i could make it there before the baby. four years ago i took a bus to tokyo and swore never again, but with holiday train prices, the bus saved me a lot (plus some other friends were taking the same bus). apparently that meant i was willing to forgo a center armrest, which is key in separating you from your seatmate. as it was a night bus, an hour into the trip they turned off the lights and most people got busy sleeping. i wasn't so lucky as the girl next to me kept sprawling into my seat. i wouldn't really have cared if she had leaned against me if only she had been still. awkward. i did manage to force myself out of consciousness a few times, and finally six hours had passed.
we were supposed to arrive at 6:50 am, and after a coffee shop breakfast i was going to head to megan's. well imagine my surprise when they announced we had arrived...at 5:30.

if we look cheerful and alive, it's probably just shock. i felt sick and dizzy from so many hours of sitting and not sleeping.

i headed to megan's a little earlier than planned, and we had a nice glass of juice before retiring for a nap! yay for pregnant friends who need a lot of rest. i woke up feeling a lot more human and we continued our day which included a bleeding mountain of shaved ice, cat time, and savory galettes for dinner (sadly no pictures of that because i was a little intimidated by the the hot, young french waiter).

i was a bit baffled by how to eat my galette, which made me feel like an idiot. it was served with salmon (no mystery there), a tiny pitcher of cream (ok...it's pretty hard to pour a liquid over a bite of food and get it in your mouth fast enough to actually taste it, but i did my best) and as many sliced lemons (with peel) as there were sliced tomatoes, leading me to believe they were as much as part of the meal as the tomatoes. were they supposed to be eaten too? pickled and therefore edible? i guess not. after some experimentation i managed to get it all in my stomach. yum.
the next day was crocheting, delivery pizza, and a few priceless family photos. hee hee.

i was super happy to see mrs. limberry and the kuma king and also happy there were no early arrivals other than my own.