Growing up, my family cooked cá kho/braised fish the Northern way and it was never a favorite dish until much later. Northern style cá kho is ascetically simple and intense. Southern style cá kho is easier to like – the fish is more softly presented and embellished with a more prominent sweetness. When we experimented with adding tea (a typically Northern touch) to Southern style cá kho, we found that the flavors of braised fish and the fragrance of tea were well matched companions still. Using Japanese or Korean barley tea made for an even more intriguing dish with a novel taste while the tea leaves themselves can be roasted to form a crust on the fish filet, adding a new textural element.
Here we report on some preliminary experiments to drive the speciation of tofu misozuke into heretofore unexplored habitats – we’re trying out new ingredients to add to the basic miso marinade. We experimented with yuzu, shiitake, and rooibos. Yuzu and shiitake both came from the native habitat of tofu misozuke. Rooibos is a red tea made from plants native to South Africa. We were blown away by this last, non-terroir based combination. Tofu miso-rooibos-zuke was fragrant with contributions from both ingredients, and the flavor was rich in umami from miso and a sweetness from the rooibos. Not bad for a flavor dreamed up while sipping rooibos tea!
We’ve only had one night of frost so far but that was enough to kill all our outdoor tía tô (perilla) plants. Luckily, we’ve already started winterizing our herbs garden. This year, we’re experimenting with hydroponically growing our herbs indoor with the hope that more godlike control over our plants’ world will keep us well supplied with fresh herbs until next spring. Growing hydroponically is a technique for growing plants without soil, with well defined nutrients solutions delivered directly to plant roots. Another advantage for us is the ability to heat up the nutrient solution coursing through the system and keep the plants warm in spite of the cold air temperature in the apartment. Lay the nutrient tubing underneath the other pots and even the non-hydroponic plants will have warm happy feet!
We welcome our first guest post from our dear friend Xuân currently living in London. She showed us a sunny picture of her antidote to the gloomy British autumn weather and immediately made us both crave a piping hot bowl of bún riêu. We also love all the improvisations Xuân deployed to create a diasporic variant of a Vietnamese classic dish.
In Michigan these days, the farmers market stocks are dwindling save for vibrant, colorful displays of winter squash that we don’t know what to do with. Well, roasted squash is always delicious, but for the variety and abundance of squash available, more ought to be done with them. We finally got inspired by daetongbap / Korean rice cooked in bamboo and baked pumpkin oatmeal to make several dishes using the squash as the cooking vessel. Here we introduce a new dish: Thịt kho trong trái bí (Caramelized pork braised in squash). The rich pork flavor, caramelized coconut sugar, fish sauce, and spices permeate the squash while extracting from it a smoky sweetness. The dish taste different and new yet comforting, containing within it home-for-the-holidays flavors both from the New World and the Old Country.