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End-of-the-year update

It’s been an eventful few months at Rau Om, hence our lack of posting on the blog. But we have exciting developments to tell you about:

  • The food blog turned 1 year old in October.
  • We started selling tofu misozuke and nem chua at Sunnyvale and Palo Alto farmers’ markets and online in early November.
  • The response to tofu misozuke has been tremendous – we sell out regularly at the farmers’ markets and aside from the great feedback, we love getting into interesting conversations about food with our customers. We were so excited when we first had tofu misozuke and it’s incredibly gratifying to see that excitement reflected when others tasted our tofu misozuke for the first time.
  • Then the big one: we were featured in the December 2011 installment of Zingerman’s Culinary Adventure Society, which meant making, packaging, and shipping hundreds of tofu misozuke pieces to be sent to foodies around the country. Zingerman’s world-class deli is a treasured part of our time in Ann Arbor, so it was especially exciting to work with them. Brad Hedeman of Zingerman’s Mail Order also wrote a lengthy essay on our quest for tofu misozuke, the most ego-boosting part of which we’re shamelessly reproducing below:
    Zingerman’s Culinary Adventure Society December 2011 excerpt

    We learned a lot trying to work out the logistics of such a large order, especially with less than one employee (time-wise. Oanh is not missing any limbs or organs.)

  • We served lamb nem chua and tofu misozuke to rave reviews at the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network holiday fundraiser in early December. That was a lot of fun – we made new friends and discovered an interesting space and community. Wish we had time to share our music with them, but we were too busy serving food.
  • Tofu misozuke has been well-received by food journalists; check out our new Press page for quotes and links to reviews.
  • This just in: we’re expanding beyond the South Bay – East Bay residents can now get our tofu misozuke from the Sacred Wheel Cheese and Specialty Market at 4935 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609. Come get tofu misozuke from Jena & co. to make us look good!

Phew – and that was just in the last 2 months. Looking back on this list, no wonder we were quiet on the blogging front.

Looking forward, exciting things are afoot for 2012. We’re exploring uncharted territories with a pipeline of new flavors for tofu misozuke and nem chua. We’re also looking to get tofu misozuke into more stores and restaurant kitchens. Can’t wait to see tofu misozuke in its natural habitat next to a cup of sake or sochu. Also excited to see it conquer new niches like the cheese shelves. Let us know if you have any leads.

Between the two of us and fun adventures in the kitchen that we regularly blogged about are a full time job, a dissertation, a fledgling side business, not to mention the distance between Michigan and California and the sad state of tele-tasting and tele-smelling technology. Sadly we will not be able to blog as regularly as we did or wish to. But we’ll try our best to find time for explorations in the kitchen to share with you. In the meantime, please follow Rau Om’s development on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy New Year!



Bánh Đập Pháp Việt (French-Vietnamese grilled Époisses rice crackling)

We’re excited to present this recipe which combines infamous delicacies from Vietnamese and French cuisine. We’re huge fans of a Burgundy cheese called Époisses, a cheese so potent it’s supposedly (apocryphally?) banned from public transportation. The first time we had it, we immediately thought “Oh, this smells like mắm (salty fermented fish/seafood)!” In our take on the north-central dish bánh đập, we finally had a chance to combine Époisses with mắm to astonishingly harmonious effects. In the process, we had crystallized for us a concept we’ve always been aware of regarding food, but never seen so vivid a demonstration thereof.

Bánh đập with melted Époisses


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Winterizing our herbs garden : An experiment with hydroponics

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!

Winter garden : (front) tía tô / perilla, rau răm / Vietnamese coriander, lá chua / sorrel, kinh giới / Vietnamese balm. More of the same in the back & various húng varieties / basil and mints.

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Anniversary Mega-Post: At RyuGin, the Most Amazing Meal

We can’t believe it’s been a year already – I’d say what a long strange trip it’s been, but we’ve only just disembarked! We thank you sincerely for visiting us and for adding your thoughtful comments to our posts. There are more recipes along the way we’re very excited to share, and beyond those there is still a barely explored world of ingredients and techniques. We’ll keep at producing dishes like you’ve always and/or never had; hope you’ll keep coming back to check them out.

Imo sochu / sweet potato spirits, on the rocks, with a dash of oolong tea at Izakaya Tokinoma

But first, on this occasion, we’d like to look back at a very memorable trip we took, and a mind-blowing meal encountered thereon. This was the trip where we first encountered tofu-misozuke and amazake, explored the Japanese drinking-food scene (izakaya), and ate an astonishing meal prepared by a chef known for embracing modern technology to better express his unique vision for the elaborate and canonized traditions of kaiseki meals. Have we mentioned we desperately want to be like Chef Yamamoto?

We were stopped on the way out of the restaurant because the staff said the Chef wanted to meet us. Yup that sounded as backward now as it felt at the time.

We were so inspired and energized after the trip, our whole outlook on cooking and food changed. Our playing in the kitchen took on new ambitions and urgency and became “experiments”. With interesting data came the natural urge to “publish”, which eventually led to our carving out this little niche on the Internet.

Without further ado, the most amazing meal we’ve ever had:

The plate was completely blank when we finished eating this amazing dish. Blank!

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Caprese salad with rau om / rice paddy herb

Here’s a quick dish about one of my favorite quick dishes. In Michigan the year is at that sweet spot when the weather and the heirloom tomato season makes every shopping day a mandatory caprese salad for lunch day. With fresh, tasty and local tomatoes and mozzarella purchased less than an hour before, the dish requires minimal embellishment and so mere minutes after arriving home with the grocery I could be sitting down to reward myself with a leisurely, cool Mediterranean meal – sometimes followed by a Mediterranean siesta especially if I had some wine with my lunch. This past week, Oanh interrupted me as I went to harvest some basil for my salad. She had a hunch that rau om would work well in caprese salad and suggested I try that instead. She was right.

Caprese salad with rau om

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