Wednesday, March 18, 2009

fauxlahipster is going to Asia

I'm heading to a wedding in Taiwan this weekend, followed by a week in Seoul filled with what I hope will be midnight shopping sprees, overeating food on sticks served from steaming carts, and reacquainting myself with the motherland.

However, it also means I won't have time to blog. Cuz why would I be sitting around in front of a computer blogging when I can be experiencing a whole new culture!!??

But fear not, I will return in April. Hopefully with some interesting cultural observations and anecdotes to share!

Friday, March 13, 2009

For hipsters in NYC - Triple 5 Soul Warehouse Sale

Even though I am currently the faux LA hipster, I used to be a wannabe hipster in NYC before that. And every hipster faux or genuine should own some T5S in their wardrobe. Their biannual warehouse sales used to be a shopping staple for me, but alas I live in the fashion wasteland of LA now. But if you're in NYC, you should totally check out this sale! And unlike the previous incarnations, it will be held at their stores instead of that Metropolitan Pavilion place on W17th St.

I think their strongest line is their outerware like jackets and coats. Urban industrial with casual detailing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Briny salty spicey goodness - step by step pictorial guide to kimchi making

As a little girl in korea, I used to help my grandmother make kimchi by being the taste-tester to make sure it was of the appropriate saltiness. I'm still convinced that this contributed to the development of my palate at an early age which makes me the cook I am today - a damn good one! :D

This past Sunday was spent with my mom (who I love very much but who also drives me nuts sometimes) making kimchi, that traditional korean spiced pickled cabbage that many of us know and love. You see, my mom has this friend who apparently makes some of the best kimchi in LA.... so good in fact that her children won't buy regular old supermarket kimchi or even fancy expensive boutique kimchi (yes, that does exist by the way) because their mom's kimchi is that good. My mom was fortunate enough to have a kimchi knowledge transfer session with her, and I wanted to make sure that these super-awesome kimchi-making skills were passed on to me.

Now on to the adventure!

Here's my mom preparing the brine in order to salt the cabbage. She uses coarse sea salt and adds enough salt to create a saturated solution (think high school chemistry) - in other words, as much salt as possible that will melt in the water. Using warm water for this task seems to help.

When you split the cabbage in half, start at the white heads and cut about 2/3 - 3/4 of the way through and finish the splitting process by hand (for the green/yellow parts). This minmizes crumbling of the more delicate lower leaves. Once you get the soak going for these cabbage halves, rub some more of the coarse salt into the white part of the heads since these stiffer parts are more resistant to the salt penetration. Set aside for a couple of hours like this.

Next, it's time to start the sauce. Add 2 parts cold water to one part sweet rice flour (which you can purchase at most asian grocery stores) and dissolve (kinda like working with cornstarch). Then bring this mixture to a rolling boil while constantly stirring in order to prevent the paste from sticking to the bottom and/or burning. The mixture will be a bit lumpy at first, but as you keep cooking it, the lumps will dissolve. This process kind of reminded me of tempering chocolate - steady does it. You should make a lot of this. If you have leftover sauce, you can make lots of other wonderful things with it, but if you don't have enough to make your kimchi, you're kind of screwed. Once the paste is boiling, transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool.

Now it's time to prep your veggie fillings for the kimchi. You can use any combination of aromatic leafy greens that you like. We make ours traditional style with scallions, ghat (peppery leafy thing, don't know what it's called in english, sorry), radish greens, chives. Give all these guys a rough chop.

Secret Ingredient #1 - raw squid
You're probably thinking WTF? But adding raw seafood is really essential to the eathy flavor of kimchi and anything raw you throw in will be cooked through the fermentation process... not too different from an over-ripe ceviche. Trraditional kimchi often uses raw oysters which I sort of despise, so I'm glad that this version uses squid which I find much more palatable. And once the kimchi is ready to eat, these squid pieces become little nuggets of flavor heaven! Buy the freshest and best squid you can find and give it a fine chop, a little finer than what's pictured here.

Next add red pepper powder to the sweet rice paste that you've prepared and cooled. It doesn't have to be cold or even room temperature, but you want to make sure the paste isn't hot, because if it's too warm, then it will take away the spicy kick that you absolutely want from the red pepper powder. Don't scrimp with this ingredient and make sure to buy good quality red pepper powder, preferably made especially for kimchi. Add A LOT of it. You want this sauce to be a deep dark red and not a pastey orange like you see here.

Secret Ingredients #2 and #3
I forgot to take a picture of the prep portion of this step, but the white swirly things are actually a mixture of grated apples and grated onions that I prepped in the food processor. The grating of these two ingredients helps them fully incorporate into the sauce will add a sweetness and aroma that will give kimchi that multi-dimensional delicious bite! There's also a generous amount of chopped garlic and little grated ginger as well in here.

This is how your sauce should look when you've added all the "dry" ingredients - really red and really thick. The consistency is almost akin to a loose peanut butter or a dry tapenade. It's starting to smell and taste pretty good now, but we aren't done yet, oh no...

Add a heap of julienned daikon radish to this paste. This is best prepared on a japanese mandolin or one of those craptastic devices they sell on latenight infomercials - unless you've got some mad knife skills in which case I supposed you can do this by hand.

By this point, you probably want to mix this up by hand since your little wooden spoon ain't gonna cut it any more. Make sure you wear disposable (or not) plastic gloves to protect your skin from the peppers and also so your skin won't stain and your hands won't smell like garlic. Add the remaining aromatic veggies that you prepared earlier and stir it up in this mix. Now is the time to adjust the saltiness. Instead of salt, use fish sauce to adjust the saltiness to give the flavors more body (kind of like how everything tastes better when cooked in animal fat than canola oil - same concept here). They make fish sauce specifically for kimchi, but I think any salty fish sauce would work here. Let these flavors sit and marinate at room temperature for a couple of hours.

The cabbage should be brined for about 4-6 hours, but make sure to rotate the cabbage at the halfway point so most of the pieces get a chance to be submerged in the saltwater solution. When you're executing this rotation is probably a good time to cut the cabbage halves into quarters. Once the brining process is complete, give each cabbage piece a good rinse in cold water - twice - to stop the brining process. You'll need to switch out this water fairly often as it gets salty fast from rinsing. After you're done rinsing, place the cabbage in a basket or colander to drain out as much of the water as possible so you don't dilute the pepper mixture once it's ready to go in.

Once the cabbage is ready, it's time to get stuffin! Grab a few handfulls of the seasoned mix and place in a large bowl. Grab a quarter of the brined cabbage and mop the outside of it generously with the seasoned mix all over, especially the sides or anyplace where white color is peeking out. Then, starting with the outermost leaf, mop the inside of it with a small bit of the seasoned mix and leave a little bit of the seasoned mix in that leaf and move on to the next outer leaf. Work your way towards the center of the cabbage head this way until every leaf has been mopped over and has a bit of the veggies from the seasoned mix in between the leaves. It's important that the veggie bits are only stuffed into the white portion of the leaf and not the green or yellow parts as the white parts are most resistant to being penetrated by flavor which is why we leave these little bits behind for those parts. This is also what creates the attractive layered look in the finished product. This will take a while, so get comfy, pop in some Beach Boys or whatever else you enjoy, preferably with people you enjoy being around.

Almost done! Once the cabbage has been fully violated by the seasoned mix and mopped thoroughly to a crimson hue, place them snuggly in a container of your choice. You want them packed snug, but not too tight. And fill the container about 3/4 of the way as the kimchi will expand and release water as it ferments and you don't want it to explode with kimchi juice when you're finally ready to enjoy these bad boys.

Optionally, you can add a layer of cut up radishes (or leftovers from the julienning process since you didn't want to slice off a finger with the mandolin) to the finished kimchi. It's recommended to cover all this with a layer of plastic wrap to minimize exposure to oxygen or undesirable outside elements.

Depending on how fast you want to eat these, you can ferment them at room temperature, in the fridge, or in my mom's case, her bad ass kimchi refrigerator. Did you know that you can get a refrigerator especially for optimizing kimchi flavor and longevity? My mom paid $1500 for one of these things! eeek! Back in the old days, koreans would put the kimchi in clay jars and bury them in dirt over the winter. I remember eating my grandma's kimchi that still had the frozen crystals on them from being stored outside during the cold korean winters which is generally when this type of kimchi is prepared.

You may have noticed that I didn't really give any exact measures or quantities or times. That's because kimchi making is largely a taste-and-go process that leaves a lot of room for flexibility. Just taste things as you go along, add more or less of things you like and go with your sense of taste and you'll be sure to create something you'll enjoy.

Obviously, this is a lot of work and something you probably don't want to undertake often or alone. But the reward is so mouthwatering and irresistible! Pair it with a piping hot bowl of plain white rice and all this effort will be well worth it :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Just another night in Hollywood! Avalon, Blue Palm Brewhouse, El Gran Burrito

Signing up for a million different mailing lists does have its advantages. Like finding out that the Fischer Spooner show I heard about through flavorpill, whose tickets I thought were a bargain at $20, I could actually acquire for FREE! (by the way, that was a really horrible run-on sentence - I know. It's been a while since I've written anything so I'm a bit rusty today :P ). On one of those rare occasions where I actually got to attend an event I wrote about, I braved the long ass line that formed outside of Avalon at 10:20pm for an event whose doors were at 10p. Apparently there was an open bar until 11pm as well that I was hoping to make, but of course I didn't with all the underaged hipsters jonesing to cut in line and me giving them my dirtiest look possible (which is sadly not too dirty, unlike my gf's favorite martini).

Finally we make it inside at 11:10pm, just after open bar, dangit! Oh well.... there was already a huge throng of people inside dancing to the opening dj Dan Oh. Apparently, it was also his birthday, so the whole crowd on the dancefloor sang him happy bday. That was cute. Finally at 11:30pm Fischer Spooner came on and the energy was really pumping. Their mix of synth electro euro dance trance music was just as I expected. Remember those E fueled rave days of yore? Well, they are alive and well here and it was actually kind of refreshing to see people just dancing and moving their bodies without much concern for how cool they looked or whether they're stepping on your feet. My friend and I agreed that if we were both on E, we'd be REALLY loving this place.

Next we went to the Blue Palm Brewhouse which doubles as the "VIP" area of the Henry Fonda Theater. The place itself wasn't particularly notable except that we had a table next to a shuffleboard table and a window. As luck would have it, a car with 2 asian girls pull up, then the girl in the passenger seat starts to barf - on Hollywood Blvd, in front of a bar!!! Classy.... Everyone at the bar rushes to the window, we can't believe our eyes - and our luck to catch such a vision! :D Check out the pix with her shoving her finger down her throat. Bulimia, anyone? muahahahah!!!

Now it's 2am and we're hungry. We're still in Hollywood - what are our options?
1. Hollywood Hotdog aka Tijuana Dog (my favorite name for this thing) aka bacon wrapped 60min-to-burn-on-treadmill dog
2. Good old koreatown - a bit far
3. Thai town - too lazy
4. Tacos - BINGO!!

We headed off to my favorite Hollywood 24hr taco join El Gran Burrito. Like a dirty boyfriend, I just can't get enough of this place. Ever since my friend Andy brought me here, I've been hooked. And at a buck per taco, you can't beat the price either. But what really sells me here is their amazing condiment cart! Not only does it have 3 different kinds of salsa (mild green, med chipotle, and spicy red), but they also have a gree avocado sauce, all the briny bay leaf picked carrots/onions/jalapenos you want, pico de gallo with huge chunks of juicy tomato, and a non-dairy vinegar-based cabbage slaw that is simple perfect with the greasy taco/burrito you'll be shoving down your throat. Can you believe all this late night goodness on this picture cost just $2?? God, I love LA!!

I'll end this post of a little vid I shot outside Blue Palm as a few male patrons decided to go outside to "help the poor girl out". Did the dog stop to eat the puke? You decide....

Monday, March 2, 2009

Grand Opening Party for Barbarella Bar in Echo Park

Despite the fact that my job is SO getting in the way of my social life, I wanted to share this quick tidbit: Barbarella Bar which is a brand new bar named after the namesake movie will have its official opening party tomorrow night with complimentary specialty martinis (yum!!), items from their bar menu, and a live DJ along with free valet parking. They claim they are located in Silver Lake, but that's just their way of trying to tell you that they are hipster-friendly. Cuz real angelenos know that silverlake = losangeles.

I'd be so all over this if I wasn't pulling my 60hr workweeks. But you should still go and tell me all about it afterwards so I can live vicariously through others!!

Try to count how many fedora hats you see at this event. Should be a fun exercise...

RSVP here!

Tuesday March 3rd
Barbarella Bar
2906 N. Hyperion Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027