Bring on Da Funk
Ancient food preparation techniques such as fermentation and pickling are finding their way to local eateries as unique ingredients in menu items and traditional side dishes. The appeal of fermented foods, considered to be a healthy option with probiotic benefits, also reflects a renewed interest in local, handcrafted foods and a desire to try new and exotic flavors. Here’s a sampling of local restaurants offering creative twists on fermented and pickled foods.
Where: South Kitchen and Spirits
Featured Ingredient: Tempeh
Dish: Big Super Food Salad
Chef: Brian Siebenschuh
Fermented soybean cakes can often taste bland or one dimensional. South’s tempeh is the opposite. Extraordinarily subtle yet layered with complexity, the texture and flavor of the tempeh in the Big Superfood Salad lends itself to the crunchy kale and Napa cabbage. It also pairs well with the sourness of the pickled edamame and the nuttiness of the sunflower seeds. Chargrilled then vacuum packed, a reverse marinade process is created, allowing the marinade to penetrate and infuse its flavors within the tempeh. The tempeh is then cooked sous vide to ensure precise and consistent flavor and texture. The result is a flavorful, savory tempeh that contrasts well with the salad’s accompanying vegetables.
Where: Riverside Liquors
Featured Ingredient: Tequila Pickled Deviled Egg
Dish: Deviled Egg Flight
General Manager: Victor Joudi
A traditional deviled egg with its rich, creamy filling juxtaposed with the simple egg white, allows the egg yolk to take on the flavor profiles of the spices and herbs while the white acts simply as a vessel to transport this savory blend to your mouth. The Deviled Egg flight pairs a variety of tastes and textures, each slightly different from the next. The Tequila Pickled Deviled Egg is a standout, with the distinctive tang of a pickle. When paired with the rich yolk, it’s a perfectly balanced bite. Subtly sour, the egg white doesn’t just provide a textural diversification, it also offers an unexpected flavor, surprising taste buds as it inverts the traditional deviled egg structure.
Where: Chomp Chomp Jax
Featured Ingredient: Pickled Veggies
Dish: Banh Mi Sandwich
Chef: Mark Lynn
This dish is the archetype of a perfect Banh Mi, with an ideal combination of salty, fatty and acidic elements — a crunchy baguette that fractures when you bite into it, raw cucumbers and cilantro to balance the sandwich’s spiciness and an overflowing blend of pickled daikon, carrot and green chili peppers that stand up to the strong flavors of the juicy pork. The house-made pickled vegetables are Asian-style, preserved in rice wine vinegar. A unique pickling process is used to heighten the flavors of the finished product. The vinegar is first brought to a boil, cooled and then added to the vegetables with various spices, including coriander, anise and cumin. The sourness and bite of the pickles become a complete unit with the starchy white bread and the salty, spicy pork.
Where: Timwah Dim Sum
Featured Ingredient: Douchi (Fermented Black Soybeans)
Dish: Dim Sum
Chef: Gourong Fan
From the dried shiitakes and sausage in the steamed rice to the fermented black beans traditionally served with Dim Sum-style chicken feet, preserved ingredients are a cornerstone in the preparation of Chinese cuisine. Dim Sum without the preserved ingredients is like pasta without the parmesan cheese — the absence of these relatively understated flavors is quickly noticed. In Dim Sum, a level of complexity and flavor would be lost without the dried, fermented and pickled additions to the dishes. Douchi, or fermented and salted black soybeans, are typically used to create black bean sauces ordinarily found in Cantonese cooking. The chicken feet at Timwah were inexplicably more delicious with the addition of the salty black beans. The douchi added brightness to the dish.
Where: Wicked Barley Brewing Company
Featured Ingredient: Kimchi
Dish: Pork Belly Sandwich
Chef: Brad Sueflohn
Every culture has its pickles, and in Korean cuisine, it’s kimchi. Kimchi pairs spicy and acidic flavor profiles, creating a distinctive funkiness almost always present in kimchi. While that distinctive funk is commonplace, the preparation method varies and greatly impacts the overall composition. The house-made kimchi on the pork belly sandwich is full-flavored and balances the salty pork belly, the crunchy jalapenos and the fluffy white bread. The lightness and acidity added by the kimchi immediately stifle any inkling of taste fatigue. Wicked Barley’s kimchi is unique in that raw vegetables are mixed with fermented chili paste. The acid in the fermented paste keeps the vegetables crunchy and adds seasoning right from the start of the fermentation process.