Tag: kimchi

Meet In Your Kitchen | Mr. Susan’s Kimchi Michelada

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“Food really helped carve out my identity, it made me realize who I am, but it was also entrée into other cultures.”– Susan Choi

What happens when you grow up in Germany, move to LA to a Mexican neighborhood at the age of six together with your Korean parents then replace California with NYC and finally end up in Berlin with a Dutch husband? You love schnitzel, traditional German food and traditions like Sunday afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake); your mother’s Korean cooking becomes a safe home inside yourself, a culinary bond to your roots; you develop a weak spot for Mexican ice cream, and adapt to the culinary playfulness that Americans master to perfection so easily.

This is the culinary map of Susan Choi, the owner of Berlin’s acclaimed Mr. Susan bar. Why Mr. Susan? – Susan says “Why not!” Susan embraces, no she celebrates all the colors and shapes, the flavors and textures, the stories and people that this map keeps bringing into her life. She dove deep into each of these cultures, they became a part of who she is today. She welcomes them with respect, curiosity, and infinite excitement and she finds in them endless inspiration to feed her mantra: Life’s a feast!

“My parents worked so hard for us. It is the classic kind of immigrant story where your parents work like a bajillion jobs, bajillion hours to make sure that you have everything that you could want in the world. Every single opportunity I have is because of my parents.“ – Susan Choi

Susan is one of the most positive and energetic people I know – I can’t really imagine her having a bad day. The obstacles in her life were tough, from brutal racism to having to learn to assimilate to a new culture over and over again yet she never let go of staying true to herself. She always knew, even at a very young age, that she either learns to stand her ground or lose the battle and drown. The headwind made her stronger, she’s a tough woman but she managed to keep her soft side. And this combination makes her so lovable, so irresistible, and charming, and also – especially when she stands, smiling, at the counter of her bar sipping an iced coffee – it makes her the cutest. I could just squeeze her.

Her New York life was quite glamorous. Working as a consultant, being a regular in the city’s spectacular restaurants, she developed an even deeper fascination for food in general but also for the people who create it. She learned about the magic of a place, thriving from the dishes, the guests, the location, the interior, and first and foremost, she learned that you lose everything without keeping quality on a constant high level. When you visit Mr. Susan bar today, you can see that she soaked up every detail during her journey. Susan truly understands what makes or breaks a bar, or a restaurant.

Germany’s culinary traditions left a deep mark in her memory. The food, the rituals, the smells, and taste, she finds home in them and they paved her move to Berlin. During one of her first nights in the city, she sat on a swing over the Spree river sipping an Aperol Spritz on a warm summer’s eve and she knew, this is my home. Catering pop-ups and events quickly opened the door to another new city. Berlin welcomed this vivid woman with open arms, thankful for the excitement she brought to the Berliners’ palates. 

Be it her food or her drinks, there’s always something unique and thrilling in Susan’s compositions. Visually and in taste. Maybe because she learned to go through life with open eyes, she never misses a detail. The first drink I had at her bar was served with a paper straw with pink flamingos on it. The straw – and the flamingos – were upside down. It bugged her so much that she had to flip it. Together with her husband Robbert – the two are one of the most complementary couples I’ve ever met – she created a bar that excites, that is fun, and invites you to have a chat at the bar just like you were at home in your kitchen throwing a house party with only fabulous drinks and people (of course).

The recipe Susan shared with me for the Meet in My Kitchen podcast is her playful version of a Korean inspired Mexican drink: Kimchi Michelada! She makes a popsicle of tomato juice refined with kimchi juice and lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce then she puts the bright red frozen juices into a glass and pours ice-cold beer over it. Despite the fact that I’m German, I’m not the most passionate about beer, but this drink got me hooked. There’s nothing better to have in your glass on a hot summer’s night! If you don’t have popsicle molds, you can use ice cube molds, that’s totally fine. Susan shows how to make the drink in a tutorial in the Highlights of the podcast’s Instagram Stories, click here and go to the Highlight #5 Mr. Susan.

The podcast episode with Susan Choi is in English. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Susan on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Kimchi Michelada

by Susan Choi / Mr. Susan

No popsicle molds? No problem, try using ice trays for ice cubes!

Makes 6-8 popsicles

For the Kimchi Michelada Popsicles

  • 0.5 Liter / 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon of unsalted organic tomato juice
  • 250 ml / 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 100 ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon kimchi juice*, or to taste, you can buy the kimchi directly from Susan (click here) or at any Asian shop and many organic shops
  • 100 ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 8-10 dashes of Worcestershire sauce (Susan uses L&P)

* Kimchi is a live product, it will continue to ferment over time thus have different flavor profiles so adjust to taste! You’ll need to buy roughly 500g / 17 1/2 ounces of kimchi and then drain it for the right amount of kimchi juice. You only use the liquid for the popsicles, you can use the drained kimchi for other recipes or snacks. The more fermented the kimchi, the juicier it’ll be.

For serving

  • About 2-4 tablespoons lime juice, to brush the outside of the glasses
  • Tajin (chili-lime sea salt), to sprinkle the outside of the glasses
  • Your favorite beer. We suggest a crisp lager. It can also be enjoyed with alcohol free beer!

For the popsicles, mix the ingredients together and pour into your favorite popsicle molds (or ice trays for ice cubes). Freeze for minimum 12 hours. 

For serving, brush some lime juice on the outside of a tall glass (just a wide strip) and sprinkle with chili salt. Place a popsicle in the glass and pour in your favorite beer. Or pour the beer into the glass and lay the popsicle on top of the glass (looks prettier and more dramatic).

Yu-Kyong’s Bibimbap, a traditional Korean treat

bibimbap

A few weeks ago I met a very sweet couple from Norway, Lena and Knut, we sat opposite each other at a supper club and started talking. Days later I found out about their wonderful blog Teak Tray Weekdays where they share little treasures of their daily life in Trondheim and their traveling trips, I got peacefully lost in their stories. When Lena asked me if I would like to cook something together with them I was very happy. I liked the idea of the three of us cooking the same meal in different kitchens in different countries and with different recipes. I let them choose what we would cook and they suggested Bibimbap. They had just been to Berlin and enjoyed this Korean speciality at a restaurant so much that they wanted to cook it at home. You can find the link to Lena’s and Knut’s Bibimbap here.

At first, I wasn’t sure about my approach to this meal. I had never cooked Korean before and I usually need an experience, a memory, a story, taste, something that opens the door to a new culinary experience. I asked my oldest friend Yu-Kyong for help, we lived next to each other through our whole childhood, she has Korean roots, her father grew up in North Korea and her mother in the South. She lived in Germany all her life but her mother cooks Korean for the family and introduced her daughter to the traditional recipes, like Bibimbap.

When I asked Yu-Kyong to write down the recipe so that I could buy all the ingredients she told me that this wouldn’t work, we would have to go shopping together! We met at an Asian market and she gave me an introduction to Korean cooking. She explained the necessary spices, mixtures, spice pastes and preparations to me, all in between hundreds of boxes, tins and bottles of food, freezers stuffed with tiny crabs, octopus and fish. The scent of a different world in my nose, visually overwhelmed, I tried to keep up with her. She told me about the different flavours and qualities of sesame oil, I learnt how to cook sticky rice properly, which cutlery I have to use (a metal spoon and metal chopsticks, not wooden!) and so much more. Basically, a one hour crash course on Korean cooking, in the middle of an Asian market, typing everything more or less precisely into my phone, not to forget a single detail.

bibimbap6

I got home with bags of vegetables, Kimchi, roasted seaweed, Obok Gochujang hot pepper paste, many colourful tins and boxes. I bought the first tofu of my life and I felt happy and finally prepared for this new cooking experience.

Here’s a quick description of Bibimbap, it’s a one pot meal, rice at the bottom and steamed vegetables mixed with a sesame oil and soy sauce dressing on top. I steamed spinach, sprouts and carrots and added strips of seaweed, Kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), fried tofu and eggs. The spinach is glazed with the special Bibimbap Gochujang sauce which is mixed into the rice as well. I made a traditional cucumber salad on the side, mixed with sesame oil and soy sauce, sprinkled with chili powder and toasted sesame seeds.

This meal needs good preparation before you mix everything together, it’s a ceremony of pure tastes mixed with the strong flavour of good quality sesame oil and the spiciness of Gochujang. When you make your own Bibimbap you should allow some extra time to enjoy the cutting, steaming and mixing, it’s meditative. I learnt that this is not a warm meal, the rice and egg (which I fried in the end) have to be warm but the steamed vegetables can be cold.

Bibimbap

 Vegetable Bibimbap  and Cucumber Salad

For 3-4 people you need

sticky rice, rinsed, 170g / 6 ounces
soybean sprouts, steamed for 1-2 minutes, a handful
spinach, steamed for 1-2 minutes, 250g / 9 ounces
carrot, cut into julienne, steamed for 1 minute, 1-2
tofu, cut into 0.5cm / 1/4″ slices, 200g / 7 ounces
Kimchi 6 tablespoons
spring onions, cut into thin slices, a small handfull
Korean roasted seaweed, cut into strips, 5 sheets
organic eggs 3-4
sesame seeds, toasted in a pan for a couple minutes on medium heat, 2 tablespoons
cucumber, peeled, cut in half, without the seeds and soft parts, a 15cm / 6″ piece for the cucumber salad
dried chili spice for the cucumber salad, 1/8 teaspoon
Gochujang hot pepper paste 1 tablespoon
sesame oil 6 tablespoons
soy sauce 5 tablespoons
sugar
garlic, crushed, 4 cloves

Whisk the following ingredients for the sauce used for the steamed soybean sprouts, carrots and cucumber salad

4 1/2 tablespoons of the sesame oil
3 tablespoons of the soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
and 3 small crushed cloves of garlic

Whisk the following ingredients for the Bibimbap sauce (used for the steamed spinach and the rice)

1 tablespoon of the Obok Gochujang hot pepper paste
1 1/2 tablespoons of the sesame oil
2 tablespoons of the soy sauce
3/4 tablespoon of sugar
and 1 small crushed clove of garlic

Cook the rice in a pot filled with water and a pinch of salt (the water should be 2cm / 1″ above the rice) for 12 minutes, on medium heat, keeping the lid closed. If the rice is still hard and didn’t soak all the water, keep it on the heat for a couple more minutes. When it’s done, keep the rice covered and set aside.

For the salad, cut the cucumber into strips, mix with 1/3 of the dressing (not the Bibimbap sauce) and sprinkle with some sesame seeds and the dried chili spice. The cucumber salad is served as a side dish, not on top of the Bibimbap like the rest of the vegetables.

Glaze the steamed soybean sprouts with 1/3 of the dressing (not the Bibimbap sauce) and the steamed carrots with the rest of the sauce, sprinkle both with sesame seeds.

Mix the steamed spinach with 4 teaspoons of the special Bibimbap sauce (keep the rest of the sauce to mix with the rice).

Fry the tofu in a little sesame oil for 2 minutes until golden, turn gently and fry on the other side. When it’s done, set it aside.

Fry the eggs, leaving the egg yolk soft.

Put the rice in a large bowl and the spinach, carrots, sprouts, Kimchi, spring onions, tofu and seaweed on top, arrange them in a circle next to each other. Place the fried eggs in the middle and sprinkle everything with sesame seeds.

When you serve the Bibimbap at the table, you can either mix everything in the bowl together with the rest of the Bibimbap sauce or divide it between the plates and add some sauce to it (that’s how I did it).

bibimbap2

 

Bibimbap

 

Bibimbap