Koreatown Takes Over at Chai Pani Atlanta

I use to call myself a Korean food enthusiast because I’ve probably tried ten different Korean restaurants around Atlanta. Truth be told, I’m more of a Spicy Seafood Tofu Soup enthusiast because that’s the only thing I ever order when I go to Korean restaurants. Looking back after attending Koreatown Takeover at Chai Pani, I must say I’ve failed miserably to thoroughly savor the Korean cuisine offered in Atlanta.

The event was meant to celebrate Chef Deuki Hong and writer Matt Roddard’s new Korean cookbook titled Koreatown. All attendees went home with a copy of the beautifully illustrated book with hundreds of Korean recipes. A group of chefs from Chai Pani, Heirloom Market BBQ, Gaja Korean Restaurant, Buxton Hall Barbeque (North Carolina), and chef-at-large Chris Hathcock gathered together for one night to create a five-course meal of savory and seoulful dishes inspired by recipes from Koreatown.

Thirty minutes into the event, all 140 seats at Chai Pani Decatur were filled. Each guest was equipped with a cocktail or beer to start, and an hour later, the feast began. Everyone quickly picked up their chopsticks, and for those who were chopsticks challenged, they had their forks and knives ready to go!

Rainbow Banchan (side dishes) created by all the chefs
Rainbow Banchan (side dishes) created by all the chefs

A banchan tray presented with texture and flavors ranging from soft and crunchy, to sweet and sour that accommodated all palettes. My particular favorite was the beet and lime juice pickled cauliflower (the bright pink dish in the photo) prepared by Deuki Hong, one of the authors of the book.

Los-Pyunche

Los-Pyunche Smoked galbi trip-tip, shaved onion, Korean pear, sesame leaf, uja mayo, soy wasabi dressing by Atlanta’s very own Heirloom Market Barbeque.
Los-Pyunche
Smoked galbi trip-tip, shaved onion, Korean pear, sesame leaf, uja mayo, soy wasabi dressing by Atlanta’s very own Heirloom Market Barbeque.

This dish was so delicious that it deserves a full presentation and a close up. You can savor similar tender and flavorful pieces of meat at Heirloom Market Barbeque located at 2243 Akers Mill Rd SE.

goan-chujang pork vindaloo, idli  (fermented & steamed rice&urad dal cakes) by chef Meherwan Irani & James Grogan of Chai Pani
goan-chujang pork vindaloo, idli
(fermented & steamed rice&urad dal cakes) by chef Meherwan Irani & James Grogan of Chai Pani
Smoked Beef bulgogi sausage, Carolina gold rice grits, kimchi, and radish gold rice grits, kimchi, radish by Chris Hathcock.
Smoked Beef bulgogi sausage, Carolina gold rice grits, kimchi, and radish gold rice grits, kimchi, radish by Chris Hathcock.

These two dishes took me by surprise. I didn’t expect Korean dishes to carry such drastic flavors. Chef Irani and Grogan’s dish was a blend of Korean and Indian spices while Chef Hathcock’s dish was a Korean and Southern comfort fusion. I was pleasing surprised.

Although everyone seemed generously fed with more than enough food, Chef Deuki’s last dish—the classic fried chicken — still generated a lot of excitement. And the chicken tasted as good as it looked – crispy on the outside, succulent and soft on the inside, fulfilling to the core.

 Korean fried chicken with roast garlic heads and scallion salad.

Korean fried chicken with roast garlic heads and scallion salad.

Once three dishes and several cocktails were consumed, I noticed the upbeat K-pop music playing in the background. I asked my neighbor if Korean music had been playing this entire time, and he amusedly answered that he had been too focused on the food to notice any music. I think that’s a very good indication of the food!

The dessert was my all time favorite ice-cream, Melona Melon ice-cream bar. Although all the dishes presented were made at the event and difficult to replicate, you can always purchase Melona Melon at any Korean/ Asian market near you. It’s an irresistible chunk of flavored ice to cool you down in the Hotlanta summer.

I left the event completely satiated and with a change in perception about Korean food and food in general. I’ve always been so basic (for lack of a better word) when it comes to ordering food. I deemed fusion restaurants unauthentic. Perhaps, fusion restaurants are unauthentic to their native countries, but not for Atlanta, a city with such diversity in both people and cuisines.

~ By Vy Nguyen, current intern at Go Eat Give. Vy was born and raised in a small village in Vietnam and attends Emory University studying Economics and Linguistics.

Moorish Fusion Cuisine

When I visited Morocco last Fall, I took cooking lessons from the locals, indulged in the native food and came home with some cookbooks for reference. Eating at home in Rabat was very different than eating at Moroccan restaurants. There were a variety of vegetables that were used in everyday cooking (and were delicious) which weren’t even listed in the restaurant menus. Perhaps you have also experienced the same tagines, couscous, bastilla and salad, but are foreign to Harira, poached artichokes, stewed pumpkins, etc.

Recently, I virtually met Zouhair Zairi (also known as Chef ZZ), a chef from Morocco who recently released his cookbook, Moorish Fusion Cuisine. It captured my interest immediately so I got my hands on a copy. As the book is titled, the recipes in the book are definitely “fusion.” Combining the commonly found ingredients in Morocco (pumpkin, artichokes, fennel, dates, saffron, olives, argan oil) with dishes inspired from the West (Bruschetta, Dip, Sushi, Flat Bread), Chef ZZ has created a fun and inspiring cookbook full of delicious recipes. There are also a few traditional dishes, such as Zahlouk (eggplant dip), Chicken Bastilla (sweet and savory pie), Chicken Tagine with preserven lemon and Moroccan green olives, Lamb Kebabs and many more that retain the elements of Moroccan cuisine.

The author has an inspiring story that proves that with hard work and strong determination, any dream can be achieved. Chef ZZ left Morocco for US at the age of 19, where he started as a dishwasher and ended up learning all aspects of the restaurant business. He ended up getting a degree in Culinary Arts and became an executive banquet chef for the 1996 Olympic tennis team’s “Gala Affair” in Atlanta, GA. In 2002 Zouhair opened his own restaurant, Spices in Maui, island of Hawaii. Chef ZZ now works at a five-diamond resort where his abilities and passion earned him the coveted Culinary Excellence Award from the JW Marriott Resort & Spa and a Certificate of Appreciation from the White House.

Get chef ZZ’s recipe for Tomato, Fennel, and Saffron Soup with Olive Oil–Poached Artichokes

Whether you want to impress your guests at the next dinner party or spice up your weekday dinner routine, Moorish Fusion Cuisine will give you “something different,” recipes you cannot find in any other cookbook.

Leave a comment below & enter to win a copy of the book, Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World by Zouhair Zairi with more exciting recipes. Winners will be announced on Oct 30, 2011. 

Cooking for good!

Linda Watson helps people save money, eat well, and make a difference by cooking seasonal food from scratch at less than the food-stamp allowance. Her book, Wildly Affordable Organic is all about delicious recipes that are made from scratch using fresh ingredients. Why good? “Because you will save money and feel better” she says. You will also increase your self-sufficiency, reduce suffering, and help slow global warming.

Linda first experimented to see what it feels like to live on a food-stamp budget and how does one eat healthy (let along organic) being on it. Allocating just $1.53 to each meal, she challenged herself to create family-friendly recipes that were simple, delicious and affordable.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it actually is not. Linda gives very simple tips throughout her book, along with her recipes. She talks about buying family-size bargains, making your own spice mixtures, cooking dry beans from scratch, freezing seasonal fruits and much more.

Even if you are a busy professional, you can Cook for Good by planning ahead and strategizing your meals. Linda claims that you can cook about 60% of your food from scratch in less time than it takes to watch a TV show!

I first met Linda at the IACP conference in Austin, TX back in June 2011. The moment I started talking to her about what she does, I could tell she was really passionate about making a difference in people’s lives. Linda believes that helping people get enough good food to eat isn’t just a matter of giving them money, although money is essential. Linda also campaigns at state and national level to encourage the government to fund and make more convenient its financial support for hungry people.

To learn more about how you can help yourself and the planet, visit Cook for Good.

I will be giving away a copy of the book, Wildly Affordable Organic on Twitter! If you like to enter to win, all you need to do is follow GoEatGive on Twitter. Drawing will be held on August 31, 2011 and the winner will be notified through Twitter