Roy Choi, the mastermind behind the Kogi BBQ taco trucks in Los Angeles is fabulous with mixing up culture and cuisine. His new Culver City restaurant, A-Frame, is in a former IHOP, hence the name. The food is polyglot Los Angeles. It commingles ingredients and culinary concepts that were born in different places on the planet but somehow met and married in the City of Angels. Choi tells the story of modern multiculturalism in his food.
One of the memorable things I tasted was Choi’s kimchi sour cream, which he served as a dip for sweet potato fries. The kimchi sour cream is a riff on ranch dressing, but with just a hint of tang and garlic. You barely detect the Korean edge but it does subtly let itself be known.
Now that we’re firmly in grilling season, I decided to make my own rendition of Choi’s kimchi sour cream and serve it with grilled vegetables. I’ve tried it with artichokes and asparagus. Both were fabulous. I imagine you could grill summer squash such as zucchini, patty pans, or crook neck. I suppose you could call it an Asian ranch dressing and put it on a salad!
Here’s the recipe for what I did. Give it a whirl and remember to use the juice from a mature jar of kimchi. If you don’t have “stinky” kimchi, double the amount of kimchi juice used. If you want a little oomph, add a few drops of fish sauce to the kimchi sour cream. Fish sauce is often used in making kimchi.
Serves 2 to 4
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
Kimchi Sour Cream
1 1/2 teaspoons mature (stinky) kimchi juice
2 pinches sea salt
2 pinches sugar
Smidgen of crushed garlic
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Canola or olive oil
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While you wait for that, remove any hard or dead looking leaves from the artichokes. Cut off the stem from each artichoke, setting them aside. Trim 1/2 inch from the top of each artichoke, then use scissors to remove the tips of any thorny leaves. Now split each artichoke in half. This makes cooking them much faster.
When the water comes to a boil, add the artichoke halves and stems. Throw in the bay leaf, peppercorns, and garlic. Cover and vigorously simmer until tender. I estimated 30 to 45 minutes for my artichokes but the cooking time depends on the size and variety of artichokes. Check the cooking progress every fifteen minutes or so. When done, a leaf should pull away easily but the artichoke should not be mushy.
Use tongs to remove the artichokes from the pot, placing them on a plate, cut side down, to drain and cool. The artichokes can be prepped up to 2 days in advance. Return them to room temperature before grilling.
2. To make the kimchi sour cream, stir together the kimchi juice, salt, sugar, garlic, fish sauce, vinegar, sour cream, and mayonnaise. Let sit for 5 minutes then taste and adjust the flavor. Cover until you are ready to serve. Makes about 1/4 cup.
3. Use a spoon or grapefruit knife to remove and discard the furry choke at the center of each artichoke half. Transfer artichokes to a bowl or plate and pour oil over them, making sure you get some between the leaves. Grill them over medium-hot (medium-high) heat, turning frequently, until they have heated through and picked up a tiny bit of char, 5 to 10 minutes. (If you sometimes mistakenly undercook the artichokes like I do, this grilling time is great for finishing the cooking process.) Transfer to a platter and serve warm or at room temperature with the kimchi sour cream.