Emily (brooklynmili) wrote,

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Fresh And Local: Kimchi Stirfry

This is my entry for helgarde's "Spice is Right" blog theme. Enjoy!

yummy yummy kimchi stirfry

"Fresh and Local" should have obvious meaning. Barbara certainly explains it well enough. But I found myself thinking about the challenge in ways that make my "Fresh and Local" should have obvious meaning.  Barbara certainly explains it well enough.  But I found myself thinking about the challenge in ways that make my kimchi stirfry a little different, perhaps, than most of the recipes that may be listed here.a little different, perhaps, than most of the recipes that may be a part of this challenge.

On the surface, it meets the conventional definition of local, in that the main ingredient, the kimchi, came from a local producer, namely a booth in the Union Square Greenmarket, the core of New York's farmers' market network. (Union Square is where all the famous chefs go to get their produce; at all the fancy restaurants, you see a "Greenmarket Menu" this time of year.) I don't know the name of the farm, but the stand is always run by one middle-aged Asian woman, and it sells beautiful lettuces in addition to prepared kimchi, pickles, and fermented tofu. I picked up a plastic tub of kimchi one day in the market, along with some gorgeous baby carrots.

However, I decided to take "Fresh and Local" in a different direction as well. You see, while this kimchi is local in that it comes from a farm probably within 100 miles of the city, 100 miles is a long way. My food coop will label some produce as "locally grown within 500 miles." 500 miles is a really long way: Fayetteville, NC is only just outside it, as are Athens, OH, and Quebec City. I want my food to be "local-er" than that, to share something of a place with me in a more intimate manner. I want to eat this city that I live in, that I've wanted to live in since I was 14, that I love.

What grows in this city? Besides weeds, there are my backyard tomatoes and peppers and spices, but that's not much. What does "grow" in this city, however, is small niche businesses making a few very specific types of food. Their ingredients don't often come from "local" sources, and their techniques are usually far from "local"--in fact, in most cases they are producing ethnic foods for ethnic communities, often located in enclaves like Sunset Park (Mexican), Chinatown (ones in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens), or Jackson Heights (South Asian). These foods are just as local as the kimchi from Suffolk County (or whereever). And to my mind, they are indigenous, because New York City (and especially Brooklyn and Queens in this day and age) is a city primarily of people from somewhere else. I carry a cheesesteak recipe in my vegetarian soul (seitan works very well, incidentally) the way other New Yorkers remember blintzes or samosas or dumplings. We are all immigrants here, and we want to keep up the old ways. And that makes us an essential part of the city's life.

Every ingredient in this dish is either grown within a short distance from New York City, or is manufactured within the five boroughs. Here they are:


We have:
Locally Grown:
  • Kimchi, Union Square Greenmarket (7.9 miles from my house)
  • Roma tomatoes and jalapeños from a friend's garden in Turkey Hill, NY (115 miles)
  • Alderfer's eggs, organic and cage free, from Telford, PA (98.2 miles)

Locally Made:
  • Fried Tofu Pouch (cubes of fried tofu), made in the Navy Yard area of Brooklyn (4.3 miles)
  • Youngchung Noodles (a spaghetti-thickness wheat noodle), made in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (6.6 miles)

This recipe was improvised, and showed the signs of it, but was definitely delicious.

eggs and noodles on the stove

I brought some water to a boil and dropped half the noodles from the package in. They cooked for five minutes. While they cooked, I sauteed two eggs in my non-stick pan. (I had to use non-stick since the noodles were wheat, and would have contaminated my cast-iron, and I would have had to wash it several times and reseason it so my celiac girlfriend could eat out of it again.)
tomatoes and jalapeños in the pan

Once the eggs were done, I transferred them to a dish and put the chopped tomatoes and jalapeños into the pan. I like my tomatoes well cooked, so I gave them lots of time to get dark red and to dry out a little. By this point the noodles were done, so I drained them and let them cool in the sink

everything but the noodles gets fried up

Right about now I started wishing I had a big wok. I put the tofu, with the cubes cut again into fourths, the scrambled eggs, well chopped up into finer pieces, and all of the kimchi and its liquid into the pan. Not a lot of room to move around, but I kept it going for a few minutes for some of the liquid to cook off.

add a mess of noodles

Then I added the noodles. At this point I REALLY needed a bigger pan, but oh well. The liquid steamed the noodles, so they didn't fry up as you might have expected--using almost no oil probably helped that as well. I kept it going until everything was intermingled as well as could be, and it was time to eat.

The verdict? Both my roommate and I liked it, though agreed that more frying would have helped the noodles. The kimchi might have been a few days past its prime; a distinct olive-y smell was mixed in among the hot and sour. But the flavors tasted fresh and strong, and we finished the whole pan more quickly than I expected.

Where to get these ingredients
  • Your best bet for local produce really is one of the Greenmarkets (www.cenyc.org). The Union Square and the Grand Army Plaza markets are the most spectacular. But make sure to support your local market (mine is the Windsor Terrace on Wednesdays), to help keep local produce available to all New Yorkers. (In another moment of ethnic plurality, the content of the markets varies by the location--so the one in Windsor Terrace features a Mexican-owned farm (in the Bronx!) that sells epazote, cilantro, and chiles alongside zucchini and eggs.)
  • For Chinese and other Asian ingredients, hit up whichever Chinatown is nearest to you; mine is the Sunset Park Chinatown in Brooklyn (Eighth Ave between roughly 65th and 50th). All the ingredients here came from the Hong Kong supermarket at 63rd--along with some rice flour peanut balls from College Point (19.9 miles), and some dried tofu skins made in China that were on sale.
  • Unrelated, but for some fantastic cardamom cookies, hit up the local branch of Kabir's Bakery next time you're in a South Asian neighborhood. Mine is at Church and McDonald (.5 miles). So fantastic. And the samosas are only 75 cents, and they give you ketchup packets with them. What's not to love?
Tags: food
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