E Pluribus Mores

Archive for March, 2015|Monthly archive page

International Cooking in the Knucklehole

In slow cooking on March 9, 2015 at 10:18 am

So, welcome to another episode of Slow Cooking in the Knucklehole. Today we are preparing for a dinner party with a Korean theme. The guests will be arriving; so it is time to get started cooking. Earlier I went shopping at a Viet grocery store that had a number of Korean specialties as well as Chinese imports. I bought multiple bags of groceries: tofu, scallions, toasted sesame seed oil, garlic (lots of garlic), ginger—all the basics. The meal…well I haven’t really decided on the recipe; there’s a number to choose from. But they all include a fermented black bean sauce. So today’s recipe will be vegetables, tofu or seitan, over rice/noodles, with kim chi on the side, maybe some dumplings, with Korean spicy fermented black bean sauce.

Slow cooking didn’t start with the internet. I have a friend, Dave, who once said that the history of civilization was the history of controlling rot. The very origins of cities can be traced to the fermentation of beer in the Fertile Crescent between the Indus and Euphrates rivers. Fermented black soybeans is the oldest known food made from soy. Crocks of fermented black beans have been found at burial sites dating to 165 B.C., though they are thought to go back much earlier. In Chinese it is called douchi. So when I saw a crock imported from China at the Viet grocery store, I knew then what was for dinner.

I have prepared the vegetables. Well, the scallions. Nice. Crisp. A nice pile of crisp scallions. And here we have the crock of fermented black beans: the douchi. The container is ceramic, and looks like one of the old-time crocks you would bake beans in. It is tied handsomely with a red ribbon, and around the top, yes, that is packing tape. The ribbon is cut. Easy enough. But the tape…just have to get the tip of the Sabatier knife…here it comes… bits of the tape seem to be stuck on the side of the crock…have to saw with the edge of the blade…now, there we go. I can already smell the black beans. It has an aromatic, earthy, fermented smell. Not unlike Tutankhamen’s tomb. Just open the top…HOLY mother of Geraldo! Something has escaped from the crock, perhaps once played by Lon Chaney. Wow. Ok. Guests will be arriving, so I have to move this along. Inside there is a plastic bag. It is still tied with string, so I know it is fresh. We can remove the bag. It is dripping onto the counter. During Thanksgiving a friend brought over a turkey, and stuffed into the backside of the turkey was a bloody dripping bag. Of course in China they would not have had turkeys. So maybe a duck. Dripping Tutankhamen duck giblets.

Easy enough to wipe up the counter, place it here on a plate. Can’t seem to get the string open…scissors, there we go. Again, wow! Before I serve this to my guests, it is important that I have a taste. A good friend, Benedict, an Icelander, once told me of a local delicacy. The story began, “There are no flies in Iceland…” Evidently they would take fresh shark meat and leave it out several weeks until it had, let’s say, fermented.   Then they would eat small squares along with shots of aquavit. Don’t have any aquavit, but there is some Russian vodka. Got the Italian Multipulciano wine, got the vodka all lined up: fusion cuisine in the Knucklehole. So here we go, just a taste on the tip of my finger. I remember a party hosted by some hockey friends. At the party I had taken a shot of whiskey that one of the players brought back from Thailand. The whiskey had been infused with whole red peppers, a scorpion, and a cobra (I always felt bad for the cobra). The black beans create a similar sensation in my mouth.

Mouth burning. Eyes watering. That’s it. I can’t feel my thung. A little dizzy, but I’m ok. I’m…I’m not ok. The plastic bag has just lost containment. It is oozing across the counter. Ghost of Lon Chaney attacks! Retreat. Into the bathement. Here I am. In the basement. Safe for the moment. Might need something to barricade the door. Ack! Guests will be arriving any minute. Trapped. What would a prepper do? There is a towel down here. And my son left some Febreze…. No. No, no, no. No….Yes. Yes, we can do this. Wrap the towel around my face. Like Roosevelt up San Juan Hill. Charge! Take that fermented Tutankhamen scum! Into the garbage bag. Got it on my sleeve. No problem. Taking off the shirt. That as well into the garbage bag. Down the wine. Shot of vodka.

…the doorbell.

That about does it for this episode of slow cooking in the Knucklehole. Tune in next…well, anyway, got to go.