With such mellifluous prompting, how could I not post?
I’ve been thinking about how taken I was with the apple kimchi and how many of the people I’ve told about it have all had the same reaction: “ewww.” (So far, 3 out of 4. Koreans, even!) Served with bacon, a few microgreens, and labne, the apple kimchi at Momofuku Ssam wasn’t fermented, so it retained the fresh crispness of the apple while still delivering the nice kimchi nudge of low, fleeting heat. (Compared to the slow, pleasantly painful burn that was much of Poodam.) The bacon and labne were perfectly complementary because of their meaty greasiness and subtle creaminess; both were tastes I wouldn’t have expected to be paired so well with the kimchi, particularly the latter.
There’s something really compelling about being taken unaware from a new perspective by a food you’ve grown up with all your life, especially by a dish as humble as kimchi. I’m not saying that I had a total Anton Ego flashback because that’s not exactly it. However, the best of fusion can make you discover anew what it was about that particular preparation or technique that’s so enjoyable. And that repetition with a difference is what I think Ego was semi-channeling as well. The apple kimchi made gustatorially apparent to me that I’ve always loved the crisp crunchiness of kimchi, even going as far to prefer kkakdugi (radish cube kimchi) or to pick out the nonleafy shiningly white parts of the cabbage (hey, I never said I was a good Korean either). And using the apple, with its sweet crunchy twist, was brilliant. While I found much of the rest of Momofuku Ssam to be clever but not captivating, this is one food memory that I’m going to relish.