Sunday, March 6, 2016

Swapper profile: Jen Choe + Bahn Mi Carrots Recipe

Name: Jen Choe 

Home (+ hometown swap):
San Francisco, SF Swappers

By day I'm a production manager in digital publishing. By night, a fermentation enthusiast. And starting this month, I'll be spending my weekends helping CUESA produce market demos, classes, and farm tours. 

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?
It was mid-2015 when I started using Instagram as a medium to document my grocery habit (@grocery_choe). Soon enough, I learned that others around the world that were documenting similar things as well (#groceryhaul is a thing?). I think it was the DC swappers group that got wondering if SF had one too...and we did! And here we are. 

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?
The same day of the last swap, my husband was scheduled be flying out to New York. There's nothing sadder than airplane food when you're confined for 5-hours straight, so I wanted to make something he could take with him. Veggie lox (or "mox" as Leo cleverly calls it) is savory, completely vegan, and travels well. I doubled the batch, sending him off with a jar and sleeve of crackers (an apple and a banana too, naturally...). The rest came with me to the swap. 

Recipe discovered—while trying to find a use for carrot juice pulp—from a vegan blog.

What’s your favorite thing about swapping?
For me, it's hard to ignore the fact that human interaction is increasingly being commodified in our society. You see it in examples like babysitting, staying with friends while travelling, getting a ride to the airport, sharing a homemade meal with a friend, borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor....We rarely reach out to our social circles for any of our needs anymore, because why burden our loved ones, when, "there's an app for that?" 

But what happens to the bonds with our loved ones, when we completely stop needing their support anymore? How do we make and strengthen new connections when money is slid-in between every interaction?

Rad events like food swapping help to remind us that there is this other way.

I always leave these events with a sense of connection, mutual respect and gratitude for the folks that participated. 

The delicious haul is a beautiful physical representation of that. 

Who or what most influences your cooking?
From my mother, I picked up late night cooking habits, a tendency to cook in large quantities, and her Korean recipes. The other day I found myself making 10 pounds of kimchi at 3 AM...when it dawned on me that our fridge doesn't have room for the gallon jar it ripens in!

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
The julienne peeler is a miracle worker for anyone that likes texture in their food. It saves me hours of prep time every month, especially on my beloved bahn-mi carrots.

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?
Rose! Since discovering food grade rose petals in the bulk section at Rainbow and I've been flavoring my milk kefir with it.
I thought I knew rose, but no, not in this way... Its fragrance is pure, and simply heavenly. Rose shortbread, rose whipped cream, rose ice cream...

OH—I would be remiss to not give a shout out to homemade kefir-cultured butter. MY GOD I've never eaten so much butter in my life, but it is SO GOOD, and everyone must start making this.

Biggest food surprise?
My mind was blown when I learned that you can make almond milk in a hurry by blending 2 Tb almond butter to 12 oz water! Great for smoothies and chia pudding.

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?
Oh boy...

First course
--Dozen beausoleil oysters, lemon, dill pickle brine mignonette, with a glass of an exceptional white burgundy

Second Course
--A pile of warm, fresh tortillas from Nopalito or Gracias Madre, a generous side of cultured butter
--Fermented uni, with a glass of Japanese beer
--A bite of kobe beef filet mignon (or similar) that Leo determines is "worth it" for a vegetarian to cheat with
--Taco salad from Nick's Crispy Tacos, with both red and green house salsa bottles--full and within reach

An arrangement of fruit, in this way:
--Huge bowl of the plumpest, sweetest local strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
--Medium size bowl of the plumpest sweetest cherries (stems intact, please)
--1 perfectly ripe, good-sized cherimoya
--And on the side, 2-3 coffee cherries, a scoop of cocoa bean fruit, and a fistful of actively fermenting cocoa beans 

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm...
exploring the aisles at a local grocery store, or talking to vendors and shoppers at the farmers market.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the space between food and eater. What I mean by that is: Everybody eats...and it's the what, the how, the where, the when, and the why that I find really quite fascinating. There's so much anthropology to be gleaned from our eating habits...One day I'd love to author a historical guide to San Francisco's grocery stores.

Favorite local food experience:
I had first read about Berkeley's Cultured Pickle Shop in Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation. In it, he swoons over their innovative flavors of Kombucha—Buddha’s hand/mint/bee pollen, turnip, beet. Wait—TURNIP? For real? Ever since that day, I had been obsessed with the idea of turnip flavored kombucha. Months and months went you see, this kombucha is only available at the Berkeley Farmers Market, or at their shop, which is open M-F, 9-5. As a city girl, with a 9-5, without a car... satiating this thirst was not going to be easy.

My blind attempts at trying to flavor MY homemade booch with turnip were complete failures. Despite my strange obsession, my fiancé still married me. Our wedding celebrations were getting costly, so we decided to simply have a staycation honeymoon. And I bet you can guess our first stop on that honeymoon...

Yes! The first stop on our honeymoon was the Cultured Pickle Shop! Unbeknownst, but lucky for us, the weekday that we went turned out to be a quiet catch-up day for the shop. Stepping into this promised land, I was as awestruck as I'd ever been, yet Alex was very gracious, offering us glasses of fennel kombucha (FENNEL!) while she created a pickle plate for us... Long dream short--we bought a ton of stuff, I got a tour of their shop, and even a photo with Alex in front of the large glass barrels of the beverage that had seduced me so long ago...

Anyway, this isn't even the experience, guys.

My most memorable local food experience was...wait for it... 

STAGING at Cultured Pickle Shop for a day. 

For those that do not speak restaurant industry French (which, included me), a stage is an opportunity for a cook to work unpaid at another chef's kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques.

My incredibly thoughtful husband had set this experience up for me as a Christmas gift. Isn't that the sweetest thing? 

Recipe by Jen:


I always have a jar of banh-mi carrots in the fridge. A heaping of the quick pickles instantly add dimension to breakfasts, farm bowls, taco nights, or yes, sandwiches of the Vietnamese persuasion.

My favorite type of recipes are easy to make, requires few ingredients, and makes a lasting impact. Banh-mi carrots fulfill these criteria, and I'm happy to share with you here!

Ingredients (organic when possible):
--1 lb carrots 
--1 large daikon (apx. 2/3 lb)
--1.5 cups distilled white vinegar
--1/4 cup sugar 
--1 heaping teaspoon salt 

Wash and peel the carrots and daikon, reserving the peels for stock*.

Fine julienne all vegetables and toss in a large mixing bowl. (If you plan on making this regularly, a julienne peeler will become the best $10 you've ever spent.) 

Add vinegar, sugar and salt to a quart size mason jar, twist on the lid tightly, and shake until solids have dissolved.

Pour vinegar mixture over carrot/daikon. With clean hands, toss and turn to ensure that the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout. Pick out miscut vegetable pieces at this time.

Let stand at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes, turning the mix occasionally. Transfer into 2 quart size jars and refrigerate. Let pickle in the fridge for 12 hours before serving.