Heat, Meat, Rice and Veg: Welcome to Hmong Cuisine! | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 503
January 22, 2021

Heat, Meat, Rice and Veg: Welcome to Hmong Cuisine!

Heat, Meat, Rice and Veg: Welcome to Hmong Cuisine!

We learn the elements of Hmong cooking from chef Yia Vang. He tells us about traditional dishes such as stuffed chicken legs and braised mustard greens, how to make 60 gallons of hot sauce and how his father escaped through the jungle at the end of the Vietnam War. Plus, we find out how Renaissance art can save fruit from extinction; Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette reveal the linguistic connection between food and cities around the world; and we top whole roasted cauliflower with spiced tahini.

This episode is brought to you by Sleep Number and MasterClass.

Questions in this Episode:

“With all the new recipes there are to try, plus the tried and true recipes that you know your family loves, how do you decide what to cook tonight? And how do you organize the hundreds or thousands of recipes you have so that you can find them when you need them?”

“I’m an avid cook but I’ve finally been stumped by a recipe: Tea Smoked Chicken. It involves smoking sugar cane leaves. What is the purpose behind the sugar leaves? Do you have any idea where to get them?”

“I was staying with my family on Cape Cod and they insisted we order a pizza with “sweet sauce.” The sauce was indeed, quite sweet, but it was an incredible contrast to the salty cheese. I have thought about this pizza for some time now and wonder how I could try to replicate this sauce at home. Any ideas?“

“I’d love to make a crepe recipe I got from a vegan chef, but what should I use as the egg substitute?”

“I made shrimp and sausage gumbo with my nephew. The roux looked beautiful, but the finished gumbo had a sheen of oil on top. Where did we go wrong?”

Yia Vang VINAI 0017

Christopher Kimball: This is Mill Street radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today I'm speaking with Chef Yia Vang about traditional Hmong cuisine, including stuffed chicken likes fermented mustard greens, and the cilantro based Hudson's.
Yia Vang: You know, if you have a group of people who don't have a land of their own country of their own, they have to have something that belongs and that's I think that's human nature. Right? And for our people, it's the food. We're all about adaptation. So I tell people, Chris, I said, if you want to know the Hmong people know our food, because our cultural DNA is intricately woven into the foods that we eat and how we make our food.
CK: Also, coming up, we make garlic chili, roasted cauliflower. And grant Barrett and Martha Barnett tell us the origin of words like Sherry and currents. But first, it's my interview with Isabella Dalla Ragione. She's an arboreal archaeologist who saves ancient fruit trees from extinction on her farmstead in the Umbria region of Italy. Isabella, welcome to MK Street.
Isabella Dalla Ragione: Thank you for the invitation.
CK: So let's start at the beginning. What is arboreal archaeology?
IR: They may name archaeology arborea, is a name that my father gave to this activity because the archaeologists, they start from a small piece of ceramic to reconstruct the life of the communities or civilization, in the same way we do, starting from a small pair or a small apple to reconstruct the life of many rural communities.
CK: Your father was a farmer. He was dedicated to preserving local culture. But this seemed to me to be a point after World War Two, where Europe and Italy started to lose its cultural histories. Is that true?
IR: Yes, unfortunately, is true. My father started during the 50s and 60s, when the system of agriculture was changing. So he started to think that it was very important to save this kind of hair loom varieties, because they were part of our history. They were our cultural roots. And I started with him when I was a child, just because it was like an adventure. And now is for me, the adventure of my life.
CK: So how do you know a fruit actually existed once it's been lost?
IR: I mean, this kind of varieties were in the past so linked with the life of the people. So we started to go in old the farms, asking the old farmers, then we we went in the monasteries, because monasteries were places where they monks or friars conserved many things inside.
CK: I seen some documentaries about your work. And you often start with art from the Renaissance and Baroque periods to go back and find items that you don't see very much anymore.
IR: Definitely I arrived, the art the just like a source of documentation. And of course, in our area, we had the greatest painters in the Renaissance, so pure that are Francesca, Francesco Milancio Christoph, all these kinds of painters and they use to paint fruits with a very, very special symbolic meaning. For example, I am studying an incredible cycle of frescoes in Fabrino gente leyda fabriano who choose it behind each period of the life, a kind of fruit for example, for the teenager, he choose that pears and for the very old the person he chose that peaches. So for me, this was the most important thing. Because if it very important painter choose this fruit, this fruit was in the territory at that time, and very connected with the life of the people before.
CK: So okay, so you go to a farm or monastery, you find that old variety of fig or peach or Apple. Now what you have a farm, how do you propagate this rare find?
IR: Yes, we are cultivating this varieties in a orchard that that has now 600 plants, figs, apples, plums, pears, and we use the traditional way to cultivate like Romans like Etruscans, for example, in the countryside, I see a tree, very old the tree, and I cut some small branches, of course, you have to be careful about the season, the physiology of the plants, and also the traditions.
CK: You're sort of an heirloom variety detective, right? I mean, that's really what you do was the one particular variety of fruit or vegetable, that was your best moment, or you found something you never thought still existed.
IR: Um, one is a pear that I found described in very old antique documents in archives. But I thought that that was disappear. And for five years ago, I went in a very, very isolated place in the mountains with the very old farmer. And she talked about this variety, and I said, Why you didn't say about that. and she said, because you didn't ask. And it was like to find a Greek treasure. For me. Another fruit is a sour cherry variety very, very red. And I did a research. And we discovered that this variety is the richest fruit in antioxidant. And it is the only sugar that the diabetics can eat. So for just this example, if we leave this fruit, we live a very important qualities of this fruits.
CK: So just because it's an heirloom variety doesn't mean it's good, or there's some varieties that, you know, it's no great loss that they're not here anymore, or is it just a good idea to keep all the varieties alive and well?
IR: Being This is a great question is the reason why I work at so much in this field. I mean, many varieties lost their role in in our daily food. But I think that is very, very important to keep all these varieties in any case, because biodiversity could be important for our future. We don't know now, which are our needs in the future. Maybe they could have some resistance, some gene important for the future. Who knows?
CK: Isabella, thank you so much. It's been just a great pleasure having you on Oak Street. Thank you.
IR: Thank you for the opportunity.
CK: That was Isabella Dalla Ragione, she runs archeologia arborea in Umbria, Italy. Now my co host Sara Moulton, I answer some of your cooking questions. Sara is the author of home cooking one on one, also star of Sara's weeknight meals on public television.
Sara Moulton: Well, before we take any questions, I have one for you, Chris, what is your favorite way to eat a potato? I mean, boiled big, fried, chipped.
CK: Actually, almost any way I would say mashed potatoes is high on my list of foods. I don't know why. I basically eat them at Thanksgiving, but I keep forgetting about them and the French have all sorts of wonderful ways of mashed potatoes. And I would say the one dish that's really extraordinary is palm Ana, you know the, the thinly sliced potatoes and you layer them in a skillet and with butter and salt and pepper and then you put it in the oven and turn it over. That's one of my favorite things in French fries. I'm sorry, I good French fry is till extraordinary. It's one of my top five foods. So mashed potatoes, French fries and palms on a random set of three. Yeah. Right. If
SM: there was my husband would say, you know, when I serve him dinner, if there's potatoes on the plate, he's like, it's great. I'm happy. So, three you go
CPK : So what is the one dish though I would love to do is palm souffle, you know, and I have done them. I've never been able to do it. They
SM: are hard to do. I learned how to do them in a restaurant in France.
CK: So maybe you'll teach me?
SM: I will. Alright. Okay, let's take some calls.
CK: Welcome to milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Becky from Collingswood, New Jersey.
CPK: How can we help you?
Caller: When I began my journey as a home cook, many moons ago, I brought with me a three by five inch recipe card file box. And that held all the recipes that I had at that point in my life. But now fast forward. And I have a file drawer with recipes. I've got recipes that come monthly, as well as a shelf full of cookbooks. So my question then is not about how to cook a particular dish. It's what's for dinner tonight? How did the two of you as professional chefs, decide what you're going to cook on any given day? Yeah. And then the follow up with the How do you organize your recipes?
CPK: Well, information overload, you have too many choices. And I think that's the killer. I'm going to make a radical suggestion, go for a week without using any recipes at all. Just try to cook with what you have, or what you find attractive in the supermarket, just to get a break from this confusing pile of stuff. And then what I would do is I would pick 12 recipes, each of which represents a category of recipes. So a stir fry, for example, would be a category, a rose, a skillet, you know, dish, whatever it is. And so these are things that you can vary endlessly with different ingredients. So 12 master recipes, and just use those for three or four weeks. And you know what, you're going to discover that you don't need recipes as much as you think you do. It'll make life easier Sara,
SM: I also rip recipes out or copy recipes. And I put them in a file called try. And I pick three or four that I want to try. And then if they are really good, I put them into good recipes. And organizing the good recipes is usually by protein, then, you know, I can say okay, tonight we're going to have this protein and oh, I've got five choices.
CK: If you want to organize it, you go online, you know, like our company most Street, I mean, you can pick recipes you want to put into your save folder online.
Caller: Yeah.
CK: And you can search by ingredient and everything else. So that's one way to organize it is to do it digitally. But mean it Sara has 15 or 20 recipes that are at the heart of her foundational cooking, right?
SM: Correct.
CK: And that's what you need. You need your foundation, then you can go play around. But start with six recipes, service seven recipes, things you can do without a recipe, you know, by heart.

Caller: Well, I will do that. And I appreciate your conversation back and forth on this. I think it's just a question that all of us as home cooks have.

It's the best question. There's really no easy answer. But please take a week and cook with our recipes and see what happens.

Caller: Okay. Well, thank you so much.

CK: All right, Thanks, Becky.

Caller: great to talk to you.
SM: Welcome to milk street Who's calling?
Caller: Well, hello, this is Steven McDowell out of Winston Salem, North Carolina.
SM: Hi, Steven, how can we help you today?
Caller: Here's my conundrum. I am a very adventurous cook. I do dishes from around the world. And I finally got stumped by a recipe. It's for tea smoked chicken. Then it starts off very normal. You do a dry rub of the chickens for about four hours. Then you steam them. You create a glaze for them, which is your lightened dark soy sauce, honey, some oyster sauce, you glaze it and then the wheels fall off because the main ingredient in the smoking step is sugar cane leaves, like eight ounces of those four ounces of black tea, a couple ounces of brown rice and a couple ounces of sugar. And I'm going okay sugar cane leaves. So I have a three part question. One is Any idea of what flavor profiles smoking sugar cane leaves would be? In to? Do you have any idea where to source? Like a half a pound of sugar cane leaves? And three, if not any substitutions for this?

SM: Where the heck did you get this recipe from?

Caller: From I can tell it's the authentic Cantonese mixed cooking show.

CK: First of all, the tea is going to have a tremendous amount of flavor. I also wonder if the cane sugar leaves are there not so much for flavor, but just for combustion? I would just ignore the cane sugar leaves. This is the first time I've ever heard of that. But you know, around the world, people cook with whatever leaves there, right? Yeah, I just leave it out. Use the rice, the sugar and the black tea.

Caller: Okay, yeah. When I visited like the Caribbean, which I have sugar cane, right? They typically burn the sugarcane, the leaves, and it smells horrid.

CK: I was in Mexico. And the cook I was with, took small leaves and burn them and put the burned leaves on top of the food as almost a condiment. Sometimes, the way they use leaves is pretty interesting. And it's not the way we think about it in terms of black tea and smoking,

Caller: Right. In this case, the video certainly shows a lot of smoke being generated and the leaves be at the bottom of the walk with the tea and stuff. I think it might be right. I think it might just be a combustion thing. Yeah, I will go ahead. And I will make this because I mean, the pictures look phenomenal. And I will send you photographs, and I'll tell you how it turns out.
SM: All right
CK: Steven, thanks a lot.
Caller: Well, thank you to take care. Have a great one.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you have a question, give us a call anytime that number is 855-426-9043. That's 855-426-9843. Or please email us at questions at milk Street radio.com.

CK: Welcome to milk street Who's calling?
Caller: is Lee in Barrington, New Hampshire.
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I was hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction here. I was visiting some family on the Cape last fall, and they wanted to order pizza. And they suggested getting this pizza with sweet sauce, which I was a little hesitant about. And it ended up being some of the best pizza I've ever had in my life. So I don't know what the sweet sauce is wondering if you had some tips.

CK: Well, a sweet sauce for pizza is not traditional in Naples. But there's a lot of places in this country that do make a sweeter sauce. And they do have sugar in it. Or they might cook it down with carrots or whatever. But it's just a sweet tomato sauce. And it's just a style of sauce that you find in some pizzerias? I don't think it's anything more complicated than that, Sara?
SM: No, I mean, I assume it was a tomato based sauce.
Caller: It was yes, I should have clarified that. Yes.

SM: And did you pick up any other sort of aromas in the tomato sauce? Or did it just seem like a sweet tomato sauce?
Caller: It was very sweet. And I didn't think I would like it. But the contrast to the cheese and the sausage. It was so good.

CK: You seem to be saying it was really sweet.
Caller: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't go as far as dessert sweet. But definitely more than I would ever expect from a pizza sauce.
CK: I've had sweetened tomato sauces, which is pretty typical. But I think you're talking about something that's an extra step away.
Caller: I've looked online at different recipes. Most of them are saying start with brown sugar. I'm guessing that makes more sense than white sugar. As just kind of seeing if you had any other tips that I could try.

SM: I think brown sugar is a good one. I was almost thinking about caramel when you get something that dark and adds a bit of you know, so it's not just sugar. It's sort of Yeah, bitter sugar. I mean, I wonder adding a dark caramel to it. But I think brown sugar might just do the trick. Do a tomato sauce, add some brown sugar to it or some molasses.

CK: Yeah, there's lots of really cool sugars out there. like coconut sugar, palm sugar, you might try that because it would be a little more interesting.
Caller: And the other layer you know,

CK: Cincinnati has five way chili. I think there's also a pizza place out there in the roses. That does have a particularly sweet sauce. You can probably find it online.

Caller: Okay.

SM: Did you try going right to the source and asked what they did?

Caller: No, I should I now give it a shot. Yeah,

SM: Yeah, do it. Yeah, it's

Caller: a huge compliment to them. Of course. Yes.

SM: Absolutely. And if they decide not to give it up, then you can just try the things that we suggest it.

Caller: Okay, great. Yeah, I can't stop thinking about this pizza.

CK: What else was on the pizza?

Caller: Spinach and sausage and the cheese blend was a little more of the sharp side versus the creamy mozzarella. Fantastic contrast.

CK: It was just a thin coating of sauce.

Caller: Yes, didn't coating otherwise it looked like your average ordinary traditional house a pizza.

CK: That might make sense if you have the sausage and the salt to cheese and not too much of the sweet sauce thatmight actually make sense.

Caller: It was perfect. Yeah, it was great.

CK: Every night you go to bed you just you just keep it could be worse things in life.

SM: If you do manage to get to the bottom of it, please let us know what was the secret?

Caller: I will I absolutely Well, I'll definitely keep you up to date.

CK: Okay, thanks for calling.

SM: Thanks, Lee.

Caller: Yeah, thanks for taking the call. Thanks so much. Take care. Bye bye.

CK 20:31
You’re Listening to milk stream radio. Up next, I chat with Hmong chef Yia Vang. We'll be right back.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now it's my interview with the Yia Vang a chef who specializes in Hmong cuisine. Yia, welcome to milk Street.

Yia Vang: Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

CK: I actually have an interesting intersection with you. I was in Hanoi years ago and took the train up to Sapa overnight train and ended up walking around for a few days and a bunch of villages. When I went into those villages, there was guards actually, you have to go through a checkpoint. Yep. So what's the history of among people in Vietnam and during the war?

YV: Yeah, so the history of our people in Southeast Asia goes back before the Vietnam War probably goes back another 100 years. The gist of it is that during the Vietnam War, the US government couldn't have boots on the ground. So they had quote, unquote, advisors, and the paramilitary troops were the Hmong people, they hire them out and say, Hey, here's the deal. We're going to train you guys. We're going to give you money, we're going to give you guys weapons, and would you fight for us? Win or lose, you can have citizenship to America. And my dad at the age of 12, joined up. And that's the gist of how the young people got involved. But we all know history. You know, the Americans lost, they pulled out. And when they pulled out, they decided to say, hey, when we said that this was open for anybody who fought what we really meant was only a few of you. So yeah. And then after that, after the Americans pulled out, we're just came down that, hey, the northern Communist Party is coming through and they're just destroying the villages. They're just killing everyone. And so my dad, because he learned how to use a compass through the military, right? So he tells me the story, he says, so I got in there. And all the village just looks at him and says, Hey, can you help us? And so my dad goes, Okay, everyone, just gather what you can carry. And he says, I literally just took my compass. I pointed itself, and it was just started walking, and everyone just followed them.

CK: So the goal was to get across the river to a refugee camp. And then brought to the United States.

YV: Yep. So what I tell people and this is, you leave your village, you track to the jungles for two months, eating roots of trees, just hoping that you can make it so you make it to the banks of the river, you cross the river. If you're alive and don't get capture, then maybe you'll have a spot in the refugee camp.

CK: Wow. That's an amazing story. Yeah. Can I ask a personal question, which is, yeah, I mean, you were in that camp till age five or something, I think. Yep. Do you think that what your parents went through is so unimaginable for the next generation? That you can't understand that on some level?

YV: Yeah, so I'm 36. Right? By the time my dad was 36, he fought a war, right? He brought us his kids to this country. He started working a low-end job, doing every everything could you know, I get I get to pursue my dreams. Like, like, it's a joke. I always say that a lot of the boys that work with us, especially the Homng kids work with us. I'm like, Look, our parents crossed the Mekong River, okay, like, no, like, a couple pots and pans like we're good.

CK: Stop whining, right?

YV: Yeah, yeah, it really gives perspective.

CK: So you also write that Hmong food isn't a type of food, its philosophy, its way of thinking about food. I know, a lot of cultures have very different ways of thinking about food, you know, Vietnamese are very different than Japan's different. Could you just describe to me from the monk point of view, what is the philosophy of food? Yeah. So

YV: you know, if you have a group of people who don't have a land of their own country or their own, they have to have something that belongs and that's, I think that's human nature, right? You want something that belongs to you. And for our people, it's the food. We're all about adaptation. So I tell people, Chris, I said, if you want to know the Hmong people know our food, because our cultural DNA is intricately woven into the foods that we eat and how we make our food. You can if you follow, like if you look at the kind of food we eat, and why we eat this or way it actually, it's actually an echo of our history of where we've been. It shows our interaction with, you know, the the LAO people, the Thai people, the Vietnamese people. And so a lot of times we I have what I call like my Hmong brothers and sisters who are the hardliners. They're like, no Hmong food has to be done this way. I'm like yeah. It was done that way with our parents and grandparents and Laos and Thailand because of the produce and product they had there. But we're here in the Midwest, especially here up in the Twin Cities, like what are the what are the vegetables, the produce, and the products that are very vibrant up here. And we get to use that. And then we get to make our mark to show the next generation, our story, and then they get to build on that story. And so I think that's what being Hmong is about is that we get to create something that gives us a mark on history. And then the next group of young Hmong kids that are coming through, they get to build on top of that,

CPK: you know, foods foods like language, right? It changes constantly. And that's what makes it so fascinating. And as you said, it gives the next generation something to contribute to it. Yeah. So let's, let's get into the food. My stuffed chicken legs with glass noodles and meat. So you want to talk about stuffing chicken?

YV: Yeah, you know, I can't take credit for that. Well, that idea. So basically, you know, my my parents, they would debone, a whole chicken wing. It takes forever. And then they stuffed it with like egg roll stuffing. So basically, imagine if you had an egg roll, but the wrapper was a chicken wing. Well, here's the deal. I'm like, gosh, man, that's just so hard and so long. And then my brother and sister in law, they run this little Hmong food stall. And my brother in law Lang actually started doing with chicken drums. And like, that's so genius. You still get the same concept, but it's just like one long bone, right? And it's it's roasted off. So it's super crispy. Got that crispy chicken skin on the outside. It's just, yeah, what's the best of both worlds?

CK: I'm there. I'm hungry. You talked about hot sauces as being one of the four central components of Hmong cooking. Are there different kinds of sauces for different kinds of foods or occasions

YV: kind of but we have we have our like very basic one, which is called Kua Txob Ntsw which literally just means like peppers, you know, or hot sauce. The base of it is a cilantro. And then it's you know, Thai chilies, garlic, shallots, and fish sauce. And then you can do any variation of that. I add a little oyster sauce in mine because I like that deep richness. And you know, and but then the base of it is cilantro, which is almost kind of like a chimichurri. And then my mom and dad they make a hot sauce for us every year it's like 60 - 65 gallon we just got our this year's batch

CK: wait wait they make 60 gallons. Yeah,

YV: they go pretty berserker they love doing this stuff. So my mom used to make this hot sauce at the house. And then we when we started the pop up, we started trying to put it on the menu and everyone's just love it. So we just call it Mama vang's hot sauce. You know, and it's probably one of the most popular things we do.

CK: So you said you worked at a French restaurant or cook French food? Yeah. Could you give me a short course in sort of the the essentials of Hmong cookery versus French others some principles or cooking techniques that are unique to Hmong cooking?

YV: Yeah, so in the French way of cooking, it's, you know, it's the brigade style, right? So everything's got to be you know, you got your mise en place, everything's in its place. And, you know, it's very meticulous, and it's very regimented is the best way to explain it. It's like, it's just very beautifully orchestrated, kind of dance, you know. And when I cook with my mom and dad, or when I cook Hmong food, a lot of it is it's like, you go with what you have. I mean, I don't want to say it's not thought through, but you kind of you go with what you have. And the Hmong lavors are so rich, you know, and it's deep. And it's all about balance, right? So one of the things my mom always says is, the reason why we rice with everything is the rice is the balancer, it balances everything out. So you don't want anything that's like super spicy, you don't want anything that's like super fatty. You know, that's why I one of my favorite thing is like, like a like a slow roasted pork belly with that crispy skin on it. And then you eat that over like sticky rice and you literally take that pork belly and put it on top of that sticky rice. So then the fat from the belly actually goes in in the sticky rice absorbs it. And then to really get the full flavor. That's why you have the hot sauce. And then to kind of like make sure everything washes down. That's why you have the vegetable that's usually in a broth, you know, and so every one of these four elements plays a role into bringing balance.

CK: Could you give us a couple more sort of classic Hmonh dishes?

YV: Yes, some classic monk dishes that I would say is Hmknh farmers grow what we I just call it Hmong mustard greens like it's our it's our mustard green. And it's not like the mustard greens that are grown here. It's got it's a little bit sharper like rucola. So it's more mustard green and you braise it in pork bones, you know, or like neck bones. And that broth from there that has the sharpness from the mustard green and that fattiness from the pork and every Hmong, you can ask every monk in the moment that broth hits their tongue, that to them is home. That is my mom and dad's table.

CK: You did say though, I mean, braised pork neck with mustard greens won't keep the lights on it, what you what you mean, as a as a cook, or chef, you've got to also create foods that are going to attract a wide enough audience, right?

YV: Yeah. And then I also think, too, is because I like a lot of people will look at what we're doing that we've had Hmong customers, and then be like, Oh, you guys are bastardizing our food, like, you know, you guys are taking away from our people and blah, blah. And I'm like, but am I though, and I just don't say anything anymore. Because then like, you know what, actually, if I can go home, and I can look at my mom and dad in the face and said, Hey, you guys did a good job on us. Like we're continuing your story. If I can do that, honestly, I'm okay, man.

CK: So do you ever think about your story?

YV: Nah, not really. I really, you know, I was like, tell people, I was a turd kid growing up. I didn't want anything to do with our people. I didn't want anything to my parents. Like I went off to college, I was going to do my own thing. You know, and I tell people you run so far from who you are, that you actually run back to who you are, you know, like, we're cooks. And yes, you know, I'm entrepreneur, businessman, blah, blah. But at the end of day, I just want to be a good storyteller. And that story is my parents story. Veenai, the brick and mortar restaurant that we're building. It's a love letter to my mom and dad. You know, for me, it's the I'm sorry, like, I'm sorry, I was a turd when I was a kid, and it's just like, I want people get to know them, you know?

CK: Yeah, it's been. It's been really a pleasure and honor having you on the show. And thank you so much,

YV: Chris thank you so much. It's been a huge honor.

CK 32:08
That was Yia Vang he's the CO owner of pop up restaurant Union Hmong kitchen. Also the restaurant veenai It's time to chat with JM Hirsch about this week's recipe cauliflower with spice tahini and garlic, chilli, oil.

CK: JM How are you?

JM Hirsch : I'm doing great.

CK: So this week, you cheated. You went to London to get Middle Eastern food, which seems a bit odd.

JH: Well, you know, it sounds odd. But actually, it makes total sense because there is just this buzzing scene of Middle Eastern restaurants in London that are drawing on tradition, but reinventing it as they see fit. And they are just unabashedly like borrowing from whatever traditions and flavors they want, and combining them in new fresh ways. And and it's really just just such a vibrant Middle Eastern restaurant scene in London happening right now.

CK: So we're talking right about cauliflower here or something which is all over the Middle East. Do we really need another cauliflower recipe? Really,

JH: you know, I wondered that myself. And then I tasted the cauliflower that we're talking about. And this was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Not just one of the best cauliflowers but one of the best meals I've ever eaten. It popped in my mouth in so many unexpected ways. With such contrast and flavors and textures. It was just amazing. I was at a restaurant called Berber and Q schwaber bar. And Josh Katz is the man behind Berber and Q. And he is all about meshing bold, bright flavors and contrasting textures in just in volumes and quantities. It's just surprising and just so wonderfully delicious.

CK: So you've been to the Middle East as I have been. Do you think this version in London is slightly different than what you'd find in let's say Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or wherever? Or or is it radically?

JM: I don't know that it's radically different. But what it is, is it's a case of just gratuitously borrowing. What ever the chef's like you know that they don't feel beholden to a particular tradition. And Josh Katz is at the heart of this movement, I would actually describe him as somebody who takes like a kind of an American barbecue vibe, and blends it with the flavors of Israel and Turkey and Morocco. And it's that kind of mashup. So what you get is a lot more kind of this cross cultural pollination of the food than you might if you were just say, you know, Indonesia or Tel Aviv. So the result is food that just kind of pops in your mouth so much more so than you expect.

CK: So what is the recipe? It's a whole head it's it's cut up what's on top of it? How does he cook it?

JM: Yeah, so it's a whole head and he blanches it and then he grills it. And he slathers. It in butter and he spices it with lemon and garlic and cilantro and cinnamon and sumac and cardamom. I mean, that's just the beginning. And then he Broyles it, and over that then he sloshes on tahini and pomegranate molasses, and then he throws on crunchy pine nuts, and green chilies and parsley and pickled onions. And the result is like this cacophony of flavors and and textures it's it's really it was creamy. It was spicy, it was bright and sharp and sweet and smoky all at the same time.

CK: And you forgot there was cauliflower underneath it right?

JM: Exactly. I mean, this is this is the cauliflower recipe for people who think they don't like cauliflower.

CPK: Absolutely. JM, thank you very much a whole new take on cauliflower was spice tahini and garlic, chili oil, as you say the best cauliflower recipe for people who don't like cauliflower. Thank you, JM

JM: Thank you. You can get this recipe for cauliflower with spiced tahini garlic chili oil at MilkStreet radio.com.

CK: This is Mill Street radio. Coming up Grant Barrett and Martha Barnett give us a language lesson that are more after the break. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to milk street radio. Right now. Sara Moulton. I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.

SM: Welcome to milk street who is calling?

Caller: Oh, this is Sean from New Orleans. How're you all doing today? Oh, I

SM: love New Orleans. I can't wait to get back there sometime soon. What a beautiful place

Caller: It is.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: Well, I've been fortunate to have a professional chef give me a recipe for crepes. And my baking for myself is vegan. I'm not a vegan, but I have food allergies, so it's a safe way to go. So in this Chef's Recipe for crepes, I can't figure out if for eggs, if I should substitute an apple sauce, or like that kind of substitute eggs that are sold in organic and whole food type markets.

SM: Geez, that's a really good question. Isn't chia often used when you soak it with water as a substitute for ag? Chris, have you ever done that?

CK: Yeah, in my natural health days, which were short lived, thankfully. Yes, but you know what, I think you'd be kind of hard pressed to do this. Well, by switching out the eggs. I would try the fake eggs. You know. Besides that, I would go to a cookbook or online and find a recipe that already exists. I wouldn't try to make it up yourself because I just think it's one of those things. It's gonna be hard.

SM: What are fake eggs made out of?

Caller: I don't remember the exact ingredients in the fake eggs. I mean if they are drier than the applesauce, however, when that haven't baked with the fake eggs yet I have baked with the applesauce, substituting it for eggs. And the cake did come out, you know very moist, like it had done before when I baked it with eggs.

CK: Are you talking about crepe? Are you talking about something else?

Caller: Oh, no, no, I'm talking about something else. Yeah,

SM: yeah, in muffins are quick breads. You know, I think applesauce is a great idea. But in crepes I think it would be an overwhelming flavor and not what you're looking for. Another thought came to mind is aquafaba, which is that liquid left from chickpeas. We have to think about why our eggs actually in a crepe. And it's probably for the fat content of the yolk and the structure of the egg white in the yolk. Right Chris?

CK: Is the structure the protein but the problem is that it's a delicate balance as you know, Sara, cuz you've made them many times. Yeah, I do make crepes. You have to get them just right. Yeah, I would think you're living on the edge here.

SM: Vegan with this one, maybe? This one,

CK: I'd skip this one and do something else. Yeah,

Caller: I hear you. And I have learned with the vegan cooking and getting recipes added from a book online. Some of them are just kind of people's personal favorites. And per their palate. They don't really bake well. Or some of them are really, really sweet.

CK: Yeah, that does. I've heard that happens sometimes. Yeah.

Caller: Right. And some are great. I have a couple you know, I won't let go of

CK: Do you have an allergy to eggs or a problem with eggs specifically or not?

Caller: eggs and dairy. Okay,

CK: okay. Well, again, I would go online to a website that specialize it and give it a shot. You know

Caller: what, thank you all so much for answering my questions.

CK: I thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. Yeah. This is milk street radio. If you have a cooking or baking question, give us a call. Anytime, our number once again is 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843. Or please email us at questions at milk Street. radio.com

SM: Welcome to milk straight Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Katie. Katie,

SM: Where are you calling from? I'm calling from Houston, Texas.

SM: How can we help you today?

Caller: Well, I've never made gumbo was my nephew's idea. He called me over to supervise. And we made our route. I think our measurements were correct. We did equal parts vegetable oil and flour. We cooked it and cooked it and started and started and it came out a really pretty chocolatey color. But I think maybe it was a little too silky. We read it should have been more like wet sand. So we add all the ingredients cook the gumbo, about an hour and a half goes by and I think it's done. There was a very heavy thick layer look like oil at the top. I don't know if the roof had separated or if it was maybe something from the okra that we put in.

SM: I doubt it was the okra. What were the protein items in the gumbo?

Caller: We put in shrimp and smoked sausage. I didn't think they were too oily.

SM: Right? Okay, well, here's the thing when you did your room, the flour and the oil and it was equal parts, correct? Yes. But did you do it by volume or by weight?

Caller: Or we did by volume, we did three quarters cup and three quarters.
SM: I think that's the problem right there. You needed more flour, because by weight, it's not the same would have been more flour. And what happens when you cook flour very long like that. And it gets darker and darker and darker. It loses its thickening capacity. And its absorption. So that's why the oil separated out.
Caller: Okay.

SM: It's also possible that the smoke sausage added some additional fat to the recipe that might have also provided for the oil slick on top. Anyway, Chris, do you have any thoughts?

CK: I think you're right. If you think about weight versus volume, oil versus flour, a cup of flour versus a couple Well, you know, you're gonna have to use like, two cups of flour to a cup of oil or more. For the equal weight. The Binding power is lost. It's not enough flour, and the wealth essentially separates and goes to the top. I don't think it was the shrimp or the sausage. So just weigh your ingredients next time and you'll end up using twice as much flour. Oh, well. Okay, I should solve the problem. You had mentioned that your room was silky not like wet sand. That's because you didn't have enough flour. If you had a higher proportion of flour and oil. It would have been like wet sand.

Caller: Right? Oh, wow. Okay,

SM: a scale is a good thing to get anyway, because particularly if you do any kind of baking, it's just so much more precise. No, I

Caller: have when I was at my sister in law, so well, you know, and it was his first time making gumbo. I guess mine too.

SM: Well, I hope you do it again and have recess and it's great. You tried to begin with

CK: I think it's an easy fix. I think Sara was right.

Caller: Well, thank you all so much for taking my call.

SM: Thank you, Katie. Take care. Have a good one.

CK: This is Milk Street radio. It's time for this week's cooking tip from one of our listeners. Hi, this

Listener: This is Annie from Medford, Massachusetts. I know Milk street makes their scrambled eggs with olive oil but I love my sour cream and make some light fluffy and the right amount of creamy. just scoop a tablespoon of sour cream is what you're almost ready to take your eggs off the beat. And enjoy. Thank you.

CK 43:50
If you'd like to share your own culinary hack or secret ingredient or milk street radio, please go to 177 no street comm slash radio tips. Next up is Grant Barrett and Martha Barnett, host of the public radio show away with words. Grant, Martha How you guys doing?

Grant Barrett Fantastic.

Martha Barnett: We're doing great

GB: today we've got some tasty toponyms. These are words that come from place names. And Martha I'm thinking about Spain.

MB: For example, Sherry the drink Sherry comes from the city of Harris or if you're in Spain, I guess Harith which is in southern Spain, and that cities name was originally spelled x e r e s. And in the olden days, it had an SH sound at the beginning of it. And the name of this beverage was adapted into English as sharice. And in fact, Shakespeare used it that way. And Henry the fourth, someone talks about the second property of your excellent sharice is the warming of the blood, which I think we all would agree with but it comes from the name of this city in southern Spain where it was produced. And the interesting thing is that I mentioned sharice, s h e r r i s being the original name in English. And it's like several other words in English that were mistaken as a plural because sharice looks like it's plural in form. And so people eventually started calling it Sherry. But that happened with other words as well. For example, the word p p EA. If you think back to that rhyme Pease Porridge hot, right? It's the same idea. It comes from a word that originally looked like it was plural. And there are others as well, aren't there Grant?

GB: Yeah, cherries came to us from the French shell use, which was singular, but the English looked at that s on the end and thought it must be plural, and back formed the word cherry. And we did it again with the Greek for capers, capers was the singular and we decided that well, there must be just one caper out there.

CK: Well, I think this only proves one thing, which is that English speakers are the least multilingual people in the world. We're just not very good with that, are we?

GB: Well, we'll borrow your words, and we'll borrow your food and we'll put our own stamp on them. We did that also with another alcoholic beverage that is named for a city and this is port wine, which is named for the city of Porto, Portugal. And in fact, Portugal itself the country is named for that same city, that count of a Porto conquered so much of the land there that he gave the name of a Porto to Portugal. Champagne is another one of those right? champagne prom right

MB: the former province in northeastern France, which goes back at him illogically to the word campus. In Latin, it goes back to words that mean open country, and it's a relative of words like campus and campaign.

CK: This concept of a word which is singular and original, but sounds like a plural in English. Is this common outside of culinary terms as well?

GB: Yeah. But funnily enough, most of the ones I can think of are food, we borrowed broccoli as a singular, even though it's a pearl, we borrowed Panini as a singular, even though it's a plural.

MB: Well, the only one that I can think of that is a non food term is the term kudoz. You know, we talked about congratulating people and giving them kudos. And I think so many of us think of that as a plural. But actually, the original Greek word for glory is kudos. So it has that s sound at the end of it, but, you know, I mean, I've certainly heard people say, I'm going to give you a Kudo for that wonderful dish that you whipped up.

GB: We often miss borrow words, not just for the plurals and I'm thinking about Tangier, Morocco, though tangerine is named after the city of Morocco because the fruit was originally imported from Asia into Europe through this city. Now, the full name was originally tangerine orange and shortened to tangerine By the mid 19th century. And that's interesting, but to me, the best fact about it is that people who live in Tangier are called tangerines, that's the name for

MB: Yeah, they're called tangerines.

CK: Who says words aren't fun?

GB: Yeah, right. So a little further east from well, quite a bit further east from Tangier here is Greece. And I'm thinking about a tiny little cooking staple, Martha.

MB: Yes, I was briefly in Corinth, Greece, and the port town of Corinth was for a very long time, the place where you got currents, these little little bitty dried grapes from the Middle East.

GB: Who knew Martha?

MB: Yeah, yeah, I knew. And I did want to share that there's a word in German that comes from the name of that port and the name of that current. It's called current and Cocker which is a word that literally means raisin pooper and that's something that you might apply to somebody who's a nitpicker the word

: only the German that's lovely

GB: Say it again Martha codington Cocker and and there’s a term in Greek that’s similar, right?

MB: yeah, yeah, there's a term in Greek that's something like cumin a priestess, which means cumin splitter, which I also like,

GB: I mean, we talked about hairsplitting in English, but imagine splitting cumin because they're tiny little seeds right there. Yeah, even smaller than say a poppy seed.

MB: Yeah, yeah, we've had people cumin splitting over how to pronounce cumin or kumin.

CPK: Grant and Martha Thank you. Next time someone refers to me as a Corinthian Cocker. Not gonna feel quite so bad.

MB: I can't imagine that they ever would.

GB: Thank you. It's always fun. Thanks for having us.

CK: That was Grant Barrett and Martha Barnett hosts of a way with words That's it for this week's show. If you tuned in too late and want to binge listen every single episode, you can download milk street radio on Apple podcasts, Spotify wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about milk Street, visit us at 177 milk street.com. You can find all of our recipes. Take a free online cooking class or order our latest cookbook cook ish. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's milk Street and on Instagram and Twitter at 177 milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's milk street radio is produced by milk street in association with GBH executive producer Melissa Baldino senior audio editor Melissa Allison production assistant Sarah Clapp, production help Debbie Paddick additional Editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic public media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by to Bob crew additional music by George brandel egloff Christopher Kimball's milk street radio is distributed by the public radio exchange.