When the names of the farmers, local food purveyors and artisan bakers, coffee roasters and dairy are printed on the menu along with the names of the dishes and the ingredients, there’s a great chance that you’ll be happy with what you end up tasting. Who cares if the menu is also in Korean, with English beneath -- as it is at Miss Kim in Ann Arbor, Michigan, an epicenter for foodies.
Chef and managing partner, Ji Hye Kim, started Miss Kim because she wanted her work to mean something, bring joy and involve food. She’s what my wife and I would call an “ecopreneur,” out to make the world a better place, in her case through food. For homesteaders, this mantra of meaning and purpose should ring true, too.
“I wanted to work with food because I enjoy it so much,” says Kim. “I grew up with a mother who cooked everything from scratch. When I learned about Zingerman's Path to Partnership, the process of becoming a Zingerman's business, I took that opportunity.” The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are a collection of Zingerman’s businesses in Ann Arbor, each with its own food specialty.
Before becoming a Zingerman’s business, Ji Hye Kim started with a food cart operated half the year for four years, hardly keeping up with the demand for, among other items, her Gau Bau Buns, a fluffy Taiwanese-style bun filled with either slow roasted pork belly or soy sauce and butter seated mushrooms, paired with crunchy cucumbers and savory sauces. I couldn’t decide which I liked better on a recent lunch there. While lunch is casual and offers counter service, their full-service dinner menu focuses on traditional Korean dishes coming out as they’re ready. Sharing is encouraged and entrees come with “banchan,” the small side dishes. Her drinks even blew me away: Flights Delight with soju, five-spice wine, lemon and honey or Soo Jeong Gwa, a chilled, non-alcoholic cinnamon elixir.
“I study the tradition of Korean food,” explains Kim, regarding chosen her culinary path and her talent for adapting recipes for local ingredients. “I don't really try to replicate individual dishes, but I do try to understand the intentions, the stories and the thought behind it. Rather than importing a specific breed of green onions, for example, I think about the intention. My grandmother would not have paid extra shipping cost and import vegetables that need several days of transporting after being harvested. She would have purchased the best local equivalent that she can find, use it in season at its peak availability and flavor. So that's what I do -- think about the flavors and the intentions of the dish and ingredients. That approach naturally lends itself to using the best local and seasonal ingredients Michigan has to offer.”
“There have been more than a few great ideas for restaurants with Zingerman's,” admits Kim. “It's not that my idea was so much better than the rest. It's more that I was the one who saw it all the way through the process. Being a part of the community has been really wonderful and complex and lovely for me. It works because everyone is in it together. It works because we are all committed to our three bottom lines of great food, service and finance. And the food is good, so that always helps.” Good food, is an understatement; it’s some of the best Korean food I’ve ever had.
Generally speaking, Korean food is quite healthy. If you’re vegetarian, vegan or need to eat nut free, dairy free, wheat free or soy free, you’d be fortunate to pull up a chair for lunch or dinner here. Every menu includes a reference to dietary needs, putting your mind at ease. Also unique, Miss Kim is a no-tip restaurant, meaning that their staff are paid living wages not dependent on gratuity.
While I’d treasure Miss Kim’s painstakingly perfected steamed Gau Bau Bun recipe, she happily shared her recipe for Vietnamese Roasted Chicken, a close runner-up. Just the right balance of flavor, and perfect with some brown rice and perhaps a small side of bok choi or broccoli lightly sautéed in sesame oil. Or you could try to replicate Miss Kim’s Vietnamese Chicken and Avocado Purple Rice Bowl depicted in the photo, with rice, sliced avocados, cucumber, fried egg and bean sprouts.
Courtesy of Miss Kim
Yield: 5 servings
• ¼ cup Asian fish sauce
• ¼ up. granulated sugar
• 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1 tbsp lime juice
• 3 lbs. chicken, your favorite parts, cut
• sprigs, cilantro for garnish
• sprigs, mint for garnish
1. Whisk Asian fish sauce, sugar, garlic and lime juice together in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved.
2. Marinate chicken for minimum of 2 hours or overnight for best flavor.
3. When ready to cook, pre-heat oven to 450-degrees Fahrenheit. Place chicken on parchment lined sheet tray, then roast for 15 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and edges begin to get caramelized color and internal temperature is 165-degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Serve on a platter with finely chopped cilantro and mint as garnish.
John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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