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Om curry with dill from LAcha Somtum in Thai Town.

I attended a highly educational and also highly entertaining Zocalo Public Square lecture about food fads on Monday, with journalist David Sax of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, and it got me thinking about foods that could easily become trendy. My fellow home-cook brother and I exchanged a few emails about it, and here’s my list.

My brother and I are both a little obsessed. Miso, MSG, and fish sauce have all had their moments in the food media spotlight as ways to add flavor, umami, and saltiness to food, so, we wondered, why not one of the most ubiquitous of Korean condiments? Among foodies, it’s not for lack of trying. Gochujang — also known as hot pepper paste or red chili paste or some combination thereof — is a thick, sticky paste of red chilis, sweet rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. It’s been in (near constant) use in Korea for about 500 years, since trade routes opened up in the far east, and it is traditionally fermented in the sun. To me, it’s equal parts sweet, salty, and spicy, felt in that order. Some ascribe a fermented stink to it, but I don’t get it. It’s no kimchee. Read the rest of this entry »


This is the story of two recipes for Asian noodle dishes I loved in the past and wanted to recreate. One took months to develop the recipe for, and the other took 15 minutes. They’re both ridiculously good.

Thai peanut noodles

As a young Naval Academy graduate, my dad found himself stationed in Honolulu, and as a young dietician with a degree in home economics, my mom found herself experimenting with Asian cuisine when he was home from deployments. I don’t know if her recipe for Thai peanut noodles came from this time (the soft corners of the recipe card suggests it might be), but living in Hawaii definitely made my mom keen to Asian cuisine for the rest of her life. And thank God for that. Growing up, if I saw chicken defrosting in the kitchen sink in the morning, I would delight in learning it was for stir fry or yellow curry or — best of all — Thai peanut noodles. I used to beg my mom to abandon plans to cook anything else. Read the rest of this entry »

bell peppers,bell pepper

I get a kick out of television and movie families’ holiday food traditions. National Lampoon’s Griswold family sips egg nog from souvenir Wally World cups. The fictional Constanzas have a sobering (also sober) meal of meatloaf for their Festivus feast; the TV writer who based the holiday Seinfeld episode on his own family’s actual Festivus tradition would have had a Pepperidge Farm cake topped with m&ms for dessert. Paula Deen’s studmuffin sons and Food Network stars Bobby and Jamie presumably get down on their hands and knees and thank God for their metabolisms.

And my family took its cue from TV’s Iron Chef when it came up with a new holiday tradition, the Malay Family Cooking Challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

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