Monday, May 28, 2018

Js Mini Hotpot Deluxe - Chamblee Atlanta Georgia

You can find J's Mini Hotpot Deluxe at 4897 Buford Hwy Ste 160, Atlanta, GA 30341 in the shopping center just south of the crux of Buford Highway and Chamblee Tucker Rd, Southeastern quadrant. This shopping center is anchored by the venerable Hoa Binh Supermarket. The shopping center also contains a handful of restaurants worth trying, including Pho Bac and Harmony Vegetarian Chinese. There's a lot of available parking, but these restaurants (and the market) do get quite busy - J's is located right across from Pho Bac and there's usually plenty of parking on that side, even at prime times.

I had eaten at a hot pot restaurant either in the same location or nearby many years ago - as I recall it was a bit mediocre - you sat at tables with built-in hot pots where they would load in bullion cubes and you went from there - I don't remember the name of the place (it wasn't much worth remembering). I wasn't sure if J's Mini Hotpot Deluxe was the same place or not - I'm very happy to say it's not. J's by contrast is a super clean, modernist, well-lit and new establishment with individual induction plates built before each seat - this is nice as you can control the amount of heat and cook for each pot, important to produce good cooking results. On this occasion I attended with a group of my regular Buford Highway Restaurant Crawl group.

The menu has a page of lunch items and then a description of the various available broths. You select the broth you want and then the entree which features: chicken, lamb, pork, beef sirloin, pork belly, Angus brisket, Matsuzaka pork, Angus ribeye, fish fillet, seafood, snow crab leg or vegetarian.  There are also combos where you pick two meats from one of two categories or a Specialty Combo featuring Surf & Turf (assorted seafood with choice of sliced meat (beef/pork/chicken/lamb) - they cover pretty much everything.

After selecting you're given a few apps including a nice seaweed salad and some edamame along with a metal pot that has your broth selection - you're also given a bowl of veggies with a  few pieces of tofu and a whole prawn, to start things off. You add your meats or vegetarian selection to the broth along with an egg if you want the rich tastes - as the food is ready you can remove and enjoy as a soup. There are also optional seasonings you can add to spice things up, conveniently located in something like a seasoning bar. The food here is quite filling and very good. We all tried something different and everything was quite good - this is a great option but especially welcoming during chilly fall or winter evenings.

The service here was also quite good with plenty of attendance and helpful suggestions. I've since eaten here again and everything was quite consistent with my first time. I think this is probably the best hot pot restaurant I've experienced in Atlanta (of course I haven't been to them all) - if you like this style of cooking and food I highly recommend you try J's Mini Hotpot Deluxe.

(also posted to Yelp)
J's Mini Hot Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Johns Moms Kimchi - First Attempt with Mods

For lack of a better place to put these, I thought I'd start putting some of my food experiments online for people to view and perhaps emulate. I made this batch of kimchi yesterday, 2018.05.19.

To provide some context - as some of you know I was a professional chef for about 10 years, ending my career in the early 90's to pursue something that paid better and put less stress on the back. While my mother was still alive and active, I wrote down her recipes for some of my favorite dishes - since there are no girls in our family and these recipes are traditionally passed to the daughters in Korean families, I did this more to document her version than anything else. I watched her make this and also gochujang, yakimondu and japchae and dutifully recorded each on a small note pad that was lost for many, many years. Recently I found the notepad and decided to recreate her recipes.

My Hand-Written Notes from the 90's
First a bit about my mother - this is all anecdotal via conversations with her once I became an adult. Her name was Soon Ja. My mother would cook extensively for both herself, the family and friends. As a kid I was volunteered to peel garlic, snip peppers and do other household tasks to help her prepare food. We tilled most of the back yard and grew various peppers and had a few Korean pear trees (I regret leaving them but they had become too large to move - they also produces an enormous amount of juicy fruit). My mother would even go so far as to periodically make her own soy sauce (kangjang) and doenjang (fermented bean paste). For the latter she would make these bean bricks and allow them to ferment in the sun - it was quite a process. We would also form parties with her friends to explore fields for various edible greens, mustard, young polk (older is bad), collard, dandelion, the list goes on. We always had some type of green kimchi in the house along with the traditional pongi (nappa cabbage) kinchi.

Mom's style of cooking was from North Korea - she told me that she was from a fishing village and fled with two sisters to the south as the Communists began the occupation and seized properties and divided up families. At some point she married and had my brother Tae who was adopted by my father after the split up with her first husband. She went to some university in Seoul and learned English and met my father at some Military dance (USO? Not sure) - that was around 1960 - she wed by father and had me in 1962 and we eventually moved to the US. As we moved to various places as a military family, she continued to cook in the style she learned as a child and young adult. As such, some of her recipes aren't what you would normally see in common Korean cooking.


Makes 8 lbs (about 1-1.5 gallons) of Kimchi


6 lbs napa cabbage (2-3 stalks depending on size)
2 cups kosher salt (course) - it's rinsed so more means faster not better


2 cups of water
2 Tbs sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour), 찹쌀가루
2 Tbs turbinado sugar (there's a Korean version of this but it's basically an unrefined sugar)


2 cups radish matchsticks
1 cup carrot matchsticks
7-8 green onions chopped
1/2 onion sliced
1 cup chopped Asian (garlic) chives (buchu)
1 cup water dropwort (minari) - I used the tops as they were already matchstick sized and kept the leaves in case there was any bonus mix. This is also called Chinese Celery and has a peppery flavor.

Seasoning and spices

1/2 cup garlic cloves (24 cloves or half bunch) minced
2 tsp ginger, minced (I doubled this)
1/2 cup fish sauce myulchiaekjeot, 멸치액젓
1/4 cup fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot), 새우젓  with the salty brine, chopped/minced
2 cups hot pepper flakes (gochugaru), 고추가루
4 fresh Korea pepper, minced 

Some Notes:
  • The cabbage should have green leaves and be yellowish on the insides. The two heads I had was a  youngish one (green leaves but still white on the inside) weighing 2.5 lbs and an older head (yellowish, thick leaves but yellow in the middle) weighing about 3 lbs. I bought the former at Your Dekalb Farmers Market and the latter at Super H Mart - they were both around 60 cents or so per pound, about a third the cost of Organic and double the size.  The quality of the YDFM head was much better than the Super H Mart head.
  • You want to use a course-grain salt. I was out of Kosher so used a fine Sea Salt but the process may have gone faster with something more course grained. 
  • I wasn't sure how to use the minari so ended up using the tops and saving the bottoms for stir-fry.
  • I made the mistake of not picking up more garlic at the farmers market and ended up buying a row of Chinese garlic - this is the cheap stuff (5 bunches for a buck) and not as pungent as the locally grown stuff so I used more than usual (2 bunches but it still ended up being around 24 pieces)
  • Note that I love ginger so doubled the recipe - hopefully it won't overpower the kimchi.
  • Finally, the gochugaru I used was a bit old - if I hadn't already started the process I would have bought fresh - it makes the kimchi redder instead of the brownish hue I ended up with. I compensated by taking 4 fresh Korea peppers and mincing and adding to the batch for both flavor and heat.
  • What you see here basically took all day - I think I started around 2:00 PM and finished up around 9:00 PM. I was careful and paid attention to the ingredients and order but by the end I was ready for this to be over. I think with practice it the time could be reduced - better to start early in the morning.

Every household in Korea basically makes its own kimchi (or kimchee) - this is a version of pogi (napa cabbage) kimchi that is the most common. When I wrote this recipe down my wife balked at the salted fermented shrimp (saeujeot) and anchovy sauce (myulchiaekjeot) so I didn't write them down. Because those weren't in my notes and I wanted to start with something that tasted the most like my mom's kimchi, I looked online for a recipe that was similar to what I wrote down from observing my mon and found a very popular Korean cooking website, Seonkyoung Longest (I think her recipes are very good and seem very similar to my mother's - you should check her out, especially her videos). So I adjusted my recipe to align better with hers by adding ginger (which I love and hope I didn't add to much), adding minari and making a porridge to ensure good fermentation (this latter is key).

To accomplish good fermentation there are a couple of things to understand - first you need to kill all/most of the bad bacteria that's currently coating what you're fermenting - you do this by salting - which also has the benefit of reshaping the materials for longevity - the more salt you use, the crisper the resultant veggie (but you can over-do it and make things very salty) - you rinse off any salt remaining so it's only what is absorbed that is retained - at least that's the idea. The second thing to understand is that once the bad bacteria is removed, you need to introduce good cultures so the fermentation happens - otherwise you end up with rotten pickles - you accomplish this through the fermented brine shrimp and fermented anchovy (fish) sauce.

So in broad strokes you need to do the following:
  1. Prepare the cabbage by salting and rinsing
  2. Prepare the porridge to ensure the introduction and feeding of good cultures
  3. Prepare the veggies and spices to coat all the leaves
  4. Package everything up
  5. Speed up or slow down the fermentation through exposure to air and room temperature

Veggies Used

Seasonings, Sauces and Stuff


Prepare and salt the cabbage:

  1. If the cabbage cores stick out too much, trim them off, also trim off if they are dirty (they often are).
  2. To split a cabbage in half without shredding the densely packed leaves inside, first cut a short slit in the base of the cabbage, enough to get a grip on either half, and then gently pull the halves apart so the cabbage splits open. 
  3. Cut a slit through the core of each half, 2 inches above the stem. You want the cabbage leaves to be loose but still attached to the core. I went ahead and quartered them so they would be easier to handle, using the technique above.
  4. Dunk the halves in a large basin of water to get them wet. Sprinkle the salt between the leaves by lifting up every leaf and getting salt in there. Use more salt closer to the stems, where the leaves are thicker.
  5. Let the cabbages rest for 2 hours. Turn over every 30 minutes, so they get well salted. From time to time you can ladle some of the salty water from the bottom of the basin over top of the cabbages if you want to.
  6. Test the leaves - ideally you should be able to bend back the thick part of the leaf by the stem and it won't break. Be more patient than me (I let them go about 2.5 hours and said the hell with it)
  7. After 2 hours, wash the cabbage halves a few times under cold running water. Giving them a good washing, to remove the salt and any dirt. As you wash, split the halves into quarters along the slits you cut into earlier if you haven't already quartered like I did. Cut off the cores, and put them in a strainer over a basin so they can drain well.
After rinsing, salt between each leaf with most on the stem side)

I was out of Kosher salt so I used sea salt

The cabbage should reduce by half (lots of water underneath)

Turn every thirty minutes and move stack around, pouring brine from pan over-top

After rinsing three times by dunking, allow to drain

While the cabbage is salting for 2 hours, and in between the times you’re turning it over, you can make the porridge

  1. Combine the water and the sweet rice flour in a small pot. Mix well with a wooden spoon and let it cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble. Add the sugar and cook 1 more minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool off completely.
  2. Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp, and hot pepper flakes. Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a thin paste (there should be more than 2 cups of liquid when your done - if not add some water).
  3. Add the radish, carrot, and green onion, plus the Asian chives (or more green onions) and the minari (water dropwort) if you’re using them. I used the tops with the leaves removed and saved the leaves. Mix well. I cut these by hand as I find it therapeutic but if you have a mouli or mandolin it saves time. I also pealed the radish and carrots but you don't have to.

Glutinous Rice Flower bought at Super H Mart

Took about 8 minutes to gel-up

Turbinado sugar I used

Sugar dissolved - put this aside and allow to cool to room temp

Korean Radish - cut matchstick size

Carrots - cut matchstick size

Green Onions - split the heads after cleaning - cut to 1-1.5 inches

Sliced Onion

Chinese Chives (buchu)

Cut to 1-1.5 inches

Minari (Chinese Celery or Water Drop Wart)

2 bunches of garlic and hunk of ginger

Ginger chopped fine - do same with Pealed, destemed garlic

Fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot), 새우젓  chopped

Gochugaru 고추가루

This was pretty thick so I added some water

Mix divided into two bowels (one for each head)

Make Kimchi:

  1. Spread some kimchi paste on each cabbage leaf. When every leaf in a quarter is covered with paste, wrap it around itself into a small packet, and put into your jar, plastic container, or onggi.
  2. You want to pack your vessels (I used a gallon jar, a quart jar and two plastic containers (one with a gallon freezer bag inside) and get as much air out of the jar as possible - you want to kimchi to off-gas and air pockets can hold bacteria that could cause the kimchi to rot instead of ferment. Make sure you don't fill any large vessels to much as they will leak as the fermentation process proceeds.
  3. Eat right away, or let it sit for a few days to ferment - I allow the jars to sit at room temperature for 2 days to get the process started, then refrigerate most (one container I kept out so we could eat it sooner).
  4. You can save any leftover mix but what I did is use the end of the Korean radish (cubed) with the minari leaves to make a little green kimchi - not sure how it will turn out. For this I did some initial salting but didn't leave the bits in the salt for very long, planning to eat this as soon as it sours a bit. It's a part 2 experiment for sure.

On fermentation:

  1. The kimchi will start fermenting a day or two at room temperature, depending on the temperature and humidity of your room. The warmer and more humid it is, the faster the kimchi will ferment. Once it starts to ferment it will smell and taste sour, and pressing on the top of the kimchi with a spoon will release bubbles from beneath.
  2. Once it starts to fermented, store in the refrigerator to use as needed. This slows down the fermentation process, which will make the kimchi more and more sour as time goes on.
  3. To produce a crisper kimchi use more salt - the kimchi will also keep longer.
  4. Over time the kimchi will continue to ferment - if left long enough it goes almost clear and becomes extremely sour - it's still eatable but you may not enjoy it as much. Once it becomes too sour and you don't like it as much, save it for Soondubu Jjigae - the acid tastes great in soups.
What my day yielded

Any questions? I'll follow up in a few days to relate how it tastes.
-- John