October 2nd, 2017

Food Truck Series: Dee Dee Thai Food

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Reviews, Trailer/Street Foods

Food Trucks:
Dee Dee
Northern Thai Food

Thai Food

 

It’s time for a new Food Truck review and I’ve got a taste for Thai food today, lucky for me, Austin is always there to satisfy my whims. With all of the great Thai in town (seriously, there is some GREAT Thai food here), I wanted to venture somewhere new to me, but popular among the people. That’s what led me to Dee Dee.

Owned and operated by husband and wife team Justin and Lakana, Dee Dee (which translates to Good Good) focuses on serving street-style Thai food from the country’s northern region. Apparently, they’re doing a good job, because only 20 minutes after opening the line was 15 people deep and running a 45-minute wait on food.

So, let’s look at the food.

Moo Ping

Thai Food Austin

These expertly grilled pork skewers were tender, fatty, and full of flavor. As great Thai food does, this dish balances sweet, salty, spicy, and fishy umami flavors wonderfully. Fresh citrus and cilantro cut through all these flavors for a clean finish.

Pad Ka Pow

Thai Food Trucks Austin

Aside from being fun to say, the Pad Ka Pow packs a fragrant punch with ground pork stir fried with Thai basil and homemade chili paste. The perfect flavor comes with a combination of the fishy pik nam pla sauce and the runny fried egg for a bit of rich fattiness in with the pork and rice. This is my kind of comfort food.

Somtom

Best Thai Restaurant Austin

I truly love complex flavors, especially when you’re not expecting them. The somtom fits that bill perfectly. What looks like a simple vegetable dish is actually packed with sweet, sour, citrusy goodness that’s balanced perfectly with crunchy blanched peanuts. Super fresh and irresistible.

Om Gai

Food Trucks Austin

Ok, to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed when I saw this dish. At first glance, this one is a little bland, but once again, Dee Dee proves to be all about the flavor. The dill and lemongrass bring fragrance and elegance to a hearty, fatty bone broth garnished with zucchini and thinly sliced chicken. The side of sticky rice for dipping in the broth is a great touch.

Mango Sticky Rice

Great Food in Austin

This is a very simple dish, but executed very well. Sweet but not too sweet sticky rice cooked perfectly topped with bright, ripe mango, and finished with a drizzle of sweetened coconut milk. This didn’t disappoint, but I also thought it could use something to make it more unique. A fun spice, a crispy garnish? Maybe both? Room to improve here.

Dee Dee Thai Food: Conclusion

Dee Dee performs even better than its name describes, more like Great Great. Fresh, vibrant ingredients, complex yet well-balanced flavors, and expertly prepared sticky rice make Dee Dee my new go to restaurant for comfort food (don’t worry Ramen Tatsuya, you’re still up there too).

Feel free to comment below on your favorite Thai foods or places in Austin you think I should visit. I’m always looking for my next favorite meal.

Cheers!

 

Dee Dee
Northern Street Thai Food
1906 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX 78702
http://www.deedeeatx.com/

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September 18th, 2017

Chile Pepper 101

Posted in Educational

An Introduction to Chile Peppers

Chile Peppers

Let’s kick this right off by covering a little spelling and grammar. Chile, the proper noun, is a South American country that lies between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Chili (notice the “i” on the end), is a stew made of peppers, meat, sometimes tomatoes, and depending on the side of the argument you’re on, beans. Finally, a chile, is a fruit of the plant from the Genus capsicum. There, I’m glad we cleared that up.

Now we can talk about chile peppers and all their glory. Recently, we posted a blog titled “Hot Sauce 101”, which was, as the title suggested, an intro to how hot sauce is made. So, we thought it would be appropriate to post a “Chile Pepper 101,” discussing the finer points of this wonderful fruit.

Chile

Chiles are native to the New World and were originally dubbed “peppers” by Christopher Columbus, however they are unrelated to peppercorns. Chile peppers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and they get their heat from capsaicin, a chemical stored in the plant’s placental ribs. Hot, dry conditions yield peppers higher in capsaicin, and as a rule of thumb the smaller the pepper the hotter it is.

Chile pepper scoville

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/scoville-scale-for-spicy-food-2013-11

The heat of capsaicin is commonly measured on the Scoville Scale (developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912), a subjective rating designed to measure the perception of capsaicin in chiles. The scale ranges from 0 (bell pepper) to 16,000,000 (pure capsaicin). The higher the number, the hotter the pepper.

Asian, Indian, Latin American, and Mexican cuisines rely heavily on chileschili peppers, which makes sense considering the climates of these countries. They can be used fresh, whole, chopped, stuffed, roasted, dried, ground, re-hydrated, pickled, or pureed. They are versatile in heat, flavor, and application.

A word of caution. When working with chiles, especially the hotter ones, be sure to wear gloves. The last thing you want to do is rub your eyes (or a more sensitive area…) after dicing up a fresh habanero. I can promise you, that does not end well.

Thanks for reading along, now go forth and eat!

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September 4th, 2017

Chef Tip – Thermometer Calibration

Posted in Tips

Re-calibrate Your Stem Thermometer

Cooking Tips

No matter if you’re a professional chef, or a home cook, more than likely you’re using a stem thermometer once in a while (especially on your chicken I hope…). They’re inexpensive, accurate, and compact. Plus, they don’t need batteries!

But ask yourself, when’s the last time you calibrated your thermometer? Have you ever?

Well, if not, or if you just need a refresher, it’s an important task to ensure you’re getting an accurate reading on your foods. They should be calibrated weekly and always after being dropped.

Let’s take a look at how to effectively calibrate your stem thermometer.

  1. In a perpendicular fashion, insert the stem of the thermometer into the hex shaped hole on the end of the pocket case.

  2. Fill and glass with crushed ice. Add cold tap water until the glass is full. Insert the thermometer stem into the center of the glass, using the pocket case as a rest.
    • Note: Try to prevent the stem from touching the bottom or sides of the glass. This could slightly effect the reading due to the variation of ambient temperatures.
  3. Allow the stem to rest submerged until the needles has fully stabilized. This could take up to a minute. At this point, turn the head of the thermometer against the walls of the hex mount in the pocket case in order to move the needle. Turn either left or right until the needle is on 32*F (0*C).

    Thermometer diagram

  4. To double check the accuracy, follow the same procedure except with a pot of boiling water. The temperature should read 212*F (100*C).
    • Note: Water boils at 212*F (100*C) at sea level. Areas of high elevation will have a lower boiling point. For more information on this subject see the USDA guide on High Altitude Cooking and Food Safety.

That’s it! Now you can rest assured that you’re serving safe, perfectly cooked food to your family, friends, and/or customers.

Thanks for reading along, now go out and eat some food!

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August 21st, 2017

Food Truck Series: Via 313

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

Via 313 Pizza

Pizza Trends

Pizza is a staple food of life, I think we can all agree on that. No matter your preference or dietary restrictions, someone out there has made a pretty darn good pizza just for you.

One of the true beauties of pizza is its different adaptations. Thin crust, thick crust, white pizza, flatbread, Mexican style, Korean BBQ, New York, Chicago, deconstructed; the list can go on and on.

After seeing a rise in the popularity of Detroit style pizza, we here at Culinary Culture decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what it’s all about. And what better place to find out then the rapidly expanding pizza truck turned brick and mortar restaurant here in Austin, Via 313.

Detroit Style Pizza

The first question to answer was, “what is Detroit style pizza?” Via 313 owner Brandon Hunt was kind enough to answer that question in an interview with Austin Eater. In his description, Detroit style pizza refers to a square pie, cooked in pans that are actually used in automotive plants for spare parts, caramelized cheese crusts, and a generous pour of sauce on top of the pizza when finished.

The second question is, “is it any good?” After tasting the Detroiter, a pie made with smoked pepperoni under the cheese and natural casing pepperoni atop, the Smokey, made with Black’s brisket and tangy BBQ sauce, and the Rocket (my favorite), stacked with hot Sopressatta, arugula, and shaved Parmesan, I can emphatically say yes. Very good.

The caramelized cheese around the crust stands out with both great texture and flavor. The crust is thick and crispy on the outside, but chewy in the middle. It’s very filling but a little oily for my preference. Via 313’s red sauce was a standout though. Vibrant red, fresh tasting, and filled with herbs. It complimented the pies well and something about having it on top cleans the palate between bites.

I’m officially on board with Detroit style pizza.

Detroit Pizza

If your splitting hairs, the location I visited technically isn’t a food truck. But since it began as a food truck, and this location is much closer to me then where the truck resides, I hope you’ll overlook this.

Thanks for reading along, now get out there and eat!

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August 7th, 2017

Flavor Blasts: Jamaican Food

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods, Trends

foods of Jamaica

Bold, Bright, Beautiful: Jamaican Flavors

When you think of Jamaican flavors you reflexively think of jerk, stews,

Jamaican Cuisine

Courtesy of Island Spice Grill

and curries. What do these dishes have in common? Rich, complex flavors.

The source of these flavors is Jamaica’s abundant use of garlic, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, a variety of chili peppers and citrus fruits, coconut, and soy sauce. You’ll also come across plenty of legumes, sugar cane, plantains, onion, and tamarind offering a plethora of flavor diversity.

This variety is what defines Jamaican cuisine. Influenced by Spanish, African, Indian, and Chinese ancestries, and supported by rich volcanic soil and a damp climate, it’s easy to see how Jamaican cuisine has evolved into such a complex and desirable cuisine. In the U.S., Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines have boomed spanning the market from fast food (Pollo Tropical) to fine dining (Glady’s).

 

Jamaican foodsWith such progress comes culinary innovation. One example of this comes with Chef Nigel Spence of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in New York, who uses pimento wood chips to slow smoke chicken before seasoning it with jerk. This reaches back to the traditional essence of jerk, where pimento wood was used in fires to grill meats over high heat. Another is the roaming Island Spice Grill food cart in New York. They have combined traditional Jamaican jerk flavors with a masterful social media platform to create a cult following of diners who anxiously await daily posts to find out where they will be positioning their cart.

Time will tell what will come with the future of Jamaican cuisine as it intertwines with American culture and a fusion of other cuisines. Personally, I’m excited to see. But until then, get out there and explore what Jamaican food your city has to offer.

Cheers!

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July 24th, 2017

Mole 101

Posted in Recipes, Trends

Mole Andale!

Red Mole

Anyone familiar with traditional Mexican cuisine is by extension familiar with mole; a rich, incredibly complex, savory chile and chocolate sauce.

With hundreds of published mole variations, and thousands more living in the heads of Abuelas world wide, saying you’ve tried them all is like saying you’ve counted all the fish in the sea… highly unlikely. However, I’d certainly be up for that challenge.

Mexican mole

With all these variations, though, the base ingredients remain similar: Chiles, nuts, bread, and chocolate. It’s not unheard of for a mole to carry up to 30 ingredients and require a slow cooking process over the course of many days.

The ingredients are prepared in various ways (grilled, toasted, burnt, etc.), milled together, and stewed to release a deep, complex flavor. Rich in herbs and spices, moles pair wonderfully with anything from starchy vegetables, bananas, and grains, to chicken, beef, and delicate seafood. Chocolate mole

The word mole stems from the Nahuatl word “milli,” meaning sauce or concoction. Therefore, saying “mole sauce” is the literary equivalent of saying “table mesa,” or “free gift.” It’s redundant, so don’t. Unless of course it’s a proper noun, then do as you must.

The origins of mole are argued, but generally split between the legend of the panicked nuns or Cortez’s Aztec banquet. Having no skin in the game, I’ll let you pick which makes more sense.

For a library of excellent mole recipes, I suggest checking in with Rick Bayless or Zarela Martinez. They offer some amazing moles of both the quick(ish) and methodical varieties.

Now go eat some mole!

Salud!

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July 10th, 2017

Holy Hot Sauce!

Posted in Food Trends, Trends

Hot Sauce from the Subiaco Monks

A couple weeks ago we posted a Hot Sauce 101 blog discussing how hot sauces are produced and their cultural popularity. While doing on some online reading this week, I came across an article about the Subiaco Abbey Monks of Arkansas who make their own Habanero pepper sauce, which tied right into the Hot Sauce 101 discussion.

Monk Sauce

Hot sauce

Img. courtesy of www.countrymonks.biz

Aptly named “Monk Sauce,” this bright pepper sauce sold in varieties of red and green and is distributed via an online store both nationally and internationally. The product of Fr. Richard Walz, Monk Sauce comes from a recipe he developed while serving in Belize. Beginning in the winter months, Fr. Walz’s habanero peppers are grown from starter plants held over from the previous season. Meticulously watched over until they are ready for use, the peppers are harvested either green (peak growth), or red (full ripeness), to achieve a variation in sauce flavor and intensity.

The sauce is flavored with onions, garlic, and vinegar, balancing some of the blistering heat from the habaneros. Fr. Walz claims the Monk Sauce clocks in at 250,000 Scoville units, or about 100x hotter than the average jalapeno. I’m not one to argue with a Monk, so I’m taking his word for it, at least until my order arrives…

Check out the Subiaco Monks online store for Monk Sauces and Abbey Brittle.

 

Cheers!

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June 26th, 2017

Burgers or Bust

Posted in Food Trends, Trends

Food Trends: Burgers

Burger Trends

It’s no big secret that the burger is king in America. From classic cheese to quinoa vegan burgers, there’s something about the hearty sandwich that seems to whisper sweet nothings to our appetites.

Global market intelligence firm Technomic, Inc. reports that in 2016, $90.57 were spent on burgers in the U.S., representing 44% of total sandwich sales. Not only that, but they are predicting that these sales will continue to grow 3.4% from 2017-2019 due to our culture’s shift to off-premise dining and the burgers unique ability to travel well1 without dramatic loss of quality.

What does that mean for us in the culinary field? Well, it means that burgers offer us a ripe and broad ground for flavor experimentation. The breadth of this category allows us to take on flavors from all around the world utilizing lesser known sauces, garnishes, and seasonings while offering an assurance that there will be an adventurous demographic interested in trying new things. And with the burgers relatively low price point appeal, the risk is minimal to the customer.

Food trends - Burger

As more complex flavors, like Asian, African, and Mexican, continue to trend upward I believe this will begin to press into the burger market. We’re not far from seeing nationwide drops of Korean BBQ Burgers, Fiery African Harissa Burgers, or Smoky Mole Burgers. And when it happens, I’ll be right there in line ready to get the first bite.

Long live the burger!

 

1”Burger Boom.” Culinology, June 2017, pg. 44.
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June 12th, 2017

Hot Sauce 101

Posted in Trends

Hot Sauce

Let’s face it, we love hot sauce. Whether you’re a Sriracha-holic, Gochujang trend-setter, or Tabasco purist, (for me it’s Yellow Bird) it’s more than likely you’re hitting your pizza with some hot sauce pizzazz. At least we can all agree Buffalo sauce is great.

Since, as a planet, we consume so much hot sauce, I think we should have a better understanding of how it’s made. Therefore, I give you Hot Sauce 101:

Pepper Power

Pepper Sauce

When it comes to hot sauces, it all starts with the pepper. Sure, it seems obvious, but the flavor of the sauce is dictated by the type, quality, and ripeness of the pepper you use.

Once the pepper has been picked (presumably by someone named Peter)the stems are removed and the pepper is washed thoroughly.

The peppers are then mashed, chopped, or ground in preparation for the next step.

Of All the Flavors, You Chose Salty

Hot sauce 101

Now that we have clean pepper mash, it’s time to bring out depth of flavor. This is accomplished by adding salt in a concentration of 15-20% (or higher in some cases), thus beginning the fermentation stage. Remember two things, a higher salt concentration means a longer fermentation and a cleaner flavor, but a salt concentration under 9% allows for malolactic fermentation (like in wine), which creates an unpleasant flavor in pepper-based sauces.

The salted mash is placed in a breathable covered container and agitated periodically. Fermentation times vary by sauce type and batch size anywhere from 15 days to 6 months.

Once desired fermentation is achieved, peppers may be further processed and strained to remove seeds and fibers, leaving only a soft, fermented pulp.

Acid Trip

How to make hot sauce

Now it’s time to bring out the acid. Most hot sauces use vinegar in this step. Not only does the vinegar add to the flavor, it also helps protect the sauce from spoilage. The high salt and acid ratios mean many hot sauces are entirely shelf-stable.

Welcome to Flavor Town

Culinary Consultants

At this point, the sauce is ready to be customized for flavor. Onions, garlic, bean curd, spices and various other ingredients are added to the sauce to individualize the flavor.

It’s important to note, the addition of these ingredients increase the water activity in the sauce. It can very easily go from shelf-stable to refrigeration required with only a small amount of water. This water can come from garlic bulbs, berries, or other flavoring agents.

Keep it Safe

Even if you’re just making a sauce to enjoy at home it never hurts to play it safe. Place your sauce in sanitized jars with tightly closing lids that can be submerged in boiling water until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool the jar and store appropriately. In commercial applications, this step is accomplished in large batches in either pouches or bottles.

hot sauce

Unfortunately, more delicate flavors, like cilantro, can be degraded in a heating step. But for most sauces that rely on pepper mash and dried herbs for the flavor profile, this won’t negatively affect the flavor.

Hope you learned something! We love hot sauces over here so please drop a comment and let us know some of the great flavors or methods for production you’ve tried.

Cheers!

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May 29th, 2017

NRA 2017 – Top Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Shows, Food Trends, Packaging, Product Innovation

Top Trends in Food from the
2017 NRA Show

Wednesday wrapped up a great week of learning and exploration at the 2017 National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, Il.

There was so much to see, touch, taste, and learn, but I’ll try to pick a few really popular trends to highlight for those of you who couldn’t make it.

Let’s dive in…

#1 – Cold Brew Nitro Coffee

Well if there was one trend that popped up more than any other, it was cold brew nitro coffee. On tap, artisan, slushy, and soft serve varieties available for whatever application you could imagine.

#2 – Go Nuts for Donuts!

Honestly, donuts haven’t really gone anywhere. Everyone loves fried dough. But NRA would show us that donuts, especially exciting, decadent donuts, are thriving. People are loving the idea of customization and seeing donuts in unique places like sandwiches and sundaes.

#3 – Compostables

All image above courtesy of PacknWood. Available at https://www.packnwood.com/home.jhtm.

If you want to take a stake in this millennial market you better be using compostable products. From plates, cups, straws, wrapper, utensils, to-go boxes, and even chopsticks, compostable products have become a must for any operation that wants to be a serious competitor.

Others

Other noteworthy trends included sparkling beverages, including coffee and kombucha, guacamole variations, atomization in the food process, and a continuing array of vegetarian and vegan food products.

If you’ve noticed any cool trends or were at the NRA 2017 show and saw something I missed, let me know! We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

 

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