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Banchan to the future
Plus the public policy behind the end of the knish, a recipe for pickle dip, and a video history of the french fry.
Snack Cart is in limited capacity as I am helping write the Friday newsletter for TASTE. This newsletter is a reprint of the one I wrote last week for TASTE, with some Snack Cart favorites added in. If you want to get the newsletter as soon as it’s done, subscribe to TASTE’s excellent newsletter for me and other authors.
One of the best parts about eating new kinds of food is learning new styles of eating. I grew up in an extremely “meat, starch, and veg” food tradition (though we did have salad after the meal, in a Francophonic touch my parents picked up). Even when eating out, trying to make food fit into that structure never felt right—that is, until airplanes entered the picture.
Traveling in Thailand and Vietnam is where I realized that the many, many condiments on the table were as essential to the meal as the bowl of noodles in front of me. I made fun of tapas a lot less after understanding how they fit into a Spanish night out.
Living in Los Angeles is where I learned about my favorite way to eat: banchan, the traditional small plates that kick off a Korean meal. Banchan were confusing until I realized they are more than side dishes. They are a sort of combination of appetizers, sides, seasonings, and palate cleansers.
I loved this piece by Giaae Kwon on the current state of banchan. Traditional banchan are more varied and diverse than ever as chefs across the United States (and the world) are incorporating new flavors into the concept.
Jason Diamond writes in Hell Gate about the end of the NYC Knish. Even if you don’t care about New York or knishes, there’s a great section about how ’80s street vendor health regulations outlawed the classic Eastern European snack as we know it. How are regulations affecting the food traditions of your home?
The food that most screams summer to me? Sprinkles.
A Sri Lankan start-up is using Instagram to sell high-quality crabs locally. The traditional crab supply chain is completely dominated by export companies, so one local guy is using the photo-sharing app to get around it and provide high-quality crabs for his friends and neighbors.
If you don’t subscribe already, Vittles is probably one of the best food newsletters out there. It’s about England, but it’s really about everywhere. This profile of the Brixton McDonald’s is really a story of how corporate food spaces can somehow still be a nexus that reflects the local community. And read the TASTE Monday Interview with Vittles editor Jonathan Nunn.
I did not know what Erewhon was until reading this story about the buyer behind the high-end Los Angeles grocery store. I now understand a lot of LA TikTok videos much better.
The New Yorker profiles the expansion of Tartine bakery. Once a beloved local San Francisco institution, it has entered the messy world of real estate development, where the name (and physical locations!) are used as marketing tools for gentrifying neighborhoods. This is a great look at a complicated issue.
The first paragraph of this story about an upcoming San Francisco NFT-based private restaurant and social club made my eyes roll so hard they fell out the back of my head.
You should always read Jaya Saxena, but definitely read her when she’s writing about fried chicken. She describes the South Asian fried chicken tradition and how American cooks aren’t just doing “an Indian take on fried chicken” but trying to adapt flavors and contexts to an American audience.
Ukrainian borscht has been added to the UN’s cultural heritage list. It’s a complicated topic, as there’s a long-running culinary dispute between basically every country in the region over the “right” way to make the beet-based soup.
Heading to Cape Cod this summer? Consider taking a break from lobster rolls to enjoy some jerk chicken. The New York Times profiles Jamaican chefs who are changing the culture of the vacation destination.
I texted this story about a capsized Hong Kong restaurant to a friend, and his reply—“I was about one paragraph in before I realized this is just insurance fraud”—just about sums it up.
More food writing should be in comics form, like this history of the sweet potato in America by Rosa Colón.
June’s Bon Appétit issue focused on queer food and restaurant spaces. There are too many great stories to link to all of them, but they are collected in a really appealing online hub. If you read just one, make it this profile of how trans chefs are imagining truly inclusive and welcoming restaurant experiences.
Climate change is driving a massive drought in Northern Italy, which is endangering the world’s Parmigiano Reggiano supply. Surely this will be the thing that spurs the world into action! Ah, well, nevertheless. Related: Check out TASTE’s Emilia-Romagna Issue and scenes from the PR factory.
Hope’s wine meme of the week
There have been a number of articles circulating saying the financial returns on fine wine investment are currently higher than the stock market. This has driven a lot of people to start investing or thinking about investing in wine.
I work in fine wine sales and have helped people invest in wine for years. I feel qualified to say: Don’t do it! Just don’t!!!!! Just because something is 90 points doesn’t mean it has resale potential. Very few wines truly appreciate value. It can be a very shaky venture and there are a lot of bad faith firms out there.
[Editor's note: As her brother I feel compelled to say if you *do* want to invest in wine, Hope’s consulting rates are extremely reasonable. Email me and I will connect you.]
I’m on a summer quest to find more dinners that won’t heat up my kitchen too much. Dennis Lee explains kong-guksu, a Korean cold noodle and soy milk dish. If you are on a Korean soup kick but want something warmer, read about how samgyetang keeps you energized on sleepy summer days. Both are dishes that make banchan sing.
I started doing this because I was cheap and lazy, but little did I know that takeout deli containers are a chef-approved kitchen storage tool. Seriously, having one lid that works on every size of container is game-changing.
If you learn one salad dressing recipe, make it a classic french mustard vinaigrette. If you learn two, make the second one this delicious and versatile fish sauce vinaigrette from Christian Reynoso.
Ashley Rodriguez urges you to cook extra steak and reuse it in cold salads. I’ll not only second her idea but say that the same goes for chicken, pork, or any grilled meat.
I could not click on this recipe for “pickle dip” fast enough.
Apple can get stuffed. The truly best design-forward company in America is OXO. Chances are, if you are looking for any kitchen tool, they make the best one.
Watch, stream, listen
This week on the TASTE Podcast, former Vanity Fair editor Dana Brown talks about so many good things: editing A. A. Gill, food at the legendary VF Oscar party, NYC sushi in the ’90s, trashing the restaurant 66, the “Graydon Carter lunch order,” the power of a Waverly Inn reservation, Keith McNally vs. the world (including Graydon Carter). We also hear about Dana’s recent meal at the Noma pop-up in Brooklyn and his new book Dilettante. What a fun conversation!
I’m really enjoying the TASTE podcast’s ongoing B plot for the past few months. Matt brings on Clarkson Potter associate editor Bianca Cruz to give a live update of her journey through culinary school. This is real talk, in the best, most optimistic way, about what becoming a trained chef is like.
I legitimately learned a lot while watching this Mental Floss video on the food history of french fries. There’s an adapted article, but the video is better.
I have not watched the new Apple TV show Loot, but I have watched this fictional Hot Ones interview with Maya Rudolph’s character about ten thousand times.
Watch this video walk-through of an oyster vending machine in France.
I thought this video about Hot Dr Pepper was going to be a joke, but it’s really a thing that people really made.
These are 44 seconds of pure, uncut joy.
My new favorite Instagram account is an older man quickly and deftly preparing various Chinese and Chinese-American standards. Mixed in with the recipes are kitchen tips and reflections on a life well lived. It’s Made with Lau, a media venture where a son interviews his father (a former chef) about food and life. There’s also a great YouTube channel.
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
A Gardena storefront on a block of dusty thrift stores crammed with bamboo-appliqued furniture that started its life in Honolulu living rooms, and cater-cornered from a '40s department store crammed with more Dickies and Carhartt jackets than you'll see in a lifetime of 311 videos, the cafe looks like pretty much every greasy spoon in downtown Hilo. - Link