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Dining

Kimchi Chronicles

A Korean-Japanese carbonara mash-up from Mott St. in Chicago
Mentaiko Kimchi Udon Edward Kim Mott St.

Edward Kim does not belong to the cult of simplicity.

"We try to make everything as complicated as possible," says the chef of Mott St. in Chicago.

He's only half-joking. This is a place where nam prik--that umami-packed Thai jam made of chiles and dried shrimp--and sambal (chile-garlic sauce) are made in house, the latter laced with pureed preserved limes and more nuanced than anything available on a grocery shelf.

Make Mott St.'s mentaiko udon
"It's not like we wanted to make our own," Kim says. "We just couldn't get any that was good enough."

Kim's style is cerebral, audacious and a little cheeky: lamb sweetbreads lacquered in General Tso's sauce; fried rice laced with crab innards; a Hangtown Fry, that Gold Rush-era bacon-oyster omelet, drizzled with hoisin sauce.

The Mott St. crew, with Kim front-right
His Korean background is evident in a penchant for ssamjang, gochujang and kimchi in all forms. At Mott St., the brine from the fermented cabbage is transformed into a gutsy nage of kimchi juice, butter and chicken stock.

That nage is the secret to the restaurant's mentaiko udon (see the recipe), a version of a Japanese izakaya standard. Kim calls it "really simple--maybe the simplest thing on the menu," but concedes that he's dressed it up with a game-changing double infusion of kimchi.

The makings of mentaiko udon
Mentaiko, spicy fish roe (usually pollock or cod) provides a subtle fishy crunch and a bit of heat. The dish is new, yet somehow familiar: Japanese carbonara by way of Koreatown.

It's perfect izakaya food to try at home. Grab some chopsticks and a beer; slurp, swig, repeat.

Mott St. 1401 N. Ashland Ave. Chicago IL 60622 773-687-9977

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