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.
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.