Thursday, September 24, 2015

On the road: Exploring Seoul's Gwangjung Market

Nadine Kam photos
Dried fish at Gwangjang Market, one of the oldest traditional marketplaces in Seoul, South Korea.


SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Gwangjang Market, which started in 1905, is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in South Korea, packing in more than 5,000 shops and food stalls. You’ll feel exactly like one of the food stall sardines as you shuffle your way through crowds of 65,000 people said by Wikipedia to visit the market each day.

In addition to tourists wanting absorb the sights, sounds and smells, it’s a place where locals gather for a quick lunchtime bite or pau hana drinks and pupu while sitting shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers alike.

It’s a great place to sample Korean street food, as hundreds of vendors cook up tteokbokki or toppoki, blood sausage, mandoo, roast pork and chili crab. The market is best known for its bindaetteok, sizzling griddle pancakes made with mung bean batter, meat and vegetables. On a hot day, the mix of greasy air and overcrowding can be overwhelming, and I happened to be visiting in the middle of summer, but these are said to be a treat on a rainy or cold winter’s day.

Stirring the rice cake tteokbokki, simplified in the west as toppoki.

If you tire of the food and the crowds, head upstairs which is home to a fabric mart and home goods shops. There, tailors are waiting to create garments for you, including the traditional Korean hanbok; the most beautiful run about $400. The market is a huge source of Korean bridal apparel, and a few days after visiting the market I was lucky to chance upon a wedding party at Korea House, where the Western groom and his bride were outfitted in the colorful traditional costumes.

Gwangjang Market is at 6-1 Yeji-dong, Jongno-gu, and can be reached via subway line 1 to Jongno-gu station (exit 8), or line 2 to Eujiro station. Shops are generally open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; food stalls are open daily until about 10 p.m. Hours vary by vendor.

Here are some of the market offerings:

An abundance of chili crab.

 Chop chae for a crowd.

Seeing plenty of red at a stall specializing in marinated seafood.

Marinated blue crab with chili peppers and garlic.

On the road: A stroll through Jagalchi Fish Market

 Nadine Kam photos
A vendor showcases octopus and other seafood at Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea.


BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA — A visit to Busan is not complete without a stop at Jagalchi Fish Market, the largest fish market in Korea.

Getting there the quickest way possible from Seoul involves a two-hour ride via KTX, or Korea Train eXpress bullet train, that zips along at about 190 miles per hour.

Situated at Nampo Port, the market began taking shape in the late 19th century. During the Korean War, it became key to survival for many women whose husbands went off to fight. Women still command many of the outdoor stalls at the fish market, and are known as Jagalchi ajumma, a reference to middle-aged, married or street vendor status. It might also be considered the Korean equivalent of “auntie” as used here in Hawaii when referring to non-relatives of a certain age.

Here, you can find a range of live sea creatures, filleted fish and dried seafood. There are a lot of sea creatures I’d never seen firsthand, giving it a sort of ersatz aquarium status for travelers who welcome the colorful sights but have no intention of eating eels, sea squirts or penile-looking gaebul or spoon worms.

And it’s not too often we get a chance to study living flounders, trying to fathom how they evolved to be so flat with their two eyes perched so close together on the top of their heads.

It all just makes the seafood offerings available in Hawaii seem quite limited and tame.

It’s hard to linger long though, particularly outdoors where the odoriferous scents can be overwhelming. I took that as a cue to break for lunch at the buffet restaurant above the market.

Palm-sized geoducks at Jaglachi Fish Market.

To save you from making a mess at home, vendors will gut and clean your fish for you.

Fish available whole or ready to be filleted.

Inside Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea, tanks dubbed “fish hotels” keep fish and shellfish alive for those who want a guarantee of freshness.

Just outside the market, leisure fishermen try their luck in the waters of Nampo Port.

Not everything looks appetizing.

Shrimp and shellfish.

There is a huge buffet restaurant above the fish market, overlooking the harbor. All-you-can-eat options include sushi and other seafood, fried anchovies, dim sum, barbecue chicken and pastas. These multi-color pork sausages were all different, flavored with seasonings from chilies (red) to a dash of curry (yellow).

Here’s something you don’t see in local buffets but de rigueur in Korea, a stack of roasted garlic.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Liholiho Yacht Club brings isle flavors to S.F.

Nadine Kam photos
Patrons flock to the bar at Liholiho Yacht Club where a portrait of chef Ravi Kapur’s mom, circa 1975, is a beacon of warmth and aloha.


SAN FRANCISCO — One of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants brings a taste of Hawaii to the menu.

In a city where dining can seem overly precious — at Sons and Daughters we were privy to the source of every item on our plate, just shy of knowing the name of the bantam that laid the egg on our plate — Liholiho Yacht Club’s big plates, massive portions is a bold and perhaps long-due step in the opposite direction.

This is no delicate flower of a restaurant. It’s sort of Pacific Rim on steroids. Just as Spam our way is gaining buzz across the nation, LYC chef and co-owner Ravi Kapur finds himself in the right place at the right time with offerings such as housemade Spam fried rice and an Ohana Table for bringing family and friends together for a no-brainer evening. Just tell them how many in your party, and they’ll prepare 10 to 12 shareable dishes at $55 per person, with a minimum $440 booking.

Bon Appetit magazine recently featured Kapur in a Spam roundup, and the chef was also made the cover of the summer 2015 edition of Edible San Francisco magazine.

Kapur’s cred hails from having grown up on Oahu, then working at San Francisco’s Boulevard and Prospect restaurants before launching his popular LYC popup events in 2012. His Nob Hill bricks and mortar location became a reality with the help of Allyson Jossel and Jeff Hanak of Nopa.

You can sense the Hawaii connection at the door, where floor tiles spell “aloha” in blue against a white backdrop and staffers look like people you saw every day in high school. Enhancing the bar area is a black-and-white portrait of a young, beautiful, smiling wahine, who turns out to be Kapur’s mom, circa 1975. The warmth is palpable and no doubt feels like safe haven for those seeking a break from snob rule.

It’s a pleasant place to hang out, so it’s packed every night. For me, the best seats in the house are toward the back of the room with an overview of the open kitchen where the multi-cultural alchemy happens. Like most chefs in Hawaii, Kapur draws from his chop suey experience, growing up eating Asian, Southeast Asian, Hawaiian, Indian and Portuguese cuisine. Those influences have made their way into his plates in a way that will look familiar to anyone with roots in the isles.

Having ordered a lot of the heavier dishes, my one regret was passing on the Spam fried rice. I mistakenly imagined this to be like typical island fried rice, with the Spam chopped into an itty bitty mince. Only after we left did I do an Instagram search of the restaurant’s offerings and came across the attention-grabbing large slabs of Kapur’s housemade spam over rice that looked so delish. I’m pretty sure that if this restaurant were transplanted here, people would be lining up for this.

It’s wonderful to see the flavors we love connecting with people beyond our shores thanks to transplants like Kapur and in New York, Noreetuh’s Chung Chow. And the vicarious spotlight on Hawaii’s food culture is bound to spill over closer to home.

So the next time you’re in the city, Liholiho Yacht Club is at 871 Sutter St. Open 5 to 10:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Call (415) 440-5446.

Here are the dishes sampled:

An appetizer of poke ($15.50) with sesame oil and radish served over nori crackers.

Duck liver toast ($9.75) topped with jalapeño and pickled pineapple. I’d never seen this combination before, but savory-meets-sweet is perfect chemistry.

We couldn’t resist trying one of the specials of the day, a salmon tail made to serve three to four. The salmon tail swimming in a pool of red chili sauce and smothered with black bean-sauced green beans was a strange vision, but it was so delicious, and worth raving about and sharing snaps for days to come.

A country roast ($28.75) was too dry for my liking.

Twice-cooked pork belly ($29.50) with pineapple, thai basil, fennel and a hint of char siu flavor.

Stuff dreams are made of: a dish of shortribs with escargot-filled bone marrow, mushrooms, spring onions and horseradish ($36).

For dessert, Baked Hawaii caramelized pineapple ice cream ($10) is Kapur’s 50th state nod to Baked Alaska. The ice cream is encased in beehive-shape meringue and torched before it arrives at the table, lighting up eyes in the process.


Lastly, before leaving San Francisco, I leave you with one more quickie dessert option, this time at Smitten Ice Cream near the Rockridge BART station in Oakland. At Smitten, liquid nitrogen provides a minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit chill to freeze your ice cream on the spot. It’s 90 seconds from placing your order to heaven.

Non-flash video
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

To market, to market in Napa and Sonoma

Nadine Kam photos
A map at the center of The Shed in Healdsburg, Calif., shows the birthplace of produce and products carried at the marketplace.


CALIFORNIA — California’s wine country is paradise for nouveau frontiersman and homesteaders who have at their fingertips the riches of the land. Their markets are the envy of all who cook, bake and craft. Here’s a peek inside two of them:

25 North St., Healdsburg. Call (707) 431-7433. (Note: When I checked, the site worked on Firefox browser, but not Safari.)

The Shed was created as a celebration of farming and the pleasure of real food. It’s a beautiful space, part food market, part housewares celebrating the kitchen and D.I.Y. ethos, and part cafe with a fermentation bar for sampling house made kombucha, keffir water or shrubs, old-fashioned drinking vinegars that have made a comeback. Also on offer, area wines and beers, hard cider, honey mead and natural sodas.

After shopping, stay for a bite in the cafe, featuring such delectables as a frittata of zucchini, onion and fontina; roast pork meatballs with cinnamon vinegar, nectarine and poppy seeds; and cilantro-cured cod. Breakfast and weekend brunch is also offered.

Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except Tuesdays.

Produce at The Shed.

Knitters will know the name of the sheep who produced their wool. These skeins are from Lambert, Cupcake or Punch.

After ogling the beautiful produce, including these green and purple tomatillos and eggplants, you can get a bite to eat in The Shed’s Cafe Coffee and Fermentation Bar.

A salumi board offered in The Shed Cafe recently featured prosciutto, salumi and coppa.

A Shed cheese platter with bread, strawberries and Marcona almonds.

This pizza with fontina, jalapeños and roasted figs was fantastic.


Oxbow Public Market photo
Oxbow Public Market houses 22 vendors offering artisan edibles.

Oxbow Public Market
610 and 644 First St., Napa. Call (707) 226-6529.

Part of the market includes the rehabilitation of a 1930s tire store and garage, remodeled to accommodate 22 independent merchants within a 40,000 square-foot indoor marketplace featuring local and regional artisan edibles.

Products offered include local organic produce, artisan cheese, spices, chocolate, olive oil, baked goods and desserts, wine and spirits, and housewares.

If you get hungry following a drive from San Francisco or surrounding areas, restaurants on site include Kitchen Door, Hog Island Oyster Bar, Three Twins Ice Cream, Gott’s Roadside, Ca’ Momi enoteca, and The Fatted Calf.

Open 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Note, some vendors may open between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Visit the website for specifics.

Some of the cheese selections at Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant.

Shrubs, drinking vinegars infused with fruit juice, are big throughout the region. These are from Napastäk.

A selection of spices from Whole Spice.

Bitters for sampling at the Napa Valley Distllery Tasting Salon within Oxbow Public Market.

Above and below, beef any way you want it.

Manila clam steamers and crispy anchovies from Hog Island Oyster Co., and below, the namesake shellfish on a platter.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Happy Trails: Exploring California's Cheese Trail

Nadine Kam photos
Bohemian Creamery’s offerings include Boho Belle, a semi-soft Italian-style cheese made with organic Jersey cow milk, and aged 6 to 8 weeks for development of the geotrichum mold that enhances its vanilla flavors.


CALIFORNIA — One doesn’t have to be an oenophile to appreciate the charms of California Wine Country and the surrounding area encompassing Napa and Sonoma counties, including the towns of Healdsburg, Petaluma and Sebastopol, also part of California’s Cheese Trail.

The cheese trail encompasses 23 creameries and/or dairies open to the public. There are 14 more in operation that are not open to the public. You can visit for a full list of the operations and details for visits. Some are open during set hours; others by appointment.

One of the providers of the milk that goes into Bohemian Creamery’s Capriago, Caproncino, BoDacious and HolyMoly cheeses.

If you’re interested in simply sampling and buying cheeses, Cowgirl Creamery at 80 Fourth St., Point Reyes Station, is a popular stop. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays as of this writing, with 11:30 a.m. Friday tours by appointment months in advance.

You could also stop by Marin French Cheese Co., at 7500 Red Hill Road, Petaluma. It’s open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

At Loleta Cheese Factory, you can witness the cheese making process through a window, and taste some of the 30 different types of cheese made there. It’s at 252 Loleta Drive, Loleta, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

The exterior of Bohemian Creamery’s tasting room and shop.

I appreciate going to the source so had to visit a site with goats. Dropping in at Bohemian Creamery in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, I found a Hawaii connection with owner Lisa Gottreich, an avid surfer who visits our islands frequently.

When she’s not in the water, she makes a variety of Italian-style cheeses, and such novel creations as “Cowabunga,” a soft Holstein cow’s milk cheese filled with a sweet cajeta (goat milk caramel), and “Surf n’ Turf,” an organic cow’s milk ripened to a soft thickness with a thin layer of Sonoma coast harvested toasted dulce seaweed through its center.

If you want to visit, you’ll find Gottreich at 7380 Occidental Road, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, with tours by appointment.

It was all enough to make me want to go out and raise some goats.

From left, Bohemian Creamery’s Capriago, Caproncino and Bovoncino cheeses.

On the rooftop.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

'Master Chef' wants home cooks

FOX photo
The FOX reality competition "MasterChef" is looking for home chef candidates for Season 7.


If you think you have what it takes to face chef Gordon Ramsay, "MasterChef," producers of the popular FOX reality cooking show are conducting a nationwide search for the best home cooks to participate in its highly-anticipated Season 7.

If you think you have what it takes in the kitchen to compete among the best home cooks in America, visit to apply.

Here are the basic criteria:
>> Must be 18 years or older on Jan. 1, 2016.
>> Must be a citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States.
>> Must not currently work or previously worked as a professional chef in any setting.
>> Must not receive main source of income from preparing and/or cooking fresh foods in a professional environment (e.g., restaurants, hotels, canteens, catering, etc).

Completed applications and video submissions must be received by noon Oct. 9, 2015.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Friday, September 11, 2015

HFWF Watch: 'Chopstix & Cocktails' at The Modern

Nadine Kam photos
This foie gras macaron was prepared by chef Keith Pajinag from host hotel, the MODERN Honolulu.


The MODERN Honolulu welcomed 15 chefs and 15 winemakers and mixologists to take part in the second night of Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival on Oahu.

“Chopstix & Cocktails” took place throughout the property, with food and drink served on the Sunrise and Sunset pool decks and in the Sun Suites overlooking the Ala Wai Boat Harbor.

Dishes by the international roster of chefs were inspired by Asian cuisine and intended to be eaten with chopsticks.

The event is always a great opportunity for food fans to mix and mingle with their favorite chefs, whose passion for what they do also makes them so entertaining. I just started Periscoping and it was fun to talk to chefs Elizabeth Falkner and Bobby Chinn, even if the videos only live online for 24 hours.

In Bobby’s case, he may be happy that his rendition of the hula and mangling “Mele Kalikimaka” doesn’t live on. Coming all the way from London’s House of Ho, the half Chinese/half Egyptian chef told of his family’s roots in the islands, his grandparents living on St. Louis Heights, and of his 6-year birthday party, during which he was serenaded by none other than Don Ho (no relation to the restaurant, where he serves up a contemporary take on Vietnamese cuisine).

Here’s a look at what was on the table:

Continuing the tradition of savory/sweet desserts, New York chef/author Elizabeth Falkner practiced her food alchemy, ladling charred pineapple ice over her dessert of coconut-chia creme with smoked macadamia nuts and passionfruit-soy caramel.

When the liquid “smoke” cleared, we had a better look at what was for dessert.

One of the three original “Iron Chefs” in 1993, Kenichi Chen of Akasaka Szechwan Restaurant, more popularly known as Shisen Hanten, Japan, was there with sone Kentaro Chen. Kenichi Chen is known as Japan’s “Father of Sichuan Cuisine.”

The Chens served up island shrimp two ways, with curry and chili mango sauces.

At chef Jonathan Waxman’s station, a crew member, turns ono over on the grill.

Waxman’s ono was topped with guacamole and Romanesco sauce.