“I bleed kimchi”….no more

by Gary Meyer

One of our favorite places to eat is FuseBOX in West Oakland. At both lunch and dinner our taste buds have always enjoyed surprises from Sunhil Chang’s Korean fusion kitchen. Co-owner Ellen Sebastian Chang is well known for her work as a theater director and producer. She has written for EatDrinkFilms. And the staff, wearing “I bleed kimchi” tee shirts, are the friendliest and most knowledgeable servers you could ask to make your visit memorable.

(See Chang’s Kimchi recipes and video at the end of this article)

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Bacon wrapped mochi with pickled mustard seeds. Photo: Anna Mindess; courtesy Berkeleyside

 

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So it was a shock to get this email this evening:

“Dear Friends Old and New and Not Yet Met, After Five Years. This Sunday April 23 will be our last day serving food and drink to West Oakland. We had a wild ride of it from opening with only three days of lunch along with closing for our daughter’s soccer games to having dinner seven nights a week and closing sometimes cuz well “shit happens” to being blessed with so much support from our family of friends and the amazing press we received out here on the street of Magnolias. We are grateful to all of our staff past and present. Come in we want to sale every last bit of food in this place by Sunday night. And come TUESDAY April 25 for three days we will sell everything that’s not bolted down! We need to be out of here by Thursday April 28. Come visit and buy a beer glass or a t-shirt or a fryer.

Thank you from the Changs.”

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We have had so many wonderful gatherings, bringing filmmakers, writers and other friends from near and far to discover a place like no other. Where will we get those skewers of meat and veggies, unique lunch banh mi, incredible Korean Fried Chicken wings, pork belly, bacon wrapped mochi, house fermented banchan and daily surprises?

We invited friends for a last Friday lunch and ordered those famous KFC wings first thing fearing they would run out (they later did). Our Secret Restaurant writer Peter Moore rode in on his bike, side bags stuffed with produce from the farmers’ market to get a hug from Ellen but could nt join us for lunch. We had arrived at 11:15am and Ellen was standing outside greeting friends fifteen minutes before opening time and by noon the place was bustling. The people sitting across from us at an outdoor table scored the last pork belly torta so we had an equally delicious grilled chicken version with Savoy cabbage and pickled zucchini. A bap meal included a variety of little veggie bites, meat, banchan and kimchi. Ellen kept trying to leave to take care of family business but it was hard to break away. As she left she explained that their daughter had made the current batch of kimchi as Chef Sunhui is in Los Angeles working on a project that he hopes becomes a book and film of stories about people in Korea. SunIm had declared it as “better than dad’s.”

Oh how we are going to miss this place but Ellen explained that maybe it was a blessing in disguise. They have been negotiating their lease with the possibility of an expansion for more indoor seating but I get a sense that the landlord has other ideas now that the Changs have established this hidden location as a destination.

And now maybe we can repay the family’s generosity by having them to our house for dinner.

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Kusshi oysters with yuzu kosho mignonette topped with kiwi and Pink Lady Apple. Courtesy Berkeleyside

There is an excellent new Berkeleyside interview with Ellen about the state of running a small family business and you check Anna Mindess’ 2013 interview with Sunhui on growing up discovering food and making kimchi plus photographic essays of dinner and brunch at FuseBOX.

I suggest you watch this episode of Check Please!, Bay Area to see what you might have been missing. The review starts at 17:00 minutes

A little history? Check out the original Kickstarter campaign.

Website

Facebook

The basic menu is here but there are always specials.

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Photo courtesy of Tasting Table

Read a few of the reviews and articles

Express

SFGate

Mercury News

The Bold Italic

Edible East Bay

Zagat summary: Those in the know say this “hidden gem” in the West Oakland is “well worth the hunt” for its “innovative”, “affordable” Korean lineup, featuring the “crispiest fried chicken”, “amazing” small plates and kimchi “elevated to an art form”; the space is mainly a “super-cool industrial outdoor area”, but “be sure to make reservations” (or arrive early for happy hour).

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A rainbow of pickle jars. Photo: Anna Mindess; courtesy of Berkeleyside

Maybe we will see you this week as we say farewell to FuseBOX and hopefully learn what is next for the Chang family.

Reservations are probably a good idea, especially for dinner as it is a tiny place. Eating outside is great fun but bring a sweater or jacket at night.

And buy a tee shirt before they are gone.

FuseBOX Kimchi Recipes

Mustard Greens Kimchi

Courtesy of Amanda Marsteller of Green Table

“This tiny fusion restaurant turns out oversize Korean season profiles. Known for a housemade kimchis, FuseBox prepares a rainbow of fermented options as part of a daily banchan plate. On any given day you will find kimchis crafted from daikon, bok choy, Japanese cucumbers as well as breakfast radishes, but keep an eye out for seasonal grained mustard greens. The sharp, peppery bite of bitter greens lends extra liveliness to a kimchi pulp rich with ginger, salted shrimp as well as frail Korean pear.”

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Ingredients:

8 ounces grained mustard greens, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon sweet rice flour

1 tablespoon garlic pulp (about 5 cloves dejected with a mortar as well as pestle)

1-inch-long piece fresh ginger, finely grated

2 scallions, cut in to 1-inch strips

1 medium carrot, peeled as well as thinly sliced into 3-inch pieces

1/4 Korean Shingo pear, Asian pear or frail apple, sliced into thin strips (optional)

3 tablespoons finely ground go chu karu (Korean red chile powder)

3 tablespoons coarsely ground go chu karu (Korean red chile powder)

1 tablespoon seau jjot (small salted shrimp, found in refrigerated section of Korean grocery stores) or fish sauce

1/4 crater granulated sugar

2 tablespoons coarse Korean sea salt

Directions:
1. In a small saucepan, add a rice flour as well as 1/2 crater ice-cold water. Place over medium-high heat as well as drive until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from a heat as well as set in reserve to cool.

2. In a large bowl, combine a garlic, ginger, scallions, carrot, apple or pear, chile powders, salted shrimp as well as sugar. Add a rice powder-paste as well as brew together well till it becomes a soft paste. Cover as well as set aside.

3. Place mustard greens in large stainless steel bowl. Fill with cold H2O to cover grained mustard greens. Soak for 15 minutes.

4. Drain mustard greens in colander. Shake off excess H2O from mustard greens as well as clean a bowl. Return mustard greens to a bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Korean sea salt, or to taste. Toss a salt with mustard greens by hand. Set in reserve for 20 minutes. The mustard greens will wilt, as a salt will lift a H2O from a mustard greens. Toss the mustard greens again as well as set in reserve for an additional 20 minutes.

5. Pour off 90 percent of a salted mustard green H2O from a bowl. Gradually add as well as brew a kimchi pulp with a mustard greens according to taste. Store in a firmly sealed enclosure for 2 weeks in a refrigerator, or bury it in your backyard.

Kale Kimchi

Recipe adapted from Sunhui Chang of Fusebox for Tasting Table

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Yield: 2 cups

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

Ice water

2 bunches curly green kale–washed, dried, stalk removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces

2 teaspoons coarse Korean sea salt or kosher salt

1 tablespoon sweet rice flour

1 tablespoon garlic paste (about 5 cloves crushed in a mortar and pestle or with a back of a knife)

One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, scraped and finely grated on a microplane

2 scallions, cut into 1-inch strips

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into 3-inch pieces

3 tablespoons finely ground go chu karu (Korean red chile powder)

3 tablespoons coarsely ground go chu karu (Korean red chile powder)

1 tablespoon seau jjot (small salted shrimp, found in the refrigerated section of Korean grocery stores) or fish sauce

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ Korean Shingo pear, Asian pear or a crisp apple, sliced into thin strips (optional)

Directions:

1. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the kale and blanch until softened, 2 to 3 minutes depending on the toughness of the kale. Remove the kale from the boiling water and add to the ice water. Once the kale is completely cool, remove it from the ice water, place it in a dish towel and squeeze as much moisture out of the kale as possible. Place the kale in a large bowl and toss with the salt.

2. In a small saucepan, add the rice flour and ½ cup water. Place over medium-high heat and whisk until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, scallions, carrot, fine chile powder, coarse chile pepper, salted shrimp and sugar. Add the rice powder-paste and mix together. Add the kale and pear, and mix until well combined. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator in a glass or stainless-steel airtight container for up to one week.

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