Imagine this. You are sitting at a restaurant. You order food and a bottle of wine that you’ve never tried before but sounded interesting on the menu. When the waiter pours a glass for you and you taste it you immediately love it. “We should find this and buy a few bottles,” you say. So you pull out your smartphone, open an app, and take a picture of the wine label. Despite the dim lighting, the app immediately recognizes the wine and shows you how much other users have liked it. Right there, next to the name of the wine is a red button with the price per bottle. You click it and within ten seconds, you have ordered half a case of the wine. Three days later it shows up at your doorstep.
Ten years ago, this would have been an “in the future” scenario. But it’s exactly what Steve and I did a few weeks ago while eating at a restaurant called The Gorbals. The app is called Delectable and it works like magic. Even though Steve and I both work in tech, we still find ourselves awestruck at times at how amazing technology can be.
We were also awestruck by some of the food we had that night, including a dish of crispy broccoli, doused in an umami-rich vinaigrette. I immediately identified that it was made with black vinegar, also known as Chinkiang vinegar. It’s a Chinese vinegar made by adding acetic acid and bacteria to glutinous rice, but also to wheat, millet, or sorghum. It’s deep and soulful, with a light smokiness, a strong malt flavor, and a very distant hint of sugar.
The very next day, I bought some broccoli and tried to recreate the recipe. I am pretty sure that they deep fried their broccoli but I was able to get pretty similar results by roasting it at a high temperature in the oven. The result is an addictive combination of sweet, salty, and sour. Make a lot. You will eat it.
And while we’re at it, can someone create a device, which I can point at a cooked dish and it figures out the exact recipe with which it was made? In the future, I guess…
Crispy Broccoli with Black Vinegar
1 lb (480 g) broccoli florets
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons black vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 425º F. Place the broccoli florets in a large bowl and add salt and pepper. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil and with your hands toss the florets well. Place in a large baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the tips of the florets are very dark brown.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and 1 tablespoon oil. When broccoli is done, place it in a large serving bowl and pour the dressing over it. Gently toss it in the bowl to get it dressed. Serve immediately.