@jackalopeatl is a pop-up owned by Chef Dave Mouche, a veteran of the restaurant industry and well versed in Asian cuisine. Like its namesake, Jackalope ATL is an amalgam of different food cultures presented in creative and playful ways. For Mouche, the main goal of Jackalope ATL is to share uncommon and lesser known dishes and flavors in a relatable and delicious format.
Chef Mouche’s featured dish is Thịt Kho and Grits. Thịt Kho is traditionally a Vietnamese dish eaten around the Lunar New Year, although a form of Thịt Kho exists in the cuisine of most Southeast Asian countries. At its core, the dish consists of pork belly and hard boiled eggs braised in a sweet, coconut fish sauce. Mouche specifically uses the Puerto Rican soda Coco Rico for the braising liquid – a tip he learned while cooking at a Vietnamese restaurant. The high sugar content of the soda provides a necessary sweetness to the dish that is delicious, but also requires balance.
Grits reiterate the underlying feeling of this comforting, homey dish through an American lens while also providing balance to the sweet braising liquid. Mouche doesn’t shy away from the butter, which brings richness to the plate. The sweetness of the pork belly and fullness of the grits ask for fresh and acidic contrast, and Mouche adds this through the incorporation of black vinegar, pickled red onions, green bird’s eye chilis and fresh herbs. “Herbs are a huge component in Vietnamese dishes so I added cilantro, mint and shiso and, for a crunchy component, fried shallot,” says Mouche.
Chef Mouche’s version of Thịt Kho also utilizes ingredients that may otherwise go to waste. Egg whites in Jackalope’s cocktails leave a surplus of yolks, and Mouche decided to replace the traditional hard boiled eggs with salt cured yolks grated on top of the grits. The method of salt curing yolks originated in China, andChef Mouche’s use of the technique for this Vietnamese speciality adds a depth of umami flavor that pairs perfectly with the sauce.
Although this dish has deep Southeast Asian roots, Chef Mouche notes that, on its own, Thịt Kho has a singular note and is usually balanced by the addition of other traditional dishes. Mouche wanted to cultivate that balance within one plate. At the same time, he wanted to showcase non-traditional techniques. “It’s important to me that the dish maintains the aspects that define it, but I also want to showcase the flavors and method of preparations differently from the authentic version.” Mouche’s iteration of Thịt Kho really builds a “bridge to what is known and what is unknown in our collective understanding of food.”
Punk Foodie offers this weekly column about Punk Food, a moniker for a cuisine without defining or distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes and it is born out of the increasing infusion of the diverse cultures and experiences that live in our city. Go deeper via Punk Foodie’s weekly guides and pop-up calendar.