I always savour the moment when I first get off a plane, when I smell the air of a new country. Because every country smells different. I know, it will be a while before any of us are indulging in that sort of olfactory pleasure, but it is possible to get a little taste of farther shores with some of the meal kits that are available.
Every year, more than a million Koreans head to the Seomjin river in Jeolla province for the cherry blossom festival, which heralds the arrival of spring. The festival was cancelled this year but a postcard with a blaze of pink blossoms contrasting with the blue river water gives me a glimpse of what it is like. This is exactly what Gunmoo Kim had in mind when he developed his Jaru meal kits.
Gunmoo met his wife, Jungnam Alice Park, when he moved to Ireland, without a word of English, in 2010. Working for two years in Kimchi on Parnell Street, he later completed a masters in food production in DIT, worked in Danji, a Korean Michelin one-star restaurant in New York, set up a street food vendor business, and launched his own brand of Jaru kimchi. He was just about to sign a lease for a restaurant on Clanbrassil Street when the pandemic hit.
He quickly came up with the idea of using his production kitchen to develop an online food business and launched the Monthly Jaru meal kit, which is inspired by the culture and food of different regions of Korea. The Seomjin river kit features the seasonal ingredients associated with the cherry blossom festival: plum, wild sesame, chrysanthemum and courgette, and also brings in ingredients from Ireland such as wild garlic, baby kale and locally grown shiitake mushrooms. This encapsulates Gunmoo’s approach – Korean food using Irish seasonal ingredients.
The plaice and chrysanthemum broth, which just needs gentle heating in a microwave, is delicate and restrained. Flavours are clean, with clams, seaweed, daikon and celery mixing with the plaice and chrysanthemum greens. It’s not as spicy as I’d expect a Korean soup to be, it’s more Japanese. I imagine this is the style of the region.
The main course is a minimal amount of work. For the bulgogi, thin slices of marinated rib-eye beef are cooked for a couple of minutes in a frying pan or wok, prepared vegetables are added and warmed through for a minute, so that they stay crunchy. And that’s it. All of this is brought to the table with the squash and courgette sticky rice that has been reheated, and a few small tasty sides.
Enoki mushrooms with thin matchsticks of apple and chives add a crunch. Kimchi, made from radish, cabbage and cucumber, adds a little bit of spice. Airy cubes of spongy tofu get an aromatic touch in a plum and soy sauce with wild garlic and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Potato salad with Kewpie mayo has tiny bits of bacon and kale. The flavours and textures are varied, and this all makes for very pleasant, easy eating.
Strawberries are sliced into thin rounds and arranged around the top of the cheesecake for dessert. With cream cheese, vanilla and candied walnut, it is quite sweet, so the slight ping of yuzu in the dessert is welcome.
The April menu for Monthly Jaru offers a taste of another corner of the country. It is inspired by Incheon, the third most populated city in Korea, which is home to a large number of Chinese people. As a result, a particular style of Korean-Chinese food has evolved here. It is hugely popular in Korea, with 40,000-50,000 Korean-Chinese restaurants around the country, and also has its fans in the United States, notably at Chiko restaurant in Washington DC. It will make a nice little virtual escape until we have a chance to pack our bags in real life.
Dinner for two was €50 plus €2.95 delivery.
Where does it come from: Jaru, 3A Nutgrove Enterprise Park, Dublin 14; jaru.ie/mart
The verdict: 8/10 A tasty escape to another culture.
Difficulty factor: Very little work or washing up is involved.
Food provenance: Seasonal Irish and Korean produce.
Vegetarian options: Available on the takeaway menu.
Delivery: Wednesday-Saturday, Dublin and Wicklow, plans for national delivery; collection Friday and Saturday.
Three to try
Dublin 2; click and collect, 3km delivery Deliveroo, Wednesday to Sunday; chezmax.ie
Soupe a l'oignon, bœuf Bourguignon and duck confit are among the popular dishes available on the Chez Max at-home menu. There are also charcuterie boards, lunch and dinner menus, and the newest addition is a crêpes galette Bretonne menu of savoury and sweet dessert crêpes.
Dublin 14; phone and collect, Tuesday to Sunday, anandarestaurant.ie
The €26 early bird on the Ananda at-home menu is available Monday to Thursday, offering their Old Delhi chaat platter or a kebab selection for starters, and chicken korma, rogan josh, prawn curry and Khumani kofta for main course. A la carte, a €70 tasting menu for two, and €13.50 kids meal are also available.
Dublin 2; click and collect, daily; collection Greystones and Dundalk Saturday; delivery Dublin Friday and Saturday; bigfan.ie
Get your bao bun fix with one of these meal kits, ranging from €50 for the pork or tofu and edamame vegan kit, to €55 for a mixed kit. Kits are for two people and contain six bao buns, Andarl Farm pork or veg patties, pickles, spicy corn ribs, wonton crackers, kimchi, two teas and two desserts.