New Oakland Deli guarantees recent, inexpensive Korean farm meals

Joodooboo’s banchans are made from local and seasonal ingredients. Photo credit: Allan Wan

Creating delicious, nutritious food with fresh produce and bringing the community together while eating: These are the values ​​that drive Joodooboo, Steve Joo’s new deli / café company in Oakland.

Joodooboo, which is slated to open in October, offers homemade organic tofu and banchan daily, the side dishes to traditional Korean dishes. The deli offers banchan dishes like marinated sun gold tomatoes, toasted okra, roasted beets, anchovies with braised beet greens and doenjang, Korean soybean paste, and marinated roasted eggplant with spiced cucumber.

Joo is a name familiar to local restaurant diners. He co-founded the Oakland-based California-Korean pop-up Nokni, which was a hugely popular hit. Efforts to make this business a permanent business have been hampered by the pandemic, and Joodooboo is its linchpin, a small, casual place focused on affordable meals that are well prepared.

For example, there is a Banchan subscription that allows member customers to pay around $ 10 a week to access a weekly Banchan special and get a discount on other items in the store. (Joo believes members can also achieve sustainability goals with reusable containers for each meal.) It’s a program he thinks about the “cost of living burden on the majority of people who pay more than 40 to 50 percent of their income.” puts rent on the market. ”

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The deli will always have takeaway containers of banchan and fresh tofu for sale and will offer daily menus. Meals will likely consist of a bowl of rice, a protein like fish, and banchan. Guests can grab these take-away or indoor meals from one of the deli’s four tables (no outdoor seating is planned for the time being).

Lovers of Joo’s work at Nokni will also recognize Joodooboo’s emphasis on beautiful, farm-fresh ingredients in Korean preparations. The Banchan dishes are made with vegetables from local farms such as Dirty Girl Produce, River Dog Farm, Lucero Organic Farm, Full Belly Farm and the farmers markets in Berkeley, Marin and Oakland. The deli will also have a fermentation room, where it makes the restaurant’s kimchi varieties, a year-round Napa cabbage version, and a seasonal offer or two. Other canned foods include dishes such as jangajji, an unfermented Korean cucumber marinated with soy.

Many Joodooboo offerings are years in the making. In 2014, Joo spent a year traveling around Korea learning about Korean cuisine. He once found a maker of “remarkably good” tofu with whom he learned how to make joodoo bos. The plan, Joo said, is to use a special tofu machine from Korea and organic soybeans from Minnesota to make fresh tofu for Joodooboo every day.

Steve Joo learned to make Joodooboos tofu while traveling in Korea. Photo credit: Allan Wan

There may be other iterations of tofu in the future. Joo described something he called “Tofu California” – a tofu-based ricotta substitute that he plans to produce – as well as the option of flavored varieties such as mugwort or black sesame.

Joo was passionate about food and cooking and said that he was “always a good eater. I dated cousins ​​of mine who were good cooks when I was in high school. I was enchanted by the role of food in humanizing people, how magical it was, how the tone of conversation changed when people enjoyed good food together. ”

He studied economics and religion in college and even considered going to the ministry. By the end of college, he realized that he wanted to bring his love of cooking to a community he could belong to. Joo worked in highly regarded restaurants including Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and the longtime (now defunct) Napa Valley Restaurant Terra before starting Nokni with Julya Shin, another Chez Panisse alum.

Returning to his early days of cooking, Joo said the COVID-19 crisis crystallized his belief that a food company must serve the community around him. During the pandemic, he joined a number of fellow cooks who spent time on staffed farms that were employed by farmers who knew many cooks needed work during the restaurant shutdown. Joo’s friend Annabel Lenderink from Star Route Farms hired cooks to help with the plants and prepare lunch for the staff.

This experience helped Joo plan Joodooboo – the focus on tofu and banchan and the desire to “feed and feed people in a direct and personal way” while paying well and using the best ingredients. Ideally. Joo says that people who aren’t necessarily into Korean food can enjoy some “fresh and new flavors”. And “for people with common reference points” and more familiarity with Korean dishes, Joodooboo offers “a new take on what people know” at a price that is accessible to different budgets.

Joodooboo opens in October. 4201 Market St. (near 42nd Street), Oakland

Joodooboo’s pickles and kimchi are made in a special fermentation room. Photo credit: Allan Wan

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