Jaru's Meal Kit
A Korean hot pot to warm up a winter evening
What’s the story?
Although restaurants are technically still open, a lot of you seem to be side-stepping the early dinners, and we've been inundated with questions about where to get restaurant meal kits over the next few weeks, until normality hopefully resumes - read more about what's available here.
Korean food producers Jaru started out as a street food stall, but over the last couple of years have morphed into retail, ready-meals, takeaway, and meal kits, all from their Nutgrove production unit in Rathfarnham. Their Dublin-wide delivery service made them a favourite of ours throughout multiple lockdowns, and their heat at home meals, pots of kimchi, and Asian ingredients lit up many a meal round ours in pandemic times.
A few months ago they launched a new monthly meal kit highlighting a different region of Korea, and January's "Jeongol hot pot" looked like a good substitute for your Friday night reservation getting canned. It's a dish that's usually served on New Year's Day, so it felt apt for our first once over of the year.
How do I get it?
Place your order on their website, for delivery on Wednesday or Friday (€6.95 or free over €100), or for collection from Nutgrove at no extra cost. Order cut-off is two days before. It's not hard to get up to €100 and avoid the delivery charge - fill up on noodles, kimchi and sauces from their Mart, or order some extra heat at home dishes for the fridge or freezer.
What's in the kit?
The star of the show here is the hot pot, but you get other sides and dessert too.
The largest component is a huge tray of vegetables - cabbage, pak choi, butternut squash, carrot, pepper, courgette, assorted mushrooms, beansprouts, spring onions, greens - forget 5 a day, you'll easily get 10 in with this one - and there's tofu too.
You also get a very generous amount of beef brisket suyuk (meaning boiled), Venus clams and hake Jeon (Korean style fried fish), as well as a bag of soy beef dashi.
For the non hot pot items, a Winter salad comes with squash, feta, orange slices, pecans and greens, all zippily lifted by a ponzu dressing. As January salad ideas go it's a clever combination now firmly cemented in our brains.
Jaru's kimchi has taken up permanent residence in our fridges over the past few years, and while the apple one with this kit was nice, it didn't have the depth of flavour we've come to expect, as if it hadn't had enough time to ferment - more salty than sour.
Then the main attraction. For maximum show off points you would have a Nabe pot and a portable induction hob to cook in the centre of the table (particularly impressive if you've got guests over), but for us Nabe-less folk any wide bottomed pot will do - ideally cast iron. They tell you to arrange your vegetables, meat and fish in a clockwise direction, but there's so much here that you'll end up having to layer some and shove others in wherever they'll fit.
Then you carefully pour in the broth, bring it to the boil, stick the lid on and let it cook for five minutes. When you lift the lid you'll find it's sunk down a bit, so don't worry about jamming it all in there to start with. They recommend eating at this stage, then when you've had the meat and fish, put the pot back onto the boil (either on the hob or at the table), add the noodles for three minutes, then go back for round two.
We loved every bit of this hot pot - the veg lucky dip, the buttery soft beef, the firm chunks of hake, the flavours in the broth. They also give you four dipping sauces - sesame; soy; honey mustard; and gochujang, which added different flavour profiles to each bite and were integral to the whole experience, so don't forget about them.
You also get a double portion of soy glazed salsify and carrot rice (one between two was plenty), which had a lovely savoury flavour and chewy texture, but it dried out a bit in the microwave. Next time we'd splash some water on top before heating - generally a good rice trick.
For dessert there's a berry, orange and pistachio semifreddo (again a double portion when one between two would probably do most people). We presumed it would be an afterthought and the least interesting part of the meal, but we were wrong. Take it out of the freezer five minutes before you want to eat it, then delve in the fruity, frozen mousse that feels just light enough to squeeze in no matter how much hot pot you've eaten.
The kit says it feeds two - three people, and we comfortably had enough for two very stuffed bellies, with generous leftovers for lunch the following day, and another semifreddo in the freezer for a future evening when dessert is desperately needed.
What should we drink with it?
We had a fruity Italian Friulano which worked well with the variety of flavours. We think a Riesling or an orange wine would also be a good pairing, or you get in some Korean beer if you want to really commit.
And the damage?
€55 for the kit, plus €6.95 for delivery if you don't spend €100. We thought it was really good value for money.
Jaru have been flying the meal kit flag in and out of lockdowns, so they're a great one to know about when you want to plan a night in without the heavy lifting in the kitchen. This kit was seriously enjoyable to make and eat, and there was a welcome bit of theatre - something we could all do with on these dark, January, curfew-filled evenings. This one's available until the end of January and if you want to order for this weekend head here. We don't think you'll regret it.
3A Nutgrove Enterprise Park, Nutgrove Way, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 www.jaru.ie