“Asian stoner food” were the words the ingenious chef Mickey Neely used to describe the food of SuperHai.
That would be the mild-mannered couple who disguise their secret identities as, respectively: graphic designer/bartender Jane Shang, and knife sharpener/restorer Jordan Ross. “I’m the Asian, he’s the stoner,” cracks Shang.
But on Wednesday nights they pop up at Ludlow Liquors, fighting crimes against deliciousness with an ever-changing menu of Asian and (occasionally Jewish) comfort foods. They each have black belts in yōshoku, the sacred Meiji Restoration-era art of westernized Japanese food.
They’ve been faithfully protecting the good bargoers of Avondale for nearly a year now, but I’ve lit a signal in the sky above The Kedzie Inn, and this Monday, July 25, SuperHai will swoop into Irving Park for the next Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s ongoing weekly chef pop-up series.
SuperHai arose out of pandemic furloughs to meet a need for quality Asian-style convenience store food. Yes, you can grab your smokes and lottery tickets and eat really well in corner shops all over Asia, particularly in Japanese konbini, where the tightly packed pyramidal onigiri are soft and fresh 24-7.
Shang, who’s snacked her way all over east Asia, discovered the closely held rice ball trade secret in a single paragraph in a cookbook from Mitsuwa Marketplace. The trick is to soak the rice with baking soda, almost overcooking it, spreading it over sheet trays while murmuring a powerful, ancient incantation—and only then pressing it into form. They’ll employ this process for spicy salmon onigiri with roasted tea chili oil, along with their signature Japanese golden curry fries with bacon and Kewpie mayo; plus butter mochi, and goma ae, chilled sesame green beans.
But the centerpieces of this SuperHai menu are, one (1): the chicken yakitori flight, tasty bird bits skewered and grilled over live coals by Ross, who, in a former life was a butcher at Publican Quality Meats. That’ll be chicken thighs, chicken meatballs, and chicken hearts, which are—have courage now—”really a gateway offal,” says Ross, who first started cooking as a kid in the erstwhile, French-Japanese, fine dining Yoshi’s Cafe, where the late, great chef Yoshi Katsumura was a close family friend.
Next there’s SuperHai’s reassuring ochazuke, a lush piece of smoked salmon, braised mushrooms, and caramelized baby corn, piled atop soft rice and drenched in an alchemical conjunction of dashi and that same roasty, triple-smoked Big Red Robe tea—provided by Annie Xiang of Volition Tea.
You remember Xiang, importer of exquisite, sustainable, single-origin, loose leaf Chinese teas. She’ll be there too, pouring a selection of cold-brewed tea mocktails, and for your very own home brewing epiphany, she’ll be selling whole cans of the marvelous leaves. Plus, Jon Pokorny got ahold of her recipe for The Caffeine Junkie, featuring Volition’s Girl Village Raw Pu’er tea, tonic water, and gin, which he’ll be pouring behind the bar.
No preorders for this one, old chums. Get SuperHai, first come, first served starting at 5 PM at 4100 N. Kedzie, this Monday, July 25.
Meantime, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, peep the ongoing Monday Night Foodball schedule:
8/1: Keralan food from Thommy Padanilam of Thommy’s Toddy Shop
8/8: Indonesian home cooking with Waroeng and friends
8/15: Dylan Maysick of Diaspora Dinners
8/22: Vargo Brother Ferments
8/29: the triumphant return of Funeral Potatoes
9/5: Labor Day break
9/12: The Melanin Martha returns
9/19: Global Asian barbecue with Umamicue and friends