Spring Roll: Barbacoa and Ramp Kimchi Aioli on a Three Foot Sub

by Charlottesville29

A three foot sub of barbacoa and ramp kimchi aioli?

The idea sprung from Spring, an inspiring time of year, when gardens and farms burst with flavors and the promise of the year ahead. Two traditional ingredients of Spring are lamb and ramps, and our inspiration was to join them on a sandwich for a springtime gathering with friends.

The lamb was barbacoa from Carnicería Vale Meat Truck. Barbacoa means “barbecue” in Spanish, and just as the English word has come to mean different things to different people, “barbacoa” has varied connotations as well. Ours was one of barbacoa’s most traditional forms, a whole lamb cooked overnight in a pit in the ground.  Samuel Bernardo, who sets up his meat truck on weekends on Bitternut Lane, learned to make barbacoa from his father, while growing up in Puebla, Mexico. He has been making it himself since he was sixteen years old.

The ramps were in kimchi form, from Sussex Farm. For more than a decade, Jen Naylor has lived on an Esmont farm with her husband John, where they grow seasonal produce, and raise chickens, turkeys, ducks, and quail. Naylor is a passionate and talented cook, with a particular fondness for the cuisine of her native Korea. Under the label Sussex Farm, she sells kimchi, sauces, dressings, and other creations — formerly at farmers’ markets, and now out of Umma’s, the restaurant she opened in 2022 with her daughter and daughter’s partner.

While all of her food is delicious (Jean-Georges calls it “amazing”), ramp kimchi is a springtime release for which regulars wait all year. What began as a request from chef Ian Redshaw has grown so popular that Naylor now buys as many as 14,000 ramps each spring. Unlike many of the ingredients she uses for her cooking, she does not grow the ramps herself, as they can take years to cultivate. In lieu of growing them, you usually have to find a source, and Naylor is thrilled with hers, as the ramps resemble the beautiful ones she remembers from Korea. No, the grandfather-granddaughter team who forages them for her won’t tell you where in the mountains they find them.

She makes kimchi from the ramps using the traditional Korean method she learned from her mother. Part of its appeal is that unlike many vegetables used for kimchi, ramps are so assertive. The earthy and garlicky notes of the ramps join the sweetness, sourness, heat, and umami of the marinade, to yield a new flavor unlike any other kimchi.

While there are many uses for it, ramp kimchi has a special history with sandwiches, even propelling one to the 2016 Dish of the Year. Naylor herself likes to start the day with a fried egg and ramp kimchi on an English muffin. For our sandwich, we made a ramp kimchi aioli. Chopped finely and blended with mayo, the kimchi made a salty, spicy, tangy, umami-rich spread to lather on a three-foot-long roll. Pile atop Bernardo’s tender smoky lamb, and what more do you need?

Board on loan from The Catering Outfit.

And, since it was Spring, there were of course strawberries. Ours were in the form of a strawberry and pistachio tart from Cou Cou Rachou.

A beautiful spring evening.