On a gorgeous, go-out-to-a-park kind of day, I hung out with Kristi Brown-Wokoma, Chef Goddess for That Brown Girl Cooks (TBGC). We talked about the upcoming 10th anniversary of her fish fry, her black-eyed pea hummus, and social justice issues, with a side of laughter.
You all need to meet her and try her amazing food! She’ll be at Zinnia Bistro on September 1st and 2nd for the pop-up restaurant FRIED, serving up her fish fry and the infamous black-eyed pea hummus, where you will “experience frying, the art form.”
Kristi Brown-Wokoma: This year we’re like, “What could we do differently?” ‘cause I was thinking about not doing it this year. Usually we do it in the earliest part of the summer, so this year it’s a pop up restaurant, and take the same [fish fry] theme and do it a lot differently. I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.
JT: Do you have any advice for people afraid of frying at home?
KBW: The whole thing is that you’ve gotta be okay with hot. [Laughs] You’ve gotta be okay with the heat part of the deal. Because if you’re not, you shouldn’t even attempt it, ‘cause you can’t slow fry. Then it’s not fried – it’s pan fried.
You’ve gotta shake off whatever you’re frying. I know a lot of people are concerned that, “Oh, if I shake it all off, there’s not gonna be any flavor.” And I’m like, “Well, you have to flavor each component,” so that’s really important. You do the flour, and the protein or vegetable you’re frying – you’ve got to season both.
JT: What would be a good first dish to try frying?
KBW: I honestly think chicken’s okay. The thing about fish is that it takes confidence because it’s gonna take a shorter amount of time. So you gotta be willing to let it do its thing and get crispy, turn it, and then really be ready to pull it out.
And a lot of people they’ll keep poking at it. So don’t poke at anything fried. You’ll get a bad experience if you do that, because if you poke the chicken, the moisture’s gonna come out, and that’s the whole point of frying is that you’re trying to seal the moisture inside of the thing that you’re frying. Nobody wants to fry something that’s crispy on the outside and on the inside.
This is my whole process. I marinate the chicken, I let it sit for as long as I can, season the flour, and then turn up the heat. Heat the oil up, then put whatever you’re frying through dredging and shake it off, you can even do it twice, but you still just have to shake off all of the residual flour, and then start on one side and let it brown – and don’t touch it. You’ll be able to see the brown, you’re gonna smell the brown, you’re gonna see the brown. Then you turn it over.
If you’re doing it at home and you don’t have a deep fryer, I wouldn’t suggest deep frying. If you have a cast iron skillet that’s four inches tall, you’re going to use 2” or 1.5” of oil, and you’re still gonna get the same effect. It’s just a bit of a slower process.
JT: What should I pair your black-eyed pea hummus with?
KBW: Vegetables are the greatest thing with it. You can definitely put it on sandwiches – that’s the most common use for it, as a replacement for mayonnaise. Somebody told me that they put it in their baked potato. I’ve done it in spring rolls, so you don’t have to have dipping sauce.
JT: So what are you doing now?
KBW: I’m making hummus. We’re about to start a “Give the Hummus to the People” campaign. My first goal is to have 3-5 places selling hummus by the end of next week. I’m excited about that.
I’m having discussions in communities and doing work around food justice and helping people understand how to prepare good food, but also where to get it, how to afford it when you feed a family. If you’re low income and your child is gluten free, what are you supposed to do about that?
I really enjoyed being part of the Seattle Chefs Collaborative because they have all these conversations about these things and rarely are there people of color. And the other thing this I think there’s something to be said for being of color and being a mother. If you don’t teach the mothers how to do this thing, then we’re all shot.
Photo credits: Kristi Brown-Wokoma