Is kiwicha the new quinoa?
According to Miami chef Jeremiah Bullfrog — founder of Wynwood's GastroPod Mobile Gourmet and the long-running culinary event series P.I.G. and Duck, Duck, Goose — the answer is yes. For him, the ancient grain is one of the most underrated superfoods around.
It's so good the food truck pioneer has designed a fast-casual concept based on it, one he's dubbed simply Kiwicha. "It's one of the most versatile foods I've ever worked with," Bullfrog says. "Plus, it's good for you and delicious."
Sadly, Miamians won't be the first to get a taste of his Kiwicha. Right now, Bullfrog is on the West Coast, where he's spent the past several months researching and developing the Kiwicha menu. Currently based in Los Angeles, he's preparing for the pop-up's official December 18 launch at Smorgasburg LA, the city's outdoor marketplace that offers more than 50 vendors, fashioned after the popular Williamsburg Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.
Plans are to bring the concept to Miami next year. In the meantime, Bullfrog says he'll be using the Los Angeles market to refine the Kiwicha experience.
"In Miami, people either do the healthy thing or ignore it. Here [in California], it's everywhere," he says. "So before I bring Kiwicha back home, I thought it best to test the waters where it's an everyday thing to grab something superhealthy."
Despite what it sounds like, kiwicha won't involve the use of kiwi. It's actually the Peruvian name for an ancient superfood also known as amaranth, which Bullfrog says presents a new approach to quick, simple, healthful eating.
The idea for Kiwicha was a lightbulb moment, he says. A friend and fellow chef made a dessert with the grain's seeds and used the lesser-known name "kiwicha" to describe the ingredient on the menu. It didn't take long before Bullfrog began experimenting with ways to cook the amaranth grain and incorporate it into various dishes.
"What I really love is that every part of the entire plant can be eaten, everything from seed to stem," he says. "The possibilities for using it are endless, and it's the perfect food for people who appreciate organic, local, sustainable ingredients and people with alternative dietary needs."
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Bullfrog uses the kiwicha in a multitude of ways. Cooked into a thick porridge, it's a base for bowls, veggie burgers, or served on its own with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Combine it with wheat and flour and it creates a leavened bread that doesn't elevate blood glucose the way rice and wheat flour alone raise it. Spread it thin and let it dry to make flatbreads or crackers. He's even "popped" the seeds to make a crunchy topping or snack, juiced the flowers, and boiled the leaves for a calcium-rich supplement similar to spinach.
Expect the Kiwicha menu to be a "veg overload" with a buffet-like lineup of mix-and-match ingredients that incorporate a number of flavor profiles that can be used to create variations on sandwiches, cafeteria-style lunch trays, and a burrito-like wrap Bullfrog has named the "kiwichurrito."
Every menu selection will include the signature Kiwicha seven-grain blend that includes tricolor quinoa, barley, sorghum, and amaranth cooked in dashi. A Kiwicha shake will offer texture, what the chef describes as a "crack-like" blend of crunchy, healthy stuff.
"Who better than a fat, bearded chef to change the way people are eating and thinking about healthy, clean food?" Bullfrog says.