Monday, October 30, 2006

Dragon fruit

We tried an interesting fruit yesterday. The Chinese name is huo long guo, which mean fire dragon fruit. I think the English name is just dragon fruit. Apparently they're a hot item in China nowadays. Anyway, my mom got one in Chinatown Philadelphia -- they were $5 a pound -- which means this 2-pounder was $10!! It was quite tasty though, kinda like kiwi fruit, and very pretty.

Hong song chicken

So here's another complex knockout dish of my mom's. You start out with seasoned ground pork and chicken thigh meat with the skin still on. You pound the ground pork into the non-skin side of the chicken, until they're melded together into a flat filet. Next you pan-fry the meat. After frying, slice into 1-inch pieces. Arrange on a dish with ginger, and a sauce (probably wine, a little soy maybe). Steam the whole thing for I don't know how long, but generally the longer you steam things the better... Serve with green vegetables. The combination of the pork on one side and the chicken skin on the other keeps the chicken itself moist and flavorful. The melding of the meat is interesting too -- if you didn't know what it was, it'd take you a while to figure out exactly what type of meat you were eating. When we were kids, my brother used to imagine it was dragon meat.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Favorite Girl Scout Cookies?

I just got my Girl Scout cookies today at work. Here is a poll for our readers/contributors: what is your favorite girl scout cookie?
I used to be a thin mints person, but as I've aged- samoas are my favorite.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Vietnam Restaurant in Philadelphia

Went to the Vietnam Restaurant on 211 N. 11th St. in Philadelphia's Chinatown (not to be confused with the Vietnam Palace Restaurant across the street) last night before a show. It's one of the favorite places of my friend Andy in NYC.

He recommended the spring rolls which were tasty - great skin and a very flavorful filling of pork. I wish the sweet sauce they gave us could have been spicede up a little more like I do at other Vietnamese places.

We also got an appetizer consisting of raw (yes RAW) beef in lime juice with peanuts and basil. This is the favorite dish of one of my cousins in California, but it is hard to find in it's true "raw" form because of meat quality reasons as well as the fact that it is a raw beef dish. The waiter even cautioned us on our order, but we knew what we were getting into. It's a lot like ceviche- delicious.
I also had the Special Pho- Fougoo said she still preferred the Pho at the Vietnamese Train place because it had a larger portion of tendon. I thought the broth at Vietnam was a little more salty than at the train restaurant.
I also like to dump out some hoisin and sriracha to dip my pho meat in, and Vietnam didn't distribute small dishes for my sauces like at the train place.

Cheesesteaks at Abner's

We've covered many Philadelphia cheese steak joints at this blog. The other night Fougoo and I were up in Philly, and we decided to go to Abner's near UPenn and Drexel.
The restaurant is above a "Gentleman's Club" which will accept delivery from the cheesesteak place- how awesome is that? Boobs and hoagies!
Oh yeah, you can also get 40's at this place- even more awesome.
Anyways, the cheesesteak was pretty damn good. I had it with onions, mushrooms, and of course, the WHIZ!
One thing unique to Abner's is that you can get waffle fries smothered with warm Cheez Whiz. Plaque formingly delicious.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Top Chef, second season

I hate to spend too much time in the surreal world of reality TV, but we must take notice: Top Chef season 2 premiered tonight. Watching Harold (the Top Chef from Season 1) in action as the first guest chef suggested that this season's talent seems a little... underseasoned? Harold displayed confidence, charm, and a general respect for the food, and only a couple of the chefs (Elia and Ilan notably) really impressed me with their style and attitude. However, you can't really taste through television (yet!), so maybe Lee Anne's recreation of the recipes on the website will add some smell-o-vision to the show... when does that get posted, Bravo?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fall Cooking

I like fall -- the house gets all warm and cozy when you cook and bake. Tonight we made a venison roast, marinated in red wine and garlic, wrapped with bacon and grilled over a slow flame. We baked acorn squash with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and N. made brownies for dessert.

His brownies have spoiled me for any other -- his secret blend of espresso, liquor, and bittersweet chocolate. Mmmmm... it was a perfect swine, wine, and butter meal!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Woo Chon Korean BBQ in Manhattan

Saturday night, my cousins and I met up at my favorite Korean Barbeque place in New York City, Woo Chon.
I discovered this place with my friend Andy, who was recommended this place by Macarthur Fellowship winner John Zorn.
I recall we went late at night as this place is open 24 hours, and I tasted some of the best Korean BBQ ever. It is also unique in that the the place switches grills from meat to meat.
As is standard, we received a large variety of appetizer and side dishes with our meal. This includes the usual Kim Chee and vegetables, but we also had a spiced raw crab, little egg covered fish nuggets, and a steamed egg dish. We also ordered the Jauyuk Kimchi with Tofu appetizer which consisted of pork stir fried with kimchee with a block of tofu.
The first meat we had was the premium beef tongue. This was some really amazing tongue I have to admit- really fatty and sliced very thin. You dip this in a sauce made of salt, pepper and sesame oil. One of my cousins at first was worried about trying tongue, but when she had this, she was an instant convert.
This is a shot of the Teuk Galbi, marinated beef rib made of premium Angus beef. I like to wrap these is lettuce with some of the spicy bean paste.

The ultimate meat to our BBQ experience was the Yang Bulgogi aka marinated lamb. Notice the trough on this cooking plate. It's used to catch the drippings from the cooked lamb which you then apply on some rice. Fantastic. The meat is also so sweet. Probably the best lamb I've ever eaten.

Woo Chon

8-10 W. 36th Street (Cross Street: Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.)
New York, NY 10018
(212) 695-0676

Doughnut Plant in Manhattan

After seeing Throwdown with Bobby Flay with doughnut master Mark Isreal, I was inspired to visit his Doughnut Plant when I was up in New York.
Pretty damn good donuts. I tried the Tres Leches, with 3 kinds of sweet milk injected into it, a Coconut yeast donut, and the Raspberry cake donut (below).
The only other time I have been as amazed with doughnuts is when I had donuts from Voodoo Doughnut in Portland. I had the dirt donut (with oreo cookie) and a Tang donut from there a few years ago, and I was a little afraid of the Nyquil-Pepto-bismol glazed.

The Doughnut Plant

379 Grand St (Cross Street: Norfolk Street)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 505-3700

Voodoo Doughnut
22 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204-2713
(503) 241-4704

Friday, October 06, 2006

John & Kira's Chocolates

So the story behind these chocolates is that they're made from fresh cream and all sustainably grown, natural ingredients with no artificial flavors or preservatives. They brew the coffee and tea, cook the fruit, and steep the mint that flavors their chocolate. Many of the ingredients come from local farms and inner city school gardens and a percentage of their proceeds go back to community non-profits. The flavors picked out for this goodie box courtesy of Princeton University were (clockwise from top left): Bergamot with Earl Grey tea and orange flower water; Lingering Lemongrass; Lavender Honey; and Coffee Whiskey.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Japanese Curry Mix

I love this stuff - Japanese-style curry is thicker, richer and sweeter than Indian or SE Asian. You can buy a brick of solidified curry for just a few bucks enough sauce for a big pot of curry. Here I've made it with potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, mushrooms and duck -- yum!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mexican Cooking Class #2

I'm taking a 5-week Mexican cooking class at the Princeton Adult School. Our teachers Lucila from Oaxaca and Rogelio from Puebla are assisted by Anna, who basically translates for them and estimates their non-measurements for us amateurs who need them. First class involved making hand-pressed tortillas from masa and learning a variety of salsas. One salsa verde that Lucila pounded in the mortar and pestle kicked our asses -- the seeds must really get pulverized that way, far more than by blender.
This week Lucila had the salsas all ready for us to dress a variety of antojitos (Mexican snacks). Pictured left are flautas con papas (potatoes) y cilantro, taught to us by Rogelio. Mash potatoes with cilantro, salt, and pepper. Roll in a tortilla, tie shut with a strip of corn husk and deep-fry until golden. Dressed with crema, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and queso fresco -- so good! Rogelio also showed us how to make pork tacos with enchilada sauce -- slice thin, marinate first in water and vinegar, then in the enchilada sauce overnight, cook it up, chop into small pieces, fill your taco with pork, onions, cilantro -- simple and perfect.

Lucila's two dishes were sopes (smaller thicker corn tortillas with a lip) covered with refried beans and shredded chicken -- baked a few minutes then topped with the requisite crema, queso and lettuce; and quesadillas de Oaxaca (pictured above). These were unlike any quesadillas I've ever had. They were more like empanadas. The dough used masa mixed with a bit of wheat flour. She made 2 fillings: shredded beef or shredded chicken cooked with diced potatoes, tomatoes, onion, garlic and cilantro. She put the filling and queso oaxaquena (a string cheese) into the dough, then deep-fried. To serve, Lucila sliced open the quesadilla and stuffed with queso fresco and lettuce -- oh my god, so good...

Pho in Chinatown Philly

My cellphone photos suck, but this place has wonderful pho and is so cheap you won't believe it. First off the pho comes in two sizes -- Large for $4.99 and Extra Large (which could feed a family of 4) for $6.50. I got mine with beef and tendon. N. got his with beef and "frank brisket." Paper thin slices of rare beef float on top of the flavorful broth (I always think I catch a hint of cinnamon). The noodles soak up all of the rich flavor. My bowl was loaded with tendon cooked so tender it just melts in your mouth. I think the texture of tendon appeals to me in the same way that soft-boiled egg yolk or avocado does -- it's a dense rich softness. I don't know what Xe Lua means in Vietnamese, but the Chinese name of this place is Huo Ce Tou which means Train Engine -- so I always find the place by the neon sign.

Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai Restaurant
907 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 627-8883