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foodzings: March 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

There once was a restaurant called Penang

If you've ever been to Chinatown, you've surely passed Penang on 10th. It's the one that doesn't look Asian whatsoever, with an all window front and a very metal-heavy industrial look. It's a Malaysian restaurant. I believe one of maybe 3 Malaysian places in Philly, but definitely the first. It's also a pseudo chain, with one in NYC and Atlanta, and perhaps others. I love this place. I've been to Penang at least half a dozen times. I've been to the one in Atlanta another half a dozen times. The one in Atlanta isn't industrial looking at all. That one is all Japanese tea garden looking. Bizarre, I know. What's funny about it is that not only is the food the same, but the service is the same as well. All the staff have the same way about them.

I typically get the same things every time I go to Penang - mee goreng or the pearl noodles. This time, I decided to not do the usual. I got a watermelon drink, which was quite tasty, but you could tell it wasn't fresh and that it came from a can. Which is fine, because I did not expect it to be fresh. It did taste just like watermelon though and I would definitely get it again.

It was fairly nice out, but in the restaurant it was a bit chilly, so I decided to go with a noodle soup dish and went with the "java mee". It is not exactly a soup. It has thicker egg noodles in a sweet and spicy squid gravy with shrimp, shrimp pancake, potatoes, and a hardboiled egg. And by gravy, they really do mean gravy. It's very thick and strong in flavor. I can't really describe the flavor but it wasn't what I expected at all. And in the end, it was strange, yet I quite liked it.

I'm not an appetizer kind of a person, but C got penang chicken wings and T got the chicken satay. T ordered the poh piah rolls. I've had the satay and the poh piah rolls before and they're both quite good. Also good is the roti canai, which they deem as the "Malaysian all time favorite". N and T both ordered a pearl noodle based dish. I love this so called pearl noodle because it looks like larvae/fish bait. Seriously, but in a really cute way, and totally tasty. It's one of my favorite types of noodles although I've never tried to make it. I'm not sure if you can even buy it, but I suppose Penang has to get it from somewhere.

The Penang menu is quite extensive and there is tons to choose from. There are some thai-esque dishes and indian-esque dishes as well, as Malay cooking has been influenced by many different Asian countries. The dessert menu is not extensive at all, as they have ice cream, fried ice cream, peanut pancake (whatever that is), and ABC. They also had creme brulee that day. T and C ordered the ABC, a very odd volcano looking thing of shaved ice, syrup, red bean, and corn. I didn't try any as I was stuffed, but they loved it. S ordered fried ice cream and it looked awesome.

Penang is also great because it's so damn cheap! You can stuff yourself silly for $10-15. So many entrees are barely over $5. And their drinks are also reasonably priced. There are more expensive dishes, but I've never been inclined to try them. But whatever I've had there, I've thoroughly enjoyed. I know you will too.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Even King Tut loves Korean BBQ

Korean restaurants abound in Philly and the suburbs. Go to the 69th street area in Upper Darby and you can find half a dozen, along with H Mart's food court. Go to North Philly and there's at least a dozen more. Plus there's some in Delaware and Jersey. And in center city there's at least a handful.

They all tend to serve Korean BBQ of some type, along with standard Korean fare. You may even be able to find Korean BBQ at certain Japanes/sushi restaurants. Many sushi joints are run by Koreans, so a few of them serve some of the more palatable Korean dishes, like kalbi. There's even a sushi place around the corner from me in Ardmore where I can get beef or pork Korean bbq.

Korean BBQ in and of itself is a very popular and likeable dish, even for less adventurous people who do not like "ethnic" foods. You might not want to try kimchi or japchae or daenjang, but everyone that has ever had Korean BBQ has liked it. What's not to like? Meat marinated in a nice slightly sweet marinade and grilled. It's fun too.

For the real Korean BBQ experience, you have to go to a place where you can cook it yourself, and where they bring out hot coal/hot wood to cook it on, not a propane grill. After King Tut, my sister-in-law wanted Korean BBQ, so we headed up to Kim's Restaurant in North Philly's famed 5th Street. Ha. Getting to this place can be scary. The area is sketchy. Or as they say in Ireland, it's a bit dodge. It used to be an old diner, and still looks like it. They recently painted it bright yellow and it's even more hideous on the outside than I remember. There's a tiny parking lot with a security guard and security cameras. I told you that the area was sketchy.

Inside also looks like a diner, but with a Korean BBQ Twist. Each table has a "pit" where the coals go for grilling, and there's a vent hood right over it that goes up and down. Does this vent hood serve a function? Yes. But does it function well? Not really. I mean you still stink like Korean BBQ once you're done, and it seeps into your clothes, hair, and pores. You'll be smelling like grilled meat for days, but it's a kind of badge of honor. But the vent does help in making things not be so smoky. But there's no getting around the lingering Korean BBQ smell. I still smell it on my jacket.

We got a 2-person order of the spicy kalbi. Kalbi is the marinated short ribs. Bulgogi is marinated similarly, but it's not short ribs, it's sliced beef. I like the kalbi better. It's actually not nearly as spicy as it sounds, it just adds an even nicer flavor than the regular. We also got a 1-person order of the regular galbi. It was all freakin delicious.

My brother wanted some naengmyun, which is in concept, a very strange dish. It's a cold noodle soup with buckwheat noodles. These noodles are grey, so for alot of people, this is going to be strange. They also include some meat and veggies, a hard boiled egg, and it's all in a cold beef-based broth. You can add some mustard or vinegar for extra flavor. I love it, but it's definitely an acquired taste.

They bring out the hot coals/wood (I'm never sure what they use) with a slotted grilling plate on top. They oil it a bit and then you let it heat up. The meat comes out on big plates and then you cook it yourself. It's really not as much work as you may think it is. You just lay the meat down and when it's cooked, you flip it over. It doesn't really need very much cooking. You'll be chowing down in just a few minutes. They always give you some sliced garlic and peppers that you can cook on the grill as well. I love nearly burnt sliced garlic. Yum! You also get red leaf lettuce whenever you order kalbi. You can use it to make a little lettuce taco by putting some rice and a piece of meat on the inside. You also get some daenjang based paste to put on your little lettuce taco, if you like. Daenjang is made from fermented soybeans. This is one of the stinkiest things you will ever smell. You either like it or you don't. No in betweens. It's definitely not for novices!

Kim's restaurant always gives you a stew made with daenjang and tofu for free. I'm not sure why they do it, but I love getting free food! Korean stews always come out in these little earthenware pots. It has a strong smell, it's hot and steaming, and it's good! But like I said, it's not for everyone. And of course, you get many banchan, the small side dishes, to eat with your entrees. You get a bowl of rice too. The food at Kim's is even good when it's not of the meat variety. This was the first time I'd been here in many many years. The owners have changed since my last visit, but the food still kicks butt. And for cook it yourself Korean BBQ, it's still the tops.

Kim's Restaurant

5955 N. Fifth St.


Philly's French District, representin'

On Sunday we headed into town to see the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute (the next leg in the all weekend birthday extravaganza). Before that, we made a pit stop at La Creperie Cafe in Philadelphia's French district. Yeah, I didn't know we had a French district either. But apparently we do. I think it's half a block long! My Sister-in-law found it in some "what to do in Philly" site. It's a cute little French cafe, and they serve regular French food along with sweet and savory crepes. They also serve brunch on Sundays. We'd eaten lunch already, so we just stopped in to have some dessert crepes.

Yum, they were as good as they look! I had "La Finale", which had Flambé Banana in Rum, Strawberries & Coulis de Chocolat. Yummy, I love cooked bananas! Mon frere and ma soeur went with the "La Chouette" - Strawberries, Crème Fraîche, Sugar & Coulis de Chocolat. And ma mere picked the "Le Fraisier" Strawberries, Sugar, Rum & Whipped Cream. We all loved it! I don't do the cafe/caffeine thing, so I just had a water, but they got a few coffee/mochaccino type things. I think they liked the coffees. We all definitely loved the crepes!

It's not an inexpensive place. With four crepes and three coffees, the bill came out to about $50 in the end. And that was just for dessert. It's certainly not like walking around in Paris and grabbing a crepe from a cart for 2 euros. But we all agreed that it was well worth it! One thing that I do have to critique is their tables. They have these rickety bamboo like tables that really don't seem like they would hold anything. I think for a restaurant, they should have much sturdier tables. But hey France, we do love your crepes!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Feast!

Like I said, we spent most of Saturday preparing for the crazy 60th birthday celebration feast, with very specific food being prepared. Behold the feast table. May I remind you that it was my sister-in-law who researched and came up with our modified table setting. Things are arranged very specifically, with the food being pointed to the head of the table, where my mom was supposed to sit.

There is some fruit of course, stacked high. The whole stacking to the ceiling thing has a point. There is some candied ginger all the way on the left. That's supposed to be there too. The inner two dishes in the front row are very traditional Korean snacks. The green and white one is duk, which is a rice based sticky and chewy snack. The brown one is a sweet. I've had it before when it is fresh. These were found at H Mart and were labelled as being good through 2008. So I wasn't surprised when they tasted rather gross.
Row two you can see the chicken teriyaki skewers I made. We needed a skewered meat. It's obviously not Korean at all, but it's skewered, so it counts! This is an extremely easy dish to make. You take some chicken thighs (not chicken breast, but chicken thighs) and cut them and skewer them onto bamboo skewers that you've pre-soaked. Don't forget this soaking part or they'll burn. You then broil the chicken so that it's somewhat cooked, then you baste them with some store bought teriyaki sauce (the thick kind, not the thin kind) and then cook some more. Baste them on both sides and don't forget to flip them. Then you're done!
Also on row two are a few pancake type dishes. They're not like Aunt Jemima pancakes, but Korean style pancakes. You don't pour maple syrup on them and eat them for breakfast. They just happen to be cooked in a pan by pouring a batter into it and then flipping. So it constitutes a pancake. We had a fish pancake, a veggie pancake, and something we affectionately refer to as crabbie patties. It's made from imitation crab meat. It's delicious! There's also some more kimchi (of course) and some more banchan (small dishes).
My SIL made some sukiyaki. Sukiyaki isn't Korean either, but we needed some type of entree and she's good at making it. Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish, with some veggies, meat, and tofu, and lots of liquid, that you pour over some clear noodles. Different people use different noodles, but we usually pick the dried clear kind that you cook. I've never had sukiyaki with shirataki noodles or udon noodles. But I think the clear ones take some getting used to.

The piece de resistance had to be the Hwachae, or fruit soup, that my SIL had to make. I believe this was something special specific for the 60. This dish literally included a dozen different fresh fruits, and also included some sake. Yeah. It basically ended up tasting like a runny fruit salad that had a slightly flower-y flavor to it. I liked it. But I love fruit, so it wasn't surprising. You were supposed to garnish it with pine nuts and mint leaves. I passed on that as I do not like pine nuts nor do I like to bite into mint chunks. It was a really fun dinner to make and my mom really appreciated it, but I'm rather glad I'll never have to do it again! I can just wait for my 60th birthday and make people prepare my feast!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Preparing for the "Feast"

So we spent much of the day on Saturday preparing for this special 60th birthday meal (known as Weigapyun) that we were going to prepare. When done "the right way" there's very specific things you must eat. Because we were half-assing it, my sister-in-law came up with a modified Weigapyun. She even made a powerpoint out of it, with little cropped pictures and descriptions and references. It was incredibly hilarious, yet frighteningly thorough. We had to head to H Mart to find many random ingredients.

While at H Mart, we had to eat, and we all got some food from Chew Young Roo. They're the ones that serve the Koreanized Chinese dishes. My sister-in-law got the ganpungki. Basically it's a stir fried chicken dish, not unlike chinese food, but better. It was really spicy and I really liked it! I've eaten that dish many times before, and this was the best. It was very unique. My brother got the chajangmyun, which is the noodle dish with the black bean based sauce on top. I got the champong, which is the spicy seafood noodle dish. It's one of my favorite things to eat, ever. And yes, it is as spicy as it looks. My mom got the combo, of half champong and half chajangmyun, which ends up being called chamchajang.

Each of these dishes are served with a bright yellow picked radished called takuwan, sliced up. It's a nice salty and slightly sweet contrast for the super spicy champong. The chajangmyun also comes with some plain old cut up onions and the plain black bean paste (not good tasting). All to eat with your meal. I suppose it all has a purpose, but to me, the purpose is just good eatin'.

60th Birthday Hoopla

On Friday, my mother turned 60 glorious years old. That's alot of years folks. And the 60th birthday, along with the 1st birthday, are of the most significance in Korean culture. I suppose the 1st is due to high infant mortality rates back in the olden days, and the 60th due to lower life spans as well in the olden days. So back then, it was really exciting to make it to age 1, and even more exciting if you lived to the ripe old age of 60. You get big parties on each of these occasions. On your 1st, you have to wear a special outfit and people give you money and such. When you're 60, you get a big party, but I think you can wear what you want!

My mom did not want any kind of formal shindig, and peferred to keep it small and simple between family only. We gathered at my aun't house in Delaware and had some relatives and friends over for another gut expanding family food fest. she picked up food from a local Korean restaurant and also made kalbi. Or galbi, depending on how you choose to romanize the pronounciation of Korean food. Either way is fine with me, as long as I get to eat.

So kalbi/galbi is the famed Korean bbq. It's something that sounds so exotic, but is so not. It just happens to be a not so obvious cut of meat (short ribs) and sounds much more ethnic than it is. There's not even any ethnic ingredients in it. It's only as ethnic as garlic and soy sauce and sugar can get. It was raining that night, but my uncle still grilled outside with an umbrella! I like the ones that are extremely well cooked, even burnt.

We had a bunch of random food that day. Nothing of 60th birthday significance. There were some chicken wings, which were sort of general tso's chicken-y tasting. There was also some tempura shrimp with a slightly thai-esque dipping sauce. I liked it. We had kimchi and other banchan. Kimchi and banchan are going to be found at pretty much every Korean meal. Incidentally, this was some of the best kimchi I've ever had in my life. I've had alot of kimchi, and this is definitely in my top 5, ever. We also had japchae, which is a cold potato noodle dish with some veggies and meat mixed in. That is often served at parties and such.

Oh, then there was this weird "salad" type thing with a mustard sauce, called kyujachae. It had lots of random shredded vegetables and shredded jellyfish (I think) and then you pour a mustard based sauce over it and mix. See the before and after pictures! It's usually very spicy hot mustard which tends to clear out your sinuses. And remember, I don't like things mustard. But this one wasn't very mustard-y at all, and I quite liked it. Yey for me!

We also had cake, of course. It was a mocha cake (see the coffee beans) and I really liked it because the icing is very light whipped icing, not the heavy kind. This came from a Korean bakery, but there are basically two types of Korean bakeries. There's the kind that make western type cakes and pastries and other bread types items. And the other makes traditional rice cake type stuff. Now remember, it's not the Quaker rice cake stuff, but the rice-based things. More to come on rice-based stuff later as we continue on revisiting the whole 60th birthday shebangybang. There was incredible amounts of eating going on every day. At every meal. Whew!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

World Cafe Live - go for the live

I went to World Cafe Live the other night for a free Philly Local night, where 4 local bands played. It was pretty fun. You got to sit (which I loved) and watch some great music in a pretty cool venue. Plus, it was free. Plus, you can eat. And did I mention that you get to sit?

I'd been there before for another show but never ate there. It always looked pretty ok. And pretty ok was what it was. I went with the pulled pork for some reason, and they claim it is Tommy Gunns Carolina Style Pulled Pork. Whatever. The kitchen had some kind of snafu with our order so we had to wait an unbelievably long time for our food. Strike one World Cafe Live Cafe! Then when the food came out, for whatever reason, my sandwich roll was very soggy. It must have been some extremely wet pork. The pork itself was fine, if not plain, as you get a side of the sauce. But it really bugged me that the bottom half of my kaiser roll was pretty much a mushy mess. Ugh. So it wasn't much of a sandwich.
I am happy to say that the fries were very good, and hot. The slaw was good too. It's weird eating in the dark. I thought I was eating a pretty much all carrot slaw, but judging by my picture, I guess it was an all red cabbage slaw. I really liked the slaw! M got the angus burger and she was quite happy with it. And she loved the fries. So the highlight of the evening definitely was not the food. That was the surprise appearance of Amos Lee playing two songs. I do have to plug my favorite band of the evening - the Swimmers. They were the best of the bunch!

Oh, we had Italian from T'Dori the other day at work. It was really good. They had a boatload of different stuff that day. 3 or 4 different kinds of lasagnas, 2 different chicken dishes, meatballs, green beans almondine, salad, and cookies. Yum. The picture looks gross though. It really looks like human innards. Shame on me and my poor photo techniques. Also, they got us some wraps for lunch today during our training. And they had my nearly ultimate nightmare salad. It had mesclun greens, bleu cheese, and mustard based dressing. Ugh. The only thing worse would have been to have celery in it! But at least I enjoyed the wraps.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BYO Capogiro

A few different people had been talking about Lolita a few weeks ago, and then suddenly I had a chance to go. It is an adorable little BYOB in center city. It's very small with cozy little teeny tables. The decor is quite minimalist, with brick walls and plain tables and a painting or two. I heard there was cute pottery in the bathrooms!

So Lolita is a byob, but it's known as a byot, bring your own tequila. They happily allow you to bring your own tequila while they provide pitchers of margarita mix. They have the traditional lime as well as certain seasonal mixes. During my visit they offered traditional, blood orange, and blackberry. We went with the blackberry, which came with blackberry puree, thai basil, and sugared rimmed glasses. I didn't put any booze in mine as I had to drive, but the virgin margarita was really, really, really good! I could have just drank it as a meal. But I didn't!

We got some guacamole and queso with chorizo, and they also gave us some salsa, one green, one red, along with mixed chips. The mixed chips included corn, malanga, and plantain. They were good, and so was the salsa, especially the red, as it had a nice kick. The guacamole was good but nothing too exciting. I didn't try the queso but it looked like it would probably be salty. That came with some home made hot corn tortillas.

I decided to go with the enchiladas verdes with chipotle shrimp. I had remembered some enchiladas verders I'd had in Mexico City so I was in an enchilada type mood. The enchiladas came with shiitake mushrooms, but since I don't like mushrooms, I just went without them. The enchiladas themselves were really good, even though there was really only cheese in them, and so were the shrimp. The dish came with herbed rice and refried beans. The beans didn't really seems refried, they seemed fairly whole, and they were good. I don't recall there being much herbed rice. I think it was mixed up with the beans, but it seems relatively bean heavy.

Some of the other entrees also looked quite good. A few people got the chicken breast. I almost got the duck. I think someone got the pork chop? Is it a pork chop? or is it a big lamb chop? I don't know. I'm bad with my chop knowledge. They are also somewhat vegetarian friendly as you can get pretty much any of the entrees substituted with tofu or portobello mushrooms.

They did have a dessert menu but they disappointed me by saying they were out of the creme brulee. It is a ginger-vanilla creme brulee. Damn it. But that's ok, because instead, we went to feed my new Capogiro addiction. This time, I had kiwi and asian pear. I've never tasted something that tasted so much like asian pear other than a real asian pear! It is rather freakish. Once again, the kiwi kicked ass. Once again, I'm still dreaming about it!


Monday, March 19, 2007

The Worst Snow Ever!

Friday evening bestowed upon the greater Philadelphia area one of the most pain-in-the-ass snowstorms in a long time. I awoke Saturday morning to the strangest combination of slush/ice I'd ever had the pleasure of having to shovel. The top was just crunchy and hard, and even walking on it, my weight never cracked it open. You couldn't use a regular snow shovel, you had to get a regular garden type shovel that you would dig dirt with and basically chisel this snow/ice in little bits. It was so overwhelming that I had to do it in little spurts and then rest in between. And all I could muster was making a little cattle chute for my little car to slide in and out of the driveway. I couldn't do anything else. It was killing my spirits.

With March Madness, St. Patty's day, and this freak storm, I didn't dare drive into the city that night. I took the train instead, along with lots of other people, and got to ride for free to boot! We had another Meetup at Devil's Alley Bar and Grill. It has a devilish/underworld schtick going on, so the decor is very dark, literally and figuratively, especially in the basement's bathrooms. Check out the sinks too, you turn them on, and they'll spill all over you so it looks like you peed yourself. That's fun!

They bill themselves as a comfort food place, which is true. There's nothing snotty about it at all. They're big on burgers, and many of my fellow diners got some variety of burger. They also have ribs and other bbq, but I'm a little wary of bbq around these parts. I've lived in Texas and had my share of good bbq. I don't like to eat bad bbq. I've also had North Carolina bbq and Kansas City bbq. Philadelphia bbq scares me.

I went for the brisket sandwich though (although I really do love me some ribs) and a bucket of fries. And by bucket of fries, they really mean a bucket of fries! It comes in an adorable tin bucket. I really liked these frieds, they're the skinny kind of fries, which I love, and not greasy at all. I also like the little end crunchy pieces that you get at the bottom of your fries, and alot of these particular fries were like that. Yum. I don't like thick soggy potato-y fries. I like em skinny and crunchy.

My brisket sandwich came with thick grilled bread. It was supposed to come with a horseradish sauce but I passed on that. The sandwich was pretty good actually. The brisket was dry. And by dry I mean it didn't come with any sauce on it. In Texas they call it either dry or wet. Wet means they put sauce on for you. It was a bit plain though, so I did ask for a side of sauce. Their sauce was definitely homemade. It was sweet and sour and spicy and a bit strange, but I liked it.

The highlight of the evening was going to Capogiro for a near religious gelato experience. I've had gelato before in Germany and liked it alot. But I hadn't had any in the States. I'd been to Capogiro before, but only in passing to get quarters for the meter, not to eat. They were nice enough to give me quarters without making me buy anything. That should have been enough for me to know how good this place would be!

It was A's idea to go, and I am appreciating this suggestion, and also cursing it, as I am now addicted. I am daydreaming about it now. I can't get it out of my mind! They have rotating flavors, some seasonal. I went with the blood orange and kiwi sorbetto. The blood orange was good, but the kiwi, the kiwi was mindblowing! It's unlike anything I've ever had before. Not fake tasting at all, with real kiwi bits and seeds. And it's not cheap either might I say! The smallest size is just under $5. It definitely isn't a 59 cent ice cream cone, but even I have to admit that it's worth every penny. This is the kind of addiction that I would gladly hand over my hard earned cash for. Now if only I can convince them to open one in the suburbs!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Taking a peek

I'm fairly new to this foodbloggin' thang, and this is my first official blog event, courtesy of Lydia at Kitchen Exhibitionist. I have an odd kitchen. It looks nice, but it's still odd. First of all, there's not enough counterspace or cabinets. That's the unfortunate circumstance of the house itself. Whatever genius designed the kitchen decided to put the most unfortunate window in a key area of the wall, which prevented any additional counters and cabinets from going in. So in light of that, I have one tall cabinet which acts as a cupboard/pantry, and a newly built behind-the-basement-door cupboard that I made with my very own two hands on one Sunday (you can see how "home-made" it looks!).

The kitchen used to be horrendous. When I bought the place two years ago, it was the potential of the kitchen that sold me, not the kitchen itself. It sucked. Horrible floors, one row of crappy cabinets, weird plastic backsplash, everything was just bad. That's why I spent two miserable months of my life painstakingly gutting it and making it functional, with a little help. Every piece of tile on my kitchen floor was installed by lil ol me. The entire remodel was completed on this frugal girl's limited budget and in my two month timeframe. It turned out quite nice actually, but I do long for additional cabinets and counterspace.

I'm not quite sure what looking at my cupboards actually says about me. I have alot of cereal. I like it, but moreso, it's expensive, so when it's on sale, I buy alot of it. It's like a strange impulse. I've also been on a ramen kick lately. Not the 10 cent Nissin kind, but more exotic and international that I pick up at the asian markets. I've been fairly experimental as of late and they've all been quite good. I'm sure I'll post about that later.
So, what's in your cupboard?

Friday, March 16, 2007

It's really not spaghetti

The other day I worked from home while my car got inspected. She passed! My old neighbor is my mechanic and he just takes the car from my mom's house in the morning and then brings it back afterwards. It's the best setup ever. When I went to pick it up, my mom got me food, cause she's always concerned about me eating. I think judging by this blog, she has nothing to worry about.

One of my favorite Korean comfort foods is dukboki. Basically it's rice cake (not like the ones dieters eat) smothered in a spicy sauce. The rice cake is just basically a chewy starchy tube that's made with rice, and they slice it into a few inches in length. Then they add some fish cakes sometimes, perhaps a boiled egg, and lots of spicy cochujang, which is the quintessential korean spicy-fying ingredient. It's spicy and sweet and chewy. This particular one was quite spicy. I believe I did start sweating.

The picture doesn't do it justice, as it looks like a bloody mess. It kinda looks like really scary spaghetti with bits of random stuff in it. It doesn't have a hint of tomato at all. It's just spicy and sweet. I have very fond memories of when I was very little and still lived in Korea, we would always go to the market on the weekend. And there was a favorite stall of mine that served the best dukboki ever. I still remember it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Above 70

Today was unusually warm, and above 70 degrees for the first time in 2007. So like everyone else who got so excited about it, I ended my evening with a trip to the local Rita's. As I was on my way home, my friend K called and asked if I wanted anything from Rita's. She had just left her house to get to Rita's, and I would pass it on my way home. So it all just worked out.

There was a big line, of course. I went with half tangerine and half Alex's Lemonade. The tangerine was pretty good, and had real chunks of tangerine rind. A bit surprising at first, but full of flavor. The lemon, eh, was a bit bland. Sorry Alex. K went with wild black cherry and lemon, and man, am I ever glad she got that wild black cherry. It was amazing. There was such a rich and deep flavor about it. It tasted like a really excellent black cherry soda. Note to self, next time get a whole wild black cherry one.

I'm not the biggest fan of Rita's, as I think their flavorings taste a bit artificial, but it's handy in that it's all over the place and easy to locate when you're hankering for water ice. I have a friend who is from Philadelphia but moved to Austin to open a water ice shop - Jim-Jim's Water Ice. That takes balls! I hope you have a great season this year!

Closed Pho the Winter

There's nothing I love more than a nice big bowl of steaming pho. The beefy broth, the crunch of the sprouts, the whole thing. I love every bit of it. I also love a very particular chicken pho. Now most pho joints serve a very bland chicken pho. It's made with chicken based stock and sliced up chicken breast. Very boring. This is not my chicken pho. My chicken pho is made with beef stock. My chicken pho has grilled/fried chicken with incredible flavor. My chicken pho sometimes even trumps regular beef pho. Where can you get said delicious chicken pho? At Pho Ba Le, on Washington Ave (sometimes called Restaurant Cyclo). Only thing is, the last two times I've been there, it's been closed having a sign saying "Closed for the Winter". How can you be closed for the winter when you serve the best winter food there is?

There's another pho place across the parking lot called Pho Ha. It's one of those mostly pho only shops that brings out your food in 2 seconds. We were in the city last night going to a concert, so we stopped round Washington Ave to grab a bite first. I decided not to get pho last night because it was fairly warm out, and I got the chicken and spring roll over broken rice instead. As you can see, it was alot of food, and it was delicious and moist. I think the key is that it's not white meat, but dark meat. One of my favorite things about getting this Com Tam dish is the pickled daikon and carrots that you always get on the side. I love the slightly sweet sourness of it, and the crunch.

M got a small pho. Small in pho places usually means pretty big. And the large means huge. I've had the pho there before and it's very good. M seemed to enjoy it alot, and she pretty much ate the whole thing, broth included. I was so impressed!!!

Monday night I had to stop at the mall to return some stuff. While there, feeling particularly lazy, I picked up some chicken teriyaki to go from one of those "japanese" chain joints that serves teriyaki dishes. I really like it cause it's so simple, just chicken with teriyaki sauce, and some grilled veggies and rice. I got a giant carton full for about $4. And on a lazy night, it doesn't get any better. It's fresh, steaming hot, and tasty, and requires absolutely no work whatsoever.

Pho Ba Le

600 Washington Ave

Pho Ha
Washington Ave

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Pie and chocolate

My friends M&M invited me over to make pizza last night. I got them hooked on home pizza making with the dough from Trader Joe's. They have a fancy pizza pan with holes, see? Ooh la la. The dough doesn't stick at all and it stays nice and doughy, not crunchy. We had pepperoni and sauage and cherry tomatoes. The sausage was fresh from TJ's and we cooked it up a little before using it as pizza topping. It turned out great. I put some bbq sauce on mine after it was cooked and it was even tastier.

M made some dessert as well, some chocolate pastry pockets. She got the recipe from Paula Deen. She even made crimps on the edges with a fork. Isn't it fancy? She made some chocolate sauce with cream and Hershey's Kisses as a topping and also sliced up some strawberries. It was so simple, but so tasty. We also had some white bean dip as an appetizer that was good and pretty much tasted like hummus, but slightly different. We were kicking it like royalty in Ardmore.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fine Dining, Baltimore Style

So the host and hostess of the twin girls birthday party had a housewarming party yesterday. They just moved into the neighborhood a few months ago from New Jersey. Free at last! I decided to make some of my favorite and easy to make party foods - queso and salsa dip. So easy, even you can do it!


This is very easy, although time consuming. I made a party sized portion, so I used two big things of Velveeta, one can of Rotel, two chopped jalapenos, and a dash of milk. I used my crock pot but you can just do it in a big pot on very low heat. You just heat it all up together until the cheese is melted. Once melted, you can add a meat of your choice. I've done it before with plain ground beef that I cooked up and I've also done it with chorizo, which makes the whole thing a bit spicier. The party was dictated to be veggie only, so I put in some Morningstar Farms fake meat crumbles, and it worked out quite fine.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

This one is even easier than the queso, as no cooking is required. You take a jar of salsa (mine happened to be the chunky salsa from Trader Joe's). You also take a can of black beans and a can of white shoepeg corn and then mix them all together. And voila! You have a deliciously easy salsa that will definitely be a hit at parties.

Another guest brought a chick pea curry. I didn't try it, but it looked delicious and they brought it in a blue le creuset pot. Must be nice! The hostess made some cream of potato soup. It was great! But would have even been greater if there were big hunks of bacon in it! They also took the cuban black beans they had made for the other party, had frozen it, and this time they took some leftovers and heated them up and just blended it in a blender. It made one of the best black bean dips I'd ever had! The ziti also made a comeback and was excellent as usual.

I didn't get to stay at the party very long as I went down to Baltimore to go to a concert. We got there fairly late and it was taking place in a rather sketchy neighborhood. We were hungry so we wanted to eat and asked a passerby where food was. He pointed us to two blocks away but warned us that it was "kinda wild" over there. OH BOY. So by "kinda wild" he meant that's where all the strip clubs are. Eeg. But amongst the dozen strip clubs, sex shops, and adult video stores was a pizza shop, fried chicken place, and a Subway. We decided that the best bet would be Subway. I think the last time I ate at Subway was about 2 1/2 years ago! I went with the meatball sub which was actually good. But I did not take any pictures of it (I'm sure you guys can imagine it) as I did not want to get shanked!
Food related highlight of the evening - having a drunkard spill Sparks in my eye. You know, Sparks, that malt beverage energy drink? Yeah, it stings in the oculars...