Korean stews

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of Asian food and spicy food, so its not a surprise that I love Korean food. I was in Korea for about a week and a half this summer, and spent much of my time stuffing my face (of course). I also went hiking, shopping, and visited many of the incredible palaces, but a majority of the pictures I have are of me eating.

I mean… can you blame me? This is a seafood pancake – a savory, fried dough stuffed with seafood and leeks. I personally prefer savory pancakes (there are Chinese versions too) over sweet pancakes, because they are so TASTY! Dip into some soy sauce/sesame oil/vinegar and eat. This is from Arirang, a great Korean restaurant on a third floor in K-Town (32nd street btwn 5th & 6th Aves). They have my favorite seafood pancake in K-Town (that I’ve tried – and I’ve tried many). Crispy, flavorful, and served hot!

Pictured below is a Korean-style stew. There are a lot of Asian dishes that call for cooking at the table – usually a big pot of water or soup with spices and veggies, carbs (noodles), and/or proteins. This one had octopus and beef in a spicy broth. The ingredients come out raw, and are cooked at your table.

Here, the octopus was whole and cut up tableside. The broth was super spicy, and it took my party quite a while to eat a few small bowls, because the stew was both hot in temperature and in spice! After a while, we decided to turn off the heat on our table-top stove so that we could at least eliminate one of the heat factors. We also used lots and lots of tissues. Arirang is also famous for their hand-cut noodles, which are flaky and chewy and can be added onto the stews (we did!). They also have many individualized noodle dishes (including ones that aren’t spicy) if you don’t feel like sharing. Hehe.

Oh yea, that same day, for lunch, I went to an all-you-can-eat Asian place in Koreatown called Ichumi. It had sushi, oysters, crabs, ramen, and various other delicious things. The food was pretty fresh, and it’s a great deal for a 2-hr lunch/catch-up with friends. Look at these suckers. Yum. They were humongous and delicious. I definitely ate too much that day :)

Other DC Foods

March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

I ate a bunch of stuff while I was in DC not too long ago. Here’s a short compilation :)

I finally got to try brunch at Eastern Market – something I had meant to do on my last visit – and I was very very happy that I did. We went to Crepes at the Market, a crepe stand, and my friend Jacky had a spinach, fresh mozzarella, and basil crepe, while I ordered the “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” (yes, “dinner” for brunch, it’s how I roll). My crepe had some curry chicken, green beans, potatoes, onions, some kind of cheese. It was a slightly heavy brunch, but we walked over to Capital Hill afterward and explored the Library of Congress & the Air & Space Museum, so it didn’t make me uncomfortable :) It was super hearty, and made fresh. The crepe was soft, yet crunch around the edges, and was a lovely nice balance to the innards. If you like crepes, you should definitely seek this place out!


Another day, I had a handroll bento box for brunch at Teaism (I also had an “African Star” iced tea). The bento box had tea-cured salmon with miso mayo, which was yummyy. And great not-too-sour pickled vegetables (bottom left). Also tried their Salty Oat cookie, which was great. A thick oatmeal raisin cookie with some salty chunks. I love salt/sweet combination desserts, and this was a very fine example of one. I also tried my friend’s Palak Paneer, an Indian spinach curry, which was very flavorful, and surprisingly not heavy! I would totally return – its kind of like the Asian Cosi/Panera of DC.

I also got to try Chipotle’s Southeast-Asian test-kitchen Shophouse. At first, I was pretty annoyed at Chipotle, because they trademarked “Shophouse” not too long ago, forcing my favorite Thai place in NY, Pure Thai Shophouse to change its name to Pure Thai Cookhouse. What is up with that?! >[ Nevertheless, I have heard good things about this site, and while I am not Chipotle’s biggest fan, I wanted to give this place a shot. It wasn’t too bad! You pick your ingredients, as your food moves down the line. I got the noodles with the pork/chicken meatballs, roasted corn, the hot curry (“What sauce is the best?” I asked, “My favorite is the hot”, “Alright, hit me up”, “Careful, its really spicy”, “I can handle it”), all of the pickled stuff, and all of the other toppings (toasted rice, peanuts, whatever). The server wasn’t joking. The hot curry was SPICY. Good but spicy. I LOVED the addition of toasted rice, which it gave the food a great little crunch – I would definitely recommend that as a topping. The roasted corn was alright, I love roasted corn, there was roasted corn, I ate it happily. I don’t know why there is a weird orange-y light in the picture though.

Upon my return to NY, I hit up more places on my to-go list. Details to come!


Ethiopian

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Although my love for Asian food is ingrained in me (it kind of happens when you grow up eating it everyday, so much so that a burger is a treat), I love trying new types of cuisine. Most recently, I had my first Ethiopian meal in DC over President’s Day weekend! I’ve heard that there is a lot of Ethiopian in DC, and finally had a chance to try it. Luckily I was with a friend who had eaten before, and so she became our expert.

We ate at a cute place called Etete at U-Street. Although there was some initial miscommunication about the wine we ordered, we ended up with a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and some big platters of food. We got some spicy lamb, a vegetable platter, and a garbanzo bean dish (the latter 2 are on the right), which was all served atop some injera. Injera is a spongy flatbread, and like nothing I’ve had before. It was almost like a tasteless thing sponge-cake pancake, and served as an edible utensil for the meal. So Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands – and only your right hand at it (the other hand is apparently supposed to be your “clean” hand).

It was super strange for me to pick up curry-like substances with my hands. For much of the time I did wish that I could just pour it over a bowl of rice and scoop it up with my chopsticks. But surprisingly, my hands didn’t feel too dirty after the meal – the injera did a good job keeping in all the sauces (which weren’t too oily). The food itself was delicious though. I loved the curry-like, spiced flavors, particularly of the lamb. Picking at food with my hands made me feel like I wasn’t eating too much (portion control!), but we were all stuffed by the end of it.

I’m definitely glad that I finally tried the food. Very tasty, flavorful, and interesting. If anyone knows any other interesting cuisines, I would love to know about it!

Burgers

February 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve always believed burgers to be the quintessential American food. “I want American food,” someone would say. To me, that means, “I want burgers and fries.” Burgers are great great bar food. Fatty, rich, meaty, starchy, flavorful, and goes awesome with beer. The only problem is that it makes my hands all dirty and I need about 10 napkins, because I like to wipe my hands after each bite (I like clean hands ok!). I try to do the whole, one hand clean, one hand to hold the burger thing, but my hands are small and a lot of the time the burger ends up falling apart in my hands. Its a problem.

Come to think of it, that might be one of the reasons I love Shake Shack. The burgers are a perfect size for me, and sold in a lovely plastic bag thing that I can use to hold my burger and keep my hands nice and clean, save for some inevitable oil/cheese drippings. I love the Shackburger, with its mayo-y, ketchupy, whatever it is Shack sauce. Yum. I would say that their fries aren’t my favorite, but I have a weakness for fries, so whatever, I eat them anyways. And oh gosh, their shakes…. a full  meal in themselves. Sooo decadent. Don’t look up the nutritional value of these things, for maximum pleasure. And their concretes/custard (aka super rich, ice cream, that I think is way better than gelato)…. okay, going to stop now. Actually its kind of ridiculous how they’ve grown. My first Shake Shack burger was in the Fall of 2008, when I interned across the street from the first (and the only at the time) Shake Shack at Madison Square Park. My coworkers took me out to lunch after gasping in horror because I’ve never tried it. We stood in line for 45 minutes. It was worth it. Now, more then 3 years later, they have a gazillion more locations! I’ve even eaten at the UES location a few times. NYT critic Pete Wells just posted a review yesterday, noting inconsistencies in the food, but also raving about how it is a miraculous burger at many times.

Although I have my Shake Shack allegiance, I must say that I fell in love with In-N-Out, when I went to the west coast for a visit last year. One of my college friends had always tried to recreate their animal-style fries in our college cafeteria (she would order a side of fries from the grill with cheese, grilled onions, and then pour some thousand island dressing over it from the salad bar), and it was damn tasty. Heart-clogging, but tasty. When I finally got to taste the real thing – a burger animal-style, I was blown away. I remember me and another friend begging her to make a pit stop at an In-N-Out before we went on our road trip to Las Vegas. We did. And we ate those babies on our drive, and that is one of my fondest memories of a burger… *dreams*

I went to Black Iron Burger Shop, in the East Village (5th st, between Ave A & B), not too long ago, and tried their burgers! It was a small place with very limited seating – mostly high top tables for 2 with stools. There was ONE booth that could fit up to 4-6 people, and I spent much of my time looking enviously at the girls that got those coveted seats. The bar also looked like a good place to sit, but it was full that Saturday night. My friend and I both ordered the Iron Horse – a double patty with horseradish cheddar and grilled onions. It was huge.

I ate maybe half of the baby before I held my tummy and cried nooo moreee. It was just OK. We also split fries (meh, reminded me of a fresher version of McDonald’s), and onion rings (very fried, great fat-food, but was a little too thin for my liking). Luckily we ended up walking to Union Square afterwards, and by the time I got on the train, I didn’t feel like my pants were going to burst. I also had the Blue Point Oatmeal Stout, which was not super-heavy, had a light chocolate flavor, and worked well with my fatty burger. But I probably wouldn’t return. There are plenty of other places to try!

Actually, making burgers at home is also fun, and not as time consuming as you would think. Ground beef (I like 80/20 fat ratio), spices (I like some combination of paprika, salt, pepper, soy sauce, lemon juice, basil, italian seasoning, montreal steak seasoning, red pepper flakes, etc.) and whatever else you want. I like to chop up some small chili peppers and saute some chopped onions to throw in there as well. You can also easily make stuffed burgers by encasing some cheese inside when you form your patty. You can grill or pan-fry a bunch of them, and stick him in the freezer for a quick meal another time. Super easy and a fun weekend (or weekday) activity!! :)

Hole-in-the-walls

February 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day yesterday! I feel like I should post about something super fancy and nice because of the holiday, but I also don’t like how many restaurants have a ridiculous prix-fixe menu because of the holiday.

Also, while I love my fair share of classy, white-table-clothed restaurants with coat checks and candles, most of my experiences dining out as a child were very very different. My family didn’t dine out a lot, and when we did, we would go to the same Chinese restaurants, fill a table of 13 and order about 10-12 entrees to share family style. The restaurants were loud and rowdy. The teacups would have mysterious stains that you would just ignore. And talking with your mouth full was a prerequisite to attending. These meals were a treat for us – spending $50+ per family of four was worth it for the experience of being with the family, and not having my mom cook for days to prepare food for everyone (and then my father being the dishwasher after the meal). So it wasn’t until I graduated college and started to have a full-time job that paid me more than minimum wage that I started to explore the “fine dining” scene. By that, I mean restaurant scene where entrees cost more than $15/pp. But my heart does lie with the super inexpensive, no-ambiance, 100-sq-ft restaurants, that you don’t believe can achieve an “A” health grade rating. Not only is the food often hearty, delicious, and super flavorful, but inexpensive, and BYOB! Booyah.

Henan Flavor is an amazing example of this. Its quite a small place, so you don’t get the whole “rowdiness” factor, but that could be mostly because the food is so good you’re too busy stuffing your face than talking. Most recently, I went with a party of 4, and we just ordered way too much food. We started with some steamed dumplings – a huge plateful of them. The photo here was at most 1/2 of the platter that we had. Thick, chewy wrappers that are clearly homemade. We also ordered 3 pork pancakes (not pictured), which are more like ground pork sandwiches, where the bread is a crispy toast-like english muffin. Huge (the size of your face), delicious, and only $2 a pop.

Our entrees included a beef brisket soup (left), tomato & egg with noodles (top right), and black bean (asian style) minced pork with noodles (bottom right). Oh yea, and their famous “Big Tray of Chicken.” It is a damn big tray, I gotta tell ya. All their noodles are hand-cut and thus raggedly, and thick, chewy, deliciousness. We added noodles to the chicken (for 1 buck!) so that we can get more of the amazingly spicy, flavorful sauce in our mouths, by using the noodles as a vehicle. There was so much food, most of us ended up taking at least one container of food home. And we departed with full stomachs, and only $10 less in our wallets (each). Ridiculous.

If you’ve never had Henan food before, it is very similar to X’ian food. If you never had X’ian food before, you really should. This style of food derives from Western China, where there are a lot of Muslim influences (I’ve been before, and the signs are all in Arabic, and people speak both Arabic and Chinese!). Food is flavored with alot of spices, hot peppers, cumin, and cilantro. Typically very hearty, and very flavorful. Much of the food can be very spicy, although the only spicy dish we had at Henan Flavor was the tray of chicken (the beef brisket was advertised as spicy I believe, but it wasn’t at all). You can also eat the tomato and egg (a very classic Chinese dish), if you are avoiding too many spices – it is mildly sweet and very homey (at least for me). I believe that Henan food is slightly less spicy than food from X’ian, although after a few minutes of the tray of chicken, we were all sniffling into our napkins. Freaking amazing. The tray of chicken itself can feed about 4-6 regular people, and makes for great leftovers (reheat slowly in a pan with the lid on – if you microwave, the noodles may clump together). Definitely one of my favorite hole-in-the-walls. :D


Going Greek

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve never really been a fan of Greek food. I hear a lot about the Mediterranean diet and how awesome it is, but yuck olives (ironically I LOVE olive bread but I stay away from everything else). I like capers, but only once in a while. And yea, olive oil is good oil, but too much of any oil is bad! Anyhow, this is NOT going to be a rant about how I am still getting used to Greek food, but more of a rave about a great Greek restaurant I went to not too long ago.

Pylos is a small restaurant tucked away in the East Village (7th st between 1st Ave & Ave A), with ceramic pots stuck to the ceiling like so:

I thought the decor was lovely (and romantic yet casual), and there was a nice communal table in the back, if you’re the type that enjoys sharing tables (I grew up doing that for Chinese brunch/dim sum every week). Our waitress was bubbly and charming – and she also recommended some great (and not the most expensive) wines for us, as most of the wines were Greek aka I’ve never heard of them before. (For reference, we ordered sigalas santorini and the hatzidakis nikteri, both of which were crisp wine wines that were slightly fruity and closer to dry than sweet.)

We shared an appetizer of pitakia kaisarias, phylo pastries with meat, tomatoes, and cheese.  It was absolutely delectable, and all in our bellies before I even remembered to take a picture. The party I was with decided to go family style – my favorite way to eat. We proceeded to order a side of Greek salad, and four entrees, each which came out when they were ready, making it seem like a many-course tasting menu. Delectable.

The lamb chops were up first – and were my favorite (and my choice!). Juicy, soft, succulent… mmm… highly recommended. And absolutely beautiful.

Then came our shanks – a lamb shank and and pork shank. One served with a roasted garlic puree, the other with fingerling potatoes. The meat for both just fell off the bone…

Lastly was chicken stuffed with raisins, thyme, rosemary, and cheese. Wow, this was some very tender (white meat) chicken. It was everyone’s favorite but mine (I loved my lamb!), and my first time having chicken prepared this way. Super unique, super delicious.

I fell in love with this place.  There are a ton of appetizer choices, and I saw the couple next to us order them tapas-style, so there’s that route too! Definitely go – and make reservations ahead of time!

Easy Easy Eggplant

February 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

I love love love eggplant. A lot of people I know wrinkle up their nose when I talk about eggplant, but I think it is amazing. I like cooking it until its soft and soaks up the sauces I cook it in. Its super hearty, and is awesome with rice. If you don’t have some of the ingredients, aka oyster sauce, go out and get some! Its super essential to Asian/Chinese cooking and extremely versatile (great for marinades and stir fries). Its also widely available, and can be found in most supermarkets. Here’s a super simple recipe that I got from my mom:

Recipe:

1/2 medium sized eggplant (Cut off the stem and cut up the rest into chunks. I like 2 inch long slices about 1/2″ thick)
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sugar (I usually use brown)
cooking oil
1 tbsp wine or sherry (I use Chinese Shaoxing cooking wine for everything)
garlic (however much you want, I would say 2-3 cloves)
black pepper

(1) Steam eggplant for ~ 15 minutes under medium heat (or until soft, give it a few more minutes if its still a little hard). Drain the liquid after its done / before you pour on the sauce. (I imagine that you can also just put the eggplant in a pan with some water and cook for about 10-15 minutes until soft, drain the liquid and then add the sauce.)
(2) When there is about 5-7 minutes left for the steaming, heat up a skillet with enough oil to cover it. Cut up the garlic (or mince it, whatever you prefer) and saute over the pan for a few minutes.
(3) Lower heat for a minute or two, add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, wine, pepper (to taste) and stir around until hot, and a little bubbly. If the consistency is too watery, raise the heat a little and stir around until the sauce thickens. I like my sauce to be a little less viscous than honey. Otherwise, pour on top of your ready-eggplant and eat up! Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds if desired.

If you want, you can definitely also add some meat to this. Last week I cooked the eggplant itself, and added some ground beef to my leftover eggplant for the follow days. Freaking delicious! To do so, just:

(1) Get some ground beef or pork (1/4-1/2lb for 1/2-1 eggplant, depending on how meaty you want it), season with a little salt, more pepper, some lemon juice (a tsp), a tbsp (or 2) of soy sauce.
(2) Heat a skillet on high with enough oil to cover, throw in some garlic cloves (however many you would like) for a minute or two.
(3) Throw in the meat, flatten it against the pan so it browns on one side, for about a minute. Flip over to brown on the other side.
(4) Lower the heat to medium low, throw in the eggplant with the sauces, stir it all around, and simmer under low heat (cover on) until meat is fully cooked (aka not red anymore). Remove lid and turn up the heat if it becomes too watery.

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