Sunday, November 28, 2010

Traditional Thai Appetizers: Ma Hoh and giant sago dumplings

The following appetizers both have the same filling but are served in 2 different ways, as Ma Hoh and sago dumplings.  Growing up in Bangkok, I often bought bags of small sago dumplings from a street vendor to nibble on while being waiting to be picked up by my mommy after school.  As a starved student yearning to go home, these were lifesavers.  Now living in Canada, I miss having that novelty of having thai street vendors readily available. I didn't discover about Ma Hoh until recently, but I assume the dish has been around for just as long.  I haven't seen these guys on the menu at any restaurants in Canada or the US and would like to introduce them to all the Thai food lovers.  These tasty tidbits are very sweet and savoury in flavour than other Thai appetizers.  Like tuna salad shots, they are also great for dinner parties.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This is a bit immature... but it brings the LOLs

I found this product while grocery shopping and thought Grace flavoured soup mix labelling was absolutely hilarious.  Sorry if anybody is offended!


Here's another photo of Grace food product, cock flavoured instant noodles, courtesy of my friend Mayna.  I'm glad we share a common interest in food.


This brings me to a very important question, has anyone tried it??

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Bazaar by Jose Andres

After missing the chance to go to WD 50 in New York, I made the Bazaar, where I also heard much reputation of their innovative approach to tapas, on my priority list for my one day trip to LA.  Shortly after landing, I made dinner reservation and headed to SLS hotel where the restaurant is located.  

The Bazaar is split into 5 dining sections, each with different  atmosphere, function, and menu.   We were seated in the dining room called Rojo Y Blanca, right in front of the kitchen viewing where the magic happened.  Our charmingly handsome waiter was extremely knowledgable about the cooking process and ingredients used in the dishes.  He was also able to recommend and differentiate between the dishes.  Although it didn't help much with the decision process, he was very helpful since I wanted to try food that are cooked differently than normal.  The modern tapas were not too pricey.  Though the portions are small, they are pretty good value for the type of modern, high end restaurant it carries itself to be.  We selected only 3 tapas from the menu since we just came straight from Roscoe's and were pressed for time before another dinner arrangement.  Of course, I regret that we didn't try anymore when we could've. The nitrogen coconut ice cream, cubed gazpacho...those were the things I opted out on and now living in regret...Y_Y 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Traditional Thai Appetizer: Miang Tuna (Tuna salad)

Miang Tuna, or tuna salad, is often arranged in bite sizes.  It's another dish that is high in nutrients and low in fat and carbohydrates.  The tuna contains a lot of herbs and lime zest which give the flavour quite a kick.  This dish can be enjoyed on its own as a light lunch, or as appetizers.

1 canned tuna, drained
1 cup ground pork
1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. lime zest
2 tbsp. grated ginger
1 thinly sliced shallot
5-6 lettuce leaves
1-2 red chilis for garnish

In a frying pan, cook ground pork for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through.  Place in a separate bowl and add tuna; mix well.  Add garlic powder, lime juice, and salt.  Mix again.  Add ginger, shallots and lime zest.  Divide lettuce leaves into small size bite size pieces and scoop the tuna mixture on top.  Garnish with julienned red chilies and serve. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Laotian style moose jerky

I'm pretty sure I've tasted moose meat before in Banff over a decade ago.  But since it was a mere distant memory, I pretty much consider this my first time all over again.  I was presented with a plate of jerky, coated with coarsely pounded lemongrass.  "It's moose meat!", as I was told by an ever-cheery family friend.  It was a deep brownish hue, much darker than beef.  As I stared into it, I though about the big furry gentle creature with enormous horns hiding in the forest.  "Aww, they're such gentle animals" the PETA in me thought.

Nonetheless, I took a bite.  "Hmm, it's pretty good!"

The jerky has also been marinated in garlic, lemongrass, sugar, and soy sauce before being dry cured and grilled to crisp.  It was sweet, with a bit more gamey taste.  Very chewy, but herby in flavour thanks to the lemongrass. 

Sure enough, the PETA in me went home and the Flinstones in me came out instead.

"Let's bring out the beer and sticky rice!".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles

I had made it my mission to eat as many fried chicken, preferably with waffles, as I could for this recent trip to the US.  Because Canada is so far up north, finding tasty southern fried chicken is about as rare as finding your lost diamond ring in the ocean, or finding an authentic Thai restaurant around here.  The last time I had a good chicken and waffle, believe it or not, it was at A&W in Thailand.  Very random combination.  While I was in New York, I didn't get to go try this wonderful place located in Harlem that my sister kept raving about.  Who wouldn't be enticed by the words "fried chicken" and "mimosa" in the same sentence? So when I met Geri of Princess Gourmet in San Francisco, she firmly recommended Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, a California-based soul food joint opened by a Harlem native.  As my US trip was coming to an end, I made it the top of my list of things to do in LA.

After a gruelling incident where we almost missed the plane, we safely arrived LA and immediately booked it to Hollywood.  There was a distinct sign of a cartoon rooster wearing a hat standing in front of a giant waffle.  We knew they meant business.  An intimidating security was standing outside, guarding the perimeter from rascals who were hanging around the restaurant.  As a tourist, I naturally took it as a precaution.  We were led inside of restaurant where it was quite dark with glowing pink and yellow neons.  It wasn't very busy, and everybody seemed comfortable enjoying their meals.  I was excited and ready for some soul food!

The menu is pretty straight forward, listing different ways you can order their fried chicken.  I didn't hesitate to order the half chicken, south western style with 2 waffles for $15.30.  Keeping it simple, keeping it real. We also wanted to order the Mac n' Cheese on the side and saw that the portion was so small for $4.50.  We asked for a mix of grey and dark meat to get the best of both worlds.  As much as I wanted to devour everything myself, I ended up sharing since this huge portion was out of my league.

Buttermilk battered and twice fried, the chicken was wonderfully flavourful and extra crispy.  They were good on their own, but I must add a touch of magic; hot sauce.

I usually wouldn't slather my waffle with all the whole scoop of butter, or empty my cup of syrup.  But this time, I went all out.  My waffle was crispy, fluffy, and buttery.  I even drenched it with syrup and enjoy the whole experience with the crispy chicken...AND hot sauce!  At that point, I no longer cared how many calories or saturated fat I was consuming.  Lets just say I lost self control as though I and ate like a pregnant woman on a rampage.  It was everything I imagined.  Alas, my craving was finally satisfied.  


Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chicken sandwich and truffle fries @ Norman Rose Tavern

After all day of wine tasting in Napa Valley, a quick snack was needed to east off the buzz.  Once again thanks to my Micheline Guide, I pointed to Norman Rose Tavern, a gastropub known for "classic, American comfort food". I went there searching for a tasty, crispy buttermilk fried chicken.

Though it was crispy, I didn't find that their buttermilk chicken sandwich was that well seasoned.  The meat wasn't juicy and succulent either.  The watercress salad, or whatever it was sitting on, was drenched in creamy peppercorn mayo.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad.  It was just..... mehhh...., coming from a fried chicken lover.   I thought it was a bit steep paying $10.95 for an average chicken sandwich with no sides. Definitely incomparable to the Naked Lunch fried chicken sandwich, but a whole lot better than Wendy's. 

The next item I jumped on was the truffle & parmesan fries ($7.95)!  These were fresh crispy fries with truffle essence, topped with melting grated parmesan.  Okay, those were delicious.  I devoured the plate and have nothing bad to complain.

The Norman Rose Tavern on Urbanspoon

Valuable lesson learned here:
Overall, my dining experience in Napa Valley were only okay, though it could've been much more amazing. For example, I should've taken suggestions and went to Ad Hoc, a part of Thomas Keller restaurant group, back in Yountville.  I didn't learn until much later they also make killer fried chicken than Norman Rose Tavern, or anywhere around this area, and at much better value than Bouchon (cry). As my foodie friends responded, "we didn't tell you to go to Bouchon, we said Bouchon BAKERY" T ^ T Well if I did, I probably would also have a better posts to write about.  Rather than listening to a book, always trust your fellow foodies. They know best. Indeed it was a valuable, though wasteful, learning experience from a new foodie that I would like to share with everyone! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Comforting Korean inspired congee recipe

It's blistering cold outside today in Alberta and I'm craving something warm and comforting.  This is  my sister's recipe for congee, or rice porridge with a Korean flare.  It's great on a cold winter morning much like this.  The porridge is boiled down until thick paste is formed.  It's easy to digest and has a lot of nutrients from ginger.  A perfect dish for sick days or curing a late night hangover.  

1 cup cooked rice (if you have left over rice, or you can soak 1/2 cup rice for an hour)
500 ml water
250 ml stock
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped green onions
30 ml grated ginger
1 or 2 eggs
1 pack of salted seaweed
a dash of fish sauce
a pinch of salt
white ground pepper to taste

In a large pot, add rice to boiling water.  Keep boiling rice in water and slowly add in stock.  You can also add chicken, fish, pork, shrimp, or whatever type of meat to the congee.  Once the meat is cooked, then, add chopped green onions, shiitake mushrooms and ginger.  Crack in the egg and stir.  After few minutes, reduce heat to low and let simmer before adding chopped seaweed.  Stir frequently until the congee is thickened and turn off heat.  Season with fish sauce, salt, and white ground pepper.  

To add more flavours, garnish fried onions, kimchi and extra crispy seaweed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bouchon Yountville

Following the Micheline Guide for San Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country, we visited the recipient for 2011, Bouchon restaurant in Yountville.  Thomas Keller created Bouchon as a traditional Parisian bistro, a more casual version from the French Laundry.  With two other locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, Bouchon offers French classics as well as a raw bar.  
As we walked in the restaurant, it was lively, crowded and noisy.   It was much too hectic and we were asked to choose between squeezing cheek to cheek at the bar, or burn in the sun outside on the patio.  I decided to sit out on the patio and bask in the sun instead.  The weather was nice, it was more calm and serene.  I couldn't help but admire the beauty of fall foliage coupled with a nice sunny weather.  

The house made French knots were served with fresh butter.  The knots were served warm with chewy doughy inside.  The crust was still pretty hard to bite into.  

The soup of the day was sunchoke soup.  It was fresh though there wasn't much flavour.  It was thick and creamy on its own and became too heavy with the added creme fraiche.  It wasn't so bad after I dunked the French knots in the soup and let them bathe in the bowl.  The bread soaked up the creamy soup quite nicely.

The beef tongue salad was quite delightful and turned out to be more pleasant than I imagined.   Tender thin slices of beef tongue with added crisp had executed flavours.  There were sweetness from beets, tart from berries, and fluffy creme fraiche.  It was a fairly sophisticated dish and I didn't feel like I was eating beef tongue.

The roasted lamb leg with lamb jus was a rustic dish.  For medium rare, the lamb a bit over-cooked, and quite bland.  The jus has a concentrated onion flavour, but it could've been more rich with lamb flavour.  It was a dish that had so much potential, but didn't go very far. 

I was a bit disappointed with the soup and entree as they were only mediocre, and the fact that the most impressive dish was the salad.  It was good, but not great enough to book one month in advance or obsess over.  In my opinion, you can find much better value with comparable quality and at lower price elsewhere.  


Bouchon on Urbanspoon

Ozone Thai restaurant

When we met up with a friend one night in San Francisco, I asked him to recommend where to go for late night eat.  I also specifically said that I do not want to go to a Thai restaurant, and that I would eat anything but Thai food.  Sure enough, we ended up at a Thai restaurant, Ozone, which was located upstairs.  It was dark, and empty with a random patron blaring out horrible singing in their karaoke lounge.  We pretty much had to endure the singing for the entire night, but that wasn't the main problem.  Our server was wearing a fur-brimmed outdoor jacket, and a pair of short-short jeans.  Throughout the night, the server and the bartender joined in the singing and drinking with their friends than paying us any more attention.

I ordered fried catfish and papaya salad, something uncommon to find outside of Thailand.  First bite, it tasted okay, but the catfish was crispy.  But the more I ate it, the catfish was pretty hard to chew.  The papaya salad was not spicy and was way too sweet.  Actually, sweetness was all I could taste.

The second dish, Tod Mun, or the fried curried fish cakes, was what I asked Thailand Cafe to make for me.  I was turned down since it would take an hour to prep.  I was delighted to see it on the menu and ordered it.  Again, I was disappointed.  The fish cakes lacked the aromatic flavour from red curry and kaffir lime leaves.  They tasted more like chinese fish balls you eat at hot pot.  

The last dish was some kind of fried chicken wings in chili sauce and fried basil.  Again, it was just sweet and I didn't care for it.  At this point, I was secretly raging that another meal in San Francisco has been wasted.  As we walked out, the staff were still singing with their buddies. I noticed the walls were mounted with photos of Thai celebrities that visited the restaurant.  I know that much that they probably didn't come for the food.


Ozone Thai on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour at Ozumo

One afternoon, somehow we ended up in Oakland and stumbled upon Ozumo by accident.  A contemporary Japanese restaurant, this was one of Ozumo's three locations aside from San Francisco and Santa Monica.  Without any expectations, we scoped out their menu and found Ozumo ended up being a pretty good find for happy hour.  We walked in around 5 pm and it was rather deserted.  A modernized izayakaya with a nice ambience, the lounge area was spacious with Japanese art integrated with modern interior design.  It somewhat reminds me of Ebisu in downtown Vancouver.  

Aside from a large selection of sake, draft beer such as Asahi, Sapporo and Stella Artois are at $5 a glass while domestic beer such as Bud Light are $4.  The happy hour menu also carries a pretty descent list of tapas to offer.

I really enjoyed these wings but couldn't remember specifically what they were called. They were crispy and coated with tangy flavourful sauce, similar to yangnyum chicken.


Like their sake list, Ozumo has an extensive list of Robata.  Cheezu ($5), 2 bacon wrapped cheese and oyster mushroom skewers came with a side of purple cabbage salad.  They were good, but still pretty small in portion (2 pieces per skewer).

I believe we were able to order 3 types of rolls from the happy hour menu for $12.  They came in fairly small bite size pieces and I could only say they're at the average.  

Overall, I think Ozumo has the passing mark for happy hour.  The food was a good deal for the price, and I must give more credits to the fusion decor and ambience.  The service could've been more attentive.  There were times when we had to walk around looking for our server.  Though when she was around, her service was friendly.  I would recommend this place if you have time to kill or are looking for a place to chill out before dinner.


Ozumo on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baring it out @ the Naked Lunch

I give credits and much thanks to Kat's 9 Lives for taking me to this wonderful sandwich joint.  The girl is definitely my go-to person for finding good eats in SF.  When I first heard about it, she pretty much had me at "fried chicken Tuesdays" and the melt-in-your-mouth foie gras sandwich that are often sold out.  It's a very small place tucked away on the corner of Broadway and Kearny near Chinatown, and more easily located with the help of the much larger Enrico's restaurant sign beside it.  It is opened from Tuesday to Saturday only for lunch from 11:30 am to 2 pm with a fairly limited selection.  There's hardly any seating space inside, but a huge patio seating space at Enrico's are made available for the Naked Lunch patrons.  

Luckily, the famous artisan foie gras torchon with duck prociutto and with truffle salt was available that day for a whopping $16.  Pretty steep for a sandwich, but reasonable for a thick slab of creamy foie gras that you wouldn't find anywhere else.  I must emphasize how creamy it was, and it combined perfectly with the saltiness of duck prociutto and truffle salt.  The only downside, as with the majority of the places I've come across so far, the bread was still a bit too hard and crusty for my liking.  

At first glance, I could already tell how crispy this chicken sandwich was going to be (*drools).  As I looked around, almost every single person came to order this sandwich.  The fact that it is only available on Tuesdays makes it that much more special.  They fried the chicken with the skin on and I cannot emphasize enough how crispy it was.  The meat was succulent, juicy, and well seasoned between buttery toasted buns and mayo.  I smothered with hot sauce and completely indulged in what I could only describe as one of the best fried chicken I've ever had (tear).  I started thinking about how far I would go and what bad things I could do to fight for this sandwich.  It was addicting and memorable, like a first romance.  


Naked Lunch on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fine dining at 2 star Michelin restaurant, Picholine

Picholine, meaning olives, is accredited 2 star Michelin French restaurant in the upper west side New York City.  From the moment I walked in, I fell in love with the elegant setting of hanging chandeliers and soft lavender and cream colour tone.  It provides both great ambience and service that, if I lived in New York, this would probably be my favourite lunch spot. 

Their dining options include a tasting menu, prix fixe menu, as well as a la carte for dinner.  For lunch, we were tempting to order the 7 course tasting menu.  But since the menu is fixed, we each ordered the 2 course prix fixe for $28 with additional course for $12 to sample more food instead.

I sort of regret not ordering their cheese plate after learning that it is what the New York Times called "the best cheese presentation in the city".  Even the manager asked us, "no cheese today?" and I declined.  Why, what was I thinking? I obviously wasn't.

For the amuse bouche, we were given a plate of crispy parsnip and butternut squash panna cotta with chopped cocoa and almonds.  Although, I overheard a discrepancy that it was pumpkin at another table.  Anyways, it was light, dessert-like appetizer, but not too sweet.  

Served with "avocado marble and citrus caviar", the Hamachi Cru is similar to a ceviche or tataki.  It was creamy, and has a delightful refreshing taste from the citrus.  The hamachi was also very fresh that it melted in my mouth.  I didn't taste any spiciness from jalapenos that were supposedly in there though.

I was hoping to taste something new and different and this dish definitely delivered.  The Tuna Napoleon, only described as "the taste of Riviera" was the most unique and the delicious dish I've had in years.  Fresh tuna slices layered between two crispy crackers (I'm not sure what those were) served with olive oil ice cream over eggplant puree.  I had no idea how raw fish and ice cream would taste together.  But when I tried them all together, it was divine, thanks to the multi-leveled textures and aiding spices. The tuna pieces melt in your mouth together with the coolness of the ice cream.  More flavours came out as chewing is enhanced by crunchy texture from the crackers and creaminess from the eggplant puree.  The more you chew, the more you taste the spice from chili flakes, and saltiness from the seasoning.  But, in the end, they are all balanced in harmony by the sweetness of the creamy ice cream.  The great thing about this dish is how complex it really is in flavours and textures.  You start off with a flavour and end of in a totally different note, while going through 3 different textures at the same time.  It just blew me away. Truly an amazing dish.  The next dish to come had a lot to live up to.

I should've ordered something else I was less familiar with, but I'm a sucker for scallops.  So I ended up ordering Diver Sea Scallops which was served with curried squash, kale, shaved coconut and pomegranate.  The scallops were too cooked than how I normally would like them, but they were still tasty.
This following dish, the Pained Hills Farm Sirloin, also met the expectation but didn't go well beyond.  The sirloin was cooked medium rare, but it wasn't that well-seasoned.  Coming from Alberta, I have very high expectations when it comes to steak.  The BĂ©arnaise cloud was light and fluffy. The creamed spinach was much too salty and it had to be consumed at the same time with both the fried onion, and the steak to ease out the intensity. All that was missing was a bun and it would've been a really good steak sandwich.

The final entree was the Squid Ink Fideos (vermicelli) served with prawns and topped with Pimenton (spanish paprika) aioli.  I think I would've appreciated it more, if I wasn't born and raised in Thailand.  With my experience, this dish tastes EXACTLY like a thai street dish called "Pad See Ew" which is stir-fried noodles in soya sauce. Needless to say, I didn't love this dish either and was a bit disappointed at how "Asian" it tasted.  I'm sure it was more coincidental with the ingredients they used, but I was expecting a much more elegant dish.  As I think back, there is a place in Pattaya, Thailand that makes a killer creamy and spicy squid ink pasta.  It was much better there.

After the entrees, we were presented with house made assorted chocolates.  They were delicious.

Citrus tasting arrived in 3 parts; orange crepes, creamy citrus meringue, and grapefruit sorbet.  The orange crepe arrived in thin crispy biscuit forms layered with lemon diplomat and topped with "lime caviar".  The grapefruit sorbet was extremely refreshing.  I enjoyed this dessert much more than the squid ink fideos.  

Last but not least, Pear "Belle Hellene" consisted of sweet poached pear with chocolate soup and mascarpone sorbet.  The chocolate soup was quite thick and rich, but not too sweet.  

Overall, I love the overall elegant setting and attentive service.  Food wise, the majority of the dishes we ordered were good for a restaurant at this calibre, though we expected much more.  Even though the main courses didn't impress me that much, the Tuna Napoleon was really something special.  


Picholine on Urbanspoon