Author Archives: M

Have Your Dessert…And Eat It Too

Baby, this might, sound rude / I’m taken, but I want you / And I don’t want to play by the book, no rules / You say you can’t have cake and eat it too / But ain’t that what you supposed to do? / Ain’t you supposed to eat it too? / Ain’t that what you supposed to do? / Ain’t I supposed to eat it too? / If cake’s on the menu

-Trey Songz / Trigga, “Cake”

How is finding the perfect girl like finding the perfect dessert? It’s probably not, but it’s provocative? It’s all about the ingredients/traits, cold or hot, how much time/effort you put in, mix it up or not, and most importantly – who you are sharing it with?

Image-1

Sexy Cooking Baking Mixing Time with M (part )
Summer Time Desserts (aka “what I can do with strawberries”)

IMG_1510
Step 1: Start with a blank canvas (blind date?). But not just any blank canvas – heavy whipping cream (not that type of whipping) – this is a canvas that looks better and better as you mix it up. Sometimes you turn the blender on high and you don’t know if it’s working correctly – but with patience, you will make creamy deliciousness.

IMG_1513
Step 2: Okay, skipping a few steps, but here’s the point of derisking: look at all the goodness you put in – there’s no chance this wouldn’t taste good. We added some chocolate-chip muffin pieces, kit kats, reese’s pieces baked into the crust, “fresh” berries, and whipped cream with condensed milk + vanilla pudding.

IMG_1512
Step 3: Never let anything go to waste – good ingredients are hard to find – so we made made strawberry jello with slices floating inside. Some prefer the straight-laced, I prefer a little slant.

IMG_1547
Step 4: Sometimes you turn up the heat, sometimes you chill out and see what happens. Sometimes you mix the hard and the soft, sometimes you let them rest in separate, albeit, connected spaces.

IMG_1514
Step 5: Share

Teach a Boy to Fish…

My favorite hot pot restaurant in the entire world is in Shanghai and their concept couldn’t be any simpler. You pick a fish from a tank and they cut & cook everything – bones & head for soup and the meat for fish balls.

So, adding to the list of things I don’t understand – where’s the rest of the fish when you order a “red snapper” from a fancy restaurant? To find out – I bought one from the fish market and grilled it myself.

Sexy Cooking Time with M (part )
Grilled red snapper with random seasoning

IMG_1487
The guy from the store cut his hand cleaning this bad boy. Hopefully that’s not why its so red…

IMG_1489 IMG_1490
My philosophy on seasoning is about depth over breadth and traditional over complicated – some salt & peppa & garlic and since I’m too hungry to wait for the lemon to set (I throw some slices on top). I like to do 1-2 minutes in the microwave because the meat is so thick…

IMG_1491
Can you cook non-meat on a George Foreman grill? Why not (aka, that’s why I microwaved it before). Lemon inside in case it dries out…

IMG_1492Which it didn’t. Brown on the outside, white and tender on the inside, with a dollop of tartar sauce on the side –> safe to say fancy restaurant sauces != better tasting fish…

IMG_1493
And more pieces to make more stuff with! I accidentally Oberyn Martell’d the head but whatever, I just threw in a pot and it on low-medium heat…

9ssqz
And I get steaming hot fish soup. Or ‘fridge it and get some fish jelly….

Sunday Morning Crepe

I may not own many possessions in this cold, hard world, but one thing I don’t have a shortage of is theories that I pulled from my a**. Why are Asian men hairless? I’ve got a bastardized evolution theory for that. Don’t know how to prioritize? Let me tell you about my pick-2-out-of-3 theory. And, why are there no repeat customers to your magic crib? I’ve got an answer and trust me, it’s not your morning dragon breath.

So here’s my Sunday Morning Theory: Saturday morning girls just want to go home and change and Sunday morning girls usually have brunch plans. So if you want to keep a girl, you just have to convince her that your eggs are better than Penelope’s eggs.

Sexy Cooking Time with M (part )
Mushroom Crepe Stuffed with Beef/Veggie/Thai Sauce

IMG_1485
The finished product. Yes, it looks delicious when you are done, so sit tight. Yes, I ate half of it while I was cooking it…because once you hand it over, you’re not getting any back. (Impress-factor: eating like a man)

9sssj
Skipping to the fun part – probably unnecessary, but hey if you’re not having fun cooking, you’re not doing it right. (Impress-factor: evenness)

IMG_1476
Alright, so first you beat those eggs into yellow oblivion. You do lift, right, bro? And add some color with finely chopped up scallions and mushrooms. (Impress-factor: arm muscles)

IMG_1479
Like last night, don’t go too fast in the beginning – turn the heat on medium and let the gooey liquids chill first before turning up the heat to sear the bottom. (Impress-factor: patience)

IMG_1480
Flip that over and work the other side too. (Impress-factor: multifaceted-ness)

IMG_1481
You didn’t forget to cook each part separately before the inside is just as important as the outside. So stir fry the veggies before inserting into your egg-crepe cocoon. (Impress-factor: the feels? all the feels)

IMG_1482
Add some flavor. I used Thai pad thai sauce but you can choose whatever adds to the flavor without taking away from the individuality. (Impress-factor: not bland)

IMG_1483
Wrap it, present it, smile it. (Impress-factor: finishing strong)

Hell Ya, Jinya (Ramen)!

Because I live on an island, questions like, “if you are stuck on a deserted island, and you had to pick one ramen place to sustain you for the rest of time…” becomes maybe 1% more relevant. So, similar to my search for the perfect girl, I have wandered the streets of Manhattan (and recently veered into Brooklyn) in search of the perfect ramen joint – hoping that someone will say, “of all the ramen joints in this town, you walk into mine” … or something like that.

Anyways, emo-side-rant-aside, my leader for the last two years has been Totto’s chicken broth ramen. But yesterday I found an usurper to the crown in the form of Jinya Ramen.

Address: 24 Greenwich Ave, between Charles St & 10th St in West Village
Price: $11-14 for ramen, $4-9 for appetizers, and you’re not allowed to order the rice bowls at a ramen joint
Hours:
Takes a break between lunch and dinner – til 11pm on weekdays, 12am on Friday-Saturdays
Wait / Reservations: They take reservations but I got in Saturday night without a wait – YMMV

IMAG0138IMAG0148

I was feeling down, so I ordered the fruitiest glass of sake. Hmm look at the wood decor. This place is pretty classy compared to Totto or Menkui.

IMAG0139 IMAG0140
There are moments that you hear five words about a girl dish and you just know you have to see her try it. Here, that was the homemade organic tofu, made fresh…at your table! So it’s like booking at Circle, where they bring the delicious “fruit” to you! Jk. But so needless to say, I didn’t need much convincing to know that I wanted to bring the waiter over to pour out some for me.

IMAG0143
They give you some toppings and you wait about 5 minutes for the tofu to chill and thicken. Really freaking good…

IMAG0146IMAG0147
For the main, I got the Tonkotsu Black, with about 5 toppings included and you can ask for extra fresh garlic (pressed by yours truly). Like the perfect Asian girl, I probably wished there was more meat in the soup, but it was secretly fun to have her make me do some work for my meal.

Next Time
Like the girl who keeps you wanting for more, I’d go back for the shrimp toast and crispy rice with spicy tuna, and “umami-flavored” sake, and the rest of the ramen choices. With spicy chicken ramen and fried crispy chicken options on the menu, is this the mythical best of both worlds that could overtake both Totto and Mad4??

And don’t worry, you can test drive and take this model home with you, it’s a mere $350k initial investment.

Then I can cook my tears into my very own ramen:

(Pork) Belly In My Belly

There’s some things I won’t ever understand. I don’t get people who roll toilet paper under, Asians who refuse to pronounce Shanghai correctly, girls who don’t wear heels (jk!), boys who complain instead of following their dreams, and eaters who take pictures of their food. But most of all, I don’t understand people who don’t like to cook.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like lighting my money on fire and I don’t like paying other people to wipe my butt. In unrelated news, I don’t like overpaying for what I can cook at home.

Sexy Cooking Time with M (part )
Red Braised Pork Bellies – Hong Shao Rou
This is a Shanghainese specialty. We men cook in Shanghai, among other things. Requires some tenderness, some patience, but most of all, requires lots of soy sauce.

9oc55
Yes, I cooked that. Yes, you can stay the night.

IMG_1160 IMG_1161
Step 1:
Get some raw pork belly, but not the thin kind – you might have to brave the smell and go to Chinatown for this. Wash it and chop it up into cubes (better than I did) big enough that they can stand up on their own and still fit in your mouth individual. Save the jokes. Leave the fat. Yes, I know. Just trust.

IMG_1162IMG_1163
Step 2: I hope you bought some soy sauce in C-town, the dark kind. Douse your cubes until it gets covered 2/3 of the way up. Shanghainese people eat everything sweet, so make it authentic, mix in some sugar. To make it unauthentic, I prefer brown sugar.

How much? That’s the other beauty of Chinese cooking – there are no standard measurements, you do it by taste and experience. So just put enough to see it melt.

Let it sit for a few hours on one side with the fat and then overnight on the side with the meat. At the minimum, do 30 minutes each side.

IMG_1165
Step 3: Get your trusty wok and heat it up dry. If you want to be non-Asian you can add some oil, garlic, cloves if you want. But to do it right, just throw in the cubes in and toss around for a few minutes on high – the fat that you didn’t cut off should help here. Then turn it all the way down and pour in a new soy sauce, sugar mixture, cover maybe 1/2 of the way up. Cover the top and go do something else.

I’m not sure how long to cook it, I just check up on it every 10 minutes. Basically, the lower the heat, the longer you can cook it, the better it is. This is the time for your dining companion to contribute some concoctions of her own and you can add in some bamboo, tofu, eggs. Anything that tastes good when salty goes.

IMG_1167IMG_1168
Step 4: How do you know it’s done? It’s brown on the outside, it’s tender on the inside, your kitchen smells amazeballs, and it tastes like real meat but not too salty. Again, I kept it simple, but feel free to add embellishments – just add it a bit later in the process so it won’t soak up all the soy sauce-ness.

Finale: Look, like all things in life, there’s a short way to do this (just throw in more soy sauce to get taste salty) and a long way to do this (soak overnight). There’s a fancy way (pressure cooker?) and a cheap way (any frying pan will do). But either way, it’s relatively easy to prepare and clean up. You can pair it with veggies or with wine. Customize to your heart’s content. Best of all, there’s way too much meat for one person to eat, so invite someone over to eat your meat deliciousness with you.

And finally, if it’s good enough for Eddie Huang, it’s good enough for me:

Nuts for Cronuts

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming
Twelfth Night (2.3.39-40)

No, kids, Drake didn’t invent the concept of yolo-ing, some guy named Shakespeare was using clowns to sing about carpe diem a couple centuries ago. So it was in his honor that I woke up way early this morning as the radio chirped about an awesome snowpocalypse hitting NY. Other others saw snow fear, I saw my jacket opportunity. An awesome opportunity to get some cronuts.

In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure
Twelfth Night (2.3.50-52)

That’s right, Oedipal Edibles refused the temptations of over-privileged snobs America’s hottest sensation for seven months but finally succumbed to Dominique Ansel Bakery‘s advances. After all, how many other idiots geniuses would have thought of using an epic snowstorm to beat the equally epic line?

30th in line at 7:45 arrival, they let in 20 at a time, I got in at 8:15


Address:
189 Spring St, New York, NY (near Prince St NQR)
Price: $5 / cronut (limit of two / person); most other pastries are $3 to $8; some cakes and large-format orders available for more $
Hours: Only time that really matters is that the line really gets going at 7am for doors opening at 8am (Mon-Sat); other options include calling or going online on Monday mornings – aka, don’t hold your breath
Wait / Reservations: See left

IMG_1106
there’s another line inside to place your cronut order and a separate line for non-cronut orders (that some dumbfounded people tried to use to bypass the outside line)

IMG_1107
flavors change every month, this month was caramel peanut butter rum as the filling (but probably taste pretty similar to other months)

IMG_1110
they make more than cronuts

IMG_1113
they also have sandwiches (panel to the right)

IMG_1118
s’mores kit to make ~15 for $50 with some special chocolates or something

IMG_1120
actual croissants, didn’t see any donuts though

IMG_1124
after 30 minutes in line, unwrapping the magic box!

IMG_1125
actually really freaking good! not as sweet as I expected, a bit cold and very flaky, but each bit was a slightly different experience depending on your chewing order (or maybe I was just really cold)

IMG_1128
coconut lycee pavlova – looked awesome, tasted gross

IMG_1129
their newest offering / money-trap: galette, a french cake – too sweet, nothing special even as the store was pimping it out to the cronut line

IMG_1130
the back kitchen: where the magic happens

Verdict: Much better than I expected and totally worth it. I would go back for other pastries without the line (forgot to try the frozen s’mores). Wouldn’t wait more than 30 minutes in line again for cronuts. And yes, these people didn’t plan correctly.

Bassanova Ramen

I’ve been meaning to try this place for a while – Japanese ramen in Chinatown? Is that blasphemous or amazeballs? And if the former, for whom….? Anyways, this place is easy to miss (its entrance is below street-level) and not well known, so get there before it gets too hot for all the ramen fiends in the city.

This place has the same menu and style of its Tokyo location’s Thai-Japanese origins.

Address: 76 Mott St (between Canal St & Bayard St), New York Chinatown
Price: $11-14 for ramen, $6-7 for appetizers
Hours:
12-10pm (M-Th, S); 12pm-12am (F-Sa)
Wait / Reservations: They don’t take reservations anyways, wait shouldn’t be too long


biggest table I know for a NY ramen place so if you have a need for party of 10 (no reservations taken of course)

IMG_1101
giant chopsticks and spoon

IMG_1102
i got the lemon and black pepper, really interesting tangy taste, have never heard of or tried before in ramen


i ate too fast and forgot to take a picture, so this is from another source, but the pork was to die for, they said it was berkshire pork (french laundry uses the same), but so tender and savory, the amount of soup was a little small but the ramen still retained all the soup’s flavors

Verdict: Deserves another look, I will go back for more pork(!) and try their green curry ramen (their specialty and the genesis of their Thai-inspired taste)

Desserts – Serendipity 3 and ChikaLicious

If steak and heels are the way to a man’s heart, desserts and rom-coms are among the keys to a woman’s heart…I think. Well either way, there’s nothing better than some steaming, sweet, hot chocolate on a snowy cold New York December night. What you say? It’s actually a frozen hot chocolate?

IMG_1052

We must be at Serendipity 3 then. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack help turn the 50-year-old celebrity dessert cafe into even more of a a tourist trap in 2001’s Serendipity (movie stills below).

Address: 225 E 60th St (between 2nd and 3rd Ave), New York (near Bloomingdales and other shopping)
Price: add $5 to what you would have expected; we got three things for total of $30 / person
Hours: 11:30am-12am (S-Th), 11:30am-1am (F-Sa)
Reservations / Wait: Only takes reservations for lunch / dinner (set spending amount), average wait on a busy night is one hour plus, best bet is to make a reservation one day in advance at least and expect to pay for it

Okay, but back to the food. Honestly, the frozen hot chocolate, their signature dish, was just average and pretty much what you would expect. Other than the name, it was not much different than, just as one example, Starbucks’ blended frappuccinos topped with whipped cream. The size was big though so it’s perfect for two.

IMG_1056

We also got a Shepard’s Pot Pie which was pretty jarring temperature-wise vs. the cold drinks, but only marginally better than Marie Callender‘s. Yea, don’t get cooked food at a dessert place.

IMG_1057

So we went with another dessert – a special sundae with a piece of pie inside. This was actually our favorite, lots of different flavors. The berries were a little too cold to chew on, but overall, this was something that Serendipity 3 did better than other dessert joints.

Verdict: Only worth going to impress a date. Long line and high prices for desserts you can get elsewhere.

For a much better dessert option, check out ChikaLicious Dessert Club:

IMG_1089

Address: 204 E. 10th Street between 1st & 2nd, New York (across the street from ChikaLicious Dessert Bar (more of a sit-down place)
Price: ~$3-5 for each dessert, small but shareable portions
Hours:  7am-12am (M-Sa), 7am-11pm (S)
Reservations / Wait: No reservations, should only be a 10 minute wait if busy (we got in at 8pm on Wednesday night with no wait)

We got a dough’ssant (best fake cronut I’ve had and I’ve had four different kinds), nutella cupcake (they have ten+ really interesting flavors), and tiramisu mochi (which was like a flavor explosion). The Dessert Club is a small place and grab-and-go. For a full menu, sit-down, date spot, the Dessert Bar across the street is the better option, albeit, it’s only open Thursday-Sunday.

Verdict: I would definitely go again and try other flavors, it’s great for after St. Marks dinner – assuming you didn’t already stuff yourself silly. To prevent that. we went here before dinner. Priorities, y’know!

Kappo at Má Pêche – Diminishing Marginal Utility of Food?

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene I

There are a few certainties in life and one is that if you get offered one of the eight seats at Momofuku Má Pêche’s 10 course chef’s tasting menu “kappo“, you pretty much have to go. Another, related, fact of life is that law of diminishing marginal utility always wins out.

Address: In Chambers Hotel, 15 w. 56th Street, between 5th and 6th Ave., New York
Price: $95 / person, $65 for the drink pairing (don’t get it)
Hours: One seating per night Weds-Sat 7:30pm
Wait / Reservations: No wait! Because you’re paying for the personal service…and because you called at least one week before to make your reservation.

And I’m not kidding about the personal service: the head chef Paul Carmichael will call you the day of to ask if you have any allergies / preferences…and that’s just the beginning of his very hands-on demeanor. Paul and his entire staff will, in a laid-back but quietly efficient manner, prepare your dishes mere inches from your counter seat. There’s a very brief introduction before each dish is served. And brief also is the respite from the staccato proficiency of the staff. Ten dishes actually went by pretty fast since there was never a lull in the action – an edible substance is constantly being cut/cooked, shoved in front of you, into your mouth, or all of the above. So if you aren’t examining your plate to see what completely unexpected ingredients Paul has cooked together, you are watching the action in front of you.

Needless to say, the portion sizes aren’t huge, but if the first several don’t look filling, you will understand later that they are small for a reason. On the other hand, Paul doesn’t use traditional reason for his style or for his order – Momofuku is Asian fusion, but Paul is Barbadian; dessert might come last or it might not, bread might come first or it might come in the middle. Only one thing is sure: don’t get the drink pairing because devouring the food itself will occupy enough of your energy.


Chef Paul says hi

1
Seasoned pork rinds and other dried, crunchy snacks like fried chicken skin and nori – a new treat for those who didn’t frequent Asian grocery stores in their youth. For Asians, the newness is that we can safely eat them without getting yelled at by mothers who want to save for the soup. Oh, there was a “ghetto white sauce” on the side for dipping. Hunger level: 11 out of 10.

3
Choice slices of marine animals with fava shoots, strawberries, and some lime juice. Really cleansing? Either way, fruit + sushi = must-try combination. Hunger level: 10/10

4
More fish! This time, topped with sea foam. I spent too much time trying to figure out where the sea foam came from and couldn’t really taste the fish and black dots. Weakest dish. Hunger level: 9/10

5
The lobster that they were pulling apart in the beginning is dropped in here with fried cassava and cucumber. He loves to garnish, which is great to chew on while waiting for the next dish. I ate both separately and together – both way was absolutely delicious. Hunger level: 8/10

6
I was excited to see meat (and our first cooked dish), but then realized that it was steamed oyster mushrooms. The other chunks were tofu and the green dots were chimichurri. I’m a big fan of mushrooms and the sauce really got the right flavoring. Hunger level: 7/10

8
Alright this is where it gets interesting. That’s just a poached egg chilling in the bottom. Then they douse it with some caramelized onion puree and grated parmesan cheese. They call it french onion soup….? Hunger level: 7.5/10

10
My soup is on fire! With a light-based blowtorch? So curious I drank it all in two gulps. Ooops. Hunger level: 6/10

13
This was hands down the best part of the meal. Sea-salted challah (Jewish egg-based bread) soaked with duck fat. You can dip it in the aforementioned french onion soup or you can just eat as is. I just wanted. To. EAT. All. The. Bread. Hunger level: 4/10

15
Actually not a big letdown with this ramen dish served Italian-style with tomato, pork jowl and monkfish liver. Looks just like spaghetti without meatballs but the texture of ramen made it slightly more shocking. Wait who am I kidding, I was still on a high from the bread. Mistake: ate my dining mates’ ramen too. Hunger level: 2/10

21
Time to do some work! They gave us a wooden mortar and pestle set to grind our own mofongo (a fried plantain-based dish from Puerto Rico) – also including more pork rinds (chicharron), garlic, and lobster stock. The deep bowl deceptively conned me into eating way too much here, but absolutely delicious. Hunger level: 0/10

22
Duck two ways – duck sausage on the left and duck breast on the right. Normally I would’ve ate this up, but I started to hit a wall here. I would come back just for the duck. Hunger level: -2/11

23
Our first “oh please let this be the end” moment. We got a palate cleanser in the form of chrysanthemum tea poured over apple granita. Leave it to an Asian fusion restaurant to serve tea in the middle of a dinner. Hunger level: -1/11

27
Frozen fruit and some ice cream in the middle, but honestly I was just running back and forth to the bathroom at this point. Other days had more interesting dessert concoctions. Perhaps, Paul took pity on our over-satiated state. Hunger level: -3/11

30
Chef Paul says bye

Verdict: A great experience and extreme value for the dollar spent compared to other New York tasting menus. Highly recommend for anyone who likes good food and worth a second trip in a different season. Now I know not to over eat during the middle portions of the food procession and to obey my economic principles.