New Lens, New Perspective

Just got a macro lens for my camera (30mm f3.5) just so I can take better pictures of food. I am such a loser so passionate about what I do.

I made steak & brussels sprouts tonight and decided to try out the new lens. Special shoutout to Eric who showed me this recipe for cooking brussels sprouts. Before him, I was confined to the salt/pepper/olive oil combination. His way is actually surprisingly easy too.

1. Heat up pan on high heat (with no oil)
2. Place 3-4 strips of bacon on pan and let it cook til the fat melts off.
3. Take out bacon strips, put in brussels sprouts and cook for ~10 minutes or until they’re nice and brown.

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(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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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

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they make more than cronuts

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they also have sandwiches (panel to the right)

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

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actual croissants, didn’t see any donuts though

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after 30 minutes in line, unwrapping the magic box!

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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)

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coconut lycee pavlova – looked awesome, tasted gross

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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

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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)

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giant chopsticks and spoon

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

Sushi Nakazawa

A couple months ago when I first heard that one of Jiro’s apprentices opened up a new restaurant in NYC, my pants quickly became moist with joy. Ever since I saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I’ve been wanting to go eat at his restaurant, but seeing that I probably would not be going to Tokyo anytime soon, this was a pretty awesome alternative. The restaurant is located in West Village and reservations weren’t surprisingly terrible to make.

The meal had roughly 20 pieces of nigiri with a nice raspberry sorbet at the end to top it off. We got the sake pairing as well which was a nice addition to the meal.

Overall verdict: I’m surprisingly pretty conflicted with this one. The quality and freshness of the fish is absolutely top class, without a doubt. The problem I ran into (and I think it’s mainly because I have the palate of a 2-year-old) was that I wasn’t able to taste the more subtle flavors of some of the fish. Fish with stronger, bolder flavors like mackerel and barracuda was absolutely spectacular, but there were some fish like the fluke which I thought was pretty bland. Overall, out of the 20 pieces, I would say 13-14 were amazing and the others were pretty average. I’m not sure if I’d go again but definitely worth a try.

Now for the pictures….Also I couldn’t decide whether or not my camera or phone took better close-up photos so half these pics are from my camera and the other half from my phone. But clearly there was an obvious winner…

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Ivory Salmon

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Some other kind of wild salmon I forgot the name of

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Best scallop ever

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Giant Clam

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Fluke

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Wet Barracuda – this thing was AMAZING

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Haku

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Mackerel – so good

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Tiger Shrimp – the tail was still moving when we ate it ~~

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Blue Shrimp

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Wild Yellowtail

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Amberjack

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Skipjack – this thing was beautiful

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Bluefin Tuna – pretty lean and bland sadface

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Bluefin Tuna 2 – this was so good

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Toro!! so fatty and yummy

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Uni: Best dish of the night by far – butter of the sea

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Roe – so good too

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Sea eel – amazinggg

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Egg sushi – in the documentary it talks about how Nakazawa spent 3 months making only egg sushi under Jiro’s tutelage.. and it fucking paid off LOL best egg sushi ever omg

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Top off the meal with some nice raspberry sorbet yumyum

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Sangkee Noodle House

I actually really like this place, and given the relatively cheap prices, it’s not too bad. Especially on a campus where Asian restaurants have crappier food and 3 times the price. Like Han Dynasty. Or Handy Nasty.

Address: 3549 Chestnut St.  Philadelphia, PA 19104
Price: $7-15
Hours: Sun – Thu: 6:30am – 10:30pm, Fri – Sat: 6:30am – 11:30pm

ImageRoast Duck + Pork Noodle Soup

The camera on this phone is seriously amazing. Lumia 920 FTW.

Super Bowl

Last year, I watched the super bowl by myself with a super bowl of rice. This year, I decided to be more social. We had a huge potluck with ribs, wings, nachos, mac & cheese, fries, and a load of other diabetes inducing foods.

I made two batches of wings – one batch was braised Chinese-style and the other was baked Western-style.

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The first batch of wings were baked in the oven for 45 minutes. Seasoned with salt, garlic, and cajun powder. Came out extremely crispy, yet tender. Success!

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This is easily my favorite dish to make (and probably best tasting too). Braised wings. I start off by cooking the wings in oil to brown up both sides, then pour soy sauce in for the color, then add water and boil for 40 minutes. The kicker? Sriracha sauce. Feel free to put as little or as much of it in it as you want, since the spiciness will be tempered after boiling for 40 minutes. So easy, so delicious.

Saigon Cuisine

Two words: Sangkee Wannabe. Although it is cheaper and the ambience is much better than Pho Saigon on 43rd and Spruce. It replaced “Nan”, the French/Thai fusion restaurant. Not in the mood to make a real review though so here are some shady pictures from my phone.

Address: 4000 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104
Price: $6-10 for entrees

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