Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Eating through the Big Apple Part 2 - The Best Ramen Ever

Ramen has to be my favorite food in the world. I think it comes down to the fact that good ramen, not just decent ramen, but GOOD ramen is really, really hard to find. There are different levels of ramen, Top Ramen being the lowest (don't even try to pretend this is anything like real ramen), then your artsy, fartsy, Asian/Oriental themed ramen shop with the Asian/Modern design and high prices with ramen that tastes like canned bamboo shoots, to your average train stop ramen in Tokyo (which blows most places away in the US), to the Mecca of ramen; Ippudo.

While studying abroad in Tokyo, I came to appreciate, no, love ramen and not just any ramen, but Ippudo's tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen. If you look at some of my photos from that summer, you'll easily be able to tell that I enjoyed a little bit too much of the ramen.

Read the official Wikipedia entry here for a more in depth description of the different variations of ramen including tonkotsu ramen. This quote says all you need to know about tonkotsu ramen "thick broth made from boiling pork bones, fat, collagen over high heat for many hours, which suffuses the broth with a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk or melted butter or gravy". Melted butter or freaking gravy! Tell me that doesn't sound amazing! Also to top it all off some fatty pork belly is always added to the ramen. Now you'll know why it looked like I was fattening myself up for winter hibernation that summer.

While in Tokyo, we would eat at Ippudo multiple times a week. It was convenient being located right down the street from our dorms in Takadanobaba, but beyond convenience it was just good. Everytime we go back to Japan, the first thing on my "To Do" list is to take the JR to Takadanobaba to make a pilgrimage to Ippudo for a steaming hot bowl of delicious ramen. Being that I have to fly thousands of miles just to eat my favorite meal, I was more than excited when I heard they had finally opened a restaurant here in the US. Unfortuantely I rarely am out in New York until this past week...

The comforting and familiar Ippudo sign. In Japan, its a small hole in the wall, college hangout, late night meal (after drinking) type of place. However in NY they fancied it up a bit. What's cool is that you feel like you're back in Tokyo because everyone speaks in Japanese the whole time from the cooks to the waiters. Don't worry though they'll take your order in English. Also I swear I saw a white guy cooking my ramen noodles, but it's OK because it was only my noodles.

The Akamaru Moden ramen is to die for. How cliche, but honestly it's amazing. I love ramen because it's so Japanese. They give you a ladle and expect you to slurp up and truly enjoy your soup. This isn't some uptight cold tomato soup served with a silver teaspoon, but comfort food Japanese style. Hey there are a lot of great things Japanese people have invented for me to be proud of like the hybrid car, sumo, Japanese game shows, but nothing makes me as proud as the creation of tonkotsu ramen. The flavors are amazing, rich, salty, creamy, garlicky, sesame oil, fat. They all blend together perfectly and Ippudo's ramen is impossible to replicate because of all of the amazing flavors and the time it takes to make it.

The chefs hard at work. They had a case filled with pounds and pounds of precooked pork belly. For those of you new to the blog (since we talk about pork belly nonstop), it's basically that fat hunk of meat bacon is before it's sliced.

I had their spicy pork buns, which was recommended by my friend Greyson and accompanied them with a mug of Kirin. The buns had a great flavor, texture combo. Imagine biting into a soft steamed bun and then immediately continuing into a soft piece of pork belly. Everything just melts into your mouth, but the sauce is where the flavor is, it was both spicy and sweet. A great way to start off of my multi-course pork belly meal.

Here it is, this photo actually brings a tear to my eye because I love it so much. When I took my first slurp I understood what Ken Griffey Jr meant on the Simpsons when he said "it's like there's a party in my mouth and everyone's invited". Even though my ramen already came with some chashu (pork) I ordered some kakuni (pork belly) in addition to the ramen, if you haven't learned anything from me yet you know I can never have enough pork belly. I was in heaven and this meal completely made my trip.

I highly recommend Ippudo if you're ever in the NYC, but I have to admit the Ippudo restaurants in Tokyo are better. Not because the ramen is better, it was just as good in New York, but because of the side dishes. In Tokyo you can add crushed garlic and these amazing sesame oil bean sprouts. I seriously would eat a whole freaking bowl of these things. Also the ramen goes really well with a side order of gyoza and a bowl of rice, what a complete meal and also a proven hangover cure.

I know this post is long, but I wanted to pay tribute to one of the best things I've ever eaten. If you find yourself in New York make sure to add Ippudo to your list of places to eat.

- Kyle

Friday, June 25, 2010

Eating through the Big Apple Part 1

I'm currently sitting in my room at the W in Times Square stuffed to capacity. I don't get full all that easily, but after a few days out here in Manhattan the food has gotten the best of me. I read in the cab today that fifteen years ago 1 in 10 New Yorkers were obese, today it's 1 in 4 and I can see why!!!

Unfortunately Emi isn't here to enjoy this amazing trip with me since she had meetings and I'm here for work as well so we couldn't match up our schedules. Since I don't really know anyone out here and Emi isn't here to explore the city with me, I decided to fill my off time with enjoying all the great food New York City has to offer!

My first night in town, I Yelp'd New York Pizza and this little spot, right around the corner from the W came up, Patzeria Pizza. I couldn't come all the way out here and not get some good, authentic New York Pizza, and this place didn't disappoint.

Definitely a hole in the wall type of place with no A/C. The only complaint on Yelp was that the staff wasn't very friendly, but the reviewer said "I would be cranky too if I was stuck in that hot, cramped little space too!". Even though it was getting late into the evening, it was definitely hot and muggy out so I decided to take my pizza "to go" to enjoy in my air conditioned room.
I ordered their "White pizza" and "Grandma's pizza" which is basically their Margherita pizza. The white pizza was garlicky and cheesy just the way I like it. Also Grandma's pizza was great too. I was a little surprised that the crust was a little crunchy and a tad tough, considering I thought all NY pizza was thin crust, but still a great way to start off my eating spree.

The next day I ran out of time to eat breakfast and by the time I was done with work, it was late in the afternoon and I hadn't eaten anything yet! Good thing late in the afternoon is right about lunchtime in Seattle which is the timezone my stomach was going on.
I had on my list of places to visit, the World's Famous Carnegie's Deli. Carnegie's is always on the Food Network and is well known for their ginormous pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. I ended up walking down the wrong street, so made it all the way to Central Park and decided to wander around there for a little while since I've never been before. Definitely an fun walk, but this little detour worked up even more of a hunger so I went all out with my meal. Anyhow how many times am I out in the NYC?

My monster pastrami sandwich. The meat lover in me was in heaven (I ate the whole thing) and the dieter in me said "it's OK you're on vacation". This sandwich is best served smothered in their stone ground mustard which is already at your table. I liked the mustard because it didn't have a strong overpowering horseradish aftertaste. This sandwich was an amazing choice, never have I had such tender, delicious pastrami. I thought I would be done with pastrami for years after finishing this, but writing this post right now makes me want to go order a late night sandwich to go!

Of course to complete my meal I had to get some authentic NY matzah ball soup! Fogetbout it! My roommate in college's family was from New York so he introduced me to matzah ball soup and corned beef sandwiches back in the day, so I knew if I ever made it out to NY I had to have some. This was delicious, not too salty, but still a great chicken broth. Unfortunately I could only finish one matzah ball, it was too much!

After going back to the hotel, I passed out and took a short nap, then went to workout. The whole workout I was weighed down by the 5 lbs of pastrami, bread, and matzah ball soup, but they were worth the pain. However by the time I sort of was hungry again it was 9pm. My friend Greyson highly recommended the Halal Food Cart on 53rd and 6th. What's funny is that on the way there, I ran into about 10 other Halal food carts and supposedly this one opens at 7:30pm so if you get there early you might be fooled by the imposter setup in its place. However I knew I had the right spot because of the line 20 deep when I showed up.

The line moved pretty quickly and I think this is primarily a locals spot. They didn't have a menu or any prices listed. So I just ordered what the guy in front of me ordered, lamb and chicken with rice. This whole thing for only $6 and I always heard Manhattan was expensive. This dish is best served drenched with the side of "white sauce" and a touch of the hot sauce. Word of warning the hot sauce is hot, even if you like hot foods, this ish is hot! Click here to check out the food cart's website.
This was a great way to start off my first two days in NYC. Today I was able to enjoy the world's best ramen, which will get its own post for a future date. Before I leave I hope to get some potato latkas, a black and white cookie, an authentic NY bagel with cream cheese and lox, and hopefully some good Chinese food too. I'm sure I'll come back a little huskier on Monday and will only have 12 days to get back into shape for Hawaii!!
- Kyle

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Keo's Honey Glazed Spareribs

A few weeks ago while Emi and I were trying out a few of Keo's recipe, I grilled up the Honey Glazed Spareribs. They were delicious and I wanted to share the recipe with all of you. The sweetness of the honey combined with the lemongrass is a great, unique flavor.

If you want to try something different, yet still simple with great flavor this recipe is for you. It's also perfect for a summer BBQ.

Honey Glazed Spareribs Recipe:

The recipe book said that this was one of their more popular dishes.

What you will need:

  • 4 pounds of baby spareribs - I purchased a few racks of these ribs at Ranch 99 (much more affordable there)
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, chopped (again easy to find at Ranch 99 or your equivalent local, Asian market)
  • 1/2 C chopped garlic
  • 3 T coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 C coarsely chopped Chinese parsley roots (it looks like a white turnip)
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/2 C coconut milk
  • 1/4 C soy sauce
  • 1 t salt
Cut spareribs into individual ribs. In a food processor, combine lemongrass, garlic, ginger, Chinese parsley roots, honey, coconut milk, soy sauce, and salt; blend until smooth. Pour sauce over the ribs and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 F place ribs in an open pan and bake for 1 hour, or until cooked, depending on the thickness of the ribs. Serve with Sriracha sauce for dipping.

I BBQ'd the ribs over indirect heat instead of baking them in the oven. This gave the ribs an added smokey flavor. It took a little bit longer to cook them at about 40 minutes in total. It's important to cook over indirect heat so that you don't burn the sugar in the marinade coating the ribs.

The ribs came out tender and flavorful. If you enjoy sweet, salty, and garlicky and teriyaki flavors you will enjoy these ribs. Also the lemongrass gives this dish an added kick.

Instead of serving with Sriracha, Emi prefers a little bit of sweet chili sauce on the side. Honestly the ribs have so much flavor you don't need an additional dipping sauce.

- Kyle

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend in Newport, Oregon - Part 2

I know you were all sitting at the edge of your seats for this second post on our weekend trip to Newport! On we go, on our wild and crazy food-filled trip.

Kyle's grandparents took us all out to eat at Quimby's , a local seafood joint in Newport.

Oh wow. Kyle's cheesy, luscious, slurp-to-the last-drop french onion soup. Need I say more?

My bacon and spinach salad was also killer.

You can't go to Newport and not eat some seafood--I got the crab cakes, which were filled with lots of fresh dungeness crab.

Ignore the random people in this photo. Since the Rogue Brewery headquarters was down the street from us, we went on a tour.

These are barrels full of whisky, the brewery's more recent venture. The tour guide said that pound for pound, Rogue puts more ingredients in their beer than other beers out there and that's what makes their beer so special.

Only downside of the tour was that there wasn't really a tasting involved...so we ended up going to the grocery store and buying some Rogue beer to go with dinner! I guess the Dead Guy Ale is their most well known beer, and was named because they have a hospital gurney that they use to hold this beer. I loved the Mocha porter, which was a darker beer with a slight chocolate flavor.

This was only the tip of the iceberg that was our food focused trip. We are headed to Maui for a week in July for my friend Amy and Aaron's wedding and will have more travels and food adventures to post soon!

Happy Eating,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend - Newport, Oregon - Part 1

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Newport, Oregon with Kyle's parents and grandparents. We left at 12:30pm and didn't get into the condo until 9pm! With bumper to bumper traffic from Downtown Seattle through South Portland, we arrived in Newport famished and exhausted. Lucky for us, Kyle's amazing grandmother had an amazing hot meal of beef stew prepared for us....ahh, it's good to be a kid again.

We started the next day with a big breakfast, but I found one last spot of empty space in my tummy for some grilled pizza at the local Farmer's Market. For you frequent readers, you know my favorite pizza is Serious Pie, but this pizza made its way to second place in my food lovin' heart.

Thank you husband for this fabulous close up of me gorging myself. This is the wild mushroom pizza that used mushrooms from the stand that was located a couple tents away from the pizza tent. Can't get much more "local" than that!

After the Farmer's Market, we dropped the grandparents off at the Casino (the trusty adult babysitter) and headed off for some wine tasting in the famous Willamette Valley with Kyle's parents. We went to McMinnville and stopped at Coleman Vineyards first. The whole valley was having special wine tasting events for the weekend, and since we arrived relatively early (It was 5pm somewhere at this point...), the place was empty and we had first dibs on the amazing food and wine at this "boutique," small, family-owned vineyard. Above is the 10 wines we tasted. Good thing Kyle and I were not the designated drivers, so we happily and greedily tasted all 10, plus one more taste of our favorite, a 2006 Pinot Noir, "just to be sure" that it was really good and worth buying.

The winery had some wonderful Oregon cheeses and crackers out to munch on along with the wine.

This is a specially designed Riedel glass made for Oregon Pinot Noirs. The Willamette Valley is famous for their Pinots, and I can confirm that this glass helped to bring out the flavors and scents of Coleman's amazing wines.

The vineyard's mascot and resident pooch. He apparently comes from a very well known and respected line of chocolate labs, and will be studding his last litter soon. He was the most well behaved and friendly dog; I told them that if our dogs Buster and Mia were allowed to roam a vineyard, they would probably have toxic shock from eating the grapes, get an intestinal blockage because they would eat a cork, and when they weren't getting into trouble, would scare away potential customers because of their incessant barking (i.e. screaming). But I still love them.

One of the owners, Randy Coleman, taking us around the room for some barrel tasting.

Coleman's was a beautiful vineyard...definitely could put up a fight against Napa.

Next we were off to Yamhill Valley Vineyards. A little tipsy and ready for more delicious Oregon vino, we expected nothing but the best from this well known vineyard.

They had a big koi pond outside the entrance.

Although this winery is better known than Coleman, we ended up loving Coleman more. Yamhill was a larger winery, so there wasn't that homey feeling you get when you walk into Coleman. The wines were OK, but without the Riedel glasses, it couldn't compare to our new favorite.

There was a lot of food in this weekend trip, so we will continue this food fest post in part II.

Happy Eating,

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Eggplant with Chicken

We are having an amazingly sunny and hot weekend here in Seattle which makes me crave some grilled meat and a cold beer! But I wanted to post my last Thai recipe from our meal several weeks ago.

I love eggplant, but have always had trouble cooking it since it can be tough to cook perfectly--always either too soggy or undercooked and rubbery. Kyle and I always order this dish at our favorite Thai restaurants, and found the recipe very closely matched our favorites. Hope you enjoy this tasty and easy dish!

3/4 lb Japanese Eggplant (about 3 cups sliced)
1/3 lb boneless chicken breast
6 TBS vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1-5 red chili peppers, seeded and chopped
10-15 sweet basil leaves
1-3 TBS yellow bean sauce (see my below post if you are wondering what this is--trust me, you would never reach for it in the grocery aisle if you didn't know what it is!)

Slice unpeeled eggplant crosswise into slices 1/8 inch thick. Thinly slice chicken. Heat oil in a wok; add garlic and stir-fry until light brown. Add eggplant and chicken and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add red chili peppers, basil leaves and yellow bean sauce; mix well. Serve immediately, since eggplant and basil turn dark if dish sits after cooking.

Happy Eating,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Thai Broccoli Noodles with Shrimp

Here is round 2 of my Thai food extravaganza!

1/2 lb shrimp
4 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 lb fresh wide rice noodles (Kyle and I searched for about an hour for this. It is located next to the refrigerated noodle section of Ranch 99 on a shelf of its own since the noodles get hard in the fridge)
2 eggs (optional)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb broccoli (preferably Asian), cut into 2 inch lengths
1-3 TSP yellow bean sauce (I found out that this is also called soy bean paste and looks like fermenting, gross yellowish green garbage but truly does make the food taste authentic. After another hour of searching, we found it in the sauce aisle by the soy sauces and other canned items.)
2 tsp oyster sauce

Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails on for color. Heat 2 TBS o the oil in a large wok on medium heat. Add rice noodles and eggs; mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Place rice noodles on a large serving platter; set aside. Heat the remaining 2 TBS of the oil on high heat in the same wok with garlic, until garlic is golden brown. Add shrimp, broccoli, yellow bean sauce and oyster sauce. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add noodles and toss lightly. Serve immediately.

Happy Eating,