eat. shop. love. nyc.

Korean-style shabu shabu kalguksu
January 6, 2012, 12:13 pm
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Korean-style shabu shabu kalguksu

One of the Korean dishes I miss most from my days in Seoul is “shabu shabu kalguksu,” a Korean spin on Japanese shabu shabu hotpot that involves knife-cut noodles and a spicy leek and potato broth. See excerpt from Eyes in Korea below (and click through the link for more mouth-watering photos and descriptions).

Korean Shabu Kalguksu

My overview of Korean food continues and our target today isshabu kalguksu or chopped noodles.Shabu kalguksu is a very popular dish in Korea. Some people think it is a Japanese cuisine according to the name “shabu”, which is a Japanese word. Others say it is similar to Mongolian Genghis Khan’s meal. Some Koreans also say it is “toryeom” meal originated in Korea. As it often happens, nobody knows the real story for sure, so let’s concentrate on the dish itself.

I often go with my friends to Doul Shabu Kalguksu restaurant which is our favorite spot in Daejeon. Usually we order seafood kalguksu. The ingredients of the shabu kalguksuinclude seafoods, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, noodles and rice with eggs. Furthermore there are many side dishes served at the table.

New York has a Koreatown, so why can’t I find my shabu shabu kalguksu here?!? I may, however, have found a passable alternative at Arirang (my favorite NYC spot for kalguksu, sujaebi, and kimchi jeon) – the chicken shabu kalguksu. I’m checking it out on Monday evening as it purported feeds 3-4 people – which means it probably feeds 6 with sides and apps. I will report back shortly.


Great ramen, no wait at Kuboya
April 4, 2011, 9:25 am
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I didn’t want to fall in love with Kuboya.

A staunch Minca Ramen-goer, I was utterly appalled when Kuboya, another ramen shop, opened up right next door. The owner had posted a sign saying he was close personal friends with the owner of Minca, and that E. 5th St. was big enough for two ramen shops. The next day, the sign had disappeared, like the friendship, perhaps.

For months, I passed by Kuboya with my nose upturned. Then one fateful Saturday afternoon following a particularly dehydrating Friday night, I found myself craving ramen.

It was a soul-wrenching, tongue-prickling, heart-squeezing need.

I walked over to Minca, knowing I couldn’t be bothered to wait in line for an hour at Ippudo. However, when I arrived at Minca, all of the seats in the tiny ramenya were taken, and it didn’t look like anyone was going to be getting up anytime soon. As my need swelled from quiet hunger to panic and desperation, I grudgingly agreed to give Kuboya a chance (at a friend’s suggestion) and walked reluctantly next door.

The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t look anything like any ramen shop I’d ever been in. It feels more like a French bistro than anything else. Nothing about the decor says Japanese to me: black and white photos of cities around the world, green and white woven wicker seats, jazz music playing softly in the background… And it’s spacious. It has twice the seating of Minca, and enough room to maneuver with your chopsticks, maybe even to gesticulate wildly. When I checked out the menu, my anger began melting away slowly. $15 lunch special every day (even weekends!) from 12 to 4? This includes your choice of ramen, a half fried rice, and 5 gyoza.

Salmon tartar with guacamole and chips. Chicken tatsuta. Pork buns. Rock shrimp. And they accept credit card. Anger gone. And after the first sip of that chicken-pork-shrimp broth from the salt (shio) ramen hit my lips, I was like Minca who?

Since that fateful first encounter, I’ve been back several times. I’ve perfected the ordering process for two: always get one lunch special with the salt ramen to share, and two appetizers to share. My favorite is the salmon tartar.

I also have dreams about the crab croquette here, a special I have not seen again since the one time I ordered it. Impossibly smooth and creamy on the inside, perfectly deep-fried with crisp panko breading on the outside.

This might be cruel, since you may never experience the joy and magic that is the crab croquette at Kuboya, but it’s ok. The other stuff (chicken tatsuya) is pretty darn good, too, and always ask about the specials.

While I still suffer occasional bouts of guilt for jumping on the Kuboya wagon, I tell myself that with no wait, ample seating, jazz, daily lunch specials, non-ramen menu items, and being able to use a credit card, I’ve made the right choice. It’s also open ’til midnight most evenings and on Fridays and Saturdays until 2 am (last call for ramen at 1:30 am).

Slurp: Kuboya (East Village/Alphabet City) 536 East 5th St. between Aves. A & B. (212) 777-7010.

Taiwanese Hanukkah brunch

Brunch mashup at its best. This Sunday (12/5/10), we had a small but intimate Taiwanese Hanukkah brunch at Julie and Kelvin’s. How can a brunch be both Taiwanese and Jewish, you may ask. Are there any Taiwanese Jews? I cannot answer the latter, but I will tell you how our brunch with an identity crisis came to be.

Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 at Rendezfoods Hotpot dinner

Julie: Kelvin and I watched “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network and they mentioned the bagel and lox from Russ & Daughters. Is it good?
Me: Is it GOOD?!? Does the pope love Jesus?!?*
Julie: Where is it again?
Me: Near my apartment. It’s in LES on Houston at Allen. We should do a brunch for Hanukkah! In the spirit of open-mindedness and celebration. (Any excuse to party/eat.) Isn’t it coming up?
Sara: Hanukkah starts next week.
Mel: Sweet. We’ll bring bagels from Atlas (they’re H&H and they are more delicious than the ones at R&D) and we’ll pick up lox from R&D.
Julie: Yeah! We can do it at my place. I’ll make Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
*moment of confusion and silence as we contemplate the Jewishness of beef noodle soup*
Mel & Sara: We love noodle soup. Done!

*Slight paraphrasing in recalling this conversation may have occurred.

We were on a mission to prove Michael Psilakis right: Russ & Daughters rocks (we didn’t get the Gaspe Nova, however, and it still rocked).

The table settings at brunch were impeccable, as always. Baby blue and tan polka dots! Julie is the hostess with the mostest. Look – she even has the bellinis on a serving tray.

The Russ & Daughters spread (like my plating?): two types of lox (Norwegian shown here was saltier and smokier than the Scottish on the other platter), quartered sesame and poppyseed bagels, thinly sliced red onions, grape tomatoes, lemon wedges.

Also from Russ & Daughters: ramekins of the whitefish and smoked salmon salad/spread, plain tofu cream cheese (a blessing for the lactose intolerant – and still divinely creamy), whitefish roe, and capers.

Julie made us bellinis with pureed peach and champagne, garnished with orange peel and strawberry quarters! It’s this kind of attention to detail that elevates a cocktail from the everyday to a special occasion. You know. For Hanukkah.

The perfect bite: lox, tofu cream cheese, red onion, whitefish roe, capers, and half of a grape tomato, finished with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon.

I thought Sara and I may have gotten too much food for four people from Russ & Daughters, but we were wrong. We had grossly underestimated our collective ability to eat, and we polished everything off, knowing full well that the Taiwanese portion of our Hanukkah brunch would soon be underway.

Julie made a Taiwanese beef noodle soup she had been meaning to try, and it was phenomenal. Not too sweet, not tart (I don’t like tomato in beef soups as it tends to get too sour for my tastes), with just a touch of salt so all of the warm, beefy anise flavor shone through. Again, attention to detail is one of Julie’s fortes – she garnished the soup with pre-blanched baby bok choy!

The soup was served with cilantro, scallions, and pickled cabbage as sides for guests to add to taste. Yum!

Julie also pickled some cucumbers by immersing them in salt to release water and salt the cucumber, rinsing, then adding rice wine vinegar, sugar, sesame seed oil, and I forget what else. So crunchy and refreshing, a great accompaniment to the noodle soup.

For dessert, Kelvin contributed Dunkin’ Donuts.

Life is good.

Happy Hanukkah! (How do you say that in Mandarin?)

Eat: Russ & Daughters (LES) 179 East Houston St. at Allen St.. New York, NY 10002. (212) 475-4880. Takeout only. Jewish holiday catering and special menus available. Another recommended combo: whitefish spread and wasabi flying fish roe.

Soft shell crab banh mi
June 9, 2010, 11:29 am
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I love soft shell crab. I would slap a baby (thanks, Kim) for some soft shell crab. My summertime go-to for SSC is Great NY Noodletown, but I’ve added a new SSC resto to my rotation after a chance encounter one lazy afternoon. I rarely get up to Gramercy to eat, but I had purchased a massage at Essential Spa on Groupon and found myself in the area. As my eating PIC and I began to amble downtown, we came across Bao Noodles, and we decided that we really wanted to have some noodles. We ordered our noodles, and then we saw this sign:

We decided we would get the $8.95 soft shell crab banh mi to share as our appetizer. It was the best decision we made all month.

Soft, chewy, crusty bread filled with deep fried soft shell crab, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon radish, and a whole lot of cilantro served with fish sauce and hot sauce on the side. Heaven. Continue reading

Xi’an Famous Foods in Manhattan
May 25, 2010, 10:49 am
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Behold: the perfect noodle.

The $5 “spicy and tingly lamb noodles” (D1) from Xi’an Famous Foods are definitely spicy, and I suppose the tingle comes from the burning sensation in your mouth that intensifies with each glorious mouthful. I had to pat dry the tiny beads of sweat that appeared on my nose after the first few bites, but I didn’t care because it was so messing good. The ancient city for which this restaurant is named (Xi’an) is home to the famous terracotta soldiers and fuses Middle Eastern and Chinese flavor profiles together seamlessly. The smokiness of the cumin, the  mellowness of the lamb, the crunchiness of the bean sprouts and scallions, and the crazy heat from the chilies all added to the dish’s hearty, toothsome goodness. The thick, chewy noodles have a delightful texture, and they are pulled and cooked to order by this woman and her magic hands:

She takes the fat pieces of dough and splays them across the counter so that they stretch and flattens them with a few quick pounds, and then she takes the long, flat noodles one by one and *poof* magically whirls them around with a few quick flicks of the wrist and voila! They become thinner in width (though still thick in girth) and they are tossed into the pot to cook. Continue reading

Soft shell crab season is here
May 4, 2010, 12:50 pm
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Just had my first soft shell crab of the season at Great NY Noodletown for lunch. $8 each.

The photos really don’t do it justice. Trust me, this is some effing good ish. Dip in vinegar and chili sauce mixture. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.

Also very good: egg plant over rice $4.95 and sauteed pea shoots $9.95 (shown below), and pretty much all of the noodles. In fact, it is from Great NY Noodletown’s Lo Mein with Ginger and Scallion that David Chang got the idea for his own ginger scallion noodles. Note: Tsingtao beers are $3 each.

Go: Great NY Noodletown (Chinatown/LES) 28 Bowery, New York, NY 10013. Open to 4 am nightly.

Ho fun? How fun! Wide flat rice noodle stir fry

I was doing a little grocery shopping in Chinatown the other day and came across a shop on the northeast corner of Grand and Chrystie. Little old Chinese ladies were hawking freshly made noodles called ho fun, shahe fen or sen yai, wide flat rice noodles, almost gummy or sticky in texture, often found in dishes such as chow fun or pad see ew. For $1.50, I picked up 2 huge bags of ho fun. I only wanted 1 bag, as that was already 2 pounds, but the fresh noodles don’t keep long, maybe 3-4 days max, so the ladies try to turn inventory quickly. For $1.50, I figured if I could eat a few different incarnations of chow fun throughout the week.

There are a few basic ingredients for any Asian noodle stir-fry sauce: oyster sauce for sweetness, soy sauce for saltiness, rice vinegar for acidity, sesame seed oil for depth, and some kind of hot sauce or pepper for heat (I am a huge fan of sriracha).

Continue reading