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Korean-style shabu shabu kalguksu
January 6, 2012, 12:13 pm
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.


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.

Xi’an Famous Foods in Manhattan
May 25, 2010, 10:49 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Eleven Madison Park Gourmand Lunch Part 1

On March 18th, I had the pleasure of dining at the New York Times’ 4 starred Eleven Madison Park. It was a sunny Thursday afternoon, and I was super hung over from an accidentally overzealous St. Patrick’s Day celebration the night prior. (I had been sick all morning and was still paying copious respects to the toilet queen just moments before leaving my apartment for EMP. So classy it hurts.)

Despite the pounding headache and unsettling nausea, it was the best fine dining experience I’ve had. The service was exceptional and the food was great, though not perfect – Chef Daniel Humm was not in the kitchen that day, and though I’m sure his sous chef is highly qualified, I wonder if that made any difference. Whatever the case, it was a fabulous experience and a tremendous value, and I would not hesitate to go there again for any special occasion or celebration.

Let’s start with my Open Table reservation, where I had made a note that I was planning to partake in the $68 6-course Gourmand Tasting Menu. (Diners may also choose from a $28 2-course prix-fixe or a $42 3-course prix fixe at lunch.) The next day, I received a call from EMP confirming my reservation and asking if there were any dietary restrictions, which I thought was quite thoughtful of them even though I will eat pretty much anything.

When we arrived at EMP, we were led to our table through the airy and spacious dining room past trees of dancing yellow roses and a rather eclectic looking group of diners including businessmen, ladies who lunch, a family with two bored-looking tweens, two avid foodies celebrating a birthday, and an aspiring college-age food critic and his girlfriend. The two of us were seated at a large table that at another restaurant, may have seated four. Despite the white tablecloths and the fine silver, I felt comfortable and fully at ease. I especially liked it that when any of the staff happened to catch a diner’s eye, they would smile, even if they were headed somewhere else entirely. It made me feel welcome. I ordered a gingered ale (pureed ginger and sparkling water) in an attempt to ward off my hangover, and eagerly awaited our first course.

Now we get to the photos.

Our first bite of the afternoon was a playful amuse-bouche of a foie gras macaroon and a cracker-like thingy topped with a festive green gelee. I know there should be more to the description and the server was very precise, but I simply couldn’t remember all the details. I ate the foie gras macaroon expecting it to be savory but found it sweet, and I ate the green dessert-looking thing (I do not think “cracker-like thingy” or “dessert-looking thing” are what the server called it but the actual description escapes me) expecting it to be sweet and found it salty – I think I heard the server say something about celery but I am not sure. Whatever the case, it was surprising, and I liked it.

We were also brought a little dish of fluffy, air-light gougères, little pastry puffs of cheesy goodness. Sorry, Jo’s, but your gougères ain’t got nothin’ on EMP’s, although I do like it that Jo’s bartender Mackenzie gives me sriracha sauce for dipping. Maybe EMP can start offering a side of sriracha! (Kidding… sorta.)

The official first course of the tasting menu was the Sea Urchin Cappuccino with Peekytoe Crab and Cauliflower, which was served cool along with a generously seasoned pastry stick. I love the unctuousness of sea urchin, or uni in sushi-speak, and I believe shellfish are God’s way of saying he loves us, so to combine the two in a slightly frothy but mostly creamy soup is genius. Crunchy bits of cauliflower added texture, and I think they may have been lightly pickled because there was some acidity there. Phenomenal. And how beautiful is that bowl?

After the soup, we were served bread. This is one thing that I wish had been different. I wish they had served me the bread before I got the soup so I could sop up the leftover soup with the bread after getting as much of it as possible with the spoon (the pastry stick wasn’t very absorbent). We got two types of bread – olive and regular – and two types of butter – cow’s milk and goat’s milk – and a dish of crystalline sea salt. I’ve never had goat’s milk butter before, but I love goat cheese so I thought it was deliciously tangy and decadent.

Our official second course followed the bread course. I had the best (and tiniest) salad of my life on this day. You would think that salad is pretty basic, something you can make fairly easily at home, but I’m certain that even if I procured radicchio trevisano, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and a champagne mango, I wouldn’t be able to replicate those three transcendent bites from the Tardivo Trevisano Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella, Champagne Mango, Basil Puree, and Terre Bormane Olive Oil. I would never think to combine basil with mango, and the acidity in the olive oil dressing (perhaps champagne vinegar?) added brilliance and zest. I also loved that the radicchio was not very bitter, which I have been told is because it is radicchio trevisano tardivo.

Foie, fish, lobster, and meat courses to come soon. I can only sit in front of the computer so long at one time before I start going cross-eyed. More later, folks!

Bone Marrow Madness in NYC

I truly love bone marrow. I grew up eating it mostly in Korean seolleongtang soup and other beef or oxtail broths or sucked out of galbi bones, but as an adult, my eyes were opened to the joys of roasted bone marrow. I had been scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw this tweet from Michael Voltaggio:

“Colicchio and sons bone marrow with anchovy, need I say more! Great dish..

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t post about bone marrow earlier (this blog had been saved in “drafts”), as it seems Yelpers have now beaten me to the punch and now I just look like I’m just hopping on the marrow wagon when I’ve been a longtime passenger. Whatever the case, I thought I’d get to typing and put together a little bone marrow roundup for y’all.

I recently had the bone marrow at Jo’s, which is cut lengthwise and topped with anchovies and crusty parsley bread. The anchovy adds another level of complexity that elevates the bone marrow from something that’s already great to something even better.

Still, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of roasted marrow served on its own, with nothing to detract or distract from its ooey gooey rich and fatty goodness. The marrow at Prune is served just this way, the bone served intact and upright with a side of salt and fresh parsley.

Here’s a list of restaurants in NYC where you can try bone marrow different ways. If you try any, let me know what you think! Full list of roasted marrow and marrow soup restos after the jump: Continue reading

Easy cream of spinach soup or spinach cream sauce
March 2, 2010, 9:17 am
Filed under: Cook, Eat | Tags: , , , , ,

I eat soup from a can more often than I’d care to admit. This is a terrible habit born of laziness and a desire to not have to purchase a plethora of soup ingredients. This recipe is for a homemade cream of spinach soup, but it’s not totally from scratch. I make things easier on myself by using frozen spinach (10 oz package) and pre-made soup stock. By modifying the recipe slightly, it also makes for a rich spinach cream sauce. Continue reading

Snow days = soup days
February 28, 2010, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Cook | Tags: , , , , , , ,

When it’s cold and snowy outside, it makes me want soup. Today, I was feeling mighty nostalgic about sopa azteca, a Mexican soup that I have only tried once at the food court in the airport in Mexico City. Yes, I said airport food court. And yes, it was actually quite delicious.

Sopa Azteca is a creamy tomato soup spiced with chiles, onions, lime and cilantro, served with slices of avocado, crunchy tortilla strips, and a fatty-crispy piece of chicharron, finished with a squirt of Mexican crema.

The following recipe for Sopa Azteca Tortilla Soup With Pasilla Chile comes from Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo restaurant in Chicago. Both the restaurant and this pasilla chile-accented tortilla soup are favorites of the Obamas. I am not going to be frying my own tortilla strips because I do not have that luxury in my apartment. I would substitute store-bought tortilla chips, crumbled. Continue reading