Saturday, November 28, 2009

Incredibly Overpriced Chopsticks by Tukaani

For that rich cousin who already has everything except for skills when it comes to using chopsticks, Kayiwa has some sterling silver Tukaani "eating utensils" that cost as much as a trip to the dentist. According to BLTD, the metal eating utensil does not include a napkin/wrapper and holder. If you buy all three, it comes out to 357.50 EUROS, which costs around $534.64 in today's inflated dollar.

Good thing you can get the same utility out of free disposable bamboo chopsticks eh?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Curry Cream Cheese+Pastrami on wheat, The Bagels Shop

The first time and only time I've seen curry cream cheese offered for consumption was in Barcelona, six years ago. Since then, I will sometimes have spontaneous cravings for it but lament that it is nowhere to be found. I think the place is called The Bagels Shop, or The Bagel Shop, if you want to be grammatically correct. It's off of las ramblas in barri gotic.
It was the end of a long day of walking around, and since dinner was still 4 hours away (it is not rare to have dinner after 11pm in Barcelona), I needed something to hold me over until then. The only bagel they had left was jalapeno and cheese, and for some reason I wanted to try the curry cream cheese. It was amazing (also amazing that I can still find the picture of it I took in 2003). I still have dreams about it.
I had afternoon tea (which ran until 10pm!) a couple of weekends ago, and wanted to recreate the deliciousness with some spare mini bagels I had left (Thomas's mini bagels in wheat). The pastrami is sliced from the deli (I asked the deli lady to slice it thin and she misheard me so it is extra thick.). To make the curry cream cheese, I assume you just mix curry powder with cream cheese. There was no curry powder to be found at whole foods (I wish America had spice shops), so I mixed tumeric and cumin in with the cream cheese. It was almost as good as the curry cream cheese in Barcelona, except since I only used 2 spices instead of the usual suspects, I felt perhaps there was something lacking. In any case, the pastrami-curry cream cheese-wheat bagel was a winner with my tea companions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cocoa Bar, Lower East Side, New York

I had forgotten I took these pictures at the Manhattan outpost of Cocoa Bar back in March. I made record time in a cab - 20 minutes from LaGuardia to LES, and had dinner at Frankies 17, at 17 Clinton St, and took a short walk over to Cocoa Bar, which is at 21 Clinton St. Perfect date trajectory, if ever you find yourself on the Lower East Side.

It's a pity I didn't take any pictures of the food at Frankies 17 (too dark, plus, was too hungry and therefore occupied with eating). If you do go there, definitely try their cheeses. They always have a great list of cheeses, mostly Italian, and sometimes contraband(!) from which you can pick 3 to try. Map below:

View Larger Map
If you do go, don't forget to use their tiny bathroom. The restaurant itself is very narrow, and the tiny bathroom at the back of the store maximizes space with a sink no larger than a 2 Liter tupperware container. I totally love how the metal pipes were exposed (obvi cause there's no place to hide them).

I hear Cocoa Bar resembles a bustling coffee shop during the day, but when we went, there was only one table that was occupied. There was, however, a constant stream of neighbors and regulars who were dropping in to say hi to Bahman Soltani, the owner. From what I could tell, they were grabbing a quick cup of coffee and then moving on to their main entertainment for the night; at the same time sharing their evening plans with Soltani, at the same time finding out what else was going on in the neighborhood.

Hot chocolate, more like liquified chocolate, with generous chocolate shavings on the rim, made personally by Soltani. It's a pity the cup wasn't any bigger, because it is everything you imagine a rich hot chocolate aught to taste like.

We also got a hot toddy, which mostly just tasted like whisky - the best!

I think this is some sort of chocolate truffle cake covered in white chocolate ganache. The inside is dark chocolate truffle.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Balad + Fruit and Vegetable Market, East Amman, Jordan


Pretty self-explanatory pictures from my trip to Amman last year. These shots of various markets were taken in East Amman. Below, a vendor looking at me with a quizzical brow.
Freshly squeezed fruit juice to relieve the unbelievably hot days.
Spices in large sacks. I definitely suggest stocking up on hard to find/expensive spices if you ever go. Saffron, for example, is about 1/10 the price.
Every so often, the shopkeeper of the spice store takes a trowel-like piece of metal and sculpt these neat little pyramids of ground spices.
Cactus fruits are juicy and refreshing, but I don't really know about the flavor. I'm not a fan. That white bucket on the bottom left corner is catching the juice that leaks out from the fruit while they are waiting to be purchased.
The market is a lot of fun, every vendor sings or chants the entire time, to get you to come buy their produce. The only time they take a respite from singing is when they broadcast the call to prayer (there is a mosque just next door to the market.)
Our bounty from the market: "French" peaches - they taste like white peaches from California, but are flat instead of round.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hashem, East Amman, Jordan

As my Lonely Planet - Jordan tells me, one cheap and extremely delicious restaurant you should not miss in Amman is Hashem. I think it's actually called Hashem Cafe or Hashem Restaurant or Hashem Alley, but everybody just calls it Hashem. If you walk down the hill into east Amman from Rainbow St., Hashem is tucked away off the main road with all the shops on it. We actually got turned around while trying to find it (it really doesn't have a sign and is just some tables in an alley), but if you say Hashem to anybody, they'll point you in the right direction.

If you are worried about having digestive problems while eating in Jordan, Hashem is the ultimate test. With no utensils and no napkins, if you can survive eating at Hashem, you can eat any ol' thing from the side of the road in Jordan.

The servers all wear green long sleeve polo shirts as uniforms despite the stifling heat, and stare especially hard if you are a woman unaccompanied by a man, and even more so if your hair is uncovered. The service is really quick - there are no menus, and you can only choose among a handful of dishes.
From front to back: Foul (fool) madamas, a bean dip with olive oil; extra spicy chili sauce reminescent of my Sechuan grandmother's chili sauces; hummus drizzled with olive oil; small balls of falafel. The falafel at Hashem is really and definitively the best I have ever had, just like Din Tai Feng soup dumplings are definitively the best in the entire world. I had a dream later that night about ordering a giant bag of falafel and just having it in my purse to snack on while we toured around Jordan.
You also have the option of getting fries and large balls of falafel. The large ball of falafel has onions and other spices mixed in. We traded some small falafel for the big one because it was quite good. The proper procedure for eating at Hashem is to tear off a bit of bread, dip in foul or hummus, and eat it with a bit of tomato/onion/mint and a ball of falafel.
The great thing about Hashem is that it is cheap. We thought that with a full table of food it would be at least a few JD per person, but our total (includes all the dishes above, 3 bottles of water and hot tea) was only 4JD or so. To pay, you simply get up and walk to the platform in the middle of the alley, on top of which there is portly middle aged man sitting with a small desk. He is the owner, and also the one who takes your money. Expect to pay maybe a little more than 1JD per person (~$1.40) for a very filling meal.

Gratuitous night shot of east Amman

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Souq Jara, Amman, Jordan

I recently returned from a vacation to Jordan with Elizabeth to see our friend Natalie. We landed on a Friday afternoon, when most shops are closed for prayers, so we headed towards Rainbow Street (near 1st circle). If you walk down the street from the circle, you head towards Jebel Amman and East Amman.
From Rainbow Street, take a detour to Souq Jara, a market that sells handicrafts and food. The food section is separate from the craft section. You have to buy tickets with which you pay for your food, so that the vendors don't have to touch food and money at the same time. It feels like a night market, selling clothes, jewelery, soap, dead sea products, etc.
I didn't get a bottle of sand, but apparently they are popular souvenirs.
There are also a few stalls with street artists showcasing small portraits and paintings.
We started out in the food section of Souq (market) Jara (the name of the co-op that runs the market; stands for Jebel Amman something or another), so the lighting might seem anachronistic.
On the way to the souq, we got free cans of Coca Cola.
I wasn't hungry, but I got a "chipstix" for the road (to dinner). They're potatoes cut in a spiral shape, deepfried, and sprinkled with seasonings. (the picture is blurry because i was trying to be stealthy taking a picture of the kid)
Seasonings include curry and ketchup (yes, in sprinkles)!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Historic Da Shi (大溪老街)

When I went back to Taoyuan, we went to Historic Da Shi; I only have vague memories of going there as a child. We got some bubble tea "to go" for the excursion. What you see here is a "beverage thong" (丁字褲). Back in the day, if you got a bubble tea to go, they would put your cup of bubble tea and a straw into a small red and clear striped plastic bag with maybe some napkins. In an effort to cut down on waste and cost of buying plastic bags, you can carry your beverage in a "beverage thong". It is basically two loops melted together, one to hold and the other one to go around the cup. Very good for delayed consumption of beverages while wandering the streets of historic Da Shi (大溪).

Historic Da Shi is made up of rows of shop-houses (store in front, house in back) that sell anything from hand-crafted toys to household goods. One thing to note is that there are no less than 4 stores that sell dou gan (豆干) within a single block, as it is the specialty of the region. All the shops are connected by a common covered sidewalk.The seal says "Taoyuan Hsien Tahsi Hoping Old Street," which is half literal and half translated into English. Hoping is actually pronounced huh-ping; it means peace. Old street is probably best translated into historic street.
The facades to the street is an odd mix of western style Japanese colonial architecture and traditional Chinese flourishes.
You can see towards the rear of the photo, someone build more floors to their unit, reminescent of how people added apartments to coloseums in Europe during Medieval times. The restoration people left one Medieval apartment but tore down the rest at the amphitheater in Arles, France (les arenes d'Arles). (The bear's name is Guy. He accompanied me around Europe in 2003)
The prices are:
"vegetarian chicken" (素雞)-15 NTD
"hundred sheets" (like mille-feuille?) (百頁豆干) -30 NTD
"vegetarian stomach" (like meat-free offal?) (素肚) -25 NTD
"black dou gan" (黑豆干) -8 NTD
Those round things in the pot are the "vegetarian stomachs". They are basically just dou gan shaped like a pouch (which is supposed to resemble a stomach).

You order whichever variety of dou gan and they prepare it for you. In the pot, they are whole slices or whole rounds; when served, they slice it, drizzle condiments over it, and stab some sticks into the dou gan for ease of eating. To the bottom left are the black dou gan, to the right is the round shaped vegetarian stomach. To me, the vegetarian stomach was more "Q" (bouncy, chewy) than the others. Our condiments were a soy saucy sauce, red pepper sauce, and lots of cilantro. There are other options, such as bonito flakes, curry, etc.
Here is a site that shows the packaged type of dou gan as well as the snacks (小吃) you would buy off the street. The most famous makers of dou gan are Huang Da Mu (黃大目) , Huang Ri Shiang (黃日香), and Da Fang Dou Gan (大房豆干). It doesn't matter which one you buy your dou gan from, they are all tasty; they are all stemmed from the same family of dou gan makers, but the different brands came about after infighting among the brothers, as explained in fact #7 of this site.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chocolate Billionaire

Of all the extremely wealthy people in the world, my favorite has to be Michele Ferrero, the guy whose father and uncle started Nutella. They also make Kinderchocolate and Ferrero Roche, two other of my favorites. There might not be a better way to make a living than to make chocolate for a living!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Making Sticky Rice (Yo Fan) (油飯)

Feeding myself presents its problems, as making large batches of food is much easier than single portions. I have a few go-to meals that I can stand eating for lunch every day; one of them is sticky rice. Sticky rice, (or 油飯, literally oily rice, yo fan) is a Taiwanese specialty mostly associated with Tainan (台南). The ingredients are simple:

Sticky rice (糯米)
mini shrimp (蝦米)
mushrooms (香姑)
soy sauce (醬油)
sesame oil (麻油)
meat, any type, cut into little pieces
peanuts, soaked in water first
The two secret ingredients that are a must-have are fried onion and white pepper, pictured here.
The process is very similar to making a risotto. Once you cook the meat and add in all the ingredients that had been soaking (shrimp, mushrooms, peanuts), add soy sauce to taste and cook on low heat for a long time.
Here's what mine looked like. I was running low on mini shrimp, so it's not very colorful. The consistency should be sticky but not soggy like glue. It should have a bit of Q to it (chewiness).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Poultry Valentine's Day

I realize it has been a month since Valentine's Day, but I am really quite proud of the entire chicken that I baked. I am not one who enjoys the sappiness of Valentine's, but I rather enjoy challenging myself with food (whether it is preparing it or attempting to eat roast chicken for an entire week). I have to give credit to Gudbjorg, because she and Kyle were the ones who inspired me to try baking my own chicken after a glorious dinner at their house in January.

As they teach you in home ec, always prepare vegetables before you prepare raw meats. Here, I chopped carrots, potatoes (red skin and russet), and celery. You can choose any combination to form your bed of vegetables.
It's an octopus! No, it's just half of an onion shoved under the skin of the chicken. Our old transcriptionist gave me this tip in reference to shoving 2 halves of an onion under the skin of a Thanksgiving turkey. It makes the meat more moist and naturally flavorful (and gives the bird some boobs).
Gingerly detach the skin of the chicken without perforating it, starting from the rear end, to make the pocket for your onion half. Side note: my mom made me that apron for Christmas! It is made out of waterproof upholstery fabric so it feels great but protects me from chicken juice and dishwater splashes! Also, note the Franziskaner in the background. No good cooking is done without a beverage near by.
I always have a grocery bag around for easy disposal of any rinds, skins, and in this case, chicken neck and internal organs. Creepy. I definitely would not choose to eat chicken internal organs.
I think I used 2 sticks of butter and a ton of different herbs and spices. I don't quite remember what all I used, but I think there was salt, sage, and a lot of basil.
Drizzle your butter and herbs over the chicken. I have yet to figure out how the meat on the inside gets its flavoring (I did make some cuts under the skin and try to baste the butter inside, but it didn't seem like it made a difference).
I wish I had taken a picture of the chicken when it came out of the oven. The herbs and butter formed a delicious golden crispy shell out of the skin. I know chicken skin is not healthy, but it was SO good. In the process of baking, the chicken juice and butter will cook the vegetables underneath. It took close to an hour of baking, but you should check the doneness of your chicken with a meat thermometer or make a cut in the deeper part of the thigh.
I ate roast chicken for a week. I don't want to eat any more chicken for at least a few more months.

Monday, February 02, 2009

VVG Bon Bon!

I was looking at my friend Candy's pictures on Facebook one day when I recognized the interior of the restaurant she went to was VVG Bon Bon. I would describe it as the patisserie embodiment of Kirsten Dunst's dresses in Marie Antoinette. Everything is either pink or frilly, including all the desserts and candies. I haven't been back to Taiwan, but hungryintaipei introduces VVG's newest offspring just as well.

VVG also has a brand new website. It looks like they converted the offices of their interior design entity into luxury condos. If you can afford the price, they are really in a great and trendy location in Taipei (with the added bonus of being across the street from two of Taipei's finest restaurants.