Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Fruit Without a Name

During my trip through Southeast Asia in June I saw a lot of weird looking edibles.  Many of the things turned out to be fruit and I could not resist the temptation to try them.  The fruits are no longer all unidentified, but at the time I ate them they were very much so.
This is a jackfruit with an uncanny resemblance to a butt.  On first glance I thought it was its smellier cousin, the durian, but I have now come to recognize the differences between the two.  Below is a man from an indigenous hill tribe who chopped the jackfruit off the tree and into pieces with a huge clever. (Mental note: Where the hell was I hanging out with hill tribes and freaky fruits?  It seems like a dream.)
The jackfruit contained smaller sections of sticky and sickly sweet fruit with seeds.  I didn't like it, but some other travelers loved it.  I sense it is an acquired taste.
The below remain unidentified.  A funny Thai girl brought them over to us during our dinner in Chiang Mai one night, and showed us how to peel them and eat around the inside pits.  We each tried one of the translucent pods that hide inside of the skin in front of her, and soon both hoped that she would walk away so we could discard the rest of them.  The inside was fleshy and warm and sweet and just not a texture I have ever had in my mouth before.  Nor do I ever want it in my mouth again.
 My last adventure was with rambutans.  We didn't know what these were while we were away but we saw them everywhere we went on the roadsides, in the markets, on peddler's carts and in the hands of children.
 The funny green and red spiky skin peels off to reveal a glowing white orb of fruit surrounding yet another pit.  At first bite I was not a fan of this foreign fruit, but I am happy to report that after eating a few more on a recent trip down Grand St. in NYC I have actually begun to enjoy the tangy but sweet taste.
So here's the scoop with my life.  I've recently had a lack of interesting culinary experiences because I am TEMPORARILY no longer living in the city.  Yes, you have guessed correctly, I have moved home with the parentals.  This is something they tell me many college grads do, but I never realized the magnitude of until now.  I'm gonna ride it out at Hotel Mom and Dad for a while but hopefully I'll have some new material soon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bubble Weekend

This weekend marked the birth of my relationship with bubble tea.  Bubble tea is called so because of the small, black tapioca pearls that lurk at the bottom of my cup and sneak up my straw when I'm least expecting it.  (Well I guess I am expecting it, because I specifically ordered bubble tea.)  Anyway this drink originated in Taiwan in the 80's and has now been blessing the streets of NY for some time.  Emily and I set out for Grand St. to pick some up.  I had strawberry and she had taro.
These drinks were of the blended frozen variety and I'm not even sure if they contained any actual tea.  I saw the woman making them with powdered flavored milk.  The pearls were nice and soft though, and I immediately knew this affair would not be a one time thing.  
I never thought, however, that I would get more bubble tea only one day later.  On Sunday we were walking up Lexington around the high 30s and came across CoCo, which I had previously read a review of on Food in Mouth.  CoCo is a popular Taiwanese chain serving teas, coffee and juices.  I ordered a green tea with tapioca, and Marissa had the more intricate Bubble Gaga with passionfruit, tapioca, and coconut jelly.
We were both taken by surprise at first with the sweetness of both drinks, but for me it was definitely love at second sip.  My green tea had floral notes and the pearls were nice and chewy, however not as easily chewed as Saturday's.  The cup was really cool because it was sealed with a sheet of plastic by a machine, which makes it easy to transport before stabbing with a super-wide straw.  Marissa loved her Bubble Gaga;  the coconut jelly was a nice addition.  I would order it next time.  Coco has at least two stores conveniently located in Midtown: one near Grand Central and the one I went to around 26th and Lex.  I may need to strategically apply for jobs to ensure that my office is near one of these locations.

CoCo: 459 Lexington Ave between 45th and 46th sts.  (212) 518-8808

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Les Halles.jpg

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wondee Siam

Wondee Siam is a Thai restaurant.  I really should have realized from the name, but for some reason I had the impression that it was Chinese or something.  I read about Wondee's delicious softshell crab with chili sauce on Blondie and Brownie, and immediately decided that I needed to try it.  I had also, however, vowed not to eat Thai food for like 3 months after my recent trip to Thailand.  The thought of it made my stomach churn.  It still does.  Yet, the allure of softshell crab was too strong for me to resist.  Emily, Tommy and I went for dinner last Friday night.  On the way there I actually found it in myself to get excited for a Chang beer, only to get there and find out that it was byob. (Wondee Siam II up the block does serve alcohol, however.)

We ordered a few apps including these Go Chai (below,) which are chive pancakes.  They were piping hot but very tasty.  They had a nice crisp-outside-yet-soft-inside dichotomy going on.
 Now for the main attraction.  Emily ordered Green Curry with Chicken and Tommy had a chicken dish that had "Two Thumbs Up!" in the name.  I went for the Softshell Crab, which was offered topped with a mango salad or with a chili sauce.  I went for the chili.
The crab was actually two perfectly crispy crabs served with mushrooms and bell peppers.  The chili sauce was very hot but deliciously sweet.  I was so full but could have eaten more and more and more.  The dish was $17.95 which was double the price of Emily and Tommy's entrees but definitely worth it for seafood.  If you're going to check this out, go soon because soft shell crab season does not last forever!


Wondee Siam: 9th Ave. between 52nd and 53rd sts. See site for other locations.  (212) 459-9057

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mario Batali's Cauliflower Ragu

Recently I was given Mario Batali's Molto Gusto Easy Italian Cooking book.  The book has great recipes for antipasti, pizzas and pastas, and upon my first flip-through I was really eager to make Batali's  cauliflower ragu.  The ragu called for an entire head of cauliflower, an onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, rosemary, olive oil, butter and one pound of pasta (I used gemelli.)

I was surprised to find out that the recipe called for the entire cauliflower, including the leaves and core.  I cut up the florets into bite size pieces, and chopped the rest of the cauliflower into small pieces.  The core and leaves were cooked first for about 30 minutes with a bit of oil, the onion and cauliflower. 
 After the mixture had softened, I added the florets and cooked covered for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime I cooked the pasta in a separate pot. When everything had softened up and the florets were almost falling apart, I added the butter, red pepper flakes, parmesan and the cooked pasta.  I also added about 2/3 cup of the starchy water from the pasta pot to loosen up the mixture.
 Finally, I sprinkled the top with fresh breadcrumbs and rosemary from the garden. 
This dish was delicious.  I didn't know what to expect throughout the process because the mixture looked kind of ugly in the pot.  All of the cauliflower pieces cooked down and were soft, and the dish was a nice, light summer addition to a meal of barbecued chicken and salad.  The only thing I would do differently next time is that I would add a bit less red pepper flakes, as the dish was quite spicy this time.

Batali has some really great pizza ideas in his book, and since I have been into making my own pizzas lately maybe I will try one of his topping combos soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clams Two Ways

Ah, the beauty of living near the water. Of course I mean the physical beauty but more importantly, I mean the culinary beauty.  One day last weekend I wanted to have clams for dinner, so I went to the local fish market and got fresh ones.  They were about $12 for two dozen at Whitecap.  Is that cheap or expensive?  I don't know.
I recently had steamed clams at a party at my friend Chelsea's house.  Her dad rakes his own clams out of the Great South Bay.  He threw them on the barbeque until they opened and served them with melted garlic butter.  I did the same, and they were delicious.
They took five to 10 minutes to open up.  Watch out, the shells are hot!
The next day, mom chopped up the leftovers and turned them into baked clams.  
Next time I go home for the weekend I will go crabbing.  I will boil the crabs until they turn red and I will love them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cambodia

We traveled for 12 hours by bus to get from Laos to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  We were sad to leave Don Det and skeptical about being able to make the journey in one day, but we happily pulled into the outskirts of Siem Reap around 9:30 pm.  The red line on the map below was our route. (Notice how it was not possible to take a direct route across northern Cambodia; there is no road there.)
 We had our hearts set on the familiarity of McDonalds after some rough times in Laos, but both of us were too embarrassed to ask where it was.  Instead, we settled for a meal of Cambodian barbecue, a tradition in which a grill is placed in the middle of the table on top of hot charcoal and raw food is brought to the table.  Below, two of our new friends enjoyed a similar barbecue in Laos. 
We chose a place with a bbq menu on the alley way north of popular Pub St.  We passed on the suggested snake, crocodile and goat meat, and settled for beef and prawns.  Both came with dipping sauces, and we were served noodles and vegetables to cook in broth around the perimeter of the grill.  We greased the grill with a chunk of fat that was placed in the middle on the top of the grill.
We both really enjoyed cooking our own food, maybe even more than we enjoyed the food itself.  Both the steak and shrimp were nice, but the portions were small and we were not totally satisfied as we came to the end.  We were both glad we went for it, however, and it is not a meal that I am likely to forget!  We weren't in Cambodia for long; unfortunately this was the only Khmer food that we were able to try while we were there.

Monday, July 4, 2011

XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito

The newest witty Taco Bell commercials are for the XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito.  Watch this and tell me you don't want one:
What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than with some good 'ole American fast food?  I hit the drive through with Tara and chose the beef version of the new burrito.  (Yes, I CHOSE beef at Taco Bell.)
True to its name, the burrito was huge.  Ringing in at a steep $3.99, this bigboy is a colorful jumble of "seasoned beef, a blend of three cheeses - cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella - flavorful seasoned rice, hearty beans, reduced-fat sour cream, chunky guacamole, avocado ranch and fiesta salsa," according to Tacobell.com.

I went in with no expectations and I quite enjoyed the XXL.  I came across no sour cream until the very bottom of the burrito, which I considered a good quality because I dont like Taco Bell sour cream, but others could consider poor composition.  My complaint is that, like many burritos, the XXL suffered from poor positioning of ingredients. The beans were on the right and avocado on the left, which did not allow for a bite of everything at once.

Anyway, it was tasty and I would get it again.  I really don't expect much from Taco Bell, and it is easy for them to please me.  While I normally order two items at T Bell, I would not get anything else with this burrito because it is filling on its own.  

Has anyone else tried the XXL or any other good Taco Bell items lately?


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