My Dad (who speaks Thai) loves to go to Thai Town every once in a while to pick up some goods. Like what you ask? Mango and rice desserts. Soong Tum (papaya salad). Newspapers. Crickets. No joke, he bought some frozen crickets as a beer snack. And those Thai karaoke laserdisc/dvd’s. Oh god. I come back every weekend to see the parents and I always find my dad singing to his favorite Thai and Laotian songs with a 6-pack of MGD’s. Ghetto I know. But that’s what makes my dad happy. Sometimes you might catch me at a karaoke bar singing 80s songs with a 6-pack of MGD’s too. Like father, like son.
One thing prevalent within each Asian culture is the simple, yet comforting bowl of soup noodles. Chinese and Nu Ro Mian. Cantonese and Wonton Mien. Vietnamese and Pho. Koreans and Neng Myeon. Japanese and ramen/udon. I’d keep going but I really don’t know what kind of soup noodles Cambodians, Malaysians and Indonesians eat. For sure they have something though.
Dad: “What do you want to eat?”
Me: “Do you have to ask? You know what I always want.”
Dad: “Soup noodles it is.”
I like anything with beef and when I go for Thai food, I know I’m getting the Thai Boat noodles (Kuai Teow Reua); even before glancing at the sticky ass menus. Mmmmm. This was first created by boat peddlers who’d paddle up to you for direct service. Kinda like room service I guess. The cook would have a boiling pot of goodness and hand you the bowl of noodles for a small charge. If the service was bad, you could simply paddle away. At least you could see what the cooks were doing to your food since you were so close. No ‘behind-closed-doors’ mischief going on.
The reason we picked this place was because of its blatant advertising. As we were driving by slowly, our eyes caught the huge framed photos of their noodles. We parked and I started salivating for the Thai Boat noodles. Once I walked in I found myself staring at 6-7 framed photos. I thought to myself, “Are we in the museum of noodles?” It seriously looked like a museum exhibit with the huge 5’ x 3’ framed photos of the soup noodles. All they needed were those little white cards from the MOCA or LACMA to describe what I was staring at. And maybe have an usher posted by the wall warning visitors to refrain from taking photos. *Being a foodblogger, I can shoot photos withoutt flash while holding the camera under my armpit.
We sat down and were quickly greeted by the owner and given sticky menus. I rested my elbows on the sticky tables and saw that ‘Hi-Thai Noodle’ had a ‘Three-bowls-for $10’ deal. Dope. Problem was, it was only my Dad and I. Should we get the $10 deal and bring the third bowl home? We both got the “Beef and Beef Ball” soup noodle with a salted crab papaya salad to start out with. What the waiter brought out shocked me.
It was the tiniest bowl of soup noodles I’d ever seen. No wonder they were three-for-$10. If you ordered one bowl, you wouldn’t be full. If you ordered two bowls, you’re paying $8 for a regular sized bowl of noodles. Good thing about Hi-Thai is that they have quite a variety of soup noodles – beef, pork stew and seafood. Looking up at gallery pieces, you got a pretty clear idea what you were going to order. No need to lean over at the other table and spy.
The Thai Boat noodles tasted pretty good. Thai boat noodles, unlike Chinese beef noodles, have a thicker consistency in the broth. You can actually see that it’s made with a lot of beef stock because of the cloudiness. That’s a good sign. The slices of beef and beef balls were also quite tender and flavorful.
Still hungry, my Dad and I went for round 2. This time I ordered a fishcake and pork ball dried soup noodle. It had peanuts, fried garlic, cilantro, green onions and a little oil, which you mixed up. I loved it. My dad got this pork stew with rolled up noodles – resembling mini scrolls. It was sweet and heavy on star anise.
The Soong Tum papaya salad with salted blue crab was very good as well. Made with a lot of lime and fish sauce, it had a real kick to it. Not sure if many people know this, but Laotians also have a papaya salad with salted blue crab called “Dama Hoong”. It’s the same as the Thai version but with less of a sweet and sour taste. I prefer the Laotian version. Total for 4 mini-bowls of soup noodles and papaya salad came out to $22 without tip.
This was only my second stop in my search for good Thai Boat noodles and I’m sure there are better. Hi-Thai is open 24/7 and is on the corner of Hollywood and Harvard in Thai Town.
“Hi” Thai Noodle
5229 Hollywood Blvd. (c/o Harvard in Thai Town)
Hollywood, CA Read more!
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Remember what we ate in college? In retrospect, it’s amazing what we considered as our daily sustenance. For me, it was Del Taco, Alberto’s, canned food like spam and corned beef, and on special occasions it was Shake-N-Bake with whatever kind of meat was lying around the apt. Probably spam. It was cheap. It was tasty. And almost comforting at 3 am coming back from a futile study session. Amidst all the drinking, we found ways to feed the need. I remember I was so poor one time that I actually scoured my room for change. Lifted up couch cushions, looked into the carpet corners and even my car. What did I buy with my hard-earned money? 3 hard-shell tacos and 2 red burritos from Del Taco. $3.30. Good times, haha. Tacos are messy, but when you’re broke, you’re eating up every piece of scrap lettuce and cheese that flies out from your monstrous, great-white-shark-bite of hunger. Now, as an adult, I make sure that before any night of debauchery I engage myself in, that I’m well ‘padded’.
My second guest for the “Gift of Gluttony” festival was MN who had told me about her recent diet. I had met her through a mutual friend because she had an interest in getting into the ‘make-you-buy-things-you-don’t-need’ industry called advertising. She told me some of her ideas for ads and I immediately took her under my wing because she had the potential. MN left a few months ago to attend the Virginia Commonwealth University for a degree in copywriting. For those that don’t know, advertising agencies have two positions within the creative department – an art director and copywriter. As an art director, I’m responsible for making an ad look good, which leads to hours and hours and hours of Photoshopping. As a copywriter, you are responsible for all the writing. Clever headlines. Sales promotions. Product descriptions. All of that. But both the art director and copywriter are responsible for concepting. A lot of copywriters have degrees in journalism and English naturally.
MN came back last week from school and I promised her a dinner because I haven’t seen her in months. She was telling me how she relied on Subway, pizza joints and restaurants with random deals as a daily diet. I said “hell no, you need to eat well.”
I had learned a lot from working at The Restaurant and wanted to put some of the knowledge into use.
Me: “Do you like beef?”
MN: “DO I?”
Me: “How’s filet mignon sound?”
MN: “Fuck yeah!”
Me: “May I bacon-wrap it?”
I served up a bacon-wrapped, filet mignon and topped it with deep fried oyster mushrooms. So good. For the sides, I made whipped potatoes infused with wasabi and some cipollini onions, which are wide and short, baby onions – not to be confused with pearl onions. I made a steak sauce using the drippings from the filet and threw in some Chianti wine and ready-made demi glace.
Filet Mignon with Chianti demi-glace and Wasabi Whipped Potatoes
Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
Salt and pepper both sides of the filet. Wrap each filet one piece of bacon and secure it with a toothpick. Sear the filets on high heat with olive oil, about 2-3 minutes. Flip them over and slap it inside a 450 oven for about 12-15 minutes, depending on your desired doneness. I like medium rare.
Doneness Chart – This will vary
Medium Rare – 12-14 minutes
Medium – 14-16 minutes
Medium Well – 16-20 minutes
Well done – why bother making filet mignon
*Another trick which I’ve learned is the hand chart. Using your left hand, touch your index finger with your thumb in a relaxed manner. Touch that big slab of muscle that forms under your thumb. That is what ‘rare’ feels like. Now, use your middle finger to touch your thumb, that is ‘medium rare’. Ring finger is ‘medium’. Pinky finger is ‘well done’. You can feel how tight the muscle flexes in order for the thumb and pinky to reach each other.
Using the pan drippings, add some Chianti wine and beef broth. Scrape the pan for any of the ‘fond’, which are the little burnt bits of goodness. Do not discard those because they are flavor packets. Use water and sugar to balance out the tannins from the wine (alcohol) and saltiness. Make a flour/water mixture for thickening. Slowly whisk in the flour/water mixture to achieve a thick consistency for the Chianti sauce. You should be able to see the sauce stick on to the back of a spoon.
Wasabi Whipped Potatoes
Boil skinned potatoes until fork tender – about 15-18 minutes. Reduce the cooking time of potatoes by slicing them up into segments. Add salt to the pot as they cook. After they are fork tender, strain them and throw them back into the pot over low heat. This will cook out any remaining water inside of the potatoes. Water is bad! Mash up the potatoes and add butter, whole milk, salt and white pepper. Don’t use black pepper – black specks in the potatoes don’t look good. Add wasabi or horseradish to taste – should not overwhelm the dish.
Serve these up with your favorite veggies. As a garnish, I deep fried oyster mushrooms and topped the filet with it for aesthetics. You can put whatever you want – parsley, fried onions or herb-flavored butter.
Happy holidays and thanks for reading. Read more!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I’m a huge fan of the Farrelly brothers – writers of Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and Something About Mary. You guys remember that one scene in D&D where Jim Carrey fantasizes about Lauren Holly? I love that part when he’s in the ski lodge with his other sweater friends lighting up his natural gas. God, those sweaters were so awesome. Our 2nd annual West LA party happened on Friday and I wanted to liven things up a little by sporting one of those sweaters. During my lunch break, I headed down to the vintage/thrift shops on Melrose. After going to about three stores, I was worried that my plan wouldn’t happen. Thrift store shopping is hit-or-miss, but once you find something you like, it’s like striking an oil reservoir in your backyard. And to my surprise, I found three of the most hideous sweaters pictured above for me and my 'sweater friends'. I’m the pixellated guy on the left. My friend in the middle actually liked his sweater and is keeping it for reals.
I quickly went home and started to cook food for the potluck. My friend was bringing Korean bbq ribs and I thought some dokpokki, Korean rice cakes cooked in red paste and kimchi, would complement them nicely. Too bad we didn't make any yogurt soju. So I showed up to the party and gave my friends their sweaters. We got a good response and I made the couples take turns wearing the sweaters for photos in front of the fireplace. Truly, a dorky Christmas. Best part of the night besides Best of LA’s smooth-tasting Belvedere vodka was the “Secret Santa” gift exchange. My “Secret Santa” hooked me up with Nobu Matsuhisa’s cookbook. Killer gift. I can now scratch that off my Amazon wishlist of about 20 cookbooks.
After the West LA party, I headed down to some dive bar in West Covina called the Sunset Room… with the red snowflake sweater still on. I walked in and looked for my friends. If there had been a dj there, you would’ve heard him stop the records. My red sweater could not be avoided haha. I got looks from everyone. Good times. Why not? It’s Christmas.
Oval or Cylindrical rice cakes (dok)
Gochujang (Korean red chili paste – sweet & spicy)
Carrots (diagonally cut discs)
Onions (sliced onions)
Green onions (sliced in 2” lengths)
(1) Start by boiling the rice cakes in a pot until desired ‘al-dente-ness’.
(2) Saute garlic, carrots and onions.
(3) Add the Gochujang into a bowl of water and mix the paste up. Gochujang is quite thick and needs some water and air to loosen it up. Dump the Gochujang/water mixture in with the garlic, carrots and onions and stir.
(4) Add Kimchi and a little bit of soy sauce. Use water and sugar to balance out spiciness/sweetness/saltiness according to your liking.
(5) Strain the rice cakes and dump them into the sauce. Dokpokki has a lot of sauce, so make sure you make enough.
(6) Lastly, add green onions and enjoy.
Happy holidays and thanks for reading. Read more!
Monday, December 19, 2005
Pam of Daily Gluttony recently wrote an honest-to-goodness entry about the importance of family, friends and, of course, food. These three are closely intertwined within our daily lives and with every passing moment involving the three, they should be cherished and never taken for granted. Mealcentric, sadly, has also lost a friend who he had shared many moments with while dining. In respect to the fore-mentioned, even the simplest of foods can bring about a smile or reassurance that you actually matter to someone. I couldn’t agree more. It could be slicing up those juicy, Korean pears for your parents. Going on a carne asada burrito run for your friend who says he’s hungry, but has just completely passed out in the back of the car. Wait, that was me in the back of the car. Making chicken noodle soup or porridge for someone feeling under the weather. For me, a bowl of porridge with green onions, fried egg and a little Maggi Sauce brought a smile to my face when I was sick. Only because Mom made it. It’s little moments like these that matter the most.
For me, cooking is one of the best ways to show appreciation for one’s friendship and love. You devote your own time in making sure that they get something yummy in their tummy because it makes them happy. You’re also keeping them one step further away from being on a Sally Struthers infomercial, or being pictured on one of those donation boxes at Ralph’s. This Christmas, I’ve decided to invite friends over for a culinary present. One, because I love to wreak havoc in the kitchen. Two, I am too broke to buy gifts for all the good children of the world. (Thank you, advertising industry.) And three, I want to make sure that my friends gluttonize and make unfulfillable resolutions for the New Year - like working out at the gym. I love to hear that kind of bullshit.
My first guest was MLT, whom I met back in college in ICS classes, which stands for Information & Computer Science. Once upon a time, I believed that I would be writing programs. *Scoff. I bailed out of that major after one semester of pure hell. But, she was fortunately there to provide “aide” for me before I left. Most people know it as cheating, but who cares. We also attended a wedding together this year and like a total jerk, I left my date alone because I was too busy getting inebriated and dancing with other girls. Only a friend would forgive you for such behavior. And I thank her for that.
Me: “Hey, what do you wanna eat?”
MLT: “I like veal.”
Me: “Well I can attempt to make the Osso Buco dish I had at C&O’s?”
MLT: “Sounds good. What should I bring?”
Me: “Wine. Lots of it. After we eat and drink, we’ll go to a bar and I’ll leave you by yourself while I go talk to other girls.”
I studied a few Osso Buco recipes off Epicurious and Food Network. Here’s a tip for those that love to cook. Look up at least 5 different recipes when you plan on making something. Just because Rachael Ray can teach you how to make it in less than thirty minutes doesn’t mean it’ll taste the same. She does use shortcuts because of the time allotment on her show, and a lot of times, compromises the true taste of a particular dish. Emeril loves to desecrate a dish by adding way too much alcohol and garlic just to hear his audience bark like seals at Sea World. It’s important to find the common ingredients that make the dish what it is. Once you’ve memorized the essential ingredients, you can simply add your own twist to it. Only then, can you call it ‘your own’ recipe.
This dish was chosen also because it was an excuse for me to buy a Le Creuset pot - one of the nicest kitchen tools ever. You’ve all seen it. It’s that big, blue or flame red ceramic Dutch oven that all the Food Network hosts use to sauté their mire poix (onions, carrots, celery – what I refer to as OCC) and braise heavenly food. I got a tip about the Le Creuset from Immaeatchu and proceeded to search the internet for the best price. Turns out that I got a good deal at Tuesday Morning, which sells brand name stuff for 50-80% off. I got my brand new, 7.25 qt pot for $144.99 – retailed at $299.99.
I then went to shop for the veal shanks, the main ingredient for the Osso Buco dish. Whole Foods and Bristol Farms wanted to charge me $13/lb and a free raping at the same time. Fuck that. When you need four veal shanks, are YOU going to pay $52 for that? I was driving down Santa Monica Blvd. after an interview last week and happened to see a Kosher meat deli. What is the difference between a Kosher meat deli and say, Ralph’s? The Jewish method of slaughtering an animal requires only one stroke of the blade to the throat of the animal, and is then bled dry. After it is bled completely, it can then be sold to consumers. I was like, "Give me 4 shanks please." I got my four veal shanks for $17 total. Was it good quality? Hmm…. *hint. I AM STILL ALIVE.
Here we go:
(1) Veal shanks are tender, obviously because they are baby cows. Veal is kept within tight, dark quarters and fed milk to tenderize the meat. Unlike Kobe style beef, the young cows are not massaged and fed beer and corn. Right about now, I’m getting e-mails from PETA about this posting, so I better hurry and complete this.
(2) Tie the shanks with butcher twine to bind the tender meat with the bone. One simple knot is fine, just make sure it’s tight. Dredge all sides of the veal shanks with flour that’s been seasoned with S&P. Brown the shanks and remove from the Dutch oven.
(3) Prepare mire poix. Mire poix is the quintessential ingredient for any type of stock, whether it be chicken, beef, veal or lamb. It consists of 2 parts onion to 1 part carrots and 1 part celery. Sauté these in a Dutch oven with EVOO and butter. After about 10-12 minutes, they will become translucent and somewhat brown. Add the shanks back in and add Chianti wine to about the halfway line on the shanks. Submerse the shanks with however much beef broth is needed. Toss in your bouquet garni (4 bay leaves, 4 thyme sprigs, 1/2 a tablespoon of black peppercorns), 2 garlic gloves and a little bit of olive oil. Cover and bring to boil.
(4) Once it’s boiling, toss the Dutch oven into the oven at 375-400. remember to baste the tops of the veal shanks every 20-30 minutes so that they don’t get scalded. It should be done in about 1.5 – 2 hours.
(5) Serve the shanks over linguini. Strain the braised mixture to remove the bouquet garni and mire poix. Season the sauce with S&P and butter, also known as monte au beurre, and pour sauce over shanks and linguini. Say mmmmm and enjoy.
(6) DO NOT FORGET TO SUCK THE BONE MARROW OUT OF THE VEAL SHANKS. MISSING THIS PART IS LIKE MISSING THE ENDING OF A MOVIE. FOR THOSE THAT ARE SCARED, IT TASTES EXACTLY LIKE FAT AND IT’S THE MOST FLAVORED THING ON EARTH YOU’LL EVER TRY. STOP WHINING, IT’S NOT FEAR FACTOR OK?
This dish was the best thing I've ever made so far. I've never said "mmmmm" so many times besides, well, you know what. I hope you do try Osso Buco out sometime and cook for a friend and a loved one sometime soon. It'll mean a lot. As always, thank you for reading. Read more!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
***Begin Sicilian mandolin music***
Visuals: A huge block of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese being slowly sliced. Hot, steaming red pasta sauce being churned with a rustic-looking spoon passed down from many, many generations. Spring vegetables being flipped in a sauté pan in slow motion. The aromatic steam arising from freshly baked artisan bread. Salads getting tossed (not that kind of salad).”
Voiceover: “Buon giorno. Ai em from Seeseely. Mai femmehlee… ees een Uhmerikuh. Wen ai came too veeseet, ai wanted to eet audendeek Seeseelian food. So dey took me to the Awleeve Garden. And ai felt like I was et home.”
Super: Here at Olive Garden, everyone is family…
Working in advertising, I know when I smell good work and bullshit work. The fore-mentioned TV spot stinks worse than an overflowing port-o-potty at an outdoor music festival. Try getting locked in one by your ‘good’ friends. True story. Anyway, I know I work in an industry that prides itself on selling you things you don’t need – or at least showing you what life would be like without a certain product. For the most part, I think I’ve lived a comfortable life without the ingenuity of products such as the Ginsu Knife, Egg-stractor and Nordictrack, which gave rise to the most, awful style of dancing I've ever seen at raves. When I see an Olive Garden commercial, I nod my head and yell out “oh my god”. I wonder how the creative minds behind those horrific TV spots can actually sleep at night. I sure as hell wouldn’t. I might add that the Darden Restaurant Group, operators of Olive Garden, also run Red Lobster. And we know their commercials don’t quite cut it as well. Just imagine the fore-mentioned TV spot with lobsters, lemon wedges, butter, butter and more butter. Jesus Christ. On a lighter note, if I ever bring my relatives to P.F. Chang's or Panda Inn, I won't be receiving any shiny red envelopes - nor will I see them ever again.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Italian food only because I think the sauces pretty much taste the same. Fine, I guess there’s a variety. Red or white. Red with wine. White with wine. Red with wine and mushrooms. White with wine and mushrooms. The list goes on and on. And as for the pasta, the number of sizes/shapes are unfathomable. Once in a while, Italian food sounds good but I know after I eat it, I’ll be feeling like shit. Kind of like eating a lot of heavy food from Panda’s Inn. Sounds good initially when your eyes are bigger than your stomach and regretfully find yourself lying in fetal position in a comatose state. I do appreciate the simplicity and history behind Italian food but I think places like Olive Garden are desecrating what Italians cherish most about their heritage. They can make amends by changing their name from "Olive Garden: An Italian Restaurant" to "Olive Garden: An American Restaurant."
My first trip to Olive Garden was back in 1997 in college. I didn’t know where else to eat Italian food and got tired of the Ragu and Prego sauces. (I think they taste better than Olive Garden though). I’ll admit it, I was actually kinda stoked to eat there only because I grew up in a Chinese family that ate Chinese food solely. I don’t remember what I ordered, but I know that it wasn’t worth going back for. Jeez, all that for $25? Call me naïve, but my parents deprived us of good, American food. I used to think Sizzler was for rich people haha. I’d envy my friends who ate there regularly, secretly giving my parents the eye for not letting us indulge in all-you-can-eat shrimp. I thank them now for saving me from eating crap.
Now Olive Garden is running their “All-the-Pasta-You-Can-Eat-For-$5.99” deal. How much can you actually eat. Two bowls at most haha? Seriously, if our little Southern California ‘foodblogging’ cohort should ever meet up, we should do Olive Garden for laughs. We're somewhat of a family because of our carnivorous instincts and love for writing, and who else other than Olive Garden would warmly welcome us? I think it’d just be funny to see ‘Daily Gluttony’ take out her frustrations in her blog after eating the Sicilian Parmesan Chicken for $8.99 haha. Point is, it’s because of restaurants like Olive Garden that I have a tainted perception of Italian food all these years. Things have changed. Watching Mario Batali on FN, I’ve really grown to like the more rustic style of Italian cooking, much like French and Chinese food – where nothing goes to waste. Duck liver sautéed with Chanterelle mushrooms and white wine? Yes, please.
As we get older, it seems that the only time we get to see friends is for someone’s birthday. When you have an Evite with over 25 guests, it’s gonna be hard to please everyone’s dinner palate. Most of the time, it’s going to be an Italian restaurant just because there’s something for everyone. The food is safe and simple. You won’t find Parmesan Tripe with linguini, Roasted Balut (duck embryos) in Alfredo sauce or Chicken Feet Marsala. I’ve been to Buca di Beppo and Maggiano’s many times but never C&O’s. I’ve been hearing that name over and over again after I moved to the Westside. For my friend XC (some of you are wondering how many names can actually start with an ‘X’.), we chose C&O’s in Venice and I was really stoked.
We met up around 8 and walked into what I thought was a courtyard. Turns out that it’s the only seating area underneath the Venice sky. Buzzing with heat lamps, the restaurant was adorned with light bulbs attached to wires, giving it a true backyard feel. I really like eating outdoors when I can. The walls were painted with scenes of a distant land with a far lower crime rate than Venice. Unplugged fountains with old water stood frozen amongst all the diners. Indistinct chatter and clanking wine glasses set the friendly atmosphere.
As soon as we were seated, I was smacked in the face by the smell of garlic, parsley and butter. These garlic grenades were none other than the famous, Killer Garlic rolls, adored by many. Yum. I had to stop myself after eating three rolls, otherwise I wouldn’t have had an appetite. The waitress then brought two jugs of Chianti wine, charging $5 per glass I think. We easily knocked down two jugs in 45 minutes. Here’s what we had.
A. Killer Garlic Rolls. Too bad it’s not a scratch n’ sniff photo.
B. Fried Calamari. Good. This dish always taste the same anywhere you go.
Even Sizzler. Not that I would know.
C. Osso Buco. Oh man, my new favorite. I’m actually making this dish
tomorrow. The best part is sucking the bone marrow out of the shank bone. Yum.
D. No idea with chicken.
E. No idea with shrimp. Ok you see what I mean by Italian food. What the
hell is the difference?!
F. Gigantic Meatballs and Spaghetti. Boulders of beef/pork/bread crumb
Didn’t eat it, but I bet it was good.
G. Fettucini Alfredo. Another safe, favorite that I didn’t bother eating.
I think I selfishly ate the whole Osso Buco dish by myself. My friends freaked out once they saw me inhaling the juicy marrow. Another fabulous dish, not pictured, is the Linguini Mare, seafood linguini. IMHO, I love C&O’s. I think it’s a great place to eat large quantities of quality food (wow, quality and quantity. Chinese would love this place.) and drink Charles Shaw Chianti wine in Venice. I haven’t stopped thinking about the Osso Buco and will be back here soon. Thanks for reading.
31 Washington Blvd.
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
http://www.cotrattoria.com Read more!