Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Thesis/Dissertation: Why Are There So Many Asian Food Bloggers?!


***These theories are mine, written for fun and do not apply to all Asian ethnicities. Just my fellow Chinese people really, haha. If you're offended, just go to cuteoverload.com and blow some steam.***

A few of my friends who have been recently sucked into LA's food blog world have brought up a particular question many times to me.

Why are there so many food bloggers of Asian descent in LA?
In the world, even?

Because we love food. No shit. That's obvious, but why? Hmm. Good question – could this be a coincidence? I don't think so. Out of the 33 links on my blogroll, 28 are authored by people of Asian descent. Whoa! I wish Confucius was here. But then again, this miniscule debate wouldn't exactly be on the top of his list. But we care about this small-minded issue because we love food, so I'll have to undergo a Ghost moment with Confucius. Not in a creepy way - I have a girlfriend.

Theory #1: Dinner Time is Family Time
The dynamics of an Asian Family work like this. The all-too-expressive Dad will be in the living room reading the newspaper or watching some Chinese soap opera with some young girl crying and the guy walking off. Repeat five times in an hour. Mom will be peeling some vegetables she got on sale at 99 Ranch Market with her apron that has random Engrish cartoons on them. Something like.... "Happy Happy Cook Love" with bunnies and shit all over. Little Sister is in her room practicing for the One Man Band competition. She's playing the violin, piano, flute, cello and studying for her Calculus 19A quiz – all at the same time. Big brother is filling out his Ivy League college applications, with UC Berkeley as 'backup' and counting down the minutes till he gets to release his stress on online video games. 98-year old Grandma, mother of the father of course, is taking care of the baby sister singing her the Chinese alphabet song like a broken record. Everyone is dispersed in this activity center we call home, but when it's dinner time, everyone is at the table - hungry or not. You see, this is where the congressional hearings take place. Dad's got the gavel ready, maybe even a feather duster, and he's ready to hear the children's daily reports. There's also the occasional wedding banquet at the Chinese restaurant which is mandatory. You don't know everyone there, but you have no choice but to sit there and watch your drunk uncles get smashed off Hennessy and XO. Then there's the one of many relatives that visits from Asia, Canada and Australia. Bottom line, food brought generations of family together. Everything sounds so forced and strict, but you know what, the day I left for college... I missed my parent's home cooking. I didn't miss the lectures... I missed the food that brought us together. It's something I took for granted because now we hardly eat together as a family. It wasn't anything special, but it was good because it was made with TLC. Asian families are very close-knit and it's no wonder you see a herds of Asians. At clubs, it's not a surprise to see a group of 40. At dinner parties, restaurant servers are rushed to put tables together for the birthday dinner for 30. Yes, we stick together because that's how we grew up... being together.

Theory #2 All Asian Food Has A Common Origin
Rice, don't like rice, so I'll pick noodles for instance. The Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Mongolians, Malaysians, Indonesians, Burmese and Filipinos - they all eat noodles. We all eat rice and beans and have evolved different methods of preparing them. When I grew up, I was exposed to Chinese noodles because my dad is the true noodle whore. He passed that whoring gene down to me and my sister. Here are a few cultural favorites:

Hong Kong: wonton noodles, fish ball noodles, beef ball noodles - brought over by the Chiu Chow people. Traditionally, Hong Kong and Macau love to eat beef brisket egg noodle soup and wonton noodles.

Chiu Chow/Chao Zhou/Trieu Chau/Teo Chew: this seafood city is the land of delicious beef ball/pork ball/fish ball noodles. Vietnamese refer to their soup noodles as 'hu tieu'... which is the same as chinese (guo tiao) and thai (kway tiao). They love to eat fat rice noodles and yellow egg noodles. The Chiu Chow people brought this to Vietnam, Cambodian, Taiwan and Thailand. You'll know you're in a Chiu Chow restaurant when you see the menu in four different languages: chinese, vietnamese, cambodian and sometimes thai. Go to Chinatown, there are at least 5 Chiu Chow restaurants, with Mien Nghia being my LA favorite and Trieu Chau Restaurant being my OC favorite (Santa Ana).

Taiwan: beef noodle soup, beef ball noodles, pork ball noodles, vermicelli (fun sih/mi fun) Taiwanese are originally from the Fujian area, which is the province next to Chiu Chow. They fled to Taiwan because of the Qing dynasty, and at that time, was initially occupied by Malaysian, Polynesian aborigines and then later colonized by Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese. The original beef noodle soup came from Muslim Chinese and in China alone, there are probably hundreds of variations just like Japanese ramen. Some words in Chiu Chow dialect and Taiwanese sound VERY similar.

Vietnam: pho beef noodle soup. Pho is a variation of Chinese beef brisket noodle soup with lighter colored, aromatic soup. In southeast Asia, fish sauce is used more commonly than soy sauce. Mongolians brought with them to Vietnam the spices used in the soup, such as anise, coriander and cinnamon. There is a saying in Chinese... "where there is land, there are Chinese." So true. Chinese are all over Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos... they fled for work and war refuge. And with them, they brought their food. In any vietnamese restaurant, besides pho, you'll see something called 'hu tieu' which as mentioned before is the Vietnamese name for 'gwo tiao', which means soup noodles with thick rice noodles or yellow egg noodles. The soup base consists of boiling pork bones, chicken bones, dried fish, fish sauce and shallots. The result is a sweet, yellow broth.

Thailand: ever have Thai Boat Noodle Soup? The name for soup noodles is 'kway tiao'... which is the same as Chinese 'guo tiao', Vietnamese and Cambodian 'hu tieu'. Same thing, soy sauce based soup with herbs and beef parts.

Cambodia: Cambodia is heavily influenced by French, Chinese and Thai cuisine. You'll see fried rice, fried noodles and of course, hu tieu. In Cambodian restaurants, it is very likely that they can speak Chinese, Chiu Chow dialect, Vietnamese and sometimes Thai.

Japan: cha-shu ramen. everybody loves ramen. At Shin Sen Gumi, my fave ramen shop, the noodles used are similar to Chinese noodles which are called 'la-mian' (mandarin) and 'lai-mein' (cantonese). But cha-shu style pork is their main ingredient, not beef. Like Chiu Chow noodle soup, the broth is made by boiling pork bones... but for 10+ hours. This causes the collagen and marrow in the pot to form a rich, white broth.

Korea: neng myeon ('liang mian' in chinese which means cold noodles), jaampong and jja jiang myeon. Jaampong is a spicy, seafood noodle soup which is similar to China's 'chao ma mian'. That shit will send you to the toilet in no time. Jja jiang myeon is a variation of Chinese 'ja jiang mian' which is a pork/black bean paste noodle served with cucumbers. I love both the Chinese and Korean versions.

The Philippines: again, where there's land, there's Chinese... and with that, they bring their food. 'Pancit canton' dish is similar to the Chinese 'chow mein'... only with a different type of noodle. Some variations include Chinese sausage, shrimp, pork, carrots and celery.

Hawaii
: not noodles typically, but a big clusterfuck of delicious foods. The lunch plates you usually see at Shakas, L&L and Ono Hawaiian bbq are massive boxes filled with some kind of Asian meat, rice and macaroni salad. During the sugar plantation era, there was a large influx of Chinese, Japanese and Korean immigrants. After work, they would set up little night markets and sell their culture's food for extra money. That's why you have fried rice, tonkatsu cutlets and korean bbq. Gravy and macaroni salad are not from Asia if you haven't figured out.

What's my point? Noodles pretty much have a common background. And because I love noodles, it's very likely that I'll try another culture's dish. I'm sure those that love pho will probably like Chinese beef noodle soup. And those that love Chinese beef noodle soup usually end up liking Thai Boat noodles. Each culture's variation is different enough to distinguish it as its own type of noodle soup. I'll eat pho one day, and the following week, eat Chiu Chow noodles. Same dish essentially, different taste. In essence, if you combine all the Asian cultures soup noodles, that's A LOT of different things to try.


Theory #3: Asians Eat Everything
Yes, and so do, the French, Mexicans and Spanish. So don't call PETA just yet. There's another saying... "Chinese will eat anything on the ground with legs, except for tables and chairs. Chinese will eat anything in the air except airplanes." haha. And it's the truth. Chinese are thrifty and will not let anything go to waste. In some countries, it is a sin to kill an animal and not use all of it - an unworthy kill. When you are living in a poor country, you do what it takes to see the next day. Even if it means eating an animals feet. And if that's all your given to eat, you're gonna make sure that its edible. For example, Filipino food consists of a lot of offals and entrails. During Spanish colonization in the Phillipines, the Spanish gave Filipinos leftovers and 'non-edible' parts. What'd they do with them? 'Dinuguan' is a popular dish consisting of pork blood cubes, pork stomach, snout, ears in blood stew. Those parts you don't see very often on TGIFriday's menu.

Introducing, the Southeast Asian sampler platter! Jack Daniel's, beer-battered blood cubes! Mesquite-BBQ pig ears! Beef organ Nachos with Salsa Verde!

The best dim sum dishes are chicken feet, beef tripe and pork blood soup with daikon. Yum. Because the unused parts are undesirable, they are cheaper. So when mom goes to 99 Ranch, she's getting the cheaper stuff - the parts. The practice of cooking offals and unused parts also makes Asian cuisine that more interesting than say – meat,potatoes and any of Rachael Ray's 30-minute salads. It also adds more variety as a whole to Asian cuisine. If you like Chinese tripe, you'll like tripe in Vietnamese and Thai noodles. Just remember when you say 'eew', someone out there is saying 'mmm'.

Theory #4: Asian Food Is Cheap
I'm sometimes amazed by how affordable Asian food is. And I wonder how these restaurateurs actually keep a roof over their head. Places like PF Chang's will make my parents faint. A bowl of pho is $4.25... what would wou rather have a piping hot bowl of cholestorol or McDonald's $4.25 fatty cholestorol-laden fried food? #4 Special please. To eat 'family' style means to order a few dishes and share with the table. So you can imagine the bill being divided up will amount to a low cost per person. My friends and I had a large dim sum get together not too long ago... twenty people, a smorgasbord of food.... $10 each. $10 at a non-asian place will barely get you an appetizer and soup. You know those delicious soupy dumplings - 10 pieces for $4.50. For some Chinese people, that is a rip because in Shanghai, you can get 10 of those for like $1. Crazy. Anyway, because the food is affordable and tasty, you can eat out more often and not damage the wallet. I don't know too many people that can afford to eat at Mozza, Doughboy's, Malo and Lucques all in one week. Not to mention how rich that food is. But I can afford to eat at Saap Coffee Shop, Golden Deli and all-you-can-eat korean bbq at Gui Rim 2. That's about $40 there. Thanks to Christine D for bringing up this point.

Theory #5: Asians Love Computers
Oh yes we do. I do. If you don't believe me, go to Fry's Electronics - half the staff is Asian. Wait a minute, there's a place that allows me to be around computers AND make money at the same time? Nice - application please! The computer and internet allows us to voice opinions with anonymity. You can do everything on the computer nowadays - even find @$$!

In essence, I think that the combination of closeknit families, wide variety of Asian cuisine as a whole, relentless devouring of the whole animal, affordable costs and love for computer technology... is the reasoning behind the high amount of foodblogging done by people of Asian ethnicity. Everyone wants to find a niche and with the thousands of food blogs out there, we know that the topic of food is very much a cozy, comfy nest for us to rest in. Eating at a restaurant is the best way to kill two birds with one stone... you want to stay in touch with family and friends but you also want to feed your face. Not many people I know will get together with their families and go and get loaded at a dive bar or bikini waxing salon. It's also the best way to not have to clean up your house and have guests sit on your furniture, which is already wrapped in thick plastic to ensure centuries of usage. True story, I knew of an Asian family that even had their Oldsmobile interior wrapped in plastic. Might as well have added bubble wrap outside of the car.


Ok, so now the real question is... what am I eating for dinner?

Thanks for reading. Read more!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Durian Candy... Only A Matter of Time

Durian Candy

My favorite type of movies have to be asian independent/foreign films. And I owe it to my dad for getting me so into it. On my Netflix queue, I'd say 30% of my queue is foreign. America is very sensitive and there are just way too many topics that would get the MPAA hot and bothered. Especially Asian horror. That's why there's the foreign section in any movie store - it's for you to get a glimpse of something unfamiliar and untainted. Anyway, as a kid, my dad would take me to the old Garfield Theatre on Valley/Garfield - where Kang Kang Food Court and Crepe In The Grip now exist. But besides watching Asian cinema, which during that time – hailed some bad film making, I was more interested in the snack bar. And it wasn't your typical snack bar. No popcorn, no nachos or Milk Duds. They offered stuff like dried cuttlefish, fruit-flavored and curry-flavored beef jerky, White Rabbit candy, dried prunes in those plastic heart-shaped containers, haw flakes, and canned grass jelly. Oh pure FOB joy. It's not like I couldn't get those at the local Chinese market - it was just special to eat pungent food in a theatre with other people eating pungent food. Just like the fresh smell of canned butter. Mmm.

But things may have been different in theatres if they had offered... Durian Candy! What is durian? It's a spiky fruit that is known for it's sweet yet pungent odor. I didn't like the stuff growing up as my relatives would try to foie gras that sh*t into my body. Garfield Theatre is no longer in commission and I could imagine a conversation with the manager sounding like this, if they had sold this particular stinkbomb candy.

"Yeah, we're shutting down the place in about a few weeks. Ticket sales have been plummeting. I'm sad. Oh, and by the way, you have to try our new durian candy at the concession stand - it's great! I know Chinese love it!"

This weekend I was in Chinatown eating lunch with J and her mom at Mien Nghia. Afterwards we headed to the Wing Hop Fung emporium to find medicine and I stumpled upon this! If I see something that even looks remotely bizarre, I immediately think about about my friend Eddie of Deep End Dining and Steve of Steve Don't Eat It! Hey, have to try all the food I can before I die.

Durian Candy

There are some bad girls out there, but the clever, snide ones, put on the innocent look. This candy is no different. She looks like a caramel, but inside is a spiky bomb waiting to detonate. Made with durian powder, malt, sugar and coconut milk this has the light odor of durian. It's encased in wax for easy wrapper removal. *Pop* Ok, hmm... no initial taste. About 5 seconds into it, I started to taste the durian-ness. Then the taste of coconut milk which steadily balanced out the durian powder. Hmm! I like it! For the whole 5 minutes it took to eat the candy, it kept me amused - not like gum which loses it's flavor after about 15 seconds. If you're into bizarre candy - try this too! I like these a lot... Gengkis Khan Caramels!

Wing Hop Fung Emporium
727 N. Broadway Suite #102
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-7200 Read more!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Suh Ra Bal, Koreatown - May the Owner RIP


Sad news, read about the shooting at the korean bbq restaurant Suh Ra Bal on 1st/Western. I've never eaten there. Condolensces to the family and friends of owner, Lim Hyo-Jin. More news here.
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Dumpling Master 3000: A Monumental Achievement in the World of Kitchen Gadgets

I just found one of the coolest Japanese gadgets ever. And it's actually 'un-useless! A gadget that would make Sandra Lee and her saggy muffins do a back flip. Introducing the... Dumpling Master 3000! It's pretty easy making a dumpling, but it's the crimping that takes the most time. I found this at the Tokyo Outlet, the junk store that's in the same plaza as Kinchan's Ramen and Hurry Curry. For $1.29, your days of spending 30+ seconds per dumpling are over!

Simply put your skin over the circle, brush a little egg wash, add your filling, and bring the ends together in a clamshell motion! Wa-wa-wee-wa! You can do this all day until you get sick of it. Even a monkey can do it!

Fill, press and repeat! These are too cool – I had to buy a few of them for gag gifts. Thanks for reading! Read more!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Foodie's List of Important Numbers

The other day my friend called to ask me about a restaurant's food. I told her about it and she ends the conversation by saying "ok thanks, i'll give them a call. i'll find the number online." But I interjected and said, "no hold on... I have their number on my phone!" She said, "WTF?" Only a true foodie will have restaurant numbers programmed into their cellphones. Sometimes you need to make an emergency reservation, sometimes you just can't wait to eat. These are the numbers I have in my cellphone. I have no friends but now people think I do when they see the contact list count haha.

(1) Golden Deli Vietnamese - for a while, my friends and I were going there every week. But because this place does so well, they sometimes take a vacation without much warning.

(2) Musha, Torrance - this japanese izakaya serves up some great tapas and keeps the waterfalls of alcohol pouring. This is always a fun place to have group dinners but beware of the wait. They don't take reservations past 7 pm so call for 6:45 pm!

(3) Tom's #5 - this is a hole-in-the-wall place near my work that I frequent because of their $2.95 breakfast deal. It's so gross and greasy but so good. 3 eggs, 3 bacon, hash and 2 pieces of toast. $2.95 out of the wallet; 295 cholesterol points for the body.

(4) Yuca's - do not come here on the weekend. It's utter disaster. You'll feel like you're at the DMV. This past weekend I made the bright decision of coming here at 1 pm, when Angelenos love to have their brunch. I made a call about 20 minutes before I go to Yuca's and found myself waiting another 15 minutes outside with the other 30 patrons. But sometimes, the best things come to those that wait.

(5) Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen - I come here so often that the cooks/waiters have stopped giving me the high decibel greeting. I don't know why I programmed them in my phone because I know exactly when they close. Maybe this is just a way to increase my contact list count.

Ok spill the cannelli beans, who do you guys have programmed in your phone? I can't be the only pig in this city of food bloggers, chowhounders and epicureans. Read more!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I'm Sorry For the 29 Years of Torture - Mother's Day Dinner

Raising a child is probably life's biggest challenges. From the day your child is born, your eyebrows will start to curve downwards. Your forehead develops creases like a shar pe's fur. And your blood pressure raises everytime you have to send a message to him/her. But you keep going. You keep going every single day until you see that they can function on their own. And even then, worrying never leaves your mind until they day you sleep infinitely. I was never a bad kid. I never got into any fights. Never hung around the wrong crowd - I was a schoolboy/soccer jock. Never got suspended from school - well maybe once for having a Motorola Pager with me during school. And it wasn't even one of those cooler pagers that everyone had – it was the one that held like 4 numbers and when paged, sounded like a semi backing the hell up. Never got anything below a B- (college was a different story). I never got a DUI (crossing fingers). But my mom always found a reason to worry. Then in college, I got into some serious trouble - nearly got me kicked out of school. And it was with utter shame and guilt that I called my mom and informed her of my deviance. I was prepared to have my head ripped off over the phone. But my mom surprised me. Even in time of peril, no matter who was at fault, a mother will stand by your side. Everytime I saw some news report of a juvenile crime, I was always amazed that the parents faced the music and stuck with their kid - even if it was attempted murder. It wasn't until this situation that I knew how important parents are and how down they were. As I sat in the deans office with my mom, I knew she was embarrassed. But she held my hand so tightly that I knew we were going to get through it. And we did thankfully. The dean simply wanted my mom in the conference so that she was aware of the severity of the incident. I dreaded the car ride home because I knew she would let me have it, but she didn't. She simply said "I know you won't do that again" and smiled at me. And ever since then, I made sure that I would never have to bring my mom into a situation like this again. And since then...



...I have not publicly urinated on a college campus.



So for mother's day, instead of taking her to a dim sum restaurant in SGV like every other Asian family, my sister and I cooked her a meal at home. After all, what's a few hours of cooking versus 29 years of nurturing this insanity called Dylan.

Scallop Pear Salad

Seared Scallop & Pear Salad
I love scallops and I'll continue to cook scallops until I stop writing this food blog. Because I love tater tots, and to me, this is the marine version. A simple drizzle of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, a searing hot pan and you're well on your way to the Olympics. I'm lazy when it comes to making my own dressing so I just call on my good friend Angelo Pietro because he gets the job done. I have to add fruit to all my salads now, it just creates a nice balance of savory, fresh, sour and sweet in every bite. I usually have a problem searing scallops nicely because of the amount of water that leaks out of them. A sign of a chemically-enhanced scallop is its high water content. They basically inject something to 'fill' the scallop up and when cooked, it ruins everything.

Lobster Crostini

Lobster & Garlic Aioli Crostini
A few weeks ago, J and I ate at Hungry Cat in Hollywood. Its run by Suzanne Goin of AOC & Lucques' husband and it's a great place to enjoy oysters and super creative drinks. Their most popular dish is the Lobster Roll Deluxe which consists of chunky lobster, garlic aioli, parsley baked in a greasy roll. It's so rich but so good. If you try it out, I recommend sharing it or you'll get sick. Anyway, this was my attempt at recreating it. I simply boiled some lobster tails and cut the meat free from the exoskeleton. I then added it to a makeshift aioli prescribed by my incredibly talented friend, Yoony of Immaeatchu. I took mayo and added some cayenne pepper, freshly ground pepper, lemon, grated garlic, chives, shallots and lemon juice. It was very light and went well with crunchy texture of the baked crostini. This makes a great summer picnic dish.

Osso Buco Linguini

Veal Osso Buco & Linguini
I've neglected my wonderful Le Creuset pot for quite a while and brought her out of the attic for this special occasion. There's something nice about braising food in a quality porcelain pot - like I live in a French chateau surrounded by sheep and drink wine endlessly under a willow tree with my paperboy beret. Two and a half hours of braising the veal shanks in chianti wine, fresh thyme, bay leaves, chicken broth and mire poix and you're good. The sauce that's produced tastes really good over pasta - like gravy on mashed potatoes.

Hope everyone did something special for mom. My mom might have killed me if I took her to Hometown Buffet instead. Thanks again for everything mom. You're the best. Thanks for reading.
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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mien Nghia, Chinatown Los Angeles - Heaven In A Bowl

Mien Nghia Chinatown.jpg

For a while, I lost hope in finding the right Chiu Chow noodle shop in Los Angeles. My dad first introduced to me what is still now, my most favorite noodle shop - Trieu Chau Restaurant in Santa Ana located on Newhope/First St. This place only opens till 5 pm but usually has a line out the door. I don't want to gross anyone out with an experience I had here, but... ah what the hell. The food is so worth it, that I'd still come back. Caveat #1. Trieu Chau Restaurant is so packed that the practice of joining 2 parties into 1 table is all too common. I once got hooked up with a grandpa and grandma. We didn't say a word to each other as we happily slurped our noodles and soup. Until... grandma busts out her NAILCLIPPERS. Ok, I thought, that's fine, she's going to clip her fingernails. Then without notice of me, she props her food onto her chair and starts clipping away.... laying her finely incised TOENAILS onto a napkin which was already sharing real estate with a duck bone she had cleaned out. Even a National Geographic archaeologist would find it hard to carbon-14 that bone b/c it was devoid of any bone marrow. Check please. Caveat #2. I once took my friends here and as we happily slurped our noodles and soup. We all peered at the ceiling at what looked to be a neon orange cylinder with tons of black dots. Hey that's kinda nice, something you know, festive and shiny and bright. One might think it's an air freshener adorned with black crystals. We were far off the target. They were FLIES. But you know what, we could give a sh*t. The food was too good.

Anyway, it's been a good 5 years since I've eaten at TCR. All the places I've tried in Chinatown just didn't cut it. Then came along my friend Jéan Downs who emerged out of nowhere as a foodie with a strong opinion. I like that. After threatening to squash my head in a vise, he forced me try this place in Chinatown called Mien Nghia. "Meen Yee" in cantonese. Ok Ok. And boy do I owe a lot to Jéan Downs. In about two months, I've eaten here nearly 10 times and have not been disappointed. Just last week, hehe, 4 times!

Commuting from Silverlake to work, Chinatown is always a nice stopover for take-out lunch. I'd usually hit up the roach coach on Alpine for their banh cuon (pork/mushroom rice crepes) or banh mi's (sandwiches). And when I'm hungover, I'll require some soup to quell the thirst at Pho 97 or Chiu Heng. What a coincidence... my first time at Mien Nghia occurred after a wild night of drinking. Soup, my stomach says... soup.

I walked into Mien Nghia, which is next to a sandwich shop called My Dung. I know I know, it's not how it's read in English. It's pronounced "Mee Yung" in Vietnamese... but you have to just step back for a minute and smile. I was greeted and immediately seated. I love asian restaurants. For some reason, unless you're a non-asian or a gwai-lo, you're expected to know what you want even before you even sit down. Menu please... the waiter stares at me and turns for the menu.

Mien Nghia Chinatown2.jpg

That guy in the Miami Dolphins turquoise polo is funny.

Anyway, here's what I had over a period of 5 visits. And let me tell you, Mien Nghia makes a quality broth. Every sip is good. A tip for those that come here. You'll notice that there is a dark chili oil sauce... it's not really hot sauce. It's chiu chow style satay bbq sauce... similar to what Chinese use for hot pot dip. A lot of asian noodle restaurants will wing the broth by using water and chicken bouillon powder (Knorr). It tastes chickeny but it just doesn't have that weight, volume to it. Know what I mean? There's a difference between good pho broth and half-ass broth. You know who's dealing the real sh*t and who's dealing the schwag. Snoop would say that they are dealing the chronic here.

Mien Nghia Chicken Fish Noodles.jpg

Chicken and Fish Slice Egg/Rice Noodles $6.75
I am blowing up this photo and framing it in my living room. Makes me want to jump at it. The chicken is very moist and flavorful. The fish pieces are coated with a starch mix to give it that nice texture created from blanching the meat. And nothing says cherry on top of an ice cream sundae like fried shallots. This soup is nice but again, the addition of the satay bbq sauce really adds a nice taste to it. My stubborn sister refused to use the sauce but was happy once I dumped it into her bowl. This is my favorite here. The prices are higher than normal noodle shops but I think Mien Nghia really gives you a good amount of food. I'm stuffed every time I eat here. J could barely finish her bowl.

Mien Nghia Beef Stew Noodles.jpg

Beef Stew Egg/Rice Noodles $7.25
At a Chiu Chow restaurant, you'll notice the menu has Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese writing. Historically, Chiu Chow people travel wherever there is work and they bring their food with them. Much like the food trade in Hawaii done by Japanese, Chinese and Koreans... the same theory applies. You bring your food and offer people. Which is why you get the Vietnamese beef stew known as 'bo kho'. This is my 2nd favorite dish. It's reallly heavy and hearty but it really satisfies you. The beef shank/brisket/tendon slices are super tender and the soup is made with the right amount of tomato paste and cinnamon/anise/coriander. Mmmmm.

Beef Rib Noodle Soup.jpg

Beef Ribs with Egg/Rice Noodles $6.50
Don't order this. The broth and sauce are strange. I don't know what else to say it, but I'm putting some orange cones around this. You're better off getting a sandwich next door at My Dung.

MIen Nghia Seafood Noodles.jpg

Seafood Egg/Rice Noodles $6.75
My sister and dad ordered this. Whenever they go to a Chiu Chow restaurant, they have to eat the seafood bowl. This was taken at the Rosemead location (Mien Nghia has 3 locations). On top is a piece of shrimp fried along with a wonton skin. I didn't try this but they said it was good. My sister was unhappy until I dumped a tablespoon of satay bbq sauce in here. Sauce makes people happy. My family loved this.

Mien Nghia Wonton Noodles.jpg

Wonton Egg/Rice Noodles $5.75
No matter where I go, even Wonton Time, can't beat the real Hong Kong wonton. I ordered this with the owner's recommendation, who is very sweet and talkative. I didn't have the heart to tell her.... "I want my f*cking money back!" What they referred to as wontons was merely a small lump of ground pork blanketed by wonton skin. No texture, no taste, no stellar bite you get from a HK wonton. Caltrans.... please put some orange cones around this please.

Mien Nghia Fishcake.jpg

Fishcake
Yes, I know the term is quite frightening, just as shrimpcake is. Sara Lee and Entenmann's would never produce this freak of nature, but let me tell you, it's wonderful. Fish is pureed and flavored with fish sauce and sugar. It's then boiled or steamed and then deep fried to create that nice 'crust'. I substituted the fish slices for these. My favorite. In Hong Kong, I'd buy a pound of this fishcake block for like $7 and devour it with beer.

Mien Nghia Noodle Mix.jpg

Egg & Rice Noodles = Yin & Yang
You'll notice that every dish I ate has the egg & rice noodle mix. It's a Vietnamese & Chiu Chow thing - they can't decide whether or not they want egg or rice noodles... smart, ask for both!

Overall, I love this joint. Although the soup is very tasty, it's not that signature Chiu Chow broth which is made with fried garlic/shallots, pork/fish/chicken bones and I think daikon (for sweetness). I have to crown Mien Nghia with the true Noodle Whore crown. Everything on the menu is noodles. I couldn't be more happy about that. Try it out when you can. By no means, a comparison to pho or Chinese beef noodle soup... but this is big for Southeast Asians. Thanks for reading. Oh yeah, MasterCash only.

Mien Nghia - Chinatown
304 Ord St
Los Angeles, CA, 90012
(213) 680-2411

Mien Nghia - Rosemead
7755 Garvey Ave
Rosemead, CA, 91770
(626) 288-0177

Mien Nghia - San Gabriel
406 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA, 91776
(626) 570-1668

Read more!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Shik Do Rak - Koreatown, LA - Home of the Rice Noodle Wrap

It's been almost nearly a year and a half that J & I have been in correspondence with a wonderful, funny and clever female blogger many of you know as Daily Gluttony. It was DG that influenced my decision to devote many nights of writing and waistline negligence to the popular trend of food blogging. For a while, I was interested in writing about food. I was never into politics, world events, sports etc., but food... I could do. How hard it could be to snap a few photos and describe what the hell you're ingesting. Let me tell you, I've been doing this since August of 2005 and it is hard work. It can take nearly 2 hours to produce a food posting. After you've uploaded your photos of the food, you have to edit them in Photoshop so that they look shiny and happy. Then you upload them into your food blog and engage in the sometimes aimless process of writing about food. Many times you'll hit a writer's block. And that's just the food you eat at a restaurant. Homecooking posts take MUCH longer. After prepping, cooking and plating... you have to set up your faux studio. Mine consists of a hideous 3-bulb lamp and a crappy Ikea table. My old roommate used to catch me shooting with the stupid lamp and laugh. I don't blame her - it is lame. Only fortunate people like Joycelyn of Kuiadore, Aun of Chubby Hubby and Heidi of 101 Cookbooks have the luxury of using fine equipment to produce their gorgeous photos. Check out their sites if you haven't already - it's serious eye candy. I'm not rich so I have to play with what I'm dealt. For the most part, I am quite slow on posting. This posting right here is already two months old and laden with cobwebs.

Anyway, since I first started, we've developed a friendship with Daily Gluttony and have hung out a few times. For our next meet up, DG and her husband were craving some korean bbq - particularly at Shik Do Rak, which is one of the firsts in Koreatown to serve their grilled delicacies with a thin, oily rice noodle sheet known as 'ddok bo ssam'. It is very similar to the steamed rice noodles (cheung fun) at dim sum restaurants and Chiu Chow (Trieu Chau) soup noodles, also known as 'huh fun' or 'guo tiao'.

J & I met up with DG & her husband on a friday night at Shik Do Rak, located on the corner of Hoover/Olympic. This place is tricky with parking as it's very easy to miss. I usually don't bother with the parking lot for 8 and resort to street parking. Plus after a meal here, you'd want to walk some of it off.

A good thing about eating with another food blogger is that they are typically open minded and are willing to order for people. It bugs me when someone says "I don't know" or "I don't care" when it comes to ordering food. Boring. And when you do suggest something like, tripe, they cringe and reject the thought. Very helpful people.

SDR is part indoors and part patio like many korean bbq restaurants, with exception to Soot Bull Jeep, which is a modified chimney with doors and windows. They should really consider upgrading their ventilation system because someone is bound to die in there. Even the employees there look a little sick. Given the option to choose seating, I'm gonna go with the outdoors. Air is good.

SDR is known as the home of the rice noodle wrap in LA according to many I've talked to. Now it's not hard to find this at restaurants like Manna, Tahoe Galbi and Gui Rim 2 - it's become a staple and part of the korean 'works'.


Shik Do Rak's Rice Noodle Sheet (Ddok Bo Ssam)
They resemble translucent napkins stacked on top of each other. Perfectly oiled and thin, there is definitely a difference between theirs and the forementioned korean restaurants. As of now, I'd have to say they are made the best. Any recs for places with good 'ddok bo ssam'?


Spicy Bean Paste and Salt/Pepper/Sesame Oil
Can someone please tell me the name of the oil dip? The waitresses never understand when I ask for the name. Anyway, I love SDR's bean paste b/c the flavor kick doesn't come from the jalapenos and bean paste (daen jang)... it's the Sriracha garlic chili sauce! Such a great combo. Those that have eaten here will know what I'm talking about.


Korean Salad
So far SDR, is 2 for 2 with their condiments... unfortunately this doesn't help at all. No dressing at all! Not the slightest taste of sesame oil or soy sauce/vinegar.


Grill Pan
This is what indoor korean bbq places will use instead of the standard charcoal grills. I guess it's a good way to save the juices from the meat. For those that don't care about their cholesterol, here's the third type of sauce you can use. Just dip your meat into the gutter of the pan and enjoy. This type of grill pan really supports the theory that Mongolians grilled their meat on shields over campfires. Very cool and so barbaric.


Mmm... the Beef Belt

The concept of 'fruit leathers', Trader Joe's answer to everyone's childhood favorite - Sunkist Fruit Rollups, is weird to me. But this is cool sh*t.... the meat is perfectly cut and then folded to look like a belt. Now that's manly. This thing could do some damage in a restaurant brawl. This was the easiest thing to grill. We simply cut it in half and laid out on the grill for a nice tan. The waitress quickly came by and cut it up into this...

Shik Do Rak Beef
This meat isn't marinated but still tastes pretty decent. I've noticed that many korean restaurants will offer meat with and without marinade, and I prefer the non-marinated b/c I want to taste the meat. The sauces provided here really make this a tasty component along with the oily and thin 'ddok bo ssam'.


Thin Sliced Beef (Cha Dol Peggi) & Beef Tongue
These two are my favorite types of meat because one they cook really quickly and two, are quite light. I think SDR cuts their tongue at the perfect width - too thick and you'll think you're chewing on taffy.


Pictured below is the jovial owner of SDR. He is quite the ladies man and will make sure he gets a drink of soju or beer with you at your table. He came by a few times to check upon us and really made us feel welcome. I think he was just interested in talking to J and DG though haha. Talk to him, he's a nice man.


Where Are Your Hands Mr. Shik Do Rak?! jk

Overall, SDR is a good restaurant but there are many better places in Koreatown. With exception to the rice noodle sheets, spicy daen jang bean paste and friendly owner, the meat quality here is above average. I don't remember the ban chan (side dishes) being that impressive as well. Also, this place is not all-you-can-eat for those looking for the $14.99 deals. But definitely give it a shot – Koreatown is fun to hang out in. Thanks for reading.

Next up: Park's BBQ, Sul Ra Bul and Sa Rit Gol.

Shik Do Rak
2501 W. Olympic Boulevard (c/o Hoover)
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 384-4148 Read more!

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