Monday, April 19, 2010

Homegrown Brew

Brooklyn Lager.

While not made from my house, Brooklyn Lager is a local New York favorite. American amber color beer made from Brooklyn Brewery. 5.2% ABV.

Characteristics: Foamy head, roasted barley malt, floral hops. A pleasant drink that goes down easy. Dry, slightly bitter aftertaste, medium body.

I'm no beer expert - this one fits my palate just fine. But if given the choice, I'd likely choose a Guinness or Presidente over this.

The Lineup.

Right at my fingertips, keeping company with the furikake and other seasonings on the table.

Ramen Setagaya

Ramen Setagaya.

This is not a review.

These days I've been a woman of few words on this blog. More so due to time constraints and job responsibilities - not because there's nothing to say about food! (The day that happens will be a sad one.)

I'm going back to school next month to earn my Web Design degree, so I'll be posting more sporadically than usual. (If you haven't noticed, I've already been cutting back considerably.) Nonetheless, you can still look forward to fun shots of my foodie adventures.

For now, I'll have to let the pictures speak for themselves.

Charsu Ramen.

Shio Ramen.

Beginner's Japanese.

Arigato gozaimashita! I sincerely thank you for continuing to give this blog love. Oh, and the ramen here isn't bad either.

Ramen Setagaya
141 1st Av
New York, NY 10009

Under the Green Tent: Korean Street Food - Review of Pocha 32

Green Tent.

This article originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

Imagine yourself bundled up in layers in the dead of winter, sitting on a stool outdoors under a plastic green tent with gurgling pots of kimchi-infused casseroles, soups and spices mingling around you. Soju bottle in hand, pouring your sunbaenim (elder, in Korean) a shot and knocking the vodka-like substance back with a hearty "Kanbei!"...followed by a loud, vehement clearing of the throat. Slurping down ramyun like it was a race to the finish, burning your tongue in the process because you want to eat the noodles while they're not soggy.

That's a typical food stall scenario in Korea, where street food is elevated to the highest form of trendy, home-spun comfort. Pocha 32's decor reminded me of that, bringing the outdoors inside with perforated green tents, pictures of patrons strewn on the walls with nothing but brightly colored paper clips holding them up. My friend and I sat all the way in the back since it was crowded. But at 7:45ish, that was expected. Busy is good.

Blaring through the sound system: V.I.'s "Strong Baby," Epik High's "One" and a female cover of Taeyang's "Look Only At Me." Is it sad that I knew the set list? The lights progressively dimmed more and more as the night wore on. Around 9:30 p.m., the music changed from Kpop hits to dancehall electronica beats, and the lights (made of bottle caps) from green-tinted to white and blue Christmas lights. As if on cue. Turns out it was someone's birthday. Cool way to toast a friend.


I enjoyed the appetizers, huge strips of carrots and cucumbers (although "stalks" would be a more accurate description) and ssamjang, or an orange-red sauce made of fermented bean curd and red pepper paste. The fresh ssamjang complemented the vegetables nicely and especially paired well with the cucumbers, the carrots being sweeter. [It's the same hot sauce as the one at Gahm Mi Oak, only they serve it with hot chili peppers and lettuce.]

And then we waited. And waited. I didn't really keep track of how long it took before our first dish showed up, but it was more than 30 minutes. The waiter said the chef was backlogged since they were so busy (and, it seems, understaffed). He hadn't even started on our order yet! I understand that good food takes it sweet time to prepare, but it's still an inefficient system. And when we cancelled an order for Chicken and Korean noodles, there must have been miscommunication between the waiters that served us since we still got a bill charging us for it. (Keep in mind the chef hadn't even started on our order yet at this time). Luckily, we were able to fix that mistake, but this error kind of dampened my celebratory mood.

Budae Chigae.

Fortunately, the Budae Chigae was worth the inordinate wait. This Korean "army stew" included classic ingredients, such as kimchi, onions, tofu and ttokk (small flat rice cakes), along with bites of sausage, Spam and bulgolgi. I think my favorite version so far is still Kunjip's. But in any case, it was chock full of fireball flavor. I don't think we understood how big the serving size was going to be. This casserole stew is meant to be shared with a big party. At $19.99, it's way too much food to consume for two people! We needed at least 6 people to conquer that Budae Chigae.


The Ddukbokki dish with kimchi and tofu ($9.99) was definitely the winner of the night - soft yet firm and chewy rice cakes. The star ingredient here is Korean hot pepper paste. Without that, you're a fish out of water. We cracked open a bottle of Pomegranate Soju Wine ($18.99) but couldn't even finish the whole thing. I'm sure our waiter meant to be obliging when he recommended the pom soju. He probably picked us out as inexperienced soju drinkers (which we are). However, I don't need sickly sweet things to appease my non-Korean palate. It doesn't take a wine sommelier to realize that pomegranate did not complement the intense red hot pepper spiciness of our dishes. I would go with the Jinro Chamisul Original Soju ($13.99) or the communal Watermelon Soju bowl ($24.99).

To make it worth the splurge, I'm definitely bringing more people (and a Korean friend!) for Round 2. Maybe then the staff would take us seriously.

Blue Blur.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Despite the subpar service, I'm such a sucker for ddukbokki and budae chigae that I'm willing to give Pocha another chance.

Pocha 32
15 W 32nd St
2nd Fl
New York, NY 10001

Monday, April 12, 2010

Going Green, Matcha-Style

Mango Bubble Tea.

Saint's Alp Teahouse in East Village for mango iced bubble tea and Matcha toast with my sugar daddy, JK (just kidding - JK, you know who you are!). I know this post is way overdue. Wish you could come visit more often...

Not pictured: my cute little teapot of hot honey green bubble tea. Suitable for blustery "spring" weather or a sore throat.

Matcha Green Tea Toast.

It was my first time having the Matcha toast - hot Matcha green tea spread over a soft loaf of thick white Hong Kong-style bread. For some reason, I don't ordinarily like Matcha...maybe because I don't dig the generic-tasting powdery versions at Starbucks and Jamba Juice. But good call, JK. Check out the height!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yeah, Shanghainese!

Yes, it's as good as it looks...and I was able to eat this juicy Xiao Long Bao (Shanghainese soup dumpling) in one bite. The insides are full of pork juice and can easily squirt out if not handled properly. This can happen for a number of reasons:

1. Poking the dumpling's skin too hard with chopsticks.
2. Biting into it, thereby renting the thin dough. And setting the roof of your mouth on fire.
3. Fumbling the bun and losing it to the crushing waves of the tablecloth. Epic. Fail.

Scorched tongue be hanged! If it's for the love of dumplings, I will survive.

New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe.

Happy New Yeah? Good times spent scooping rice (among other edibles) with friends at Yeah Shang Hai Deluxe Corp. We ordered family-style.

I wish I was more knowledgeable regarding the names of these dishes. But for now these pictures will just have to suffice.

Mapo Tofu.

I love spicy tofu, but the mapo tofu was definitely not as hot as I would have made it. Then again, I have a tendency to Korean-ize everything...

All in all, decently tasty Shanghainese food here. Thank goodness that the person who ordered for our table knew what she was doing!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Steamed buns and vegetable soup (not pictured) were the winners, in my book. I want to see if the hand-pulled noodles are any good...

Yeah Shang Hai Deluxe Corp
65 Bayard St
New York, NY 10013

The New KFC: Korean Fried Chicken - Review of BonChon Chicken

Original Soy & Garlic Fried Chicken.

This review originally appeared on The Gotham Palate.

I love KFC. That's Korean Fried Chicken (not that other, Colonel Sanders-style chicken). No, this isn't Southern fried chicken with grits and collard greens on the side. You'd more likely find it served with daikon (pickled radish). It's not dipped in batter twice and fried to a crisp. Instead, Korean fried chicken is made with a delicate soy and garlic marinade, resulting in a light crunch.

Koreans like their noraebang (karaoke) and soju. And they've got to have their fried chicken. But out here in the States, it's a relatively new concept. When you sample it for yourself, you'll find out why - explosive seasoning, tender meat and a dainty shell that crackles apart with one touch is the recipe for a savory gourmet chicken fest.

Fried chicken is a popular food item in Korea, where it's been a hit for 20 years and counting. Consumers flock to trendy eateries to indulge in this flavorful treat. They've spread their refined taste to the West, where Korean fried chicken joints like KyoChon, BonChon and UFC (Unidentified Flying Chickens) have taken up residence. In China, this thin crust technique is called "paper fried chicken."

Chicken Close-Up.

Here's how it's done:
The chicken starts off unseasoned and is tossed around in fine flour, then dunked in a thin batter before it hits the fryer. Oil temperature stays at a low 35 degrees and the chicken undergoes two separate cooking phases. After the 10 minute mark, the chicken and oil part ways while the chicken is given a shakedown in a wire strainer and set to cook for 2 minutes. Then it's back to the fryer for 10 more minutes until the chicken is lightly browned.

The best chicken has the least sauce, so it's generally served up plain. However, it can also be topped with s asweet hot and spicy sauce.

BonChon menu.

I was eager to try out the new midtown KyoChon location on its March 6th grand opening. I'm familiar with the KyoChon brand, as there's one in Flushing. But when we (my friend and I) got there, we didn't find a single soul inside. Granted, it was almost 3 p.m. and past the lunch rush, but it just didn't seem all that inviting. So we strolled over to BonChon instead.

We had the mixed 4 drums and 12 wings set and easily finished it off. Those drums were huge and buffalo-sized. You don't feel overly greasy when eating these crispy nubs.

Tangy daikon and a choice of one side came with our order. We opted for cole slaw to be more "healthy." True to my love for all things tart and vinegar-infused, I drank that daikon juice straight up! Including tax, everything added up to about $22.

You can also add other side dishes, if you're extra hungry (dinner, anyone?). Ddukbokki (spicy rice cake), scallion pancake and rosemary fries are among the fixins. Zucchini fries and bulgolgi tacos also looked promising.

Maybe I'll check out the new KyoChon another time, but for now I've found me some mighty fine KFC comfort grub.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. This is more of a take-out restaurant and not a sit- down outfit, so I can't grade on service. However, the chicken was worth it for me. Just try not to stray too far from the chicken and you should be fine!

BonChon Chicken
207 W 38th St
New York, NY 10018