Friday, December 08, 2006

K-Town is not just for Koreans (Chinese may enter as well)

This past Monday my mother and I ventured out of the comfortable confines of Chinese food for something vastly different: Korean cuisine. For those of you who think I am just being my typical sacrcastic self, I'm not. Korean food is to Chinese food what non-Jewish whites are to the Ashkenazi Jews (KF:CF = NJW :AJ) - sure, we all look alike, but what we eat is like night and day. That's why Hans Tang was so concerned, and kept asking Elaine "Do you know what to order???" to which she would reply, annoyed, "Don't worry! I know how to order! Do I have to tell you that story about how all my friends make me order again?" That shut him up (see photo below).

Our restaurant consultant suggested we go to Don's Bogam, on 32nd between 5th and Madison.

I was impressed by the exterior view, especially since it showcased an unabashedly fabulous pink Christmas tree. I wasn't ready for the holidays - until I saw this pink tree!

Look at this shiny smoke-sucking machine for the bbq! FABULOUS! And the wine bottles all lined up in a row. Double FABULOUS!

This is when Hans Tang was vexed because we weren't Korean. But do you see how studious Elaine is being? She even put on her reading glasses, determined to make the right selections.

A sea of appetizers

I think the best thing about K-food is the overflowing abundance of little appetizers they shower upon you right when you sit down. These are fish cakes, and in the background is dried baby shrimps. Other highlights were the egg custard, the kimchi (of course), the bean sprouts, and the pickled turnips.

Seafood Pancake

One of my favorite Korean appetizers (that you have to order). Though they put some kind of vegetable or seasoning in these that added a flavor I did not like, I still enjoyed the pancakes.

Softshell crab

This dish was perfect. Plenty of meat on the crabs, fried to perfection, and sauteed in a gooey, savory sauce that actually made the softshelled crabs MOIST! Aye Carumba!

My plate

Softshell crab in the center, kimchi and seafood pankcake in the background. This is what Art is to me.

And also this - there's nothing quite like raw beef all lined up on the K-barbie. They're so freaking cute, all raw and pink and sizzling. Ss Sss Ssassy!!

Out waiter masterfully tended to the beef.

When I lived in Argentina I used to tell the waiters to cook my steak casi crudoso, and not to bother bringing it out unless I could still see the sangre. I didn't have to tell this K-dude that - he could probably see it in my eyes. We had four or five different kinds of beef, and each one was juicier and more tender than the one before. I could barely believe our good fortune.

A bouquet of yummy.

You take the beef, you dress it with sauce, scallions and rice, and then you wrap it in lettuce. And if you are Raymond Park, you stuff something three times this size in your mouth all at once because "that's how it's supposed to be done!" He's Korean, so I believe him.

I'm not sure I've ever seen this much wine in an Asian restaurant.

So the whole experience, from the decor to the food to the service, was really excellent. A+! All together the bill came to only $75 (for four). Plus we had enough leftovers for both Hans Tang and me to have lunch the next day.

After dinner (my second one of the night), I made everyone go to PINKBERRY (on 32nd between 5th and 6th) for dessert. Ray had brought me here back in October, and I've been dying to come back since. It's very big in L.A., but this is the only one in New York.

Pinkberry is frozen yogurt that actually tastes like yogurt that has been frozen. It comes in original and green tea, and for toppings you can choose between different fresh fruits (not swimming in disgusting sugar water, mind you), cereals (fruitie pebbles and cocoa crisps, for example), and other more traditional options. A small is $2.95, and each topping is $.95.

An Asian Mecca - look at all those cute Korean girls in their black coats.

My order - Pomeberry.

I have to brag for a second about my choice of topping here. The tart and crunchy pomegranates complemented the smooth, slightly sweet yogurt delightfully. Plus it was absolutely gorgeous.


This is the kind of weird decorative stuff that was just hanging out on the shelves. So freaking Asian.

The funny thing is that after I was done taking a bazillion photos inside the store, my mom brought to my attention the sign that had a big camera inside a circle with a slash through it. I thought of taking a picture of it, but I didn't want to be offensive.

So I have got to say that K-town has really gotten it's shit together. It's undeniably hip and delicious these days, and the overall quality of things is higher than average. For covering only a few measly blocks in the armpit of the city, it sure is worth visiting.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

From Congee Village to Scores: A Friday Night of Excess

This Friday night was a particularly memorable one. It began with dinner at Congee Village (100 Allen Street, at Delancey) with Max, Lucy and Amy, and somehow ended in the far west side at Scores Nightclub (which is, ahem, Howard Stern's favorite "club." When deciding the course of the night, I often ask myself "WWHD??" as a way to ensure a good time will be had. Trust me, it works.).

Congee, a mushy bit of rice porridge goodness, is "said to be even older than rice in Chinese history" (see the history of congee page on the Congee Village website). It holds a special place in my Chinese heart of hearts. Though I'm not Cantonese, congee still makes me nostalgic for my childhood, with memories of midnight snacks at East Coast Chinese Family Camp (ECCFC) on a chilly summer evening in the Poconos. Oh sweet food memories, sigh...

Here is what we ate. Max is allergic to shellfish, so we stayed clear of those. Didn't want my dear Meex to die in from an allergic reaction to shellfish, After all, there are much better ways to die in the LES.

Pork, Chicken and Duck Congee

Fried Mantou (on the menu as Fried Bread)

Basically these are Chinese donuts. Mantou are one of my favorite Chinese breakfast/snack foods - fluffy yet dense bread/buns. The Cantonese fry them and dip them in condensed milk because they are food geniuses.

Fried Fresh Squid with Salted Pepper

Fresh Mixed Mushrooms and Fried Bean Curd

Soup Dumplings (on the menu as Small Juicy Bun In Shanghai Style )

A Cantonese restaurant with soup dumprings on the dim sum menu. They were not bad, though the skin was very thick.

Some kind of fried noodle dish with vegetables

I don't know what the name of this dish was, but it doesn't really matter because we can do much better for a noodle dish.

Rice Baked with Home Style Salted Chicken

Max was really excited about this one, and rightfully so - I don't even like chicken that much, and I loved this. Salted chicken and vegetables baked in with rice, creating a moist and smoky log of a treat.

Lucy is expressing how she feels about the bilingual "Happy Birthday" song being played AGAIN for probably the fifth time. I think the restaurant proprietors were trying to convince me to have my birthday dinner there. Chinese people are not known for their subtlety.

Max is worried about all the leftover food. Can you believe that with one bottle of wine, our meal came to less than $75 (not including tip)?! I mean, you basically expect that for Chinese food, but still. Great value! We our leftovers packed to go, but I lost it (along with my coat, sadly) later on in the night at Scores. Bet you there were some pretty happy dancers that night.

Overall, this was one of the best Friday nights I have ever had - A++!! I give Congee Village, with all it's bizarre decor, bizarre LES location, and bizarre Happy Birthday overdoing, a 9!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

THANKSGIVING: The Fat Kid's Day of All Days (Part Deux)

Haven't you always wondered what "ethnic" people eat on Thanksgiving? Do they eat turkey and mashed potatoes? Or weird things like duck and fish eyes. Well, my family eats both, kind of:

Coconut Shrimp

Mi mama made this to hold us kids over before the real food was ready.

Fried Japanese Tofu with Dried Shitake Mushrooms

Lobster Fen Si with Chinese Cabbage

This is my favorite. All of the fen si (glass noodles made of green beans) sucks up the lobster juices and mixes with the cabbage to create the most delectable flavor and texture combination ever.

Garlic Sauteed Asparagus

Grandma's Fen Si

My grandma's recipe involves carrots and dried squid.

Four Kinds of Mushroom

Normal, shitake, golden needle, and baby portabella

Shrimp with tomato sauce

Uncle #5's Sticky Rice

This is always a big hit - sticky rice cooked with pork, dried shrimp, and dried shitake.

Lion's Head

Lions head are basically Chinese meatballs. They are cooked with Chinese cabbage in broth.

Mei Cai Kou Rou

I really can't translate this. It's a very fatty pork with stewed with fermented cabbage. Hans Tang's favorite as a child.

Chinese Vegetable Sauteed with Garlic

Roasted Duck

Fish Dish

I wasn't able to take a picture before it was attacked.

The Turkey

It's more of a symbolic turkey, since no one really ate it.

But Uncle #1 is really good at making it!

We ate a lot of dessert when we were standing around waiting for the food:

I made cranberry-white chocolate chip cookies

My little cousin is a vegan, and she made vegan treats:
Pumpkin Muffins,

and Green Tea Cupcakes

Someone's neighbor made homemade pumpkin pie

And Aunt #5 made sweet black sticky rice with coconut milk, which is delicious, but I was too full to have more than a bite. I thought that was okay because my mom brought home a quart of it. Unfortunately, she, surprise surprise, didn't put it in the fridge so it went bad the next day. She didn't feel like it was a waste, though, cause she just gave it to Duke, who didn't seem to mind at all. My mother is an odd one. Very odd indeed.

Well that's it. That is all we ate (almost - a few things were able to escape the glare of the camera). My cousin Edith was worried it wasn't enough food, which says something about how much one Pei family can eat. I am very proud of my kinfolk and myself, and am already anticipating the gluttony that is sure to come during Christmas!


Friday, November 24, 2006

THANKSGIVING: The Fat Kid's Day of All Days (Part I)

Ahh Thanksgiving. That joyous, wondrous holiday where families get together and feast to show thanks for all they have (especially each other). As the official unelected president of the fat kid's club (me:world of food = bush43:u.s.), I declare Thanksgiving to be the noblest and fairest of all holidays. Oh Genius of Geniuses.

As per any Pei Family Event, this Thanksgiving was not to be denied her fair share of gambling, melodrama, and most importantly, delicious Chinese food. Just wait to see how much we ate! (to be revealed in Part II)

Aunt #4 - the Pei Family Resident Chef

She is my hero. Everything she makes tastes like a little bit of Chinese heaven.

Her Palette

Favorite family activity: Mah Jong

Not sure a family gathering could function without it. I definitely don't know what everyone else would do to kill time while Aunt #4 was cooking.

2nd Favorite Family Activity

And this was before we ate.

(I think she died from the anticipation of the fullness to come.)

Where Vultures Feast

My plate: round 1

To Be Continued...