Sunday, October 30, 2011

Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce

Who knew making your own tomato sauce could be so easy and tasty!  When I bought Mario Batali's cookbook, Molto Italiano, I was excited to get down and dirty with some of his recipes.  But first, I'd have to make my own sauce.  I was surprised at how such few basic ingredients could make a subtle yet tasty difference to your everyday pasta.  All you need are carrots, onions, garlic, canned whole tomatoes, olive oil, and thyme.  I found it strange that thyme was the herb of choice instead of something basil.

I've always heard about San Marzano tomatoes, but I never quite understood what made them so special.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Du Kuh Bee

Aside from dumplings, Portland is also lacking good Korean food.  I'm sure nothing compares to LA's Koreatown except Korea itself.  It's amazing how Korean food used to be something so foreign and weird tasting to something I really love.  I guess it's cuz I have a penchant for stinky things and Korean food is full of that.  Anyways, Du Kuh Bee isn't a true Korean place, but rather a Korean-Chinese place, maybe?  I'm not sure.  They are known for these delicious fresh hand pulled noodles.  I've never seen anything like that in any Korean restaurant.  But then they serve kimchi and galbi.  And then they have mapo tofu and fried rice.  Go figure.  Du Kuh Bee is seriously like one little Korean family running a little kitchen.  Service is on the slow side because dad pulls the noodles and mom does everything else.  Don't go if you're starving.

Nom nom nom

Pretty standard.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Din Tai Fung (Seattle)

Portland is a nice place to live.  The people are nice.  There's not much traffic.  Most everything you want is here sans tax (there's a Target and/or Trader Joe's every which way you turn!).  The very obvious thing it is lacking is great Asian food, especially good dumplings.  Lucky for us, the world famous Din Tai Fung has opened up a new outpost! Seattle. 

Now we don't have to fly to get our dumpling fix!  We need only drive 2.5 hours one way, so that we can wait another 1 hour for a table, and then fight the food coma back to Portland another 2.5 hours, while maintaining a keen watch out for cops trying to stick you with a speeding ticket for going over 65mph.  No joke.  Who would attempt such a ridiculous trip?  On a whim no less?  Well, that would be Dumpling Man and his trusty sidekick, moi. 

The restaurant is located in Bellevue, which seems to be a pretty posh area of Seattle.  Din Tai Fung is in the top level of a new, modern, non-Asian, non-ethnic, All-American shopping complex with a Nordstroms, Crate & Barrel, and PF Chang's.  It's on the same floor as Lucky Strike.  Yes folks, you can bowl and get your dumpling on at the same time!

It seems like they've spared no expense at this outpost of DTF.  It's a striking contrast to the cramped quarters of DTF in Taiwan.  This one is sprawling with high ceilings and modern finishings.  It's easily double the size of the 2nd Arcadia location and even has a private room with an all glass wall and door.

The stand out feature of this location is the full stock bar where you can wait for your table or even eat.

And of course, the droves of hispanics industriously working the dumpling line.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Oh Picca, why did you have to disappoint me so?  I had such high hopes for this place.  Blogger after blogger extoled the culinary accomplishments of the modern Peruvian fare here.  It was top on my list of "to-try" LA restaurants.  I even recommended this restaurant to my Triple F and Running Man during their visit down here, solely based on the reviews of all the bloggers.  Running Man was sorely unimpressed.  Triple F being more sunshine than dark cloud, was slightly more positive, but wasn't really crazy about the place.

Finally, I managed to get a group together for a visit.  Teety, Soprano Man, The Face Puncher, Quack Man T, and myself gathered for fun filled dinner.  We didn't really know what to order and in what quantity.  So out of our laziness, we opted for the omakase.  Maybe that wasn't the best decision.

Causa Sushi scallops, mentaiko
I would say this was probably one of the best dishes of the night.  I loved the take on "sushi."  Instead of rice, the proteins were sitting on top of little well seasoned potato cakes.  The scallops were fresh with just a bit of deliciousness fishiness from the roe.

Toro Ceviche leche de tigre
This was just the start of the leche de tigre overload in the omakase.  That stuff is incredibly tart.  A little bit goes a long way but some dishes were overwhelmed with them.  I can't even recall if the toro had that signature butteriness since there was just so much sauce.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

Dumpling Man likes his curries, specifically Thai yellow curries.  I'm not such a fan, but I'll eat it.  It's just a bit too creamy and sweet, but that's exactly how Dumpling Man likes it.  I prefer Vietnamese curry instead which is more fragrant from lemongrass and ginger and saltier from a good helping of fish sauce.  So my curry somehow walks the middle road, and as a result is never sweet enough for Dumpling Man.

I've made this before but with the lemongrass cut into short stalks.  This recipe from Ravenous Couple called for finely sliced lemongrass.  If you've cooked lemongrass before, you'll know that it is not something that softens as you cook.  So, all that lemongrass ended up being lost in the sauce and into my bowl and it was not fun to chew on.  Next time, I'm keeping the lemongrass in stalks so they can be fished out at the end.

Your basics.  I found these mini cans of coconut milk.  Perfect for making a serving of curry like this.  For most recipes, a mini can like this may short change you on the called for amount of coconut milk, but I'd rather have a less coconutty curry than half a can of coconut milk that will slowly mold in the back corner of my fridge.  I randomly picked this curry powder.  It's pretty darn spicy.

First you gotta marinate your meat.  I like to keep my meat in semi-large pieces so that they end up being fall apart tender after a while.  Unfortunately, it takes longer to cook that way.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

101 Noodle Express (Lu Wei Ju)

We all know Irvine is missing a solid dumpling and noodle house.  A&J makes a decent attempt, but it still leaves a big void.  I mean, if I knew how to make awesome dumplings, I would totally open up a joint in Irvine because I knew it would win big.  I'm talking lines out the door folks!!  Let's step outside my imagination for now, and talk about Irvine's newest dumpling and noodle house, 101 Noodle Express.

101 Noodle Express' original location in Alhambra has been on the SGV dumpling scene for a long time.  Unfortunately, Dumpling Man and I were not particularly impressed with anything there when we tried it many moons ago.  Somehow, transplanting the restaurant to Irvine has changed my opinion.  Maybe because there's just not many options in Irvine when it comes to noodles and dumplings.

Cold Mix of Cucumbers
We all know I love a good pickled vegetable, and cucumbers are no exception.  These were a tad on the sugary side but it was refreshing for a warm summer lunch. 

De Zhou Chicken
Apparently this dish is quite special at 101 Noodle Express.  De Zhou chicken is a special dish from the Shandong region of China.  The bird is first deep fried before it is braised in spices, soy sauce, and sugar.  The dish here was served cold with a soy dipping sauce.  It was pretty darn flavorful and moist.  Surely something I would order again.

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