Snacks Category

Ketchup & Rice

“EWWWW!,” I exclaimed with my best blech face. Sarah, my childhood neighbor (and one of the very few Korean girls in New Castle, PA), proceeded to pour Heinz ketchup all over her beautifully steamed bowl of sticky white Kokuho Rose rice. What was she thinking? Sure, pile on the stinky fermented cabbage, pickled burdock root, dried and fried anchovies, and Spam, but ketchup? That was just wrong.

Right?

Actually, it wasn’t until years later as a twenty-something when I traveled to Tokyo and discovered omu-rice, did I realize why Sarah didn’t flinch despite my outburst, as she ate that bowl of ketchup-y rice. The sweet and tangy western ingredient worked in the strange omu-omelette “paper”-wrapped dome of fried rice. It’s like when you spoon up a perfect mix of buttery hash browns, soft scrambled egg, and ketchup from an IHOP breakfast platter at 3 am (after you’ve been drinking).

I do confess, though, that I never really took to the cold Heinz on hot rice method. And I frankly get a little tired of the flavor about halfway through my omu-rice. Maybe it’s the Korean in me, but I find myself wanting to incorporate a pickle note or spicy kick.

This recipe is still easy and comforting, but brightens up the palate with fresh herb, heat, and texture.

Kicky Omu-rice
Adapted from the recipe by No Recipes

Fried Rice
1 chicken thigh, cut into 1″ pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 cups cooked rice
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1/4 cup napa cabbage, chopped

Egg Blanket
2 eggs
salt
1 tbsp oil

Beat eggs – add a pinch of salt and pepper – and set aside.

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the chicken. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Mix in the cabbage and cook until slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Add the rice, ketchup and gochujang. Mix thoroughly.

Fill two deep bowls, about halfway, each with a mound of the rice. Set aside.

Heat same pan to medium, add a tbsp of oil and then the beaten eggs. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold the eggs over each other, until the majority of the eggs set and look like fluffy but shiny (moist) yellow clouds (about 3 minutes).

Blanket each mound of rice with the eggs. Garnish each top with chopped cilantro.

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 3

Honopu Ridge Trail kicked my butt. But it was the kind of butt-kicking that hurts so good afterwards. There was fear, red dirt, off-key singing, green explosions, and chubby blocks of fresh ahi jerky.

As we piled into a dusty mini-flatbed truck that smelled “natural,” and met our guide Steve – 60ish, unkempt hair, wiry limbs, and deep wrinkled tan – I knew we were in for a visceral adventure.

Although the hike up to what I coined the “Red Dirt Ridge” is only about 5-7 miles total, it requires getting up close and personal with dense greenery, root-ridden uphill trails, and your own body. You’ve also got to be patient because you may do some backtracking. But boy, is it worth all that red dust getting up in those tiny crevices (yeah, you’ll know what I mean after you take a shower).

Although many who visit Kauai opt see the Na Pali Coast by air; nothing beats seeing it off a powder dirt “cliff” carved by time and tropical winds.

When you do this trek, it feels as if your mind moves from one world to the next a la Cloud Atlas. First you’re in Nea So Copros (for me, Chicago), then you go back in time to the greenest of Green (when Nature still perseveres despite humans blowing themselves up), then you’re on Mars, and then you gaze out from the apex to the Blue Yonder where you imagine everyone talks with an overly elaborate, overly romanticized 19th century vocabulary.

I know I sound corny, but this place does inspire such grandiosity and I unapologetically bathed myself in it. It’s the kind of Stuff that helps me get through the languishing of the Everyday, every day.

Fully dirty and fully content, Steve had a nice detour planned for us and I’d recommend it to any visitor. Doesn’t require a pinch of the physical effort as Honopu, but it’s quite a sight. The Pu’u Hinahina Lookout lays out a spectacular view of Waimea Canyon. You can see all the way down to the Pacific whilst your two feet stand firmly planted on a concrete platform.

We had a sleepy, windy ride back as we listened to Steve crooning his heart out to Marvin Gaye. A pit stop at JoJo’s Shave Ice capped off our trek. I had the #12 Fruity Special, a pineapple-orange-lillikoi-macnut ice cream treat. Jordan had the strawberry-mango-coconut-vanilla cream-macnut ice cream flavor blast. We both agreed the macadamia nut ice cream trumped the shaved ice.

Sushi and drinks at the Stevenson Library back at the Hyatt didn’t have a chance of competing against chomping down homemade ahi tuna jerky in the middle of the Kauai jungle. But the cocktails and fresh fish didn’t hurt one bit.

Smattering from the Big Apple: Part 2

It was sunny but a bit colder, and definitely more windy on our next February morning in Soho, but nothing was going to keep us from a morning lunch on the Lower East Side at Katz’s Deli. That’s right. I said “morning lunch,” not “brunch.” Once you see what we ate, it’ll make more sense.

Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St

Given that Chicago has its own famous Jewish deli/cafeteria called Manny’s, the comparisons were inevitable. But it’s like Sophie’s choice over here, so I’ll just call out the stand outs.

Pastrami – Katz’s by a long shot.
Beef stew – Manny’s. It’s the gravy.
Lox and Bagel – Manny’s. Good at Katz’s but where’s the onion and tomato?
Knish – Katz’s. I’m no expert on Knishes but the chewy yet crispy texture of the dumpling, and really savory and peppery potato mash of Katz’s was highly memorable. I can’t remember how my last knish from Manny’s tasted, but that could just be my bad.

Looks like it’s a tie in the end. I guess it’ll take some more field research. Oh darn.

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Katz’s Deli in NYC and Manny’s in Chicago – two culinary institutions that I hope stay around forever and forever.

I weep for the pastrami I’ve consumed in the past as it’ll be hard to go back, if at all. Seriously, it’s as good as the legends say. Maybe even better.

If you’ve never had the delight of eating a knish, put it on your to do list. If you like savory mashed potatoes and fried dumplings, run don’t walk.

Oh and a side (or platter) of homemade beef stew doesn’t hurt either especially when you’ve got a chewy bit of knish to sop up all the brown gravy.

I admit it was hard leaving Katz’s without trying some other things like the matzo ball soup, chopped liver, cheesesteak, corned beef, and so much more, but people now were piling in and the love needs to be shared even though you really just want it all to yourself. Plus I think I needed to change into stretch pants.

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New York has the best toy store for those of us who love collecting art/urban vinyl toys. It’s called Toy Tokyo in the East Village and it’s simply put – a mecca of ultimate toy awesomeness. Managed by a staff of genuinely cool dudes like Lauren and David, Toy Tokyo never lets me leave empty handed. This time I scored big time with this Sam Flores vinyl figure. Check it!

I was still reveling in my find – annoying Jordan with the fact that “I got the last one!” – as we walked underneath some magenta awning for a snack.

East Noodle Robatayaki
119 2nd Ave (between 7th St & St Marks Pl)

This is our go-to place to sit down and have a drink and/or snack and revel in the toy purchases we just made down the street. It’s straightforward, super casual, and tasty if you’re looking for some charred and juicy nibbles of meat, veg, and seafood cooked on the robata or Japanese grill. East Noodle also offers steaming bowls of pretty tasty ramen. And for those of us who spent their load on toys, it’s cheap!

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Now it was time to visit my second favorite store in NYC – Forbidden Planet – which is one of the best comic book stores in the nation. It’s a bit of a trek north in Greenwich Village, but walking myriad blocks in NY don’t seem to phase me at all. Everywhere you go there’s something interesting going on…or being cooked…in a truck.

A-Pou’s Taste Truck
This was such a lucky find – Taiwanese potstickers! Turns out the owner Wen Pin won the Vendy Award for “Rookie of the Year” in 2010. These rectangular potstickers were so savory, porky, chewy, and umami-y to the max. Dip it into a little seasoned sriracha on the side and wooooo!

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It was dark outside by the time we headed back down south to call it a night. Of course walking down Broadway is such a bad idea if you’re trying to get home. Uh, hello, shopping! My legs were screaming at me to stop, but I kept telling myself that all I needed was a quick pick-me-up. Espresso? Gelato? Falafel? OMG, tacos!

Tribeca Taco Truck
What another great find! Some swear these guys have THE best tacos. Maybe it was the chilly night, maybe it was my need for a hot snack, maybe it was that my legs were turning to jelly, or maybe it was the Tribeca Taco stuffed with chorizo AND al pastor topped with cilantro, onion, picante rojo and salsa verde!

Jordan and I took our taco babies back to the hotel, plopped down on the bed, opened the steaming styrofoam and went to town. Super flavorful and kicked up with heat, the tacos were warm and soft and perfectly balanced with the richness of the chorizo, the toothsome tenderness of the al pastor, and the tart and refreshing cilantro, onion, and salsa combination.

The end to a perfect day. Adios Nueva York! Te amo!

London Calling! – From Britain to Belgium in a day

Morrissey woke me up this morning.

“Here is London, giddy London, Is it home of the free or what?” So, what’s got me so giddy?

Medieval torture of course! Traitorous prisoners, the beheaded ghost of Anne Boleyn, the reviled White Tower, and the infamous Crown Jewels!

On the menu today: The Tower of London!

A nice addition to the tour was a trip through the Royal Armories. Jordan and I geeked out so hard on all the swords, axes, crossbows, and overall medieval pageantry of the exhibit.

It hit me only afterwards that today was our last full day in London. Yikes, we still had so much to do!

The British Museum was next, but before that, we headed straight for the Underground. We absolutely couldn’t leave London without sampling Britain’s “true national dish” Chicken Tikka Masala!

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Brick Lane and Whitechapel are known as ethnically diverse, primarily Bengali, neighborhoods in London. Devon Avenue in Chicago has a similar vibe.

Funny enough, Whitechapel is also where the Jack the Ripper murders occurred apparently, but today, it’s a vibrant community where English it seems is everyone’s second language.

We decided on Zayyabs. It’s actually a Pakistani place so we knew the dish would be slightly different than the creamier Indian version. But as chicken tikka masala is also one of those dishes that varies from chef to cook to region like any good paella, gumbo, or feijoda, we decided to go for it.

And we are so glad we did. Every dish was densely spiked with spices, richly layered, heavily perfumed, and authentic to the bone.

The only bad thing about our lunch at Zayyab’s was the inevitable food coma that followed.

Thank ye gods for the long Tube ride to the British Museum.

Power nap, go!

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The British Museum is an unbelievable treasure.

Packed inside this enormous structure is an arena of antiquities spanning from the Far East to the Far West and everywhere in between.

I had to force my mind to focus. The countless stories behind these objects of old pushed and pulled at my imagination as I walked the halls. It was marvelously overwhelming!

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As we descended the grand white steps in front of the Greek Revival façade of the Museum, Jordan and I felt we had zoomed through centuries of history in just a few short hours. Naturally our heads were buzzing and our stomachs rumbling.

So we made our way down a few streets to Le Bistro Savoir Faire.

The charming French brasserie invited us in with its rosy ambiance. Its cherry wood framed windows, French sconces, white napkins, and quotations and French cartoons painted across the walls fit our contemplative moods perfectly.

We supped on paté, bouillabaisse, warm baguette with butter and salt, bone-in ham, and a light Pinot Noir.

And for dessert, we exchanged thoughts on the past few days whilst taking turns cracking the caramelized sugar sheet on our crème brulee.

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I felt I was dream walking when we left Le Bistro only to “wake” up in another dream – this one full of sparkle, whimsy, and good cheer. It was Christmas on Oxford Street. Amongst cascades of twinkling white, blue, green, and silver lights, Jordan and I shared one final sweet before surrendering to sleep.

Liege gauffre or Liege waffles from The Waffle Place. What makes the Liege waffles so up and beyond is the batter which has chunks of sugar in it. When cooked the sugar chunks caramelize to form a crispy almost candied coating on the top of the waffle.

Happy Christmas indeed!

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