Seoul Korean Restaurant

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When the temperatures dip, I start craving hot, comforting foods. One especially frigid night, I went to Seoul Korean Restaurant in Peter Harris Plaza. The interior is pretty sparse so far, but brightly lit and inviting all the same.

Service was good – friendly and on-point but not in-your-face. 5 banchan were on the menu that day – lightly cooked sesame oil’ed veggies and a white seaweed salad on the top row. Spicy radish, kimchee, and spicy cucumbers/onions in the bottom row. Very well flavored, all of it. I was especially fond of the white seaweed – it tasted a touch creamy and sweet, with an addictive texture that was part chew, part crunch.

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The soups are huge, and in the $12 price range. A great value for the amount you get, and the flavors they yield. Tteok Manduguk in the foreground, and I think it’s yook gye jang in the background – a spicy beef soup (comes with rice).

Tteok Manduguk is awesome – mandoo/mandu dumplings in a light bone-style broth, then add in tteok. Oh man, I can’t think of a way to make a soup much more awesome. Dumplings + soup = Awesome. Dumplings + Soup + Chewy Rice Cakes = Awesome^n
So good, and so piping hot. The dumplings had delicate skins that held up well to being in a soup (good structural integrity, no disintegrating)

I’m foggy on the name of the soup in the back, but it was a spicy beef soup that came with a side of steamed rice. It was spicy and well flavored, and not so hot that you’d start sweating while eating it.

Overall, I can’t wait to get back and try more of their dishes. The menu is small and focused, and the food was satisfyingly hearty without being heavy. But I can’t imagine trying more than just the soups on my own – time to go back with a group to tackle more of the appetizers and entrees!

Yeh Yeh’s Funeral (The Way He’d Want It – Lots of Food)

Don’t Worry – this post is only contains pictures of the food we ate and written things we did for Yeh-Yeh’s funeral service.

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Albany John & I drove down for the service. My lovely sib-in-laws, Maka & CVS, were nice enough to let us stay with them. We drove down late on a Friday night, so that I could be at the airport to pick up my sister, who was flying in from Seattle.

Once I picked her up, we went to the YehYeh’s condo in Flushing. The parking god must have smiled on me for driving late at night and waking up early to pick up my sister from the airport, because I found (free!) street parking almost instantly. In Flushing. On a weekend. My poor sister was sick, and the flight didn’t help, so she napped in the condo while I went out to lunch at Jin Cheng with my dad and Aunties.

Jin Cheng is stupid close to the condo, and it has free parking, so it’s in my family’s roster of restaurants to go to. And guess what? They actually serve a good lunch. Unlike the rest of Flushing, Jin Cheng was pretty quiet, not even half full. The meal was miles better than when I’ve been for dinner or Chinese New Year. They really can’t handle a crowd.

Seafood Congee up top. Light & gingery. I didn’t mind a bowl.

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I requested we get a plate of black bean squid. Good wok hei on the squid. Bleh to the peppers.

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Beef and gai lan. Very tender beef, also with good wok hei.

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Oop, sorry, this was chicken with hard chives cut long. Tasty stuff. I bought more chives to cook with at home shortly after this.

We hung around and just talked for a while. It’s just a whole other transition, a new step in life, to process with Yeh Yeh passing.

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We went to San Soo Kap San for dinner with my uncle, aunt & her husband/my uncle, and one of my cousins.  That dish with the red strip in the right bottom corner on the big plate? Raw squid. It was soooo freaking good! They only gave 1 plate of it as ban chan, and probably for good reason (I could have eaten about 10 of these). The rest of the banchan spread was also pretty impressive – fresh tofu, konjac (I think…) kimchee, cucumbers, small fish, pickled parsnips (MY JAM!), turnips. So much tastiness.

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One bubbling bowl of scrambled egg ban chan. Very delicate – like a savory custard.

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They grill all of the meat for you. Kind of expensive – most dishes hover around $30! Yikes! You can see tongue above. Thin rounds. Tasty.

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Pork Belly! Yeah!

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Galbi! We got two orders. My other cousin’s girlfriend is Korean and she said you don’t normally get 2 orders of the same thing, traditionally. My cousin said his parents know and do it any way, lol. I can’t argue, that galbi was great. Meaty, juicy, had that nice galbi marinade.

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I think we got some other kind of sliced beef, too.

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I still felt like eating my feelings after dinner, so my dad and I went to Tous Les Jours for some dessert. I was up for anything, but my dad says after going to Korea for a few months last year, he prefers Korean bakeries over Chinese ones because they have better quality ingredients & products, and are more innovative in what they make.

I think they are kind of expensive, but they are also the only bakeries open after 6/7 PM in Flushing. All of the Chinese ones close by then. There’s also a Paris Bakery nearby in downtown Flushing (that you can see from Tous les Jours) and is also open late.

I went for a black sesame doughnut and a cream cheese filled danish.

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My dad got a blueberry cheesecake.

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All sliced up:
Black sesame doughnut – mochi dough was chewy and kind of odd at first, then an addictive texure. Not too sweet.
Blueberry cheesecake – Asian cheesecake. Fluffy and cake-like.
Cream cheese danish – rich, rich rich, and crispy pastry exterior. Indulgent, but really good.

And like that, I was down with the more expensive Korean bakeries. Good stuff, and different than what the Chinese bakeries sell in Flushing.

Saturday I went to Flushing not knowing when I was going to leave. I wound up spending the whole day there & taking the subway back to Forest Hills. I was really happy to have late night public transportation – I wouldn’t have been able to drive, I was so sleepy!

The next morning we got up and ready to go to the funeral home for the Chinese equivalent of a wake.

Mama & Papa John had come in and were staying near the funeral home. We went out there to grab an late dim sum at … some place in Manhattan Chinatown. My bad, I forget the name. I was trying not to spill anything on my clothes and get to the funeral home on time (Thanks for lunch, Mama & Papa John!).

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Someone brought treats to the funeral home. Dan tats. Okay, I will have one. Still warm. Yum. Yeh Yeh. Sigh.

And we went in. It was a traditional Buddhist Chinese funeral, even though we’re not really religious. We folded lots of coins out of paper – that was pretty nice – having something to do with your hands at all times. These were burned as offerings. Although my cousins & I were smartasses and couldn’t help but jokingly bemoan how stereotypical it was to have origami at an Asian funeral, or how we were doing arts & crafts.
Showing emotion/sadness was discouraged, and certain curious circumstances before the funeral helped prepare me for this, although, really, I’d been fairly emotionally detached up until then, so I don’t think crying would have been all too much of an issue any way.

Two Buddhist Monks came in and read a chant. We thought it would just be for a few minutes, but it ended up being about 45 minutes. It wound up being very soothing. Albany John was sweet and took a video of it all for my brother, who couldn’t make it. I think he will really appreciate the monks’ chant.

The service was also bilingual, for us ABCs who don’t understand Cantonese. I’m thankful for that, so I could still participate and understand what was going on without feeling ashamed about my lack of Cantonese.

After the funeral, the sons (my dad & uncle) took all of the remaining guests out for dinner at a nearby restaurant on Mott Street. Eh, food was okay, but Manhattan Chinatown is mostly for tourists now.

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This was “special” chicken, in that it tasted like they steamed it one day not quite all the way, and then served it the next day. :X

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Salt & pepper pork – okay, this was good.

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Gummy lobster. Didn’t even finish it. My dad tried it and agreed. His table’s was good, though.

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I always forget how absurd banquet food seems to people who didn’t grow up with it.

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After this, we all went our respective ways. Albany John had to get back to Albany that night, so he took a train back.

The next day was the burial. We woke up early to get to the funeral home. Some more traditions/rituals that I didn’t quite understand. Drive to the graveyard, where YehYeh was buried next to Grandma.

Once Yeh-Yeh was buried, we went to one of his favorite restaurants in Flushing – Mellie’s. Another traditional post-service meal.

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Sticky Rice with lobster, sweet & sour pork, some soup.

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Then I spent the day hanging out with my cousins & sister at my Aunt & Uncle’s place just outside of Flushing. That was great. I haven’t done that since I was a kid. Just spend a few hours hanging out, watching TV, chatting. My sister was all about mahjong. We got Caribbean food & pizza for dinner.

I went back to Forest Hills for one last night with CVS & Maka. Maka took me with her to work in the morning. It was kind of like the world of tomorrow. How did it take me so long to visit this place? There were also snacks everywhere, so I left well fed & caffeinated on my way to Flushing to hang out with my Dad & head back to Albany with my sister.

My Dad and I decided to go out and try a bunch of food from all of the places in Flushing. My sister tagged along for the com First up:

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My Sweet Home Dumpling on Roosevelt for 10 tasty dumplings. Freshly made to order (including the dough rolled out!). So good, and under $5.00

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Then we walked to the underground food mall on Main Street. You know, the one past Starbucks? Any way, we hit up NY Lan Zhou La Mian. The guy at the stall evidently was asking my dad if my sister & I were single, and my dad quickly responded in the affirmative, haha (my sister is single).

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There’s one long folding table and some low stools near the menu board.

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Dad went with oxtail noodle soup. He loves oxtails, and I can’t seem to get enough of them, either. The broth was very flavorful, and came with a few pieces of baby bok choy.

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Hand pulled noodles were great! Springy chew, flavorful, and went well with the oxtails and broth. The bowl was enormous, and there were hot sauce condiments aplenty on the table. Dad let me spike the broth near the end when he was done with the soup. Yeah!

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Then we walked off our gluttony a little more around the edge of downtown Flushing. My Dad saw Forest House, and “Hong Kong Milk Tea” on the sign and wanted to go in.

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My Dad said he hadn’t had Hong Kong style Milk Tea in the US, and the difference between this and other Milk Teas you get is that they steep the tea for longer. He said in Hong Kong when he was growing up, the really legit places would strain the tea through a silk stocking.

It took a few minutes for this to come out, but boy was it good! Now I want Hong Kong Milk Tea ALL OF THE TIME – it makes other milk teas look weak and too creamy by comparison. There was a nice bitterness to contrast all of that dairy, and the bottom of the cup had some tea leaves (in Flushing Chinatown it’s usually a teabag in coffee + cream, and it’s not steeped for very long).

Our mini food tour was a nice segue into leaving (fat and fairly happy). There are plenty of things to think about when one of your loved ones passes. I’m lucky to have been able to connect with my Yeh-Yeh. I was still a kid when my other grandparents passed, and I didn’t get to know them as well.

Sam Won Gak

The last time I saw Yeh-Yeh was when he was in New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, NY. He had suffered some more mini strokes and had an NG tube in. He slept for most of the time I was there, and only started waking up an hour or two before my dad, Albany John, and I left. There were flowers by his b

The time before that, he was in a rehab facility after his first stroke was discovered. He was awake, but didn’t recognize any of us, not that we could really tell. That really freaked me out. It made me anxious to see someone I love not recognize me, or his kids. He couldn’t even talk. After that visit I was probably more edgy, reserved, irritable, and anxious (or all of the above) than normal. It’s hard for me to know I’m unable to do anything to change a situation.

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Any way, the last visit. I had stayed up way too late the night before (1 am, 2 am, 3 am?) having a pointless snip fit with Albany John. Later that morning when we woke up, I asked if he’d come down with me. Of course, he said yes. I’m glad I had the company in the car with just a few hours of sleep, and the support while we were there.

We got in around noon, and YehYeh snoozed for most of the time we were there. I found this very comforting. Like he wasn’t sick, and he was just tired. Some family friends/extended family were there, and left a bit after we got there. We had several hours just with YehYeh, and spent a few minutes in our chairs snoozing right next to him. I really liked that. No rush. No fussing. Just some time with my YehYeh.
My Dad & Auntie showed up later in the afternoon. Some time around 4 or 5 the potassium they were administering to him really must have started kicking in, because he started waking up and looking around. He’d look right at you. My Dad had told me earlier how he’d give anything just to have him around for a while just blinking. Man, I had that same feeling when he opened his eyes.

We left a little after that, some time close to 5:30 or 6 pm so my dad and Albany John and I could get some dinner. I kind of didn’t want to leave, especially because he had just opened his eyes, but it had been a hard day, and it was nice to have someone else tell you to do something, or to go.

We wound up at Sam Won Gak in the Murray Hill subset of Flushing. I had mentioned I could go for Korean, we drove around and found free(!) parking outside on the street, and Sam Won Gak sounded pretty good. Turns out, it’s Korean-Chinese fusion. They start you out with some pickled yellow daikon, raw sweet onions, bean paste, and kimchi as the banchan. Not the most plentiful, but not bad.

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The waitresses were all older auntie type ladies, who worked together like an efficient military group. Sam Won Gak seems to be a hang out and drink kind of place, at least on a Saturday around 6 PM. Most of the other patrons were middle aged guys or older hanging out and putting away soju like it was their job. No rush, spacious tables, minimal decor. I’d probably like going here a lot if I lived here, because there’s more space than a bar, and it’s much quieter than a bar, too.

I forget what this was exactly called, but it’s basically like a Korean take on General Tso’s chicken, but less greasy/gloppy than the Americanized Chinese dish. But still a bit gloppy. $13 or $16 or something like that. A big plate of battered and fried chicken pieces in a lightly spicy cornstarch sauce with a smattering of veggies. The waitress double checked on wanting it spicy, and I was kind of bummed by the heat level. Didn’t even require a second glass of water. Flavorful, but not very spicy. Even my dad agreed that this was tasty, and not painfully spicy.

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My Dad spent a few weeks in (South) Korea this past year. He was in a fairly rural part and couldn’t really get down with the food served in most restaurants because it was usually so spicy. He liked this seafood soup a lot, and said it was really flavorful, and nothing like you’d be able to actually get in Korea. It was something like $8-9 and came with a ton of seafood and veggies. Massive bowl, flavorful and light/non-greasy broth, and tons of seafood. I liked it, too.

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Albany John went for the spicy crab soup ($9-10). Oh man, was that also a good choice. Like my “spicy” chicken, it was also not very spicy. Like, probably a 2/10 in terms of heat. Flavorful, though, and also a clean broth. A bounty of seafood, and plenty of real crab – no fake stuff here.

We drove home that night.

Kim Chee

Oh David Chang, you are a genius. Project Kim Chee all started with this 2nd Edition of Lucky Peach magazine (brought to you by Chang & my other food crush, Anthony Bourdain).

Chang’s got a crazy-easy recipe for kim chee contained within this tome, and he made it seem so… accessible. Like even I couldn’t screw it up. It’s a two day process, but really not all that time-consuming.
Start out with a big ass head of napa cabbage. They’re $.50/lb or less at the asian grocery stores in Albany. This particular head was exactly four pounds. Yes, I tared the bowl.

The next step is quartering each head and removing the tough cores. But don’t throw them out! Just cut them into little slices. We waste nothing with this kim chee.

Chang’s recipe says to cut the quarters of napa into 2″ sections. That’s the size you get (or larger) in kim chee you can buy in stores. I don’t like those size leaves – too big and difficult to cram in my mouth (I know, hard to believe).

I sliced these into 1″ sections instead. I’m so badass!


Then you throw them in a bowl and dump a TON of kosher salt and granulated sugar on them. I’m serious. It’s a lot of both. Cover it with saran wrap and let it hang out in your fridge overnight.
Wow, that really shrunk overnight, hunh? There’s a lot of water at the bottom of that bowl, so you want to drain out as much as you can, but there’s no need to go crazy with it.

Then I busted out my handy dandy mandoline to matchstick-ify some carrots (please, like I have the dexterity to even think of trying that with a knife), and roughly sliced up some scallions. Just one bunch of scallions is fine.
Next, we prepare our chili paste in a blender. About a cup of chili flakes, 3/4 cup soy sauce. 5 T fish sauce. About a dozen dried shrimp (I think that dried scallops would also make a great dried fish ingredient). Close to a whole head of garlic, 2-3″ of ginger (peeled), some sugar syrup, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. Any who, whir that into a paste.

Plop the paste onto all of the other ingredients.
ATTACK! If you wear contacts, I highly recommend wearing a glove when touching spicy items. Otherwise you will scream later.

Mix, mix, mix. Work it girl – you really wanna work that hot & spicy paste into every bit of your veggies. I think that some daikon probably wouldn’t have been a bad addition to the napa cabbage with salt & sugar the night before now, come to think of it.

Then pack it in some jars. I had a few ball jars, and a few leftover other glass jars (miraculously with tops, even).

Let it sit in the back of your fridge for at least a week before you even think of trying it.

Then have your husbear make kim chee fried rice! Holy moly, I have no clue what kind of kitchen chicanery her worked on this, but this was good! And that’s coming from a rice-hater.

The kim chee wasn’t that fermented after a week, but had a good kick to it and was quite velvety. Sweeter than I’m used to, that’s for sure. I’ll give it another try in a week and see how it’s fermented, but it’s definitely tasty stuff.

Kinnaree

Kinnaree is one of Lark Street’s newest restaurants, specializing in Thai & Korean fare. It’s in the same space as A Taste of Greece used to be (193 Lark St, Albany, NY), and I think they’ve changed the space nicely. Warmer tones, different tables and chairs. They’ve still kept the wrap around wall seating. Overall, it’s simple, but nice.

Any way, after getting a sneak peek of the menu on Steve’s Tablehopping blog, I was pretty excited to check it out. I’m usually not a fan of a lot of Thai food in the area because there’s too much sweet going on in the flavors, but Steve’s comments & the recs from other commenters had my hopes set high. I wasn’t disappointed.

There was so much menu to order from, so The Profussor and his Fussy little Children joined the husbear & me to try a wider amount than we’d normally be able to. First up were fried tofu. $4.95.

Fluffy pillows of fried tofu. Nom. Not greasy at all. There was a sweet & sour kind of sauce with crushed peanuts on the left, and our server also brought out some kind of spicy chili powder for the guys (heat hounds). Overall, good flavors, good portion for the price.

Crab salad. $7.95. I am a sucker for soft shell crab and when I saw it on the menu the night before, I had to have it. It was moist, succulent, and deliciously crabby. Not at all greasy. A pretty large soft shell crab, too. I was quite happy with this salad, especially for $7.95. Very good price.

It came on a bed of mixed greens, apple matchsticks, and tomatoes. Dressing was served on the side (see it in the back?). A green kind of tart and garlicky dressing with a bit of kick to it. Quite nice. I’ll definitely get this again.

Som Tum (green papaya salad, $6.95). A softball sized (or perhaps a bit larger) portion of green papaya salad with green beans and peanuts in it. Good amount of heat, and the sweet/tart/hot flavors were well balanced. I liked it, although the center of my tongue went numb into my first spoonful. I left it to the heat hounds.

Tteokbokki ($12) is a Korean dish, made of sliced rice cakes and beef with a spicy chili sauce. This wasn’t as spicy as the papaya salad, and I quite enjoyed the flavors. I’ve never had tteok before, but have heard wonderful things about it. I once tried cooking it myself from dried tteok cakes, but didn’t know you had to soak them for a day before hand, so… my efforts did not turn out well.

Any way, these rice cake tteok things are super chewy! Like the first few chews of gum. Lots of resistance. Densely thick rice cakes. An added bonus was that this tteokbokki came with some ban chan! Sweetly soaked potatoes, kim chi, sweet black beans, and bean sprouts. Nice surprise.

Rad Nah ($6.95) was a tasty dish as well. Made of rice noodles, Thai broccoli (tasted like gai lan to me) and a choice of meat, it was quite a tasty dish. It was a cornstarch based gravy, but not gloppy. Tons of savory flavor. We chose more of that tasty tofu as the ‘meat’ for the dish. You can also add chicken for no extra charge, but if you want pork, beef, shrimp, or other seafood it’s an additional charge.

I loved the noodles! The rice noodles had a TON of delicious char to them from the pan. When you see rice noodles that have brown or black on them, THAT IS A GOOD SIGN! It says “WELCOME TO DELICIOUSTOWN!”

Sorry. Rice noodles are one of my favorite starches when they are prepared well, and they were so well prepared here. I get so excited when they come out all seared and delicious like this. They were kind of in a clump underneath the tofu and broccoli, not really long individual ribbons. But they were So. Good.

We finished off with dessert. Some ice cream for the kiddos, and a dessert roti for the adults. $3 for both desserts. Kinnaree was even nice enough to split the ice cream into two bowls for each child.

The dessert roti was nice. Kind of small. Like a very small crepe. But it certainly gave me new and fattily dangerous ideas of how to eat my roti. Rolled up with jam and drizzled with condensed milk. And here I’ve just been eating it plain. Oh dear.

Kinnaree charges for tea. About $2. It’s weird for me to go to Asian places that charge for tea, but I guess times are a-changing. I’m used to it being for free. But they have a pretty wide selection at Kinnaree, and Albany John had a very gingery one he was happy with.

We ended up getting out of Kinnaree for about $52 (before tip). Not too shabby! Obvs it’ll cost more for dinner, but lunch prices are quite nice. hee hee. Get the crab salad. Seriously.

Then we meandered over to the new coffee shop on Lark, Caffe Vero Coffee Roasters. Daniel B. got something with a heart on it.

Albany John got something I’ve never heard of before. And now I forget it’s name. But it’s the one you read and you’re like “Woah, what the heck is that?!”. It was good, too. Half-and-half, some espresso, some cocoa. It was nicely bitter without being acidic and had just a touch of sweetness. Albany John isn’t much of a sweet tooth and really enjoyed it.

The wee one got a hot chocolate and oh my gosh, I’ve never seen a baby toddler house a hot cocoa like that before. It bodes well for her future eating career.

Kimchi Jigae

Last night I made kimchi jigae. It’s a Korean soup / stew and a good way to use up leftover (and overly sour) kimchi. I’ve made it before, but here is how I made it last night.

Kimchi Jigae

2 T Sesame Oil
Leftover kimchi, juices reserved

Chopped napa cabbage leaves
1 whole onion thinly sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, lightly minced
1 small head cauliflower
1/3 C Korean Red Pepper flakes

4-5 C water + kimchi juices

2 blocks of drained firm tofu, cubed

Heat a pan on high with sesame oil and cook kimchi for 2-3 minutes.

Add napa cabbage and onions. Cook 3-4 minutes.

Add garlic and cauliflower. Stir and cook 2-3 minutes.

Add in red pepper flakes, stir in, then add liquids. Toss in the tofu cubes.

Once liquid comes to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook 10+ minutes.

Eat with rice and toasted nori.
Overall I think it could have used a little more umami flavor – maybe some bonito stock or chicken broth. It was a little watery, but still packed a fiery punch. I was going to do the chicken stock, but Ellsbells was coming over and I didn’t want to completely kill the possibility of her eating it. It was too spicy for her, which is interesting since she’s eaten stuff that I think is too spicy. We both figured that spicy is relative for different ‘hot’ spices. Like for me Korean peppers aren’t too spicy, but Sriracha is just tongue-searingly hot for me, but it’s vice-versa for her.

But it’s ok, we also had corms and rice a-plenty so Ellsbells and her tapeworm Mr. Wiggles were well fed.

Arirang


On Monday I met up with an old childhood friend. Wait – ‘old’ doesn’t sound quite right, but when you’ve known someone for about 20 years, what other descriptive word works? Over 20 years now! Woah!
She’s in the states for a little bit, and was passing through Albany around lunchtime. When she asked if I wanted to meet up for a meal, I just had to say yes! We settled upon Arirang as our meet up lunch destination.Our dads worked together, we were born in the same year, and it just so happened to work out that our families become pretty close friends. I think her brother and my brother are also about the same age. He might be a year younger though.

My friend, she’s been one heck of a jet setter – we kind of renewed our friendship as adults when I went to mooch off of her futon in Montreal a while ago.

You know how sometimes you’re friends as kids because of your families? Like, your mom hung out with the neighbor all the time, so you became friends with the neighbor kids, but ultimately once you grew up you noticed how different you were and how in any other circumstance you probably wouldn’t have met them or been as good friends with them?

I feel that way with some friends, and can I say – I am SO glad our families were friends growing up because she is so freaking cool. Seriously – all the shit she does is amazingly awesome and it’s so cool to have a friend that just up and studies in Montreal for a few years, heads to Ireland, then starts teaching English in Mexico. (I’m not making any of this up) I’d also like to toss out there that she’s not the least bit pretentious about any of this and you’re just genuinely excited to hear about all the stuff she does.


Ok, fine, enough with the sentimental crap, Albany Jane. Make with the food!

Mi amiga settled on spicy chicken and rice noodles ($7.99). Yum, I like fat rice noodles. They were spicy in a good way, so that I could take the heat (ok, maybe the heat from just a few bites), but the seasonings were great. I’m sure you could ask for more heat if you wanted it. It was a nice to try a Thai version of rice noodles since I usually eat it Chinese style.

I got the kalbi gui – after seeing and reading about them from my awesome and fun Celina, how could I not?

The kalbi gui were $11.99 and absolutely worth it! Thin pieces of beef short ribs grilled to various degrees of doneness. I had some well-done and chewy pieces, and other pinky and less chewy pieces. I liked that. Then again, I grew up liking what I called “The chewy steak”, so take that as you will. But I tend to think that fattier, heartier cuts of beef like the short ribs taste fine when they’re cooked all the way since they retain moistness and flavor. The beef ribs were plated on a rectangular plate, and I love it. I love non-circular plates. Much lurve.

They were flavored so excellently too. Mi amiga was trying to figure out the marinade. We were thinking something along the lines of soy, sugar, sesame oil… the typical ‘Asian’ blend of marinade, but the proportions are where it’s at. Whatever the ratio of their marinade is at Arirang, it is great. I loved it. I could have done with some more scallions since their raw bite went beautifully with the heavier, heartier beef.

The kalbi gui also came with 4 dishes of ban chan – pickled daikon and carrots (sweet, crunchy, refreshing), kimchi (spicy, pickle-y love), some kind of fried tofu nugget maybe? (I couldn’t figure out what this was, but it was interesting and not too bad), and seasoned bean sprouts (sesame seasoned, lightly cooked, and still crunchy). I also got a cute tub of short grain sticky rice. Yummy.

We both also got miso soups prior to our meals. Weird, since neither of us ordered anything Japanese, but whatevs, free soup!

And guess what?! I actually finished my entire meal! This was a good portion of beef, I didn’t feel like I overate or anything afterward. Sated my lunch hunger and left me pleasantly full. I may have left some rice, but rice is usually an afterthought for me and kind of ‘meh’ when faced with just about anything else.

Meals came out pretty quickly, and our server was super nice. I think she noticed we were two gals who were going to catch up (I think that’s as close to ‘ladies who lunch’ as I’ll ever get) and didn’t rush us. The restaurant wasn’t that busy during lunchtime – lots of empty tables, so it was pretty relaxed and quiet. Décor wise – there’s white linen on the table, and nice but minimal décor. Seems like you could walk in wearing jeans (most of the lunch crowd) or something fancy for dinner.

Mi Amiga also totally hooked me up with what she called a belated wedding present. Pa-shaw. Add ‘thoughtful’ to the list of things she is too.

Better yet – it contained all kinds of delicious Mexican sweets. Communion wafer sandwiches of caramel. Liquid-gold caramel filled chocolates. And my favorite, the Glorias – a gigantic nutty delicious caramel sweet. I may need to get my passport yet. Man, Mexico gets caramel so incredibly right.

Fried Chicken

Just when you’ve exhausted your monthly spending, sometimes your friends show up on your doorstep with a hundred dollars of groceries. I don’t question it; I just welcome them in and tell them how much I love them.

So our friend Slick is staying out our place (for how long? I have no idea, but seriously, show up with bags of groceries and you can stay for as long as you like. Here, let me warm up the Wii for you.) and one night he and Albany John were talking about how they’d fry the chicken. Sweet. Sounds good.
Except they never got around to it, so Hungry Hulk Jane (that’s my alter ego) flipped the bitch switch and was all “WTF? Where is this delicious chicken you promised me?! GRRRR HULK SMAAAASSHHH!!!”

I guess you can surmise that the Hungry Hulk here ended up making the chicken. I kept seeing delicious Korean fried chicken all over the blogs lately, so I pieced together some kind of recipe, and did a simple Flour batter on the remaining chicken drumsticks and fried those immediately. Hungry Hulk appeased. Temporarily.

After that, I marinated the chicken for half an hour in a soy sauce based marinade. And then I kept reading more, and none of the other Korean fried chicken recipes called for marinating in soy sauce. Crap. Oh well. (Korean fried chicken is popular for it’s very crisp skin, juicy meat, and tastiness)

So, I dug them out of the marinade and put them in this other batter type marinade that they could also marinate and sit in. This is so crazy – I’ve never come across a dual-purpose batter/marinade. But it worked. Oh it worked crazy well!So I let them sit in there for a bit and then fried them at 350 in the deep fryulator. I am really clocking some miles on that baby.

Because of the soy sauce, these browned more – but don’t worry about it. They weren’t the least bit burnt, even though they look a bit dark in some spots. The coating was a bit more bready, but it retained a huge amount of crunchiness after sitting out for another hour or two – no sogginess. This is one batter I can get down with – it was very crispy and crunchy, and the slight breadiness was a nice complement to it.


Now, the plain/American style fried chicken was really good. Here’s the coating for that:
Flour
Paprika (a lot)
Kosher salt
Black pepper
I liked the simplicity of this – it was a nice and simple juicy chicken. Something I could see myself eating for lunch in the South (mmm, along with all the fixins).

The Korean marinade was more lengthy, but I liked how the pre-marinating marinade injected that tasty soy/Asian flavor into the drumsticks.

Soy Sauce Marinade:
Soy Sauce
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 t sesame oil
1/3 – ¼ C dry vermouth
¼ C sugar
Marinate 30 minutes, then remove from bag and place in:

Batter Marinade:
AP Flour
Sweet Potato Starch/Flour (get like a 50-50 mixture, or slightly more sweet potato flour)
Black Pepper
6+ cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, finely minced or grated into mush
Milk to make it a thick batter (just enough to combine everything and get it wet)
Let sit at least 15-30 minutes.

Frying Method for Chicken with Crispy, Crunchy Skin:
Deep fry 6 min at 350 F
Drain/pull from oil and let rest 5-6 min
Deep fry again for 6-7 min at 350 F

The break really does keep the outside nice and crispy. Having a deep fryer makes this much easier and less of a mess. All I had to do was pull it up on the draining level (this is also the level that likes to slip, fall, and splatter oil everywhere when I try to take food out. Ouuuuch!)
The time really doesn’t matter – it will obviously vary for different sizes, but the rest really is the key. They were also much less oily than when I fry straight through.


These tasted great! Even though I messed up and added in an extra marinade, I think it really added extra flavor, and it didn’t do anything negative. Although next time, I will try it sans soy sauce marinade. So yummy. I used the leftover batter to fry up some zucchini (also = teh yum), and I really enjoy the bits of onion in the batter.

I also think this marinade-batter is the kind of batter that makes me go “Hmmm, I wonder what else I could batter and deep fry?” Any votes?

Pa Jun

One morning I found myself craving something carb-y, with a bit of chewy density, but the prep also needed to be fairly quick and easy. Scallion pancakes were out since the dough needs to rest, then there’s the rolling, and once you factor in the laziness, the probability of that all happening is slim to none. Pancakes were also out, since they are usually quite fluffy.
I also have come to realize we don’t use a lot of milk, so it’s pretty rare that it is in our fridge. I can’t tell if we just don’t cook with it a lot or if we avoid recipes because we’re used to not having milk. I’m sure it’s all some kind of a catch-22 that I really am not all that concerned about.

But then I remembered the dense and chewy goodness of Pa Jun / Pa Jeon – Korean Pancakes! They’re like a cross between scallion pancakes and regular pancakes. And all yummy.



The batter resembles regular flapjacks and pancakes – a pale, viscous liquid. The real fun is that pa jeon are more flexible when it comes to fillings than rolled out scallion pancakes. With scallion pancakes you’re limited to what will stay in the rolled dough and is pliable. Pa jeon batter holds the ingredients better.

Slice your added ingredients thinly so that they will cook through with the batter add them to the mix! Easy peasy!

I used red onions and carrots carrots – things that would soften, but also provide a nice opposing crunchiness to the soft, dense pancake. You can also toss in some squid or shrimp to make it a seafood pancake (a popular appetizer).

It will take longer than a pancake to cook – after plopping it in the pan it took several minutes, but you want the top portion to dry out a bit to make flipping easier, and to ensure the bottom has cooked and crisped up a bit.


After you’ve flipped it over to finish cooking, you can make up a dipping sauce. I just did soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a touch of chili oil.


Ta da! The finished product! I used a pizza cutter to slice it up into bite sized pieces, but you can also do triangles.

Here’s the recipe I used. It made 2 skillet / large pan -sized pancakes.
2 eggs
2 C flour
2 C water
Veggies / fillings of choice
Salt & white pepper to taste
Make sure to slice your fillings accordingly – No need to dice, but slice bulkier items on the thinner side.
Mix everything together.

Pour into a lightly greased pan over medium heat.
Cook 3-4 minutes, until the top becomes dry along the edges, then flip and cook a further 4-5 minutes.

NYC Spa-tacular weekend

Albany John and I hopped the megabus down to Manhattan for the weekend this past Friday. Right now they are in the process of working out some kinks. Hopefully. We got to the Rensselear train station early and stood in front of surface parking lot B. One of the lot people came out and said that the bus was going to be inside the lot because the city of Rensselear didn’t want them picking up people on the side of the road for whatever reason and that Megabus had talked with the train station so they would pick up inside the parking lot. He also said that each driver was different and that most of the time this didn’t happen, and a lot of the time the drivers would go to the original place in front of the Rensselear Amtrak train station, even though their website says there has been a change. Our bus stopped at the bus stop in front of the lot and we just kind of sprinted out of the lot over to the station. It’s a good thing that it didn’t stop in the old location, as that would have been one hell of a sprint in the snow.

But we arrived in good shape – and actually had a really good ride. Better than most of the rides on the double happiness bus – much smoother. Once we got off at Penn Station we ambled around in the cold looking for the right subway station to hop on to and made our way over to our friend Manhattan Maka’s. She’s currently dating Chicago Velvet Smoove, Albany John’s brother. Phew, got it? Well, ya better, cause I ain’t got no more time to explain it!

CVS made beef stew with fresh rosemary. It was fan-fucking-tastic, and normally I hate rosemary, but in its fresh form it added a nice smokiness to the soup.

The next day we began the trek over to Spa Castle in College Point, Queens. They had a free shuttle picking up inside the Flushing public parking lot (right across from the Woori bank/bus stop by the pay meter on 39th). We got there a bit early, so we went to Fay Da to grab a snacky brunch while we waited. One of the things I got was a pork wrap, made of pork floss, egg omlette strip and fresh lettuce. The fresh lettuce had a nice crunch, and at $1.50 this was so filling.

I also got a pork puff for $0.95, which had roasted pork inside a thick layer of flaky pastries. I was pretty much in heaven. Wash it all down with a milk tea and you’re good to go. Fay da was awesome because it was like this: you pick up a tray and tongs and pick out buns and such from an island of them. It was lots of fun and then I could wait around more and figure out what I wanted. Once you head up to pay you better know what you want – those ladies go fast!

Manhattan Maka got a cheese bun and made a face like she just bit into glass – turns out there was bacon in the cheese bun, and she absolutely hates bacon. Albany John traded her a sweet potato bun instead, and both were quite happy with the trade.

There was also a guy sleeping there who looked like a homeless Santa, sleeping by their Christmas tree. He was there when we passed again after catching the subway home, and I was partially convinced he was dead, but then I saw him breathing and everyone else said he was ok and I was crazy too.

The spa castle was awesome. It’s a bit pricy at $45 per person on the weekend, but we four highly enjoyed ourselves for the couple of hours we were there (I thought pictures in a sauna would be weird, not to mention probably leathal for my wee camera).

You get some uniforms to wear while you’re there and there’re so many levels. The locker room also has the gender only hot tubs and saunas where you can be naked! Woo hoo! Actually, I think you have to be butt naked in there since everyone was nekkid… I just kind of went with the flow since none of the attendants I tried talking to could really speak English, they just kept saying “UPSTAIRS” but I couldn’t find anyone upstairs. I figured if I was doing something horribly wrong someone would come running over flailing their arms at me or something. On the 2nd level there are some pricy food vendors and the saunas they really pimp out on their website. They were pretty awesome too – hot, of course. Hee hee. The 3rd level you need to bring/rent a bathing suit for and it had heated pools outside (even a Japanese bade pool) and some indoor pools with massaging water functions too. There’s a wide mix of people there and it’s pretty easy to figure out what to do: Relax!


After just *exhausting* ourselves at the saunas, we went over to Pho 32 & Shabu since when we were waiting for the shuttle Manhattan Maka spotted ‘SHABU SHABU’ and decided we had to eat there for dinner. That girl loves her some shabu shabu. Lucky table 3!

Albany John and I ordered pho soups while Manhattan Maka and CVS went for the shabu shabus. Mine was beef flank, some other kind of beef and soft tendon. Albany John got the same thing plus tripe. This is mine – it’s a small for $6.95 and damned good! Albany John got a large for $7.95 and it made me so glad that I got a small because I am like a dog – I’ll eat all of the food you put out in front of me and as it was I had to practically roll my self out of the restaurant when we were finished.

This was the best pho ever – the broth was so beefy and delicious. I’ve had pho from My Linh before and thought the broth was really weak and watery and that I just wasn’t a pho fan. Not anymore – dudes, this pho was kick ass! It had some noodles on the bottom as well, and omg, I want to go back for more. MORE!

Here’s the setup when things first came. Aww, double date!


This was absolutely delicious – it was a soy sauce mix thing on the condiment bar they had and I couldn’t get enough of it. I think it was made of soy sauce, fish sauce, a pinch of chili oil, plus the raw sesame seeds and scallions.


Of course soup has this tendancy of filling me up only so much, and by 8:30 or so I got the munchies again. So we ordered sushi from Yu Ka, a place that delivers to Manhattan Maka’s building. Don’t ask me where it is – I’m glad I remembered the name, but upon using the google I’ve found that it might also have all you can eat sushi, and if that is the case bring it ON because this was some of the best sushi I’ve eaten in a long time.

CVS is pointing out our awesome spread for something like $30 with delivery. They include a 12.5% delivery fee but ask that you don’t tip the delivery guy at all. Ok, cool with me.
Left to right: spicy tuna roll – oholyfuckthisburnslikeyouwouldn’tbelieve hot. Seriously – no nothing to calm down the sriracha. Not my favorite. It was also huge and hard for me to eat. The boys took one for the team on this one. Actually, the took a lot for the team since I tend to order for 3-4 people, and this fed us all nicely. I tend to order a lot and poop out about 1/4-1/3 of the way through. But I like seeing a lot of sushi!
Yellowtail and scallion roll. Chicago Velevet Smoove ordered this one – really fresh and tasty.
Salmon and Avocado roll – yummy! Can’t go wrong with this, and they used ultra creamy avocado in the roll.
Rice and salad, miso soup
Sashimi regular – $12.50 for 15 pieces of super-fresh goodness. Dear goodness, I am talking Saso’s quality good, and probably even better. Damn you lucky Manhattanites for being surrounded by top quality sushi! The only meh of the bunch was the unseared tuna that was lean as all heck and really hard for me to chew. Manhattan Maka said it’s probably because UES-ers really like their food lean. The salmon though – oh baby. Some of the best salmon I’ve ever had. Huge slices of butter, unctuous goodness. I am so going back here.

The next morning we had to leave and we went to a diner on 79th street that was closing that day. It’s weird to be in a place that is closing that day. A lot of the staff looked really sad, like they were losing a friend. Our waiter was really nice and our food came out very quickly. I got 2 eggs over easy, home fries and sausage for $5.95. Yummy! Nice crisp sausage links with a bite to them, and easy on the fennel.

We putzed over to Penn Station and had some time to walk around when Albany John spotted another Fay Da! Woo hoo! This one also had a hot bar, but I went straight for the buns again, getting a coconut and cream filled one (fucking AWESOME), cheese bun, more pork puffs (but here they were $1.50 each – yipes!) and a fresh mango filled mochi ($0.95). I need more of these mochis.
The megabus was a little late, but we all boarded and were soon on our way to Albany. We got dropped off at the ‘old’ bus stop in front of the rail station even though the website says differently, and the driver was adamantly telling all the passengers that they would be picked up there as well. Oi, I hope they all make their bus back!
Then we went home and made fantabulous food while drinking gin and tonics and I polished off the rest of the Fay Da goodies. And that is how you do NYC on the relatively cheap!