Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hop Shing

My last meal in New York before I made my drive down to New Orleans was at Hop Shing. I have no idea how long this place has been opened, but I know that it has been decades and it is still one of the busiest places to get a dim sum fix. They open at 7am every morning, so this is the perfect place to hit up before a golf outing, a flight, or a long road trip. But if you do go that early (or pretty much any time of the day), be prepared to be seated at a table with a few other elderly Chinese men. These guys just hang out there and eat char siu baos and drink coffee all day. I swear. 

What you have to order:
  • baked char siu bao (pork bun)
  • beef rice rolls
  • beef ball 
... and all your usual dim sum favorites of course! 

I really don't eat here enough because I usually get dim sum at Ping's with my entire family, but this is the ideal place for a cheap and casual delicious dim sum meal. 

Hop Shing
9 Chatham Square
New York, NY

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shake Shack

So today is apparently National Burger Day? I wish I was informed because then I wouldn't have had a roast beef po-boy for lunch #nolaproblems. Maybe I'll get a burger from Phil's Grill this weekend, but for now I will just post about one of my favorite and one of the most well known burger places in the city: Shake Shack. 

It almost seems like a waste of time telling you that you have to go try Shake Shack because everyone has been and everyone knows what it is about. But let me tell you if you are going to Shake Shack and ordering a cheese/hamburger, then you're doing it all terribly wrong. Because I'm going to put this out there -- the burgers are Shake Shack are mediocre at best. If you want a burger, head uptown to JG Melon (post coming soon, I promise) or St. Mark's to Paul's

Instead, what you have to get at Shake Shack is the 'shroom burger. That's right. The most famous NYC burger chain is best at making a vegetarian burger. It's a meaty breaded portobello mushroom stuffed with melted cheese and served with tomato and a leaf of lettuce on their soft potato bun. No ketchup or sauces needed. It's got texture and hot melted stringy cheese oozing out. Why would you get anything else? Oh, and do not forget the cheese fries (they're not crinkled anymore! The blasphemy!) and a strawberry milk shake. 

I may be biased, but I grew up a few blocks away from Madison Square Park, so clearly the flagship Shake Shack is my favorite location to go. Even this many years later, there is still always an impossibly long line to the front window. It's part of the experience though, so if you have an hour to spare, you should definitely head to my hood and get some Shake Shack. 

Okay fine. Even though I am loving New Orleans, I do get a little home sick. I can't wait to head home Columbus Weekend to get some pizza, bagels, baguettes, dim sum, and shroom burgers. 

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
New York, NY 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Olivier's, New Orleans

Today I had the best corn bread I can remember. It was served warm and soaking in honey butter. I took a bite and was completely taken aback. Why was it so delicious?? It was more sponge-like than cake-like, but that just worked perfectly with the honey butter. I hate using this word, but this was most definitely a foodgasm

I also had the barbecue shrimp with a rosemary biscuit that was delightful. Like the French, Creole cuisine really has their sauces down: savory, flavorful, and full-bodied. It went perfectly with the fragrant rosemary biscuit. The turnip greens were salty as expected, but also exactly how you would want them to taste. 

All in all this was just a good old Creole meal. The best part though was definitely how every time I asked for something, the waiter would respond, "I got you." He definitely got me with the corn bread and the unsweetened iced tea refills. 

204 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

L'Express, Montreal

Although I didn't make it on my annual Montreal trip this year, I still have fond memories from my last visit. One of my favorite restaurants I got to try in Montreal was L'Express. It's a large windowed classic French bistro with tiled floors and small chairs. 

By far the best part of the restaurant was the large jar of unlimited pickles and mustard at the table. What a dangerous combination to leave alone with diners. For appetizer I had the roasted bone marrow, which is always a personal guilty favorite. 

For main course, Michael had the steak tartar and I had quail special. I really wanted to order the steak tartar because it's a house specialty and because raw beef just makes me drool. But I'm so glad I got the quail because it was so juicy and tender. I've never had quail at a French restaurant before, and I was very impressed with the sauce and preparation. 

If you know you're going to Montreal anytime soon, be sure to make a reservation right now because it's hard to book a table. Unlimited. pickles.  

3927 Rue Saint-Denis

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mushroom quinoa kale bowl

Now that I'm more familiar with the New Orleans area, I know where to do my grocery shopping and where to pick up specialty ingredients. I couldn't find my staple jasmine rice down here (though I must say I noticed that the rice selection here is much larger than it is up north), so I had to switch up my grains and opted for a box of quinoa and a bag of long grain brown rice. I also was just really craving a leafy green stir fry, and I figured before I venture into using collard greens and other local favorites, I might as well try out kale. 

I don't understand the kale hype. I don't get why people use such a rough vegetable in raw salads. It's gross. But I am so glad my grandmother convinced me to stir fry it instead because boy is kale naturally flavorful! Cooking it really helps break down its natural tough fiber and release a lot of its sweetness (when you use my recipe). So here's two recipes for you here. First I give you my super easy sesame oil mushroom quinoa that I promise you will make at least once a week, then it's my new favorite chicken and kale stir fry. 

Sesame oil mushroom quinoa (serves 3-4)
1 cup quinoa 
2 cups water
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups mushrooms (baby portabello or white button), chopped
1 tsp garlic powder 
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp sesame oil
optional: Cajun spice (because that's my life now)

1. In a rice cooker, mix together all ingredients except for the sesame oil. 
2. Start the rice cooker as usual. 
3. When it's done cooking, add the sesame oil and fluff the quinoa. 

✓ whole grains
✓ fiber
✓ vegetable
✓ unsaturated fats

Kale stir fry (serves 3-4)
1 bunch of kale, deribbed and chopped 
1 tbs canola oil
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tbs balsamic vinegar  
2 chicken thighs, sliced and marinated*
3 cloves of garlic, chopped

*chicken marinade:
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil

1. In a deep pan, heat up 1 tsp of canola oil with the chopped garlic. Once garlic is browned, brown the chicken.
2. When chicken is about 70-80% cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. 
3. Add the rest of the oil onto the hot pan and carefully mix in the kale. 
4. Sautee the kale until it turns a darker shade of green and is softer. Sprinkle on the salt and add the balsamic vinegar. 
5. If kale does not soften, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and cover with a lid for several minutes at a time. Remove from pan when desired texture is reached. 

✓ vegetable
✓ fiber
✓ vitamin A
✓ vitamin K
✓ protein

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sichuan, China

When I say China, you think factories and industrialization. What you don't think about is how China's also coined the "Big Green" and how applicable that name is to the country. Yes, the skies may be hazy and the water may not be as clear as it used to be, but China is still undoubtedly an expansive plot of very green land. I had the chance to tour several parts of Sichuan. In this post I will focus on the food I ate in Chengdu, Leshan, and Emei Shan. China is so expansive that even in the same province, the food and landscapes are vastly different. 

A bamboo grove at the panda breeding ground

The most famous of Chinese cuisines in Sichuan's ma la spicy style food. Ma la is made with fermented bean paste, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, and other spices, which gives it its distinct numbing spicy flavor. The reason why people in Chengdu eat so much of this spice is because of its geography. It's set in valley surrounded by mountains, so a lot of moisture gathers and lingers in the air. The spices used that characterizes the ma la flavor are actually to balance this excess wetness that would otherwise cause a lot of physical ailments such as joint pain. My guide explained that this is why Chengdu women have the smoothest flawless skin. 

As for the ma la food... thinking about it just makes me drool. The spiciness (albeit oily) really whets your appetite and even though you are suffering from the numbness, you can't help but stop eating. Everything is so flavorful and the ingredients are predominantly local, allowing all the fresh water fish and produce to be very fresh. After this trip, I really do have renewed faith in China. Its ability to rebuild Chengdu after the 2008 earthquake is simply astounding. And you really cannot go wrong with the food in this province! 

Ma po tofu! 

Hiking snacks: corn on the cob, sausages and dried meats, and tea eggs

The golden Buddha atop the fickle Emei Mountain
When in Sichuan, you must have ma la hot pot at least once
No Sichuan ma la hot pot would be complete without fish heads!

Ma la cold dishes made with beef offal
Baked pancakes with ma la spiced ground pork

Street food: spicy marinated chicken wings
Street food: spicy squid tentacles

The Leshan Buddha built under the rule of Empress Wu Zhetian in the Tang Dynasty
Leshan specialties: ma la fish, homemade tofu, and smoked duck
Buying grapes off the side of the highway from one of the countless vineyards
You can't visit Sichuan without seeing China's national treasure, the pandas!