Friday, September 23, 2011

(Spicy Totto Ramen)

Comfort is important to me when dining out. Reservations make me comfortable as I can't let extreme hunger influence my judgement on the food after waiting an hour for a table. Elbow room makes me comfortable. A place to put my jacket and purse makes me comfortable. Regulated temperatures make me comfortable. Not having patrons hover over me while I eat makes me comfortable.

So what was I doing in this teenie ramen house that doesn't take reservations? Well, a girl needs to get her ramen fix every now and then. Although it was a wet summer afternoon, the timing was right, as a friend and I arrived at Totto after the lunch rush and even still on a warm, muggy day, there was still a short wait to get into this little place.

(Avo Tuna - Torched Tuna Sashimi with Avocados)

We sat at the bar closest to the door and while I could feel the scorning eyes behind me of those still waiting to be seated, I was excited to witness the cooks in action. With my jacket and purse in lap, I watched the cooks, torch my tuna sashimi and squid skewers. Good predictable appetizers but I really just wanted the ramen.. and then it came, piping hot, spewing steam into the already hot, muggy air inside. This was the first time I've had a chicken and soy sauce based broth and while I missed the feeling of having oil slicked lips after sucking down collagen loaded pork broths, this was a nice lighter alternative in the warm weather. However the
peppery, spicy sesame oil that's added to the spicy ramen succeeded in making my eyelids sweat anyway.

(Ika-Yaki - Torched Squid Skewers)

Complete with bouncy noodles, torched pork pieces, scallions, bean sprouts, and the obligatory nori piece, this was quite a satisfying bowl and at a wallet friendly price of $10.50. Nice to know that ramen can be found without having to trek downtown as I do enjoy a good bowl every now and then. The 30 minutes I did spend inside being totally uncomfortable was sure worth it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Who run? You run! We all run.. to Fu Run! "

(Conch w. Chili Oil)

Thankfully I did not try out for my high school's cheer leading squad, as cheers like the one above would just add to the list of rejections I had to endure during that tender young age. Since I went to a predominantly Asian high school, I obtained many friends who introduced me to Chinese food. Born was my love for Cantonese comfort foods such as roast duck, beef with oyster sauce over rice, salt &pepper squid, and wonton noodle soups. Back then, Flushing was overrun by Cantonese noodle shops, BBQ roast houses, and banquet halls and that's what I knew as Chinese food.

Fast forward X years later with more restaurants now offering tastes from the Northern regions of China. These "new" flavors quickly gained popularity (thanks to places such as Xi'an Famous Foods) with diners in search of a fresh take on a loved-well cuisine. The bold, Northeast Chinese flavors offered at Fu Run did not fail to impress my taste buds.

(Muslim Lamb Chops)

If you love lamb with copious amounts of cumin, dried chilis, sesame seeds, and other robust spices, you will seriously love the Muslim Lamb Chops. The cracker like crust of spices that coat the tender meat underneath are fun little bits to nibble on or mix in with warm rice. The lamb meat falls off the bone with the slightest touch so a knife or sharp canines are not required. If you've ever tasted the lamb ribs at A Fan Ti (R.I.P.), these are a big step above - more intense flavor, less fat, and a textural treat.

(Crispy Fried Fish w. Cumin)

As if there wasn't enough cumin on the table, we had also ordered the Crispy Fried Fish w. Cumin. These perfectly fried little fish nuggets were a bit on the salty side but perfect to eat with a beer in hand. Also great paired with beer is the cold conch dish. Large crunchy pieces of conch are mixed with shredded scallions, peppers, and cilantro and tossed in chili oil. The scallions are quite strong here, but in a good way to balance the heat and oil as well as add more crunch. The flavor profiles in the Mixed Vegetables w. Green Bean Sheet Jelly dish is very similar to the conch dish but with shredded cabbage and those chewy jelly sheets it was more of a soft salad as opposed to the crispier dish preceding it. If all the chili oil starts to make you sweat, guzzle some more beer.

(Mixed Vegetables w. Green Bean Sheet Jelly)

The Sour Cabbage and Lamb Dumplings were the most neglected items on the table. Although I didn't find the filling as gamy or off-putting as others have noted, the wrapping was a tad mushy and the flavors not as exciting as other things. Sadly, the dumplings were mainly left untouched. I wasn't a big fan of the Triple Delight Vegetables either since I'm not a fan of soft eggplant dishes nor gloppy sauced vegetables however I did pick at some of the potatoes mixed in.

(Triple Delight Vegetables)

Now that my adult eyes (and mouth) have opened itself to other kinds of Chinese food, I will gladly give Fu Run a second, and third, and fourth visit. It's one of the hottest places in Flushing as you can always find groups of hungry customers hovering outside, waiting to be seated. Go with a group and try as many dishes as you can until you find your favorites. Although the booklet of a menu offers a ton of dishes, once you find your favorites, it will be quite hard to deviate from them.

- Some days they take credit cards and some days the "machine is broken". You're better off prepared with cash

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I'm Back!

I know.. I'm a bad blogger. This always happens, I get super excited about a project and then after awhile the new-ness wears off I move onto something else new and exciting. Yep, commitment issues but let me share what I've been up to. The lack of motivation during the winter brought weeks of eating the same old dishes either due to laziness, exhaustion from work or lack of time.

My New Year's resolution was to have small dinner parties at home once a month and each time try something new. So far so good and the experience is wonderful. Let's hope I have new dishes to share in the upcoming months.

Long Beans w. Ground Pork

Fried Rice w. Chinese Sausage

Asian Style Butter Stir Fried Shrimp

Kare Kare (Oxtail)

Stir Fried Water Spinach w. Dried Shrimp

Bean Sprouts w. Ground Pork

Lnguine w. Clams

Chicken w. Chinese Broccoli

Seared Rib Eye Steak w. Chickpea Salad

Clams w. Black Bean Sauce

Anchovy Pasta

Leftover Prawn Mee Noodles Topped w. Pan Seared Shrimp & Pork

Vermicelli Grilled Shrimp - Bun Tom Thit Nuong

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chinese Fried Pork Chops

More attempts with pork chops. Tried this recipe while cutting the sugar in half. The taste was interesting and reminded me of french toast. Perhaps the egg in the marinade. Good but not for me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Comfort and All Things Beautiful

The winter receded for a bit to make the past weekend somewhat enjoyable to be outdoors. C and I took the opportunity to snap a few photos around Brooklyn.

I have no hot water tonight.. WTF?? At least tonight it's not as blistering cold as it was last week. Nothing like comfort food to warm you up inside. Indulging in comfort food to me during cold days is drinking up the warm, rich chicken broth with tons of meat and cheese tortellini, saucy stir fried shrimp to pour over a warm bowl of steamed rice, and the ultimate dish of leftovers - garlicky, heavy, fried rice. This one was made from meat from leftover pork ribs I roasted last night.

Enjoy the slight heat wave while you can. I don't think mother nature is done with winter as of yet.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Weekend Treat

Work has pretty much exhausted the last ounce of energy I have this week but I'll fight off the laziness tonight and somewhat post a full recipe! Pork chops was rarely a dish cooked at home. Pork scares me really. Growing up with the idea that all kinds of bacteria and yucky things live in pork until they are cooked to rubber was implanted in my brain for years. My pork dishes are usually braised or stir fried.. easy enough for me to fully cook tender pieces of pig without it tasting like you were eating a flavored piece of shoe.

During a recent dinner out with C, I rebelled and fought my mental urges to just order the steak and decided to try the pork tenderloin. Pork is technically safe to eat at 145 degrees F (so I've read..!) but recipes usually call for cooking the thing until at least 160F. Me, feeling daring that night ordered the dish 'medium'. Needless to say I was rudely awaken in the middle of the night to spend a weeknight in my bathroom.

So here's my attempt at pork chops. Brining was a technique I've used once on a roasted chicken. It turned out pretty good but alas it's chicken and I'm not much of a fan. I brined the pork chops in mixture of water, chicken broth, lots of salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic cloves. The chops bathed in the brine for only 30 minutes since they were quite thin.

While the pork was sitting in brine I prepped the potatoes. The potatoes were cut into equally sized portions, tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, few cloves of unpeeled garlic, rosemary and a pinch of a rub I had made for ribs a few weeks back (mostly paprika). The potatoes were wrapped up in a sheet of foil and sent to bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes at 400F. I opened the foil when the potatoes were done and let them sit in the warm oven to crisp up while I prepared the rest of the meal.

After 30 minutes, the pork chops were taken out from the fridge so they could warm up to room temperature before cooking. I do this with all my seared meats so they cook evenly. Olive oil was heated in a pan over medium to medium-high heat depending on your stove. Added a large pat of butter and begun searing the chops. If the butter starts to foam then the pan is ready. If the butter starts to brown immediately then the pan is too hot (which usually calls for me to start over). I flipped after about 3 minutes and then removed the pork from the pan to set aside.

The second side dish was supposed to be a simple saute of mushrooms and garlic. What started out as a side dish turned out to be the star of the meal. A little more oil was heated on the pan used for the chops at medium heat. Added another large pat of butter. The caps were laid top side down and left to brown for a few minutes. The mushrooms need to be left alone. If you stir them up too quickly their moisture will release and you will end up with a watery mushroom mixture.

After the mushroom caps were browned nicely, I shook the pan to flip them around with some chopped garlic. Now the next appropriate step would've been to add a splash of wine to deglaze the pan. Since the only bottle of anything I had was Jack Daniels, I used that.. hoho! Another yet another large pat of butter was added and I let the sauce thicken into a rich dark glaze. Once ready the mushrooms along with the glaze was poured onto the pan fried chops.

No longer do I fear making dried out jerky pork. The meal was quick, simple and delicious and will become a regular dish on my menu.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Carb Hoarding

Ziti w. Prosciutto & Chicken

The winter seriously puts my carb craving into hyper drive. That's all I want to eat and I devour it. Winter brings winds cold enough to make you vulnerable, to want to crawl back into bed with a bowl of hot noodle soup. I wouldn't really eat in my bedroom though I was making a lame attempt at being dramatic in order to forget how lazy I've just become during these cold days.

After the Holidays with its "happiness and warmth" faded, the reality of winter sunk in. I think I like my job but the 10 minute walk to the subway while wearing 5 layers of clothing and still my face feels like it's going to rip off into the wind makes me suddenly feel the need to want to call in sick everyday. Since then I've sought the comfort of mom's home cooking, C's family's home cooking, Pizza Hut, Popeyes, Super Kew Chinese Take Out, and at work, bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, followed by a Sicilian slice for lunch. Seriously gross looking back. When I muster up the motivation to finally cook dinner it's either been noodle soup or pasta. Is it wrong that I don't feel guilty?

Beef Noodle Soup

Campanelle w. Leftover Roast Chicken from Chinese New Year Dinner, Bacon, White Bean & Kale