Eat Drink Style Random Food Stuff #1

Jeni from Oishii Eats inspired me to create a new section dedicated to videos, particularly in the realm of cooking. This first clip is one of many Japanese instructional tips and tricks. Enjoy.

How to Peel A Cooked Potato

(1) Score potato with paring knife and boil till desired doneness.
(2) Shock in cold, icy water for 10 seconds.
(3) Slowly pull apart the skin. Voila.

Eat Drink Style Kitchen Confidential #5: Crabcakes and Champagne-in-Styrofoam-Cups

It’s been nearly a month and a half since my last catering event. I had never felt so much pain after my careless finger incident, so it took me quite a while to get accustomed to the knife again. Not just a cut, a CLEAN chop off the tip. Like starfish, we have the amazing ability to regenerate. This past weekend was definitely a fun and special event – Kristy of Best of LA asked me to cater her friend’s bridal shower in LA. Mos def.

From the last event, I learned that although you can count on your two loving parents to help out as sous chefs, prepping/cooking food the same day of an event is pure madness and sheer irresponsibility. This time, I called upon my good friend CK to lend a fine and skillful hand. CK recently got into cooking and holds bi-monthly dinners at his apartment. And he is proof that when you give 110% towards something you love, you can truly excel. His food looks great.

Me: “Hey I need your help for a catering event.”
CK: “What? I won’t know what to do.”
Me: “You’ll be fine. I won’t yell at you like I did with my parents haha.”
CK: “I’m down. You want me to make anything?”
Me: “Your heavily sought after crabcakes.”
CK: (Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers) “Crabcakes?! I love crabcakes!”

CK headed down on Friday night all the way from behind the Orange Curtain, equipped with gear for the next day. I had already told him that we’d be up all night prepping and that it would make things way easier for the day of the event. Most importantly, you’d reduce the risk of losing a part of your finger. As soon as he got to my place at 9:30, we chopped, minced, diced, and boiled the food away. At about 2:30, we were finally done with prepping and a little bit buzzed. Some people, and midgets, whistle while they work, I prefer to drink while I work in the kitchen with some beats. Makes everything go by quickly. If we hadn’t taken so many cigarette breaks and drank glasses of wine, we probably would’ve been done at around 1 am. Oh well.

Fast forward 5 hours. Snore snore snore ramble ramble snore snore snore random noise #1 stretch snore snore nigtmare flip flip dream of a hot chick twist flip random noise #2,3,4 flip twist snore snore snore yawn.

Rise and shine. You ever get so little sleep that your eyes sting like lemon juice has been wrung over them? It’s what a poor snail probably feels when he gets the Deadly Kosher Salt storm. Well that was me, and I hate that. I used to get that every time I had to take a fucking midterm or final back in college. We both got up right away and loaded up the car with all the food and equipment. Drove over to Western Bagel on Santa Monica Blvd. for some delicious garlic bagels and headed out to K-town.

We got lucky this time because the bridal shower was held at the bride’s parent’s Korean pre-school – so we had access to a commercial kitchen. I thought about the food that I ate back in elementary school and wondered why they would need such a fully-equipped kitchen. After all, it was canned Sysco food that needed a simple re-heating. The kitchen had a four-burner Imperial stove with a large griddle, which was probably only used to fry Sysco burgers. There were also three, sub-zeros used to store Sysco milk. Behind me were three other standard refrigerators. I took a peep to find a nice supply of kimchi and dokpokki, a popular dish consisting of fish cakes, spicy red bean paste, green onions, carrots and rice cakes. Maybe Sysco should consider making instant dokpokki for the little munchkins instead of the Mac n’ Cheese.

About 20 minutes into cooking, a Korean woman entered the kitchen and immediately froze. CK and I both stopped in our tracks and stared at her. We all looked like deer in headlights.

Chinese Deer: "Uh...."
Korean Deer: "Uh..."

Say something, say something before she calls 911. I figured she was the bride's mom, the pre-school owner. Great, did Kristy not tell her that I would be utilizing her kitchen? She was probably thinking, "the hell are these guys using my kitchen for???"

Chinese Deer: "Hi, I'm Kristy's friend."
Korean Deer: "Ohhhhhhh! Ok! Hello!"

*Whew, she left. I made the stupid mistake of buying an ‘As-Seen-On-TV’ product from Costco: The George Foreman BBQ Grill. It was in fact – not a grill, but a hubcap with a power outlet. It seemed promising to me initially because my friends had used the Foreman grill to make Korean bbq ribs. Tasted great. After about 20 minutes of heating, the grill was still not hot. Piece-of-motherfucking-shit. I immediately jumped over to the griddle which resolved my problem instantly. At around 1:30 pm, CK and I brought the food up to the room and were greeted by eight, hungry women. Here’s what we served:

A. Korean Pear, Goat Cheese and Candied Walnut Salad - I initially wrote down on the menu card that I would be using Bosc pears, which are delicious, but I forgot to get them. I figured, Hey, it's a korean party, why not use Korean pears, which are even juicier. I dressed these mothers in a Lemon & Honey vinaigrette.

B. Retarded Spring Rolls - When it comes to rolling up anything, I'm lowsy at it. These were rolled with Vietnamese Nem Nuong pork, basil, romaine and served with sweet n' sour sauce. Light and healthy.

C. Hawaiian Poke with Avocado Mousse on Wonton Crisps - After my trip to Hawaii, I fell in love with poke, which is basically a tuna sashimi salad mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil and Maui sweet onions. These had three different textures which I thought went very well together.

D. Roasted Spring Vegetables - I have no idea if these are in fact Spring vegetables; they are most likely year-round. I figured that since they were roasted this day in Spring, the most sensible name was "Roasted Spring Veggies". Requested by Kristy.

E. CK's Crabcakes - These delicious Tater-Tots-of-the-Sea were a hit according to Kristy. We served it with a roasted red pepper and caper remoulade. We even gave some of these to the janitors working that day. They devoured them. Oops! Sorry Kristy.

F. Grilled Shrimp with Thai Sauce - As I spent the good hour skewering these prawns, I pondered their method of a 'second' death. If I were a shrimp, would i rather...

(1) Be impaled on a stick from Point A to Point B WITHOUT a head
(2) Be mashed into an unrecognizable pulp and be used for Thai papaya sald
(3) Be breaded in a Sysco italian bread crumb mix and then be frozen in a -30 degree refrigerator of the local Applebee's, ready to be eaten by the next fratboy?

I don't know, but it sucks to be delicious shrimp.

G. Portobello Mushroom Ravioli in Butternut Squash Sauce - This was good but so ugly that it didn't deserve a photo. Even my camera refused to snap away at it and said "siccccckkkkkkkkkk".

As soon as we left the room, CK and I headed back to the kitchen and we popped open the bottle of Chandon champagne I bought. I thought to myself, hey maybe Charles Shaw should make a $1.99 champagne. Poured ourselves a nice 6 oz. cup of Chandon in Sysco styrofoam cups. CK did a killer job for his first under-pressure culinary event and I decided to make him my Sous chef haha. I let him keep his coat that I got from Surfas and he agreed to work with me on the next few events. At about 3:30, we finished packing and cleaning. My reward for CK: a nice copy of the great, Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon and a tasty Japanese-tapas dinner at Musha's in Torrance. We got pretty trashed, naturally. Thank you to Kristy for giving me the opportunity to work her friend's bridal shower and of course, thank you, to my Sous chef CK. A job well done buddy.

Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Taco Town. Opening soon?

One of the best discoveries for me this year was the office time-killer, YouTube. I found this great clip on there. Definitely SNL's greatest spoof commercials. Why is this funny to me? Because it's an honest sketch of America's tendency to gluttonize. In America, everything has to be pushed to the limits. Bigger, faster, meatier, fatter, crunchier, etc. Will there be an end to everything we obsess over? I've watched this over 30 times and I'm still not tired of it. Here's the link.

Taaaacccoooooo Tooooooooowwwwwwwnnnnnnnn

Eat Drink Style Iron Chef: Battle Souplantation???

BR and I love Souplantation. Why did we frequent such a place when we had all the good restaurants in the Wilshire/La Brea area? Simply because you can get a decent variety of things to eat. I actually like their macaroni and cheese. With virtually no meat available, this is heaven for vegetarians and anyone that has a double-digit balance in their checking account. Sadly, this holds true for the both of our poor souls. On our Nth visit to Souplantation for lunch, we decided to entertain ourselves and take things to another level.

Me: “You know what would be funny?”
BR: “What?”
Me: “We should do an Iron Chef battle at Souplantation, using all the crap ingredients they have.”
BR: “I can easily beat you.”
Me: *Scoff. “It’s on, you punk. Presentation, plating and taste are all accounted for.”
BR: “It’s on asshole.”

***Aaaaaaaairrrrrreennnnnnnn Keeeeeeeeeeetchuuuuuuuuuun*** (I think that’s what he says. Correct me if I’m wrong.)

As you can see, the tension was present even before we stepped foot into Craplantation. This was a serious issue. She had an advantage though. Her ex-bf, and my old co-worker at The Restaurant, had taught her some culinary skills. I, on the other hand, was basing all my creations on freaking Rachael Ray and Tyler Florence haha. Considering that most restaurants won’t give you access to the kitchen, this was going to be tough. No fancy German knives, no cutting board, no stove, no pots - nothing. At least give me a microwave oven. It was basically an episode of MacGuyver filmed at Souplantation.

Right after we entered we split off – giving each other dirty looks. She headed for the salad bar section on the left, and I headed for the right. I couldn’t let her see what ingredients I would use. I grabbed 4 or 5 plates and carefully examined my resources. I was really bent on the fact that we couldn’t use a stove and the only meat available was that rubbery white stuff they refer to as chicken. As for broth, I would only be able to use the salty chicken noodle soup broth. After about 45 minutes, we met back at the table and presented our best dishes. Keep in mind, nothing on here was bound to taste good so this was more about presentation and creativity. I’ve also included my own grades for each dish. Here’s what we compiled:

A. Iron Chef Dylan.
Using that rubbery white stuff and Cream of Mushroom soup, I simply made a pasta dish wish the cold noodles and garnished it with green onions that I got from the employee ‘tossing salads”. This was headed for failure because I didn’t have anything to at least heat the noodles and sauce. Disgusting. D+

B. Iron Chef Dylan. Well if you’re gonna serve pasta, a nice sandwich will be a fine accompaniment. Or so I thought. I grabbed two slices of their dry-ass focaccia and slapped chicken meat in there that I had shredded. I also mixed some spinach, onions, olive oil and vinegar together for a little ‘health kick’. I think it’s hilarious that Souplantation even offers different types of vinegar. What are they trying to be? Gourmet? This wasn’t so bad but it was definitely on the bland side. C+

C. Iron Chef BR. What in the world is that you ask? Not even BR knew. This alien life form took shape after she cut a piece of cornbread in half and ‘garnished’ it with what looks like a fried chow mein noodle, baked yam and pineapple. And for extra presentation points, she added raisins and a few drizzles of olive oil. I don’t think either of us tried this out. F-

D. Iron Chef Dylan. I continued with my healthy-dish spree and took a bowl full of garbanzo beans. I smashed them with my fork and added salt, fresh ground pepper and olive oil. I was trying to make hummus but this looked more like freshly thrown-up apple sauce. You like how I garnished the focaccia bread with the green onions? The garnishing still didn’t do any justice for this piece of shit dish. G+

E. Iron Chef BR. As if she didn’t have enough of that alien life form, she resurrected it even after the busboy shook his head in disbelief. BR wanted to take a simpler approach and really emphasize the true taste of the foil-wrapped yam that tasted like Playdoh. She finely pureed the yam flesh with her fork and laid it over another piece of cornbread. And of course, drizzled it with olive oil. D+

F. Iron Chef BR. Instead of mixing yams with the frozen yogurt/ice cream like any of those Iron Chefs would do, she did a take on a classic American treat: the Candied Apple. She crushed some peanuts and placed them on top of the Granny Smith apples and added a mixture of chocolate and caramel syrup. This was by far, the most interesting looking dish and it tasted good. A

G. Iron Chef Dylan. Why can’t I stay away from the pasta. I spent a good five minutes fishing out the noodles from the chicken noodle soup. I had to hurry because people were behind me. Using the noodles, I again added the Cream of Mushroom soup over the noodles, with a garnish of parsley. This was good from far, but far from good. D+

H. Iron Chef Dylan. You know, maybe I should just work for Olive Garden. My pasta dishes aren’t that much different from OG’s current menu. Using the same noodles that I had fished out, I added tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and the only cheese in sight – cheddar. This looked like a dish from Acapulco. G+

So who’s cuisine reigned supreme in Battle Souplantation? I’d have to say that it was, unanimously, NO ONE’s. The fact of the matter is that Souplantation is pretty gross, and there isn't anything you can do to make it enjoyable. They keep everything bland to stay on the safe side. It’s up to you edit your food with their salt, pepper and fine selection of Sysco vinegars and oils. I am not going to Souplantation for a while. I’ll have to give credit to BR for her Candied Apple dish. Good job buddy.

Thanks for reading. You may throw up now.

Eat Drink Style 101 Noodle Express, San Gabriel - Freshly-Made Beef Scallion Pancakes

101 Noodle Express San Gabriel

Driving around on San Gabriel Valley's, Valley Blvd. can be a dangerous thing. It's basically an obstacle course for Traffic School students... 24/7. Almost every time I drive on this street, my blood begins to boil because I am always behind a 30-mph herd of people that are doing anything but focusing on the road. Some people are busy yapping away on their cell phone, some are just blinded by their own facial sun visors that remind me of a welding mask (are you going to drive or are you going to solder me a new metal table in your car? make up your mind!) and most of the time, people are just too freaking old to be on the road. Like Koreatown, SGV's streets are surrounded by strip malls and shopping centers. If you don't know you're way around here and are trying to find your address, you can easily get into a car accident by not paying attention to the road. I've been close to rear-ending people in Koreatown because it is strip-mall overload – laden with signs that bear virtually no English. In SGV, there's one strip mall that I drive by all the time, always with a line of people strung along the parking lot. And if it wasn't for Jonathan Gold's review, I would simply drive by as usual... not knowing that this Shan Dong-style restaurant called 101 Noodle Express makes a truly delicious beef scallion pancake.

101 Noodle Express Inside

With a name like 101 Noodle Express, I am immediately discouraged. When I pass places like Pizza Pit, Burger Barn and Taco Town... I can't help but yawn. Even Panda Express is more interesting than 101 Noodle Express because pandas are just more interesting than pits, barns and taco-laden towns. Once I walked in to this aromatic and crowded restaurant, I had a feeling that the name did no justice for this place. While standing around for the next available seating, I looked around to see what people were ordering. Okay, I see beef scallion pancake... over here, there, there, there, back there, a few crumbs on that old lady's mouth, right here, one piece dropped on the floor, there... I think the jury has reached a unanimous decision.

101 Noodle Express Beef Pancake
Beef Scallion Pancake ( 牛 肉 捲 餅 )
I have no idea why I have the habit of rubbing my hands together whenever I see the waitress come out with my dish. It's automatic. The waitress laid the pancakes down and I did a double-take on the size of these mothers. My god, they were super-sized. Thinly-rolled and wrapped around beef that I could tell was super moist, and a generous serving of chopped scallions and cilantro. Awesome. Before I even drilled my teeth down to the center of the pancake, I felt the thin crackling of the toasted pancake. The beef was super tender and seasoned well with a sweet, home-made bean sauce. The balance was perfect in every bite. I recommend adding some of the chili sauce on top for a nice kick in the ass. 2 big 'fajitas' for $6.75. I like these much better than Mandarin Noodle Deli's version. The beef is not as tender there.

101 Noodle Express Beef Pancake Nachos

Stir-Fried Scallion Pancakes ( 家 常 炒 餅 )
Don't be frightened, it's not Applebee's strange new appetizer. This is the wilder cousin of the aforementioned dish. The ladies next to me were kind of enough to let me take a photo of their dish. The scallion pancakes are chopped into triangles and stir fried with bean sprouts, scallions and probably a little bit of salt and sesame oil. Jonathan Gold says it best... they're kinda like a wild version of Chinese nachos.

101 Noodle Express Dumplings1

Shrimp Pork Dumplings ( 蝦 豬 肉 水 餃 )
A lot of people ordered these as well. 101 offers a nice variety of dumplings, more than Dumpling 10053 in El Monte does – 19 kinds! The most interesting ones are lamb dumplings, pumpkin shrimp pork and scallop leek dumplings. I'll have to try next time. The ones pictured above are shrimp pork and filled with a nice amount of stuffing. They don't skimp on the shrimp. The dumplings were juicy but compared to Dumpling 10053, I have to give the gold medal for taste to D10053. The shrimp/leek and 3 flavor (sea cucumber, pork, imi. crab) are done nicely.

101 Noodle Express Dumplings2

101 Noodle Express Relish

Chinese Chili Relish
Seems like there's a bit of Latino influence here at 101 Noodle Express. You've got the beef 'fajita's, the scallion pancake 'nachos' and then there's this 'salsa verde'-like relish you can use on almost any dish. It's made of cilantro, chinese celery, green chilis and boiled onions – it's awesome. I put this in my beef noodle soup, scallion pancake and stuffed it into my dumplings. Sometimes even the smallest, unexpected things at a restaurant are reason enough to bring you back. In this case, I'm all for that chili relish.

Thanks for reading.

101 Noodle Express
1408 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 300-8654

Eat Drink Style Four Things Meme...

Yoony over at Immaeatchu recently tagged me with the Four Things Meme. Before that, I had no idea what the hell a meme was. Here goes:

Four Jobs I've Had In My Life in LA:
*art director (advertising)
*art director (advertising)
*pantry cook @ a DT LA restaurant
*cook for a catering company

Four Movies About LA I Could Watch Over And Over:
... not sure if they are about LA, but they are based in LA
*boogie nights (torrance and chatsworth)
*heat (downtown LA)
*swingers (hollywood?)
*that's all i can think of

Four Places I've Lived All Over L.A. (With Food Memories of Each):
*irvine - college years, memories of awful dorm food
*SGV - valley blvd. is indispensable. i would fall into depression if valley blvd. was wiped out
*west LA - i love sawtelle blvd.

Four Places I Would Vacation At In LA:
*palos verdes
*echo park/silverlake (yes, i don't mind)
*standard hotel either on sunset/dt la
*santa barbara

Four LA-Based Websites I Visit Sometimes:
*la weekly
*the food bloggers on my blogroll

Four Of My Favorite Foods Found In LA:
*breakfast burrito without potatoes at Alberto's (chain)
*a heavenly bowl of pho from Golden Deli (san gabriel)
*shao loong bao dumplings from Ding Tai Fung (arcadia)
*dim sum (all over)

Four Places In LA I Would Rather Be Right Now:
*at my catering boss's place cooking
*my own kitchen
*eating outside of a restaurant on a nice, sunny day
*any dive bar @ 2 pm

Kristy of Best of LA
Jeni of Oishii Eats
Amy of Foodie Universe
Zteve of Gastrologica
Edwin of Elmomonster (just change it to OC)
Kirk of Mmm-Yoso (just change it to SD)

Eat Drink Style Yabu Yabu Yabu - West Los Angeles

Starting a new job is always a good thing – the slate is immaculately clean. Those TPS reports you slaved all morning over dissipate into oblivion. Those superficial how’s-it-goings, how-was-your-weekend’s and have-a-good-evening’s to co-workers can finally be put six feet under. The obligatory ‘goodbye’ luncheons at piece-of-shit restaurants no longer need to be dealt with. Any beef you’ve had with the past workplace is gone. In addition to the wonderful feeling of leaving a workplace for a new job, is the nice salary increase. For some, it means more money for more toys, vacations, clothes, drugs, etc. As an aspiring caterer and epicurean, this new job meant more career opportunities and of course, more food for me.

I’ve been in West LA for nearly two years and have limited myself to the Sawtelle restaurant row. Obviously because of my last job working for a few pesos an hour. What about those places on Olympic, Wilshire and Pico? It was time to move on and feed my curious palate. On Tuesday, I met up with my friend’s EP, SJ and AF for dinner. We had originally voted on Ramenya but didn’t feel like eating bowls of 3,800 mg sodium-broth and noodles. You’ll know what I mean if you ever walk into a Nijiya, Mitsuwa or Marukai. Take a stroll into the colorfully-fun instant noodle aisles. Sure, the picture of the Chashu ramen looks good; it’s the information on the nutritional label that isn’t. I’ve seen some as high as 5,800 mg of sodium. No thanks.

EP/SJ: “Ramenya is too salty blah blah blah blah blah…”
Me: “Yeah I know. I want noodles though.”
EP/SJ: “How about soba at Yabu?”
Me: “Sounds good to me and the kidneys.”

***By the way, EP and SJ do not share the same body like conjoined twins nor do they speak in unison. I’m just abridging the email conversation.

We got to Yabu at around 7:15. We walked through the heavily-draped blue curtains, which I got tangled in, and were greeted immediately. The resturant holds maybe 40 people including the sushi bar and is staffed with 3 servers. I don't really know how to describe the look of the place. It didn't make me cringe nor did it dilate my pupils. It's just normal and clean, which is good enough for me. Although a few tables were open, we were pointed to the sushi bar due to some reservations. We could see directly into the kitchen and see the chefs at work. The kitchen was built on a lower level, so those chefs looked like midgets. Everybody loves midgets except for my friend SJ.

As we were given menus, the head midget gave us a treat.

Head Midget: “Ees on duh howsuh!”
(It’s on the house.)

Nice. What I thought would be a yummy, complimentary treat turned out to be merely 6-7 pieces of bean sprouts mixed with sesame oil and wakame seaweed. I could’ve eaten the whole thing, but in the presence of three women, I’m going to take down my appetite level down a notch. It was good. Sparse, but good.

Besides the obvious sushi fare, Yabu is known for their hand-made soba noodles and selection of broiled fish entrees. Yabu also offers a nice section of appetizers and starters. Why those two weren’t combined puzzled me. I looked on the menu and caught on to the ‘Yabu Homemade Tofu’. Oh nice. I got a 220 over 200 result on my cholesterol test and this dish would prove beneficial. Yes, 200 is the cut-off – I am in trouble. After a few exchanges of ‘What are you gonna get?’, we all settled on soup noodles and appetizers for the cold weather. Here’s what we had:

A. Yabu Homemade Tofu - This cholesterol-lowering dish was served cold with a 'Wari-Shoyu' broth spooned on top. I thought this dish was nicely made. A subtle taste of dashi and shoyu in the broth, balanced by sweet ginger, pungent garlic and crispy/crunchy green onions. This could please the Iron Chef judges if some roe, caviar or sea urchin was added to it. This was too small of a portion for me though. $5

B. Nasu Miso Eggplant - Italicized on the menu as "Yabu's Most Popular", I gave in. The perfectly sauteed eggplant was served with a miso/sake/sugar sauce. The dish was sort of oily and it didn't help that I added a few drops of chili oil. Overall, a very tasty dish that I will order regularly. I wish they offered this as an entree with some rice. $5.50

C. Mystery Hand Roll - EP ordered this and I have no idea what it was. I think she mentioned something about mushrooms but didn't seem to thrilled about it. $?.??

D. Duck Soba - For any first timers at Yabu, I'd suggest giving their udon/soba a shot since it's their specialty. The soba buckwheat noodles are made fresh daily and you can watch the chef handle it delicately in the kitchen. Although it is handmade, I prefer the packaged kind. The noodles didn't have much of a bit and seemed a bit chalky b/c it was easily broken/cut by my chopsticks. Maybe soba noodles weren't met to have some al-denteness to it. Although the duck slices were tender, I probably should have taken them out so that the broth would not cook them any longer. Oh well, it was probably braised anyway. This dish was good, but not great and after about 10 minutes, the broth seemed to get saltier. I'd order this dish again, only with udon instead of the soba. This bowl of soba came from the recommendation of the waiter, and with good reason... $12.50!

E. Tempura Soba - SJ likes anything salty, so I didn't hear a single complaint about her food. You can't go wrong with salty broth and deep-fried vegetables. $9

F. Curry Soba - EP rolled her eyes as I asked her bowl of curry soba to pose for me. I took a taste of the sauce and liked it. It was sweet and creamier then say, Hurry Curry. She wasn't able to finish it b/c it was quite heavy for a girl of her stature. $9

I think everyone was content with the meal. I'll definitely be back here. For those interested in trying Yabu, go for the broiled Black Cod, sashimi and handmade soba. I think the Miso Black Cod is better than Beacon's by far.

Thanks for reading.

11820 W. Pico Blvd. (near Arsenal and Liquid Kitty)
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 854-0400

Eat Drink Style Waiting: A Nice Look at Corporate Craphole Restaurants

Last week, I rented Waiting from Netflix. I don't know if it's suitable for everyone, but working in the restaurant industry, I found it humorous. The movie is about a bunch of employees that work at a Bennigan's-type restaurant, named Shenanigans. The funny part of the movie is that it's shot 98% of the time in the restaurant, and you get a feel for what it's like to make $7 hr at TGIF or Red Robin. If you remember Chotchsky's from Office Space, this is sort of what it's like. You get the angry customers, jokester employees, foul-mouthed cooks and lowlife manager.

Things to pay attention to in the movie:

"The Game" - I can't stop laughing about this
Anything Dane Cook says - great comedian
The Busboys
What the cooks do to your food - if you're a nitpicking foodblogger, you deserve this

I seriously thought this would be a stupid movie b/c I don't like Ryan Reynolds or Justin Long, but they did a good job making me laugh. DO NOT THINK OF ME DIFFERENTLY if you dislike the movie haha.

My lesson to everyone: be nice to the people that serve your food.


Eat Drink Style Ma Dang Gook Soo - Korean Handmade, Knife-Cut Noodles

Ma Dang Gook Soo

Since moving to the Silver Lake area, it's been beneficial living in such close proximity to Koreatown, what J & I refer to as a foodie goldmine. We used to frequent the standard Korean bbq joints most newcomers to Korean cuisine dined at, but learned that there is far more depth to what is one of my favorite Asian cuisines behind Chinese and Vietnamese. There's the 14-hour-braised beef bone soup called suhl lung tang, the spicy crab hot pot, spicy raw crab, black bean noodles, all-you-can-eat intestines & tripe, sashimi rice bowls, cold buckwheat noodles, pork belly fried rice cooked on a Medieval-style shield, etc. The list goes on. But as much as I love korean food, one thing I wished there was more of is soup noodles. In addition to the Korean-Chinese dish jjam pong, a fiery seafood noodle soup, jaap chae (beef & vegetable vermicelli) and packaged kim-chi ramen (la myun), the list is still short. And then I find out from trusty Koreatownists about a place called Ma Dang Gook Soo - a place for kal gook soo, korean soup noodles.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Fresh Noodles

J & I parked in the tiny strip mall MDGS is located in, which neighbors BCD Tofuhouse and E-Moon Oak . Walking up, I saw this illustrated motif of something very promising. Handmade! Knifecut! I could hear the Pavlov bells ringing. We walked in and see four waitresses in the kitchen turn around and say 'ahn yong ha sae yo'! The restaurant itself has a very homey feel and is adorned with large photos of Korean villages. By the cashwrap, small photos of their menu are displayed across a wall but you can tell it's been about a century since they last updated the withering food images.

Ma Dang Gook Soo

We took our seats and were immediately served some ice cold barley tea, which is refreshing during the summer season. On the wall were a few Korean articles and a Jonathan Gold review on MDGS. Here is Mama Ma Dang Gook Soo.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Mama

As I was walking to the bathroom, I took a peek into the kitchen and saw four Korean women making noodles – I wanted to document it! I walked into the kitchen slowly and did this sign language communication thing with my fingers and camera. After a few seconds of puzzled looks, they figured out that I wanted to take a photo and welcomed me in. The women were joking around and frolicking in their freshly made noodles – they all wanted to pose for the camera, but everyone made way for Mama MDGS. As I was taking the photo, she lifted the noodles up like a kid showing his 3-lb trout on a summer trip.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Mama

Ma Dang Gook Soo Fresh Noodles

There's nothing more beautiful than freshly made noodles or pasta. The flour was rolled into a very thin layer and folded over neatly like a book of fabric. The cook then took her 14-inch chef knife and gracefully sliced the dough into 1/2" noodles (similar to fettucini). Note that these are handmade & knife-cut noodles, unlike the chinese knife-shaven noodles (dao xiao mian). The process is different because a cook will hold a ball of dough, use a paring knife to skillfully launch the slivers of dough into a boiling pot. The result is a chewy, un-uniform 'noodle'.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Kal Gook Soo

Korean Soup Noodles with Chicken - dahk kal gook soo ( 닭 칼 국 수)
My eyes lit up when I saw our waitress carefully steer herself in between the tables, holding a piping hot bowl with two hands. Steam beautifully rising above. I was intentionally limiting myself to the side dishes set in front of me, saving my space for this. You can order from four types of soup noodles: chicken (what most people recommend), clams, anchovy and kimchi. The bowl comes with shredded white meat, julienned scrambled eggs, 1 whole boiled potato, zuccini, scallions, roasted seaweed in a white, milky broth. I'm sure the majority of the whiteness comes from the flour runoff of the fresh noodles. Like suhl lung tang, kal gook soo is served somewhat plain. You're expected to use the condiment tray to flavor your own soup. A little salt, tons of black pepper and 3 big scoops of their delicious, garlicky chili paste. Everything tasted really good, and is simply comforting. It wasn't the most outstanding noodle dish I've had, but I worked up a nice sweat because I enjoyed it. Compared to more robust soup noodles like Thai Boat Noodles or the spicy lemongrass-based bun bo hue, one may think that kal gook soo is on the lighter, bland side. But I'm a huge fan of Korean food because most of the dishes are very homey and untainted by customers demands. Next time I'm going for the Anchovy version. Yum.

Ma Dang Gook Soo Kal Gook Soo

Close-up of the Noodles ( 닭 칼 국 수)
I loved the un-uniform cut of the noodles. Such a nice feeling knowing that my food wasn't processed by some greasy, rusty metal monster. I much prefer my food made by jolly Korean women frolicking in flour and noodles. Wee!

Ma Dang Gook Soo Chili Paste

MDGS's Chili Paste ( 다 대 기)
One look at this and I fell in love. Scallions, garlic, red chili pepper (go chu ga roo), sesame seeds, soy sauce and sesame oil... hot. I added 3 big scoops to my soup noodles. This isn't spicy at all and is simply a flavor enhancer. I can eat this stuff off rice because it's so tasty. I took half the jar back in a small container. Sorry MDGS!

Ma Dang Gook Soo Jjol Myun

Cold Spicy Noodles ( 쫄면)
This may look like bi bim naeng myun (cold spicy buckwheat noodles with meat) but there are subtle differences. The noodles used for this are made of wheat flour and potato-starch, which make the noodles extremely chewy. There's no meat in here but rather a barrage of julienned vegetables and topped with half a boiled egg. This was also served with a hot bowl of anchovy broth which is reminiscent of bonito flakes.

For those that have been to Olympic Noodle and Myung Dong Kyoja, would love to know what you think of their kal gook soo soup noodles. Reports on those other two soon! The total bill for this was $16... a great deal for a meal that makes you feel at home without hearing the crap that comes out of your parents mouths. Thanks for reading.

869 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA, 90005
(213) 487-6008
CASH ONLY (what a surprise?!)

Eat Drink Style Cha Ca - Dill & Turmeric Fish Noodles, Cha Ca Recipe

Bun Ca Thi La1

I love Vietnamese food, in general, for many reasons. It has the ability to really trigger the salty, sweet and sour facets of our palates and send you back wanting more. The food is light, fresh, bright and healthy (minus the deep fried dishes of course). After trying this dish called bun ca thi la (Dill & Turmeric Fish Noodles) at Viet Soy Cafe in Silver Lake, I had to make this for myself. Viet Soy Cafe & Viet Noodle Bar serves Hanoi-style food, which according to the owner, is generally lighter in taste and not as robust as its Southern counterpart. I've heard this applies especially to pho, which originated in Hanoi, and brought down to the South during the war. Hanoi-style pho usually serves less shrubbery (bean sprouts, limes, herbs) and sticks with the standard chili sauces and jalapeno. The result is a clearer soup that has a delicate taste because less spices such as anise are omitted. Nothing a few dashes of fish sauce couldn't do for a bowl of soup noodles.

Viet Tran calls his dish bun ca thi la because he serves it with bun rice noodles. But this dish is more popularly known as cha ca which was made popular by the landmark Hanoi restaurant, Cha Ca La Vong. Graham of Noodle Pie and my very own J both state that the fish is first grilled partially in the kitchen and brought to the table in a sizzling platter for the final cooking process. Awesome. Viet Tran gave me a 'rough' recipe for his dish, so I combined it with the recipe found in Andrea Nguyen's "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen". If you're a fan of Vietnamese cooking, this is a great book to help you take your first step. J got me some cookbooks from her Vietnam trip last year but don't do me any good because they are, well, in Vietnamese. So this book is perfect. Nguyen's book is a great portal into her life as a Vietnamese immigrant and writes a little intro for all of her dishes. Nguyen also has her own blog and is quite responsive to my annoying emails about "what kind of shrimp sauce do you like to use?" Thanks Andrea.

On to the dish. Viet Tran uses sole fillet, Nguyen uses catfish... I chose a type of catfish called basa, which is native to the Mekong river and is in the same family of catfish. Why this fish? It all begins with my love for Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada. The owner, Joseph Cordova, chose this fish with his experience as a wholesale seafood buyer. The fish is flaky yet moist... it's fantabulous. We then took J's parents to eat at BFTIE and they fell in love with the fish tacos. The following week, they headed over to a market and found the basa fillets for like $2.50/lb and gave me a nice frozen gift from the seas of 99 Ranch. Also, Nguyen calls for sour cream in her recipe, but I decided to try for the soy milk because it's much lighter. I'm sure hers taste awesome, so whatever you like.

Ingredients (approximations... i never measure. adjust to your own taste)
2 lbs. of basa catfish (or sole)
soy milk (small bottle for under a $1)
1.5 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh galangal juice or galangal powder
1.5 tablespoons of fine shrimp sauce (mam ruoc or mam tom)*
rice noodles (I used something called banh tam, which was sold fresh)
1/2 a cup of fried shallots
3 scallions
small handful of fresh dill
fish sauce
chili sauce (Sriracha)

(1) Wash fillets, pat dry and cut fillets into 4" x 1" pieces. Mix the turmeric, fine shrimp sauce, galangal (i didn't have a grater so i julienned the galangal root... a 1" block of it) and about 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce in a bowl. Taste it and see what it needs, add sugar to balance out the salinity. Add soy milk (Viet Tran's style) to the mixture and taste it once more for a balance check. You should have something pungent but not overwhelming. Because of the usage of fish sauce, things will SMELL far stronger than it TASTES. Add the fillets in a container, and pour the mixture on the fish, making sure it's well-coated. Marinate for at least 2 hours.

(2) Nguyen calls for broiling in the oven, but I don't have a broiler. I simply pan fried the fish on medium heat, 4-5 minutes on first side, and 2 minutes more after you flip them.

(3) Prepare the noodles. Depending on what type of noodle you use, some will be quick (fresh bun noodles or banh tam). The noodles should have a nice bite to it. Drain the noodles and shock in cold water to stop the cooking.

(4) Once the fish is done cooking, you can heat up the noodles or just eat them room temperature – both will taste fine. Set the fish aside on top of the noodles. You're almost there.

(5) Heat a small pan on medium and add oil once it's hot enough. Once it starts to smoke, add chopped scallions, fresh dill and fried scallions. Stir it around and make sure they are quickly seared. Turn off the heat. Add the mixture on top of the fish noodles. More shallots, the better it is! Add a few dashes of fish sauce and hot sauce, and you're good to go.

*Mam ruoc or mam tom is finely ground shrimp sauce, that's been fermented with salt. It's a purple-color paste that has a very strong odor to it. This isn't as potent as the Thai or Laotian versions known as gup bee. Nguyen recommends Lee Kum Kee or Koon Chun, which are Chinese-style. I went for the sauce labeled completely in Vietnamese - no sign of any english.

Bun Ca Thi La3

Never have I gobbled up a noodle dish faster than this. It was REALLY good. The combination of the moist fish, fried shallots, dill and chewy noodles was delectable. Thanks for reading.

Eat Drink Style Noodle Whore #1: Pad Thai

When the oldest noodle, 4,000 years old to be exact, was unearthed in China, it was big news to a lot of people. Particularly Italians and Chinese, who have long debated the true origin of noodle and pasta making. Some archaeologists question whether or not Marco Polo even reached China since Chinese archaeologists have no records on his travels. It was possible that the Chinese were trading with the Middle-East long before Marco Polo reached China. Who knows, maybe noodles originated from Egypt. Well whatever the case, I thank China, Italy and the Middle East, for I love noodles to death. I eat them at least five times a week, preferably with soup.

To kick off a new category within my blog, I’ve decided to write about the ubiquitous Thai dish: Pad Thai, which literally means “Thai-style fried noodles”. Chinese cuisine was hot in the 80s, and succeeded by Thai cuisine in the late 90s. Even now, it’s very popular. I’m not really into this dish, but figured I should practice cooking all kinds of Thai food if I want to become a good cook. Even my dad, who speaks Thai, doesn’t care much for the dish. It might be safe to say that this is a totally bastardized dish like Kung Pao chicken, Egg Foo Young and anything from P.F. Chang’s menu. I have to say, I do like their lettuce wraps though.

This dish is very simple to make, and like most Asian dishes, relies heavily on prepping food beforehand and only a few minutes or so to cook it.

1 bag of fresh rice (pad) noodles (vacuum-sealed)
chicken or shrimp, or both
bean sprouts
green onions (1” cuts or chopped)
2 eggs
tamarind chili paste/extract
ketchup (if you can’t find tamarind paste)
fish sauce (mmm)
crushed peanuts
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
limes (garnish)

Party time:

(1) I like to finish the eggs off first, and foremost. Scramble the eggs, and in a hot pan, medium heat, cook the eggs by swirling them in the pan till they are lightly cooked. Don’t overcook or burn it, you’ll be tossing them back in for a last re-heat. Set aside and chop the eggs however you like.

(2) Next, salt and pepper the chicken or shrimp and cook in the oiled pan over high heat with the minced garlic. You’ll want to par-cook them, because again, you’ll be throwing them back in for a last re-heat. Once the chicken or shrimp is cooked about 75%, take them out and set aside. If you really want to make a flavorful pad thai, marinade the chicken in a little bit of fish sauce, shaoxing rice wine, pepper, a little bit of sugar and corn starch (tenderizer). Let that sit for 30 minutes and get the Glade spray ready before you start cooking.

(3) Toss the noodles into the hot, oiled pan and start adding the fish sauce, tamarind paste or ketchup (for flavor and color) and sugar to balance out. Again, I don’t provide exact measurements because I’m an eyeballer cook. And also, everyone has his own preference. If you like it salty, add more fish sauce. If you like it sweet and sour, add more sugar and tamarind paste/ketchup. It’s that easy.

(4) Because most of us don’t own a Viking stove with a 15,000 BTU burner, it’ll take a long time to cook the noodles. It will also get very DRY. If it does, just add a little bit of water gradually to loosen up the noodles and get the fish sauce/tamarind paste/ketchup mixture to spread out more evenly.

(5) Taste the noodles to check for doneness. Once you’re happy with it, add the chicken or shrimp. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add bean sprouts (earlier if you don’t like them crunchy like I do), green onions, crushed peanuts and cilantro at the end.

(6) You’re ready to serve. Serve with lime and Sriracha hot sauce for heat.

Thanks for reading.