March 19, 2013
Even though I don’t mention it often enough on this blog, I adore Korean food. I consider Korean food to be one of my favorite cuisines and soondubu, in particular, to be one of the ultimate comfort foods, just one step below home-cooked meals from the mom. It’s surprising that I feel so strongly about both seeing that I was only introduced to Korean food relatively recently (when compared to the other staples in my life). However, I have no doubt that my love stems from that first Korean meal a little more than 10 years ago…
First, to preface: the parents are not “foodies” by any means. They can eat the same thing for lunch and dinner week after week and be perfectly content. They definitely don’t go out of their way for food.
However, when my extended family came in town that particular weekend and we began playing the “Where should we go for dinner?” game, they decided that we would drive almost an hour to BCDs for dinner. (At the time, they had never had Korean tofu themselves either. Since then though, they have embraced soondubu as closely as I have.)
My memory is honestly a bit blurry but what I do remember vividly is this:
Hunger in my stomach before dinner.
Relief and satisfaction upon that first bite of bubbling tofu and rice.
Warmth from being surrounded by family, now happy and full.
Peace in being exactly where I wanted to be.
That bowl of tofu was “home”.
Eating soondubu at Beverly Soon Tofu transports me back to that moment.
When I was still working in public accounting, there were nights when I felt like I was going to collapse (physically, mentally, emotionally)…those were the nights I’d go to Beverly Soon Tofu.
I’d walk into that small and homey restaurant just off of Olympic and Vermont and hide myself in the corner, behind an old wood table. I always ordered the same thing: Seafood soondubu. Spicy.
The nice women working there would then bring barley water and banchan. The banchan was simple but comforting, somewhat ordinary but absolutely delicious.
Soon after the banchan, the soondubu would arrive, piping hot and about to bubble over the sides. With a bowl of rice in one hand and a spoon in the other, I would dig into the silky tofu filled with plump mussels and clams and tender squid and octopus. I would crunch on small shrimp and slurp the runny yolk of an egg. I would shovel banchan, tofu and rice into my mouth until my belly was full, until my body was warm…until I felt like I did after that very first bowl. Even if it was just for a split second, I was at peace and I was happy.
TL;DR: Sometimes food is more than just food. It can transport you.
Beverly Soon Tofu
2717 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
October 4, 2012
I love Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles. No, really, I do. I used to eat there at least once a week (if not more) and I still go there now whenever I’m craving a bowl of noodles.
…But I have to admit the truth: It really isn’t THAT good.
I’m completely torn.
(Does that broth look like it has the deep hue of a rich beef noodle soup? Sadly, no.)
It’s their broth – their broth drags them down. Is it bad? No, but it’s not great either. It’s not savory, not rich, not meaty enough. (Luckily, it is also not very greasy so it’s great for a hangover, as I can attest.) It’s “meh” in liquid form; average at its best.
And it’s such a shame that the broth stinks cause I’m madly in love with their knife cut noodles! Those slivers shaved from a ball of dough with their thin, squiggly edges and thicker innards have the texture and chewiness that I crave. The springiness of the dough in each bite…if only I could fully enjoy it in a decent hot soup!
TL;DR: Go for the noodles, not for the soup.
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
1 Doyers St
New York, NY 10013
August 22, 2012
Everyone has their go-to sushi restaurant – Sushi Yasaka is mine.
(Btw, can someone please explain to me the difference between “umi no sachi” and “chirashi”?)
Every time I go, I always order the same thing: their umi no sachi, an overflowing bowl of sashimi over rice, for $26. We’re talking well over a dozen pieces of fish, an assortment of egg and roe and, in most cases, a raw oyster on the side. (There’s a picture – count it yourself!) Most importantly though, every piece I’ve eaten here has been FRESH. There has never been a questionable piece; you know, the one that put in your mouth and then can’t help but wonder if you should swallow? Never. All I’ve ever tasted is clean, sweet, fresh fish.
Considering that’s the approximately the same price other sushi places charge for a mediocre chirashi bowl (and trust me, I’ve had more than my share of mediocre chirashi), Sushi Yasaka is a steal.
251 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023
May 25, 2012
Pure Thai Cookhouse is one of those restaurants I’ve loved from the very beginning. It opened a month or two after I moved to NYC, not far from my apartment. I remember when I first heard about it from a friend:
Friend: “The chef used to work for Jean-Georges, but now he cooks Thai food!”
Me: “Wait, a Jean-Georges alum? And it’s reasonably priced? We should check it out…”
…Aaaand I’ve been hooked ever since.
The interior is warm and cozy, which has made it one of my go-to’s when I’m looking for a simple place to eat by myself. The staff is super friendly (even when you accidentally show up 10 minutes before closing).
I have my visits to Pure Thai down like clockwork; 99% of the time, I order the same thing: The Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles and a Thai iced tea. Then I ask for a jar of their pickled chilis and drizzle the vinegar over the noodles for some extra acidity. And, if I’m feeling extra hungry, I’ll get the green papaya salad to start. (The other appetizers tend to lean on the smaller size, portion-wise.)
I can’t speak to much else on the Pure Thai menu, except for one thing: Their Krabi seafood noodle soup. The menu notes that it’s “not recommended for novices” and they’re not lying – that bowl had a funk that even I, a usually adventurous eater, couldn’t get used to. Order with caution.
Pure Thai Cookhouse
766 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
February 1, 2012
Everyone has meals that remind them of home; one of mine is a Taiwanese breakfast.
The family and I don’t dine out for breakfast very often but, when we do, we almost always go a Taiwanese restaurant called Yung Ho in the San Gabriel Valley, known for their soymilk and other Taiwanese breakfast eats. We only go maybe once or twice every year, at no particular time and for no particular reason, but I consider our inevitable yearly trip an unofficial family tradition.
Even though I now live far from the family, I like the idea of carrying on tradition (even if only with myself) so I found King 5 Noodle House in Flushing – a Taiwanese breakfast place to call my own.
If you’ve never had a Taiwanese breakfast, let me give you the lowdown: Of all the things on the menu, I feel like there’s only one thing that you have to get, and that’s a bowl of hot soymilk.
When I was a kid, I actually hated soymilk. (I drank a lot of regular cows’ milk at the time so soymilk tasted funny in comparison.) I obviously learned to love it but, even now, I still prefer the sweet soymilk over the savory. Sweet soymilk is simply fresh soymilk sweetened with sugar while the savory soymilk is filled with bits of fried dough, shredded dried pork, pickled veggies and all sorts of other things. To this day, I’m still not fond of the savory version – the saltiness just doesn’t appeal to me.
Other than the soymilk, there’s a variety of foods you can order. My personal favorites are the following:
Fried Cruller (“you tiao”)
Literally just a long piece of fried dough, you can either eat it as is or get it sandwiched within a sesame pancake. I like giving them a quick dunk in the soymilk, just enough to get some flavor but not so much that they dough becomes soggy. (If you get the savory soymilk, pieces of it are already chopped up in the soymilk to begin with.)
Rice Roll (“fan tuan”)
The rice rolls also come in both a sweet and savory variety; I only order the savory. It’s essentially a fried cruller wrapped in shredded dried pork and sticky rice, and sometimes includes pickled greens as well. It’s been so long since I’ve had a sweet one that I’ve forgotten what they’re even stuffed with! (Sugar? Red bean paste? Sesame? Honestly, I have no idea.)
Egg Roll (“dan bing”)
The last thing I always get is an egg roll – a soft green scallion pancake with a egg fried on it.
Besides the dishes shown above, you can also order for breakfast anything from sesame pancakes stuffed with beef to pork and/or vegetable dumplings and buns to beef noodle soup. As you might have noticed though, most Taiwanese breakfast foods are heavy in carbs; therefore, as long as you don’t let your eyes order for your stomach, you’ll be good to go!
King 5 Noodle House
39-07 Prince St.
Queens, NY 11354