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Posts Tagged ‘green pepper’

Friday night we went out to Sun Wah B.B.Q. with a bunch of Yuki’s co-workers. We had a big group of 12 adults (I still have trouble thinking of myself as an adult) including spouses and then there were 3 babies. For Chinese food, I think it’s best to go with a big crowd so you can order a variety of food.

The first thing I noticed about Sun Wah was that they had duck hanging in the window. You don’t see that often in Chicago which is a shame. Any restaurant that serves Peking Duck (Sun Wah is considered the best Peking Duck in Chicago, from what I’ve eaten here, I would have to agree) needs to display it in the window to dry the skin and show the customers what’s in store.

They have a huge dining room. I guess that’s a good thing because as the night went on they got packed! I think the wait was about 30-45 minutes when we left. Good thing we got there relatively early, although, we did have a reservation. Service was pretty typical of a Chinese restaurant. Not refined, but not sloppy. As for the food…

…the first thing that rolled out was the Peking Duck. Since we had two big round tables we ordered two of each dish so that we didn’t have to pass things from one table to the other.

Classic tableside duck carving. Slice off that crispy skin first and then chop up the meat. Really good duck. If you’re a fan of Peking Duck, and the only people I know who aren’t are veggies, you have to try Sun Wah’s. I wouldn’t say it’s really anything special, but it is the best in town, very good duck.

Lobster with ginger and scallions, what more do you need? My only gripe with this dish, and it’s not unique to Sun Wah, is that the lobster was all hacked up and very hard to get the meat from the shell. Why do Chinese restaurants hack up lobster like this? Surely there has to be a better way to stir-fry all of that flavor into the meat and keep it easy to eat.

Peking Pork Ribs. Thin slices of rib meat cooked in a thickened sweet sauce. There were slices of carrot, green pepper, and yellow pepper in it as well. If you like sweet Chinese ribs, this is the dish for you!

Stir-fried water spinach. We wanted green beans, but they didn’t have any. No worries, water spinach has a nice subtle bitterness to it. It’s also extremely healthy. A good vegetable to help cut through all of the animal fat we were mauling down.

Fried rice with BBQ pork, shrimp, scallions, carrots, and scrambled eggs. Another classic, but one you must have with a Chinese feast.

Shanton soup with chunks of pork. It’s the pork bone that gives this soup its flavor. This is to the Chinese kitchen what chicken soup is to the Jewish kitchen.

Fried noodles. For this dish they used the duck breast from the Peking duck (for Peking you only eat the skin and some of the dark meat), pea pods, baby corn, carrots, mushrooms, and onions. Personally, I would have used shiitake instead of white button mushrooms, but hey, it’s not my restaurant. Still a tasty dish.

Our last dish was silken tofu steamed with shrimp. It was topped with cilantro and swimming in a soy and broth soup. It was really good.

Overall, I have to say, Sun Wah B.B.Q. is quite possibly the best Chinese food in Chicago. While I am a true believer that Chicago does not have the best Chinese food in the world, this place is definitely worth passing through your entrails. Every dish was fresh and well prepared. Nothing was over the top, but everything was extremely solid. The best part was that all of that food, along with Tsing Dao and tip, only came to $25 per person. Well worth the weakened US Dollar.

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I had an eggplant left from my shopping excursion to the HMart that I wanted to use last night. Not wanting to do my typical grilled-eggplant or stir-fry I decided to stuff it instead. Ground lamb seemed like the perfect partner.

Hollowing out an eggplant is a pretty easy thing to do. First, you have to cut it in half length-wise. Then, I took my pairing knife and cut around the edges of the eggplant about a quarter-inch from the skin, carefully making sure I didn’t pierce the skin. After that I cut a bunch of lines through the width and length.

With a small spoon (a serrated grapefruit spoon would work great, but don’t worry if you don’t have one, I don’t and I made it work with a regular spoon) carefully scoop out the flesh. Save the flesh as it’s going to be used later on. I sprinkled some salt all over the inside of the eggplant and then let them drain in a colander for about a half hour while I prepped the rest of the ingredients. This removes some of the bitter juices.

For the stuffing I diced up a green pepper, half an onion, a carrot, one tomato (I scraped out the seeds), some spinach, the eggplant flesh, three cloves of garlic, some rosemary from my back porch, a quarter cup of white wine, and 2/3’s pound of ground lamb.

I started off by sautéing the onion, green pepper, carrot, and garlic in a quarter cup of olive oil. Once the vegetables were slightly translucent, about 7 minutes, I added the eggplant flesh and let that cook down for another 7 minutes. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper and added the lamb. It took about 5 minutes or so for the lamb to be fully cooked. Once the lamb was broken down I poured in the wine, let it come to a boil, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Then I turned off the heat, added the rosemary, spinach, and tomato, and stirred it all together.

I wiped the salt out of the eggplant skins before stuffing them with the lamb mixture. Fill them up over the top, as much as you can before it all falls out. There will be extra stuffing, just put it in the fridge and toss it in some pasta or something for lunch the next day. I laid the stuffed eggplant halves in a lightly olive oiled baking pan and threw it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

I had just enough time to make creamy polenta while the eggplant cooked. In a stock pot I poured in 4 cups of water, some salt, a bay leaf, and 1 cup of polenta. That’s enough for 4 portions. I brought it up to a boil over high heat. Once boiling I slowly poured in about a quarter cup of olive oil and turned the heat down to medium. I continuously stirred for about 25 minutes, until the polenta started to pull away from the sides of the pot. At that time the eggplant was done and I was ready to serve.

I poured some polenta in the middle of the plates, put an eggplant on the polenta, and topped it all with some crumbled cotija cheese. I served some white rice on the side.

Overall this dish was delicious. If I ever make it again I would make a couple of changes though. First, I’d add some spice to the lamb mixture, maybe some cumin, or turmeric, or garam masala. Second, I wouldn’t put a bay leaf in the polenta. That was the first time I used bay in polenta. It gave it kind of a medicinal taste. Yuki said it tasted like Walgreens. It wasn’t that bad, just not what I wanted. Otherwise I’d keep everything about the same.

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Another Donna (from Aqua Safari) recommendation. This place is called Parrilla Mission. The Mission group has two restaurants in Cozumel. One of them is in the heart of touristville, this other one is a 10 minute walk down the street. Same food, same high quality, half the price.

We started off with just their salsa and a beer. Pretty good salsa, not too spicy at all. All of the sudden, after one particular bite, my head started to throb, my mouth went up in smoke, and I instantaneously started to hiccup. I didn’t see anything in the salsa that would suggest caliente. Maybe some jalapeño was hidden among the cilantro? Would’ve been the hottest damn jalapeño ever! Before we took another bite I explored the rest of the salsa only to find this little bugger hiding within the tomatoes…habanero! That thing was intense! I’ve eaten raw habanero before, but I was always ready for the hurt. This one snuck up on me. A few minutes, a keg of beer, the flame eventually died down.

For my entrée I ordered the shrimp shish kabob. Nice juicy shrimp perfectly grilled with slices of green pepper, onion, and tomato. Half of a baked potato with crema drizzled on top, some Mexican rice, and steamed carrots and chayote rounded out the dish. The dish wasn’t outstanding by any means, but everything was fresh, properly seasoned, and properly cooked. It was very delicious.

Yuki ordered the garlic shrimp. Same accoutrements as my dish, but her shrimp were butterflied shell-on and sautéed in butter and garlic. Those were outstanding! Seriously though, how can fresh shrimp sautéed in butter and garlic not be outstanding?

No dessert that night as the entrees filled our bellies, along with the beer. It definitely pays off to head to restaurants away from tourist traps and cruise ship docks. You’ll find more authentic food usually with fresher ingredients at a fraction of the cost. You’ll also meet more of the local characters than you will at Senior Frogs, Coconuts, The Hard Rock, or Margaritaville. Best thing to do is ask people who work at the hotel you’re staying at where they eat when they go out. They’ll usually send you to some memorable meals.

Speaking of which, I have one more from Cozumel that’ll be up soon. Then we head to Merida. Or, I may throw another Japan joint up. Or, maybe I’ll get lazy and wait for the next Meatless Monday. At any rate, keep checking back.

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We picked up some pita bread yesterday so we decided to make some vegetarian pita sandwiches for Meatless Monday. The beauty of something like this is that you can fill them with absolutely anything! We went with a more Middle Eastern flavor.

I sliced a Japanese Eggplant into quarter inch thick slices. I also sliced one large red pepper and one large green pepper into quarter inch slices. On a baking sheet I drizzled some olive oil and laid them all on. Then I drizzled some more olive oil on top of the veggies and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. I roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Then I took the eggplant off the sheet and put the peppers back in for another 5 minutes.

While those were roasting I sautéed some diced purple potatoes in olive oil for about 10 minutes to color the surface. Then I added some chopped onion and garlic and sautéed for another 7 minutes. After that, I added a half cup of chicken stock. Scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan I mixed in some salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Then I added a drained can of chickpeas and let it simmer until the liquid was almost completely evaporated. After turning off the heat I added the juice from one lime.

I put a couple of pitas into the oven while it was still hot for a couple of minutes to warm them up. After slicing the top off I filled them with all the goodies plus some tomatoes and avocados I sliced. Then I shoved some cilantro into whatever little crevice wasn’t filled yet.

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After years of wanting to head up to the far north side of Chicago for some Ethiopian food, I finally got off my ass and checked out Ras Dashen the other night. All I have to say to myself is, “What the hell took me so long?”

I had to start with some Ethiopian coffee, the mother of all beans. They serve fair-trade organic, nice and smooth cup.

For an appetizer Yuki and I ordered some Spinach Sambusas. Lightly fried pastries filled with spinach and dipped into a spiced salsa. Very tasty, not too heavy. Think of them as Ethiopian empanadas or samosas.

Since our friends ordered the Doro Wat (chicken and egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish) we had to get something different. Although, it wasn’t that different at all. We got Yebeg Wat (lamb in berbere) and Doro Alicha (chicken and egg in onions, garlic, ginger, and green peppers). We ordered the Diblik Atkilt and Misser Wat for our sides, our friends got the Misser Salata, I think. You can check out their website for descriptions of the sides. All served on top of Injera with extra on the side.

Those of you not familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you don’t eat with utensils. The food gets dumped right on the Injera allowing the bread to soak up the sauces and juices. You rip off pieces of the Injera, using it to grab you rip pieces of meat off the bones or piles of lentils, and chow down. It’s absolutely delicious as well as being a fun, communal way to eat.

Berbere is Ethiopia’s most famous sauce. It’s a red pepper sauce with spices like ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fenugreek seeds, paprika, onion, and garlic. It’s actually very similar to Indian spices, but it’s definately distinct.

Back to the meal itself, we ordered the rice pudding for dessert. It was quite nice, very mild. There was a date in the middle.

Our friends got Ras Dashen’s famous bread pudding. It’s made with varius nuts, raisins, and tons of flax seeds. It was definitely a winner in my book.

Half-way through our meal a little jazz quartet started to play. They were pretty good. Saxaphone, guitar, bass, and bongos. It wasn’t too loud so conversation was never difficult.

I guess the one disclaimer I have is what I was warned about. Once you have Ethiopian food, no matter how strong-willed you are, you will start to crave it. It was extremely reasonably priced as well for the quality and amount of food served. I have to check out a few other places before I decide just how good Ras Dashen really is, but I will say this, I would definitely go back!

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Alright, here’s Uichiro’s famous Kawabata-style Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is Japan’s version of a pancake of sorts. It’s base ingredients are eggs, flour, and shredded cabbage. Not entirely sure if Uichiro uses water or dashi, or what else he puts in his mix (highly guarded secret but I’m sure there are green onions in it) but it sure is tasty.

You start off by getting out the old table-top griddle. Once its hot add a little oil and pour some of the batter to form a pancake. Next to it lay out some sliced pork and start cooking it a little.

Once the batter starts to cook lay the pork slices on top.

While the okonomiyaki cooks grill various veggies. We had eggplant, green peppers, onion rings with quail eggs, kabocha, matsutake mushrooms, and various mochi cakes. Once the bottom is done you carefully flip the okonomiyaki to cook the other side.

Once it’s fully cooked spoon on top some bull dog sauce (a semi-sweet vegetable and fruit sauce), mayonnaise, shredded ao nori, bonito flakes, and pickled ginger on the side. Since it’s family-style you just cook and grab as you go. It’s a ton of fun and extremely tasty.

And if you aren’t full yet, don’t worry as yakisoba is up next. Once the batter is finished cook up the rest of the pork and veggies, add some bean sprouts and noodles, then eat it up.

Please, no dessert.

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I took the easy way out for this past Meatless Monday adventure. I found a packet of Japanese Curry in my cabinet and decided to use it up. I don’t know if you can buy Japanese Curry packets at regular grocers, but it is available at almost any Asian market. It comes in a box with two packets and comes in different spice levels. I like the spicy, but it does come mild and medium.

At any rate, we usually eat this with either chicken, beef, or pork as the protein. Being Meatless Monday I used tofu instead. Not all that creative, but still delicious and healthy.

For this batch I chopped up a whole onion into about 1/3 of an inch chunks. I also cut up a green pepper, red pepper, carrot, and some potatoes (all about the same size as the onion chunks). I wanted them cut a little larger since they’d be stewing for a while. If they’re too small they can disintegrate.

In a hot stew pot I put in a little soy oil and then the onions and carrots. After they sweated a little I added the peppers so they could sweat too. Then I added the potatoes. After about 5 minutes or so I added 3 cups of water. That was a bit of a mistake on my part. The package said to add 3 cups, but my wife told me that in Japan a cup is much smaller. Not sure why that is, but it was a little too much water. To fix that I just boiled it down a little longer without covering to pot to let the water evaporate. If I had the proper amount I would have covered it. Next time I’ll only add 2 cups.

Once the veggies were cooked through I broke up the curry cube into 4 pieces and added them one at a time to mix them in completely. You’ll want to let it simmer for a little bit to let the curry sauce thicken, otherwise it’ll be too soupy.

All the while this was going on I had taken some silken tofu and pressed it to firm it up a little and rid it of some water. To do this I took a plate and lined it with a few paper towels. I put the tofu on top and then covered it with a few more paper towels and laid a cutting board on top. I put some weight on the cutting board and let it press the water out of the tofu in the fridge for about an hour.

Once the tofu was a little firmer I cut it into cubes and stirred it gently into the curry. I let the curry cook with the tofu for about 10-15 minutes over a lower heat to let some of the flavors absorb into the tofu.

I served it simply with white rice and drank it down with a cold beer. Just for my friend Tsutomu I did not add a hard boiled egg. Actually, I never do for this type of Japanese Curry.

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