Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘vietnamese’

A few nights ago Yuki and I went for a walk and realized that we were pretty hungry. The beauty of Chicago in the summer is the numerous al fresco options. We walked by Angels and Mariachis on Division and I remembered something my friend Chef John Caputo said about the place, “it’s tacos for gringos.” I happen to be a gringo, and I happen to love tacos. Mind you, he didn’t say they were good, so I had to find out for myself. Yuki’s quite frequently up for some tacos as well, so we grabbed a table outside and dined.

Pitchers of the House Margarita were on sale, so we got one. Typical bar margarita, not very strong and a little sweet. Oh well, it was hot out, the margarita was cold, I wasn’t gonna bitch too much. It was refreshing, I just prefer a little tequila in my margaritas.

The chips were freshly fried and nicely salted. The salsa, well, it was salsa. A tad sweet, not quite spicy enough, and very mediocre.

We split a tamale as an appetizer, that was a mistake. The texture was alright, but there was absolutely zero flavor! It was stuffed with slow simmer pork, but you wouldn’t know it without looking. The pork lacked seasoning, the masa lacked seasoning, even the sauce lacked seasoning. I told the waitress to let their chef know not to be afraid of serving a tamale with some flavor. She did remove it from our bill, but they should be ashamed to serve a tamale like that…blaspheme!

We also split a rice and beans plate. They were ok, but definitely not Mexican in flavor. The black beans I make at home are far better than these, but they were edible.

On to the tacos. They come 4 to a plate and are small, about 2-3 bites each. We decided to share three different orders. First was the short rib braised in red wine. It was actually pretty good. The beef was soft and tender while it had the right amount of seasoning, surprisingly after that tamale. Then we had the carnitas. Again, it was also pretty good. The pork was properly cooked and they topped it with matchsticks of carrots and pickled daikon, almost Vietnamese in flavor. It was a nice match for the pork. Last was the lobster. It was basically a seafood salad with lobster meat. Not bad, but not anything special that sings lobster. Could have easily have been crab or shrimp and you wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

The service was pretty good overall. I didn’t have to ask for that tamale to be removed from the bill. I just mentioned how bad it was and she did the right thing. Food came out at a nice pace as well.

All in all, I completely agree with Chef Caputo’s assessment that the place serves tacos for gringos. You really don’t need to say whether or not it’s good or bad as that statement pretty much says it all. While the tacos weren’t too bad at all, I don’t think I’ll jump out of my seat and rush back for more.

On a side note, I’m still very dissapointed that Andy’s Deli is no longer there. I still mourn when they sold the building, and having flavorless tamales served from the very space that used to sell the best tubes of smoked pork in town only makes me miss them more.

Read Full Post »

Last night I made some noodle soup using Vietnamese rice noodles, pho-like broth, and Japanese fish cakes. Not sure what to call this dish, so I’ll just call it Japanese Pho. It was very simple to make and actually tasted really really good.

First thing I did was make the broth base. I crushed 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds and 1 star anise with my pestle and mortar. Once they were ground to an almost fine powder I added 1 teaspoon of ground cloves. I wish I had some ginger, I would have bashed that up and added it as well. At any rate, I had 3 cups of vegetable broth in my fridge that needed to be used up so I poured that into a pot, dumped the spices in, and let it boil for about 10 minutes. After that I turned off the heat and let it sit while I prepped the rest of the dish.

My ingredient list included 4 green onions sliced into inch length pieces, a small head of broccoli chopped up, two small carrots cut into thin strips, 2/3’s of a pack of shiitake sliced, half a cube of silken tofu diced, about half a container of baby spinach, about 4-5 ounces of bean sprouts, and 3 fish cakes from the Tensuke Market (these fish cakes had slivers of carrot and peas in them, one of my favorites).

In a clean pot I strained the broth base discarding the grit. I made sure to press the grit though to make sure I got all of the flavorful liquid. To that I added about 3 cups of water, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of dashi-no-moto, and 3 tablespoons of sesame oil. Then I tossed in the green onions, shiitake, and broccoli. I brought all of that up to a boil and let it go for about 7 minutes while toasting the fish cakes. After that I added the carrots, tofu, and baby spinach for about 3 minutes. That was it, I turned off the heat.

While the soup was cooking I boiled some rice noodles in a separate pot with just plain water. I did that according to package instructions and then drained.

In my serving bowls I first put in the noodles. Then I ladled the soup on top and squeezed in some sriracha. On top of the soup I put in some bean sprouts and garnished those with some cilantro. I placed the halved fish cakes around the edge.

Read Full Post »

For Meatless Monday last night I made a Cambodian-style noodle soup. It’s very similar to Vietnamese Pho, but the broth is slightly different. Pho usually has star anise and cinnamon in the broth, I didn’t use either of those. Stylistically though, their very similar. And why not? They are neighboring countries after all.

To get the Cambodian flavor I used ginger and lemongrass. I left the skin on the ginger and the tough outer layers of the lemongrass in tact. The ginger was sliced and those marks you see on the lemongrass are from banging it with the back of my knife. That loosens up the fibers and helps release the oils.

I put them in a sauce pan along with 1 quart of vegetable stock, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of water, and a lot of fresh cracked white pepper. I brought that all to a boil and let the flavors steep for about 20 minutes. Then I strained the broth into a large bowl and let it sit until later on in the cooking.

My ingredient list included bean sprouts, enoki mushrooms (not Cambodian, but nevertheless delicious and healthy), fresh made tofu from the HMart that I cubed, ginger and garlic that I minced, asparagus that I cut up (again, not Cambodian), half of an eggplant diced, green onions that were sliced about 2 inches in length, and rice noodles.

I started by heating up about 1/4 cup of soy oil and a few tablespoons of sesame oil. I let the ginger and garlic go until they were fragrant, about 1 minute, then added the green onion and asparagus. Once they started to slightly soften I added the eggplant. That took about 5 minutes until it was mostly cooked through. Then I added the tofu and enoki. Those both heat through relatively quickly, about 2 minutes. After all of those vegetables were heated I poured the broth in and let it come to a boil, then turned the heat down and let it simmer, covered, for only about 5 minutes.

During that time I cooked the noodles according to package instructions. Once cooked through I drained them thoroughly and divided them up into the serving bowls and ladled the soup on top. I topped all of that with the bean sprouts, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Half-way through eating I realized that something was missing….SRIRACHA!!! I took my sriracha out, squeezed a little into the broth, and all was good.

Read Full Post »

bahn-tet1

 

As some of you may know, I am the obnoxious dude from the Checkplease episode that featured ElevenCity Diner, Atwood Cafe and Cafe Hoang. I thought it appropriate to start off my blog on food with a shout out to my homeboy Jason Tran at Cafe Hoang on 232 W. Cermak. I’m not going to go into huge detail about the restaurant, you can watch Checkplease for that (royalties please David). I do want to tell you about my last experience there however, as it was the first time I got to meet Jason, the chef/owner of Chicago’s best value in dining.

It was Thursday night and my wife’s and my stomachs were pining for Hoang’s vittles. We stopped in there and were glad to see that even after the hoopla from the Checkplease episode died down they still had more business than before. I hope that continues so that Hoang stays put and doesn’t leave my restaurant rotation.

At any rate, we ordered a typical meal for us. Spring rolls, crab rangoon (I know, it’s not a Vietnamese dish, but they’re so friggin good there’s no way I can resist the sweet allure of smooth cream cheese and luscious crab meat with scallions deep fried to perfection), followed by #26 (vermicelli noodles with grilled beef, shrimp, an eggroll, lettuce, sprouts, basil, cucumber and carrots with nuac cham sauce) and ginger beef. We usually order two apps with two entrees and still have enough for us each to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Well, we’re sitting there eating and out walks Jason. “Dan, it’s great to finally meet you”. “Yeah, you as well Jason”. We chitchat for a few minutes, he’s a super nice guy, real genuine. Turns out, we couldn’t have picked a better day to have stopped in for some grub. He had just made that morning some Bahn Tet, a traditional Vietnamese dish served on Tet, the Vietnamese new years holiday (as in the Tet Offensive in ’68). It’s sticky rice with pork and sprouts rolled up, wrapped in banana leaves and then slow cooked for hours on end. Sounds delicious to me! So he brings out this thing and puts it on our table. I couldn’t believe it’s size! He gave us a friggin Duraflame log of sticky rice! That thing must have weighed damn near 10 pounds. I no longer use weights, I work out by lifting Bahn Tet. I’m gettin buff! That stuff is so heavy, you can only eat a little at a time as it expands in your stomach. Too much in one sitting and it’s constipation time!

But I digress. We rap a little more. He tells me, “Next time you stop in call me first, I know you love to drink and I want to have a drink with you.” Eh? He knows I love to drink? Where did he get that idea? I mean, I do, but is it that obvious?

Anyway, it was another fantastic meal at Cafe Hoang. When all is said and done my wife and I each got dinner and enough for lunch the next day for $25 total, or about $6.25 per meal. You can’t beat that for fresh flavorful food. Col. Sanders eat your hormone and anti-bacterially pumped (and rather decomposed at this point) heart out! Not to mention all of the Bahn Tet. I still have some left if any of you want some. It’s damn good, but shit he gave me a lot of it!

Read Full Post »