one shot: homemade hu tiu


From Mom: hủ tíu bột lọc. Hu tiu is a common type of rice noodle in Southern Vietnam, often served in noodle-soup form, the noodle soup dish is of course also called “hu tiu“. The usual hu tiu noodle is characterized by its thin shape and chewy texture. Vietnamese love chewy noodles just as much if not more than any other country, so people began using various methods to make hu tiu (*) chewier (the soaking time before grinding, the grinding, washing the rice flour, the mixing ratio with water and other types of starch, the thickness to spread the mixture into a film, the temperature and time to steam it). Bánh bột lọc(**), a type of savory snack, is made with tapioca starch (cassava flour), so I guess hủ tíu bột lọc also contains tapioca starch. I spent an hour googling but expectedly found little and contradicting information about hu tiu bot loc – nobody in the business would reveal their secret. What I found online is hu tiu bot loc originated from Cần Thơ, and what I found in my bowl are fat (and flat) strings, whose color [...]

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One shot: Ramen Underground ramen


This ramen shop in the Financial district looks cute. Black walls with Japanese writings, a clock with numbers spelled out in hiragana, and a t-shirt that (I assume) sells for 3000 yen (~30 USD). The owners seem to try keeping it as hole-in-the-wall as possible (to make it appear authentic?). Of course, despite what the name might suggest, it’s not actually underground, nor do you need any special thing to get in. All basic ramens are $8 with $1 toppings. The basic ramen contains your choice of broth, pork (chashu), scallion and mushroom. My miso ramen with extra kakuni (braised pork belly). The mushroom is raw (not only is that just wrong – think about cold mushroom in a luke warm broth! bleh!, enoki would have made a MUCH better ramen companion than portobello T_T). There’s ONE puny slice of chashu. The broth is fine but it’s missing something… (more pork, probably!!!) At least the noodle is chewy. [...]

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one shot: Salmon ramen at The Ramen Shop

Hokkaido butter corn miso ramen with smoked king salmon, pork belly, soy-marinated egg, snap peas, chrysanthemum greens, and shiitake.

Hokkaido butter corn miso ramen with smoked king salmon, pork belly, soy-marinated egg, snap peas, chrysanthemum greens, and shiitake. ($16) Okay so, The Ramen Shop is not a place I would go alone. I think eating there alone would be particularly wonderful because ramen is the type of food to be eaten alone, and although the lighting might be too low for reading, it’s hard to read while slurping noodles anyway. BUT, the wait is just too horrible. This place has been hyped up since its opening in January, and it stays hyped. No sensical lone diner should wait an hour for a bowl of ramen. It’s good ramen, though. I didn’t expect too much, and I was satisfied. [...]

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one shot: Bun Rieu at Ba Le Sandwich


Good ol’ tomato and crab noodle soup from Southern Vietnam: bún riêu (pronounced |boon rhee-oo|). The broth looks alarmingly spicy but this soup is actually never spicy. The orange red color comes from tomato and annatto seeds, and if you’re lucky, crab roe (if fresh crabs are used for the soup). The sweetness of the broth comes from freshwater paddy crabs, where the whole crab (meat and shell) is ground to a paste and strained for the juice. It’s a delicate, distinctive sweetness that can’t be reproduced with dashi no moto, meat bones or mushroom. To deepen the flavor, the cook adds some mắm ruốc, fermented krill paste, to the broth. Traditionally, bun rieu has crab meat and tofu for the protein part, but bun rieu at Ba Le Sandwich is ladened with cha lua, pork and shrimp. [...]

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Hai Ky Mi Gia – more noodle soups


Like many small businesses in the so-called “Little Saigon”s throughout the states, Hai Ky Mi Gia is operated by Chinese immigrants. Originally, Hai Ky Mi Gia is a popular noodle soup joint in District 5, Saigon – the Chinatown of Saigon – before 1975, and it remains popular today. When Saigon fell, the Chinese immigrants in Vietnam left the country with the Vietnamese and became associated with Vietnamese political refugees in foreign lands such as America. These Chinese Vietnamese immigrants continue speaking both languages, opening businesses under the established names(*) in Saigon and catering to the homesick Chinese Vietnamese and Vietnamese alike. Whether this Hai Ky Mi Gia is in any way related to the Hai Ky Mi Gia in District 5 or other Hai Ky Mi Gia’s scattering across the US, its patronage doesn’t seem to care either way. To the Chinese Vietnamese and Vietnamese immigrants, it’s a name they’re familiar with, so they feel at home. To the rest of the patronage… well, I can’t speak from their point of view, but I guess the low price and the popularity raved by Yelp, InsideScoop SF, Continue reading Hai Ky Mi Gia – more noodle soups

One bite: Harusame soup at Cha-Ya

Kinoko harusame ($8.50) - potato starch glass noodle soup with mushroom (shimeji, eryngii, enoki, hiratake (oyster mushroom), portobello mushroom and shiitake.

Kinoko harusame (~$8) – potato starch glass noodle soup with mushroom (shimeji, eryngii, enoki, hiratake (oyster mushroom), portobello mushroom and shiitake. Japanese glass noodle (harusame 春雨) is different from Vietnamese glass noodle: it’s made from potato starch (instead of mung bean starch or canna starch), it’s much thicker (like a spaghetti, whereas Vietnamese glass noodle is like a capellini), and it has a softer chew. With that vegan broth sweetened by mushroom, it was comforting. [...]

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Ten-minute noodle and nectarine

It’s summer. Time for cold noodle. Refrigerated, ice-cold noodle. And all it takes is 10 minutes (that includes water-boiling time). Traditionally, the Koreans sweeten mul naeng myeon (물 냉면, “water cold noodle”) with sliced Asian pear and julienned cucumber. Asian pears are not yet in season (I don’t really know when its season is, but the tiny ones at Berkeley Bowl look too sad to slice), and when I want to cook my naeng myeon, like always, I never have what the recipe calls for, even if it’s just cucumber. So I did what everyone would. I ignored the recipe. [...]

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In the Eye of Tea

After a 5-course afternoon tea, the three of us felt our stomachs’ calling. The wind blew chilly moisture from the sea. A hearty dinner of noodle in hot broth would hit the spot, one that was saturated with oolong. Quite appropriately, we walked into O Chamé, meaning “eye of tea”(*) literally and “playful little one” colloquially. It’s Mother’s Day, no reservation, we couldn’t be any luckier that the guy found us three seats at the end of the bar. Of course, who would skip the appetizers. And of course, we couldn’t decide on just one appetizer, so we ordered three. The potato and snow crab croquette ($8.50), buttery but mild, tastes ten times better after a dip in the plumier-than-usual-and-not-too-sour tonkatsu sauce. Usually I don’t dip my stuff, but the sauce is a must here. The grilled, caramelized eel ($10.50), Kristen’s choice, is great. Little Mom loves eel, and she would love this. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! A bite into the crisp endive releases a burst of sharp, almost minty air to balance the eel’s fatty sweetness. [...]

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I can’t think of a title for Tofu Village

Lately I think I’ve reached a wall in terms of Korean food. To be precise, the Korean food that I can get my hands on, i.e., in the Bay and in Houston. Every Korean restaurant here, in strikingly similar manner to Vietnamese restaurants, has the same menu as every other Korean restaurant. The menu may contain a hundred things, but it boils down to maybe ten, with tiny variations. To be blunt, I’m bragging that I can name practically every dish on a Korean menu in the States. The novelty is gone. Little knowledge is left to obtain. But just as I don’t stop going to Vietnamese eateries altogether, I still like to share a big Korean meal with Mom and Dad. A bubbling jeongol, rice and banchan always give the familiarity that a Western meal cannot. That said, there are a few things that I’m still not used to, such as the scissors. The lady was cutting up the crabs and octopus with big black scissors. I admit their convenience, but I get the weird feeling that she is cutting flowers. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t eat [...]

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The unpredictable Myung Dong

Unpredictability #1: “Are you opened today?” Before you set your GPS to Myung Dong in Houston, make sure you call and ask that question in the clearest, simplest way possible. Aaron tried different versions, most were a bit too elaborately polite with a perfect American accent, and only succeeded in confusing the poor old man. I tried it once and got the answer “Yes, open.” We hopped en route. (If you don’t call, there’s a slim chance that your schedule will coincide with the owner couple’s schedule, which depends on the lady’s health, and she’s the only chef. That slim chance didn’t happen for me the first time I set out for Myung Dong.) The limited English conversation is nothing uncommon at Korean and Vietnamese mom-and-pop diners, but I have to mention it because it’s one of those things that make me classify Myung Dong as more “authentic” than the other Korean restaurants in Houston. The second thing is that its name doesn’t contain “Seoul” or “Korean”, they go more local: Myungdong (명동) is a part of Seoul (in Vietnam, its equivalent would be a phường). The third thing is that [...]

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