Category Archives: Korean

A Patriots fan’s visit to NYC on Superbowl weekend

Before I forget, happy belated Chinese New Year to all! I didn't get to do anything special to celebrate, and I didn't have any of the necessary ingredients to make classic Chinese New Year desserts (I only had a navel orange in the fridge… that counts right? haha), so unfortunately, as much as this blog is related to Chinese food most of the time, I don't have anything to post about CNY. I'll try to make up for that with a post about my visit to NYC on Superbowl Sunday :)

So last Sunday I woke up bright and early at about 5am to pack and drag myself to the Boston bus terminal to ride the Greyhound bus down to NYC. I have to say, 4.5 hours is a long time to be cramped in a chair, with the sun shining in your eyes the entire time. Still, I got to the Big Apple just before noon, and met up with my hung over friend Zheng to grab brunch near his apartment haha. I've been on a brunch roll lately, it's almost like I've uncovered a whole new cuisine altogether (I guess there were benefits to never eating breakfast!). At this place, whose name I can't remember but I know it's located on 9th Ave, I saw that eggs benedict was $9 (hah, no way I'd pay that price now!). What sparked my interest however was the large assortment of omelettes that the cafe served, and with a choice of whole eggs or egg whites.

Feeling like I should eat healthy, I settled on an egg white Irish omelette, which had corned beef, onions, and peppers in it, topped with swiss cheese. It was served with a side of smashed and seasoned potato chunks and whole wheat toast. I have to say, it being the first time I've ever had egg white omelettes, it was really tasty! In fact, I would definitely choose it over whole egg omelettes simply for the health benefits, because I honestly thought it was just as good as the real thing. I think the swiss cheese helped give it a lot of savory flavor that perhaps the plain egg whites would have been lacking. The corned beef was also really tasty with the egg whites, something a little different from the usual ham or sausage meat additions. The potato side was not very interesting though, but I suppose it was nice to rotate amongst the different foods on the plate. And as you'd expect things to be in NYC, the price tag was steeper than I would see in Boston. This brunch platter cost me about $9 before tax and tip, and I only got water to drink on the side.

Later that afternoon, I walked with Zheng through the city to get to his friend's apartment for a Superbowl party. Having grown up in the Northeast, there is no way I could be anything but a Patriots fan, and I was a bit intimidated that I would be the only one at the party who wasn't rooting for the Giants. Luckily I was wrong, because otherwise it would have been really hard to watch the last few minutes of the last quarter by myself heh. Anyway, on my way to the party, I was taking in all the sights and sounds of the city, and then I remembered that I've always wanted to try the frozen yogurt phenomena known as Pinkberry. Since Pinkberry stores are only located in CA and NY, I was set on getting a taste before I left. Zheng informed me that we'd be walking by "Koreantown", which is literally just one block of the city with all sorts of Korean and Japanese restaurants and stores, and that Pinkberry was located there. Apparently Pinkberry is a Korean frozen yogurt concept, which was news to me haha. Anyway, we made our little detour there and I was all giddy and snapping pictures because I've heard so much hype about this place and how celebrities love it. I have to say, the interior decor was nice and hip, very Korean-cutesy. I bet a lot of the people just come here for the decor alone, to be able to say that they hang out at the "cool" fro-yo place lol.

They had these big round white lights hanging from the ceiling, with undulating wave patters on them. Certainly very eye-catching and chic. On the walls were printed names of many famous lovers (Zheng was asking me what half of them were heh), although I'm not sure how it has anything to do with frozen yogurt or Pinkberry… I associate neither with… love haha.

There was a long line from the cash register going all the way to the front door, all people waiting to be served on a winter's Sunday afternoon. Amazing. Notice the cutesy pastel things on the right side wall? I don't even know what they were supposed to be… but definitely your typical Korean cutesy items. The one thing about the way Pinkberry operates (btw all their staff was non-Korean) that annoys me is that they don't tell you anything before you get to the cash register. On the back wall are the prices (and damn, this stuff is over-priced!), which say that a small yogurt is $3, and each topping you'd like to add is an additional $0.95. That's all it really says about the frozen yogurts. I figured out eventually that there were three yogurt flavors: original, green tea, and coffee. They don't tell you what the toppings are at all… how the heck was I supposed to order my $0.95 toppings?!? So when I got to the front of the line, I ordered a small original yogurt with 2 toppings, but the cashier said I needed to specify the toppings. Well you didn't have a list of them!! So I had to run up to the counter where they were serving the yogurt, which is like 7 feet away from the cash register, to observe which toppings were available in the serving bins. Normally that's not a big deal, but when there's like 15 people in line behind you, you feel terrible having to step out of line to figure out what toppings are available before coming back to order. What a poor system. Anyway, I chose cookies & cream (oreo crumbles) and mango chunks for my toppings, which made my small Pinkberry yogurt a grand total of $5 plus taxes. What a ripoff, seriously! For that price, I could buy a whole half gallon of premium ice cream at a grocery store!

So now that I've got my Pinkberry in hand (and I had to leave the store to eat it because all the seats were taken up), what is the verdict? Like many people, I had thought the "original" flavor, since it was white colored, would taste like vanilla. But it didn't… in fact it had a very distinct but very familiar taste to me, something I had often tasted while growing up in China. It was the taste of fresh yogurt… the kind that is sold in small bottles in China where the yogurt is partially liquid and partially soft curds, and you shake it up so that you can drink the thing with a straw. That's exactly the kind of thing that Pinkberry tasted like, except it was in a soft serve form. If you've never had the yogurt drink I've mentioned, I can only really describe Pinkberry as sour – not citrusy but more of a mild tartness that is accompanied by a hint of sweetness. It's not really creamy at all, which is what makes Pinkberry a refreshing and healthier alternative to ice cream. It's kind of an acquired taste, I think. Personally, I loved it because it brought back all my childhood memories of those yogurt drinks that I really enjoyed, but I think if you've never had such a flavor before it might be a shock to associate it with frozen yogurt. As tasty as the yogurt is though, I felt like the toppings didn't add anything to the experience… this isn't ice cream, there's no point in topping it with the traditional toppings aside from ripping customers off (honestly… $1 per topping?!?!). So while the flavor of the yogurt itself is appealing to me, I will definitely not be going back often due to the exorbitant price tag. When I go to China this summer… I'll just have my fill of my little yogurt drinks for a few pennies each :)

Moving on… the Superbowl itself was a pretty intense game to watch, and it was a lot of fun with a room nearly split 50/50 Pats fans and Giants fans. Zheng's friends had an enormous apartment (they had an entire floor of a building to themselves… with 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, and a giant living room with kitchen. In fact, and this was exciting to me haha, the elevator of the building opens right up into their living room when you hit their floor button. How cool is that?!? Okay… sorry haha I clearly am easily excitable. We had the usual pizza and wings and chips and beer at the party, and then we stuck around for a while after the game since there were riots going on in Times Square (near where Zheng lives). We walked through some of that on the way back, and Zheng, a Giants fan, high fived a lot of random people in the streets haha. I saw policemen sitting on horses, trying to keep the order, but everyone was screaming and shouting and cars were honking (I almost got run over crossing the street). It was pretty crazy and a little scary too I have to admit, although I guess we've had our fair share of riots up in Boston for the Red Sox too heh.

The next night for dinner, I went with Zheng to a little French-Italian fusion restaurant on 9th Ave called Nizza. Zheng wanted to get dinner from the Olive Garden, and I was having none of that chain restaurant stuff while out traveling, so we settled on this small but nicely decorated restaurant with decent prices (entrees $12-16 each). After being seated, the waiter came and told us about the menu, and informed us that the food here was a fusion of French food from the area of Nice and Italian cuisine. He also told us that the portions at this restaurant were about 3/4 normal entree portions at other places (no wonder it was priced cheaper than most places I saw), but that worked out nicely for us since neither of us can eat big portions anyway.

We started off the meal with two appetizers, which the waiter told us were tapas-style and great for sharing. We got the warm calamari with potato salad, and a plate of prosciutto crostini with sheep's milk ricotta and balsamic syrup. (Sorry for the pictures with flash, it was just too dim in the restaurant).

The calamari (right) was not fried as I had expected, instead it was naked and tender, probably braised. It came with little jalapeño pepper slices and grape tomato halves that were so sweet and juicy, in a savory vinaigrette sauce, on top of a small bed of skinned and cubed potatoes. I'm not a fan of spicy, so I let Zheng eat all the peppers, and he's not a fan of seafood, so he let me have most of the calamari (oops! I forgot he hates seafood and he didn't tell me not to order it when I suggested it). But in any case, the squid was just so tender, with that warm and perfectly soft chew that fresh and lightly cooked squid has.

On the left is the prosciutto crostini with sheep's milk ricotta and balsamic syrup. It was soooo good. The prosciutto was fresh and lean, sliced very thinly so that it pretty much melted in my mouth. The flavor was wonderful too, not too salty, not too bland. It paired perfectly with the creamy sheep's milk ricotta, which was much milder than I thought it would be, but I thought that was nice, because it would have competed too much with the prosciutto otherwise. And then, with the sweetness from the balsamic syrup on top of a crunchy slice of French bread, I was in heaven with each bite. I really liked the ricotta, it was nothing like cow's milk ricotta with its gritty texture. This cheese was so smooth and creamy I could have sworn it was a different cheese altogether. What a perfect pairing of fine flavors and textures!

Next came the entrees. Zheng ordered something that was pretty much like spaghetti with marinara sauce (it's not on the online menu right now), which wasn't interesting enough for me to waste a flash photograph on :P I ordered the crab ravioli, which came in a lobster cream sauce with fennel and parmesan.

I think the thing about Nizza that impressed me the most was the freshness of everything they served. The ravioli blew me away with how tender and fresh the pasta skin was. It was this pillow-soft texture that I had never ever experienced eating ravioli or any kind of pasta before… simply amazing. The crab meat filling was silky and subtle, with the lobster cream sauce giving it most of its flavor. I really liked the added kick from the fennel in the sauce, which gave the creamy flavor an edge that made it memorable. The portion size was perfect, each ravioli was two bites, and I felt just satisfied after dinner. I had room for dessert, but none of the dessert options (of which there were 4 or so) interested me, so we left to grab dessert at a bakery on the way home. I would definitely come back to have dinner at Nizza again, the appetizers were fantastic and the portions were surprisingly just right (there's something to be said about being able to eat your whole meal and not feel too full or not full enough). The price tag with 2 appetizers is a little steep (I paid about $27 including tax and tip), but that ends up being about on par for dining in NYC, as I was seeing a lot of restaurants advertising prix fixe menus at $24-27 per person before tax/tip.

So then on our way back to Zheng's apartment, I stopped by a busy little bakery called Amy's Bread, which had some tasty looking cakes on display, as well as a lot of sandwiches and breads. Apparently everyone else waiting in line was getting some of their fresh handmade bread to take home, too bad I'm not a big fan of bread. What caught my eye from the street were their red velvet cupcakes, complete with lots of whipped cream cheese frosting on top. It was no Magnolia, but it looked just right for dessert (although $2.50 for a cupcake is steep!).

Truth be told, it was my first time eating red velvet cake, and it's true that there is nothing special about how it tastes (it's really just red cake), but I guess it's something of a visual experience not to be missed out on in your life hehe. The frosting was just great, it wasn't sweet and overpowering like most cupcakes that use royal icing or even buttercream. This frosting also wasn't thick and heavy like cream cheese frostings. I really liked its lightness, which most resembled the kind of frosting that whipped cream cakes tend to have, with a bit of butter in it. Of course, with cakes that have this much pretty frosting on it, it's hard to eat properly without getting frosting all over your face, so I'll remember not to get such a thing when I'm out with important guests :)

So those were some of my food exploits on this trip, yummy and pricey as always! Until next time, NYC!

Eating out

About a month ago my parents took me out for dinner in Chinatown, at Ocean's Wealth. It's one of the first restaurants we ate at in Chinatown after I came to Boston for college. They have this little lobster deal that attracts a lot of customers. If you buy 3 regular entrees (at $11 each), you get a lobster entree for $10. Technically they used to advertise it as 3 lobsters, but anyone with half a brain could see that they didn't give you 3 full lobsters, and they were small-ish lobsters too, so recently they've changed the advertisement just to say that you get "lobsters" haha.

We started off with a King To spear ribs dish with cream puffs. The cream puffs aren't really cream puffs, they're like little balls of fried dough with some sort of cornstarchy and sugary filling. It's not cream, that's for sure, and I actually think they taste pretty funny. But the spear ribs are pretty good, crispy and saucy. I've gotten sick of them lately though because we always get it since it's one of the only entrees my brother likes to eat. I sure wish he wasn't so picky about his food…

Next came a jade green dish of Chinese okra (also known as luffa). It's a gourd type of vegetable, and you eat it cooked in a clear sauce without the skin and the seeds. Good Chinese okra is very delicious if it is cooked just right. It's soft on the outside but retains a refreshing crunch on the inside. It has a mild flavor, but usually the clear sauce is what gives it taste. You really just eat the okra for its interesting texture and beautiful color. Interestingly, and I was just reading about this on Wikipedia, if you let the Chinese okra grow to maturity and then process it so that all that remains is the fibrous network of the gourd, then it can be used as a loofah, which is named after this plant (luffa)! Isn't that cool?

For our third entree we got fresh steamed fish in a light soy ginger sauce. I love fresh steamed whole fish made in Chinese restaurants, the meat is tender and luscious, and the flavor is fantastic with the sauce. My dad actually likes to spoon the soy ginger sauce on his rice because he really loves that savory flavor. It kind of reminds me of the people that enjoy pouring soy sauce on their rice (I've never figured that one out haha). I can't remember what type of fish this was, unfortunately. But it sure was tasty :)

And finally, our lobster entree! They cut up the lobster into chunks (shell in-tact) and give it a light coating of flour before stir frying it. You have the option of getting it stir fried with black bean, garlic, or ginger and scallions. We opted for the ginger scallion style. The meat is quite good, when you can get your paws on some of the tail pieces, but a lot of the lobster goes to waste since it's nearly impossible to eat any meat out of the body or head sections. I personally think it's overhyped, as I think the lobster is neither that good stir fried nor worth the $10 price tag. I much prefer getting a 1 pound lobster and boiling it to perfection, then eaten with drawn butter and a soy-based dipping sauce my mom likes to make. But lobster is such a buzzword nowadays, people flock to this place. It does look quite good, I have to admit, but what can I say? I just like my lobster cooked differently. My parents sure enjoyed it this way.

When my parents and I were down in Cape Cod on vacation, one of the things we did, of course, was to try out some of the fresh fried seafood that the area is quite famous for. There were fried clam strips, fried whole belly clams, fried scallops, stuff quahogs, fried mussels, everything is fried and comes with lots of french fries :) I had myself a plate of fried clam strips which were absolutely wonderful. I really liked the crunchy coating and the chewy clam strip which reminded me of eating fried calamari. The french fries were also hot and fluffy on the inside with a crispy surface that was comfort food to me after a long day at the beach. Delish.

Another place I eat out sometimes is the 88 Food Connection at the Super 88 Market near BU in Boston. There is a whole food court there of Asian cuisine. I'm not talking about the tacky Japanese teriyaki chicken meals that every other mall food court sell. These are actually pretty good food stalls selling Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, and Chinese meals. A little while ago I was at the food court and decided to get Korean food. I forget the name of the actual dish, but it had chicken in it and reminded me of bulgogi. It came served in a cool traditional bowl, and had a fried egg as well as a few little sides that Korean cuisine is well-known for. The chicken was a little spicy and went really well with the white rice, plus it was cheap unlike most Korean dishes. It was only $6.50 :)

Wednesday, March 28th

9:00AM Dorm Room – Getting Ready for a Morning Practice MCAT
1 packet of Chinese instant breakfast, prepared with hot water and a sprinkling of brown sugar on top (~200 calories?). I'd forgotten that I still have some packets of this stuff, which I bought 2 years ago at my dad's suggestion for a breakfast option. I was getting sick of eating oatmeal all the time, and this was a really nice alternative. It doesn't have much texture to it, so I suppose it's similar to cream of wheat, but the flavor is not nearly as bland. It's called 桂花莲藕白合糊 "gui hua lian ou bai he hu", which is a compound term that literally means sweet osmanthus, lotus, and lily in a creamy soup (sorry, I read a poor translation from somewhere, so what I thought was laurel is actually osmanthus). I used to love a certain type of breakfast soup that my mom would make, using crystallized osmanthus flower sugar and water chestnut powder, which was so incredibly fragrant and delicious that I still have really fond memories of it. Unfortunately osmanthus sugar is really hard to come by, and a small jar of it costs a pretty penny, so I haven't really gotten a chance to eat it again. This instant breakfast comes sort of close in terms of flavor, and it sure has a nifty ingredients list: lotus root powder, Job's Tears (coixseed), lily, lotus seed, Chinese yam, tuckahoe, gorgon fruit, brown rice, sugar, grape sugar, and fresh sweet osmanthus flower. Haha, oatmeal doesn't even compare.

12:30PM Dorm Room – Lunch Break
1.5 cups of white rice (300 calories), 6 oz. lobster sauce leftovers (210 calories). Yeah… I told you this lobster sauce business lasted a long time didn't I. It's almost done though haha there's enough left for one more meal.

6:00PM Starbucks
Tall Tazo chai tea latte with nonfat milk (170 calories). I was in Central Square and didn't have anything to do for an hour before my friend's Korean meatfest dinner, so I took up a space in Starbucks and did some MCAT studying. The latte style Tazo chai is a lot better than the regular chai I had a few years ago from Starbucks, which was more watery and stronger in flavor. I enjoyed it more mellowed out with the milk. I was surprised, however, to find my tongue tingling after a few sips of this latte, and it was a pretty strong tingling that lasted throughout the entire drink. Must have been the spices in the chai.

8:00PM Minyoung's Apartment – Korean Meatfest
1.5 cups of white rice (300 calories), and lots of korean style meat haha.

I'm terrible and didn't remember to take any pictures, but one dish was bulgogi, which had a steak type of meat (thinly cut and marinated), sauteed in a red Korean chili sauce that was mildly spicy, along with some onions and mushrooms (my best guess is that 1/2 lb of bulgogi, which is 8 oz, is about 450 calories).

The other dish was samgyeopsal, which are lettuce wraps with thin pieces pork bacon, all wrapped up with some sauteed garlic, sesame oil, and some sort of sweet/spicy Korean red paste (ssamjang?). Mmmm yummy! I usually don't like spicy food, but tonight's dishes were just mildly spicy enough that it wasn't overwhemling. Can't figure out the nutritional value of the lettuce wraps, nor do I have an inkling of exactly how much I ate of it, but suffice to say that it was not low-cal fare haha.

I also had a small glass of red wine (4 oz, 84 calories), half a glass of white grape juice (6 oz, 120 calories), a little bit of skim milk (4 oz, 40 calories), and 5 soggy Entemann's donut holes (275 calories, damnit Tony!). Boy the calories from the drinks really add up. I think I should try to stick with water in the future haha.

Definitely went over the daily allowance today, probably by a good deal, since everything I ate, not including the meat dishes, came out to be about 1700. Man. But I made an exception for the little get-together, to see people I haven't seen in a while, and to eat free food of course.

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