Thai Noodles for the Beginner, Episode IV: Chicken Noodles, Guay Tiew Gai

Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 1

It’s officially winter, finally. I know that I’m in Southern California which has a very mild winter, but it does get chilly here too, even though our only snow is on the top of the mountains. So I’m craving some hot soup.

After leaving my noodles series for quite a while, like the whole quarter of this year, I think this might be an appropriate time to continue the series.  Thai people eat many different kinds of chicken noodles, starting from clear broth to a dark-colored broth,  to TomYum broth and even curry broth like Khao Soi.

In the winter I just want plain clear broth. Do you remember my last episode of Thai noodles, Guay Tiew Moo? The soup for these chicken noodles will be easier than that one, believe it or not. Also this noodle version is not going to have as many items as Guay Tiew Moo.

So this time you won’t need to recruit as many diners as when you were making the full-spread pork noodles; it’s okay to make these chicken noodles for just two people for a cozy night in. So if you haven’t done so since the end of the Guay Tiew Moo party, it’s time to return the neighbor’s kids that you had borrowed. (Or, even better, return your own brats to them and keep theirs!)

Let’s start then.

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Ingredients for the broth (for two):

Chicken breast  1 piece

Chicken drumstick  2 pieces

Cilantro root  1 root

Garlic  4 cloves

White peppercorn  1 tablespoon

Onion 1 bulb (This is just to make the soup taste sweet naturally and add flavor. You can also use daikon root)

(Optional) Ginger root  5 slices

(Optional) Goji berries  1 tablespoon

(Optional) Sweet radish or diakon root, preserved  1 tablespoon

Salt 1 teaspooon

Crystal sugar  3 pieces, or about a teaspoon

Water  8 – 10 cups

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Ingredients for the noodles:

Bean sprouts, about 2-3 cups

Noodles of your choice, as much or as little as you want

Accompaniments: (If you don’t understand these please go back and read the Episode II Everything Else Beyond Noodles. There will be an explanation and pictures.

Fried garlic in oil (If you don’t know how to make this, look in Episode II)

Cilantro and green onion, chopped up

Tung Chai

Fish sauce

Granulated sugar

Limes, cut in wedges (shown in this post how to cut a lime)

Cracked roasted peanuts (I use a food processor or coffee grinder to crush them, but you can use a mortar)

Dried red chili flakes

Red jalapeño in vinegar

White pepper

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Method:

1) Put water in the pot and add the cilantro root, smashed garlic, peppercorns and onion (cut in quarters), and bring to a boil over the high heat.

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2) Add the chicken breast and drumsticks to the pot, lowering the heat to medium. If some foam appears on the top, scoop it out. Boil the chicken breast until done, using a fork to pierce through the breast to see the level of doneness.

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3) Take only the breast part out of the pot and let it cool.

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Then use a fork to shred the meat.

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Leave the drumsticks in the pot and continue to simmer so the meat is tender and will fall off the bones.

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4) Boil another pot of water to cook the vegetables and noodles. Wait until the water reaches a boil, then cook the bean sprouts separately, usually less than a minute,

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remove, put the bean sprouts in the bowl.

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and then do the noodles.

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5) For salad: (Guay Tiew Gai Hang) Toss the noodles with the fried garlic oil right away to prevent them from sticking to each other.

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Warm the shredded chicken up in the soup pot that is still simmering,

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Then add them to the bowl.

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Add the drumstick and accompaniments.

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For soup: (Guay Tiew Gai Nam) After adding the shredded chicken and the drumstick, then add the soup to an individual serving bowl.  Add the accompaniments.

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For a low carb option: (Guay Tiew Gai Gao Lao) Don’t bother with the noodles, just use more bean sprouts. Add the shredded chicken, the chicken drumstick (only if you have some left) and the accompaniments. You can have the Gao Lao style (no noodles) with or without the broth.

This is the prequel to Thanksgiving ;) We are starting our poultry executions early, so the chicken won’t have a chance to tell the turkey to flee!

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Thai Chicken Noddles soup and salad, Guay Tiew Gai 2


Thai Grilled Beef Salad : Yum Neau Yang

 

Thai Grilled Beef Salad - Yum Neau

I haven’t written a lot about Thai salad in the past. From what I remember so far it’s only been Yum Woon Sen, the bean thread salad and if you count Som Tam and Larb as salad then that’s it. Don’t think that the Thais don’t eat salad; they do. They eat a lot of salad, in fact. I just haven’t gotten to the salad as a series yet.

One reason I think Thai’s variety of salads is still not so well known to the western world yet is…they are usually darn spicy! If you’ve ever been to Thailand and ordered a salad, mistaken that it would be the “salad” you’re used to—a pile of vegetables with dressing—you would either be disappointed because it burned your tongue until you couldn’t taste anything else, or it was nothing at all like what you consider a salad.

Our “Yum”, or Thai salads, are so much different. First of all, there is no oil in our salad dressing. Maybe there will be some coconut milk, or some “Nam Phrik Pao”, the chili jam which is a Thai condiment used in many recipes such as “clams with chili jam sauce”, Tom Yum or Tom kha. And any vegetables, if used, will quickly wilt if you don’t eat them right away.

Second, some Yum or salad dishes might not contain any vegetables, but some do. Look at the recipe for “Glass Noodle Salad” I posted here. The vegetables are only green onion and cilantro But Som Tam has a lot of vegetables in it. It depends.

The Thai have a few different names to call their salads: Yum ยำ, Plah พล่า, Tam ตำ, Larb  ลาบ.  These are all considered salad. And we don’t eat them before the meal, we eat them together with other dishes, and of course steamed rice, which calms the spice down quite a lot.

A traditional Thai full course meal always consisted of every taste: sour, sweet, some yummy fat, and salty. In Thai they would say, Preaw=sour, Wan=sweet, Mun=rich taste, Khem=salty. A full-course menu would have 4-5 different dishes that follow these parameters. These are the meals served at a middle class home all the way up to the royal court, but not at a poor household or a country home.

Unfortunately, this tradition no longer holds in the modern Thai household, and hasn’t for some time. I didn’t grow up with this myself, even though we had at the least 2-3 items on the dining table, but they weren’t all calculated based on this flavor parameter anymore. After I’m done introducing you to many different kinds of Thai foods, I can show you the full-course meal of the Thais in the mid-Rattanakosin era, but I can’t do it now. I mention it so you would understand where is the slot for the salad in the full array of Thai dishes.

Yum is normally in the sour-tasting category, to help break up the richness of fried foods or curries in coconut milk.

This time I’m going to give you a recipe for Yum Neau Yang, or grilled beef salad.

This was a blog reader request. He had eaten Yum Neau at a restaurant in his home town in the US. His expectation of this dish is going to be slightly different than the authentic beef salad.

Why?

As I’ve explained previously, Thai restaurants outside Thailand serve things that cater to their customers’ expectations. If they stay authentic with every dish, their business might have less chance of surviving.

Authentic Yum Neau Yang actually looks more like a strip steak than a salad.

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Wait, I know someone is about to ask if Thai people really eat beef or steak, right?

Of course we do. May be it’s not as often as pork or chicken, but we do eat beef. Our beef is not as premium nor as tender as American beef, so we’ve had to find a way to make it chewable somehow. So we serve beef already cut up. We won’t normally serve food that has to be cut at the table, as I mentioned in Thai eating etiquette.

Why do we call this steak “salad”? Because we toss them with a dressing, and in Thai culinary rules, yum or salad doesn’t have to be vegetable dominant.

Yum Neau is one of the recipes that makes me miss my father. This is another “drunkard dish”. (He drank a bit.) It is very commonly served at bars so people can eat this while they drink. The taste of this dish is so intense even alcohol can’t dull your taste buds enough to not taste it.

The reader who requested this told me that the dish he ate had some cucumber in it, too. Probably because vegetables are cheaper than meat, and restaurants can increase the volume of the dish easily by adding them and, on top of that, the restaurant might be trying to please farang customers who are not used to ordering beef salad and getting a sliced beef strip steak instead.

Well, if any bar in Thailand serves this dish to a customer with cucumber tossed with beef (some here even add tomatoes…aghhhh), that bar would be considered “stingy” and there may never be a re-visit to that bar, or at the least never a re-order. Have you ever seen any drunkard who wants to eat vegetables after getting drunk? I always want to eat noodles in hot broth at the end of a drinking night.

Anyhow, it’s not so wrong to eat this dish with vegetables. Thai people would eat this dish with vegetables, but not toss them in with the salad. They would add the vegetables on the side, so the veggies won’t get soggy from all the condiments. Remember, there is no oil in Thai salad. We like to eat raw vegetables crunchy.

OK, the agreement between you and me is: I am going to give you the authentic recipe for Thai grilled beef salad, but if you are “Mai Rak Dee ไม่รักดี” (go find a translator!…I’m not telling you what I just said) and want to add vegetables, you can do that on your own. (And don’t forget to adjust the amount of the dressing accordingly, too.)

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Ingredients:

Beef (I chose ribeye because I need some fat to make the beef flavorful and tender. You choose what you want.) 8 oz.

Lime juice 3 tablespoons

Fish sauce 2 tablespoons

Sugar (I used granulated sugar, but palm sugar is okay, too) 1 tablespoon

Garlic, sliced thinly 1 clove (or as much as you want)

Shallot or onion sliced thinly 2-3 tablespoons

Lemongrass (Must have, you can’t do without it. If you have the tip part left from making the curry paste, you can use that) slice them thinly or you will be sorry,  2-3 tablespoons

Mint leaves 1 cup

(Optional) Green onion

(Optional) Cilantro

(Optional) Dried chili flakes or fresh chopped up chilis, as much or as little as you want. I would prefer none, but that’s not right.

Decorative or side vegetables:

Your choice, pretty much. I would suggest cucumber and lettuce but decorative is decorative, so I can’t pick your favorite garnish vegetables for you.

Method:

1) Season the beef with salt and pepper.

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2) Grill the beef to your liking.

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Do not cut the beef yet!

3) Arrange the plate, squeeze the lime, slice the lemongrass, onion and garlic, pick the mint leaves off the stems. There are many things to do so DO NOT TOUCH THE BEEF YET.

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4) Mix the condiments together: fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. This is your dressing. Taste it and adjust it to your personal preference.

5) Okay, the beef must have cooled down by now. You can slice it.

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6) Toss the sliced beef with herbs, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, mint leaves, cilantro,  green onion (if used) and the dressing.

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7) Served it over a bed of lettuce and sliced cucumber (or put them on the side where they belong ;-) )

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8) Finish eating it within an hour of preparation would be best.

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Fried Pork with Garlic and Pepper Thai Style : Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai

Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai - Fried pork with garlic and pepper Thai style 18

Before I have to go on another trip next week, let me give you a recipe that was waiting in my queue for quite some time. This is another simple and easy recipe; it’s called Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai in Thai and it means “fried with garlic and pepper.”

You can find it in ANY Thai restaurant menu. It’s the most basic, delicious and popular dish both for the lunch crowd (buying from the vendors or restaurants) and the home cookers. Todd (ทอด) in Thai means fry or deep fry not stir-fry. Pad (ผัด) is stir-fry. So, you should expect to see some oil, or a lot of oil, here.

The difference between Todd and Pad  or fry and stir-fry is frying cooks the food with the heat from the hot oil. Stir-frying cooks the food with the heat from the wok or pan, and oil is merely used to prevent the food from sticking to the pan surface. Which is why it is safe to assume that frying would use the higher heat and much more oil than stir-frying.

Kratiem, Kratiam, Gratiem or Gratiam all mean garlic.

Phrik-Thai is ground pepper.  Mostly it would be white pepper in Asian cooking, unless it is specified as “black pepper”.

Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai is very popular at the “cook to order” food vendors or restaurants in Thailand.  If you ever visited the country, you probably know this dish. There is no “cook to order” place that doesn’t serve this—it’s the basic of the basic. This is probably second in popularity only to Pad KaProw, about which I already posted.

Thai people are used to eating hot meals, even though our country is darn hot already. We are not at all comfortable with the idea of a cold meal or eating food that is not burning hot from the stove. The tropical climate taught a valuable lesson from generation to generation, which is to survive in a bacteria-filled environment year round requires eating freshly cooked food while it’s hot so the bacteria has no chance to grow and hurt our digestive system. Does that make sense?

We have our own “Fast Food” system that would provide hot food to the hungry souls any time of the day. The first shift is beginning from extremely early morning breakfast,  (Sooo early you have just finished your party night at the club) 4am – 6am. The early morning breakfast, which is about the same time as the monks walking out to accept food from people, 6am – 8am. The late morning snack, 8am-11am. The lunch, 11am – 2 pm. The afternoon snack, 2pm-5pm. The early dinner, 5pm – 8pm. The late dinner, 8pm – midnight. And the late night supper which sometimes casually blends into the extremely early morning breakfast from midnight – 4am.

These are provided mostly by the street vendors, who sell only a few things (and often only one) from their stalls. I don’t really count the restaurants which are mostly open all day long. This is where our culture is different than others. Restaurants in Thailand won’t close from 2:30pm – 5pm like most other countries where the labor is much more expensive. They continue operating from the minute they’re open until they close at night, and same applies in major metropolitan areas.

We basically eat like the hobbits. 4-6 meals in a day is pretty common, even though the Thai won’t count the late morning snack, the afternoon snack or the late night supper as a real “meal”, but it actually is. This is not a handful of nuts or a few stalk of carrots or celery. I actually laugh at the idea of the “snack” in most diet programs. It sounds more like pet food than human food.

Seriously, we snack on something much more enjoyable with much fewer calories, like cut up green mangoes or other sour fruits dipped in a little spicy sugar and salt, or ice cream sandwiches, or grilled sour pork sausage with a lot of vegetables, or meatballs on skewers. Not a handful of some tasteless nuts or vegetables that won’t satisfy you.

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Enough about the snack or in-between meal. Let’s focus on the main meal in the category of “fast food”. All fast food is essentially a hot meal that is partially pre-cooked or cooked fast after you order, isn’t it? The Thai had fast food long before the first McDonald opened its doors.

The most popular fast food Thai-style is called “Khao Kaeng”. Khao = rice, Kaeng = curry soup. Khao Kaeng basically is a plate of white rice topped with Thai curry. There will be many different pre-cooked foods in pots or trays on display, almost like Panda Express. The food would be several different kinds of curries, stir-fried meat and vegetables, yum or salad, soup, fried meat, steamed curry mousse, fried curry cakes, etc.

As you show up, the vendor would put white rice on a plate. This is standard, then you start pointing at the food items you want to eat. They will pile the foods on top of the rice. You can have one kind or many, up to you. Price is determined by the items you choose. That’s it, you just take your plate, utensils and find a place to sit down, normally in the front of their stalls or carts, and you just eat right there. They also sell them “to go” by putting the food in a plastic bag or box for you to carry them back home. With to-go you have to tell them if want rice or not, because you will likely have a pot at home.

We eat Khao Kaeng for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We don’t really eat it for a snack or supper. I guess it might be too heavy. I never really asked anyone why, because this is just the way it’s been since I was a child. It’s just the norm there. I myself don’t eat at the Khao Kaeng places very often. As you might be able to guess if you’ve followed my blog for a while, it’s because most of the items they sell at the Khao Kaeng places, especially curries, salads or even the stir-fries are spicy and have Thai chili as a part of the ingredients, and I can’t eat that.

I usually opt for the second choice, Guay Tiew, or noodles with or without soup, which usually will be selling at some stall or cart nearby. This is something that is also “cooked to order,” so I can tell them not to put chili in my bowl. There are many different kinds of Guay Tiew, and I am posting the recipes in a series, Thai Noodles. It is up to Episode III now.

Guay Tiew is an all day thing–breakfast, lunch, dinner, and also the late night supper, too.

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If I don’t want to eat noodles but want to eat rice, I have another choice. This is the real “Cooked to Order,” the third favorite kind of fast food for the Thai. For people who haven’t been to Thailand, you probably wonder what the deal is with these cooked to order restaurants. It is a place where you order simple dishes, mostly steamed rice with stir-fried or fried stuff, that can all be cooked in one wok, because that’s the vendor’s entire cookware, a propane stove and a wok. Maybe if they have a large menu item, they might have another pot, but not elaborate at all. They will cook that dish that you just ordered for you right there while you wait.

What’s served normally is Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai–fried meat with garlic and pepper, Pad Ka Prow–stir fried meat with holy basil, Pad Phrik–stir-fried meat with chili and onion, Khai Jiaow– deep fried omelette Thai style, Khai Dao–deep fried egg,  and many more items, and sometimes other stir fried noodles. All would be done in that one wok or a pot, no other complicated cookware. There are many stalls and restaurants like these all over the country. So, if you are there in Thailand, you should forget about Burger King, KFC or McDonald’s and try our real fast food.

The key with “cooked to order” is the fast cooking time. The faster you cook, the more you can serve, right? Most of the meat and vegetables will be already prepped, cleaned, cut to bite size, and marinated. The ingredients would also be prepped as well. The garlic would already be chopped up, and onion, green onion, cilantro and cucumber would already be sliced to the desired sizes. And all the condiments are close at hand.

This is how we’re going to prepare our Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai. I’m going to give you two different ways of cooking it. The first one is the “Cooked to Order” way, and the second one would be the original way Thai people cook the meat for Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai, which is the way it would still done at home and at the “Khao Kaeng” style vendors.

What’s the difference?

With the original Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai we would fry the meat in bigger pieces, which takes a longer time to cook, but the benefit is you get the meat to brown nicely on the outside while still tender on the inside. The browning agent is sugar, which is caramelized and glazed over the meat. The garlic also gets cooked to the crispy stage. If you know your stove and know how big you should cut the pieces of meat to cook them through at the same time it takes to perfectly crisp the garlic, you can open a restaurant (I don’t know how yet myself!) This original one is served with the meat sliced to bite size after it is cooked, rather than before.

As I mentioned before, “cooked to order” is a business that depends on how fast they can cook. So they slice the meat into small pieces, hence a shorter cooking time. How do they get it brown? Dark soy sauce. How do they imitate the caramelized sugar glaze? Sweet, dark soy sauce, which contains molasses. That is how two methods differ.

Ingredients:

Meat of your choice (I used pork) cut to bite size 300-320g (10-12oz.)

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I would recommend picking the meat with some fat content in it, or the end product could be tough.

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Garlic 1 whole bulb

Grounded white pepper 1 teaspoon

Fish sauce 2 tablespoon (If you like it salty 3 tablespoon)

Oyster sauce 1 teaspoon

Sugar 1-2 teaspoons

Cilantro sprig for garnish

Sweet dark soy sauce 1 tablespoon (You can substitute with 2 teaspoons of dark soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of molasses)

Oil about 2-4 tablespoons

THERE IS NO FLOUR OR STARCH IN THIS DISH, and I’ve never seen anyone use SALT! So if you want authentic fried meat with garlic and pepper Thai-style, keep your starch and salt locked up somewhere and bring out the fish sauce (The neighbors will get used to this someday, believe me. They will stop asking what is that “smell” from your kitchen eventually.)

Method:

1) Marinate the meat by putting ALL of the condiments and pepper together, minus the garlic. This is the time when you can taste-test it. Do it and adjust the taste to your preference before you put the meat in.

2) Now you have to actually put the meat into the sauce!

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3) Now we will deal with garlic. First you take the hard shell off the garlic bulb. I recommend using California organic garlic from Gilroy. As you might know, most of the garlic sold in the US comes either from China or from California. I think it’s reasonable to avoid the Chinese grown garlic since it could be the imitation garlic. You never know!

Ok, we’ve made sure that we have the REAL garlic. Now we’re going to smash it.

I hope you have a cleaver. If you don’t, then a big, heavy knife should do the job. If you still don’t have that…mannnn…are you really cooking with a Swiss army knife or what? Alright, if you can’t even get a big and heavy knife, then use a bottle, a pestle, or a rolling pin wrapped up in plastic wrap. You don’t want your pies to smell like garlic, I reckon. But if you somehow have a mortar and pestle but don’t have a big, heavy knife, I so want to kick your ass for the wrong priorities in your kitchen life, unless you are wearing your underwear outside your jeans too. In that case, fly to my house, I will be cook Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai for you ;)

Smash the garlic with the flat part of the cleaver,

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or whatever pathetic tools you can find that suit the job.  Smash them together skin and all, pick the tough skin out if you wish, but leave the thin ones in. You might want to roughly chop it a little, too. Did I mention a cleaver is the perfect tool for this job?

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4) Scoop up about one tablespoon of roughly chopped garlic and put it in with the marinated meat, and save the rest.

5) Let the mixture sit for a while; 30 minutes should be minimum. The whole night if you want. You should steam your rice while you’re waiting, because the rest of this only takes less than 5 minutes.

WE WILL BE COOKING THIS ONE PLATE AT A TIME, SO DIVIDE THE MEAT IN PORTIONS BEFORE YOU START. Also, read all of the next steps through before start cooking.

6) Put 2-3 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Remember I told you what the difference is between Todd and Pad. (If you missed this part, go back to the 3rd paragraph. You probably didn’t do well in school, I can tell.) DON’T BE STINGY WITH YOUR OIL! We are not making a stir-fry here. This is truly a fried dish, so get used to the idea of oil. There will be leftover oil from this batch that you can use with the next batch, too.

7) Blast the heat to the highest and wait until the oil gets hot, then first put HALF of the rest of the smashed garlic in the hot oil. Flip them around. This is called “Jiaow” or frying something in oil while tossing it around.

8) This is a very critical step—you have to watch it carefully. Once the garlic gets slightly golden, you have to drop the meat in right away. It should take only half a minute at the most before the garlic is ready, and only take another 10 seconds for it to be ruined like this:

This is actually beyond golden! The perfectly golden one would turn in to this as soon as I grab my camera so imagine a few second back!

This is actually beyond golden! The perfectly golden one would turn into this as soon as I grabbed my camera, so imagine a few seconds back!

No, you are not going to grab your camera to take pictures, or even let your eyes get anywhere else but watching the wok, or your Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai would look like this at the end. This is not good. The garlic will be bitter!

Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai - Fried pork with garlic and pepper Thai style

9) Toss the meat around the pan very quickly,

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This is the one that I managed to drop the meat in on time, but you can see that the garlic on the edge is starting to brown…

making sure that it’s all cooked with no pink left on the outside. By the time the meat is cooked, the garlic should be crispy but not burned (at least you would hope for that).

10) Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to scoop the meat up from the oil and place it over steamed rice. Garnish with the cilantro.

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11) You are now ready to make another batch. Add another tablespoon of oil before you start the new batch. After you’re done with the final batch, discard all the oil.

If you want to make a fried omelette to eat with this, the omelette will be the first thing you fry, even before the garlic, and if you want to make two servings, made the omelette first for both.

Thai omelette

Do not forget to add more oil for the omelette. If you want to fry an egg or an omelette made from one egg, you would need about 2-3 tablespoons of oil (and will have some left in the wok, of course.)

I taught this method to a Chinese friend. He burnt the garlic again and again until he came up with a new method. He fried the garlic first until it was golden, then scooped it up and saved it in a cup, then he fried the pork and added the fried garlic back to the pork later. You can try that if you want, but believe me, after a few tries, you can master this.

That’s Moo Todd Kratiem Phrik Thai, the “cooked to order” version. I will give you another version that I like better because I’m used to this version more. This is how my nanny and the cook at my house would make it for me. What’s the difference? This version fries the pork in bigger chunks and doesn’t use the dark soy to give it color. As I mentioned, the brownish color is from the sugar that got caramelized in the process. Can you imagine the flavor?

Ingredients:

With this version it is even more critical to pick meat with some fat just to keep the meat tender and juicy. I would suggest the shoulder or country rib for  pork, and ribeye, skirt steak or flank steak for the beef (the prime grade would be better, also).

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And if you insist on making this with chicken, dark meat would be my choice, but you can use the breast meat too. It will be drier, but you should be used to the dryness anyway if you prefer breast meat.

Meat of your choice (I still used pork) 300-325g (10-12oz.)

Garlic 1 whole bulb

Grounded white pepper 1 teaspoon

Fish sauce 3 tablespoons

Oyster sauce 1 tablespoon

Sugar 1 tablespoon

Oil for frying 4 tablespoons

Method:

1) Cut the meat to about 2”x3”x.5” size and marinate them.

2) Peel and smash the garlic (read the #3 of the above method) scoop up about 2 tablespoons and put it in the marinade.

3) Leave the meat to marinate at least 1 hour to overnight.

4) Put oil in the wok and set it over medium high heat, wait until the oil is hot and then put all of the meat in.

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5) Drop the heat down to medium and watch until the edges get slightly brown, then flip the meat.

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6) Fry until the meat cooks through the inside. You can flip it over a few more times. Increase the heat toward the end to brown it slightly more.

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7) Use a slotted spoon to get the meat out of the hot oil; set aside.

8) Add the rest of the smashed garlic to the hot oil, fry until it’s golden, scoop it up and put it over the fried meat. You can slice the meat before serving and garnish with cilantro. And then it’s time for everyone to eat!

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Clicking Away in Tokyo at Katsukichi: A Unique Tonkatsu in Asakusa

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This will be the last post about my Japanese food adventures on my trip there. For those of you who like my Thai recipes, stay put. I am still on many trips at this time of a year but should be back in my kitchen for a little bit. Yes, I get to stay at my own home for twelves days this month, two days more than last month, and that should be improving toward the end of the year.

The last spot is not any new adventure. I was at this restaurant last time I was here, and wanted to go back there again. The restaurant’s name is Katsukichi. Does that name give away the type of food they would be serving?

Katsu means fried pork…or at least that’s what I think. My clues are Tonkatsu is fried pork with bread crumb crust, and Katsudon is the rice bowl topped with fried pork. And Katsukichi is a small restaurant in Asakusa that serves only fried pork.

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I know pig isn’t the most popular meat in the US. There is a large Jewish population (the ones who keep kosher don’t touch it, plus all the Islamics who don’t eat pork because it is also taboo in their religion.) and I have to admit that the pork in the US doesn’t taste that good. It tastes almost like chicken to me, really bland.

The Asians love to eat pork a lot more than any other kind of meat. Their beef is too tough and normally they keep the cows or buffaloes to work in the field, and eating a tractor isn’t a good idea. Chickens are always abundant, but they don’t taste as good or as meaty as pig.

Believe me, pig tastes really great when you can get the tasty one, but not the ones eating garbage and raised in the pen, though. The wild roaming pigs who search for fresh bamboo shoots, mushrooms, eating whatever they find, taste so much better, as do free range chickens.

The pigs in Japan, Greece and Australia taste nearly the best in the world, in my mind. When you visit these countries I recommend at least try a meal with pork—you won’t be disappointed. Japan has the black hog pig—Kurabuta pig— (Berkshire pig) as the best pork, but the regular pork also tastes very good.

Tonkasu is one of the most popular dishes in Japan. You would see a lot of restaurants only mastering this one dish. They would serve only breaded fried pork, or may be Chicken kutsu, breaded fried chicken, for the foreigners, and that’s it.

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I can’t imagine this kind of restaurant would be a success in the US, where a lot of people are afraid of fried foods, “Ewwwww…that is such a tremendous amount of calories,” or “No, they might use old oil. I don’t want trans-fat.” They say, “Oh, I don’t eat fried food,” and they turn around and eat pasta Alfredo with extra cheese, or a bacon double cheeseburger with “fries” (hello…they don’t actually bake them, I hope you know this!) or barbecued beef short ribs. They got this calories things all wrong, babe, ALL WRONG!

There are so many different ways to fry pork and even if you want to limit it to just breaded fried pork, there are still so many different ways. The first is just slice the pork about half an inch thick, season it with salt and pepper, roll it in all the goodies: flour, beaten egg and coat with Panko bread crumb (see NOTE #1), then fry. This type requires a very, very tender pork such as Kurobuta pork or black hog, which is the same breed as Berkshire pig.

The straightforward pork cutlet is still divided in two types, the pork filet (Hire) and the pork loin (Roosu). These are the types that a very famous restaurant chain that is popping up all over Japan and many other countries named “Maisen” is serving. They serve a tender breaded fried pork, so tender you can cut it with chopsticks, believe it or not. I ate at Maisen almost every time that I was in Tokyo, and now they’ve opened two in Bangkok.

 

The other fancy way of frying the breaded pork is to slice and pound the pork until it becomes very thin, like ham for a sandwich. I’m talking about 1/8-1/16 of an inch thin, not the usual quarter inch thin here. Then roll them up in many layers. This way many other flavor enhancers can be added such as cheese, shiso leaves, miso, etc.,  before the pork roll up goes into the flour, eggs and Panko bread crumbs. They would call it mille-feuille Tonkatsu.

I have found a restaurant called “Kagura” in Torrance, California, who serves this type of Tonkatsu. If you follow me on my Facebook page or my Instagram, you’ve probably seen the pictures of the Tonkatsu already. So I didn’t really search for it in Tokyo because Kagura is THAT good.

So, why am I blabbing about all of these Tonkasu, then?

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Because I just want to point it out that Katsukichi is really unique, even to the Japanese cuisine. Their Tonkasu is neither thick cut nor mille-feuille style. On top of it, the Tonkasu at Katsukichi doesn’t even need any sauce the same way others do.

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Tonkasu sauce is usually sold pre-made in a bottle at a Japanese grocery store, and some regular supermarkets carry it. If you want a quick Tonkasu sauce when you don’t have a bottle at home, you just have to mix ketchup with Worcester sauce and soy sauce, and add a bit of mustard into the mix, then you’ll get something quite similar.

Actually, there is much more to Tonkasu sauce than my simplified version. Some chefs use the demi-glaze, some don’t, some would use lemon juice, some would add allspice, etc. Each Tonkatsu restaurant has their own sauce, but Katsukichi proclaims, “Most restaurants usually need sauce for pork cutlet, but here at “KATSUKICHI” you don’t need sauce for pork cutlet. It’s delicious!!” That’s quite bold for this type of dish.

So what do they serve there?

Tonkatsu at Katsukichi is quite thin but sandwiches some interesting fillings in the middle. There is a wide variety of fillings, but I couldn’t read the Japanese, and the English menu only had 10 choices, of which I tried about five. Number 11 and 12 on the menu are regular pork cutlet.

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This restaurant seats about 18-20 people at the most in the downstairs section but they have the upstairs room for a large group too. They also have a sign saying no cellphones, and there is an old lady waitress who’s the cellphone police, so be careful! I took photos with much difficulty because I had to wait until she couldn’t see that I was snapping a picture.

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I found this restaurant on the last trip I took back in 2012, but I didn’t get good pictures. This time, I managed to get enough good one so you can see the dishes. There is a waiter there who has such a vivid memory. He remembered me TWO years later, amazing!

I had tried the Miso, Shiso, Cheese, Kaki (Oyster) and Natto. My favorite is the oyster (Kaki) and Miso but all of them are so good. I wish I could try more but I will definitely try this place again next time.

WHERE: Katsukichi
1-21-12 Asakusa, Taito-Ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-38441-2277

http://asakusa-katsukichi.gourmet.coocan.jp/top.html#

WHEN:
Friday – Wednesday CLOSE ON THURSDAY
Lunch 11:00am – 14:30pm (Last order 14:00)
Dinner 5:00pm – 9:00pm (Las order 8:30pm)

WHAT: Tonkatsu, what else?

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NOTE #1 Panko is the flaky bread crumbs used in Japanese cuisine. How special is this? Panko is made from very airy bread that is baked by passing an electric current through the dough without using heat, hence there is no crust before they crumble it. The crumbs would of course have an airier texture than Italian bread crumbs or most Western bread crumbs and the result is less oil absorbed and a much lighter coating.

Preview: the next post will be my food adventure in Singapore.


Clicking Away in Tokyo at Komagata Dozeu: A Restaurant Operating for Over TWO CENTURIES

Komagata Dozeu

It’s very easy to spot a good restaurant in Tokyo or in most Asian countries. You look for a line outside. If the restaurant is good, they will be full at lunch or dinnertime. If the restaurant is spectacular, there will be a line waiting to get in. We Asians are not afraid to wait to get a meal. Most popular restaurants don’t taking any reservations, either.

I would like to say reservations are more part of a Western style of dining, but in the last two decades Asian restaurants are more accepting of and are starting to take reservations, but that’s still on an up-scale level. For casual dining it’s still a first come,first serve basis.

To most Asians, ambience is just an unnecessary accessory when it comes to eating. It does’t make food taste any better and it doesn’t make you any fuller.  We just want tasty food, the rest is tolerable if the food is right on.

That’s why you will see Asian restaurants with sticky chairs, dirty walls, not so spotlessly clean, loud, rude waitstaff, tight seating in a very small space, with no AC in a 90-degree climate still doing awesomely well in Asia or any place with a lot of Asian population. Not that we’re willing to accept that lesser standard, but because our standard isn’t where you might put your focus.

In fact, you could find two restaurants in the same neighborhood, one equipped with all fru-fru AC, high cleanliness, nice wait staff, cozy chairs and all but empty. The other one is as described in the above paragraph, and is packed, with a long line waiting to get in. Let me ask you, which one’s food do you want to try?

I used to be so frustrated with my husband because if he has to pick between an uncomfortable restaurant with great food over a nice and cozy restaurant with just blah food, he won’t hesitate to pick the latter, while I would definitely choose the former. His focus isn’t on how the food tastes, but how much discomfort he has to encounter for just one meal, in his mind. I am the opposite.

We do fix our differences easily, without ruining our marriage, by me letting him sit and have his meal in his comfortable and cozy place by himself, while he waits for me to come back from the “hell hole”, as he would call it or “heaven on earth”, as I would describe all places that just serve great food. We are both happy and full; mission accomplished.

So, when my husband isn’t on the trip with me, I am free to explore and search for my secret hole-in-the-wall spots. On this trip I was staying in the Asakusa area where all great foods are, so I took a walk out of the Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon Gate) in front of the Sensoji temple, crossed Kaminarimon-Dori (Street or Ave) and continued  walking on a street I think was called “Edo-Dori”.  I intended to find a restaurant with a long line. No matter what the food would be, I was committed to eat the food that was served there.

After about seven big blocks,(f our blocks between Kaminarimon-Dori and Asakusa-Dori and another three blocks past Asakusa-Dori on Edo-Dori), because I started quite late, around 7:30pm, I expected the line I was looking for probably had already gone inside or even be done with their dinner, but I still thought I would be able to find something quite interesting.

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Right in the middle of the city there was an old, three-story house…

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with paper lanterns line up in the front…

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and a few benches with people still waiting to get in.

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This is it! I thought. The place was big, but people were still waiting to eat at ten minutes to eight. My instinct told me that this must be a special place.

I can’t read any of the Japanese signs there, of course. So I just poked my head inside and used sign language to tell the host that I was by myself and only needed one seat. In the meantime, while he was busy writing my name down on his call sheet, I snapped a few pictures of the inside.

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I thought, this is it, the traditional restaurant that you have to sit on a little cushions on top of the tatami floors and eat off a small table in front of you.

I came outside and waited just briefly, shorter than 20 minutes, and my name was called. He pointed to a place DOWNSTAIRS! What?!?! OK I didn’t realize there is an underground level. On the way going down I just spotted the stairs leading up to the second floor, too. This was a much bigger restaurant than what I expected at first. I felt lit up inside–I’m at a great place again.

The underground floor was actually better.

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There were normal tables and chairs, so you didn’t need to sit on the floor, but you couldn’t avoid smoke from both cigarettes and from the small stoves on almost every table. The smell of soy sauce and sake was soaking every cubic inch of air in the room. Thank goodness the cigarette smoke was very light in this room.

I followed a very young waitress dressed in a traditional kimono to a small wooden table with little wooden chairs. I spotted several foreigners in there, and I hoped this was not the “foreigners’ room”. The waitress handed me the English menu. (Oh no! This definitely is the foreigners’ room!)  Anyhow, there were more Japanese in here than the obvious “foreigners”, so I figured I be okay.

From the menu, I saw that this restaurant is named “Komakata Dozeu Restaurant” and serves only dishes made from a little fish called Dozeu, or Dojo, which is the Japanese loach. They had five dishes made with Dozeu.

Dozeu Nabe: The fresh Dozeu is cooked in an aromatic sake broth until the bones become soft, then the Dozeu is cooked again in a sweet miso broth. The Dozeu is served on a thin iron plate filled with Warishita sauce (secret soy sauce base). The iron plate would then be placed on top of the Hibachi (charcoal grill). The customers have to finish the cooking by adding sliced greens and, if the Warishita gets dry on the plate, there is a pot of it available on the table that the customer can add to it.

Yanagawa: The Dozeu are cooked in a Yanagawa Nabe (pottery dish from Fukuoka prefecture) with shaved gobo (burdock root) and egg.

Dozeu Kabayaki: This is grilled, filleted Dozeu with sweet soy sauce, just like grilled Unagi.

Dozeu Kara-age: Fried Dozeu.

Dozeu Jiru: Dozeu cooked in Chikuma Miso (unsalted miso, which was popular in the Edo period)

Also, there were a few other a la carte dishes such as Chawanmushi (egg custard), Tamagoyaki (Edo omelette), Toru Tukune (Teriyaki chicken balls with soft boiled egg), Edo Yasai Awase (Edo vegetable salad) and Dangaku (Konuaku and tofu with miso).

That was it for the English menu. I started to wonder what would be on the Japanese menu, but that wasn’t the point right now. My one little stomach couldn’t handle all of the choices in the English menu already.

I ended up ordered the Dozeu Nabe because EVERY TABLE had ordered this; I couldn’t go wrong. Then I wanted to try the Dozeu Jiru too, so I ordered that. My order didn’t seem to have enough vegetables, so I ordered the Edo Yasai Awase, Edo vegetable salad, as well.

I was sure I wouldn’t be able to finish all of these. I wish I had someone else with me, but if I did then I wouldn’t have found this restaurant, because I was traveling with a friend who likes to set a destination and go to it. Well, my best culinary adventure trips were never about the destination but more about the journey. So I had to swallow my regret about wasting the food then.

On the table, there was a wooden box with a whole bunch of sliced Japanese green onions, and a little earthenware teapot filled with the broth.

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My first course, the salad, arrived very quickly.

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It was a very interesting salad consisting of thinly sliced cabbage, lettuce, whole okra, some corn, thinly sliced lotus root, and something looking like a flower that I don’t know the name of, but I’ve seen at the Tsukiji market before. The dressing was ginger and sesame and quite delicious.

I hadn’t finish my salad yet when the Dozeu Nabe arrived in an iron plate set on top of the Hibachi (the little grill stove).

Komagata Dozeu (1)

 

The whole thing looks big in the picture but the plate was just about 6-7 inches in diameter. So, the Dozeu themselves are about 4-5 inches long at the most. Well, I have to admit, they looked intimidating and unappealing to me.

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So, I quickly dropped the sliced green onion on top, right away, just to cover the naked fish, according to my waitress’s recommendation. She had taught me what needed to be added to the plate before she walked away.

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I also ordered rice, too. I can’t just eat pure protein without any carbs. As soon as I saw the green onion was cooked, I scooped it off and put a new set on top. At this point I thought I had to get to the fish, regardless of how they had intimidated me. So I took one fish and put it over my rice.

In the same box with the sliced green onion there were two types of seasoning. One was Shichimi-Togarashi, a ground spice mix of cayenne pepper, five other spices and dried orange peel, so I put that on the Dozeu, just to make sure that I could swallow the fish down.

Ahemm…Errr…I should have remembered the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Oh my goshhhh…it was so light and unassumingly delicious. The flavor of the Dozeu was just so unique: no slimy texture, no weird fishy smell, even though they look kinda wwwwww.  They were so tasty, with a mysterious hint of earthiness.

The flavor was so unlike anything else I had ever tasted that I have a hard time describing it to you. On top of the “aha” moment, I discovered that the bones were so soft and really needed no effort to chew, even the head, which is all bones. I never thought that I would use the phrase, “melt in your mouth” with respect to a fish, but this Dozeu Nabe together with the bones and all dissolves right there on your tongue and is easy to swallow. The rice and the green onion turned out to be the part that you had to chew.

I had no worries about choking on the bones. I had no worry about the fishy smell nor the slime. It was only the appearance that I just had to keep covering with sliced green onions, breaking the fish in half before I took it out of the plate. I’m now no longer afraid of the Dozeu! (Well at first they kinda appear to be slimy and like a snake; I am famous for my ophidiophobia, and I refuse to even write the word down more than once.)

As soon as I figured out what the whole deal was about, the cute waitress re-appeared with a little bowl of Dozeu Jiru that didn’t look like anything but a bowl of a thick yellowish-brown contents.

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Noooo, it didn’t remind me of baby poo at all, but I won’t swear to it though…haha. It smelled nicer ;) But it was so hot I just went back and focused on my new-found treat to my tongue.

I kept adding the sliced green onion, which was available for free and unlimited. It’s the sweetest green onion you will ever eat. It was huge, about half an inch in diameter, and was much less pungent than typical green onion, and three or four times sweeter. At this point I stopped adding the seasoning to the Dozeu because it made my tongue a little numb and I wanted to keep tasting these delicious fish.

On the third round of adding the green onion, the broth was almost completely evaporated, so I added more broth to the plate. I had to wait for it to start boiling again, so I turned my attention to the Dozeu Jiru. I sipped the miso broth–wow, this was really different. It was so not salty at all. It was actually sweet too. I loved loved loved this! I wished I could find this type of miso in California, yet I had no idea what this miso was called. (Dhurr…It said right there on the menu, Chikuma Miso)

I found Dozeu at the bottom of the bowl, too.

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The Dozeu had the same texture as the one in Nabe: tender, tasty, with dissolvable bones. The Dozeu in the miso broth had a slightly different flavor, though. I could sense the real taste of the Dozeu more in the Nabe, but because the earthy flavor of the Dozeu just went very well with the unsalted miso, the blended flavor just gave the Dozeu another dimension.

Did I already say that I am so glad I stopped at this restaurant? I don’t think I said it enough. This was a really good find. I so want to take my hubby back here. LOL…I’m sure this statement will make his skin crawl when he edits this post and sees the photos! He doesn’t like eating most fish. He doesn’t think that fish should be human food…but my darling, you have no choice!

I ate half of the Dozeu on the plate, finished the Dozeu Jiru, and left only one third of the salad and half of the rice.  I had ordered enough for two people. The bill came to around $30, but I only drank mineral water.

From my observation, the Japanese customers also ordered the Nabe, but they seemed to have a set that went with it. I saw some of them putting some other stuff in their plate that they added more broth to. Some seemed to have a sliced raw fish that looked like carp (Koi) fish sashimi in their set, too.

The tables that had more than two parties ordered the Yanagawa dish, the Dozeu and gobo root in omelette. That looked super delicious too. I made a mental note to try it next time, together with the fried Dozeu and the grilled one. I’m sure the fried and grilled Dozeu would appeal to my husband more than the Nabe and the Jiru would, for sure.

When I left the restaurant the crowd had already died down, but I will remember this place for the next time.

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While I was writing this, I finally got to do research about this Komagata Dozeu Restaurant. This restaurant has served Dozeu for over 200 years! It was founded in 1801! Oh my gosh…that’s the very same year Thomas Jefferson was elected as the President and the Irish had just joined Great Britain, just to give an idea how long ago this place was established. The generation that is running the restaurant right now is the seventh!  They must surely love doing this business, and also opened another location in Shibuya, too.

More from the research: the Dozeu used to be very abundant because they were caught in the flooded rice fields and in the streams, but these days, due to farm pesticides and rural development projects, the Dozeu have greatly diminished. Most of the Dozeu eaten in the restaurants have all come from fish farms or overseas, unfortunately.

That night must been the night that my psyche lined up with the Dozeu because, having walked back–which was the reasonable activity to assist in digestion for an over-eating girl who’s not bulimic–I passed through a neighborhood where I noticed a pub/restaurant that was still open, and had a wooden container filled with water in the front of the place…

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and inside were live Dozeu fish.

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So I got to meet the live Dozeu and eat them in the same night!

Nice to meet you Dozeu. You are so delicious. I’m glad we’ve met.

WHERE:

Komagata Dozeu (Asakusa Location, where I went)
1-7-12 Komagata, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3842-4001

Komagata Dozeu (Shibuya Location)
4F Renga Building
1-5-9 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3464-5522

WHEN:

Asakusa Location 11am – 9pm daily

Sibuya Location
Monday – Saturday 11:30am – 10:30pm
Sunday and Holiday 11:30am – 9:30pm

WHAT:

I would recommend the Nabe and the Jiru, but if you are not that brave, I read from a review that the Kabayaki, or grilled Dozeu, tasted sweet and eel-like. Or the Kara-age, the fried Dozeu, could be good too. I will definitely be trying the Yanagawa next time, and will report back when I do.


Clicking Away in Tokyo at Taimeiken : The Most Popular Place for Omurice

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I haven’t been blogging lately. It’s been so many weeks I can’t even remember because I’ve been in many time zones both within the country and internationally until I’ve become quite confused. I even get the date wrong. I’m now in Tokyo, one of my most favorite cities on earth. If you are following my Facebook fan page, you probably already knew of my culinary adventures, so don’t miss my next two stops, Bangkok and Singapore.

I am here in Tokyo with no set destinations this time, and I’ve found two interesting restaurants. I discovered both on the same day, so I gave myself 6 stars on that day. I usually find something interesting if I am on my own, not needing to worry about anyone or anything. I just loosely set a destination and explore the route in between my hotel and the destination.

Tokyo is quite rainy in the late August. My initial destination was the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Shinagawa, but I changed course to go to the National Museum of Modern Art instead, due to the rain. Going to a museum is indoor activity but on the way from Shinagawa station to this museum there is a beautiful Japanese garden at the Takanawa Prince hotel that I didn’t want to miss.

Anyhow, my next destination required me to stop at Nihombashi station to change trains. So I decided to do a stopover at Nihombashi for lunch and exploring. If I wasn’t alone, I probably couldn’t do this freely. I highly recommend giving yourself some leisure time with a loose schedule during your vacation. I can guarantee that it’s going to pay off, just like my detour adventures. Do you remember my discovery two years ago, “Mr Danger”, the little restaurant serving “Humburg steak”?

I exited from Nihombashi station to the street and started walking around—luckily the rain had stopped. Nihombashi is the financial district, hosting the Tokyo Stock Exchange (Tokyo Shoken Torihikijo), Bank of Japan (Nippon Ginko) and even the Currency Museum (Kahei Hakubtsukan).

Nihombashi is quite busy during the weekday but so nice and quiet during the weekend, almost serene even. I walked across the courtyard of a building called Coredo and there I saw a long line.

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You wouldn’t line up in the rain for no good reason, would you? So I moved closer and I could smell something yummy happening, and that was the reason for the long line for sure.

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Before I entered the building, I inspected my surroundings and saw a brass plate for a “Kite Museum” on the entrance, but cooking kites wouldn’t give this yummy smell. I’m sure of that. I peeked through the restaurant door and all the Japanese who were quietly waiting in line were eyeing me suspiciously. Sorry, even though I’m a half Chinese my other half was taught to wait in line; I just wanted to know if the line was worth the wait.

The restaurant itself didn’t look that interesting to me, to tell you the truth. It was just a casual style restaurant serving a “Yoshoku” type meal. (See NOTE below) Omurice or omuraisu, the Japanese omelette wrapped around fried rice, was on every table of medium size restaurant (large for a Japanese restaurant) and I was too hungry to wait in line for a plate of omurice, but I had to check out the kite museum first. Near the entrance of the restaurant there was stairs leading to the second floor. I took them.

Up on the second floor was another restaurant! There were two young men sitting there smoking in front. Yeah, that’s really horrible, rude, inconsiderate, and simply unacceptable. I think Japan would be a much better country if the indoor smoking is banned but I guess it won’t be, as the Japanese’s average lifespan is always in the top ten in the world! I understood that their government has to find a way to decrease their population somehow. The island isn’t going to grow, you know. So, the cigarettes there are sold at under $5 per pack. Smokers from New York, you should consider moving to Japan, they like Americans there ;)

I asked them how to get to the kite museum, and they said the 5th floor and there I went. I purchased a ticket and asked the ticket seller (who later I’ve found is the head of the Japan Kite Association and also serves as a director of the Kite Museum, Mr. Masami Fukuoka himself) about the restaurant on the first floor. He pointed to another gentleman who had just came out form the elevator, and told me to talk to him because he happened to be the owner!

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Wow, talk about luck! I was not doing bad here at all. He also walked me down to the 2nd floor restaurant too.

The explained (in English!) that BOTH the restaurants I saw were named Taimeiken. The first floor is a cafe style with slightly lower prices, but packed with all the fun and frantic energy of an open kitchen, while the second floor is fine dining with no line, but both use the same kitchen.

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Bingo, a very hungry woman, and one restaurant with no line but cooking from the same kitchen as the restaurant with the line this long on Saturday, come on. I just have to pay more for the meal. Why not? Extra time to explore would be worth every penny.

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Taimeiken is sure to be one of the most popular places for omurice in Tokyo. They served many different types of omurice, including their famous one, the “Tampopo” style, or the dandelion style. This is from the Japanese movie “Tampopo”  that was made in the eighties. My Japanese friend told me that this dish was developed by the director of that movie with cooperation from the Taimeiken restaurant chef team because Taimeiken was an old and well-respected Yoshoku restaurant in Tokyo since 1931. I had seen the movie, and found this clip on YouTube. (You have to skip to about 1 minute in order to see how the omurice is made.)

The “Tampopo” style fried rice is this: the base fried rice is ketchup-flavored fried rice with chicken. It’s laid lazily in a simple pile underneath what seems to be a plain marquis-shaped omelette. Before you eat, you would use a knife to lightly slice the omelette not so deep in to the center of the log, or just half way from the top lengthwise from one tip of the marquis shape to the other. The egg omelette then would crack open due to the creamy soft center. Then, with almost no effort, you open the slightly wet and creamy omelette to uncover the fried rice underneath. This is why you sliced the omelette only half way down and not all the way to the plate. Then you add the ketchup on top and eat. You can opt-out of the ketchup choice by asking for demi-glaze sauce or curry sauce, but believe me it’s best with ketchup.

Taimeiken Tokyo 5

Well, now there is bad news–I have no pictures for you! I learned about the “Tampopo” rice after I had already placed my order. The restaurant has an English menu, of course, but it didn’t look any different than any other menu in English. No pictures in the menu either. Maybe because this was the fine dining section. The wait staff had tried to point me to the “Chicken Omurice” by saying that this is the most popular one. Sorry, I’m not a big chicken eater. I, in fact, avoid chicken unless it is really interesting or proven an organic chicken. I’m allergic to the hormones added to meat of all kinds, and chicken is the worst in term of hormones. So, the plain “chicken omurice” passed me by.

My order was the omurice topped with demi-glazed beef stew.

Taimeiken Tokyo 8

The rice was ketchup-flavored ham fried rice wrapped with an omelette and dressed with beef stew in a demi-glaze. The stew was very tender and rich. The demi-glaze was excellent, not bitter, not too salty (as the way I’ve found it here in the US), and slightly sour, which made it interesting.

Taimeiken Tokyo 7

The omelette was soft and tasty. I wish I could finish the whole plate.

Taimeiken Tokyo 11

I found myself trying to stuff more of the omelette into me even though I was already full. This was my old habit that I no longer do for a long time now. It’s easier to put in than it is to take off the weight, so I usually stop eating as soon as I’m approaching full, but the omelette here was so good I wanted more. Especially with the demi-glaze and the ham fried rice. I ended up walking out of the restaurant over-stuffed.

I made a mental note to come back to this restaurant on my next trip to Tokyo. I was wishing that I had I taken my beloved husbanditor to try this lovely restaurant. This is a great sign, because I haven’t felt that urge about a restaurant in a long time, that is, one I was impressed enough that I want to take people to try. I don’t know if it is something that happened to my palette, or if something happened to the food industry in the US, but I’ve lost interest in restaurant food lately.

This is the link to the google image of the Tampopo omurice at Taimeiken. You get an idea why they called it dandelion style. Taimeiken has several other different dishes, including a tasting menu. The price I paid for the omurice was really high though, about $30 or over for an order. (Sorry, I should have paid more attention to the price on the menu but this girl was hungry, you know!) If you don’t want to pay that price, simply wait in line at the cafe-style restaurant. The same thing is served for around twenty dollars or less.

Also I searched for this restaurant on the internet, and people raved about their soup, borsht and coleslaw too. Apparently,  their borsht isn’t the one with beets, and the coleslaw isn’t shredded cabbage drenched in creamy dressing, but I didn’t get to taste them. Well, good enough that I stumbled across this restaurant and went blindly in and ordered, guessing my order as blindly as finding the place. This is a great find and there will definitely be a next time!

WHERE:

Taimeiken
Nihombashi 1-12-10, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://www.taimeiken.co.jp

Tel for the 1st. Floor cafe style restaurant: 03-3271-2463
Tel for the 2nd. Floor fine dining restaurant: 03-3271-2464

WHEN:

1st. Floor
Monday – Saturday  11:00am – 9:00pm (Last Order 8:30pm)
Sundays, National Holidays   11:00am – 8:30pm (Last Order 8:00pm)
Never

2nd. Floor
Monday – Saturday
Lunch   11:00am – 3:00pm (Last Order 2:00pm)
Dinner  17:00pm – 9:00pm (Last Order 8:00pm)
Sundays, National Holidays   CLOSED

WHAT

Omurice no doubt

NOTE:

Yoshoku is the Western-style Japanese food. That would be how I would describe it, even though some might argue that it is actually “Japanese-style Western food”.  I still insist that Yoshoku is thoroughly Japanese even though it uses imported ingredients and is influenced by the style of Western food. I think at the least a Japanese food writer, Norimitsu Onishi of The New York Times, agrees with me on this (I don’t know him, but his name seems Japanese to me). This is the article published on March 2008 in the Dining & Wine on the New York Times (just click on this link).

Why do I say it is thoroughly Japanese? You might be interested, but before I answer that question, answer these set of questions for me.

Where in Western cuisine would you see spaghetti boiled and rinsed in cold water, then “stir-fried” in ketchup?

Where in Western cuisine would you see ground beef mixed with ground pork then covered in bread crumbs and deep-fried and eaten with demi-glaze sauce or another magical sauce, ketchup?

Where in Western cuisine would you see an omelette stuffed with ketchup-fried rice or a soft, creamy omelette lying next to the said fried rice with even more ketchup squeezed generously on top?

Any respectable chef in a French restaurant would die five times over at my three questions and probably need at the least about a dozen reincarnations to be able to “cook” those dishes voluntarily. I’m sure the ketchup would be a gigantic issue there. How about British chefs? What do you think? Swedish? Finnish? German? Dutch? Anyone want to admit that as a professional chef, you  put ketchup in your food? American chefs might be the closest to imagine those dishes but no, they don’t cook them either. “Those are rice dishes.” the American chef might have said. “We have nothing to do with it!”

Now, do you believe me that Yoshoku is thoroughly Japanese? And I like it even more than American fried rice, Thai style. I’m telling you that much.

Don’t stop exploring. The adventure makes your life worth living!

Underneath are the pictures from the Kite Museum on the 5th floor of the same building.

Kite Museum Nihombashi 1

Kite Museum Nihombashi 2

Kite Museum Nihombashi 3

Kite Museum Nihombashi 4

Kite Museum Nihombashi 5

Kite Museum Nihombashi 6

Kite Museum Nihombashi 7

Kite Museum Nihombashi 8

Kite Museum Nihombashi 9

Kite Museum Nihombashi 10


Quiche Tart with Fruit

Quiche Tart with Peach

Have you ever thrown something together with the main intention of eliminating some ingredients in your refrigerator and it turned out to be an amazing creation?

Do you know what’s the result?

You then have to re-stock your fridge with the stuff that you wanted to get rid off in the first place!

This is one of those incidents. I recently had a burger night for about half a dozen guests. I bought so many different kinds of cheese and fruit that we couldn’t finish them in one meal, so I came up with this quiche tart, and it become a hit. I wanted to share the recipe before the fresh fruit season is over. Don’t worry, I will get back to the curry and noodles and all other Thai recipes soon after this.

Okay, let’s start with the ingredients.

Ingredients for the tart shell:

(You can also use my other tart shell in the tomato tart recipe here if you are allergic to almonds or don’t want to use almond flour.)

Almond flour  140g

All purpose flour or cake flour  70g

Confectionary sugar (Icing sugar)  50g

Cold butter  75g

Cold jumbo size egg  1 (about 50-55g)

Salt  2g

Oil or butter to grease the tart shell

Method for the tart shell:

1) Measure all the flour, sugar, salt, and butter into a large bowl and turn on the oven at 350ºF.

Quiche Tart with Peach 1

2) Use a fork, pastry blender or food processor to blend the mixture by cutting the butter in to the flour.

Quiche Tart with Peach 2

3) Once the mixture is all blended well, then you add a cold egg. Combine it with the previous mixture until it forms a ball.

Quiche Tart with Peach 3

You can refrigerate the mixture if you like, but I didn’t. I use almond flour to help make my tart shell flaky without having to fuss with it so much.

4) Spray the tart shell (I used an oblong one, 13-3/4”x4-1/4”) with oil or brush butter on it, then evenly pat the dough onto the bottom and the sides of the tart shell.

Quiche Tart with Peach 4

5) Lightly prick the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes.

Quiche Tart with Peach 3 (1)

6) Bake for 20 minutes. While you’re waiting for the crust, make the filling.

7) Once the crust is cooked, take it out and let it cool (you are probably in the middle of making the filling anyway,) and leave the oven on. You will need it again soon after you fill the crust. Also, you won’t need to seal it with egg white or apricot glaze ;) Wait and see my “sealing method” in the next section.

Quiche Tart with Peach 6

Ingredients for the filling:

American cheese, sliced (I used the organic one from Trader Joe’s) 3 slices

Cream cheese  125g

Jumbo egg  2 eggs

Prosciutto  2 slices cut in to strips about 1/4” wide and no more than 1” long (total about 2 tablespoons)

Caramelized onion, roughly chopped  2 tablespoons

Crumbled or grated cheese of your choice (I used gorgonzola, smoked gouda and cheddar)  1/3 cup

Salt  1/2 teaspoon

Ground pepper  1 teaspoon

Green onion, sliced thinly (You can use other herbs of your choice too) about 2 tablespoons

Sliced provolone cheese  3 slices

Cut up fruits of your choice (I used figs and peaches last time. They both turned out so good. A friend reported using apricots and that was good, too.) 2 large peaches or 1/2 lb. of figs

Olive tapenade  2-3 tablespoons (This actually can be omitted if you don’t like it, but it adds wonderful flavors to the tart. If you don’t want to use this, add more salt to the cream cheese and egg mixture.)

Quiche Tart with Peach (1)

 

Method for the filling:

1) Start with the cream cheese, using a mixer, either handheld or KitchenAid; your choice. I used my handheld. Cream the cream cheese.

2) Add the eggs and salt and mix until well-blended. This would normally take quite a while. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t blend right away—keep mixing.

Quiche Tart with Peach 8

3) Once the mixture is all smooth, fluffy and creamy, then you can stop using the mixer. From now you only need a spatula. Add the prosciutto, caramelized onion, crumbed cheese or grated cheese and green onion; mix well.

4) Now you are ready to assemble the quiche. First, line the crust with American cheese slices. This is to protect the crust from the moisture in the filling. (Yes, this is my sealing method…yummy, isn’t it?)

Quiche Tart with Peach 9

5) Spread the olive tapenade on top of the cheese slices.

Quiche Tart with Peach 10

6) Put the cream cheese and eggs mixture inside the rest of the space.

Quiche Tart with Peach 11

7) Put the fruit on top of the cream cheese and eggs mixture. (No, I’ve not forgotten about the provolone slices. Just wait, and please don’t eat them while waiting!)

Quiche Tart with Peach 12

8) Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes.

9) Open the oven and lay the provolone cheese slices on top of the fruit. (I hope you listened to me about NOT eating them while you waited!)

Quiche Tart with Peach 13

10) Drop the temperature down to 300ºF and bake another 15 minutes, or even 20 minutes. This is to make sure that the quiche sets properly.

11) Take it out of the oven and let it cool down a little before you slice it out of the tray and cut, or the whole thing will be very runny.

Quiche Tart with Peach 14

As a variation, you could replace the fruit with mushrooms. A friend already tested this recipe and used BACON on top instead of fruit. How can any food taste bad with this amount of cheese and bacon, right? Be creative and enjoy your invention ;)

Quiche Tart with Peach 2 (1)


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