My Curry Experiment

A couple of years ago, when I was living in Singapore, I got over my fears of being poisoned by “the enemy” and tried some Indian Muslim food at a hawker center in Pasir Ris.  Indian food basically means curry.  There’s a lot of different types, but all the curry I had was delicious!  I finally got tired of reminiscing about how great the curry was and my wife and I decided to try our hand at making curry ourselves.

Curry Time

Curry Time

Curry Time

Curry Time

Curry Time

After a little trial and error we finally got it down right, using a recipe from a local Indian spice store as a guide.  It was a lot of fun and it’s great to know that we can throw together some curry whenever we want.  It’s amazing how many different types and how great a quantity of spices go into one meal.

I wonder how the first Europeans felt when they got to India and tried the local food?  I mean, obviously they loved it, or the spice trade wouldn’t be what it is today, but what I’m getting at is, were they surprised?  Shocked?  Amazed?  Or did they not like it at first and then it grew on them?  I suppose I’ll research that when I have time, but for now, I’ll just enjoy the goodness that India’s spices create.

Hawkers: Southeast Asian Food in New York City

Hawkers, located between 2nd and 3rd Avenues on 14th Street in Manhattan, is a restaurant that serves Southeast Asian food.  I’ve passed by this place almost every day for over a year, but I’ve never gone in because I assumed it was just a bar, and judging from the layout, serving alcohol is its primary function.

Hawker's Bar

The restaurant seating is laid out as one long bar that covers the center of the space from front to back.  It’s simple, but functional.  The layout maximizes space, but sacrifices comfort.  The seats aren’t exactly something you’d want to spend a lot of time sitting on, so don’t plan on spending a lot of time enjoying your meal.

Small porcelain jar of warm sake and two metal shot cups

The food itself is excellent.

Satay and peanut sauce

The satay tasted authentic.  The peanut dip was a little off from what I remember, though it could just be a difference between recipes.  The only satay I have to compare this to was satay my wife and I ate in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I’d go back to Hawkers just for this, if nothing else.  It’s simple, but satisfyingly tasty.

Green curry

The green curry was really, really spicy and completely awesome!

Popiah

The popiah was ok, but not something I’d order again.

Grilled eggplant lunchbox

My wife cleaned her plate, so I guess the grilled eggplant “lunchbox” must have been delicious!

The bill for what you see in the photos (including a gratuity they helpfully add to your bill for you) added up to about 74 dollars.  That’s a little on the high side for me for a two person meal, though it was quite a bit of food. In fact, it was too much food for two people.  The only reason we went with this option was because of a Groupon deal.  When we go back, we’re going to stick to the lunch menu, or whatever they have for smaller portions.

The last two things I’d like to mention about this place is that its empty in the photos because we went early on a Monday afternoon, and the service was really great.  The girl that served us is from Thailand and we chatted with her about our trip to Phuket, Thailand in 2008 I think it was.

Veselka: Ukrainian Soulfood

Veselka's 1

In 2008, one of the last things I did before leaving the United States and moving to Asia was to have lunch with family at Veselka’s in the East Village.

I don’t remember too much about the visit, except that the pierogis were awesome.  They were so awesome, that I lamented the fact that pierogis weren’t available (at least that I ever saw) during my stay in Asia.  Maybe they were.  Maybe they were hiding on a menu in an overpriced boutique restaurant in an upscale mall somewhere.  Who knows?  Either way, I kept telling my wife about how good they are, pierogis I mean, and I was excited to take her to Veselka’s so she could experience them for herself.

 Veselka's 2

Veselka's 3

Needless to say, she was a bit overwhelmed.  When we got there, she just sat at the table, looking at her phone.  I asked her if she was going to choose what she wanted to eat, and she said, “Oh?  I thought we were having pierogis?”  I told her, “Of course we are, but you have to pick which kind of pierogis you want.”  Then she got excited!  There are plain potato, cheese, meat, spinach & cheese, sauerkraut & mushroom, sweet potato, and arugula and goat cheese.  There’s also the “boiled” or “fried” option to think about.  Veselka’s offers two pierogi plates: the big plate (7 pierogis) and the small plate (4 pierogis).  We both went with the big plate.  Might as well get what we went there for, right?  My wife tried one of each and with the exception of the sweet potato pierogi, which seemed to just not be consistent with the rest of the dish, she said they were all excellent.  I picked and chose but had one of everything but the sweet potato and meat pierogis.

Matzah Ball Soup
Matzah Ball Soup
Ukrainian Borscht
Ukrainian Borscht
Fried pierogis
Fried pierogis.

Dessert board at Veselka's

We thought about having dessert, but after the pierogis and a bowl of soup each, we were full.  The best part is that the food is good quality, but priced to not break your bank.  You can take a look at the full menu by clicking here.

Also, I was happy to see that the murals on the walls in the dining area had been replaced with something more upbeat.  I found two old photos I took in 2006 of the wall murals:

 Old Veselka's Wall Mural 1

Old Veselka's Wall Mural 2

Somber looking aren’t they?

This is definitely better:

New Veselka's Wall Mural

Thanks again for the good food, Veselka’s!  We’ll be back.

Katz’s Delicatessen: Awesome Sandwiches, Well Worth It!

Katz's Delicatessen Facade

I have the vaguest recollection of eating at Katz’s Delicatessen as a kid.  The place has been open, in the spot, since 1888 and is frequently visited by famous people.  The walls inside are covered by pictures of notable diners, like Johnny Depp for instance.  Today my wife and I decided to go down there and give it a try.

Katz's Delicatessen Facade

Despite the hype, we were not prepared for the line we saw when we passed the end of the last block.  Both facades of the restaurant were covered by the lines of people.  The line going down Houston (on the right in the picture) was for take-out; the line going down Ludlow was for dine-in.  Like my wife said, “Thank God for smart-phones.”

Katz's Delicatessen Interior

The wait wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, but the line outside wasn’t a line for a table.  It was a line for another line.  Well, really it was for the set of lines where you line up to get your sandwich.  Also for the line where you line up to get a drink.  On one hand, the madness and the business of the set-up adds to the excitement of eating there.  On the other, it was very time consuming.  I suppose there isn’t a faster way to do it though.  Table service would likely take even longer.  My only real gripe was that there was just one guy at the soda/fries (and other extras) counter, which made that a really, really long wait to just get two cans of soda.

Katz's Delicatessen Pastrami Sandwiches

Complaints aside, the wait was worth it.  The food is awesome and you get a huge portion.  One sandwich is enough for two people, unless you’re starving to death.  I have half of the sandwich I ordered sitting on my table next to me, still waiting to be eaten.  I had to go ask for a sheet of wax paper so I could wrap it up to bring it home.  The prices aren’t that bad for what we got.  The sandwiches pictured above are pastrami on rye.  I think they were about 15.75 apiece.

Katz's Delicatessen Pastrami Sandwich

If you’re visiting New York City (or if you live here and just haven’t gone yet) and you’re doing the food tourism thing, pizza isn’t the only must-have while you’re here.  Definitely do stop by Katz’s.  It’s worth the time and money.  Oh, and one last thing: Dr. Brown’s root beer kicks ass!

Back to Boka: Delicious Fried Chicken

A half-half plate of spicy and teriyaki wings at Boka: Bon Chon, NYC.

Last May I went to a restaurant called Boka: Bon Chon on St Mark’s place in Manhattan.  I wanted to take my mom out for something nice for Mother’s Day and she’d never had Korean food so it seemed like a good choice.  We were both very satisfied with the food we ate, and after hearing back from some people that the fried chicken there is really awesome, we decided we’d go back to try it out at some point.

We finally did manage to get back there and try the fried chicken at the end of last month and it is amazing!  We only ordered a small plate because we weren’t sure if we’d like it or not.  Now I wish we’d just gotten a big plate of the fried chicken and nothing else.  Just looking at the picture is making my mouth water.  The skin of the chicken was crispy and tasty and the meat wasn’t oily.  I could sit down and eat a bucket of the stuff.  Well, maybe not the spicy fried chicken.  The spicy fried chicken has a real kick to it.  I can’t figure out which I like more.  I think I actually prefer the spicy kind, but I probably couldn’t eat as much of it as the other.

Fried dumplings from Boka: Bon Chon, NYC.

We also got a plate of fried dumplings.  They were crispy and looked nice, but the inside was a bit mushy.  Maybe that’s the way they’re supposed to be.  I don’t know, but my mom didn’t care for them too much.

A 'box lunch' from Boka: Bon Chon, NYC.

We also ordered this.  I don’t recall the name of it now, but it’s a spicy chicken ‘box lunch’.  I was surprised when they brought it out, because the tray looks just like trays used at Korean restaurants in Singapore.  I’m not sure if it’s still there, but I specifically remember there was a Korean restaurant that used these trays in the basement level of the Cineliesure (?) Mall in the Orchard Road area.

We figured that between the chicken, the dumplings and the ‘box lunch’, we’d have more than enough to eat for two people, and we did wind up bringing some of the chicken and dumplings home as leftovers (which disappeared quickly that same night).  It was pretty filling, especially since we were eating it all with white rice.

In the future, when I go to Boka: Bon Chon, the fried chicken will always be one of my choices.  Maybe the best option would be to get a large order of the fried chicken and another dish (like a bowl of bibimbap) and then ask for smaller plates and share the meal.

A 30 Dollar Cup of Pre-Digested Coffee

Kopi Luwak Arabica

What you’re looking at is 30 dollars in a cup, believe it or not.  This is Kopi Luwak Arabica.  Why is it so expensive? Well…

Pure Kopi Luwak Java Arabica Coffee

It’s all in the digestion… or production… process.  You see, this coffee is made from beans that have been previously digested and crapped out by an Asian palm civet.  In the picture above you can see an example of the coffee beans prior to cleaning and roasting, and the finished product on the left.  The cost of the animal husbandry and the long process of securing the digested beans is what makes the coffee so expensive.

Jezalin's New York in Limelight Market

When I lived in Singapore I’d heard about this coffee.  It’s mostly produced in Indonesia.  I never did take the time to try it out while I was there, and of course I wasn’t about to spend 30 dollars on a cup of coffee here in the US, so I was happy to see a Groupon pop up for a 20 dollar discount at Jezalin’s, which is where I had my first kopi luwak experience.

Jezalin's New York in Limelight Market

Jezalin's New York in Limelight Market

Like the rest of the Limelight Market (corner of 6th Avenue and 20th Street in Manhattan), Jezalin’s has a really nice, classy atmosphere.  When I got my cup of coffee, the girl behind the counter (also visible in the picture above) came over and showed me the display and explained the process.  I was already familiar with where the coffee comes from, but it was fun to listen to her talk about it.

So, was it worth it?  It was definitely worth the 10 bucks I wound up paying.  The kopi luwak tastes like coffee, but it has a thicker taste to it.  It’s not as strong as coffee.  It has a more mellow, earthy (poopy?) taste to it.  Oddly enough, I felt like taking a nap after finishing it off.  At 30 bucks a cup, it’s not going to replace my morning cup of coffee, but it was a pleasant experience overall, and I’ll definitely convince my wife to try some.

Four Packages of Free Archway Cookies

I’m one of those people that’s terribly unlucky when it comes to games of chance like the lotto or drawings for giveaways.  So, I was really skeptical, but hopeful, when an Archway rep responded to my earlier post about Archway cookies.  I mean, you never know who you’re talking to on the Internet right?  I was sort of thinking it might be a scam.  The PR rep said she was delighted to hear about my love for Archway cookies and offered to send me some.

A Fedex delivery of free Archway cookies.

Within a few days of responding to her email, not one, but four packages of cookies arrived in a Fed-Ex box.  Three of them are new flavors, and I’m very much looking forward to cracking them open and trying them (still eating through the ones I bought before!).  After oatmeal, peanut butter cookies are probably my second favorite, and there was a package of them in the box.  If Archway made them as good as the oatmeal cookies, they should be awesome!

Thanks again Archway!  You’ll always have a place in my cookie jar.

Archway Responded To My Blog Post With An Offer of Cookies

On Friday, I came across packages of Archway cookies in the A&P on 14th street.  I’d heard they were out of business and had given up on ever having my favorite oatmeal cookies again, so I was really excited to see them up for sale.  I was so excited that I wrote a blog post about it that happened to get the attention of one of the people in their PR department:

Hello!

My name is Katey Clark and I work for the PR agency of record for Archway cookies. I found your blog entry from last week and just wanted to write to say hello!

Archway has been back on store shelves since December 2009, and just last month came out with three new varieties, Shortbread, Triple Chocolate and Peanut Butter. After a vote on Facebook last week, it was almost determined that our Rocky Road cookie would come back for a limited time in 2012! (Frosty Orange was a very close second place, so we hope to bring that back for a limited time as well).

We’d love to send you a few trays of cookies to try out! Find us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/archwaycookies.

Have a good rest of your weekend!

Katey

katey clark
public relations account executive

GKV
p:  410.234.2531
m: 330.730.8407
katey.clark@gkv.com
gkv.com

I obviously took them up on their offer of free cookies.  Who wouldn’t?  I didn’t specify any flavor in particular, so it’ll be a surprise.  It’s really neat to see Archway taking an active interest in user feedback via blogs and rewarding that feedback with gifts of the cookies that Archway fans love.

I’ll update again when they arrive! =)

Archway Cookies Are Back!

Iced Oatmeal and Dutch Cocoa Archway cookies.

I don’t remember the first time I had Archway cookies, but I really really love the plain oatmeal flavored ones.  They were, and probably still are, my dad’s favorite cookies too.  That’s how I first tried them.  Sometime after getting back to the US last year, I found out that Archway had gone out of business and I was really upset by it.  It sounds ridiculous to get upset over cookies, but they’re just that good!

I searched around to see if any stores still had packages of the plain oatmeal cookies in stock, but I didn’t have any luck.  Today on my way home I stopped in A&P on 14th street and saw Archway cookies on the shelf.  They didn’t have plain oatmeal, so I got the ones pictured above instead.  On the way out, I stopped to talk to the store manager and he told me that Weiz had bought them and was distributing the cookies again.  I asked him if he could get in some of the plain oatmeal cookies and he said he would talk to the distributor about getting some.

Life just got better.

A Taste of India at Newport Centre

Taste of India, Authentic Indian Cuisine at Newport Centre Mall.

I went up to the food court at the Newport Centre Mall for the first time last weekend.  I saw some old favorites that I hadn’t been to since before I left the US for Kuwait in 2007 and I was pretty sure I was going to wind up eating at Sarku Japan.  It’s not real Japanese food, but it tastes pretty good.  Then I saw a place called A Taste of India: Authentic Indian Cuisine.  I went over and they were handing out free samples of chicken.  It tasted pretty good, but I wasn’t really convinced.  Then I saw that they had chicken biryani, and I wondered if it was anything like the nasi briyani I’d had in Singapore.  I asked for a sample and while it wasn’t exactly the same, it was really close and really good.  It was really spicy too!

Chicken biryani from A Taste of India at Newport Centre Mall.

I wound up getting a bowl of it, with spicy curry on top.  It doesn’t look too appealing in this photo, but most of the foods I ate in Asia tasted better than they looked anyway.

Something about the restaurant was kind of jarring.  They all seemed to be first generation immigrants, judging by their accents, possibly from the same family.  The way they were working the crowd and cajoling people into taking samples and then buying food from them reminded me of street vendors in the Asian countries I’d visited.  They could have just as easily been on a street in Kuala Lumpur or a food court in Singapore.  The weird part is that they were all wearing cheesy looking, brightly colored, standard uniforms.  I guess it was something about the authentic taste of the food and the authentic behavior of the employees clashing with the American franchise store and uniform designs that threw me off.  I suppose it doesn’t matter though.  I paid for good food and that’s what I got.