Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NBC Seafood - Monterey Park

While every other restaurant these days purport to do "small plates" that are "perfect for sharing", I would argue that there isn't a better place for friendly get togethers than a dim sum restaurant.

Think of it. You don't have to fuss with a menu. You just point and BAM, within minutes your table is crowded with plates of bite-sized morsels that are, yes, "perfect for sharing". And then there's the tea, which, in my opinion, is the best beverage for social gatherings. You pour it for each other. It aids digestion. It keeps you awake and alert.

So when a group of old college friends and I decided to reunite recently, it was a no brainer: it had to be dim sum.

We agreed on NBC Seafood, but had a good laugh when one of my friends didn't check the e-mail before leaving home and ended up at ABC Seafood.

"It IS confusing," I told him when he finally made it. "There are dim sum restaurants called CBS, ABC, and NBC. Let's just be glad there isn't one called FOX!"

We ordered all the favorites: tripe in silky ginger gravy, chicken feet, translucent har gow, and meaty shu mai.

NBC's cheongfun, rice noodle rolls filled with minced beef, could've been a little more delicate; but the zongzi, wrapped leafy parcels of glutinous rice and meat, were aromatic and filling.

I could say that the best part of this dim sum lunch was the impeccably fresh and crisp haam sui gau (fried glutinous rice dumplings) and the wu gok (fried taro puffs), but really it was the chance to catch up with friends with whom I spent the better part of my twenties.

We drank cup after cup of the tea, talked about our families, our jobs, that post-graduation cross-country road trip we took to Florida, and the fact that two decades went by in a blink.

NBC Seafood
404 S Atlantic Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
626) 282-2323

Taste Brazilian Style Gourmet - Huntington Beach

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Cook Swai Fillets

Have you noticed that swai--a white-fleshed fish usually farmed out of Vietnam--has been selling for ridiculously low prices lately?

I recently picked up some at Wholesome Choice for $1.29 per pound--a price that, I should note, is cheaper than chicken.

So how do you cook swai? However the hell you like.

It is, as I've discovered, the most forgiving and versatile fish I've ever worked with. It absorbs flavors beautifully. It makes superb fish and chips. But most important of all: it's almost impossible to overcook.

Believe me, I've tried.

I dredged the first few fillets in flour and left them sauteing in butter for longer than most cookbooks would advise. But no matter how hard I tried to turn them into jerky, what slid off the frying pan was always moist, always flaky, and meltingly soft as fresh fallen snow.

After mastering the saute, I decided to turn the swai into Cha Ca Thang Long, which is what I think swai is meant for.

The dish is very easy. Although I won't share my recipe since I basically culled it from far better recipe sites, I can tell you it involves marinating the fish in turmeric, fish sauce, and galangal paste, then pan frying in lots of oil with bunches of dill, onions and scallions.

We ate it hot over a chilled bowl of Vietnamese rice noodle called bun and discovered that not only was it the perfect summer meal, it also honors the origins of fish.

After all, it came all that way from Southeast Asia, and judging by the prices, it must have flown coach.

Wholesome Choice
University Park Center
18040 Culver Dr.
Irvine, CA 92612

Coastal Kitchen - Dana Point

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Crepes Maison - Cypress

Crepes Maison in Cypress is my kind of crepe joint. It charges a reasonable amount, makes its crepes to order, and is housed in a building painted in tricolor as though the French flag.

Nevermind that the nice owners hail from somewhere closer to the Middle East. What's more important is that it's a mom-and-pop. Or in this case, a grannie-and-gramps.

The warm older couple who took our order and made our crepes made them to be of a thicker stock than a typical crepe. In fact, I think they're closer to tortillas than crepes.

They need to be of a sturdier constitution for they are intended to be stuffed with all sorts of fillings, formed into a cone, wrapped in foil, and eaten with your hands.

If you're hungry, you could conceivably ask for your crepe to be filled with shawarma, or burgers, or hot dogs. Crepes Maison even offers a Philly cheesesteak crepe while the traditionalist can have their crepes made into a Suzette with Grand Marnier. Or you can have it like we did: with Nutella and banana for about $5.

After the handsome gent you see above spread a generous glop of a Nutella onto ours and sliced pieces of a banana into it, we took it outside to eat it with a knife and fork. It was then we discovered how humongous and filling it was. It was good thing we didn't spring the extra 50-cents for whipped cream.

Crepes Maison
9952 Valley View St.
Cypress, CA 90630
(714) 236-5866

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar - Irvine