Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Microwave Naporitan And Kagetora's Miso Ramen From MHF

Took a break from retort curries today but not from junk food and finally opened my second and last microwave Japanese Naporitan Spaghetti that was edging uncomfortably close to its expiration date. Good times.

This Spa-O (Spa王) series is from Nissin Foods, maker of the infamous Cup Noodles. Are around three bucks in Japan and not bad for the price imho, but if were ever imported will probably flare up to the five-dollar range which I'd imagine too high to survive here. Maybe (at least one of the reasons) why you don't see them on your local Japanese Supermarket shelves.

The Spa-O microwaveable pasta series is surprisingly elaborate for what it is, containing four packs of various retort ingredients including vacuum sealed par-cooked raw pasta noodles.

The main packet of this Naporitan (wiki link) flavor of course is the ketchup based sauce, the second contains a conservative amount of cooked onions, bell pepper, and pale colored wiener slices. The third has some bright yellow, flavored oil that reminds me I shouldn't be wearing my favorite shirt when having.

Naporitan's are still fairly popular in Japan, though these days I feel the dish leans heavily toward Japanese retro nostalgia cuisine. I wouldn't recommend a microwaveable version like this to be anyone's first but when done proper the imagined sharp ketchup flavor further helped by a pad of butter is cooked off in the searing process and transforms into something tasting rather rounded. Only lightly sweet and nowhere near Filipino Spaghetti or Chef Boyardee products for that matter as some may think.

Really need to get back offline but before wanted to quickly share Kagetora's Miso Ramen that I had at Mitsuwa Costa Mesa which is being showcased at the ongoing Hokkaido Fair (today being the last day) so that it remains somewhat timely.

Good Miso Ramen is hard to come by outside of Japan where the only version I can say I would ever crave here is the one wok'd up at Mottainai in Gardena. So as much as I wanted to resample Asameshi Maeda Honpo's Shoyu again in Mitsuwa Torrance my schedule permitting, I ended up prioritizing Kagetora's Miso. Kagetora btw directly translated means "Shadow Tiger."

I couldn't hear any wok sounds coming out of the soba shop's kitchen that was temporarily borrowed for the event but the soup was frothy around the edges of the bowl and flavors of the blended miso nicely incorporated with the few vegetables. Very nutty, appropriately oily and robust while being simultaneously mellow sweet. Good stuff.

Glad it wasn't as extreme mellow as Kitahama Shoten's which in fairness was a white Shiro Miso version but when I'm having a miso ramen, I really look forward in tasting a good amount of rich viscous miso flavors (while hopefully not being too salty).
The curly yellow noodles were the thicker side of medium which adds to the heft of the bowl. Mochi-mochi chewy but without a lot of koshi resiliency. Can't say I absolutely loved the noodles but definitely were better than any most you'd find around town.

The Chashu pork was sliced thinner and delicious but I totally agree with Ed of that the single slice was such a tease! I would've expected at least another for $10 spent. As much as I enjoyed this bowl I think the one to get was their Spicy Miso which Ed had and can be read about here.

Thanks for reading and hope you all are having a great weekend!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Early Bird: A Breakfast Sandwich @ Antonelli's Deli (And A Deli Club Sub For Lunch)

My second quick visit to El Cajon a month-ish back I'd be discovering another meal producing gem following the Beef 'N Bun. The pleasant people at the powder coaters recommended Antonelli's Deli for lunch (along with a warning about the long lines). Luckily it was after the noon rush but the then memorable meal prompted me for this revisit early Saturday morning which I'm sharing first.

Shown the ooey gooey #44 Breakfast Sandwich - Italian Sausage, Provolone, Peppers, Onions & Egg ($4.25).

Seemed pressed on one of those ribbed panini grills and was very warm. The bread was really nice (which I'll elaborate more on later) but what I immediately noticed was that the meats were sliced wafer thin including the sausage. Along with the fine chopped grilled peppers, onions and of course eggs, made for great texture and consistency. Delicious.

Did make me a little sleepy later but this was a great sandwich. And next time I need to pick up one of the yummy looking single serving potato salads or even a dessert from the fridge (was that Tiramisu I seen?).

Below the Deli Club Sub (#8) I had my fist visit. Enormous! And this was the mid-sized 8" ($6.75) and not their largest foot long. The can of coke is a good reference for scale, albeit it's in the background perspective...

I'm a big fan of the ultra thin cuts of meats here. Don't get me wrong, they're stacked and portions are substantial, I just don't know how they can get deli meat to be sliced as thin as it is.(!) The turkey, ham and roast beef all tender, moist and texturally great while the fact that everything also tastes so fresh doesn't hurt here either.

But I thought the real star of the sandwich was the bread that I was told were specially produced for Antonelli's from a local baker. It really reminded me of those soft and spongy Amoroso or equivalent Italian long rolls of cheesesteaks I've had in Philly. Much wider in size of course but the best thing I can think of to describe, like picking up one of those toy self-skin foam Nerf footballs.

A soft very fine textured bread protected by an almost glossy and smooth exterior which gives to the pressure of your finger tips but surprisingly resilient and doesn't easily tear. Couple that with their fresh mille-feuille-esque fillings and it's not hard to figure out what's making all the people return for more.

The interior is decorated with a lot of cute Disney paraphernalia but other than it and a few flat screens, an all business great sandwich producing roadside establishment. A joyous discovery.

Antonelli's Deli, 1354 North Magnolia Ave, El Cajon, CA 92020

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Random Updates & What's On My Rice: Another Retort Curry And A T.K.G.

Retort Pack Curry flavor of the week is Ika-sumi Gyu-suji (Squid Ink Beef Tendon). I had sampled this before but the photos didn't come out then so sharing for the first today. Was recommended to top with finely minced long onions so gave it a try this time. Passed on the poached egg option.

The unusual surf and turf combination works really well. The squid ink gives a subtle but deep marine umami base (if not a dark green tinge) to the rue without tasting fishy whatsoever, and the melty tender beef tendons are of course of no brainer deliciousness.

Negi grown and sold here I feel are a bit more bitter and not as sweet as ones found in Japan but the topping was definitely a welcome cutting some of the richness while adding a fresh flavor and texture to the dish. Gave my third box away so this was my last. Will be missed but my stash of retort curries is far from depleted. ;)

Another Hokkaido Fair is coming up at your nearest Mitsuwa Markets next week, Thursday through Sunday (15th~18th). As usual my focus will be on the limited time ramen showcased at the Costa Mesa and Torrance stores. Will be a return for Asameshi Maeda Honpo which will be serving their Shoyu Ramen at Torrance. Had it about two years ago here in SD and I honestly can't remember details for the life of me but was definitely a nice Shoyu (tad fishy), overall maybe on the rustic side.

As much as a good Shoyu is enticing I always look forward to sampling a well crafted Miso so the opportunity to try Kagetora's Miso and Spicy Miso at Costa Mesa will also be high on my coming weekend's to-do list. My past post of two Miso Ramens had at a previous Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair here.

Lastly a Tamago Kake Gohan I had yesterday. Recently seem to have humorously acronymed as the T.K.G. is the humble old school Japanese nourishment ritual of raw egg over rice. A no fuss meal for me while some seem to take it to hearty extremes. Many opt for mixing the egg along with seasoning beforehand but I prefer mine resting over a divotted mound of hot rice whole, marbling the ratio of yolk and whites as I go. Yess.

When in TKG mode I typically look for the freshest Nijiya brand organic eggs I can get my hands on but sometimes as I did today those half dozen New Zealand brand that comes in that fancy container. Anyway, while regular soy sauce is perfectly fine for the application I prefer a good Dashi Shoyu. I've been using this brand below from Nijiya after being introduced to it by friends (it's the best!). I did the mistake of buying a Kikkoman version once which I think was meant more for cooking (was way too sweet and strong for me). This tiny white carton is the bee's knees. Fantastic with your Hiyayakko and great with Sashimi too.

A show in Japan exploring the many tasty possibilities of TKG's...

Part two of the show here. That's all for today, hope everyone had a great weekend!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Random Weekend Project & What's On My Rice: Retort Wagyu Beef Curry

Can hardly call it a project since all involved were screwing eight 1/2" wood screws but put this table together yesterday. The top is a salvaged card catalog and the legs from a 1920's children's school desk. Might varnish the desk wood later to match the top but love the rusty legs where it's more like a permanent patina, no rub off or flaking.

Need to find a permanent spot for it but steaming on top was today's lunch. A retort pack Wagyu Beef Curry from an older care package.

I was out of Fukushinzuke but man, this was pretty good. A quality beefiness that you could smell even before you taste. A bit of heat and unlike most retort pack curries had a fair amount of meat. Other ingredients were button mushroom and small diced potatoes.

Too bad we're stuck with the same standard two or three selections at our Japanese markets here. Haven't come around sharing the Squid Ink and Beef Tendon curries I've had. Were both delicious and also retorts purchased at a regular supermarket.

Just a quick update that the Yakyudori folks are opening another restaurant in Kearny Mesa occupying the old Honey's Cafe spot named Hinotez. With some internet digging found it's related to the Hinotetsu Group in Japan, a chain Yakitoriya/Izakaya hybrid of sorts.

But here the menu seems it will run the more American concept of a Japanese restaurant, a full gamut Yakitori, Ramen, Soba, Udon, Teishoku lunch sets, and even Sushi Rolls. Sounds like another Tajima/Chopstix but I've been a fan of the now gone original Yakyudori in Hillcrest and its Ramen producing sibling off Convoy so we'll have to see. Opening said to be middle of September but the place looked nowhere near to be ready in a week's time.

Hope everyone is enjoying the three day weekend. I find the light drizzle refreshing.