Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I ♥ Nashville - I Dream Of Weenie And Pied Piper Creamery

This visit puts me back in November of last year. The Halloween decoration on porches that I look forward to were all about gone by then. Despite and the very brisk weather, was a really nice time to visit, the feeling of the coming Holidays in the air everywhere.

My third or so visit to the city. After having tried some BBQ, Meat and Three cafeterias, Hot Chicken and even a couple Burgers, it was probably a matter of time that my curiosity would randomly turn toward hot dogs. While I've never heard of any actual Nashville specialty, just to be sure-sure I had consulted with dog expert Hawk Krall who writes the Hot Dog of the Week column for Serious Eats. I did notice the few dog carts off of busy Broadway, but none of them felt standing out as notable fixtures, at least to go out of my way and document.

While Hawk did confirm that there were no official "Nash Dog" that I was missing out on (the city should come up with one though), he did mention that there was a super cute old VW bus converted hot dog stand in East Nashville that I might want to check out. One particular regional offering was the dog topped with "Chow-Chow," a sort of pickled veggie slaw-like concoction that according was common to Pennsylvania Dutch, but the Tennessee version looking different. Taking note I ordered the "Rebel Yelp" with Tennessee Chow-Chow, mustard, onions and jalapeno peppers ($3.75).

The dog itself was an all-beef skinless, which if I remember right were griddled on a tiny setup. The buns were steamed nicely and cut to length for better bread to meat ratio. As for the Chow-Chow, whoo whee this thing's got some kick! More tart than spicy, the potent cider vinegar actually induced an involuntary cough as I mistakenly inhaled during the first bite, haha. This Tennessee variation seemed mostly of cabbage and green tomato based with maybe onions and some red chilies for heat. Again, intensely tart, but with a light sweetness that I thought went well as a dog condiment.

The Pumpkin Chili (bowl) listed as a daily special was perfect for the time of year. But they had less than a full serving left, so I had asked if they could put what they had atop another hot dog for me ($3.75). Seemed natural and was actually surprised they weren't offered the way.(?)

Pretty delicious. I wouldn't have minded the chili being more overtly pumpkin flavored but mildly spiced with cinnamon, to me the combination a no brainer match with the dog especially during the season.

The Baked Bean Weenie also sounded like something I would enjoy, but I had to leave some room for dessert. This also meant finding out what the "Angeled Eggs" were would have to wait for a future visit. The wieners themselves probably felt fairly average so you can say they aren't exactly priced cheap, but the creative toppings are what's fun not to mention the service very personable and great. If I were in East Nashville and in need of a quick bite, dropping by IDOW would be high up on my list. And thanks for the tip Hawk!

I Dream Of Weenie, 113 South 11th Street Nashville, TN 37206

I forgot to mention the visit was the same afternoon right after the BBQ Pulled Turkey Sandwich at Hog Heaven on the way to the airport. But I've heard many a noblemen say there's always room for dessert. I was ready to test the theory out, at least in spirit.

Nice to know that the city's award winning Pied Piper Creamery is right across the street to IDOW. A super cute house atop a hill that sells homemade ice cream.

The official list of available flavors are vast and also puts my pun creation skills to shame. My choice from the day's offerings was the "Trailer Trash" - Vanilla with Oreo, Twix, Butterfinger, Nestle Crunch, Snickers, M&Ms and Reese’s Pieces. Another appropriate name could be Junk Snack Vending Machine.(!)

The interior of the place is really adorable. Slightly echoey but charming in that hardwood flooring old charm kinda way. Reminded me a lot of some shops in South Pasadena, one of my older neighborhoods during school.

The ice cream was terrific and the flavor choice I made a good one, only later realizing I've missed out on the Trailer Trash with Cheese Curls option, haha. Was glad I had stopped by before finally taking off. Slept well in the plane the flight back.

The Pied Piper Creamery, 114 South 11th Street Nashville, TN 37206-2937

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Instant Yakisoba - Old Vs. New: Peyoung And JanJan

Without hesitation I would say that I'm a huge instant yakisoba noodles fan. Those shrink-wrapped rectangular containers where you drain out the water then flavor your cheap textured limp noodles with even cheaper flavored sauce. Most come with dried green laver (Aonori) or some sort of furikake, while in the last couple decades also commonly seen with an additional packet of mayo, often spiked with hot mustard or wasabi.

In Japan this instant noodle subgenre is known as "Cup Yakisoba." I love most all of them in its unapologetic junk foodness cheap flavor. Was a quick form of sustenance after a long afternoon of soccer practice in Junior High, or probably more often had as a snack that would tie my chubby arse appetite between the evening hours when school was out and actual dinner. Till this day a 3PM snack given the choice of it against a bag of ruffled potato chips wouldn't be a competition. Maybe only next to an instant Tanuki Soba that is topped with fake tempura cracker-disk... But I digress.

We're lucky to get a few brands to choose from here, usually a little over two-bucks when on sale. But the O.G. classic known to most Japanese is Maruka Shokuhin's Peyoung Sauce Yakisoba (ペヤングソースやきそば). Check out the special site for a factory tour.

Love the older vacuum formed plastic container with not so efficient drainage eyelets that you need to fold back individually. This was the norm before those fancy perforated laminate ply. It may be hard to get a sense of scale but this here Chou-Oomori (超大盛) extra large portion is the size of a phone book in all dimensions, containing two whole serving bricks of their standard Yakisoba Big laid side to side.

Comes with a larger packet of liquid yakisoba sauce, freeze-dried ingredients (mostly cabbage with few bits of mystery meats), small packet of savory Furikake sprinkles and another of a special spice blend.

I actually tend to prefer the taste of a dry powder sauced which is probably against the mainstream as the liquid variety are generally deemed as "better quality." But I like how the powder absorbs excess moisture, post hot water drainage. A soggy, diluted tasting cup yakisoba is never good eats.

I agree with Mr. Tontantin's assessment with Peyoung and gotta say the brand's milder but nuanced flavors that include the double sprinkle of furikake and their peppery blend is the always comforting, perfected balance of sweet, savory and spice that have passed the test of time. I'd love to keep a stock of them in my pantry but at the moment aren't part of the standard offerings at our local Japanese/Asian supermarkets.

On the other hand the popular Nissin's U.F.O. usually is. (An older commercial starring the '70's smash hit pop duo Pink Lady below.) The sauce in Nissin U.F.O. heavily leans on the sweeter yakisoba spectrum but the product overall of decent quality that I wouldn't mind picking up more than a few if ever on sale. But on to the new...

JanJan by Ace Cook (エースコック) is the relatively newer kid on the block. Tontantin's youtube review here.

Aside from the shape of the cup, the biggest gimmick they claim are the noodles where some sauce is actually kneaded into for a supposed more overall robust flavor.

The freeze-dried ingredients are contained within, a la Cup Noodles style. A packet of liquid sauce and some coarse ground black pepper accompanies.

I found the effects of the pre-flavored noodles to be surprisingly ineffective and was a bit disappointed. The sauce was flavored sweeter but probably not as sweet as U.F.O.

Was a good amount of mystery meat nuggets, very similar to ones found in Cup Noodle. The most memorable part was how well the coarse ground black pepper went with, a nice touch. But that, I have an entire grinder bottle at home and so doesn't really add to the value of the product much if you would ask me. But I'm thankful for the inspiration.

I did notice the shape of the container helping in retaining the noodle's heat which I would believe was at least one of the design's intention. But the downside to it was that it tends to collect (and doesn't dissipate) excess moisture. The meal was rather soggy and I'm guessing why the effects of the flavored noodles were mostly canceled out.

Was fun to try them both though, especially getting to revisit the nostalgic flavors of Peyoung. I thought JanJan could benefit from including both a liquid and powder sauce as how some manufactures offers theirs. That way you get the best of both junk flavor worlds.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two Meals - 02.22.2012 - Snooze And K's

Dropped by Snooze (An A.M. Eatery) in Hillcrest this morning. Was actually my second visit. Below is my boring Three-eggs breakfast that doesn't really represent best their fun menu. Check out Kirbie and Mary's posts on them for a wider spread.

If you're into Pancakes I think you'll especially enjoy the place. That and the tastefully done Mid-Century modern / '60's Diner mixed decor. Lots of space and great for larger groups. Me, I'm into savory stuff. Asked for the eggs done over-easy as always. The whites were still a bit runny but I tend to not mind that. There seems to be some cheese (Parmesan?) mixed in with the hocky puck Hash Browns which makes it gooey moist and tasty. The downside to it though is that you can never get them done crispy. I've tried asking. They were nice enough to try though. Sausages are extra. Were milder on the sage spice but with a nice heat kick. ($7 + $2.50) Lots of other protein options such as pulled pork, salmon, prosciutto and steak.

My first visit I had the Breakfast Pot Pie. A puff pastry with an egg done any style, smothered with rosemary sausage gravy. Guilty good. If I were to be picky though I think they should stick with dried rosemary for the gravy. The fresh I believe they've used I felt was a bit overpowering. Snooze is located at the old Corvette Diner spot off of 5th.

Snooze, 3940 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

My most inexpensive dinner yet. A Banh Bao Pork Bun at K Sandwiches.

These are denser and not as fluffy as what most Japanese may be used to with their Niku-man's. But aside from the typical minced veggie/pork filling, these also contain a Chinese sausage link And a whole hard boiled quail egg. For a buck-fifty, bravo to that.

K Sandwiches, 7604 Linda Vista Rd, San Diego, CA, 92111

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Quick Sunday Post (That I Finally Downloaded Instagram For...)

An oversize ceramic Big Mac piggy bank - $10. I take that back, could be the original Big Boy.

Glazed in bright colors and very kitschy. You know you want one... Made in Mexico. Spotted at Cali Baguette Express (ECB) of all places. Their nick-nacks section seems to be expanding. Lunch from there was a foot long Banh Mi Xiu Mai - $3.25, and those twofer Cha Gio egg rolls (smooth wrapper today) - $1.

Cali Baguette Express, 5125 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

Later the day I had this crazy intense craving for that came out of nowhere. So dinner was a Roast Duck Egg Noodles Soup, aka No. 13, at Hing Ky Mi Gia (their sign still says "Tan Ki Mi Gia") up the street. Was a nice fill for $6.50.

Asked for extra flat leaf chives and those wonderful pork cracklins (they don't call it that for nothing!). Tonight the duck was pretty decent and the amber soup was spot on (past visits here and here). This was great. I think coming in late the evening may have helped, at least for the soup. Note to self.

Hing Ky Mi Gia, 5237 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Early Bird: A Breakfast Stew @ Super Cocina

One weekend when browsing through kitchen supplies at Taisun Wholesale I noticed a sign that read "Breakfast Desayunos" hanging outside Super Cocina. Not sure for how long but found out they were actually open from 8AM daily.

I've been curious ever since of what they may be offering different the time, and one morning (with particularly strong hunger pangs) I actually made it out arriving right as they were opening their doors at 7:59AM.

At first glance the steamer trays were all filled with the usual SC suspects of delicious looking Mexican stews and few fried items. All perfect if it were lunch or dinner, but probably a bit heavy to be had this early, at least for me. Asking about the $3.99 deal, it turned out to be a basic eggs fried your way plate with rice and beans. As I searched a little harder, I eventually did find two trays of what looked specifically breakfast items.

One was Chilaquiles, but the second an unfamiliar first of what seemed scrambled eggs simmered in a stewy salsa with onions and avocados. The very kind lady on duty with minimal English vocabulary could only tell me it was Huevos Oaxaquenos ($5.99).

The unexpected combination of eggs, chopped onions and fresh avocado, simmered in a mild salsa roja like soup/stew was really pleasant. May have felt a bit underseasoned but nothing a little S&P couldn't fix. It seemed to be a better companion with the rice than the corn tortillas, how much leaner the dish is compared to the few very hearty guisados I've had here. Later googling, weren't a lot of information online about Huevos Oaxaquenos except that it was an Oaxacan specialty (duh), and that my version may have been missing some cheese.(?)

The beans were a bit young in the stewing, probably a few hours shy of developing that creamy consistency and flavor in the simmer liquids. Fairly expected as early the day was, but all in all turned out to be a decent breakfast. And having found something new, a morning expedition that I would definitely consider a success. Cheers to that.

Super Cocina, 3627 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92104

Santouka Limited Time Karashogamen @ 2012 Mitsuwa Ani Sale

I think I have the drill for these posts pretty down by now. Another Anniversary Sale is happening at a So. Cal. Mitsuwa near you. Started last Thursday (2/16th) and will be going on for almost two weeks until the 26th, the Sunday after next. Check out the many sale items while making sure to sign up for the sweepstakes to win big prizes, the grand being a pair of round trip tickets to Japan on ANA's newest business class seats, woot.

Otherwise I'm always nerdily up for these events since it usually means an opportunity to document something new in one of the food courts. If you happen to be in Torrance, Italian Tomato will be serving a good ol' fashion Japanese Spaghetti Naporitan again, our own Kayaba a Spicy Chicken Teishoku, and all Santouka locations a limited time spicy and ginger spiked Karashoga-men ($8.49, 20 per day) to name a few.

Had this bowl dropping by our San Diego branch for lunch this week. A style of ramen in Niigata prefecture is said to be known for its characteristic use of ginger which I personally haven't had the opportunity to try yet, its thermogenic properties especially appreciated in the cold snowy winter months. Santouka's use of the fresh grated root has a punch and is not subtle in the least bit. Some may even find it heavy handed but I personally thought it was pretty gingerlicious, especially with the use of the younger "shin shoga" with its clean astringent qualities without the typical bitterness of older ginger. Was topped with a quick cabbage stir-fry with strips of fried tofu and the expected guilty pork chashu cut into chunky pieces. The bowl is finished with an aromatic chili oil and sliver of Jalapeno garnish.

Even only after a few sips the thermogenic properties are immediately evident, my stomach and chest heating up from the inside out. Sure warmed me up during this chilly weather we've been having the past week. I think this new spicy ginger soup was based on a version of their miso flavor variant (of signature Asahikawa Tonkotsu that is fortified with help of marine umami). While their Shio will always remain my personal favorite, any occasional change up of offerings to their basic four (shio, shoyu, miso, kara-miso) is always a welcome to me how often I patronize them. This was no different.

Had to have my Negimeshi ($1.99). Rice topped with chopped scallions, daikon sprouts, minced Aburaage (thin fried tofu) and flavored bonito flakes. The combination comes with free flavored egg but passed this time around. But dude, I really hope I win those tickets!!


Santouka Ramen, 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd (Mitsuwa Market Food Court), San Diego, CA 92111

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Intro To Japanese Yoshoku Cuisine

A video done very well. Enjoy.

Part two here.

Home Nukazuke - Part One: Shiitake, Myoga And Piiman

Sharing a first successful batch of pickling in my newer Nukadoko bed that I had posted about last month. Sorry about the light on these photos, was one of those gray gloomy skied days. But anyway, my "very first" trial actually didn't turn out because I ignored some suggestions online of standard pickling times and the 2.5 day marinade was just too darn salty for most vegetables. These below were done overnight, for about 10-hrs. The maturity of flavors varied but overall was a nice batch.

I've also been trying atypical items. Like his day, Piiman (Japanese thin-walled bell peppers), fresh Shiitake mushrooms and Myoga. I had to also do a Kyuuri cucumber just because it's my favorite as a nukazuke.

Below, my not so photogenic Nukamiso. If you're a fan of beer making and ever taken a tour of a brewery, the smell is very similar to the mash. I've been seasoning mine with a piece of Kombu for the past week. There are many other methods I've read up on but wanted to keep it simple for the time being. And yes, my brand new pastime the last weeks have been turning the nuka paste over on a regular basis. I'd lie if I said everyday, but never past 48-hrs. Yet.

Found the Kyuuri. Others are in there somewhere...

Once out, they need to be rinsed off the nuka before consuming.

It was easy to see that the Shiitake had shrunken quite a bit. They were pretty terrific in flavor, a light saltiness with a pleasant light nuka aroma. I'd say half a day are optimal for these, how porous mushrooms are. The cucumber was great but maybe five hours shy of being perfect. I still would never pickle any for over a day for sure.

The flavor of the Myoga was only slightly changed and the Piiman even less so. Next time I'd leave them both for at least a full day. I think some also recommended scoring or partially slicing prior to. I can see that helping for the almost plastic sheened impermeable bell pepper.

The Myoga was still too bitter in flavor to complement my rice intake but awesome in the miso soup how fragrant they are. When I do get them pickled well, I'd love to try some on a Hiyayakko. I would bet they'd be great garnish.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Updates And Another Japanese Breakfast @ Hinotez

I noticed a sign up one recent morning visit that said grilling of Yakitori will finally start February 10th. Still without booze license at the moment. Would be nice if they allowed a BYOB until then, like how Okan did when they opened. The grilling will happen in the back kitchen so the entertainment factor will be somewhat lacking. I already suggested they should have a GoPro or other inexpensive camera/flat screen monitor set up for the customers to be able to see skewers sizzling away. At least for me, at least when I'm in a restaurant, it'd beat ESPN or VH1 any day.

Hinotez also starts to-go Bentos...

Get them while they're still warm in the morning, while supplies last. Or they can be ordered/reserved by phone from as early as 6:30AM (though I believe 7AM is actual opening time). Nice option to know since any of the Japanese Markets in the area don't operate from at least 10AM. I can grab a quick breakfast and my lunch for later at the same time.

The 'Healthy Bento' starts at 5-bucks (comes with a side salad), the slightly heartier 'Hinotez Bento' is 6 (with miso soup) but they were out the morning, and a (Pork) Katsu Sando for 5.

I thought the Healthy Bento was a nice fill for the money. This day a Tori and Tamago Soboro main (the combination often called nishoku-gohan (二色ごはん) for its two colors) with lighter Japanese potato salad, Chikuzenni, boiled spinach Ohitashi and Hijiki seaweed side.
Despite the refrigeration then reheating later in my microwave for lunch, the chicken and egg soboro was moist and flaky, a pleasant light flavor to boot. But the star was definitely the Chikuzenni below (also called Iridori). A type of braised dish of chicken and root vegetables.

Though the actual chicken pieces were sparse, the extra large chunky vegetables were great and everything seasoned perfectly with good dashi and light mirin sweetness. Renkon (lotus root), Gobo (burdock root), carrots, Konjac and Shiitake mushrooms. The side salad is not shown but basic leafy lettuce with a sweet/tart ginger ponzu style dressing.

Katsu Sandwich also came with a small salad. Wished I had it right then while it was still warm but ate most of it for dinner much later in the day. I can easily tell both the bento and sandwich were made with a lot of care.

The box quality was of one of those reusable GladWare containers. Score. But anyhow, I often buy the Katsu Sando sold at Nijiya Market which isn't bad but this one had much better balance of bread to katsu ratio. Also I liked that the cabbage was very finely shredded. Coarse chunky cabbage being one of my pet peeves, be it in a Sando or Fish Taco, at least when talking fresh.

The bread was lightly toasted and the hot mustard in the spread was a nice touch too. Personally I'm more of a Menchi Katsu Sando fan (another older from Sakura here), but I thought this was a nicely executed version with maybe a Panko upgrade on the cutlet and trimming the ears off the shokupan only improvements I can think of at the moment.

This was actually maybe my third or fourth visit for breakfast (first visit here). Despite the last couple times I was the only customer, they seem to be hanging in there. Really hope they continue with the concept. Yes most of the breakfast offering is nothing I can't make at home, but so are bacon and eggs. It's all about the convenience and having more options in town.

And now with free rice and miso soup refills, I'm guaranteed a good fill. This day was the Basic Set ($3), Japanese Curry ($2), Onsen Tamago ($1). Japanese breakfast or not, gotta have my egg fix! ;)

Hinotez Japanese Restaurant, 7947 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92111

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Home Cooking Updates, Other Random Ramblings

Sorry, haven't been in the mood to write these past weeks, not sure why. From experience I tend to post more the busier I am, the blog being my outlet for stress release and personal relaxation. But definitely been making meals at home a whole lot more and as I've mentioned before, once I get into a particular dish I tend to keep making it until I feel I've mastered and earned its 'merit badge' sort of speak.

Haven't made a Mapo Tofu of any kind in a long while, especially one this spicy. This was based on one of Chin Kenichi's recipes found online. The process was easy enough, where gathering all the ingredients for it was the hardest part... Silken Tofu, ground pork, fresh garlic, Toubanjyan spicy chili paste (gotta find me some 3-year fermentation stuff), Tenmenjan sweet miso, powdered red chili peppers, Ra-yu Chili Oil, Szechuan Peppercorn Oil, Douchi preserved beans, Chinese chicken soup stock, salt, ground pepper, Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce, long onions, corn or potato starch for thickening, and of course some whole Szechuan peppercorns to crush and use at the end.

If you noticed I really prefer mine meaty with lots of ground pork. Was only my second trial with the recipe and have already made many revisions. So far swapped the Tenmenjan miso to the even sweeter Hoisin and also cut down on overall oil usage. It's all about optimal rice craving potency for me. When I feel I've gotten something very close to my liking, will be sure to share. In the meantime you can check out one of Kirk of Mmm-yoso's version and many more online.

So while I think February is going to be the month of perfecting my personal style of Mapo Tofu, last January was definitely all about the Oyakodon. Been searching any information online about the originator of the Oyakodon - Tamahide in Ningyocho. I actually tried visiting them my trip last year but unfortunately due to the New Years timing they were closed. Without saying was super bummed.

Tamahide is a close to 250 year old Shamo-Nabe specialist in Tokyo that is credited in being the "Ganso" (originator/creator) of the Oyakodon. Serving an heirloom gamefowl chicken hotpot of sorts, the course meal typically ended with some chicken meats, raw eggs and rice, tied together with the sweeter shoyu based simmer sauce Warishita. So it may not be all that hard to imagine how it came about.

But incorporating all of Mr. 6th Generation meister Kounosuke Yamada's theories of what constitutes to his definition of the perfect Oyakodon was a fun challenge. The elegantly simple dish is deceptively detailed and laborsome. Will be sharing all of what I know hopefully soon.

One of the easier noticeable difference was their 2:2:1 ratio of the the simmer sauce Warishita (as opposed to typical 4:1:1 - dashi, shoyu, mirin). That's 2-parts Kombu Dashi (And Only Kombu), 2-parts Mirin, and 1-part Soy Sauce. Still, this only gets you halfway as Tamahide's sauce has been supposed continually Tsugitashi supplemented to the mother batch now for twenty-five decades, giving it a complexity that is pretty much impossible to replicate to say the least. In any case, most proper Oyakodons may not be for everyone as they tend to look like a very rare omelet that has yet to be folded over.

Aside from those, been going out to a few older haunts again lunch wise. Hope to also share those this weekend maybe.