Muslim Noodles FTW.

This featured image shows hand-pulled noodles with spicy sauce, beef and peppers.


Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 4.19.43 PM
I thought I’d throw in another picture of a popular dish (among me and my friends) from this restaurant. It’s a simple hand pulled noodle soup with a fried egg but it always hit the spot.
I am a big fan of noodles. Like if I’m ever having difficulties figuring out what I want for lunch, hands down, if there is a noodle-soup option I’m opting for that. Hand pulled noodles are the prize though. They are chewy, and I can taste the hard-work.

These Muslim noodles are from a restaurant located in my host university in China (GuangXi Normal University).  It’s delicious. This was the first meal I had in GuiLin, so it has a special place in my heart. There are other hand-pulled noodle joints in the state so don’t be upset you can’t fly all the way to China to try it out. One of my favorite hand-pulled noodle restaurants in NYC is Xi’An Famous Foods. There are also many other hand-pulled noodle places throughout the country that I encourage you to try out.


While I still have your attention because I enticed you with food, I thought I’d include more information about the university and also the region:

A little more about the university I attended in China. It was called Guangxi Normal University. Throughout China, there are a lot of universities that have “Normal” within their name. Originally, I thought that attending a “Normal” university, meant that it was a mediocre university. However, a lot of these universities have “Normal” in their name because it means that they are a college that is not specialized in any specific field.

China_autonomous_regions_numbered.svgAlso, Guangxi Normal University is located in the city GuiLin, which is in the autonomous region of GuangXi. China has 4 autonomous regions: GuangXi (located in Southern China), Tibet and XinJiang (Western China), and Inner Mongolia (Northern China). These regions are autonomous because they contain a huge population of sub-ethnic Chinese. Most Chinese living in China are of Han-Chinese descent. Usually, not only do these regions have their own languages, but also their own kind of cuisine and cultures.

Advertisements

Williamsburg Smorgasburg – Worth it?

What surprises me the most about myself and Smorgasburg right now, is the fact that I have never been there. How is it possible that a foodie like me have never made their way to Smorgasburg??

Capture

For those who do not know what Smorgasburg is, it’s an all in one food spot for all types of cuisines. They have food from the cultures of Moroccan, Mexican, Japanese, Taiwanese, American, Italaian, and many more.

There are many vendors within Smorgasburg that you can find outside of Smorgasburg and around the city. Two that I can state on the top of my head is goa taco and C Bao. So if you find something at Smorgasburg but you cannot make it there all the time, these restaurants got you covered by having more than one location.

Me and my friends went to the one located in Williamsburg, however, Smorgasburg currently has 3 locations within NYC. Their current schedule is Saturdays in Williamsburg, Sundays in Prospect Park, and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in Varick/Canal Street. I am a little biased since I have only been to the one at Williamsburg, but the location there is great. There are a bunch of places to sit, benches and grass. Plus, you get to view Manhattan’s skyline! Since I live in Manhattan, I only ever get to see the skyline when I am crossing the bridge from other boroughs or when I hit up Brooklyn. If I ever get a chance to go to the Prospect Park or Varick/Canal Street location, I’ll do a follow up article, but for now, Williamsburg Smorgasburg is my favorite.


To see the vlog about my day at Smorgasburg with my friends, click here!


As you can see in the vlog, I got a skewer set from Yakitori Tatsu (Japanese). I got the Tatsu set which consisted of a chicken breast skewer, a pork belly skewer, and an eel skewer. It was a bit pricey, $13 for all three, but it saves you a dollar or two. Although it was expensive, the skewers were really good. My chicken breasts were cooked well, rarely smokey or burnt on the outside, and it was juicy. My pork belly skewer was awesome, but that’s also because I am a sucker for pork belly. My eel was also really good. There was the right amount of teriyaki sauce on it, and it was also not burnt or smokey. Though I do think that $13 for 3 skewers that only contained 4 pieces on each of them is expensive, it was of good quality. If it was a treat yo’self kind of day, I would treat myself to this.

Then my friend Esther got a Vegan Beef Bahn Mi from Si Chuan Bahn Mi (Vietnamese and Chinese). Although I did not get a bite of hers, she really enjoyed it. I did get to try a bit of her vegan beef because she could not believe how great it tasted. She has also been a vegetarian for a long time so she does not remember how actual meat taste like. For my regular meat eaters – you could tell it was not real meat. It kind of tasted like tofu that has been submerged and marinated in a soy sauce or stir fried sauce. Not sure if she got a half or a full, but a half is $9 while a full is $14 (since she only got one side, I believe she got a half).

For dessert I got an ice cream from Bona Bona Ice Cream. I forget what the exact item was called, but it was a scoop of ice cream topped off with a toasted marshmallow. As for ice cream, I got a cookie dough and brownie flavored ice cream. One scoop of ice cream on a cone with the toasted marshmallow was $6. For $3 more, I could have gotten an extra scoop of ice cream. I really enjoyed eating the ice cream with the warm marshmallow. It was kind of like eating a fresh baked brownie that came right out of the oven with a scoop of ice cream.

One of my other friends got a mango flower with spice or paprika sprinkled on top. I know that this can also be found around NYC with all the mango carts so this is something that may be accessible to more people.

My friend Esther was also eyeing desserts and got something from kokus. She got the vitality which had a bunch of toppings on raw cacoa. This was a really lightweight dessert that was much healthier than mine. It cost $9, so it definitely makes a dent in your wallet.


Although I really want to like Smorgasburg, I think it’s because I am a foodie that I have been going to other places for alternative food options than those at Smorgasburg. I do have to admit that all the things I got at Smorgasburg was good, and the scenery was amazing and it was a perfect way to spend my Saturday. However, my wallet would not be able to keep up. I was happy to be surrounded by all the different food at Smorgasburg so that I could see my options, but there are definitely more things within the city (all 5 boroughs) that are friendlier to your wallet for the same quality. I think the good thing is that everything is there so that you do not have to travel far if your friends want different cuisines, but once you know what you like, it might be better to venture into different places for those options.

Roll It Up just combined two awesome desserts into one store

As many people know, there has been a craze for the Ice Cream rolls and the Hong Kong egg waffles with ice cream. Up until now, there has been many pop-ups for these desserts, but there has never been a store that gave customers the option to get both at the same location.

Although the featured image only shows the Hong Kong egg waffles trust me there are many more options on their menu – take a look.


I have to say that the store is small and cozy, there are a few seats available but definitely not ideal for a big group to sit down and chat. They decorated their store with a sea theme in mind, so they have a lot of boats, fish nets, and blue objects. They definitely chose a great place to have the store because it is close to St. Marks, but not necessarily in the hectic area.

I can not say much on the other desserts that are on their menu, since I only went there once to try this Hong Kong egg waffle + ice cream, but I have a feeling I won’t be going back. It’s not that it was bad, it was good. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with this dessert. However, the order took a little longer than other Hong Kong egg waffle joints. Also, I got a green tea egg waffle, but I could barely taste the green tea. It also does not offer unlimited toppings like other egg waffle joints. The price was the same as other places, and it may be a bit more expensive if you add more toppings, which are 50 cents each. So with that being said, if the same is the same, I would rather pay the same amount but for something of better quality.


Bottom line, their main selling point is the fact that they not only have the extremely popular egg waffles dessert here, but they also have the ice cream rolls, and bubble tea. Thus, this is a great one stop shop for all your friends if you all want to stop by the same place but want different desserts or drinks. Though I do think it is great that they’re combining all this at one place, the quality is just not there. I would much rather go to a place that would be great in one kind of dessert and spend my money that way.

Puerto Rico {Day 1}

Watch my vlog here on my YouTube channel: http://bit.ly/2sRZVWc

Airbnb:

My friend Iris, who is also in the vlog, booked an Airbnb location in Old San Juan that was right next to the water. So the view was spectacular every morning. We also got that salty breeze so no air conditioner was needed. In the video, around the 0:12 mark is when you can see our Airbnb view.
The Airbnb we booked was called La Capitana – I’m having difficulty finding the exact listing. But, on my attempt on trying to look for it, I found other places in Old San Juan that has an Oceanview for a similar price.

Taxi Upon Arrival:

What amazed me about the taxi service after getting off the plane – which I did not touch upon at all in the vlog, is that there was a systematic order for how people could get a ride. Post landing, we lined up outside the airport and was asked how many people were in our party and we were given a piece of paper that stated the amount of people in the party, where we were going, and how much we would have to pay. We gave that slip of paper to the taxi driver when it was out turn, and everything worked our perfectly. Honestly, after flying and landing countless times in other countries, getting ripped off from a taxi was one of my biggest concerns. However, everything was very set and organized. We also asked the workers within the airport about pricing and everyone was on the same page. So either they were trained really well, or that’s just how things are. I’m choosing to believe that that’s just how things are.
This was just the start of me realizing how much Puerto Rico treats and caters to tourists. Cause there are a lot of us. Unlike New York City, my beloved hometown, and China, my kinda-motherland, people are not really out there to rip you off in Puerto Rico. So definitely a safe travel destination!

Los Yeyos:

This was the first place we went to cause we were starving children! Plus, I’m a foodie so I was extremely excited to try out Puerto Rican cuisine – this was the beginning of my profound love for Puerto Rican food. At Los Yeyos we got the
1) Shrimp Mofongo : mofongo is a dish with deep fried plantains that are mashed together –  every place does it differently, so you’ll definitely find a mofongo that you’ll like. Don’t give up!
2) Coconut Shrimp with fried plantains : thinking about this dish is making me hungry and salivate all over again. I’m also weak when it comes to coconut, and I guess that’s my Burmese side coming out. The fish was in a coconut sauce, but it was extremely savory and a bit salty, not creamy coconut at all. The fish also melted in your mouth! A must order at this location.
3) Beef Steak with onions, rice, and beans : I don’t think anyone can go wrong with a beef steak. It was also seasoned right and not hard to chew at all. This was my go to dish in Puerto Rico.
**We also got a regular mojito and a passion fruit mojito. I’m a big mojito lover and it definitely did not disappoint. They also had mango and/or papaya flavored mojito, even though I didn’t try it, I believe they’re worth a try.

Casa Cortés ChocoBar:

After dinner you always gotta have dessert. This place was BOMB. Everything they had incorporated some kind of chocolate. You can hear my friend in the video talking about the chocolate martini – I did not show it in the video, but it was delicious. Definitely a bit scary because you can taste the alcohol, but it was so good. You could have 3 or 4 more of those drinks and probably pass out because you were fooled.
They also had sandwiches and pastries that had chocolate. So you could have definitely had an actually meal here if you wanted. It would definitely be more on the pricer end and might not fill you up as much as compared to a regular restaurant, but you do you.

The dessert I got from the menu was a lava cake with vanilla bean ice cream on the side. It was soooo good and decadent. Plus, did you all see the gold sprinkled on my dessert in the video?! It was boujee af. If you have tasted Spot Dessert’s lava cake, its pretty much like that without the matcha. The chocolate was not as runny – it could be because they baked it for a little longer, or the cake was shorter so it did not have a lot of running chocolate. None the less, it was delicious. The vanilla ice cream was A+ Definitely had a good amount of vanilla bean in the ice cream, and I love vanilla bean ice cream with dessert.

Korean Chinese Food – For when you don’t want American Chinese food.

I did a recent post about Korean Chinese food and featured 짬(Jjam)뽕(Ppong) – a spicy seafood soup and noodle dish.

As for this post, I went to eat Korean Chinese food, or Northern Chinese food, in NYC. The restaurant I went to is called Hyo Dong Gak. This restaurant is located on 35th street and is close by to Korea town and shopping. I ended up going here because I bought a Groupon voucher and decided to head over with my family to see what was up.

Starting from the upper left hand corner of the picture, we ordered 짬(Jjam)뽕(Ppong) and it was the standard 짬(Jjam)뽕(Ppong). It was at a right level of spiciness. The noodles were thick – not udon size, and chewy. They gave a good amount of seafood to go along with the soup and noodles – I was scared that they were gonna be cheap with the seafood, but nope, they did well. They didn’t give me a lil octopus like the one in Korea, but it was still a good amount of seafood.

The upper right hand corner features 짜(Jja)장(Jang)면(Myeon), which is a noodle dish with black bean paste. Often times it just has onions and meat in the sauce, but I find that most restaurants barely give meat and only a hefty portion of onions. Or in the replacement of meat, diced potatoes. However, this restaurant was a bit more generous. It still did not give a huge serving of meat, but it gave a nice handful of meat in the huge serving. Plus, the meat were also not minced – I hate minced meat, unless in dishes like Mapo Tofu. A side note with 짜(Jja)장(Jang)면(Myeon), you have to mix the dish once it arrives because if you don’t, the noodles will stick to each other and you end up with a clump of noodles that are separate from the sauce.

The bottom pictures feature two different styles of dumplings, or in Korean 만(Man)두(Du). The ones on the left are steamed and the one on the right are fried dumplings. I find that many Americans (I’m Burmese and Chinese American, so I did not know of this before) call fried dumplings “potstickers.” The name makes sense to me now that I have made fried dumplings and they have stuck to the pot. Anywho. These are the two types of 만(Man)두(Du) listed on their menu, and I believe they do have meat in them. My mom personally liked the fried dumplings better because she loves anything fried, but I liked both. I think I would go towards the steamed dumplings more only because the other dishes can be a bit much in flavor so having steamed dumplings tones down the heaviness from the other dishes.

I have to say, the portions of each of the dishes were HUGE. So it definitely does well if you are planning to go “family style” (sharing each dish with the whole table) when coming here. Plus, the prices are super reasonable for the price you are paying.

짬뽕 – JjamPpong

짬(Jjam)뽕(Ppong)…yes, that is a whole little octopus in the soup.

Is a South Korean dish that consists of udon/thick noodles, seafood (usually clams, octopus), vegetables, and a spicy broth. You can typically find this at many Chinese-Korean restaurants that offer other dishes such as Jjajjamyeon, TangSuYuk, Fried Rice, and Dumplings. One of the most popular Chinese-Korean franchise I have seen in the Seoul and its surrounding area and cities is called Paik’s Noodle (홍콩반점). Then, there are a bunch of restaurants scattered around South Korea that sells these dishes also.

OMG OMG, squeal. I just found out that NYC’s Koreatown has one!

Although many over in the West (United States) have eaten Chinese food, they have never encountered food like this. That’s because most of the Chinese food we (Americans) are offered comes from Southern China – mainly from a province called GuangZhou. GuangZhou is a province in Southern China that is a port, thus, many Chinese were able to immigrate to the West in hopes of a better future.

Where as 짬뽕 (JjamPpong) and the other Chinese-Korean dishes are more popular in Northern China. Geographically speaking, Northern China is closer to the Korean Peninsula. In addition, there are even ethnically Chinese-Koreans due to the closeness of the two countries.

짬뽕 (JjamPpong) is one of my favorite dishes to eat while in South Korea, and that’s mainly because I am a sucker for noodle soup dishes. It is perfect to eat in the winter because of the spicy and warm broth. However, I’d eat this all year round – whether the weather is hot, cold, humid, etc …

Some of my friends (mainly other Americans) even use this as a hangover soup, though Korea does have their own hangover soup such as Haejang-guk (해장국) – which will be mentioned in another post.

Shake Shack | Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea

Shake Shack has yet to make its way to the West Coast, but it has made it all the way to the far east: South Korea.

Like others who were in South Korea this summer, I was extremely excited to find out that Shake Shack was going to open up in Gangnam (강남). Many of you are familiar with Gangnam due to the song, Gangnam Style by Pay. Before Shake Shack had opened up, I would pass by it once in a while when I would walk through Gangnam, and best believe, I was counting down the days for it to open up to the public.

I was unable to go to thee opening day of Shake Shack,  July 21, because I went to the Boryeong Mud Festival (보령머드축제), which I will have a separate posting about (click here). So, I went the second opening day, and yep, there was a line. Despite the size of the line, it went by pretty fast as compared to how long I thought it would take. We waited from ~6pm to ~7pm on a Saturday! Given the time we went, which was dinnertime, and the day we went, second opening day AND a weekend, the line really did not take that long.

IMG_20160723_193743

Now lets talk about the food.

We all ordered something different, so on our table we had a ShackBurger (cheeseburger), a SmokeShack (cheeseburger, with bacon), regular fries, cheese fries, red bean shake, and the shake of the week: blueberry lemonade.
Here is also the full extensive menu (sorry, it’s almost all in Korean!)

Now, being a New Yorker, and having had tasted Shake Shack in New York, which I believe is the most authentic place, I think my expectations were a little high. Let me start off with the good and trickle down from there.

The shakes! Ooo, they were good. The red bean shake tasted only like vanilla to me, and the red bean was kinda missing, but it was still good. However, the shake of the week: blueberry lemonade, was really good. There was a great blend of the two flavors and it was a rich shake, but not heavy. I also really liked that this flavor is something I do not think would ever come across in the locations in America, so not only was it good, but it was also unique to South Korea and Shake Shacks all over.

The fries. They were also pretty good. My friend got the cheese fries, and it was not that great. The cheese ended up drying up and rather than having gooey and cheesy fries, you had more of a layer of cheese and another layer of fries. Now I can’t say that all cheese fries are like this in Shake Shack, since I have never ordered cheese fries while I was at the New York locations, but personally, I’d like my fries and cheese blended together. The regular fries were good, and what I love about Shack Shake fries is the fact that it is not skinny strips like McDonald’s. You can actually taste the potato and there is more to the fries than just the oil and salt. A little off topic, but I also really liked the mustard. My student, I taught English in Korea at the university for three weeks, hated mustard because apparently it is not like Korean mustard, which is sweet, while ours is salty and sour. I mean, if you’re going to open a Western joint like Shake Shack, you got to keep the basics the same.

Speaking about basics, lets talk about the burgers. So I got a ShackBurger, which was a beef patty with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and buns. The beef patty was not that great. It was not packed together (?), it was not assembled well (?). I honestly do not really know how to put it in words, other than, the quality of this patty was not what I thought it was going to be, given it is a Shake Shack burger. Usually the patties are one condensed, juicy pieces. But this one just did not feel like the quality of a good hefty patty. There were also some chunks in the patty that were not chewable, which kind of felt like they just threw in every part of the cow – like they would at McDonald’s. The lettuce was also disappointing. It was a limp lettuce. There was no freshness, not crunch, and there was also only one. Overall, this burger was just an okay burger. As a matter of fact, I think other joints could have beaten this burger, like Mom’s Touch, even McDonald’s, and Burger King. It still beats Lottery, Korea’s fast food chain, though, so that’s good.

Hate to kind of leave it on a bad note, but it was a great experience, and though the Shake Shack joint in South Korea did try to stay true to Shake Shack and its originality, it just did not come through for me.

I am hoping that the reason why the quality was not that great was because it was the opening and that there was too much of an inflow of customers. With that being said, if you are in South Korea, and in the city Seoul, if you happen to be in Gangnam, do check out this area and judge it for yourself.