Friday, January 29, 2010

Handmade Udon Noodles at Onya!

If you know me, you know that I love noodles.  The noodle gene runs deep in the Choi Family.  We could (and we have) eat noodles for every meal ... maybe even for several consecutive days.  I actually don't really like rice that much.  Gasp!  Someone once told me that's like an Asian person who can't use chopsticks.  It's funny because I'm totally a noodle person and MrMC is totally a rice person.  Must be true that opposites attract.  

I like soupy noodles best, but there's really no type of noodle I will pass up: sauteed, pan-fried, boiled, steamed, in a soup, not in a soup, in a sauce, not in a sauce, with meat, without meat, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Viet, Thai, Italian, flat, long, short, curly, straight, thin, thick, cold, hot, warm, clear, white, yellow, brown, crunchy, soggy, egg-based, rice-based, flour-based, slippery, dry, spicy, mild...  Noodles are so versatile!  There's so much you can do with noodles!  I love noodles!

So, a few of my girlfriends and I met up for a girly night at Donburiya and my friend mentioned that Onya next door made fantastic noodles - especially for lunch.  So, naturally, I dragged my lunch crew from work there the next day and we loved it!  The noodles were handmade fresh - so they were super chewy too!

143 East 47th St (bw Lexington & 3rd)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Secret Chewy Seafood Pa Jun (Savory Korean Pancakes)

I recently discovered something new and I thought I would share it with you.  To be completely honest, I hesitated a little bit because it was my little cooking secret.  But hey, I guess this is what blogging is all about, right?  (BEWARE: If I ever see this in a cookbook that doesn't have my name of it - I will sue you).  
Ah-hem, where was I... Oh yes, one of the first Korean recipes I learned to make was pa jun (savory Korean pancakes).  Preme always rags on me bc I always say everything is so easy to make, but I'm not lying.  Pa jun is seriously so easy to make.  I promise!  And it's very versatile.  Add some chopped up kimchi and you have kimchi pa jun.  Chop up some seafood and you have seafood pa jun.  Just chop up veggies and you have veggie pa jun.

Anyway, my eternal beef with pa jun was that it was good and all, but it was too dry.  It needed more texture.  More chewiness!  So with a little experimentation, I came up with this recipe.  Maybe you like traditional pa jun and may not like my chewy-take on it.  But give it a go and let me know :)

Cook-to-Eat-to-Be Happy Time: 20 min
Difficulty: 1 2 3 4

  • Scallions - 2 stalks
  • Carrot - 1
  • Zucchini - 1/2
  • Onion - Small
  • Calamari - 1/4 cup (You can also add small shrimp, if you like)
  • Buchim mix (savory pancake mix) - 1 cup
  • Potato starch - 1/2 cup (** Secret Ingredient **)
  • Water - 1 cup
  • (Will yield about 8 small pancakes; 3 large pancakes)
  • Soy sauce - 3 parts
  • Vinegar - 1 part
  • Gochu garu (red pepper flakes) - 1 teaspoon
  • Sugar - 1 teaspoon

1. Chop scallions diagonally (bc it's prettier) into 2 inch lengths.
2. Chop onion into 1/4 in slices
3. Use a mandolin to slice carrot and zucchini.
4. Chop calamari into 1/2 bite-size pieces.

5. Mix pancake mix, potato starch, and water in large bowl.

6. Add chopped veggies and calamari.

7. Consistency should be slightly thinner than breakfast pancakes.  
NOTE: The veggie:batter ratio is really personal preference - and like I said, this is supposed to be easy so there's no real wrong way.  But my advice is, you want your veggies thin enough that it'll cook fast and evenly on a pan.  I actually cut my onions too thick here.

8. Add a little oil to a medium-high heat pan and fry small pancakes.
NOTE: If you want to be a pancake rockstar, go ahead and make a big one and cut it up with a pizza cutter and serve them like they do at the restaurants.  My attempts to do this in the past have resulted in half flipped, half ripped, ugly pancakes.  So I stick with the minis.  My mom used to make minis so that we could sit at the table and eat fresh hot minis one after another while she fried them up on the stove.  Mom - We used to complain cuz you were always busy cooking while we ate, but now I get it.  You are so smart!  :)

9. Make your sauce.  It should be salty, yet tart, with a lil sweetness.
10. Eat & Be Happy!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Xie Xie with My 'Peng You's!

Many Asians say there's something special about alcohol that brings people together.  It may be true, but sometimes people + alcohol, sometimes does not = the type of togetherness you had initially had in mind, before adding the alcohol.

But people + food, is rarely a bad combination.  What can possibly go wrong with that combination?  What is there NOT to love?  As long as you don't overeat and/or get sick (of the food or the people), you're filling your belly with food and laughter.  All good-for-you stuff :)

My hungry friends and I moseyed over to Xie Xie (means 'Thank You,' in Chinese) and feasted on an assortment of sammiches.  (BTW, 'Peng You,' is 'Friend' in Chinese - Sorry, meant to tell you that earlier).  Being separated from Zanzibar by just a curtain, apparently Xie Xie is owned by the same owner.  It's actually a great concept because in most cases people + alcohol, usually = munchies.  Anyway, it was delicious and I will let the sammiches speak for themselves:

Xie Xie
645A 9 Avenue
New York City, NY 10036
(212) 265-2975

Asian Lobster Roll ($16) - Tender, juicy, expensive, but delish

Vietnamese BBQ Beef ($10.50) - Hamburgarization of the original Viet Bahn Mi; so fresh!

Fish Chaca La Vong ($9.75) - Didn't get a taste but heard a lot of muffled "omg this is mMmMmm..." from it's ingesters

Sweet Glazed Pork ($9.50) - Wow. A little sweet, but wow. Finger-lickin' good.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crispy Tofu

When I'm feeling too lazy to cook, I usually default to fried egg over buttered rice + kimchi. I actually really love this makeshift dinner – but my mom yells at me cuz it doesn’t have enough nutrition. Funny thing is, it used to be Dad’s specialty when Mom couldn’t cook us dinner! Anyway, my mom’s solution to adding some quick and easy nutrition to your lazy dinner night is crispy fried tofu.If you think tofu is boring, this is a great foolproof recipe to try tofu in a new way.

Cook-to-Consume Time: 10 min
Difficulty: 1 2 3 4

  • Cooking oil - 2 Tablespoons
  • Firm tofu- 1 package
  • Salt - 1 dash
  • Scallions - 1 stalk
  • Soy sauce - 3 Tablespoons
  • Vinegar - 1 Tablespoon
  • Korean red pepper flakes ("gochu garu") - 1 Tablespoon
  • Sugar - 1 teaspoon
  • Sesame oil - 1 teaspoon
1. Add oil to pan and turn heat to medium high.
2. Drain water from tofu package and pat tofu dry with paper towel.
3. Sear tofu until all sides are seared golden brown (approx. 2 min per side).
4. Salt lightly and let rest for a few minutes.

1. Chop scallion into thin slices.
2. Combine scallion, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, gochu garu, and sesame oil in small bowl and mix.
(Assembly) 1. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices.
2. Drizzle sauce generously over tofu.
3. Yummy in my tummy... Eat & Be Happy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hearty Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

What the heck happened to the weather this week?? When it’s this cold, all I want is a hot bowl of hearty soup. I used to always have a can of cambell’s chunky soup in the pantry, but after my first pot of homemade soup I haven’t been able to go back to the canned stuff. It’s so easy, so fresh, so not pumped with sodium, so delicious! Give it a try. You can even keep some of it frozen for another cold day.

Cook-to-Consume Time: 30 min (if you’re impatient) – 1 hr (if you’re willing to wait)
Difficulty: 1 2 3 4


  • Chicken stock – 1 box
  • Egg noodles – 2 cups dried
  • Assortment of Beans (canned or dried)
  • Chicken – 2 boneless chicken thighs
  • Garlic – 1 teaspoon
  • Onion – 1 medium
  • Celery – 4 stalks
  • Carrots – 2
  • Potatoes – 4
  • little red ones (or 1 big brown one)
  • Herbs
1. Soak your beans according to the instructions on the package.

Note: I learned my beans were suppose to soak overnight. Do I look like someone that plans that far in advance? I don’t think so. I just soaked them while I prepped everything else and chucked them in the soup. I don’t recommend this. They tasted better the next day after they had soaked in the soup overnight :) For simplicity, I recommend you go for the canned beans. But what I like about the packaged beans is they sell assorted beans (14 kinds!) good for soup.

2. Bring pot of water to a boil and add egg noodles. When ready, drain, wash, set aside.

3. Meanwhile, chop chicken and all eggies into bite-size pieces.
Note: Don’t chop veggies too small, or else they will disintegrate and become mush in your soup.

4. Add a little oil to a large pot and brown chicken. Add garlic / salt / fresh pepper, if you like.
5. Add veggies and chicken stock.
6. Add as much water as chicken stock. (1:1 ratio).

7. Add herbs you like. I put a pinch of the following: thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary + 2 bay leaves.

8. Add beans.
9. Boil for as long as you can wait. The longer the yummier.

1. Add egg noodles to bowl.
2. Ladle soup over egg noodles.
3. Eat & Be Happy!

MrMC made curried rice to go alongside our soup – but unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture. I’ll get better at this picture business, I promise!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

IKEA: I Kwikly Eat All

What in the world… Did you know that IKEA was founded in 1943 by a 17-year-old boy in Sweden?! Did you know that I.K.E.A = Ingvar Kamprad (his name) + Elmtaryd (the farm he grew up on) + Agunnaryd (his home parish in South Sweden)? When I was 17, I was cutting class to shoot pool and hang out at diners. Maybe I should’ve spent more time thinking about how to make furniture out of composite wood that would fit in a flat box…
I felt that it was finally time to get my TV off the floor. So this weekend, the two sweetest and strongest boys in my life, my brother (urbanclay) and MrMC, took me to IKEA to finally buy a TV stand/bookshelf/storage system. Woop! Woop! But before we got down to furniture-business, first thing was first: FOOD. Have you ever been to the IKEA cafeteria?! It was my first time, and boy – by the time I got to the register, my tray was packed with enough food to feed a small village. If you haven’t been – you must. All this for $12! In NYC! Unbelievable…

("I just want a lil mac'n'cheese..." turned into this! I ate...)

... and I was happy! Ta-da! Finally, a home for my shiny TV :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BonChon is Open!

It’s BonChon time!! MrMC and I went to BonChon on John Street and enjoyed a large order of finger-lickin’ delicious Korean fried chicken. Korean fried chicken has been taking NYC by storm in the past 2 years and I am grateful for the fried blessing. We’re still not used to taking pictures for you before we demolish our food, so I apologize for the half eaten chicken at the top. Poor MrMC – I practically made him spit it out so we could take the picture!

Before ...

... and after!

If you want to taste them all, here are some NY Mag and NY Times guides to Korean fried deliciousness:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Garden Chicken Alfredo

This is a great dish that can feed many tummies with the same effort it takes to feed just one. I would call this “semi-homemade” but I don’t want to be compared to Sandra Lee. I have honestly never attempted to make my own alfredo. It seems simple enough – but not as simple as buying it in a jar. Try this dish with different combos of vegetables. Just remember, most pasta dishes taste best when the colors of the Italian flag are represented. Something green (broccoli, peas, basil, etc), something white (cheese, alfredo, onion, etc), something red (tomatoes, red pepper, pepper flakes, etc). Endless possibilities!

Cook-to-Consume Time: 30 min
Difficulty: 1 2 3 4

  • Chicken - 2 boneless thighs
  • Pasta - 3/4 box
  • Alfredo sauce - 1 jar
  • Garlic - 1 teaspoon
  • Broccoli - 1 bunch
  • Grape tomatoes - 1/2 container
  • Optional: Sun-dried tomatoes - 10 tomatoes
  • Optional: Grated parmesan - to taste
  1. Bring water to boil in large pot
  2. Add pinch of salt (for taste) and olive oil (to keep the bubbles down)
  3. Add pasta

  1. While pasta is cooking:
  • Wash and cut broccoli
  • Wash and halve grape tomatoes
  • Chop sun-dried tomatoes into 1/4" slivers
  • Chop garlic
  • Cut chicken to bite-size chunks
The amount of each ingredient you use, is up to you. If you like a lot of broccoli, go nuts. If you like tomatoes, go nuts. Just remember to keep your vegetable to sauce ratio in mind.
NOTE: I used to preach the importance of using fresh garlic, but 1. I don't like how it makes my fingers smell for 2 days and 2. I can't be bothered anymore and 3. Chopped jarred garlic lasts longer and makes my life easier. Only problem is that these dang jars are so hard to open! When MrMuscles isn't around, I go for the smack-edge-with-spoon technique my mom taught me. Works every time.

  1. Drain pasta and wash with cold water (stops over-cooking) and add a little olive oil (keeps from sticking)
  2. Turn heat to High
  3. Add olive oil to same pot (1 less pan to wash)
  4. Add garlic (don't burn the garlic!)
  5. Add chicken and cook until almost (but not fully) done
  6. Add broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes (2 min)
  7. Add alfredo sauce and grape tomatoes (these go last; otherwise they overcook and lose their shape)
  8. Plate pasta and add sauce on top
  9. Eat & Be Happy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oh How I Long For Thee

Since the day I saw the temporary banner for BonChon Chicken on top a vacant shop on 104 John Street, I have been waiting patiently (ok - not so patiently), for Opening Day. Open already! I mean, come on. Look at their storefront design. It's like the unit itself is gift wrapped with black ribbon, waiting to be opened, waiting to bring delight to all those who enter. So, come on, people, open already!

MrMC is always scolding me for yelling at the 'Coming Soon' sign. 'Soon' means, 'The next time I check, you will be open and I will fall in love with you all over again.' 'Soon' does not mean, 'Every time I come back to check, you continue to tease me with your empty 'Coming Soon' promises, and leave my belly empty and my heart longing for spicy crispy finger-licking-deliciousness.'

Korean fried chicken, I love you. Please come soon.