February 28, 2016

Ramen, I Can't Quit You

I figured a four month break was about right, or maybe I'm just bored. Either way, I'm checking back in on this blog thing that I haven't updated since November with a testimony to my love of ramen. I think I'm becoming obsessed. Here's some updates on recent ramen eats in NYC and beyond. Anyone up for a trip to Japan?
First stop for ramen in NYC was at Nakamura. Shigetoshi "Jack" Nakamura is a bit of ramen legend. He was considered one of the a ramen God in Japan before launching several successful ramen shops in LA and NYC in partnership with Sun Noodles. He's back with his own place, a tiny little shop near the Williamsburg Bridge on the LES. There's a limited  menu, four ramen bowls, and a couple of appetizers. The not-very-traditional-curry-spiced ramen above is one of the specialties. Rich, almost stew-like spicy-chicken broth topped with curried beef and bean sprouts. Awesome on a cold night in the city.
We also tried Nakamura's more traditional torigara, chicken broth with shoyu tare, chashu, menma and spinach. This is the ramen you are looking for. Everything about it was what I think of when I think of ramen. The depth of flavor in the stock is something I just don't get at home, no matter how hard I try. Rich, salty, but not too salty, earthy...it just works. I've been dreaming about Nakamura ever since our visit, I wish I could get something like it around here. If you happen to be in NYC and like ramen, it's a must-visit. But get there early as the 6 or so tables and 6 counter stools will fill up fast. And say hi to Jack as he makes his rounds checking in on every table of slurpers.
We also stopped by Gotham West Market for a couple bowls of ramen at Ivan Ramen's Slurp Shop. The Slurp Shop is the more casual, second ramen shop from Ivan Orkin, coming after his flagship shop in the west village. Gotham West Market is similar to Atlanta's Krog Street Market, with a half-dozen food stalls and restaurants for grazing and eating. I had wanted to try Ivan Ramen for some time, his book (along with David Chang's Momofuku) being one of the books that really focused my ramen cooking and fostered my obsession. Unlike Nakamura, The Slurp Shop offers you many choices for your bowl. You pick a broth (shoyu, shio, etc) and build form there. The shoyu above was rich and dark, with a salt level just to the point of being too salty without being too salty (as David Chang says it should be).
The shio ramen is really Ivan Ramen's star. It's the recipe featured in his book, for good reason. It's a seafood and chicken base that is intensely smokey (smoked fish) and salty. The chashu (pork belly) is meltingly tender. I'd still like to make it to the original Ivan Ramen one day, but the Slur Shop works if you are in the area.
Another solid ramen, this one at Gan Shan Station in Asheville. Tonkotsu all the way; dark, fatty pork stock with a rich, oily texture and enough spice to burn just a bit. Love the black sesame touch, too. This is a cool place I'd spend time at if I lived in the area. Everything on the menu sounded great. If only I had more time, and more space in the belly.
Finally, my take on Ivan Ramen's shio ramen. The broth is a combo of chicken stock with a dashi of dried squid tentacles, mackerel, sardines, and katsobushi shavings. Topped with slow roasted pork belly, six minnute-egg, and some scallions. It's a time consuming bowl to make, but I like to spread it out over a couple of days and just engage the process. Whipping up a solid bowl of ramen at home is totally satisfying.

November 8, 2015

Japan, Vietnam, Korea (Ramen, Pho, Bibimbap)

My family seems to think I've become obsessed with foods from Asian cultures lately. From Sichuan, to pho, to Korean japchae, to ramen, I just can't get enough of the flavors. And there's still so much to learn. I had some of the usual suspects over for a night of ramen a couple weeks back. We made to versions, my old standby, Ivan Orkin's shio ramen (pictured above), and chicken paitan (below).
Chicken paitan is full of rich, fatty chicken flavor, extracted from the pounds of chicken feet in the stock. Yes, you want fatty stock, so put in some chicken feet! Both of these ramen bowls were as good as most ramen you can get around town and there's nothing quite like knowing how to make a decent ramen at home. It's not as difficult as you might think.
Chicken and country ham pho has become one of my favorite go-to soups. The recipe comes from Ed Lee's terrific book, Smoke & Pickles. The key to a good pho broth is that it is super-clean. Lee's stock calls for simmering a whole chicken, with onion and ginger, with the slightest little bubble of a boil for about two hours. Even when not making pho, this has become my favorite recipe for pure, clean chicken stock.
After lunching at Yet Tu on Buford Highway, I added Korean food to my new list of things to obsess about. Although, Ed Lee's book referenced above is a Korean-Southern mashup, so the flavors are familiar. I recently made bibimbap, the traditional Korean rice bowl that can be topped with just about anything. I used seasoned ground beef, carrots, spinach, a gochujang sauce and more. A satisfying bowl of goodness on a rainy, wet night. 
While I was at it, I also made kimchi pancakes. Keep your batter ice cold to get the fried pancake good and crunchy and you have a fun Korean party snack.

October 17, 2015

Obsessed with Sichuan

I'm becoming increasingly obsessed with Sichuan food. You can see here and here and here....Last week I had some of the usual suspects over for a night of cooking Sichuan dishes. Without planning to do so, must of us references Fuschia Dunlop's works in preparing these dishes. I did not make all of these dishes, it was a team effort, but here is a snippet of what we did. Above is boiled, fiery and spicy beef. Wicked hot, and the brisket achieved a level of tenderness I wouldn't have thought possible with this preparation. Awesome.
Husband and wife beef slices. A classic dish, traditionally made with lung and organ meats, but ours was brisket. Less spicy than the previous dish with added complexity from the peanuts and greens to round things out. Great dish.

A pretty standard riff on dry-fry green beans, though I never seem to get this dish quite right.
Poached white fish doused in chilis (fresh and pickled). This was perhaps the dish of the night. Be brave and feel the burn. Thanks to this guy for making this tasty dish. And it looks kick ass, too.
Spicy chicken pot. Fun little number. We managed to each crank out some tasty dishes taking turn manning the stove in my wish-it-was-a-heeluvalot-bigger galley kitchen.
With all the spice, you need wines that carry some residual sugar, like the Riesling and Gewurztraminer from legendary Alsatian producer Zind-Humbrecht.
These Rieslings were pretty good as well. And they can be found at Le Caveau in Chamblee if you are local and looking.

October 5, 2015

Recent Cooking Exploits

A quick update on some recent cooking exploits. As the weather finally cool off a bit, it's time to get back to some heartier dishes. The lasagna bolognese is as decadent a lasagna as you could possibly want to eat. It's filling, and a fun splurge. The recipe comes from Kenji, and like many of his successful recipes, he does the research to create the best possible final product. This lasagna requires you make an all-day bolognese, so plan ahead. It also a features an uber-rich  besciamella sauce that the entire thing bathes in. Did I say it was decadent?
As I said above, cooler weather brings out some of my favorite recipes like the David Chang's take on ramen. I had been making Ivan Orkin's seafood stock-based ramen last year, but went back to the traditional tonkotsu with Chang's recipe. The rich stock topped with pork belly, pork butt, soft-boiled egg, some nori and scallion will make you happy. I'm not really a student of ramen, I've probably had my own as often as I've had others. That being said, I was quite happy again with the results.

The key here is simmering five pounds of pork neck bones, along with some smoked hocks, for about 7 hours. There's nothing like the richness of a fatty-all-day pork broth.

September 21, 2015

Recent Gavage

I've been busy and not posting here like I once did. I do some work for Eater Atlanta now which takes time and thought away from my updates here. Since I still take obnoxious amounts of pictures of food and wine, here are some things I've been in to this month.

Banh Mi at Guy Wong's Le Fat on the Westside. A nice crunchy and airy baguette (as it should be), ours were stuffed with head chesse and pate (traditional) and the other was lemongrass steak. Good, solid banh mi. Maybe a bit pricey at $10 when you can get 5 for $10 at Quoc Huang on Buford Highway (lol), but these were quite nice for in-town banh mi.
Le Fat's red oil dumplings. Good, but tough to compete with the brilliant recent renditions at Good Luck Gourmet.
Ponce City Market's restaurants are finally coming to life. As of this weekend, Holeman & Finch's two outposts, H&F Burger and Hop's fried chicken were open. The fried chicken sandwich above was, eh, uninspiring. Almost as good as Chik-Fil-A! Judging from the huge crowds already at PCM, all the food stalls will do well and foodies will rave about it and your Instagram feed will blow up with all the food pics...and so on...
Squid ink spaghetti at No. 246 in Decatur. One of the better dishes I've had there in some time.
The slight chill in the air last weekend had me thinking red wine again, finally. Figured it was time to check-in on this Mourvedre from my friends, Dirty and Rowdy. This was a nice match with ribs and brisket smoked on the Big Green Egg. The Dirty & Rowdy wines are popping up around town with more frequency now, so be on the lookout and give the local boys a shot if you've not yet tried their truly idiosyncratic wines.