Friday, May 29, 2009

Halal Guy

The Halal Guy Line

You can go to almost any street corner in NYC and find some sort of Halal cart. But if you talk to anyone who lives in any of the 5 boroughs (and western NJ), they will tell you that the cart on 53rd and 6th is the king of all carts and probably the king of all street food. With continuous lines forming on weekends an hour before their 7pm opening up all the way to their 4am closing.

There is much controversy about the cart and its other locations. Most people (including me) end up standing in the original line. But thanks to some great investigative reporting by Midtown Lunch you can get your fix faster or even during the day! I still don't trust the other carts, but I can't say I've tried them out. When I want my fix, I want to make sure I am getting the right thing.

Chicken & Lamb on Rice

There's something magical about this plate of food. It really does blow all the other Halal carts out of the water. It does so many things so much better. I'm sure most of this has to do with the fact that owner and chef Mohammed Rahman isn't just some schlep off the street, but ex sous-chef at the Russian Tea Room.

The first thing is the rice. Its not the usual fluffy rice that you see in most places carts. Instead they some kind of dry pilaf. The grains are less starchy and gluttonous, which make the white sauce the perfect binding agent. The white sauce is creamier and richer than other sauces without being overly heavy. They key to it all is the hot sauce. I can't really tell whats in there other than some chipotle peppers. The heat is pretty intense and for most people a few drops will do.

For me the choice of proteins is simple. Chicken & lamb (gyro). I feel that the chicken alone is too dry and the lamb is the perfect accompaniment, adding grease, in its chopped up form.

What's magical is the interplay between all the components. Its one of those things where I am not really sure that I would want to have each component by itself, but collectively it cannot be improved.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dessert Truck

dessert truck

It seems quite the fad nowadays to take your kitchen, put it in a truck, and drive around and serve food. Its taking street food to another level. I hadn't even heard of the Dessert Truck till this weekend. I have to say, I wasn't blown away. The dessert was decent but the desire to get food there was more for the novelty. This was definitely no Kogi Truck, which I've never personally had but can only imagine its deliciousness.

There's something fun about ordering food on the street. Its not where you are supposed to eat. Real meals are supposed to take place at a table with people in chairs, not standing/walking on the street. But still street food is fun. It reminds me of ordering from the ice cream truck as a child. That's the exact feeling you get from the Dessert Cart. Its an adult version of an ice cream truck and I'm more than OK with that.

Goat cheese cake
Goat Cheese Cake - I felt this was the one dessert that would have tasted better in a traditional setting. Sometimes things just taste better with a little porcelain and metal.

Brownie with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, pretzel crunch - The perfect dessert for this setting. Gooey and good.

Vanilla Creme Brulee
Vanilla Creme Brulee - Pretty standard, nothing to write home about.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Slowly, Momofuku noodle bar is becoming one of my favorite places in the city. In my first visit, I fell in love with the pork belly steamed buns. Somewhere between that day and last weekend, I started to desire the texture and flavor of their noodles. I'm not sure whether the noodles have gotten better or if I've just learned to enjoy the slightly stiffer texture. At some point though, they started taking in a bit of the broth, without becoming soggy over time. Maybe because they've trimmed down their noodle selection, they can give a little more attention to each bowl. Either ways I've become a big fan.

I know that a huge part of my perception of David Chang and Momofuku in general has come about since my experience at Ko. I've always liked the atmosphere and playfulness but after Ko, I've come to appreciate the food a whole lot more.

In general, the food is clean, flavorful, surprisingly simple, and emotionally complex. For asian food its very refined without loosing the flavor. The menu and dishes don't really try to be too fancy. Emotionally complex? Well I think that's for everyone to figure out on their own.

Enough of words! On with the pictures!

pork belly steamed buns
Pork Belly Steamed Buns - simply divine

shitake steamed buns
Shitake Steamed Buns - the shitake's soak up the sauce so well

momofuku ramen
Momofuku Ramen – pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg - a classic

chilled spicy noodles
Chilled Spicy Noodles – sichuan spiced sausage, spinach, cashews - not really sichuan spicy but still nice, the sausage is top notch

rhubarb soft serve
Rhubarb Soft Serve - perfect tartness to end a meal


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Katz's Deli

One of the best things about having an out of town friend visit, is that you get to play tour guide and visit all the places that you generally wouldn't. Visiting the Empire State Building may not be your idea of fun, but visiting other NYC institutions generally don't disappoint. Katz's Deli is one of those places. This was actually my first time at Katz's. Its been on my list ever since I moved to NYC, but I've never actually made the time or effort to visit.

Katz's Deli

I was pretty excited as we stepped into the deli and even more as we got our samples while waiting for our sandwiches. We decided to split a pastrami (below right) and corned beef (below left), both on rye with mustard. Two classic sandwiches prepared beautifully.

Corned Beef & Pastrami Sandwiches

The corned beef was moist and flaky. It was a great sandwich. But I have to say that the pastrami blew it out of the water. The pastrami was so tender and flavorful with just the right amount of fat. It just melted in your mouth and satisfied in every bite.

Up until this point, I've always been a bit disappointed in the number and quality of deli's I found in my neighborhood. When asked about the quality of NYC deli's by my friends, I would always say that it wasn't as good as people made it out to be. But deep down inside, I knew that I had to reserve judgment until I had at least visited Katz's and Carnegie.

Now that I've been to Katz's, I'm already trying to figure out my visit to Carnegie. At least now I know what the big hype about NYC deli's are all about. But from my vantage point, the great here is great. Too bad the drop off from great to good seems pretty steep.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Homemade Bacon

My last attempt at bacon left me wanting a bit more. I wasn't fully satisfied with the results. My obvious mistake was not letting the pork cure for enough time. This time around, I also wanted to add a bit of flavor. At first I was afraid to limit the possible uses of the bacon but since I was making a very small batch I figured I would be to avoid bacon overload. I was lucky to have a giant can of pure Vermont Maple Syrup lying around and that pretty much decided my fate.

I used this recipe that was published by the LA Times from 'Charcuterie' by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Unlike my first attempt, this was a wet cure and it used curing salt. I actually found the wet cure easier to work with since I could just put everything in a Ziploc bag and just turn it over every day after work. After drying for 2 days and cooking it in the oven, I was excited to see the results.

I took out my knife and did my best to cut a not too thick slice of bacon. I failed miserably. I cooked up the bacon and found that it was too meaty. It had a nice salty maple flavor, but lacked the texture of bacon. That was the moment I decided I needed to borrow/take my father's meat slicer that was sitting in his basement.

Meat Slicer

The meat sliced made all the difference. I could still get thick bacon slices, but with cleaner cuts that cooked and looked like bacon.

Homemade Maple Bacon

I try to do as many things as I can with just basic equipment, but this is one task where I feel having a meat slicer is a must unless you have some crazy knife skills.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The more I cook and eat, especially the eating part, the more I realize how the most simple things are always great. You don't even have to have the best of ingredients (but it always helps), simple meals are great because they are simple. There's nothing to complicate them. We have enough complications in our daily lives, no need to go about exacerbating the situation.

Most of my life is built around simple meals. A quick salad (greens, olive oil, sherry or balsamic vinegar, pepper). Some salumi (salty), cheese (stinky), and bread (stale). Or a quick pasta with minimal work.

Linguine with cheese and peas

This specific pasta was just some linguine I had lying around, cooked al dente, tossed in olive oil with some frozen peas, with grated/shaved cheese. I was lucky enough to have some nice smoked gouda lying around to go along with the Parmesan, a staple in my fridge.

It was refreshingly light for what could easily become a heavy dish. Extremely comforting on a nice spring day. And took however long cooking dry pasta takes.