Eating in Houston 2 – Snail Eating “ăn ốc”

One of my favorite things to do is veg out and watch food vlogs on YouTube. Some of my favorite episodes involve YouTubers that travel to Vietnam and eat snails or ốc.

In Vietnam they have these restaurants that are dedicated to snails and shellfish, which I happen to think is an amazing combination. I LOVE shellfish and have only had escargots once, but the thought of having a meal made up on different types of snails and shellfish sounds awesome to me.

Well, in Houston there is a restaurant called One Hot Pot & Grill that I found on Yelp that has snails on their menu. I thought to myself- this is it. You’re finally going to get to try out some ốc! Despite my stomach issues I was super excited.

One Hot Pot & Grill had a large selection of snails and shellfish on their menu and it was hard not to order all of them. My eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach that night. My sister and I treated it like a once in a life time experience and just ordered what we wanted.

These are grilled ark shells with crispy shallots and green onions. It really reminded me of blood cockles, which I absolutely love. It came with salt and pepper, chili paste, lime and fish sauce for added flavor. The grilled ark shells were really good. I wished that I had some Thai “seafood sauce”, which is mostly made from lime juice, fish sauce, garlic and Thai chilis. It would have put this dish over the top.

This was the grilled cherry stone clams which was prepared the same way as the ark shells. I didn’t realize they were pretty much the same dish just with different shellfish. These clams were pretty good, but a little too chewy. I’m not sure if it was because it was over cooked or if that’s how they normally are.

This dish was one of the ones that I was most excited to try. I see food vloggers eating this in Korea, Japan, Vietnam and pretty much all over that part of the world. I’ve never tried it so I was really looking forward to it. This is a type of sea snail. I do not know what the name of it is, but in order to eat it you have to carefully pull the little critter out of it’s windy shell.

Here is the sea snail out of it’s shell. It’s pretty big and looks off putting, but you know that it went right into my mouth. I’m not sure if I can describe what it tasted like. It had a neutral taste to it. It did have it’s own unique flavor, but it was really mild. All you’re getting is the texture which was soft and slightly chewy. I really liked this sea snail and enjoyed dipping it in the fish sauce that came with it. The sauce was pretty much where all the flavor came from.

The last snail dish that I wanted to share with you was by far the best one. This is Ốc len xào dừa or mud creeper snails in a coconut curry sauce. You eat these snails by sucking them out of their shells, which is not the easiest thing to do by the way. I’ve been told that there is a technique to getting the snails out. I didn’t know the technique so I kind of had a hard time. Some were easier than others to suck out and some wouldn’t budge. There were a couple of times that I become light headed from trying to get the meat out. 🙂

The coconut sauce was so good. It reminded me of Thai green curry. It wasn’t as spicy and did not have the aromatics, but it did remind me of it.

So, that was my snail eating adventure. I ate so much my stomach was going to explode. Even though I was still suffering from that irritating stomach virus I ate like I was at 100%. An hour after dinner I did not feel all that great, but that’s a story for another time!!!

Eating in Houston 1 – Subgum Noodle Soup

It has been a really long time since I’ve blogged. I kind of got stuck in a rut. I was still eating and taking food pictures for Instagram, but I wasn’t really interested in blogging. I’ve been extremely busy at work. My anxiety was bothering me and on top of that I caught a really bad case of food poisoning. That was not fun at all. It was during the time I was ill that I had to go to Houston for my sister’s fellowship graduation. Talk about the worst time to have nausea. Do you know how much amazing food you can find in Houston???

Despite the fact that I was sick I still ate everything that sounded good on menus and things that I’ve been wanting to try for a while now.

My sister had been talking about this noodle soup bowl at Tan Tan Restaurant for a while. I had heard about this noodle soup so much that I knew I had to try it. Soup is great when you’re not feeling well so I was pretty happy to have this as my first official Houston meal.

This is the Subgum noodle soup. There was a lot going on in this bowl. It had fried pork intestines, slices of pork kidney and liver, shrimp, fish balls, pork balls and sliced pork. The soup is a clear broth and you choose between two types of noodles. Egg or large flat rice noodles. I love egg noodles so I went with that one.

I really liked this noodle soup a lot. It reminded me of noodle soups that I had eaten in Thailand. So it gave me the nostalgic feels even though this wasn’t a Thai noodle soup. I’m not too sure if it was Chinese either even though we were at a Chinese restaurant (at least I think it was). Vietnamese, maybe? Anyway, no matter which culture claims it this noodle soup was delicious!

I know this soup isn’t for everyone. I mean it has fried intestines, kidneys and liver in it so I know a lot of people are thinking – GROSS! I  happen to like this stuff so it was great for me. Unfortunately, due to my illness I was unable to eat a lot of it. I managed to eat enough to know that I would order it again.

So, if you’re in Houston and in China Town give this noodle soup a try at Tan Tan!

 

Three Cup Chinese Dish with Squid, Duck Tongue & Duck Intestine

Have you ever heard of a Chinese dish called sanbeiji or three cup? The most popular is three cup chicken. It’s a dish that’s derived from using three cups of sauces. These are soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. It’s believed that the traditional recipe calls for soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar with ginger, garlic and basil. The chicken is cooked in an earthen ware pot with the sauces until it’s all evaporated into the meat. I have had three cup squid, which was amazing. However, I have not had the pleasure of trying the chicken version.

At Yama Izakaya’s Legacy location where they serve Japanese and Chinese cuisine, my mom and I always order the three cup dish with squid, duck tongue and duck intestine. The first time I saw this on the menu it made me pause. The three proteins that make up this dish just seemed like the oddest combination. I happen to like odd combinations so I had to give it a try. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The duck tongue and intestines are deep fried before being added with the rest of the ingredients. I am not sure about the squid. I don’t think it’s fried, but I could be wrong. The duck tongue has a nice crunch to it due to the cartilage that runs down the middle. It tastes mainly of the sauces that it’s absorbed and is a lot of fun to eat. The duck intestines have a funky taste to them. They are intestines after all, but I happen to like that taste. It has a chewy texture and the taste can be off putting to some. To be honest with you even though the menu says duck intestines I think it may actually be pork… The pieces were awfully large for duck. I could be wrong though.

The squid was cooked perfectly. It was tender and slightly chewy and not rubbery. The fried basil in this dish takes it over the top. There’s just something about fried basil leaves that makes anything amazing.

The interesting thing about the most recent time we ordered this dish is that they served the squid whole with the eggs inside them. They usually cut up larger size squid in rings and strips. I assume these smaller squids were in season which is why we got the extra treat inside. Squid eggs are one of my all time favorite things to eat so to say I was delighted about this find is an understatement.

Anyway, if you see three cup on a Chinese menu I highly recommend that you order it. You don’t have to get this version. I can vouch that the three cup squid is delicious and I’m sure the chicken is too.

This is not a three cup dish, but the ramen took such a pretty picture that I had to share!

A Day in the Life 5: Temple Food

As a Thai-American I don’t normally go to Thai restaurants, because I can get great Thai food at home. On the occasions that I do go to Thai restaurants it’s typically not very authentic and it’s also really pricey. Why is that?! Anyway, the best Thai food that I’ve ever found in North Texas is at the Buddhist temple. You can always find interesting and very authentic dishes that you normally wouldn’t be able to find at restaurants.

This past weekend my family and I went to Wat Keller, a Theravada Buddhist temple, that we’ve been going to since I was a little girl. We typically go for what I call (probably incorrectly) the lunch service. The monks are allowed one meal a day which is normally at 11am and no later than noon. People who visit the temple bring food offerings for the monks since they do not cook for themselves. Once the monks have finished their meal whatever’s left over becomes a huge pot luck for worshippers.

I want to share with you some of the Thai and Laotian dishes that were offered during our visit. The temple that we go to has a lot of Thai and Laotian worshippers which is why you’ll find both cuisines there. My mother made Kai Pa Lo, which is a five spice stew made with pork, tofu and hard boiled eggs.

img_0540.jpgYou can kind of see the dish my mom brought in the bowl on the right. In this picture you have a large platter of marinated pork ribs that are cut into inch and a half pieces. I couldn’t tell if they were fried or grilled. They were pretty dry which is the way they’re supposed to be. I ate a bunch with sticky rice. Delicious!

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This is a platter of larb, which is a Thai and/or Laos minced meat salad. I can’t tell if this dish was Thai or Laotian, because our foods are pretty similar. This larb had offals in it. Can you see the pieces of liver and tripe? I really enjoyed this dish. It was spicy and bursting with flavor. Lots of lime juice, fish sauce, dried seasonings, green onions and cilantro.

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This is a nice big platter of veggies for nam phrik or chili relish. There are fresh long beans, Thai eggplants and cucumbers. When I was a kid I did not like Thai eggplants. In it’s raw form it’s crunchy, full of seeds and sometimes a little mealy. Now that I’m grown I can fully appreciate this vegetable. I love eating it with nam phrik.

img_0546.jpgThai and Laotian foods are not the only cuisines you can find at the template. Someone brought pizza, barbecue ribs and donuts! 🙂

img_0547.jpgThere’s not a lot left, but the platter to the right is the fish version of larb. I believe it was made with some type of grilled fish. My mom’s version is made with boiled fish, which adds liquid to the dish. I like both versions, but mom’s has to be my favorite.

img_0548.jpgLastly but not least is a large pot of Gang Nor Mai, which is a spicy bamboo and yanang soup. Gang means soup and Nor Mai means bamboo. This soup is sometimes referred to as Gang Laos as well, because of it’s popularity in the Isan region of Thailand which has a lot of Laotian influence.

As you can see from the dishes I’ve shared I ate extremely well during our trip to the Buddhist temple. I can always find items there that my mom normally doesn’t make or doesn’t know how to make. It gives me an opportunity to eat like I would in Thailand, which is nice. It was an amazing day spiritually and gastronomically.

Boiling Wok – All About Hot Pot

My friend Yue told me about a new hot pot restaurant that had opened up in Carrollton. The restaurant is in an area that I’m super familiar with, but since it’s literally hidden behind Daiso so I had no idea it was there!

The restaurant is called Boiling Wok. It’s located on the South East corner of Old Denton and George Bush, behind Daiso and Ranch 99. Unlike the typical communal pot of broth that you get at Little Sheep, for example, you can get your own personal pot at Boiling Wok.

Let me make it clear that you do not have to get your own hot pot. You can absolutely share, because one pot can feed four people. My parent’s and I made the delightful mistake of ordering individual pots. Way too much food, but oh so good for this blog!

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Unlike other hot pot restaurants you don’t choose ingredients to go with your pot of broth. At Boiling Wok you pick the type of broth that you want and all the ingredients are already included. I love how you get a choice of Asian flavors. Korean, Thai, Japanese and Szechuan. They do have a small option of ingredients that you can add to the pot, but it’s not really needed with all the ingredients that already come with it. Do you see all the choices? It was so hard for us to choose the ones we wanted.

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Before we get to the hot pots let me tell you about the three different dipping sauces they offer. Let’s start counter clock wise. The first sauce is like smoked chili peppers in oil. I would guess that it’s a Szechuan sauce, because it reminds me of the peppercorns and hot oil. The light color sauce was my favorite. Now I don’t know what any of them are so these are just guesses, but this one tasted like miso and sesame. It wasn’t spicy at all despite the color. It was my favorite for sure. I used this one the most. The last sauce is a light and sweet soy sauce. It was very delicate. I liked it, but since it was less robust than the other two I didn’t use it as much.

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Here are the hot pots that we ordered! Don’t they look amazing? My dad ordered the Japanese Miso, mom ordered Szechuan Spicy and I got the Thai hot pot. Each pot comes with a choice of egg noodles, vermicelli, udon or rice. My dad got udon while mom and I got vermicelli.

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The Japanese Miso Hot Pot comes with pork slices, cabbage, choy sum, udon, enoki mushrooms, clams, fish balls, fish fillet, Maitake mushrooms, crab, fried tofu skin, soft tofu, oysters, mussels, egg and green onions. The broth in this one was delicious! It was not exactly a shabu shabu broth. It has hints of nabe and ramen broth. My dad is not a spicy kind of guy so this one was perfect for him. It was rich with a slight sweetness to it.

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This is the Szechuan Spicy Hot Pot. This comes with cabbage, choy sum, sliced beef, vermicelli, tempura, enoki mushrooms, clams, oysters, fish balls, cuttlefish, pork intestines (oh my), fried tofu skin, Maitake mushrooms, tofu, green onions and cilantro. This broth was spicy, but it’s the kind that builds up. It starts off with a kick, but not too bad. The more you eat it the more your mouth feels like it’s on fire. It was really good. The broth was super robust and this would be a great option during the winter. This pot is probably the most traditional Chinese one.

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This is the Thai Hot Pot. I ordered this one and I thought it would be like Thai Suki, which is what Thai hot pot is. I was surprised when they brought me the pot and I discovered that it was basically tom yum. It was a pleasant surprised for sure. This pot has sliced pork, vermicelli, cabbage, choy sum, lemongrass, enoki mushrooms, cuttlefish, fish balls, clams, oysters, crab, shrimps, octopus, Maitake mushrooms, fried tofu skin, egg and cilantro. This hot pot was so good. It reminded me so much of my favorite Thai ramen that has creamy tom yum broth.

In all three hot pots they give you so much protein it’s not even funny. The pork and beef slices made up half of the ingredients. There was so much pork in mine that I didn’t even finish it all which is a real shame.

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Each person is given a small bowl to put a small helping of the hot pot in. By doing this you are cooling down the food so that you don’t burn your mouth. It’s also more manageable to eat in small portions rather than trying to tackle the whole pot yourself.

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The best part of the hot pot is this tempura hard boiled egg! It was such a surprise. I thought it was a very large fried fish ball until I cut it in half. The creaminess of the egg yoke with the spicy broth was so good. I’m still thinking about it.

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I love this restaurant so much. I love the different options that they offer and I cannot wait to go back. The next time we go we won’t be getting individual hot pots that’s for sure. None of us finished our pots and it was such a waste of food. We will definitely be sharing next time.

So, if you’re a fan of hot pot or would like to try it I highly recommend Boiling Wok! You have your choice of flavors and depending on your tastes I’m sure you’ll find the best pot for you.

Kula Revolving Sushi Bar

Japan has an amazing revolving sushi bar culture that is becoming more popular in America. I love the idea of a revolving sushi bar and have been to a few. It’s so much fun. So, of course when I found out there was a new restaurant opening up in Plano I had to go. I saw an ad on Facebook about it and immediately went to Google. Then I group texted my friends.

Kula Revolving Sushi Bar has nine restaurants in California and for some reason they’ve opened one in Plano, Texas… I’m not really sure why, but it could have something to do with Toyota moving their headquarters here from Torrance, California.

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I’ve been to a few conveyer belt sushi restaurants and they were so so. The problem is that the rice used for the sushi didn’t taste good. It doesn’t taste like the vinegared rice that is normally found in regular sushi bars and it ruins the experience. Do you know what I mean? When you have to mass produce nigiri and rolls the rice never tastes right and not only that the options are pretty limited.

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There’s not a lot of interesting sushi options. In Texas you get the typical sushi which include salmon, tuna and California rolls. That’s why I was so excited when I saw the online menu. They have an amazing selection of nigiri, rolls, desserts and even ramen. The videos online instantly reminded me of the restaurants that you can find in Japan. Not that I’ve ever been to Japan, but I’ve seen enough food videos on YouTube to know. 🙂

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This is their menu. Can you believe this? Look at what you can get. From my revolving sushi restaurant experience I can tell you that you normally don’t see sea urchin, mackerel, sweet shrimp (raw), ikura (salmon roe) and natto (fermented soybeans) gliding by your table. You can definitely find them at sushi restaurants, but not so much on a conveyer belt.

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All your nigiri and sushi roll selections will continuously pass by, but if you don’t see it or miss it, you can use the touch screen to order it straight from the kitchen. They offer small bite options as well which include gyoza, crispy squid legs, and soft shell crab tempura to name a few. We ordered a bowl of tonkotsu ramen to share as you can see.

There are two conveyer belts. The nigiri that goes around to every table is within eye level. There’s another belt that runs above it where the chefs will send your order straight to the table. It’s fun to watch them whiz by on their way to the person who ordered it.

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Here is the ramen. It’s beautiful. I know what you’re wondering. How did it come out without spilling? The ramen bowl comes with a lid and then on top of it is this locking mechanism to keep the top on. I can report to you that the broth did not spill. This isn’t the best ramen out there, but it was still tasty. The chashu pork was my favorite part.

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So here is some food porn for you. These are the nigiri that we chose from the conveyer belt. Salmon, unagi, sweet shrimp and squid were just some of the options we got. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sushi rice at Kula was really good. Two thumbs up!

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Look at how amazing the unagi nigiri looks. It’s not manufactured looking do you know what I mean? It was delicious.

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This is the seared Hokkaido scallop with mayo. You don’t normally see this on a conveyer belt so of course I had to grab it. It was yummy. I didn’t take a picture of it, but there’s a slot at the end of the table where you slip your empty plates into. When you accumulate 15 plates a fun little cartoon shows up on the touch screen and tells you that you’ve won a prize. A red ball falls down into this plastic container underneath the screen and inside it was a little sushi pen.

We got three different types of desserts. Hokkaido Milk Cream Tart, sesame balls and Japanese Style Soy Milk Donuts. I was so busy trying to get a video of the order coming out from the kitchen that I did a poor job of taking food pictures. I’ll do better next time!! The tart was pretty good. It reminded me of creme brûlée. I didn’t have any of the sesame balls, but the soy milk donuts were amazing. Fried fluffy little balls of dough with vanilla ice cream and some kind of sweet syrup. You definitely need to get that one.

If you’ve never been to a conveyer belt sushi restaurant then I highly recommend this one. If you had a choice of restaurants then Kula should be at the top of your list! We are definitely going back.

 

Tokyo Banana – an “Omiyage”

It seems like a lot of my posts are on Japanese food lately. It wasn’t planned that’s for sure. Now after saying that I’m going to talk to you about a Japanese snack/sweet that I was given this week. Hehehe.

A friend of the family went to Japan on vacation and brought us back a box of Tokyo Banana. I have heard about this treat from Japanese foodies on YouTube, but I haven’t ever had the pleasure until now.

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In Japan, souvenirs are known as omiyage (お土産?), and are frequently selected from meibutsu, or products associated with a particular region. Bringing back omiyage from trips to co-workers and families is a social obligation, and can be considered a form of apology for the traveller’s absence. Omiyage sales are big business at Japanese tourist sites. – Wikipedia

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Doesn’t this remind you of Twinkies? Cute little banana shaped Twinkies. Hence the name, this omiyage is a best seller for when visiting Tokyo.

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I didn’t realize until I removed the packaging that the flowers were on the sponge cake. There are a series of Tokyo Banana. Here are some examples of the different kinds.

  • Miitsuketa – fluffy sponge cake filled with banana custard cream
  • Miitsuketa Caramel – caramel colored and flavored sponge cake filled with caramel banana custard
  • Choco Banana – chocolate filled with banana cream

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Our omiyage is the Miitsuketa version. I believe this is the original version, but with lovely floral design. As you can see the little cake has banana custard cream inside. The cake is incredibly light and fluffy. Although it reminds you of a Twinkie, Tokyo Banana is not as dense. The cake is so airy when you bite into it. It’s delicious! After tasting it I don’t think you can compare it to a Twinkie. It may look like it, but it’s completely different.

If you are a banana lover or would like to try Tokyo Banana, but can’t get a hold of the real thing – I’ve posted a video from Create Eat Happy where she shows you how to make the regional Japanese treat. Her recipes are very simple and super cute. Check her out!

Keiichi – More Than Just Japanese

There is this Japanese restaurant in Denton that I’ve heard a lot about the past couple of years. A lot of friends have told me to try it. There’s also been a lot of reviews on it and even my brother has been. He said it was great, but pricey. So you’ve been warned.

At this restaurant you have to make reservations if you want to eat there. The restaurant has one bar and a small dining table. It is very intimate so you can’t just pop in hoping to get a meal.

The restaurant that I’m talking about is Keiichi.

Acclaimed sushi house from chef Keiichi Nagano with just 10 seats, an omakase menu & select sake. – Google

img_2825.jpgThere’s not a huge sign on the building telling you that this is Keiichi so if you’re not paying attention you’re going to miss it. There is a street sign, but I missed that so there you go. It’s definitely one of Denton’s best kept secrets.

img_2828.jpgThe menu changes every day and this is what was served on 4/13. As you can see this was an expensive dinner. It also threw me for loop as well when I noticed the non-Japanese selections on the menu. I didn’t realize up until then that Keiichi was a fusion restaurant.

img_2833.jpgYou know how I feel about squid (or Ika) so of course I had to order the squid sashimi with Hawaiian red salt and lime. I wasn’t sure how to eat this though. Since it came with the salt and lime, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to dip it in soy sauce or not. I tried it both ways. The addition of the soy sauce made it too salty. You could really taste all the different flavors if you ate it as is. It was really delicate and I liked this a lot.

img_2831.jpgThis is the Tasmanian Sea Trout with ginger, Japanese mint and citrus soy. I’ve never had trout in sashimi form let alone Tasmanian Sea Trout so I had to order this. It was AMAZING. It was DELICIOUS. I wish I had an opportunity to try the trout on its own so I would know how it taste, but I will have to do that next time. It is on the sushi menu.

 This is marinated tuna sashimi with fresh guacamole. The marinade was what made this dish for me. I know there was soy sauce and some kind of oil involved, but I wish I knew how to replicate it. The marinated onions on the dish were a pleasant surprise. I think I enjoyed them as much as the tuna and guacamole.   This is the beef and jalapeño cream cheese sushi. The chef mixed jalapeño and cream cheese with the sushi rice then placed thin slices of beef on top. I wouldn’t have ordered this, but luckily for me our friends did. It was really good.


I didn’t want to order sushi for dinner, because I wasn’t sure when I’d have an opportunity to come to Keiichi again. I wanted to try one of the fusion entrees.

After much thought I went with the Kinoko Pasta. There were five different kinds of mushrooms in a heavy cream sauce. It was incredibly rich. Delicious, but rich. The pasta itself was perfection and the mushrooms were hearty.

I wish I asked the waitress what the five mushrooms in this dish were. I could see champignons and enoki…I think.

 Our friend ordered the beef tenderloin steak with mashed potatoes and green beans. He seemed to enjoy it so that’s all I can tell you about this one.

 My sister ordered the Cod Roe Pasta. I wanted to talk about this one last, because this was my favorite. The cod roe or mentaiko is marinated fish eggs. It’s salty, fishy and depending on the marinade can be spicy.

I love mentai-ika sushi (code roe and squid) and plain mentai with rice so I was all for trying this dish.

Again, the pasta was perfect. The sauce was not as rich as the Kinoko, but still creamy. The cod roe added a distinct flavor to the sauce. It was definitely fishy, but I totally loved it.

What an odd combination. Fish eggs and cream sauce. I don’t know who invented it, but it definitively worked for me.

If you’re feeling adventurous I would recommend this dish. I would order it next time for sure.

So, if you haven’t already had the pleasure of dining at Keiichi I highly recommend it. If you don’t live in Denton the drive may put you off, but it’s worth it. Remember that you have to make reservations and try the “weird stuff”. You will love it.

Railway boxed meals – Ekiben

Ekiben is a type of boxed meal or bento that is traditionally purchased at long distance railway stations in Japan. Some of my favorite YouTube foodies have videos of themselves eating ekibens and I’ve always wanted to try them. The containers can be made from plastic, wood or even ceramic. I’m sure the ceramic containers can get pricey.  The food inside is definitely a work of art. The meals can be as simple as ham sandwiches to sushi. Please Google ekiben so you can see what they look like and how elaborate they can be.

I have not had the pleasure of eating an ekiben on a train in Japan, but I came as close as I can for now. My family went to a Japanese restaurant today that had ekiben on their menu. Of course I had to order it.

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I ordered the Chashu ekiben or marinated pork belly with different pickled veggies. It was served in a wooden bowl which is traditional.

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Look at all the colors! Underneath is seasoned rice. You can kind of see it peaking through at the bottom of the picture. There was a liberal sprinkle of nori flakes on top of it.

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Let’s take a look at everything that came with my meal. We have the marinated pork belly and shrimp tempura of course. At the very top of the picture you have seaweed salad. There’s some white pickled radish in there as well. The purple in the middle is shibazuke, which is a mix of cucumbers and eggplants salted and brined with red shiso. Right next to it in green is kyurizuke. Kyurizuke is made with Japanese cucumbers and soy sauce. At the bottom of the picture you have squid salad. So much going on in this bowl!

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This wrinkled looking ball is umeboshi. It’s a pickled plum. It was really salty. You’re supposed to eat it with rice and it offers a nice contrast to the delicate flavor. I actually like to eat dried, preserved plums that are covered in this salty and sweet seasoning powder. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s an Asian snack.

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The marinated pork belly was the best thing I’ve had in a while. I’m not sure if you can see it, but there’s three layers there. The top layer is obviously the fat. It was melt in your mouth good, but probably not so great for the cholesterol… The middle layer is white meat and the third is dark. Is that even right? Does pork have dark and white meat?

Anyway, the pork was so tender and because of the marinade had a sweetness to it. It was really rich, which explains why you get so many pickled vegetables with your meal. This ekiben was delicious! It doesn’t look like there’s a lot of food, but I couldn’t finish it. Abe has many other types of ekiben. You can get tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) or grilled unagi (eel) to name two. I think next time I may try the unagi. 

The next time you’re at a Japanese restaurant try ordering an entree that isn’t sushi related. There’s so many wonderful Japanese dishes and this marinated pork belly is definitely one of them.

Noodle Soups – My Comfort Food

I love noodle soup. If there’s one thing that I can eat all the time it has to be Asian noodle soup. I’m not too particular on which type. It’s a comfort food for me and I crave it year round. Every country in eastern and southeastern Asia has a noodle soup dish and I’ve been fortunate enough to try most of them. Woohoo!

I feel like the latest craze is Japanese ramen. It seems like there’s a ramen shop on every other street nowadays. I’m totally fine with that. I can remember a time when the closest thing to Japanese ramen that you could find in Dallas was instant noodles.

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What is not to like about this little beauty. Japanese ramen looks pretty simple, doesn’t it? Most commonly a bowl of ramen will consist of noodles, dried seaweed, slices of meat and green onions. The toppings can vary by region, but that’s pretty much it. Even though it looks like there’s nothing to it, Japanese ramen is not that easy to make from scratch. The broth is what makes the dish and it’s a very involved process. Have you ever seen that indie film, The Ramen Girl? Making the best ramen is truly an art that takes a lot of practice.

If you haven’t seen The Ramen Girl you should totally check it out. It’s a hoot and one of my favorite films starring the late, Brittany Murphy.

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Another popular noodle bowl has to be Vietnamese pho. This is another one where the broth is the main attraction. According to Wikipedia:

The broth for beef pho is generally made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, charred ginger and spices. For a more intense flavor, the bones may still have beef on them. Chicken bones also work and produce a similar broth. Seasonings can include Saigon cinnamon or other kinds of cinnamon as alternatives (may use usually in stick form, sometimes in powder form in pho restaurant franchises overseas), star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. The broth takes several hours to make.

The picture above shows a simple meatball pho. I didn’t want the usual ribeye, brisket and other meat slices. I have a Vietnamese friend who never makes her own pho. The broth alone can take all day to make. She says you can’t really make small batches of pho either. It’s way cheaper to just go and eat it at a restaurant.

I can remember the first time I ate pho. I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. It was really bland to me, because I had no idea you were supposed to add all the greens, lime juice, hoisin and Sriracha. I’m glad I got educated. I can’t live without pho!

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I don’t think there’s an adult alive who doesn’t know wonton soup. This soup is on every Chinese restaurant’s menu. I think I can pretty much guarantee that. Each region of China has their own version of wontons. The picture above is from a Cantonese restaurant and this version is made with shrimp and minced pork. The Cantonese broth is typically made with pork bones but many regions use chicken broth. The Thai version is typically made with chicken broth. Clear broth is typical.

There are different ways to wrap your wontons as well. The style above is what’s common for wonton soup. Did you know that fried wontons is a dish that is found outside of China? Now potstickers are Chinese, but fried wontons with meat or cream cheese filling did not originate from the mainland.

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My favorite way to have wonton soup is with the addition of egg noodles and roast duck!!! This is what’s called Roast Duck Wonton Noodle Soup. Like you couldn’t already tell. 🙂 Doesn’t that look gorgeous? This dish is a little hands on. Unless you are extremely dexterous with chopsticks you’re probably going to end up using your fingers to eat the duck, because they’re on the bone. If you are not a duck person you can order the Chinese BBQ pork wonton noodle soup instead. You can also go super simple and just get wontons and noodles.

Have I convinced you to try some of these noodle soups yet? If you haven’t had the pleasure you should definitely get on it!

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