Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rai Rai Ken

When I was posting about Santoka Ramen, I was so hungry for ramen. But Santoka is in New Jersey, it will take us 1 hour to get there plus $10 toll. I searched for people's recommendation for best ramen in NY. Apparently, the best ramen (Batten Ramen) is in New Jersey as well, the second being Santoka, and Rai Rai Ken is nominated as third best ramen in NY area.

So we went to Rai Rai Ken, again, so lucky to get parking just in front of the restaurant (in Manhattan). The place is so small, it can only occupy 15 people maximum and long queue expected during peak hours. We went there at 3pm, so there wasn't queue.

We ordered Shio Ramen and Miso ramen. I was so disappointed when Shio Ramen arrived at my table. It was Tokyo style ramen, clear, soy based broth!!! When it comes to Ramen, I love rich, thick and flavorful tonkatsu broth. Clear broth seems like Chinese noodles. Noodles texture wasn't chewy, soup was so salty. It was $8.5 with bamboo shoot, boiled egg, roast pork, spinach, fish cake, dry seaweed and scallion topping.

Miso ramen was way better than Shio Ramen, the broth was thick but it has this nutty and sweet flavor which I don't like. The toppings were different too: beansprout, cabbage, onion, fried garlic, scallion, and chicken. It was kinda weird with chicken, feel like eating Laksa. It is expensive for $9 without roast pork. Extra roast pork topping for $3.

The gyoza wasn't that great either. It was crispy but the filling was so little it didn't have juicy taste from the meat filling. It felt like eating crispy skin.

I normally eat my ramen broth till the last drop, but not this time. Not satisfied with this ramen, I am paying $10 toll next week for a bowl of good ramen.

Rai Rai Ken
214 E 10th St
New York 10003
(Btwn 1st & 2nd Ave)
Tel: 212-477-7030

Ocean Jewel Seafood Restaurant

It's been a year I hadn't had yum cha/dim sum. The last time I had yum cha was last year July with How's family at Zilver Sydney. I had been craving for good dim sum.

We searched for recommendation on good yum cha in Flushing, NY. We decided to try Ocean Jewel. That place was so crowded, so many cars entering the restaurant parking. We decided not to park in the restaurant and park on the street instead. Just 5 meters ahead from restaurant parking, we saw an empty parking spot. No way, can't be that lucky, with so many cars trying to find parking, we just simply found one? Anyway, all the sign saying that it was free parking on Sunday. So it was fine. We parked there and went to the restaurant to get queue number.

Jon still doubt about the parking, it can't be free. He asked a guy about it and he said it was actually Saturday! lol.. At the end, we still parked there for free because the meter didn't work.

Back to the dim sum, I was so excited to have my first dim sum in NY and haven't not eaten dim sum for a year, I took 4 dishes from the first cart that came. Not in the pictures were chicken feet and bean curd rolls.

This is a must to have when having dim sum. Shrimp steamed rice roll/ chee cheong fun. I was disappointed with this shrimp rice roll. The sauce was too thick and too sweet and the rice roll was a little soggy.

This is like Siu Mai on top of bitter guard, it tasted ok.

Prawn, ham, scallion wrap in cellophane noodles. It was good and the ham added unique flavors to it.

Har Gow was disappointing, i didn't find that fresh shrimp flavors when I bit into it. Topping was small diced carrot instead of fish roe.

Char Leong is also one of my favorite at dim sum. It is You Tiao (Chinese Fried Dough Fritters) wrapped with rice roll/ chee cheong fan. I like it but I would prefer more soy sauce and no thick black sauce.

My favorite, watermelon dessert. Watermelon balls, lychees, pineapples, canned grapes in syrup. It was the best watermelon dessert I've ever eaten.

I wasn't satisfied with the dim sum. I am yet to find the best dim sum in NY.

Ocean Jewel Seafood Restaurant
13330 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
Tel: (718) 359-8600


There is a very big Japanese marketplace in Edgewater, New Jersey, it is called Mitsuwa. You can find almost all the Japanese ingredients, from Japanese vegetables, seafood, pickles, Kobe beef, ready food, sushi, sake etc. It is a one stop shop for Japanese food.

Outside of the supermarket is a small foodcourt. All the stalls sell Japanese food. From bento, Katsu, ramen, sushi to pasta (japanese).

I have always wanted to try the ramen stall, Santoka, but the queue is always so long. This time we went there in the afternoon, past lunch peak hour. There was still queue but not as long as usual.

I ordered the regular Miso Ramen and Shio Ramen. Both had the same toppings: chasu pork, kamaboko(fish cake), bamboo shoot, wood ear mushroom, and scallion.

Add $1 for the egg.

My eyes lit up when I had my first spoonful. That was the kind of broth that I had been craving for a year, almost like the broth from my favorite Ramen Kan in Sydney. It was so good, it was definetely the best ramen I have had in US. The broth was rich, thick and flavorful. Among the 2 Ramen, I prefer Miso broth than Shio, Miso broth has more flavor.

What was so wonderful about this ramen, it wasn't just the broth, but the noodles as well. The noodles were thin egg noodles, texture was great, chewy and absorbs the broth flavor. This is definetely the best ramen noodles I have eaten.

The thin flavorful noodles were so similar to Tiong Sim noodles in my hometown, Medan. It is family run noodle shops and have been around for more than a decade. Tiong Sim noodles are so flavorful, you can just eat it without any broth.

Photos from

595 River Road,
Edgewater, NJ 07020
Tel: (201) 941-9113

Saturday, July 19, 2008

10 reasons I love summer

1 It's warm and sunny

2. Barefoot walk on green green grass.

3. Having lunch in the park while watching some live performance.

4. Fruits are at their peak. I love colourful summer fruit( strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, peach, nectarine, apricot, mangoes, and the list goes on.

5. Make use of summer fruit to make healthy breakfast

6. Make use of the sunlight to take beautiful (food) photos.

7. Beautiful flowers in the park

8. Hit the beach. NY beach ain't great. Hit the pool.

9. The outside becomes the inside. Balcony, backyard, park. We cook and eat there.

10. Colorful summer dresses.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Dark Knight

We were invited by Lexus to watch The Dark Knight premiere. Dinner was served too! We were so excited. I am not a fan of superheroes comics/movies. In fact, I haven't seen any Batman movies in the past. But I got to see this one as it is Heath's Ledger last completed film role.

It took us 1 hour to get to the theather as it was peak hours, traffic was heavy. I was wondering whether theatre parking lot would be all Lexus cars? Well, 80% of the cars were Lexus.

What can I say, The Dark Knight is stunning, thrilling, action-packed, and brilliantly acted. Christian Bale'as Bruce Wayne/Batman is powerful and fierce. Heath Ledger's Joker, a psychopatic, mass murdering clown is stealing the show. Every Ledger frames utterly soar, your eyes are drawn to him in every scene. His performance is the most interesting thing in the film. When The Joker is absent, the film seems to lose its energy.

Whether you are a fan or not, you gotta see The Dark Knight. I would like to watch it again on IMAX. Probably a couple of weeks later as tickets are selling like hotcakes. Have to try my luck at a later time.

Photo from Warner Bros

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chinese Braised Pork Belly

Braised pork belly is a Chinese old time favorite. It is easy to cook and the ingredients doesn't cost much. I cook this dish whenever I crave for sinful soft luscious fat and flavorful meat. Unlike the old style of braising which could take hours, I prefer to cook using pressure cooker, the meat is unbelievably soft and tender in just under 30 minutes.


500g pork belly, cut into big chunks
6 dried mushrooms, pre soaked
2 star anise
1 cinnamon
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tbsp pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup Shao Xing wine
1 cup water

1. Sauté the garlic over medium heat until fragnant. Turn up the heat to high and add pork belly, dark soy sauce and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes.
2. Transfer to pressure cooker. Add the remaining ingredients.
3. Cook over medium heat for 20- 30 minutes.

I normally add boiled eggs but this time I ran out of eggs =( To braise in normal pot, double the amount of water and simmer for about 1.5-2 hours.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Miso Roasted Chicken with Citrus Soy

Serve 4

Citrus Soy Ingredients
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar or sake
1/2 tbsp chili sauce or chili flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ginger juice
1 tsp chopped cilantro/coriander
1/4 lemon, juiced
1/4 lime, juiced
1/4 orange, juiced
1/2 tsp of yuzu

Miso Roasted Chicken Ingredients
4 pieces chicken thigh or chicken breast
4 tbsp white miso paste
3 tbsp honey
salt and pepper
4 ears corns, kernels removed from cobs
1 cup of button mushrooms or baby bella, halved
1/4 cup of olive oil for pan frying chicken
4 tbsp olive oil for sautéing

1. Season the chicken with miso paste, honey, salt and pepper for at least 1 hour.
2. Pan fry the chicken over medium heat for 5 minutes, flip over and cook for another 5 minutes. 3. Transfer to roasting pan and cook in oven at 180C for 15 - 20 minutes. Flip the chicken every 5 minutes so both sides won't get too dry.
4. Sautéing mushroom and corn in 2 tbsp of olive oil.
5. Divide mushroom and corn in 4 plates, add the chicken and drizzle with citrus soy.

Can serve with couscous too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

About cooking dinner

I enjoy cooking whenever I have the luxury of having "free" time. I love spending time in kitchen preparing food: slicing, dicing, chopping, butchering, mixing, and cooking it: sautéing, pan frying, roasting, stewing, boiling, as long as I don't have to deep fry.

I seldom deep fry for few reasons. Firstly, my kitchen is not near window, the whole house smells bad after deep frying food. Secondly, it is such a waste of oil. There are so much to do with keeping the oil for re-use such as filtering the food particles, storing in cointainer and ohhh think about washing those oily strainer and container. Recently a study found that a toxin called HNE formed when vegetables-based cooking oils are reheated. Hence, I never reuse oil.

I often spend time in kitchen cooking simple dish and present it nicely for the photos taking session. Inspired by Wokking Mum, I too cooked the vegetables and arranged them nicely. Since then, food presentation has been a major part of my dishing process.

Here are some food that I have cooked sometime back.

Steam fish with fry ginger and mushroom.

Stir fry mushrooms with tofu. I used King Oyster mushroom, Shiitake and Enoki mushroom. There is nothing fancy, just normal stir fry but I arranged it nicely.

I cooked Tofu Steak from what was left from the dish above. Deep fried the tofu with potato flour. The sauce is combination of sake, dashi and soy sauce. I don't have recipe, most of the time I just simply google recipe and look at the ingredients but never follow that closely to the "amount" used but simply used them as a quick reference.

A few days ago, I suddenly felt like eating Couscous. Couscous is a coarsely ground semolina pasta and is a staple in many North African countries. Walking down the vegetables section in supermarket, I often look around to get ideas how to make my food look better? Couscous is not a pretty dish, hence I decided to stuff them inside cherry tomato (hide it). But what about the topping/ decoration? Do I want to use a sprig of herbs leaf, beans, nuts or something else? What else can I use? My eyes caught sight of the mushrooms ...

I cooked kind of "same but different" food with 5 main ingredients: cherry tomatoes, baby bella mushroom, corns, chicken and instant couscous. Here are the menu:
- stuffed cherry tomatoes with couscous, then topped with baby bella mushroom.
-miso roasted chicken with couscous (corn, chicken, diced mushroom, tomatoes and feta).
-miso roasted chicken with corn, tomatoes and mushroom.

And the fun began, a lot of work to do. Marinating chicken, cutting the top off tomatoes, cutting mushrooms, cutting the corn off kernels, boiled water, cooked couscous, pan fried tomatoes, corn and mushroom, pan fried chicken, washing, roasted chicken, stuffed the couscous and more washing. Made sauce for chicken, more cutting and more washing. Arranged them in plates for the photos, adding more to the washing load. I got so tired at the end, especially cooking in summer, it was already so hot and humid, definitely hotter in kitchen. It took me 2 hours to cook, to wash and to clean up the stove and oven, it only took 15 minutes to eat. While washing the last pile of plates, I was thinking if I was out of my mind spending 2 hours cooking for two in hot summer?

Prepare some for his lunch too.

I love the stuffed cherry tomatoes. It is a nice and pretty dish as an appetizer. Jon commented that the natural dryness of the couscous together with the sweet tasting tomato topped with the earthy taste of the mushroom were fantastic! In his own words: "mouth watering fusion appetizer dish, less the toothpick!" I also got chance to use my appetizer plate. Can also stuffed the tomatoes with corn, rice or mince meat.

Despite all the troubles and lots of washing, will I do it again? Definitely!