Sunday, September 21, 2008

Summer Fruits

One of the great delights of summer is abudance of fruits. After months of the same old apples, pears and oranges, it is the time of the year when stone fruits and succulent berries are at their peak. Some berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are available throughout the year in US but late spring to early summer is their 'peak'. Strawberries at their peak season are of high quality and very sweet.

Start summer morning with colorful breakfast. Pancakes with fresh summer fruits, butter and maple syrup.

My half eaten pancakes.

Another healthy breakfast, granola, yoghurt and berries.

I love yoghurt with fruits. In Sydney, yoghurt is available anywhere at fruit bars/ fresh food stores. I once bought manufactured prepared yoghurt and it tasted horrible, since then I only trusted yoghurt at fresh food stores.

Yoghurt with different toppings at fruit bar in SydneyPhoto taken from Flickr

However in NY, there isn't any cafe/stores that sell yoghurt like in Sydney. I have no choice but to try manufactured prepared yoghurt, they taste ok but I still prefer yoghurt at fruit bars in Sydney. In US, yogurt (instead of yoghurt) is a common spelling. All manufactured preparead yoghurt in US are fat free/ low fat, it makes me wonder if full cream yoghurt available in US?

I like to buy blueberries in bulk and freeze them. I put frozen blueberries on top of yoghurt or just eat them frozen as sweet treats, it is like biting mini blueberries ice.

From all the summer fruits, my favorite is pluot. The first time I saw pluot, I was hesitated to try because they look weird with spotted skin, but I soon fell in love with this fruit. Pluots were originally invented in the late 20th century and are now grown in parts of Washington and California. Pluot is a hybrid of plum and apricot being 3/4 plum and 1/4 apricot in percentage. It has smooth skin like plum, sometimes it is called Dinosaur Egg. The name Pluot comes from PLU for the plum and OT for the apricot.

There are a lot of varieties but the common one is Dapple Dandy which has red spotted skin and flesh ranges from red to pink.

How does it taste? It is exteremly sweet and juicy. It is reddiesh at outer part and pinkish at inner part. Like plum, pluot is easily bruised.

See the flesh color, from reddish to pinkish.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I found out about Ippudo from Chopsticks, Japanese magazine in NY. Ippudo has 34 branches in Japan. Its founder is Shigemi Kawahara, who won Ramen King in ramen competition in 2005. NY branch is the first Ippudo branch outside Japan.

We arrived after 1 pm, the place was still packed. We waited for 20 minutes.The atmosphere of this place is fun and unique. The bar table in the reception area is filled with packaged ramen noodles and the wall is decorated with ramen bowls.

The dining room is divided into 2 areas. The first area has a spawling bamboo tree sculpture. It has 3 communal tables: a long rectangular table, a round tree trunk shape table, and a bar-like seating. There are also 3 booths in this area for a group of 5 or more. The second area is kind of hidden in the back room with tables.

We were escorted to the bar-like communal table. I believe communal table are for party of two. The seats at the bar-like communal table are interesting, every two seats are designed to make up a love couch.

We started with Kakuni $8.00. It came with 2 pieces of tender and flavorful braised pork belly, 2 halves eggs , bok choy and wasabi sauces. It was pricey for 2 pieces of pork belly. We didn't order Gyoza this time because they don't have Gyoza in the menu hee..

Their popular ramen are Shiromaru (white) and Akamaru (red) both are $13, which is overpriced for a bowl of ramen. Extra ball of noodle is available for $2 exta.

Shiromaru broth is original tonkatsu broth. It is rich, flavorful and milky tonkatsu broth garnishes with chasu, seaweed, cabbage and scallion.

Akamaru uses the same broth as Shiromaru but enhanced with chili and secret black sauce, which I think is a mixed of garlic and black sesame oil. Akamaru broth is richer and more flavorful than Shiromaru. At my first sip of the broth, I knew I have found not only the best ramen in NY, but the best ramen I have ever eaten. It has serious broth, porky, flavorful with milky complexion. It was quite spicy I didn't have to add chili powder.

I like the oversized round-bottom spoon for ramen broth. I could put the noodle in the spoon and still scoop enough broth. The round bottom was design to avoid splattering.

The housemade noodles are firm and springy, it was cooked perfectly. Most Japanese noodles are made with kansui, a type of alkaline water, which resulted in firm noodle to avoid turning soggy.

The broth was so tasty I drained dry my bowl.

This sequin painting is unique. Air from AC must be blowing on it, it made the characters seem moving.

The second time we visited Ippudo, they were 3 of us and we were seated at the back area, we had our own table. It was long weekend, and to my surprise, there was no waiting. I think most people must have traveled out of NY.

We tried Harata bun, 2 buns for an order, it is available in chicken and pork. We order both chicken and pork. Inside the buns were lettuce, Japanese mayonaise and chicken/pork. We prefer pork bun which has a big slab of juicy, tender bbq pork and to-die-for sauce, omg, it was soooo good. I shared 1 pork bun with Jon, hence, both of us were not satisfied and ordered another pork Harata. In total we ordered 3 serves of Harata, $8 per order, so we spent $24 for buns. Definetely the most expensive buns we have ever eaten.

This time I tried miso ramen, I regretted ordering it, should have selected Akamaru. The broth was a bit sweet which i don't like. The noodles were also thicker than noodles in Akamaru or Shiromaru noodle. Oh yeah, I added a lot of chili powder in my ramen.

We had Annin Tofu and Matcha Brulee for dessert. Annin tofu was nice, clean and firm, but not my favorite. I love brulee, especially matcha brulee, crust sugar topping, creamy texture with a hint of bitterness from the matcha. It came with strawberries, a cherry and a matcha mochi. The price is $8 for each dessert.

This is the room underground where they made the noodles.

I had been delaying posting about ramen because everytime I see ramen photos, I crave for more ramen. It's happening to me now, looks like I have to make another trip to Ippudo tomorrow.

65 4th Ave
(between 9th & 10th St)
New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 388 -0088

Naruto Ramen

This was our 4th weekend in a row hunting for the best ramen in NY/NJ area. A friend of Jon recommended Naruto, it is located in the Upper East Side. The place is very small, like Rai Rai Ken, there is a counter with some stools and kitchen right in front of the counter.

We, again, started with Gyoza, it was ok, not as nice as Gyoza at Batten Ramen. By this point I wonder why Japanese restaurants in NY/NJ displays their gyozas upside down?
Gyoza, pork dumpling $4.5

There are only 3 kinds of ramen in the menu: Naruto Ramen, Miso Ramen and Curry Ramen. I chose Naruto Ramen $8.50. I didn't think that I would like it because the broth wasn't tonkatsu based but soy sauce based. But to my surprised, it was really nice. Naruto ramen was topped with chasu ( Japanese roast pork), bamboo shoot, boiled egg, beansprout, naruto(kamaboko/ Japanese fish cake), nori seaweed and scallion. The noodle was chewy and springy. As usual. I need a lot of chilli powder in my ramen.

Jon ordered Miso Ramen ($8.5), it came with the same topping with Naruto ramen, plus corn and butter. It was a little spicy and the butter gives nice creamy flavor. I like it because it wasn't as sweet as Miso ramen I ate at other places.

To this point, my favorite is still Santoka Ramen, and Naruto being the second.

Naruto Ramen
1596 3rd Ave
(between 89th and 90th st)
New York, NY 10128
Tel: (212) 289-7803

Batten Ramen

We were in the mission to find the best Ramen in NY/NJ area. A lot of reviews rated Batten Ramen as one of the best ramen in NY/NJ area. We were eager to try.

Batten Ramen is located in Fort Lee, NJ, which is more of Japanese/ Korean neighborhood. The restaurant is located in a small shopping center. The place itself is quite small, can seat at most 30 customers. There was a shelf of mangas and Japanese magazines for customers to read while waiting for their orders to arrive.
As usual, we love to start with Gyoza ( Japanese Dumpling). Unlike Gyoza that we had previous week at Rai Rai Ken, the gyoza here was really nice. It was nicely brown and crispy at the bottom, translucent skin, enough chewiness and succulent filling. It was visually very appealing too.

Gyoza filling should be well balanced with the skin. The folded part on top of gyoza is the part that create chewiness of the skin. Too much filling will make it hard to fold, hence not much chewiness. Too little filling will be like eating just the skin

I ordered Batten Ramen, which is noodle in tonkatsu broth (Hakata style ramen), top with a thick slab of pork, egg, bamboo shoots, woodear mushroms and scallion. The broth was rich but not milky enough for my liking. I like it but not crazy about it.

This is the thickest slab of pork I've ever seen in ramen.

Jon ordered Miso ramen. It had butter added it it which creates nice broth but there is a hint of sweetness in the miso broth which I don't like.

The noodles used in both ramen are different. Noodles in Batten Ramen were thinner and paler in color compared to noodle in Miso Ramen. Hakata style ramen normally uses think, non curly noodle.

This is how I eat my ramen, I need extra spiciness.

Overall it was really nice and afforadble but far from our home. I still prefer Santoka ramen. I will visit again if I happen to be in the area.

Batten Ramen
2024 Center Ave Fort Lee,
NJ 07024
Tel: (201) 461-5465