Thursday, December 27, 2007

Confessions of a Junkie

The craving is, at times, insatiable, but not to the point of nosebleed. When I go too long without my fix, I get anxious. The anxiousness turns to yearning, then to obsessive thoughts.

Ramen or yakisoba with shichimi togarashi. Spam or vienna sausages fried with sriracha. Spaghetti with crushed chili pepper. Most soups with ground cayenne pepper or Tabasco depending on the type of soup. Tacos with Cholula. Pho with peppers and beef dipped in sriracha. Then there's kim chee jjigae. Spicy soup with spicy vegetables served bubbling hot.

I'm a spicy food junkie.

At Asia Cuisine, kim chee jjigae is a spicy soup served with nappa cabbage kim chee, green onions, daikon, bamboo shoots, tofu, chicken, pork, and something that I'm afraid of finding out - it appears as a thin small whitish-pink curl. I don't think it's octopus, wrong texture.

The following recipe is from a Honolulu Star Bulletin article that I ran into while doing a Google search:

Spicy Kim Chee Stew
Kim Chee Jjigae
from Sorabol restaurant

1 12-ounce jar kim chee
3 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoon corn oil
4 ounces beef or pork, sliced thin
1/2 cup firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon dashi
Salt, to taste

In a large pot, bring water, kim chee and oil to a boil. Add beef or pork, continuing to boil 3 more minutes.

Add tofu and dashi, boiling for another 3 minutes. Check for taste, correcting by adding more water or salt, if desired. Boil for another minute and serve hot. Serves 4.

Approximate nutrition analysis per serving: 150 calories, 10 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 740 milligrams sodium

This sounds simple enough. I need to try this recipe out!

Oddly enough, I don't care for wasabi.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Deckard and the Predalien

My Blade Runner briefcase arrived yesterday! Yay! Back in July, I wrote about how excited I was that this was coming out.

The briefcase was bigger and sturdier than I expected. According to my case, only 103,000 were produced. What was displayed in those early pictures is exactly what I received. It amazes me how nice lenticular pictures are these days, compared to the goofy way they were many years go. The origami unicorn is a cheap plastic silver unicorn. It's still nice though.

The cleaned up final cut was gorgeous. I haven't watched the specials yet. We were watching it last night, and I was bundled up nice and toasty in my blanket. That was a mistake. In the winter, toasty me = unconscious me.

Today, we went to see Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (AvP-R). I really enjoyed it. Bug hated the first one, but liked this second one.

The movie was deliciously dark. It takes off from the previous AvP movie, where the Predator ship takes an impregnated Predator away.

Predalien is born.

I enjoyed seeing all the Predator's toys in use. It was also interesting to see Wolf take off from his place and playing a cleaner. Initially, I was disappointed that it took place on Earth. I like being immersed in another time and place.

It was an entertaining film overall. I certainly look forward to getting this on DVD so I can watch it again and all the specials (hopefully). Another hope is that more of these movies will be made!

I am not sure how long this link will last, but this is my very own Predalien. It's not very imaginative, I know, but hey, I love the Predator's style and toys!

- Cassaendra

Monday, December 24, 2007


Bug's mother is having surgery today. It's pretty serious and the docs don't fully know what is going on, so the operation today is to take out the bad parts and explore if there is anything more that is not right. :(

I woke up yesterday morning to thoughts of my mother. My subconscious made a connection that I did not make consciously.

My mother collapsed this time of year, years ago. Exploratory surgery was performed and it was discovered that cancer had ravaged almost all of her organs - no hope.

She gave up.

Less than one month later, I was at her bedside at home watching her slowly take her last gasps of breath before she slipped into an eternal dream. She was in her 40s.


When Bug spoke with his mother last night, I listened in. She sounded great, considering she's been poked and flushed out! I am very confident she will be okay!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Office parties.

There were two that were held outside of work; one was held at one of the ballrooms in the InterContinental Hotel and the other at a country club, Signature of Solon. I'm too lazy to go out shopping for new formal evening gowns to be around people with whom I feel I spend way too much time. One was even on a raid night! ZOMGZ! Yeah, I didn't give it a second thought and did not attend.

One of the parties I was invited to and attended was a supervisor's luncheon. The food was catered from Nate's Deli. The director has recommended several times that if I wanted to eat real Lebanese food, go to Nate's Deli.

I have wanted to try the place for some time, but an odd drawback is that it's too close to home. For some reason, we rarely eat at places really close to home. It's awkward to go to a restaurant and park before the car has even had a chance to warm up. The place has limited metered street parking, along a street full of restaurants, and is open on weekdays until 6 p.m. It's about a 7 minute drive, and is adjacent to the West Side Market.

The "basic catering for 20-25 people" was ordered for the 8 of us. It included hummus, baba ganooj, tabulee, fattoush, shish tawook, shawarma and falafel. I love Lebanese food, but this stuff was loaded with garlic, parsley, and raw onions. *SCREAM IN HORROR*

Wait, what? Almost all Lebanese food has one or all of these ingredients. How can I love Lebanese food?

The hummus was soooo thick, it was like rich peanut butter...of course, not as smooth. It had a gritty texture as one would expect, but smoother than I have had in the past. It was a little salty for my palate, but very tasty.

The baba was good. This was the first time I've actually tasted the eggplant in this dip. Compared to the hummus, believe it or not, this was blander. I preferred this over the hummus because it was a little tarter.

I typically avoid the tabulee because I dislike fresh parsley, the main ingredient (chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions, wheat germ, mixed with oil and lemon juice). Certain versions of tabulee I like, and certain ones I hate. It's a crapshoot and I didn't want to make a scene so I scooped a tiny amount at first. I think the lemon juice cut down the offensive parsley and onion flavor so it was more moderate, pleasant, and refreshing. I went for seconds.

The fattoush, which was a mix of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, sumoc oil, and vinegar, was great. What? Me eating something with raw onions and vinegar? I wouldn't have enjoyed this as much if it didn't have the pita chips. In fact, I probably wouldn't have gone for heaping returns if it weren't for the pita chips. The roasted flavor mellowed out the raw onions, which must have been mild to begin with. It was cut finely. I mean, ME...eating raw onions?!?!? No wai!

Yeah, so I went back for 4 servings of this.

The shish tawook, shawarma and falafel were rolled pita sandwiches. Shawarma consisted of sliced beef cooked in onions, parsley, and tomatoes. There was a cooked-in herb I couldn't identify that made this more interesting than this sounds. It gave it a mauve flavor. It was meaty and had no fresh vegetables, so the fattoush and tabulee were a nice balance. Shish tawook had grilled chicken. Falafel had uhh well, falafel.

This was a great meal, partly because it was so exclusive. It was a small group amongst people with whom I work closely; no "excuse me's," "sorry, coming through" bumping of bodies. We sat down at the table - director, managers, supervisors, and wee little me.

Some time in mid-November, I was asked to participate in a Secret Santa gift circle at work and a pot luck. The Secret Santa was okay. The pot luck part sucked. I was asked to bring some kind of warm vegetable dish and was urged to make "stir fry teriyaki" because I was Japanese. I explained that if I'm going to bring a Japanese dish, it's going to be authentic. It wasn't going to be a stir fry. WTF.

Fast forward to Thursday. Bug has a pinched nerve in his back from a week ago when he almost slipped on ice while brushing the snow off my car and take me to work.

The dish idea I came up while sitting on the toilet one day at work was untested. *snicker*
3 lb asparagus
2 lb orange peppers
1/2 lb red pepper
2 lb grape tomatoes
3 lb yellow squash
1/4 lb fresh basil
1/4 lb baby spinach
2 lb mushrooms
2 lb eggplant

I was going for a bright, colorful dish. I figured no one else would have anything quite as colorful -- and I was right. Some of the dishes looked like it fell off a truck or was run over.

For me, food has to first be visually appealing. Secondly, has to smell pleasant. Thirdly, the essence of all the ingredients has to either mesh well together or stand alone well together. Otherwise, it's just edible substance.

Bug asked how I wanted the concoction cooked. I gave him the above list of ingredients and explained that I wanted a liberal amount of minced garlic, olive oil, medium course ground black pepper, and a touch of very course ground salt. I also wanted to put shaved Jarlsberg cheese on top while at the party.

He looked at me oddly - garlic? salt?! cheese?!! He felt my forehead to see if I was okay. Then he pointed at me accusingly and shouted, "Pod people!!"

Yeah, yeah.

Bug and I went across town to Miles Farmers Market, instead of the West Side Market, since I got a tip that they had very skinny asparagus. West Side Market did not have skinny asparagus when we were there a week prior. We headed to the cheese, and Bug surmised after looking at the prices that the people at work probably wouldn't know the difference between good cheese and regular cheese. We picked up Sargento shredded mozzerella and provolone.

Bug cooked everything up and took ~2 hours. We made enough for the 25 people I was informed would show up. Of course, that was a gross overestimate and it was only for 15 core people.

I kind of wished we knew how to cook eggplant. It was spongy undercooked. I wanted all the veggies mostly cooked, since I knew I would have to heat it up for several minutes in the microwave oven. I ended up picking out 1/3 of the eggplant because the color wasn't what I expected. The flavor, however, was wonderfully distinct. I nuked my bowl of eggplant with some cheese, and stole some of the vegetables. It felt good in my tummy.

It's Friday, the day of the pot luck, 11:30, and I'm wondering when the lunch is. I walk by and people are setting up. I thought "WTF, thanks for telling me." When I returned from nuking my 2 containers, the organizer tells me to put my vegetables on the ground near the bread.


Someone overheard this and moved some dishes to the side and placed my dish up front. I put the 2nd container away, since I saw all the other platters that were there. People brought enough for one of my containers. More for us!

I ate my fill. *burp*

The dish was a success. Numerous people came up to me for the recipe. I told them Bug made it. I gave him the list of ingredients and spices, he went to town with it.

I went to the back after a couple hours to grab more cream puffs. :D People were packing stuff up. Someone packed up 5 large containers of food for themselves. I noticed my container filled with deli meat. So I said, "Wow, I guess this is for me. It's in my container."

Organizer: Oh, it's for X.
Me: Well, it's MY container.
Organizer: We didn't know whose container it was.


Me: Well, let her know she has to return the container to me by Monday.

A few minutes later, I am at the desk with 3 other people, and she receives 4 containers of food.

X: All this for me?
Me: Yeah, you're lucky. I got NOTHING. Oh, and make sure you return the container to me by Monday.
X: I like this, I think I am going to keep this.

o.O (yeah it's petty, but WTF)

X: I'm just kidding.
Me: You better be.

Organizer: There's more food in the back.
Me: No, I don't want any of that. Everyone took the good stuff.

Bug suggested that the next time it happens, to have someone give a deposit for the cost of the container; in this case, $5. I told him there wouldn't be a next time, at least with her as the organizer.

- Cassaendra

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust?

Bug wasn't feeling too well Friday night -- yes yes, his name is Sicklybug after all -- so he wanted something spicy to eat to clear his sinuses. We've had nothing but great food and service at Asia Cuisine turned Seoul Restaurant (in the past year). The prices there are okay if you go over the weekend and get the bundled dinner for two - cheaper than on the weekdays, oddly.

As I peered through the glass door, I noticed there was no cute Korean boy at the front. I thought, ok, maybe it's finals time so the older folks are taking care of the front.

We walked in and I noticed no big picture of Jesus. No gospel choir music. In fact, no music. Hmm.

And FOLKS...not only was there more than 1 employee in the dining area, there were 4 people. Wha...?

There were a couple of shimmering bright red heart balloons at the entrance. I figured it was for the large party of 10 sitting near the window laughing gaily and chatting in Korean.

We were seated at a table set for 12, and the menus are placed before us. The menu was a report cover that still had the thin paper and adhesive residue of a recently peeled-off price tag. I really have no recollection what the old menu looked like, but I knew this wasn't it, so I looked at the back of the menu - no bundled dinner.

That clinched it. New owners. *sigh* I looked at Bug, and he drew the same conclusion.

I flipped back to the front, and re-read "Asian Cuisine." I overheard a man, who seemed like the owner, talking on the phone about a credit card issue. He mentions the restaurant is dba "Seoul Garden." The receipt that I received at the end said something different. Oh well.

We ordered 4 pieces of mandu to start. I ordered a plate of bulgogi and Bug wanted to try kal bi.

10 minutes later, our waitress brought over a pancake. I was surprised and thought, "NOooOoOoO! We ordered mandu!" Not that I hate the pancake, but I hate onions, and those pancakes come PACKED with onions. It's practically the binding ingredient that holds the pancake together.

She probably saw the startled look on my face and immediately said, "It's free. We'd like you to try it!" She explained that it had squid, shrimp, onions (I noticed!). It came with soy sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. Not to be unappreciative, I swallowed the onions whole. It wasn't bad. It reminded me of okonomiyaki. Bug didn't like it the last time we had that dish, and he still doesn't care for it. It's too bland for him.

Our plate of mandu came along with our 10 -- yes 10!! -- banchan (side dishes). I was overwhelmed by the clutter of all the dishes that we began to amass! We had slivers of something gelatinous (softer than konnyaku), anchovies, fried tofu skin in sesame oil (always my favorite), bean sprouts, mushrooms (or bamboo shoots - it tasted like menma), more pancakes, and kim chi daikon, cucumber (awesome!), and cabbage (H-O-T !). I don't remember what was in the 10th side dish. :(

The mandu tasted differently from any other time I've had it. There was a flavor that was reminiscent of something Italian. I can't place my finger (or tongue) on it. It was similar in essence to basil, but I didn't see any so I know it wasn't that. It was good. We used the same sauce that came with the pancake. The previous cook made the best sauce with crushed peppers.

A few minutes later, Bug's kalbi platter came. I only saw 3 bones in the massive pile of deliciously scented grilled meat. RAWR. My platter of bulgogi came. It was a lot more feminine with the julienne carrots and onions (cry).

After I picked out all the onions and donated them to Bug, with a few beef stragglers, I was left with less than half my dish. LOL I wouldn't order it any other way, however.

The bulgogi was quite tasty and had a sweet tinge. The beef was very tender. I want me some grilled meat! Next time, I think I'll order the kalbi; except I really want to check out their hot pot dishes. I loved that kim chi hot pot I had last time.

The service was awesome because we felt like we were a guest at their house. It was casual but not uncomfortably casual...kind of like going to your grandmother or aunt's house and eating dinner there.

Bug was STUFFED and asked for a box. The owner was concerned that the food did not taste good. Poor guy. We explained that everything was perfect.

Oh there is no tableside cooking at Asian Cuisine. Never has been in any of the incarnations we've seen. The other two Korean restaurants we've been to have it available. We still prefer Asian Cuisine because of the excellent service and the yummy food.

As we were leaving the proprietress said hello and mentioned that they had just opened up earlier in the week. They all appeared very enthusiastic with, I'm sure, high hopes for success, and a little tired. We wished them good luck and would be back again. The balloons made sense. They all waved goodbye as we stepped through the front door.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

C is for Cookie

We found out last night that our cat loves to eat ribbon tails. I suppose it's not a far stretch since he also loves to eat hair, dental floss, cobwebs...

It was such a beautiful ribbon, but I had to throw it out because it got so slimy.

Trader Joe's Joe-Joe's are awesome. It's an Oreo-type cookie with crushed candy canes folded into the cream filling. It has just the right amount of peppermint to give you the cool "ooh" at the end, and not too much that it becomes overpowering.

WTG Trader Joe's!

- Cassaendra

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pho-n Times...

By a wide margin, pho is our most frequently eaten dish. We've been thinking about making pho for some time and recently got ourselves motivated enough to try making it ourselves.

Pen in hand, Bug busily scribbled a list of ingredients, comparing between two Vietnamese cookbooks that we have. We looked at each other and boggled at the parsnips. Being motivated, but not 3-hour soup base motivated, we substituted beef broth for the ox tails, flank steak, and beef bones with marrow. Since I hate onions, he listed just enough for the soup base and garnish for 1 serving.

Since we had a late start, we headed to Lemongrass for a quick late afternoon meal/dinner. Cool! The OPEN sign was lit. To be safe, we paid for 2 hours on the parking meter, even though we're usually in and out in 45 minutes; waddled across the gusty and snowy parking lot; and as Bug pulled the door open - resistance. It was locked.

They are closed between ~2:30 - 5:00 p.m. ARGH!!!

On the drive over, I was salivating over my favorite dish there -- the Thai Mango Curry (extra spicy) -- large chunks of warm mango, tender chicken, and aromatic Thai basil, smothered in a rich, slightly sweet but not overpowering coconut curry, with galangal and kaffir lime leaves. It has so many layers of flavor, I won't do it justice describing the subtlety of each bite! The jasmine rice is a heavenly complement to this work of perfection.

Bug usually orders the spicy beef basil dish, which has a dark, beefy flavor, served with onions, red and green peppers, Thai basil, and kaffir leaves. Its flavor is a lot more straightforward than my dish. I love the flavor of beef!! The infusion of Thai basil into the tender slices beef just makes a good thing...uhh, gooder!

We trucked over to Corky & Lenny's, one of our favorite delis, since it was on the way to Trader Joe's, the only place in town that I trust to have fresh(er) wafered beef.

Corky & Lenny's pickles and green tomatoes are the bestest...very fresh and not sour! I have yet to eat a pickle better than theirs, and its complimentary! I ordered the New Yorker, an epic corned beef sandwich, stacked so high with extremely lean corned beef you could feed 2 large families. :) The sandwich comes spread with cole slaw and Thousand Island dressing on toasted rye bread, along with a tiny cup of potato salad. Their potato salad is great - no onions, yay! It has a slightly tart flavor, but isn't a mustard potato salad. I'm not certain, but it appears to have pimentos.

Bug had the reuben, epic in similar proportion to mine, except spread with sauerkraut, instead of cole slaw, and melted swiss cheese. Good schtuff! We were offered another dish of pickles and green tomatoes, and emphatically accepted! YUM!

We then rushed over to Trader Joe's, grabbed the meat, and sped over to Good Harvest before they closed to get the pho seasoning packet, which consisted of a few dried star anise, cinnamon sticks, some green pods, and cloves. We looked for a list of ingredients to find out what the green pods were and found, "Ingredients: Spices."

Oh well.

Bug couldn't find cilantro or coriander cheaply at the regular grocery store, just the organic kind that has 3 sprigs for $4. So that was skipped.

While pouring the beef broth in the pot, we find out that we didn't get a cheesecloth to put the spices in. All the spices were thrown in to the broth, including the mysterious green pods. Onions, parsnips, and ginger were chopped and thrown in. At this point, the broth smells kind of like pho, but not quite there. Maybe it just needs a few hours to simmer.

Two hours later, Bug pours the soup into another pot through a strainer. The steam rolls up and my nose wrinkles. It smells like medicine. Totally unlike what I'd expected. He offers me a spoonful. It's edible, but it tastes a lot like medicine. :(

A little shoyu and nuoc mam were added, which made it taste like shoyu medicine. It was also the last of our shoyu.


Bug poured the pot of soup down the drain.

I picked up the can of broth and noticed all the added ingredients, and let out a sigh. Next time, we're going to follow the recipe directions exactly. I know the recipe I have works because I've had its soup before with wonderful results.

The fresh rice noodles, Thai basil, jalapenos, wafered beef, and lime didn't go to waste. We bought a $0.49 box of pho cubes and used that. It was ok. We might use it to augment the soup the next time around. The rest of the beef was used to make butter yaki, which came out too gamey, so I added a Thai holy basil mixture and coconut milk to tone it down. Guess the beef was going bad. The outcome was edible.

Despite the defeat, this was still a fun experiment and a great learning experience.

I saw a sole green pod stuck in the strainer and squished it open. It was cardamom.

- Cassaendra

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