Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Tripe

Beef tripe, one of my top 10 favorite foods! For real.

If tripe is on the menu, I will order it. I have such a weakness for it that my husband has used it to bribe me (usually to get me to spend time with my in-laws).


Yes, it's the stomach of a cow. Get over it. Do I have to remind you what's in a hot dog? There's just something so unique about the flavor of tripe that keeps me coming back for more. So unique, in fact, that I'm kinda at a loss for words on how to describe it (tripe lovers, please help me out here!)

I've seen tripe described as gamey or barnyard-y, but I think those words tend to be overused when referring to offal or leftover cuts of meat and only result in scaring people off. 'Gamey' makes me think of mutton. And 'barnyard-y' is how I might describe a fresh goat cheese, but not tripe. The flavor's actually really mild. Earthy? No, mushrooms and truffles are earthy, not tripe. Grassy? Not really, but I do find something kinda bright and fresh about it. And the texture will vary depending on the cooking method and the kind of tripe used (a cow does have 4 stomachs, afterall) but can range from pleasantly crunchy to melt-in-your mouth tender.


I usually satisfy my craving for tripe at
dim sum restaurants or Asian noodle houses, but I've also enjoyed a hearty tripe gratinée at Pastis (NYC) and a tender stewed tripe in marinara sauce at an Italian wedding in Long Island.

Growing up in a Chinese family, I probably ate tripe more often than hamburgers. And from what I can remember, I've always liked tripe and never had to acquire a taste for it. But I couldn't help but wonder whether my fondness for tripe is purely nostalgic.

This is where Hubby Kris comes in handy, he's still an offal 'novice' but always such a good sport when dealing with one of my weird food obsessions. I've made Hubby Kris try beef tripe several times at dim sum, and since he's never objected, I've always assumed he liked it. I managed to get in a quick Q&A session while hubby was getting ready for work this morning:

Phyllis:
Tell me how you feel about tripe.

Kris:
Good morning to you too. Tripe, well...um...it's just OKAY. I don't hate it or anything. But it's not something I would ever order on my own.

Phyllis:
Why not?

Kris:
Is this for Weird Food Wednesdays?

Phyllis:
Just answer the question!

Kris:
Well...cause it doesn't really taste like anything. And it's chewy, like calamari.

Phyllis:
But you LOVE calamari!

Kris:
Yeah, but that's because it's battered and deep fried. How come no one ever deep fries tripe?

***end of Q&A***

So what I've gathered from this conversation is that my hubby is currently indifferent about tripe but would probably love it if I battered and deep fried it for him (flashback to
tempura gefilte fish). Hmmm...maybe my undying love of beef tripe does stem from childhood memories.

Well, perhaps I can entice you with some yummy dim sum photos...

Beef Tripe stewed in a delicate ginger and scallion sauce at
The Orient Restaurant, Bethpage NY:

I almost ate the entire dish myself! Fragrant ginger and scallion, crunchy, chewy, and texturally interesting with the tiny bumps of the
bible tripe:


Stewed Beef Tendon with Beef Tripes at
Golden Harvest Restaurant in Vancouver, BC:

Juicy succulent pieces of
honeycomb tripe stewed in a glistening curry garlic sauce (natural nooks and crannies deliver more of the mouthwatering sauce in every bite):

Golden Harvest used to offer this dish with beef tripe only, so I was initially upset that some of my beloved tripe was replaced by tendon. But the tendon was awesome - gelatinous melt-in-your-mouth perfection (and hubby's favorite):

An interesting surprise in the bottom of the dish - french fries to soak up the excess sauce (or what my cousin Francis jokingly referred to as 'Chinese poutine'):


So I bet you're dying to try it now, right?

No?

Seriously, guys...just trust me on this one, it's really GOOD. Yeah, I know, I still haven't given you a good answer about the flavor of tripe. But you know who'd be a good person to ask? The person who developed the simulated tripe flavor for
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean. I mean, there can't actually be ground up tripe in a Jelly Belly, right?

And my darling hubby will be thrilled to learn that people actually do deep-fry tripe:

Here's the recipe:
Deep Fried Tripe from UK chef Fergus Henderson

Well, if dim sum and deep fried tripe don't float your boat, check out Wikipedia for an
extensive list of international delicacies that feature tripe (menudo, mondongo, and pacalpörkölt are next on my list). So go out and get your tripe on!



p.s. This will be my last weekly installment of Weird Food Wednesdays :(

p.p.s. I'm not retiring WFW for good, I just won't be doing it on a self-imposed weekly deadline anymore :)



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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Juustoleipä

Juustoleipä or leipäjuusto translates to "bread cheese" in Finnish and its signature browned exterior comes from being baked during the cheesemaking process!

You're unlikely to find the reindeer version of this cheese outside of Finland or Scandinavia (juustoleipä is traditionally made with reindeer milk), but you can probably find domestically produced cows milk 'bread cheese' from Wisconsin at your local supermarket.

I've been staring at the
Carr Valley Cheese version at my local Wegmans for months, and I finally brought some home with me after trying a sample during a cooking demonstration ("It's like grilled cheese without the bread!")

Relatively inexpensive at $11.49/lb, $8 bought me a fairly substantial slab of bread cheese.

With such a large piece of cheese we were able to try it in every way possible to find our favorite preparation.

Plain/ unheated - mild buttery flavor, similar to mozzarella but a bit saltier. There was a rich milky flavor present which reminded me of Indian
paneer cheese. Firm chewy texture, mild squeak when you bite into it:


Dipped in coffee - surprisingly good! The bread cheese takes on a sweet profile when dipped in coffee (with milk and sugar). And it hardly melted at all:


Soaked in coffee - took on more of the coffee flavor when soaked for 10 minutes in coffee. Delicious! Melted slightly and produced the squeakiest cheese:


The packaging recommended sautéing the bread cheese in a skillet and topping with jam, honey & walnuts, or syrup. I cut the breadcheese into 3/4 inch cubes and let them brown in a non-stick skillet, flipping them after a few minutes on each side. The outsides get crispy and while the insides don't completely melt, they start to ooze appealingly when warmed.


With
lingonberry jam - sweet and slightly tart, flavor reminded me of cranberry cocktail juice:

Cloudberry jam is the more traditional pairing but I couldn't find it so I used lingonberry. But Kenny from Chic Eats says you can probably find it at IKEA (thanks Kenny!)

With warmed honey and toasted walnuts (yum):


With warmed maple syrup (even yummier):


Out of the three sweet toppings, our favorite was the lingonberry jam - the tanginess was a perfect complement to the salty cheese. This trio would make a fun appetizer for company.


I also thought I should try a savory presentation, so I topped one of the pan-fried cubes with roasted
peppadew bruschetta topping (from the olive bar at Wegmans but you can substitute your favorite salsa or bruschetta topping). Tasty!


And finally, baked with cream, sugar and cinnamon (a
serving suggestion from Wikipedia). I cut the bread cheese into 1/3rd inch slices, layered them in a small casserole dish, drizzled liberally with heavy cream and sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on top. Baked till bubbly (about 15 minutes) at 400 degrees (F).


The easiest dessert ever. And also our favorite way to enjoy bread cheese:

Where to buy:
Outside of Wisconsin, you can probably find bread cheese (aka juusto, juustoleipä, leipäjuusto, fennuusto, brun-uusto, ostbrod, kaffeost) at your local
Wegmans.

Or purchase online from the following Wisconsin cheesemakers:

References:
Ehlers, Steve, and Jeanette Hurt. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheeses of the World (Complete Idiot's Guide to). Indianapolis: Alpha, 2008
Weber, Katie. New Speciality "Bread Cheese" Unveiled At The University Of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences website.
"Leipäjuusto." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 5 Jul 2009, 17:00 UTC. 5 Jul 2009 .



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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Awards & Thank Yous

Many moons ago, I was the happy recipient of 2 blog awards, both in the same week! And then I was off to Ireland to watch U2, try black pudding and search for spice burgers. With all these distractions, I almost forgot to thank the two amazing bloggers who gave me these awards.

First up, I'd like to thank my good friend Kenny from
Chic Eats, who gave me the One Lovely Blog Award:

I first met Kenny through our shared love for
century egg - he left a comment on my blog suggesting I try century egg with coca-cola (a perfect match, much like wine & cheese). And if you think that I eat weird food, check out Kenny's blog for some really crazy stuff, like goose barnacles and pig intestines! But don't get me wrong, Kenny is a lover of all good food, and I must warn you in advance that reading his blog will definitely make you hungry!

Over the last few months, Kenny and I have become great friends. He even sent me 5 cookbooks all the way from Hong Kong (incurring insane shipping charges in the process):

And yes, that is indeed a cookbook from Hungary, Kenny sent that for Hubby Kris, who's proud to be 1/4 Hungarian. I'm waiting for cold weather before I try my hand at Hungarian ghoulash but I've been dying make some of the Chinese home cooking and Taiwanese street food recipes. There's only one problem - sourcing some of the rare Asian ingredients (does anyone happen to know where I can find Taiwanese licorice powder aka 'kam cho' or preserved prune powder?)

But I still wanted to make something from one of these cookbooks to show my gratitude to Kenny, so I started with an easy recipe, a Chocolate Lollipop from "Fine Desserts with Less Sugar" by Fung Wa Ching. At least I thought it would be easy to make cute little heart lollipops from buttered popcorn, white chocolate and macadamia nuts. This is what it was supposed to look like:

And this is what I ended up with, a congealed popcorn mess (major FAIL):

But it still tasted pretty good, like a DIY white chocolate macadamia
moose munch.

Thank you Kenny, for the award, the cookbooks, and for always putting a smile on my face :)


I also want to thank Heavenly Housewife,
From Donuts to Delirium: My Life as a Housewife, for giving me the Kreativ Blogger award:

I'd like to think that I have a lot in common with Heavenly Housewife, but in reality she is way more FAB-U-LOUS! Yes, we are both completely obsessed with food, but she is the expert I look to for advice in everything posh. Her name says it all - she is ultimate lady of leisure, having mastered the art of spending hubby's hard earned money (every girl needs at least one designer bag, daaaahhling) and
Dolce Far Niente. She's also my unofficial travel agent, an endless fountain of suggestions for what to eat in my next destination. If not for her, I probably wouldn't have stopped for afternoon tea at a fancy Dublin hotel to have my first taste of clotted cream (transcendent), nor would I have ever known to try a white chocolate Magnum bar (addictive):

As a tribute to my glamorous friend Heavenly Housewife, I am making one of her delectable recipes,
BB's Style Cherry Coconut muffins. Let me just preface this by telling you that I'm not much of a baker. I don't like to measure things and I've learned the hard way that this approach is generally not conducive to baking. And I also tend to substitute ingredients. Even worse, I usually try to cram stuff I have to bake into my toaster oven. The only good news about me baking is that if I can get a recipe to work, then it's virtually dummy proof!

So in true Phyllis fashion, I substituted the glace cherries (hard to find unless it's fruitcake season) with maraschino cherries (no stems, liquid drained, cut in half) and used superfine sugar (all I had in the pantry) instead of regular sugar. But I'm proud to say that I did measure every single ingredient with proper measuring utensils and even sifted all the dry ingredients! However, since I do not own a water sprayer (to spray the sugar top to get it uber crispy), I had to resort to flicking water on to the muffins with my hands (Heavenly Housewife, please forgive me). And yes, I baked them in my toaster oven.

Despite all of this, the muffins came out delicious (dummy approved!), crispy sugar top (thanks to my water flicking technique LOL) with a moist buttery crumb! My muffin-top bows to the muffin queen!

Thank you Heavenly Housewife, for the award and for always inspiring me :)

Oh yeah, as part of this Kreativ Blogger award I'm supposed to disclose 7 facts about myself that other people might find interesting.

1. I love Star Trek. I own a uniform (original series science officer blue) and a fake 'communicator' (TNG). I have forced my husband to endure 8 hours at Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, including the behind-the-scenes backstage tour. I also own all 178 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD (my birthday present in 2005).


2. I am deathly afraid of sharks (parents, do NOT take your children to see Jaws, Jaws: 3D or Jaws the Revenge). Consequently, I have never swum in the ocean. Despite my fear, I still love and have great respect for sharks and have watched Shark Week on Discovery Channel every year for as long as I can remember. If you care about sharks as much as I do, please sign Ocean Conservancy's
petition to end the practice of shark finning. Save the Sharks!


3. I am addicted to karaoke. I have my own karaoke system at home with a library of close to 3000 songs. Whenever I go out for karaoke, I only invite friends that are microphone shy, thus allowing me to be a microphone hog for the entire night. Sometimes I'll even leave hubby behind because not only is he a mike hog, he tends to sing loudly enough to drown out everyone else, even when it's not his turn. And there's no point telling you about this unless I have some embarassing footage right?

video

4. Country music was the only music I listened to until I was 9 years old. My favorite song was 'Islands in the Stream' by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers. My cousins eventually had to stage an intervention to introduce me to Madonna, Michael Jackson and Wham!

5. I didn't become a decent cook until a few years ago. The first dish I ever made for Hubby Kris was called "peanut butter beef". Disgusting, but he still ate it because he didn't want to hurt my feelings. Now that's true love!

6. I adore Hello Kitty. I have a closet full of Hello Kitty memorabilia and I even decorate my Xmas tree in a Hello Kitty theme. Last year, I made a Hello Kitty diaper cake for a friend's baby shower.


7. Hubby Kris and I were engaged within 3 months of meeting each other. We've been married now for 8 years!



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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Spice Burger

Picture this: one extremely jet-lagged American and his equally exhausted Canadian wife, wandering the unfamiliar streets of Dublin at dusk, searching for the elusive spice burger.

The spice burger, invented in the 1950s by Walsh Family Foods, is described on their website as "a delicious blend of Irish beef, onions, cereals and herbs & spices, coated with a traditional outer crumb". But during June of this year, Walsh Family Foods, the sole manufacturer of the spice burger,
fell victim to the recession and closed its doors! (thanks to our friend Tom for alerting us about the demise of the spice burger)


Spice burger aficionados immediately began a spirited campaign to bring back their beloved Irish treasure, described on the
Save the Spice Burger facebook page as "Ambrosia for the mortal Irish man (and to a lesser extent mortal Irish woman), Walsh's spice burger has proved a satisfying meal to stumble home with after a couple of pints for over 50 years". And after a tremendous outpouring of public support, Walsh Family Foods is back in business and churning out spice burgers once again!

The relaunch of the spice burger was just getting underway when we arrived in Dublin a few weeks ago, making it hard to find, even at the local chippers. We first tried
Leo Burdock's, Dublin's oldest chipper, located in the city center near Christ Church Cathedral.

No spice burger, but great cod & chips (gigantic portion for only € 8.90, don't forget the vinegar!):


Later that night at our hotel, we received a tip (from a complete stranger!) that we should "head south to Camden and Wexford and look for the Italian chippers, for sure they'll have spice burgers". After getting hopelessly lost a couple times (Dublin streets are sometimes hard to navigate because the streets change name every couple blocks) we found ourselves on Camden street (by sheer dumb luck) standing under a neon sign at
Roma II.

Roma II sounded Italian enough for me, plus it was getting dark, so we hurried inside. And YES, they had spice burgers!

We got 2 orders to go (no salt or vinegar) and rushed back to our hotel.

Each order consisted of 2 spice burger patties and 4 pieces of chips, but they wrapped both orders up together:

Crunchy crust with a savory breadcrumb-y interior flavored with lots of dried herbs/spices. Hubby Kris said it reminded him of falafel but with a oily lingering aftertaste (lard?)

I really couldn't detect any beef, which probably explains why the spice burger is often mistaken as being vegetarian.

So the verdict? Not bad, although I can imagine it probably tastes a lot better at 4am on the way home from the pub.

The spice burger has yet to hit the international scene so here's a
recipe you can try at home (from lecraic.com, originally published in the Mirror UK 6.19.09).

But if you're ever in Ireland, make sure you try the real deal - Walsh Family Foods is currently operating with a skeleton crew and a limited production schedule so they still need your support!



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Friday, August 7, 2009

Vancouver Banh Mi Roundup

I’m a little embarrassed to still be writing about our trip to Vancouver in May, but after forcing some friends to eat 5 banh mi sandwiches one afternoon, I feel like I have a duty to blog about it. Just to clarify for any new readers, hubby and I currently live in New Jersey but our main dining town is New York City. We love to travel, so I've been blogging about Vancouver for the last couple months. We also just got back from Ireland so expect to see some Dublin stuff intermingled with my last few Vancouver posts in the upcoming weeks. And you might also see some New Jersey, Manhattan, and Long Island stuff thrown in occasionally. Yup - clear as mud.

Vancouver Banh Mi Roundup

This banh mi roundup took place on May 18th, 2009. Shout-out to fellow food blogger Justin from
Justcook nyc who recently conducted his own banh mi roundup (in NYC and in San Francisco). His fun blog post reminded me that I needed to get my act together and finally blog about my own Vancouver banh mi experience.

Banh mi (aka Vietnamese sandwich) is one of my must-have items whenever I'm in Vancouver. Prior to this trip, I'd only tried banh mi from one place in Vancouver, Ba Le. Their sandwiches have always been good and cheap, so I never felt the need to go anywhere else. So what changed? Well, since I started blogging a few months ago, I've been following Vancouver foodie discussions and noticed a few Vietnamese sandwich shops being touted as being better than Ba Le. And just like all of my food obsessions, I just HAD to see which one was best.

So what makes a good banh mi? First of all, the bread (French baguette) should be very fresh. The yummy fillings, consisting of Vietnamese cold cuts, pickled carrots/daikon, fresh cilantro, and a generous schmear of pâté and mayo, should be well balanced and work in harmony with each other.

I recruited hubby Kris and our good friends Joyce and Brian to help 'judge'.
We picked up banh mi from 5 different sandwich shops (4 in Vancouver and 1 in Richmond). Since there are several types of Vietnamese sandwiches offered, we chose to order "the Special" at each location (except for the Richmond location where Brian picked up a ‘Vietnamese sub with pork’). You usually have the option of spicy (with slices of hot green chili peppers) or not spicy, so we chose the spicy version at every location (the hot peppers are easy to remove if you don’t want them). And similar to my other roundups, our scoring method was highly subjective and totally unscientific - we just divided each sandwich into 4 pieces and marked them out of 10 based on overall yumminess.

All sandwich prices are stated in Canadian dollars and are quoted as of May 18th, 2009, although I highly doubt any of the prices have changed - Ba Le's prices have only gone up a dollar or so since I was in high school (a looooong time ago). And we were all impressed that every sandwich we tried that day was made with really fresh bread (the secret is to go early when the bread has been freshly baked).

Au Petit Cafe Special sandwich (or No. 1) $4.50
Au Petit Café’s banh mi have become so popular that they usually sellout by early afternoon. Best to call ahead and reserve a sandwich (don’t be like me, I didn’t call ahead and then had to wait for 25 minutes in a busy restaurant). This was the most expensive sandwich of the bunch so I had high expectations. I was a little concerned that their ‘special’ sandwich (or ‘No.1’ - homemade ham, house meatball, vegetables and hot peppers) didn’t contain one of my favorite banh mi ingredients, pâté. But the house meatballs were so moist and flavorful I didn’t even miss the pâté. High scores across the board, except for Hubby Kris who said he was “starting the scores low so he could leave room for the others” (what is this, a figure skating competition?)

Au Petit Café
4851 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5V 3R9
Tel: 604-873-3328
website:
http://www.aupetitcafe.com/
(closed on Wednesdays)


Ba Le (Kingsway location)
Special sandwich $2.75
This was the type of banh mi I was was used to eating – traditional Vietnamese cold cuts, a good balance of pickled veggies vs meat, and the perfect amount of mayo and pâté. Overall, a solid sandwich (Ba Le has never let me down).

Ba Le
701 Kingsway #21
Vancouver, BC V5T 3K6
(604) 875-6322


Kingsway Deli
Vietnamese Sub Special (Banh Mi Dac Biet) $3.00
This sandwich was impressive to look at, piled high with meat, pickled veggies and cilantro. Joyce liked the pâté while Brian thought it was way too salty. Hubby and I thought the overall flavor was bland and boring (but I would still eat it if I didn’t have any other options).

Kingsway Deli
1188 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC V5V 3C8
(604) 873-6666


Tung Hing (Tiem Banh Dong Khanh)
House Special Sandwich $2.75
Was a bit confused by this place because when you walk in it looks like a traditional Chinese bakery. It’s also conveniently located next door to Kingsway Deli, so I made up some time from having to wait at Au Petit Café for so long. We were a bit thrown off by the giant slice of cucumber on top of the sandwich, but it was well seasoned and complimented the other ingredients nicely. We all really enjoyed this banh mi - it had a good balance of ingredients with a generous amount of tasty cold cuts and delicious pâté.

Tung Hing Bakery
1196 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC V5V 3C8
(604) 875-3394
website:
http://tunghingbakery.ca/


An Nam Restaurant
Vietnamese Sub with Pork $3.50
Our friends suggested that we include this Vietnamese restaurant located in nearby Richmond. I’d never heard of it before but I thought it’d be fun to see what Richmond had to offer (Richmond’s known for having great Asian food afterall). The sandwich had too much black pepper, the quantity of pickled veggies overwhelmed the rest of the sandwich, and the pâté had an intense liver flavor (both Brian and I commented on the strange aftertaste). Kris' portion contained a tiny piece of fatty meat. Despite our negative reviews, it’s interesting to note that our friend Joyce loved the strong liver flavor of the pâté and also enjoyed the generous amount of pickled daikon and carrot (this was her favorite sandwich overall).

An Nam Restaurant
8280 Granville Ave
Richmond, BC V6Y 1P3
(604) 279-9097
website:
http://www.annamrestaurant.ca/

And the winner of this banh mi battle is...Tung Hing! We celebrated by eating some banana fried buns from Tung Hing’s bakery:


Final Rankings:
1. Tung Hing (good balance of ingredients, yummy cold cuts and pâté)
2. Au Petit Café (delicious house made meat balls)
3. Ba Le, Kingsway location (good traditional banh mi)
4. Kingsway Deli (boring flavor but I would eat it if I had no other options)
5. An Nam (strong flavored pâté, too many pickled veggies)


A big thank you to our friends Joyce and Brian for participating in the banh mi roundup!

And check out this cool site devoted exclusively to banh mi, Battle of the Banh Mi, created by food bloggers White on Rice Couple. You’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about banh mi, including how to make them yourself (vegetarian recipes too!). There’s also a great directory of locations where you can get banh mi throughout the US.

So where’s your favorite place to get banh mi? Leave me a comment below!




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