|Hot stuff: Orochon Ramen lets you choose your level of heat. I opted for #3 and it was pretty damned warm.
When Erin and I were in LA last month, we ate dinner with her cousin Lisa Sasaki and her brother Eric and his wife Leah, at a very popular ramen shop, Daikokuya. The restaurant is one of several that specialize in Ramen on a block of First Street in Little Tokyo, just down the street from the Japanese American National Museum. The joint is hopping at all hours, with eager clusters of (mostly non-Japanese) people patiently waiting to enter, thanks to a couple of rave reviews including one from the restaurant critic from the LA Times, whose article is posted in the window. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long to be seated.
Lisa loves the combination specials: choose a ramen, and get a half-order of another entree, from tonkatsu pork cutlets and gyoza dumplings to fried rice. The fried rice was good, all right. Erin and I both thought the ramen itself (we ordered the chasyu ramen, topped with slices barbecued pork loin) was good but not awe-inspiring. The place was so popular and raucous, though, that it was simply a fun experience. Continue reading
Erin and I went out to eat tonight at Thai Basil, a very popular restaurant in southeast Denver. We had eaten there a couple of weeks ago with friends and enjoyed the food, so we decided to give it a shot on our own. The food was fine once again — we had chicken coconut soup for starters, and Thai curry lime beef and sesame tofu for entrees.
But during the meal, it occurred to us that aside from one woman at a nearby table, we were the only Asians dining in the packed room. The servers were mostly Asian, but on the way in this time, I noted that the owner and much of the staff is Chinese, not Thai. These observations maybe are unimportant if the food is great, but I started wondering about the importance of authenticity in ethnic cuisine.
First of all, does it matter what ethnicity the staff, owners and even maybe the chefs are, if they can make great Thai food, or Chinese, or Japanese or Korean? Shouldn’t the end quality of the food be the measure of a restaurant’s quality? Yes. And… I’ve had various ethnic cuisines served up by people not of the ethnicity and had the food fail the taste test. Even years ago in New York City, when I was in college, I was so desperate for Mexican food that I went into a Mexican restaurant in Greenwich Village, only to be served enchiladas with spaghetti sauce — no lie — poured over them. That’s why that Pace Picante tagline works so well: “…from where? NEW YORK CITY?” Continue reading
I’ve been drinking something that tastes like dirt. I’ve also been drinking something else that tastes like weeds. Both are supposed to be good for me.
It’s an Asian thing — there’s a cultural fascination in with potions and powders and pills outside of “Western” medicine and healthcare. I don’t doubt that a lot of Eastern alternatives work, and not just acupuncture.
Some of it is that foreign countries simply have different medicines. I grew up taking Japanese pills called “Ru-Ru” (more or less pronounced that way) because my mom used it for everything from headaches to colds and fevers and just plain old feeling icky. She still buys bottles of it when she goes back to Japan. The pharmacist at her hometown drugstore recognizes her everytime she returns to stock up on Ru-Ru and other Japanese drugs.
Beyond pharmaceuticals, there are a lot of other health products marketed to Asians that might make non-Asians scratch their heads. Or just laugh. For instance, there’s a popular tea called “Diet Tea” that shows up in Asian grocery stores. We’ve tried it, and it helps people “diet” by serving as a powerful laxative. You’ll lose weight, all right. But it won’t be from managing what you eat.
Along these lines, I’ve been drinking up powders that were given to me: Aojiru and Ginseng Tea. Continue reading
In the U.S., snack food manufacturers in recent years have become creative, and come up with a variety of flavor combinations beyond the old barbecue-flavor potato chips or the nacho cheese flavored Doritos. Now you can get black pepper and olive oil Triscuits, or chili-lime flavored corn chips.
But American palates probably aren’t ready for some of the flavors that are available in Japan. Continue reading
|We ended the week with a flurry of shopping at the famous Flea Market at Aloha Stadium.
Sat. Sept. 22
It’s our last day in Honolulu, but we’re now slowing down. It’s jam-packed, with a trip to the fabled Flea Market that Erin has been raving about since we’ve been planning the trip. It’s a sale that’s held every Wednesday and Saturday at Aloha Stadium near the airport, and it’s truly a treasure trove of inexpensive omiyage â€“ gifts to take back to the mainland.
There are vendors with t-shirts as cheap as eight for $20; ties for $5; aloha shirts for under $10. It’s a shopper’s delight, and a negotiator’s training ground. Everyone haggles for a better price.
In my case, I was proud to have talked a woman down on her Hawaiian print ties, only to find a vendor a few booths down who had them even cheaper. C’est la vie. Continue reading