Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Elmwood Park Gem #2: Juicy Platters

I've found another gem near  Elmwood Park! Well, technically this place is located at the border of Fair Lawn and Elmwood Park, but whatever.

I'm a big fan of falafel, and I haven't had one since my days patronizing University City halal food trucks. Juicy Platters definitely fulfill my cravings!

I came here one Saturday, 11 AM at the dot (that's what time they're supposed to be open). The cashier graciously opened the locked door for me.

And you might guessed already, I went ahead and ordered my falafel wrap with salad. So good, so much healthier and hygienic compared to whatever I used to feed myself back in my college days. I was so tempted to buy a bottle of the white sauce too!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Elmwood Park Gem #1: Mama Fina's

I am not Filipino.

But 100% of Filipinos that I've met always thought of me as one.
To them I do look like one, and the warmth of their hearts always make me feel like I belong.
I found that same warmth at Mama Fina's House of Filipino Sisig :)

I came in on a Saturday on 11 right at the dot. The ladies were cheerfully welcoming me as if I was a Filipino. They spoke Tagalog and made me feel like a part of their family.

I went ahead and ordered the famous pork sisig. Boy, it came in a sizzling skillet! I've never had this dish before, so I'll try my best to describe it. It was kind of like chopped bacon, but the only difference is that it was 100x more flavorful than that. Have it with rice, and you'll feel the comfort indescribable with words.

Also, this young coconut water is not to be missed. It has pulps in it, which is as real as it could get in a non-tropic climate.

To close my awesome brunch off, I ordered halo-halo. I love how they gave me a "bonus" flan on top.

From what I've seen, they were very busy taking orders for pick-up and delivery. I guess most of the Filipinos here would rather entertain their family and friends at the comfort of their home, rather than going to some restaurant. Anyhow, I'm definitely coming back for some more :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Creamy Mushroom Soup

I swear I don't have a Seasonal Affective Disorder or anything, but this fall weather has just been getting the best of me. It was super nice last weekend, but came Monday it was all cold all over again. Whenever the weather is doing this kind of thing, I tend to find comfort in anything warm like tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and soup. I've lost count on how many different type of soups I've made since the beginning of Fall, but here's another one :)

Creamy Mushroom Soup

3 Tbsp. flour
4 c. water
4 tsp. chicken bouillon
5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
8 oz. portabella mushrooms, sliced
5 large celery stalks (you can tell I love veggies), diced fine

1) Put water and flour in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour into a dutch oven pot over medium heat

2) Add celery, mushroom, bouillon, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until celery and mushrooms are soft

So simple and so fast, yet so good and comforting. I like putting crushed pepper and herb (like cilantro) on mine for more flavor.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Throwback to RumSpringapore at Nyonya

What's up foodies! Hope your Monday is fine so far!

Last weekend, as usual, I spent my Saturday in New York City. My lunch picking this time was Nyonya, a Malaysian restaurant in between Chinatown and Little Italy. The first time I heard the name, I thought it was a Peranakan restaurant (think of Babi Pongteh, Ayam Buah Keluwak, etc). But no, they just serve regular Malaysian fare.

To start off, I ordered Roti Canai for appetizer and Penang Laksa for main dish. The server should've paid a little more attention to my Sino-Malay face, btw. He offered a "kind" advice that Laksa is a very sour and hot dish. D'oh! Didn't my face gave it enough? Didn't my Singlish accent *ahem* give even a hint?

Alas, they both came at the same time, served by 2 different servers. I didn't know whether to feel like a queen or feel like a greedy person.

Something was wrong with the Roti Canai sauce. The piece of potato in it tasted so bland, it tasted like the potato just got dipped to the sauce as I ordered.

Off to drinks and desserts. Teh Tarik was fine, but the Chendol had too many ice on it my tongue almost burned.

Speaking of service, not the best Malaysian service I know. Servers are very unknowledgeable and unflexible with customizing the dish. They asked the manager, and came back with either can't or can-but-we'll-charge-you-the-same-price (goodness gracious the one girl across my table was only asking for the broth of Mee Siam and they were gonna charge full price!). And they did hand me the bill when I was 2 slurps into my dessert. How rude!

I like how I can freely people-watch here, but I'd rather wait until another time I'm back in Philly for some Banana Leaf or Penang goodness :P

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Late Post: Yumcha with ALESN at Jing Fong

After having such great meal, I do have a bad habit of going into a food coma, which can lead into forgetting to write about it. So here it is: a post about Jing Fong, over a week later :P

I finally found an awesome group in NYC called Asian Language Exchange and Social Network (ALESN). They have volunteer teachers teaching Asian language classes at the YMCA in Chinatown. I joined the Japanese I class and loving it so far! :) As a fundraising-slash-welcome-back event, we went out for yum cha at Jing Fong in Chinatown. We were supposed to meet at 10 in front of the restaurant and I was kinda confused because 1) Dim sum places in Philly aren't opened until 11 and 2) The building was half covered in duplex board because of the construction going on next door. Any how, the ALESN team managed to get up to the restaurant at 10:30 after gathering 16 people (we parted into 4 tables).

When I got up there, I was just so shocked because the place was HUGE. I swear it can hold 3 Chinese weddings all at once.

The service was out of the world. Servers were very quick in refilling our tea pot and checking on us to see if we had "enough to eat". For all the impatient people out there, there are also walk-up stations that you can go to (bring your card to be stamped) if you know what you want but not patient enough to wait for one of these wonderful aunties to come by with the carts.

And for us a table of 6, these were what we ordered. Food was so great, very close to what I had in the streets of Mong Kok, Hong Kong. The xiao long bao especially warmed my heart as it reminded me of that rainy night getting stuck at Universal Studio in Singapore (refer back to my travel blog if you want to know more about it).

And it was very reasonably priced, $72 for the whole table, $12 per person.
I'm totally coming back. I would most likely take any visiting friend/relative who comes to town in the future.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicken Pot(pie) Soup

Given the weather has been so cranky, I think it's time for the comforting soup season!

I've been so busy lately staying late at work, and people around me are starting to get sick. I need to build immunity through whatever I eat. This is pretty much a twist to the regular chicken potpie, without the pie crust.

Chicken Pot(pie) Soup (serves 6)

1/4 c. flour
2 c. water
4 c. fat-free milk
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 can of mixed vegetables
1 lb. chicken breasts, diced
8 oz. sliced portabella mushroom
1 block of chicken bouillons
2 tbsp. thyme (I love them a lot because it gives lovely fragrance, moderate to your liking)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
**I pre-chopped some of the ingredients prior, because I knew I was gonna be so tired Sunday night

1) Combine 1/2 c. of water with flour. Whisk until blended and set aside for later
2) Pour milk and the remaining water into a large Dutch oven pot. Slowly boil

3) Add celery, onion, mushrooms, boullions, thyme, pepper, salt, canned vegetables, and return to boil
4) Partially cover and simmer on low until vegetables are soft
5) Remove lid. Add potatoes and cook until soft
6) Add chicken. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture. Cook for another 5 minutes

I've just enjoyed it for dinner just now. Not bad at all :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Catch Up Post: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

This is a rather late post. I managed to make this last week despite of the crazy beginning to the 2nd half of my workplace's fiscal year. More things  to get done, more process and system improvements in the horizon, and I am so pumped to be a part of all of this.

Here's to a successful 2nd half! :)

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (serves 6)

1 c. uncooked quinoa
2 c. water
1/4 c. red onion, diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
10 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 c. tomatoes, diced
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1) Rinse quinoa for 2 minutes
2) Fill a saucepan with water, add quinoa and salt to taste. Bring to a boil

3) Once boils, reduce heat, cover, simmer for 15 minutes
4) Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and set aside in a large bowl to cool
5) While waiting for quinoa to cool, dice the vegetables

5) Quinoa must be really cooled before anything can be mixed. If not, you'll have a really mushy salad. So hang on (I did my laundry in the meantime)

6) Once fully cooled, add red onion, olives, cucumber, an tomato to the cooled quinoa. Squeeze lemon over it.

7) Drizzle olive oil over the quinoa mixture, than stir in feta, salt, and pepper. Toss well and serve chilled.

I might do another warmer twist on quinoa next. We'll see what happens. G'nite folks :)

Salad is Still In: Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Hello, hello! Hope y'all doing fine in this rather bipolar weather. I swore New Jersey was all ready for Fall last week, but it's turning up to the 80s tomorrow.

On a positive note: it's still a great time for the good old inexpensive and super easy salad. So go ahead an hit your local farmer's market (since they started popping-up everywhere as of last week) and squeeze some salad time before the weather gets too cold :)

Southwestern Black Bean Salad (serves 4 generous serving)

15.5 oz. black beans, rinsed and drained
9 oz. cooked corn
1 medium tomato, chopped
0.3 c. red onion, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1 medium hass avocado, chopped
1 limes, juiced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 hand-fulls of minced cilantro (I love the smell of it but if you don't like it just moderate according to your taste)
salt&pepper to taste


1) In a large bowl, combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, scallion, cilantro, salt, and pepper
2) Squeeze fresh lime juice to taste and stir in olive oil
3) Add chopped avocado, chill in the fridge at least for 30 minutes before first serving

So delicious and perfect for work lunch or dinner  :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

North Jersey Foodventure #1: Bhoj

So after living here in Elmwood Park, NJ for quite a while, I started my own list of foodventure destinations in North Jersey (and possibly New York City). My first stop is right in town: Bhoj Indian Restaurant.

This humble joint is kinda easy to miss to its location. It's right on the corner of a shopping complex without any huge sign. Anyhow, once you enter in, you won't even feel like you're in Elmwood Park. It was really quiet for a Saturday lunch, with Indian folk music playing in the backdrop. There were only one server (could've been the son of the owner) who seated me right away as I entered, served me water, and gave me the go-ahead for the buffet table.

There were about 10 entrees selections+salad with various Indian dressing. As how it is with any other buffet, I like to try a little bit of everything then come back for two or three I love the most. At first, I was kinda puzzled not being able to find the naan on the buffet table. "What would an Indian meal be without it?"  thought. But surprise surprise, the server brought a bucket of fresh-from-the-oven naan to my table! The fact that they only serve the freshest naan is quite a luxury to me.

What I'd totally recommend are the butter chicken, tandoori chicken, and the variety of dals. I guess I also hit the jackpot that day because they had my favorite snack bhel phuri, as well as dessert: gajar halwa.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What I've Been Up To Post-Graduation + Pad See Ew

So I haven't really updated this blog for a while and you might wondered what's been going on with my life post my graduation from Drexel. It's been hectic, but well, here's a brief version of the run down:

  1. Traveled to Niagara Falls, took my family sight-seeing in NYC, Washington DC, Atlantic City, PA Dutch County, and Philly
  2. After 1 online test, 1 video interview, 2 on-site interviews all within 2 weeks, landed a job in Elmwood Park, NJ
  3. Relocated temporarily to Rutherford, NJ then moved to a really awesome apartment with a really awesome roommate in Elmwood Park, NJ (3 minutes walk from church, 10 minutes walk to work, I really can't ask for a better place)

Now that I've finished school and started working, I have more time to do more domesticated stuffs. Yeah, like cooking. Living outside a city is no excuse not to cook Asian anyway. I happened to visit Flushing, NY which was like the 2nd Chinatown in NY and stopped by Hong Kong Supermarket. Not as awesome of a shopping experience that I used to have at 1st Oriental Supermarket in Philly, but for now it will do.

What's cooking, you asked? Thai food is!

Pad See Ew

1 lb. wide, flat Chinese rice noodle
0.5 lb. firm tofu, diced
4 tsp. light soy sauce
A bunch of scallions, or any greens you love, chopped
3-4 Tbsp. oil
6 cloves minced garlic
3 Tbsp.  thick soy sauce
3 tsp. sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
3 tsp. white pepper

1) Soak rice noodle in warm water for over 1 hour. Drain well.

2) Meanwhile, you can prep the other ingredients. Mince the garlic, dice the tofu, chopped the veggies.

3) Heat oil in a wok. Saute in garlic until fragrant.

4) Add tofu. Stir until tofu is golden cooked.

4) Toss in noodle, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Saute and flip the noodle until evenly coated in soy sauce. Add veggies and continue sauteing

5) Sprinkle sugar. Flip evenly.
6) Push mixture to the side to make room for egg. Wait until the egg is nearly cooked, then scramble lightly, breaking it into chunks as you toss the noodles

7) Sprinkle pepper and toss evenly. Serve.

Tadaa..! What a treat after weeks of surviving first job, moving in-and-out a hotel, and finally moving into a new apartment. I'm so thankful of where I am today :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Here comes another four-day weekend, and Thursday is just the day I feel so domesticated. I thought of baking, then I changed my mind, then I changed my mind again. I saw oatmeal in the pantry, then lo and behold I feel like baking some oatmeal raisin cookies. This might be a revenge to the full semester I spent without baking abroad. I didn't have access to a real kitchen and grocery items were pretty steep. Anyhow, these cookies are so delicious I can finish all 2 dozens of them. Nom nom nom...

1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c. regular sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 c. uncooked oats
a handful of raisins (there's never "too much" for these)

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Cream sugars and butter in a bowl.
2. Add egg and vanilla, beat well.
3. Add combined flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix well.
4. Stir in oats and raisins evenly.

5. Drop dough using rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.
6. Bake 10 to 15 minutes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rainy Day Baking: Pecan Biscotti

I have a feeling I'll be so domesticated on Thursdays and Fridays of this term. Yesterday was all about spring cleaning, and today it's baking time! Since I wasn't in the States for last Christmas(first time in seven years, for the record), I kinda missed the biscotti fever. I don't know why but the Italians in this side of town bake them in ridiculous amount during Christmas season. Anyhow, here's to my longing for Italian festive feeling. 

The weather in Philly has been so bipolar. It's been raining all day last night and today, and sadly, I only had one egg in my fridge and pecan as top-in. So it yielded about 2-3 dozens of mini biscotti instead. Oh well, anything will do.

1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. anise extract
1 tsp. vanila extract
a heaping handful of crushed pecans

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 F. Grease a cookie sheet.
2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg, anise extract, vanila extract.
3. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, nutmeg. Stir this into the rest of the ingredients, mix well. Blend pecans in. Dough should be slightly lumpy

4. Form mini logs on the cookie sheet like below, and bake it for 25 minutes

5. Take the logs out of the oven. Slice the logs diagonally about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Lay the pieces separately on the cooking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn for the other side. Bake for another 10 minutes

 6. Turn the oven off and let the biscotti sit for a while to let it get brown and toasty. Store biscotti in air-tight container