I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Italian Cure Meat Sandwich

I fell in love with Italian cured meat recently. It all started with Prosciutto. The first time I had prosciutto was on a pizza many years ago. Odd choice for pizza toppings and I wasn't crazy about it back then. Prosciutto and I rekindled this summer after I bought some from WholeFoods. Prepackaged? yes. Is it the best quality? No.

But hey,  I liked it.

Capocollo, salami, prosciutto (L-R)

Since I have been shopping at Trader's Joe lately, I found their prepackaged Prosciutto that also comes with Salami and Capocollo.  Serve this with some seasoned/fresh mozzarella cheese, I got myself a decent meal.

Served with Focaccia bread

I also found this wonderful garlic infused olive oil that I drizzled on the sandwich.

If you ask me, I rather eat the cured meat on its own without the bread :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cheese Fondue/Queso

Although Cheese Fondue and Queso are two very different dishes, they are essential the same in my opinion --- melted cheese. I will be using the word queso in this post instead of cheese fondue because it has one less word :)

Cheese CAVE!!!!  


I can traced my experience with queso to 3 monumental moments :)  The first was a meal at a Tex-Mex restaurant outside of Houston, Texas. After a day of outlet mall shopping, we asked a store owner where to go, and I had my first queso. This was 5 years ago. That opened my eyes to the world of melted cheese.

My second experience was at a friend's football party. His wife made queso and I never left the side of the pot.

In between these years, I have made melted cheese by microwaving cheese (not a bad way), cooking cheese in a pot (i don't recommend this), or simply buy Queso dip from the store.

I had to use this picture!! so nerdy.

Taste pretty good. But only in the first 10 bites. 
The last monumental experience was a fondue dinner at the Melting Pot. It was at this dinner that I have decided that I need make this dish based on the technique I saw at Melting Pot. Why pay $15 for a pot of melted cheese???

Chopped vegies and apples, that looked like it were from Walmart, being served at the Melting Pot

Long and behold, I bought two cheeses from Trader's Joe, (come on Trader's Joe, time to sponsor my blog).

Next, by taking a page out of Melting Pot's technique, I built a "Steaming device".

Fill a small pot with water and put a large bowl over it

Then I cut up the cheese to small pieces. Lesson learned here --- the smaller the better. Grate it if you can.

The cheese should be smaller than this

Next, melt the cheese in the bowl

Cheese and cream. Please pardon the picture quality. I am still learning how to take better pictures.

Finally, add some cream to the melted cheese.

Keep cooking (steaming) until the cheese becomes smooth.

Very stringy melted cheese. Not the liquid flow-y consistency that I expected. Good nonetheless

A bit blurry. Trying to take a picture with one hand holding the camera

I didn't add any seasoning to this dish. Just cheese and cream. But one can definitely spice it up a little by adding chopped onion/chives/herbs/splash of wine. I know of places that add fried bacon to the queso.

I am surprised by how easy it is to make this cheese fondue/queso. I used two kinds of cheddar cheese. I will definitely try other kinds of cheese in the future. Just not blue cheese :)   I read somewhere that it is a good idea to mix hard and soft cheese.

hope you will try making your own fondue and let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Restaurant review - Bhojan

Bhojan is a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Murray Hill. Thanks to Aneesh's recommendation, I visited this restaurant. One of their main dishes is called Thali. It is actually "many little dishes" served on a big metal plate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thali

Let's count the number of dishes on this plate.

Back from my home country, the dishes are served on a big piece of banana leaf.  

source http://foodiegoodietellthetruths.blogspot.com/2010/06/banana-leaf-rice-kanna-curry-house.html

You will not find their Thali options on Bhojan website but it is on their in-restaurant menu. Lynn and I ordered an Asram Thali and a Punjabi (if my memory serves me well) Thali.
Some of the ingredients you will find on a Thali at Bhojan include eggplant, beans, chic peas, pumpkins (seasonal), potato. cheese. The usual fair at a vegetarian Indian restaurant. 

Overall, it was a good meal. Lots of food, and good value too. Nothing to scream about but Bhojan serves up some delicious food. 

If you do not know what to order from their extensive menu, then I would recommend their Thali. As for me, I know what I like now and I will stick to ordering "a la cart".

Oh, did I mention the decor at Bhojan is very interesting??

Pretty nice decor

This should be easy, what do they use to decorate the ceiling?

Wine bottles as "lamp shade". Old tricks?

Hot Chai Masala to warm the belly

First timer? Give it a try.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Carrot Juice

Carrot juice is one of my favorite drinks when I was growing up. There is a noodle place that my family and I ate frequently and every time we were there, I would order a glass of carrot juice with a splash of milk mixed in!

Only after coming to the USA that I realized this is a very strange behavior - mixing milk and carrot juice! Many times I have to ask apologetically, at the juice bar, for some milk in my carrot juice. Usually they did it without checking if they heard me right, but some gave me a puzzled look.

Let me know if you find this strange. It will be nice to know someone from this hemisphere of the earth that does the same thing as I.

I bought this carrot juice from Trader's Joe and added my own milk. No more embarrass request and puzzled look

Add caption

Friday, October 14, 2011

Restaurant review - Food Gallery 32

I have been doing restaurant reviews for a while. My buddy and I used to write reviews on a now-abandoned blog (http://thefoodanditsglory.blogspot.com/) check it out if you want to see what we have reviewed. I have also left reviews on Yelp.com. Most of my reviews, however, are done verbally to friends and acquaintances.

This post is my first restaurant review on this blog and the restaurant that I will feature is Food Gallery 32 in Korean town. It is not a restaurant but a food court. When Americans think food court, they think of food courts in the shopping mall that serves food not because they are good but because it is convenient. There is a food court revival going on in New York City this past two years. I think it will keep going.

The old Plaza hotel (now an apartment + commercial center) has a luxurious food court that is run by Todd English, which has an oyster bar, a sushi bar, pizza bar, pasta bar, etc. Mario Batali and Co. also has a food court called Eataly. The most recent food court that I heard of is in Chinatown.

Korean town is becoming my 2nd most frequented neighborhood (first is chinatown) outside of my own neighborhood. The 2nd spot used to be held by St. Marks. The main reason why I go to Korean town so frequently is because of Food Gallery 32 and I will tell you why.

1) I never have to wait for a table. Can't say that for Kunjip and other Korean restaurants that have a 15-30 minutes wait depending on the time of the day.

2) I can hang out at this place as long as I want. There is never a rush to give up my table.

3) The food is reasonably priced for Korean town

4) The food is delicious if you order the right thing.

I have only ordered from one stall and that is stall number 4 - Korean House. It was recommended by my friend Aneesh. I have also consistently order two items on their menu 1) L.A. Kalbi (Los Angeles-style Grilled Short ribs) which comes in small or large portion. Small is good for one person and large serves two.  2) Kalbi Tang (Short ribs soup). The best Kalbi, in my limited experience, is served at a restaurant in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I can tell you the name if you are interested. I honestly do prefer Kunjip's Kalbi Tang. However, due to reasons stated above, Food Gallery 32 provides the perfect balance in terms of eating experience.

Once you order and pay for your food, take the little buzzer and head upstairs to the main eating hall. That's where you will find all the tables and chairs. The buzzer will buzz when your food is ready.

Hope you will enjoy this place.

First floor of Food Gallery 32
"Korean House" where I usually do my ordering

L.A. Kalbi for two (sorry about the blurriness)

Kalbi "Tang" (soup)

Halal street cart

Street carts that serves halal food are ubiquitous in New York City. I would venture to say that it is as common as hotdog stand. These halal food carts serve predominantly two kinds of food. One is a lamb gyros, and the other one is chicken platter. If you live in New York City and if you ask around people for halal cart recommendation, chances are they will point you to the carts on 53rd street and 6th avenue.

The most confusing thing about this cart is that there seems to be many "sister carts" around the same street. They seem to belong to the same company, they all wear the same uniform, use the same plastic bags. However, everyone swears that there is only one authentic cart, which is the only one that opens from dinner time to 3am/4am. At any given day you will see a long line waiting for food.

Now, I have to preface that I have never had the food from that location and the reason is quite simple. I have easy access to a halal food cart, near my work place, that serves very delicious lamb gyros.

Let me explain, the food is very fresh and the chicken is cooked on the spot. The meat is sliced of the "gyro pole"? (there got to be a name for that), and hard pressed against the hot grill to char the meat slightly. The meat is served with "white sauce" (Tzatziki sauce, i think), and "red sauce" (chili sauce). For $5, I say it is a pretty good deal.

As for the taste, it is fragrantful and its aroma transfuses across the entire eating lounge area while tempting other lunch-ers around me.

Until I have sampled the food cart on 53rd street and 6th avenue, I am very content with my very own halal cart on First avenue and 68th street. 

The owner of the cart. He gave me his email address, not sure so that I can email my blog url to him or for you guys to contact him lmody@yahoo.com

The owner and his side kick

This the the lamb gyro dish

Another view of the lamb gyros dish

This is the chicken platter dish


Monday, October 10, 2011


This food item needs little introduction. Crepe is simply the thin cousin of pancake but for some reason not as popular as pancakes, does this has anything to do with crepe being originated from France?

Here is the basic recipe for crepe that yields 4 servings. I feel that each person can eat at least 3 servings, so it is quite necessary to adjust your serving portion accordingly.

1 cup of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoon of butter, melted

note: As you can see, the first thing that needs to be done ahead of time is to melt the butter. Now it is tempting to use a microwave to melt the butter, but i personally feel that is it not ideal for two reasons - a) butter melts unevenly in the microwave, b) you might overheat the butter if you are not careful

My preferred way of melting butter is to use a water bath method. Simple fill a large bowl with warm water and place another smaller bowl inside this warm water-filled bowl. Melt the butter in this smaller bowl. Stir the butter a few times, it will melt in about 10 minutes.

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg and flour together.
2. Gradually add the milk and water
3. Finally add the salt and butter
4. Whisk everything until the batter becomes silky.
(at this point, some recipe request that you rest the batter in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the batter to even out. I tried both wait and non-waiting and I think it is unnecessary to wait 30 minutes.
5. Heat a tiny bit oil/butter in a flat non-stick pan and pour a small ladle of batter into the pan. Swirl the pan around until you achieve a thin layer of batter.
6. Cook the crepe until it is slightly brown, about 1 minute (you can lift the crepe to take a peek underneath). Turn the crepe and cook the other side.
(i also noticed that it is unnecessary to oil the pan for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th crepe because the butter in the batter oils the pan)
7. Roll/fold/or leave the crepe "open" and serve

Now, a crepe is like a blank canvas, you can "paint" it anyway you want. It is quite common to put nutella or jam on crepe. You can also eat it with fresh fruits, maple syrup (why not), chocolate syrup (delicious) or ice cream.

melting butter in a water bath

melted butter - golden delicious..wait, isn't that the name of an apple?

eggs and flour. one of the eggs have two yolks!!

Thin layer of batter

a roll of crepe

I like the slightly browned crepe

Thanks SL for the wonderful decoration and picture

Looks delicious, doesn't it?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Watermelon Soju

Soju is a distilled rice liquor native to Korea. Although I am not from Korea, I venture to guess that Soju is to Korea as Tequila is to Mexico and Vodka is to Russia. 

This drink that I am about to tell you is a cocktail made with Soju and, you guessed it, watermelon.

I had this drink for the first time in Korean town and they charge you $30 for each order of watermelon soju that serves about 6 generous portions.

Remind me, what goes into watermelon soju?  Watermelon + soju. $30?? Hmmm....

Let's figure out how to make this drink ourselves.

a) a water melon
b) a bottle of cheap soju. You don't want to waste a bottle of good liquor by making cocktails, do you?
c) 2-3 lemons - juiced
d) a few tablespoons of sugar - dissolved in a pot or microwave
e) heaps of ice cubes

1) Slice the water melon into equal halves.
2) scoop the flesh into a bowl. SAVE THE SHELL
3) Blend the watermelon in a blender.
4) Add ice cubes to the blender and blend again (we used the pulverize function)
5) Pour the watermelon juice into the watermelon "shell"
6) Pour soju into the watermelon juice (how much? totally up to you but you want to be able to taste and smell soju as you drink)
7) Add lemon juice and dissolved sugar.

Did I hear "just a splash"? No....

Lotus seed and white fungus Asian dessert

This is my first Asian dessert blog post and this dessert is called "Lotus seed, white fungus" soup.

Dessert is not a common item in most Asian cuisines. Asians rarely eat a cake, ice cream, brownie, or pie after a meal. The most commonly eaten "sweet stuff" are fruits (at least in my home country).

However, there is a class of sweet stuff that can be considered as dessert and these are literally called "sugar/sweet water" (糖水). Some of the more commonly consumed "sugar water" are made out of red beans, green beans, black glutinous rice, wheat, or coconut, etc. Ingredients that you will not normally associate with dessert in the western world.

Traditionally, these ingredients are thought to have health benefits, which is why they are used in "sugar water". I think that the western and eastern world view their "dessert" differently. The western world emphasizes on taste, texture, and aesthetic. Not to say the Eastern "desserts" do not take these into the account. However, there is an additional level of "health benefits" that I think the Western "dessert" emphasizes less.

Ok, enough philosophy.

The "sugar water" that I made the other day has four main ingredients

a) lotus seed  - this is the seed from the Lotus plant. It is high in protein, low in fat, and nutritious.

Dried lotus seed on the left, cooked lotus seed on the right and the green germ that needs to be removed

b) white fungus -This is a kind of fungus that, as the name suggest, is yellowish white. This kind of fungus is used mainly in "dessert soup" as oppose to its cousin the "blank fungus" (written about it earlier) that is mostly found in savory dishes. As in most chinese "herbal" ingredients, I have 5 words to say about the white fungus - "It is good for you"

Dry white fungus that is off yellowish

c) dried longan - longan (pronounced as long aaaan) is one of my favorite fruit because it is very sweet which is why fresh longans are expensive. Longans are dried to to preserve the fruit and are commonly used as the basic flavor of sweet soup.

Dried logan

Fresh logan (source: wikipedia)

d) dried red dates - another commonly used ingredient in chinese "sweet soup".
(I just learned that red dates are also called "Jujube", which is one of the currently trendy "health" supplements in drinks/smooties)

Dried red dates (source: wikipedia)

A few additional notes when you buy the ingredients:

1) If you buy whole lotus seed, make sure to cook it for 10 minutes to soften it and then remove the germ of the seed. This germ is one of the bitterest thing you will ever taste.

2) The white fungus smells funky right off the bag (well, it is fungus) but the smell will mellowed out as you cook

3) Be sure to buy red dates that have been pitted

4) Be sure to wash the lotus seed, white fungus, red dates and longan many rounds

Finally, after all these descriptions, this is how you make it

1) Lotus seed - half a bowl
2) white fungus -  two hands full
3) red dates - a handful
4) Longan - a handful

Cooking instructions. So simple....

1) Put everything in the pot, add a few cups of water and cook for 1 hour.
2) Add sugar to sweeten.