Last week I headed out to Albuquerque, NM for my grandmother’s 80th birthday dinner. It took a lot of coordination and planning, but we managed to have all my aunts and uncles on my father’s side show up (and some of my dad’s cousins as well!) for a dinner in honor of my grandmother. It was pretty awesome to have family come from all over the world for this–and to top it all off we managed to keep it a surprise (or, almost anyway).

We had dinner at East Ocean, a Chinese restaurant that my grandmother always takes us to whenever we visit. Dinner for 32 people…definitely required pre-planning a menu! My mom and Aunt Hali coordinated the menu. The dishes for the most part weren’t super fancy or extravagant, but the best meals are classic dishes made really well.

This was the final menu:

  • Seafood soup (海鮮湯)
  • Chicken with green onion and ginger (蔥油雞)
  • Shrimp with snow pea (雪豆蝦)
  • Peking pork chops (京都排骨)
  • Sizzling steak Cantonese style (中式牛柳)
  • Chinese Broccoli (清炒芥藍菜)
  • Lo Mein (什錦炒麵)
  • Steam rock fish (清蒸石斑)
  • Tofu with minced shrimp (琵琶豆腐)
  • Sesame chicken (芝麻雞)

In addition, we made hardboiled eggs dyed red, which is a traditional dish to serve on birthdays. The eggs were slightly underdone, but I think it’s because we forgot to take into consideration the high altitude of Albuquerque.

I started to lose track after awhile so I didn’t manage to get a picture of each dish, but I think I got most of them. The seafood soup, fish, and ginger chicken were really good, but most of the other dishes were pretty salty.

After dinner, everyone gathered at my aunt and uncle’s church for dessert and just to hang out. My mom had these red bean and lotus buns shipped from L.A.

We also had a sheet cake and some fruit platters. It was really great having a huge family get together like that. The last time we did that was 14 years ago…I was 10! Hopefully it won’t be another 14 years before we do it again.

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My mom has been raving about this place and their 99 cent zhajiang mian (noodles and black bean sauce) ever since her friend brought her here last week. She kept saying the next time I visit home she would bring me, which is exactly what she did when I went home over the weekend.

The restaurant is located right next to Lotte supermarket off of Rt. 40. The sign advertises the establishment as “Korean-style Chinese” cuisine. I don’t really know what that means. They covered their windows completely with banners advertising their 99 cent special. As a result no natural light comes into the restaurant, which actually makes for more pleasant lighting from the inside. The inside is clean and very nicely decorated with dark wood panels and brlightly lit with recess lights. You wouldn’t guess from the outside how nice it looks on the inside.

Banner on the outside advertising their zha jiang mian

Menu cover

Most of the servers don’t speak very much English. We had a hard time communicating with them and wound up doing a lot of pointing and gesturing, but we ended up with the right orders, so that wasn’t too much of an issue. We got two orders of the 99-cent zhajiang mian as well as an order of chap jae and a spicy squid dish. The server asked us if we wanted the spicy squid “mild spicy” or “Korean spicy.” which I thought was funny. We are not brave souls, so we went with mild spicy.

They don’t give you much in regards to appetizers. Just some pickled yellow radish, raw onions and a dipping sauce. But I guess since it’s technically a “Chinese” restaurant they’re not obligated to provide any of the traditional Korean appetizers? Anyway, I was never a big fan of pickled yellow radish anyway.

Chap Jae

“Mild spicy” squid

Zha Jiang Mian

The zhajiang mian was surprisingly good. I wasn’t expecting much for 99 cents, but we got a huge bowl of noodles. The sauce had tofu, some potato, and even a few pieces of pork. The only catch for the 99-cent zhajiang mian is they automatically add a $1 tip/order, which is fair. I though the chap jae was really good, though I was surprised that it came on top of rice. I didn’t think chap jae was usually served with rice. And the “mild spicy” squid dish tasted more like Korean spicy…but maybe I’m a weak sauce.

Take home message–I’d definitely go back for more “Korean Chinese” food.

Oh yea…and I saw this on the menu and got a kick out of it.

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Flushing Food Tour, 2009

February 25, 2009

Ah…New York City. I would move there just to experience all the food. My friend, Linda, inspired by this article in the New York Times that came out last summer, masterminded a plan to hit up as many Flushing food stops as possible in one afternoon without causing our stomachs to explode. So about eleven of us ventured out into Queens on Saturday to test the limits of our distended stomachs.

Our first stop was Xi’an Famous Foods, located in the Golden Mall off of Main Street. The Golden Mall is like a really cramped food court. It’s located downstairs and is crowded with six or seven different places to try. Don’t go there expecting fine dining–expect to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the people next to you, on stools that look like they’re made for children, and to eat off of folding tables that might collapse at the slightest bump. Reminded me of Taiwan. But the food is delicious. We stopped at Xi’an Famous Foods mainly because it was the only place that could accommodate us at that given time. The owner goes by Mr. Liang Pi, after his famous liang-pi cold noodles. He seemed kind of pushy at first, telling us what to order, but he turned out to be really friendly, and I was really happy with what we got.

Clockwise from top left: Liang-pi cold noodles, lamb cheek, lamb “burger”, and lamb spine. We each paid $6 (seven people total) for everything (including 4 lamb burgers at $2 each, and some bottled water too)

Our next stop was the Xinjiang Barbeque Cart on 41st and Kissena. There’s so much smoke billowing from the cart it’s hard to get close and place your order. Two guys stand by the cart grilling up skewers and blasting hip hop music from portable speakers. You can choose from three different proteins: lamb (the most traditional), beef, or chicken, and whether you want them spicy or not. $1 each.

Next on our itinerary was the Peking Duck Sandwich stall. I LOVE Peking Duck. And I think my love for it partly stems from the fact that my parents never really made it, and we never got it at restaurants. I was always afraid to ask for it because I thought it might be too expensive. Anyway, each sandwich was only $1. (And as my friend, Akshay put it, “a dollar well-spent.”) I had to get two. And they were excellent. I love duck meat, especially with the oily skin. So fatty, but so so good.

Clockwise from left: Peking duck bun, my friend Linda stuffing her face, the peking duck stall.

Stop #4: White Bear for wontons in hot sauce. I question why the awning on the outside said “White Bear Ice Cream Yogurt,” but I do not question the tastiness of the wontons. There was not enough space inside to seat all of us, so we took our order to go and hit up the food court in the Flushing Mall to enjoy our goodies.
digging in.

We couldn’t very well just bring food from the outside and take up the food court seats without contributing our patronage to the mall itself. So…

My friend, Richard stopped at a stand in the mall and picked us up some of these custard-filled cake thingies.

…then we had dumplings and kimchi.

So time for a little dessert. The S&C Shaved ice stand is located in the food court at Flushing Mall. $3.25 for a big bowl of shaved ice and your choice of 4 toppings. You can choose from fruity toppings as well as the sweet bean/peanut variety that Asians love so much. We made one mostly fruity and one mostly beany
After a brief respite (and a bathroom break), we headed over to the Nan Shian Dumpling House for some Xiao Long Bao (Soup dumplings). These were pretty amazing. I managed not to let any of the soup spill out when I bit into the skin…which is no small feat. We got an order of scallion pancakes, which were quite good as well.

We were supposed to head to the Happy Beef Noodle House right next door afterwards, but most of us were getting pretty full by then, so we decided to cut the tour short. But no Chinese food tour is complete without some bubble tea. So off to Ten Ren on Roosevelt!

I ordered the red bean milkshake, which was surprisingly less sweet than I was expecting. Generally bubble tea is way to sweet for my liking.

And that brings an end to the Flushing Food Tour. We went out later that night to Happy Ending Lounge to celebrate Linda’s birthday, and at the end of the night (when we were finally hungry again), we stopped at the Creperie for some delicious late night drunk food. I ordered a savory crepe, with prosciutto, mozzarella, and sun-dried tomatoes. It hit the spot.

Everytime I visit NYC, it turns into some sort of eating marathon. And I love it. I’m looking forward to the next one already.

Oh, and if YOU would like to go on a self-guided tour of the culinary offerings of Flushing, here is the map and listings we used. But certainly don’t limit yourself to it!

(Source: New York Times)

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Birthday Dinner =)

February 15, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day! Since I’ll be out of town next weekend, my parents decided to celebrate my birthday with me this weekend. My mom worked really hard to prepare a delicious meal, and I love her all the more for it.

Just look at the presentation!

Slow-cooked pork shoulder over Chinese broccoli. She got up at 6am to start this!

Hard-boiled egg (my mom tinted the shells red). You’re supposed to eat this on your birthday

Sticky rice – my mom makes the BEST sticky rice.

Fish soup – can’t give credit to my mom for this. My mom’s friend brought this over. It’s from a restaurant in Rockville.
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