Daily Ice Cream Ration

One of the things I’ve been known to do on each trip somewhere is to have that one thing that I do – whether it’s to look for a certain store, buy a certain item, or eat a certain food only. In the past some examples have been to only drink pineapple juice when ordering at a restaurant, or always buying a Gucci bag when visiting New York (I broke this streak the last time I went to NY, I think I’m getting soft). This trip my thing has been to have a nightly ice cream snack from the AmPm across the street. A quick look into my daily indulgence –
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On the first night I went a little overboard and bought a bunch of things, one of which was sweet potato pie haagen dazs. It was very tasty! The way it was packaged was really awesome too – crumble on top!
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I also got rum raisin on another night, but that was kind of a fail. Slight rum flavor, with raisin chunks, but overall pretty bland. I didn’t eat it in favor of eating the other one, which is a ice cream sandwich encased in a wafer outside, and with a thin layer of chocolate inside. That one was really good! I ended up eating a few other variations of it (green tea with azuki – red bean – layer, and then another vanilla one with a chocolate wafer outside and a crispy chocolate layer inside).
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One thing you may have noticed on this particular ice cream wrapper are the notations of 80 kcal. I don’t know if that’s for one sandwich, or half of it, or a quarter. What I have noticed though, is that people here, especially girls, are very concerned with calories and being thin. It’s a little unfortunate, because everyone here is already so thin, and while I’m sure they can’t be thin without such care when eating, it’s a little sobering that what I thought was an American obsession is actually elsewhere as well. Life is so short, is it really worth all the obsessing? After we die, I doubt people will paint us as ‘oh, that fat person.’

Anyway, besides my nightly ritual, I also sometimes ate ice cream at breakfast.

This particular strawberry parfait was gross. It tasted like cheap strawberry and vanilla ice cream.photo (1)

This one is very very good though – Lotte brand chocolate mochi. Thin mochi skin that was soft, and delicious chocolate ice cream inside. Yummers.
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I’m a little sad that once I head back to the States I can’t do my daily ritual anymore. There isn’t a convenience store down the street that I can walk to at all hours (and feel safe doing it). Maybe it’s better for my health!

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Santouka Ramen – Shibuya

You may be a little surprised to hear that Santouka can actually be found in California – yup, there’s one in San Jose. I haven’t tried that one yet, though I’ve heard of it. Kyung’s coworker suggested we go to one of the originals in Shibuya, so today after visiting a friend, we walked down the street to find this restaurant.

The restaurant is small and cozy, and moves up vertically for seating. We sat on the second floor in front of the open ramen bar and ordered the special pork cheek ramen (what they are known for) and the miso ramen. We also ordered a side of gyoza.
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The ramen was made swiftly, and also came with a random side of rice log. I can’t really describe it better than it was literally a log of rice with some sesame on top.
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Kyung’s pork cheek ramen was amazing – the broth was so thick it was like pork and butter flavored porridge, and the pork cheek meat was so tender and melted in your mouth. This was the best ramen I have ever had.
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My ramen was great but not stellar. I ordered the miso which came with soft pieces of pork that was slightly fatty in a good way (but not as tender as the cheek). The broth was hearty but not quite as satisfyingly thick as Kyung’s.
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I did like the gyoza a lot though – it wasn’t overly fried and came with a very light skin and tasty but dainty filling of meat.
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Santouka is definitely the best ramen here so far, and we’re eager to try the one back home (though I doubt it would match the flavors and preparation and FUN of the one here.

On a random side note, our hotel randomly gave us a free sample of ramen. Behold. Even the ramen that comes prepacked is still better looking and tasting than the stuff we get back at home!
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Torafugu Tei – Ginza

I’ve eaten fugu fish and it’s been 5 hours and I’m still alive so I think that’s a good sign. Right!?

Kyung wanted to try fugu fish before we left Tokyo. Since our vacation days are winding down and we only have 48 hours or so left here, we scrambled to find a restaurant that prepared fugu fish. Fugu is not one of those fish you can find by just randomly stumbling into a sushi restaurant. According to Wikipedia, only a few places can legally prepare fugu fish, since the fish is so deadly if it’s not prepared properly. We asked around, and it seemed that even the locals didn’t know where to go really. I did some searching on Google and found a Yelp like local review tool for Tokyo called SunnyPages. From here I found reviews for a place called Torafugu Tei, a chain in Tokyo that specializes in fugu fish only.

We dashed into a cab in the rain and made it to the restaurant. The restaurant is inside what looks to be an office building, so from the outside you can’t really tell there’s a restaurant inside (though the office like building is on a street with many restaurants). We walked into the building and found the restaurant, which is split across several floors. We sat one floor below the main entrance, and you get to sit in a traditional dining room where just your party is ensconced in a small wooden room where you take your shoes off, and you sit around a table with an electric table top heat conductor in the middle. Very high tech!

We stared at the menu and decided to order the set course #1.
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Our first course was fugu skin sashimi that came in a citrusy ponzo sauce.
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The skin was thick and had a texture similar to cold pork belly. It was very refreshing with the light sauce and had a similar flavor to many starter sashimi dishes you would get at a restaurant that is Michelin rated. So far so good!

Second course was actual fugu sashimi, thinly slivered and arranged on a plate in the traditional fugu preparation style, which is a chrysanthemum (the flower for death). It came with a hint of lemon, more ponzu sauce, and various flavored greens like green onion.
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This dish was very refreshing as well. After I ate it, my inner cheeks started getting a weird tingly/itchy feeling that lasted for about 10 minutes. I kept stretching my jaws to get rid of the feeling. Kind of weird.

Next course was the deep fried fugu. The coating was very well seasoned, and the crispy texture of the outside complemented the soft and creamy fish inside. The only thing that was a bit bothersome was the fact that the fish was complete with bone, so you didn’t want to crunch into your fish too hard.
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After that was the fugu soup (like hot pot). This part was very shocking – we received large pieces of raw fugu that were STILL MOVING. See twitching fish here!

We boiled the fugu pieces with various light veggies like tofu, mushrooms, and cabbage shabu shabu style.
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The broth didn’t end up having too much flavor, unfortunately.
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We later took the soup and made rice porridge with it – that was yummy. We mixed in additional ingredients.
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The porridge came out much more flavorful and hearty. We added rice, raw eggs, seaweed, salt, and soy sauce. There was also pickled ume (plum) and daikon to add additional flavor (I loved the ume but not so much the daikon; Kyung gave me all his pickles).
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We ended with a simple slice of canteloupe.

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The simplicity and familiarity of the fruit after having such an exotic and unusual meal was a stark contrast. The meal was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and while we were a bit worried about the poison, clearly we’re still here!

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Cobara Hetta – Akihabara

Would you believe there is Indian food in Tokyo? Not a lot of it, but enough to pique Kyung and I’s interest. Since we’re from Indian food heaven in Silicon Valley, how good could Indian food in Japan really be? While shopping in the major shopping mall Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara we decided to find out.

First, this Indian restaurant has fake food outside so you can see what you’re potentially ordering!
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Not something you see at home. In fact, you’re lucky if your menu even describes what you’re getting!

We ordered bhatura (unfortunately, does not come with cholle or channa), garlic naan, daal, and spicy chicken curry.
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The food was actually surprisingly really good! The food was prepared by Indian folks for one, and the food was pretty authentic tasting except for the fact that the spices were toned down a lot and the sauces were slightly more watery/thin than the Indian food at home. My daal had chunks of spinach and tomatoes in it, and was pretty satisfying. The bhatura was thick and fried just right. The garlic naan was very garlicky, and had the proper flavor and texture. The chicken curry was not that spicy, and didn’t come with as much chicken chunks as you’d expect, but Kyung ate all of it and was very satisfied with it.

That wasn’t all. We HAD to order the dessert when we saw CHOCOLATE NAAN.
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Naan filled with thick melty chocolate that was rich but not too sweet, and accompanied with vanilla ice cream with raspberry chunks. Wow. This is one of the best desserts I’ve had in Japan yet. We need this back home!

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Whopper 7 – Tokyo Exclusive

Okay, let me preface this with I am NOT only eating fast food while in Tokyo. I just happen to be slow about blogging about what I eat, and when I finally get to it, for some reason I focus on the fast food chains. I promise I’ve eaten lots of udon, soba, curry, tonkatsu, and raw fish! And countless pastries and sweets. Really!

Now, onto the Whopper 7. If you remember my Facebook post a few weeks ago, I mentioned this article from Yumsugar outlining this limited edition burger. It was meant to celebrate the launch of Windows 7, and would feature a 7 patty Whopper for 777 JPY to 7 days (from 10/22-10/29).

Since we’re in Japan, we thought it made sense for us to try it. However, the 7 days passed and we never quite made it to Burger King. Thinking it was over, we shrugged it off, and then suddenly today we passed a BK that STILL had it on the menu (until 11/6). But, the price was doubled to 1450 JPY. Undeterred, we tried it anyway.
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I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was pretty bad. It was a Whopper on steroids. Way too many soggy meat patties that couldn’t be held together by the soaked buns, and too little condiments/lettuce/tomatoes/pickles to offset the overly meat taste. I normally order Whoppers with Cheese (if I ever go to BK, which is not often at all), and so this burger was not only missing the cheese, it was too skimpy on everything else and just way too meaty.

We couldn’t even finish it and the sandwich fell apart quite quickly.
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It was a pretty hilarious experience all in all, and we sat there giggling at the monstrosity of our burger. A few other people in the restaurant ordered the same sandwich and took pics, so at least we weren’t the only suckers!!

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Mos Burger, Shinjuku

I’ve heard many good things about Mos Burger, so of course one of the things we had to look for in Tokyo was Mos Burger! Luckily, there’s one very close to the hotel we’re staying in.
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This is a chain like a McDonalds, but it’s very specific to Asia (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, etc). I wasn’t too keen on trying the regular burgers, but I was very keen to try the rice burgers, which is basically a special burger where cooked rice is shaped into hamburger buns (top and bottom) and filled inside with beef, or seafood, or vegetables. I ordered the yakiniku beef burger.
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So unique – thinly sliced hot pieces of beef that tasted a lot like Korean bbq, fresh leafy lettuce like the kind you wrap Korean BBQ in, and rice patty top and bottom that was perfectly shaped with a slighty brown crispy outside. Mmm. They should have this kind of stuff in kogi trucks back home.

Kyung ordered the pork cutlet burger, which comes with a regular bun, and a tonkatsu filling smothered in BBQ sauce. He wasn’t a big fan, and only ate half.
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Finally, we also ordered a side of fries with the ‘chili dipping sauce.’ We were expecting spicy chili, but it was almost similar in texture and taste to Wendy’s chili (which is not a bad thing).
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A different experience, I’m glad I came here. It definitely puts my McDonalds experience here to shame!

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Tokyo McDonalds

…and she’s back! Thanks to my acid reflux meds and my decrease in stress, I’m on a semi normal eating binge again. Except for the occasional waves of nausea.

So, this comeback post comes to you live from Shinjuku, Tokyo! Kyung and I are currently on day three of our Japan trip. It’s been amazing so far! Our first meal in Tokyo was – you guessed it – McDonalds! I have a thing about going to a MCD in each country to see what’s different, since I practically know the MCD menu at home by heart. We arrived at our hotel room tired and starved after a long flight, and the first thing we saw was MCD. Bingo!
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We ordered the ‘shaka shaka’ chicken, which is a fried, flattened piece of chicken that you can ‘shake’ with different powdered toppings – cheese, pepper, and garlic. I chose the pepper one – it’s great, actually, it comes with black and white pepper, and it covers the chicken so it tastes almost like Korean fried chicken, crispy and salty as hell – mmm.

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Next, we ordered some mystery sandwich, which later turned out to be a Croquette burger – it was not very tasty, the croquette was oozing and at first Kyung thought it was a squid paste burger. Gross.

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Finally, I ordered the famed ebi filet-o. Again, a fail in my opinion – just like a filet-o-fish, but with chunks of mini shrimp, which was covered and oozing in oil. Somehow filet-o-fish patties absorb the oil better, whereas the shrimp patty is very porous because there are whole shrimp smushed together into a patty. I couldn’t finish this one.

Crikey, I was expecting lots from the Tokyo MCD, but was not too pleased. Oh well, at least I can say I tried it!

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Chaat Month – at an end!?

You may have been wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. Truth be told, I was diagnosed last Friday with acid reflux at the emergency room. I’ve been suffering the last three weeks from stomach ailments, some so bad that I’ve stayed home (thinking I had food poisoning). Hah! Anyway, last Friday the pain was just too much, and I was so nauseous, I decided enough was enough. So, after being diagnosed with acid reflux, I heard some dreaded words – change in diet. Change in diet meaning no spicy, fatty, fried, chocolate, caffeine (tea included), and soda. I later learned from reading online that people with acid reflux should also stay away from garlic, onion, cheese, citrus fruits, and tomatoes. Seriously? These are _all_ things that I eat. Might as well throw me a couple loaves of whole wheat bread and call it a day.

So, chaat month has come to an abrupt and quick end. I don’t know yet which foods I will focus on for this month (I was thinking pancakes, but how many pancakes can you possibly eat?), but for now, if you’re bored and looking for content, check out my cooking/baking at http://kertong.com/katfood/katcook

Stay tuned, I will conquer this stomach ailment!

Here’s a picture of my dinner from this evening. I went to Angelica’s Bistro in Redwood City with Roo and we ordered sandwiches (I know, it’s not sandwich month – but who can resist a portabello mushroom and brie grilled panini?)

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Chaat House

Today Miss Ro and I went on a long lunch adventure that culminated in chaat. We were supposed to go to chaat originally. But then things got sidetracked and I had to go order 8 dozen donuts at Stan’s. So after an hour of placing the donut order and then getting gas since my gas light went on without my noticing, we finally made our way to Chaat House. It’s a local chain situated around certain parts of the South Bay like Sunnyvale, and it’s very easy to find on El Camino. Miss Ro likes the pani puri here, and so I wanted to go try it!

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The cafe smells overwhelmingly good (and fried!) as soon as you walk in. There was a fairly brisk lunch crowd (mostly Indian people) which was a good sign. Every table had a giant carafe of water, even for tables of one, which made me laugh.

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The menu has a fairly good selection for a ‘fast food’ type restaurant. There is a normal long list of chaat, and you can order more robust dishes like curry or thalis. We opted for the pani puri, the aloo tikki channa, and the bhel puri.

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The pani puri comes with potato and chick pea fillings, along with the dark sauce and a different type of dunking water. It’s not quite like the green mint water, it was darker in color and flavor. Since the flavor was more distinct than what I’m used to with the green mint water, I didn’t know what I thought of the flavor! The aloo tikki was my fave dish of the three – hot, mashed but well flavored potatoes covered in thick channa with chick peas that are cooked just right – delicious! The bhel puri was decent, but not as refreshing as the one at Chaat Paradise. I have to say, I think my favorite bhel puri is still hands down Chaat Paradise.

So far the winner of the month is still Chaat Paradise! Is this going to be another Ike’s but for chaat??

By the way, all this Indian food is giving me severe heartburn. Another friend suggested I should chill out on the Indian and try something benign like sushi. But oh, taste buds!

Chaat House
939 W El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087

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Vik’s Chaat Corner

Vik’s, how I love thee. Your greasy snacks had me hooked at hello (or the bellowing man’s voice). This was the first place I ever had chaat (without knowing what chaat was) and Kyung was the one who introduced it to me! Apparently in college he used to love coming here with his roommates on a weekly basis. And neither him or I knew it was such a famous place until we checked Yelp and saw it had a ton of reviews (nearing 600) and 4.5 stars out of 5!

Vik’s started as a wholesaler of ingredients for Indian food, but then they started a little cafe on the side to make their savory creations. Over time people started coming here and realizing just how superior the food is. We make the drive from San Jose to Berkeley without a second thought when we’re craving Vik’s and/or chaat. It’s just that good!

The cafe is a pretty large sized affair now, and it’s always constantly packed. The registers are always opening and closing, people are always looking at the large chalkboard discussing their choices, and the lines are long. People have to fight for tables, but the good thing about snack food is that once someone is done you can swoop in and sit down.

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There are so many people and the cafe is so bustling that there’s a man who stands with a microphone and yells your name when your food is ready. The food doesn’t come out at once, it’s a game of musical chairs. You hear ‘NAME!’, you gather yourself to go up to the counter through the crowds, grab your bhatura cholle, hustle back to your seat, take one bite, then hear ‘NAME!’ and you have to get back up. Makes life exciting I guess =)

There is a pretty extensive menu of yummies to choose from. My personal favorites are the aloo tikki cholle, the bhatura cholle, pani puri, the lamb roti (ok, this isn’t REALLY chaat), and the masala dosa (again, not really chaat either). I’ve tried a few other things that I didn’t like quite so much – the bhel puri, which is not as crispy as the one at Chaat Paradise, and the biryani rice.

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Behold the pani puri, bhel puri, and aloo tikki. The pani puri here is decent, with the crispy shells and a mixture of chopped and seasoned potato and onion to place inside. You dunk it all in the mint water, of course. While the flavor is good, this pani puri is not quite as flavorful as the one at Chaat Paradise – you have less variety of fillings, and the mint water is not as tangy. The bhel puri is pretty flat here. It’s refreshing, but not crispy. It’s also not as zesty as I’d like.

I love the aloo tikki here – mealy and mashed potatoes covered in a wonderfully flavored cholle. The garbanzo beans, mint chutney, and diced onions go so well with the hot potatoes. Mm.

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This place has the best bhatura cholle I’ve ever had – giant hot puff that’s greasy and chewy and yet crispy and it sops up the cholle like bread and butter. Wow.

Vik’s is a nostalgic and greasy favorite of mine, but I have to say that for my sanity and waistline, Chaat Paradise is equally good. The food is just as delicious (and in some cases more so), and it’s not drowning in oil. And it’s closer to home. And I can eat it anytime!

By the way, I’ve just had Indian food for four days in a row.

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