Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Little Things

Lately I have been waiting for a moment in time to coincide when the sun is warm, traffic doesn't completely suck, and I'm off from work to take the drive down towards Gardena to seek out the secluded Sakae Sushi. With two out of three of these specs in place, I flew south on a frio and blustery Viernes to have a taste of traditional Kansai style oshisushi (pressed in a wooden box) mixed with some good old fashioned cut rolls.
The spartan menu at Sakae (since 1962) is summed up with just six immaculate items: saba (pickled mackerel), ebi (cooked camaron with sweet vinegar), inari (fried tofu placed over boxed rice), nori-maki (shiitake, spinach, kampyo {dried gourd shavings}, oboro {translucent kelp} and egg), tamago-maki (same ingredients as nori but topped with sweet egg in lieu of a seaweed wrap), and a California roll (aguacate, shrimp, roasted sesame seeds).
Despite the weather, I took this pristine parcel out to Redondo Beach to enjoy my catch (12 piece mix plus 5 slices of CA roll) in the ocean air. With a lot of work to do, I wasted no time and ripped open my present like a spoiled kid at Christmas. All of the morsels in the box proved to be muy fresco and packed with oishii flavor. I especially like that the inari wasn't stuffed with rice but on top. If I had to pick a favorite out of this elite group, I would have to crown the tamago-maki. I've never tasted tamago this unique and it's a good feeling when you eat something amazing for the first time. For that matter, I'm not even that into huevos but today I can certainly say that I am The Eggman, goo goo g'joob!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Five Waters

There are few places in the world more historically complicated than the Punjab regions of modern day Pakistan and India. With a constant barrage of ancient invaders (Greeks, Persians, Turks, Afghans) followed by a couple of predominant empires (Mughal and Sikh) capped off with British colonialism, the Punjab was not only at the forefront of culture and theology but also heavily responsible for comida etiquette as we know it today. Such as sitting down to eat (people had previously stood to partake), asking to pass an item across or under a table, and engaging in light conversation about the weather while silencing belches with a rolled fist. Of course these statements may just be the rumors of time, but what remains certain is the ongoing influence of Punjabi cuisine (especially the devoted use of the tandoor) in the worldwide spectrum of Indian cooking.
With that in mind K and I stopped by Punjabi Tandoor, a Sikh owned Indian fonda in the magical ciudad of Anaheim, for a quick fill of flavorful sauciness. One distinguishing mark of Punjabi restaurant comida (apparently home cooking tends to be lighter) is the copious amounts of ghee (clarified butter), cream, and paneer (farmer queso) employed during dish preparation. In short, if you like it colorful, rich, and fancy free then this stuff is ripe for the sopping. I ordered up a combo 4: arroz, chicken makhani (tandoored in a yogurt tomate gravy), mixed vegetable korma, cup o' kheer, and a samosa (with brilliant chutney) for good measure. K had a combo with saag paneer but I was too entrenched in tearing my naan to remember anything else. We've all had good naan to be sure, but I must say that the made to order flatbread (garlic or plain) at PT is among the finest anywhere: hot, slightly fluffy, and crispy in all the right places. Truthfully, I have always wanted to take a self-reflective comida tour of northern India, and it still may be in the cards, but until then I'll look towards PT for that little piece of Shangri-La.

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's Like Seoul Man

 With K feeling a little under the weather, I deduced that a trip to Korea Town for some hot sopa would do the trick for a speedy recovery. We pulled in at Ma Dang Gook Soo (that signage looks extra spiffy at night) for a fix of steamy kalguksu. First things first, we cleared the nasal passages with an order of duk bo ki: spicy rice cylinders, zucchini, cabbage, cebollas, carrots, and fish cake. While not quite the fiery version K was hoping for, this popular snack dish is always tasty to chew on a chilly afternoon.
Next it was kalguksu time. Literally translating to "knife noodles", the name reflects that the wheat flour noodles are traditionally cut by hand. I opted for the pollo variety: slow simmered chicken broth (with garlic, ginger, jujubes, and onion) sets the stage for the noodles, papas, zucchini, shredded chicken, green onion, dried seaweed, and thinly sliced huevo. Add a dollop of sesame chili sauce and the result is truly chicken soup for the soul, muy excelente.
Meanwhile, K dove into a shellfish concoction of similar stature: anchovy and seaweed broth with steamed mussels, clams and mushrooms. During the slurping, I had to do a double take after noticing one of the friendly waitstaff transporting a bowl of kalguksu barehanded. I received mine with enough billowing steam to blow clear across the table so after 10 minutes in I gave it a heat check--untouchable. I waited to make sure my perception was correct and sure enough I was right. Even with their special grip technique this feat should rank alongside the twelve labors of Hercules. Incredible, come here for the hearty comida and you'll leave marveled by the superhuman service.