Tag Archives: pork

Delirious for Dumplings

Since arriving in Hong Kong, I’ve been surprised by the relative lack of regional Chinese restaurants.  While Hong Kong and Guangdong style cuisine reigns supreme, there are noticeably few Sichuan, Shanghai, and Northern-style Chinese establishments.  I might even venture so far to say that Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants outnumber their Mainland counterparts.

As a result, I was pleasantly surprised when my co-worker suggested that we try a Beijing-style dumpling place for lunch.  The meal brought back pleasant memories of my 6-month stint in Beijing, in which jiaozi were an integral part of my diet.

The restaurant is located in the Queen Street Cooked Food Centre, in the Sheung Wan District.  For those unfamiliar with Hong Kong’s cooked food centres, they are basically a large room filled with hawker stands, each serving a different type of food.  Though not always the cleanest option, cooked food centres are a wonderful way to become acquainted with local Hong Kong dining.  Authentic home-cooked fare makes braving the loud, crowded, no-frills setting worth it.

The meal started off with a complimentary bowl of soup.  Fresh cilantro, tomato, and egg accentuated a simple broth.  In contrast to most Chinese starter soups, which consist of random vegetables and leftover bones, this soup was clean and composed.

The main attraction of the meal was the dumplings.  I ordered pork and dou miao (Chinese pea shoots) dumplings.  The dou miao added a nice crunch and freshness to the pork filling, while the jiaozi pi (or wrapper) held together well.  Doused in vinegar and chili oil, these dumplings were satisfying and soothing–just like a Chinese grandma made them.   At $30 HKD (a mere $3.85) for a plate of 12 dumplings and a bowl of soup, this was certainly a bargain for lunch.

Even though we gorged ourselves on dumplings, my co-worker and I still managed to save room for a traditional Cantonese dessert, purchased from the stand next door for HKD $3.  I apologize for not knowing the name of the dessert, but it is similar to Japanese manju–a glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet mashed taro.

For deliriously delicious dumplings and much more (like this Mediterranean full-service restaurant), head to Queen Street Cooked Food Centre when you are in Hong Kong!

Lao Beifang Jiaozi Guan
Food Market, 1 Queen Street , Sheung Wan
上環皇后街1號皇后街熟食市場

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Rebel Heroes: A Brilliant Concept

Before the blistering heat set in, I headed to Court House for lunch at the critically acclaimed Rebel Heroes food truck. Tim Carman of  Washington City Paper called Rebel Heroes “the best food truck on the streets” and The Washington Post featured it in its “Good to Go” column. After all the positive press, I set out to try Rebel Heroes with expectations set pretty high.

Unfortunately, I think my expectations were set way too high. I ordered the roast pork bahn mi ($5.50) and Vietnamese iced coffee ($3.00). There were a lot of things I liked about the bahn mi: the bread was crusty enough to stand up to the fillings, the pork had nice flavor, and the pickled daikon and carrots added a fresh, tangy finish. But in the end, there was something missing for me. I would have enjoyed more pork and even other cured meats and pates in the sandwich. And a few more jalepenos and cilantro to add more heat.

I did enjoy the Vietnamese iced coffee, which had just the right balance of sweetness from the condensed milk and velvety chocolate notes from the coffee–it actually reminded me of a grown-up version of chocolate milk!

Though I wasn’t blown away by their bahn mi, I still liked Rebel Heroes a lot and would love to go back to try some of their other subs (like the “Che-che-chicken” which I hear is outstanding). I think the concept is brilliant, considering the lack of decent bahn mi in DC/Arlington. And since I can’t drive all the way to Eden Center every time I have a craving for bahn mi, I’m grateful to Rebel Heroes (and mother-daughter team Ninh and Tan Nguyen, who admirably prepare everything from scratch) for saving me the hassle.

Plus, with sandwiches costing no more than $6.00 and exotic drinks like Vietnamese iced coffee, Jarritos Mexican soda, and coconut water, Rebel Heroes offers affordable street food options that differ from those of any other food truck in the area. Here’s to hoping they decide to venture into DC proper soon!

Follow @rebelheroes on Twitter or visit their website to find out where Rebel Heroes will be serving next!

Rebel Heroes (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon

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Not Your Instant Ramen Noodles

Walking through Bethesda during this weekend’s cold spell made me crave one dish: a hot, steaming bowl of noodles to warm me up. Luckily, I knew just the place. Ren’s Ramen, located in a quiet, nondescript mini mall on Arlington Road, has been dominating the D.C. foodie circuit since its opening last May. After months of reading about its “luscious, complex broth” and “righteously curly and chewy” noodles, I had been dying to try it. And Saturday’s tornado-like conditions (I may be exaggerating, but it was super windy!) presented the perfect opportunity.

Ren’s Ramen is situated in a tiny storefront; the room seat maybe 20-30 people. Wood tables and counters come unadorned, and a few banners with Japanese calligraphy and photos of Japan adorn the egg-yolk-yellow walls. Though some might say the restaurant lacks ambiance, I actually found it quite pleasant. The room felt alive with diners milling in and out, slurping on noodles, and chatting amongst themselves.  The wait staff was also quite friendly, greeting customers with a congenial “Konichiwa” (or “good afternoon”) as they walked in.

The real draw at Ren’s Ramen is, of course, the ramen. The shop specializes in Sapporo-style ramen, which to my knowledge, means a richer and fattier broth. My roommate, a vegetarian, ordered the Vegetable shio ramen ($11), which arrived with a heaping pile of seaweed, steamed cabbage, scallions, and bean sprouts. The broth, though heavily salted (the menu said “salt-flavored,” to be exact), was surprisingly soothing and smooth.

I ordered the Sapporo Shoyu ramen ($10, pictured at the top). The broth was much darker than the vegetable version, and flavored with soy sauce rather than salt. It was also verrrrry salty, and I could see a thin layer of fat glistening on the broth’s surface. These traits would usually turn me off of a dish right away, but somehow, at Ren’s Ramen they worked. The broth was so tasty, and complimented the chewy ramen noodles perfectly. And oh, those noodles. They were not the thin, cardboard-esque noodles found in cup-of-noodle. These noodles had a bite to them, a subtle eggy flavor, and a delightful chewiness that was quite addicting. And last, but not least, my ramen was adorned with 3 slices of roast pork. This was perhaps the best pork I have eaten in a while. The fat melted in my mouth and left a smoky, earthy flavor that was just heavenly. I wish there had been more than just 3 pieces, but then again, maybe that was better for my cholesterol.

After drinking about 5 glasses of water, we left Ren’s Ramen feeling full, content, and ready to face the windy weather. But, in typical glutton fashion, we somehow wandered over to Downtown Bethesda and…were lured into Georgetown Cupcake.

Now readers, I have to make a confession. This was a moment of weakness. Until then, I had made it a point not to succumb to the Georgetown Cupcake craze. Yes, I had heard from friends how good the cupcakes were, but I just could not stomach the whole waiting in line for 30+ min…for a “designer” cupcake. Plus, I am a loyal customer of Baked and Wired, which in my opinion, serves the best cupcakes in D.C.

But the sickeningly cute cupcake display and impossibly short line (only 10 people!) lured me in. And I have to say, I was very impressed with the array of flavors (from key lime to cherry blossom to chocolate squared) and the not-too-steep price ($2.75). I ordered a salted caramel because I love anything that’s sweet and salty (and caramel, for that matter). The cupcake was decent, though not mind-blowing, and it had too much frosting for my taste. I certainly wouldn’t wait in line for it again, but I do sort-of understand the appeal. It’s hard to resist a cupcake that’s as adorable as this:

To satisfy your next ramen and cupcake cravings, head to Ren’s Ramen and Georgetown Cupcake in Bethesda!

Ren’s Ramen

6931 Arlington Road

Bethesda, MD 20814

(301) 693-0806

Ren's Ramen on Urbanspoon

Georgetown Cupcake at Bethesda Row

4834 Bethesda Ave.

Bethesda, MD 20814

(301) 907-8900

Georgetown Cupcake at Bethesda Row on Urbanspoon

Unpaid Gourmet tip: Follow @GTownCupcake on Twitter to find out their free secret flavor of the day.

Good Eats in Alexandria

Readers–I am so sorry for the recent lack of posts! With the gloomy weather and big life decisions facing me this past week, I just wasn’t in the blogging mood. But enough of my excuses; I am ready and raring to blog now.

Weather in D.C. is supposed to hit a whopping 80 degrees this weekend, and for those of you who want to spend time outside (and away from the crowds on the Mall), I have the perfect idea. Head over to Alexandria, VA, where charming brick buildings, waterfront views, and restaurants galore await. Though only a short metro ride away, walking around Alexandria gave me a much needed respite from fast-paced D.C. life.

I visited two neighborhoods in Alexandria. The first, Del Ray, is the more funky and artsy part of town where eclectic shops, and of course restaurants, line the main street. My boyfriend and I had a tough time deciding between Taqueria Poblano and Evening Star Cafe, but the former lured us in with its fish tacos.

As a SoCal native, I grew up eating the freshest fish tacos possible. I took for granted the accessibility and variety that could easily be found in LA, with Senor Fish, Wahoos, Rubios, and taco stands all just a short drive away. Which is why when I arrived in D.C., I went into serious fish taco withdrawal. I was ecstatic–almost giddy–to find that Taqueria Poblano serves fish tacos.

I ordered 1 Baja fish taco ($4.25 each) and 1 L.A. Style adobo-seasoned pork taco ($3.75). Though the tacos appeared small when they arrived, looks can be deceiving. Each taco was filled to the brim with tasty cabbage, salsa, and of course, fish and pork. The fish taco certainly satisfied my craving: the fish was fried to a light crisp and was delicious with a bit of the tomatillo salsa. The pork was also well-seasoned and not too greasy.

My boyfriend ordered the green chili pork burrito al arriba ($11.25). The photo does not do the burrito nearly enough justice: it was MASSIVE. Though I was skeptical at first (I’m not a fan of dishes that are doused in sauce), the ranchero sauce actually gave the burrito a nice boost in flavor. The guacamole was also a pleasant surprise: fresh and creamy, with just a hint of citrus.

Needless to say, we were stuffed after our meal. But that did not stop us from heading next door to The Dairy Godmother for some dessert.

The Dairy Godmother’s specialty is Wisconsin-style frozen custard, a not-so-distant relative of ice cream. Frozen custard is much creamier and richer due to the higher percentage of butterfat and egg yolks, and it’s made in a special machine that looks like a frozen yogurt soft-serve machine. The shop features 3 flavors of frozen custard per day, ranging from good ol’ vanilla and chocolate to more creative flavors like muddy sneakers and carrot cake.

The Dairy Godmother also offers a wide variety of sorbets and baked treats. Since my boyfriend and I were so full from lunch, we opted for the sorbets. I ordered the apricot saffron pistachio sorbet, which had an unusual flavor profile (and I mean unusual in a good way). Each bite added a new element: on some, I could only taste the fruity sweetness of the apricot. On others, I tasted more of the aromatic, floral saffron notes. And every now and then, I would get a spoonful of pistachios, which added a surprising crunch and earthiness. In short, the sorbet was a revelation and a refreshing end to a heavy meal.

After our eating adventures in Del Ray, we made our way over to Old Town Alexandria. Though Old Town is much more touristy than Del Ray, it is still a super cute neighborhood that is worth checking out. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along King St. and ended our stroll at the docks, where we watched the sun set over the water.

For those DCers looking for a quick weekend getaway, or for some cheap good eats, check out Alexandria!

Taqueria Poblano

2400-B Mount Vernon Ave.

Alexandria, VA 22301

703-548-8226

Taqueria Poblano on Urbanspoon

The Dairy Godmother

2310 Mount Vernon Ave.

Alexandria, VA 22301

703-683-7767

Dairy Godmother on Urbanspoon