Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar (New York, NY)

One of the places in New York that we were hoping to visit was Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar.

JS and I actually heard about this falafel place from seeing it featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. (Yes, yes, I know. Don't give us a hard time about it. But hey, the show's not half bad.)

One thing I can say about Bobby Flay though is it does seem he's pretty loyal. I mean, he's the only "celebrity chef" left at that network. Other celebrity chefs have long since left to be replaced by "personalities."

Apparently, the owner was a former employee of Bobby's. On the show, I saw green falafels for the first time! I was so innocent then.

Mixed Falafel Platter

JS and I ordered the Mixed Falafel Platter.

Taïm offers three types of falafels: Green (cilantro, parsley, mint), Red (roasted red pepper), and Harissa. The platter also included hummus, tabouli, and Israeli salad. There's also za'atar whole wheat pita, and three different sauces.

I ordered a drink too (lower left corner of the photo), but I can't remember what it was! Probably an iced tea?

left: Israeli salad; right: tabouli (tabbouleh)

The Israeli salad consists of dressed tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley. It was a tad underseasoned, but OK. The tabouli is your usual: bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil.

Zahatar (za'atar) whole wheat pita bread

The za'atar on the pita was a nice touch.'atar

I didn't know the proper names for two of these three sauces, but thank goodness I got help from a blog dedicated to falafels in New York City! (Click here to read The NYC Falafelogs' review.)

So, from bottom to top, we have tahini sauce, amba, and skhug.

Tahini, what, and what?

Amba is a pickled mango condiment. At Taïm, it was described as being flavored with fenugreek as well. It may be an acquired taste.

Skhug is a hot sauce, in simple terms. According the Falafelogs, it is usually made with crushed peppers, garlic, coriander, olive oil, and other ingredients.

Close-up of the skhug.

Finally, the falafels!

left to right: red, green, harissa falafels

The Red (roasted pepper) and Harissa falafels were all right, but the real winner was Green! Look at it, all nested on almost-white hummus. Don't you just want to reach in and grab it?

Taïm is a small place, so people basically sat on the sidewalk and ate their food. A falafel and hummus place... [dreamy faraway look].

Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar
New York, NY
Visited in August 2009

As luck would have it, the Taïm website is under construction at the time of writing. Click here for their menu on the New York Magazine website.

We ate all the food below -- and more -- in 4 days! Insane. See how: NYC Eating Extravaganza (August 2009)

[eatingclub] vancouver in New York
Rice to Riches
Shake Shack
Grom Gelato
Bleecker Street Pizza
New York Burger Co.
Artichoke Basille's Pizza
Katz's Deli
Lombardi's Pizza
Hummus Place
Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Amy Ruth's
Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar
A Tale of Two Dogs: Gray's Papaya & Papaya King

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Monday, March 29, 2010

White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways (蒜泥白肉)

Oh, what a Herculean task! What an Odyssean journey!

When we found out that GARLIC was the ingredient for this edition of Weekend Wokking, JS and I put our thinking caps on. The difficulty was in deciding which garlic-intensive dish to make, as we like so many things -- or perhaps I should say, everything -- with garlic! This whole blog seems to be composed of all-garlic-all-the-time posts.

Finally, we thought of one of my absolutest-favoritest dishes, "White Pork with Garlic Sauce" (蒜泥白肉).

But, therein lies the problem.

There seems to be a thousand and one ways to make this "garlic sauce", and every time I happen to see a recipe, it is not the version I want. Usually, the recipes would call for a soy sauce-y version where the sauce seems to be merely soy sauce with chopped garlic thrown in.

I even saw one with oyster sauce! Super gasp! That is so not what I am looking for.

What I want is the thick, slightly sweet, pale brown garlic sauce that I get with this dish -- #61 on the menu -- at Cabin 5555. (In fact, I have mentioned this Dish #61 love of mine here and here and here.)

Note to Vancouverites: I've also had this dish at Beefy Beef Noodles and their garlic sauce is similar to Cabin 5555's.

I've asked around. I've looked at recipes. But, to no avail.

Finally, I asked my friend AL. She was the bride whose wedding JS and I attended in Taipei in March 2009. AL's mother is an extremely good cook, so it's very likely that she would be the key to unlock this garlic sauce mystery. However, it sometimes seems that AL's mother is a little unwilling to part with her wisdom.

I took a chance and sent AL an email, marking it "urgent", asking her if her mother could tell me the secret to that garlic sauce.

Here's is the reply that I received from AL.

You've asked me before!! And my mother's reply was very vague!

Fine, if it pleases you, I will CALL HER RIGHT NOW.

OK, I'm back. Here's how our conversation played out:

"Mom, TS wants to know how you make the garlic sauce for the pork dish." (Obviously, I'm paraphrasing. I told her the name of the dish.)

"You dice the garlic and add soy sauce. And if you want, you can add a little sugar."

"But she wants to know why the sauce is thick, not thin, like soy sauce."

"So she wants a thick sauce or not?"


"Then you add garlic! The garlic is what makes it thick! You have to really GROUND the garlic. Then you add soy sauce and sugar to taste."
OMG!!! Nobody ever told me this before!!!

AL elaborated:
Okay, here I must add my own take on the making of the sauce.

The name of the pork dish, word for word, in Chinese, is "garlic mud white meat."

Well, obviously the "white meat" refers to the pork. The "essence" is therefore in the "garlic MUD." Maybe the word "mashed" is a better translation.

Anyhow, you HAVE TO MASH that sucker!
OMG!!!! I never knew that the first two characters of the dish's name was GARLIC MUD!!!!

Armed with this life-changing information, I set to work!

"White Meat"

For all of you who guessed "fat" when I posted the picture above, good on you! I was very impressed. There was even an anonymous commenter who wrote that it was the "hardened fat from stock". Wow.

Although, my mother was also fooled into thinking it was fresh coconut meat. She wanted to eat it right then and there!

All this fat came from pork belly, of course.

I simply simmered pork belly in plain old water for about an hour until they were tender but not falling apart. We let them cool in the liquid overnight. The next day, I was enamored with the fat on top since it was so clean and white! I've never seen it that clean before! That pork fat is now sitting in the refrigerator.

I sliced the pork belly as thinly as I could.

The prettier slices in the foreground, the uglier ones in the back. =)

Garlic Sauce, Version 1

Well, I didn't want my heart to be broken too soon, so I decided to make a "regular" garlic sauce first, not the life-changing garlic-mud version.

This is simply soy sauce, finely chopped garlic, chili peppers, green onions, rice vinegar, sesame oil and a touch of sugar to balance everything out.

See, this is what I meant about garlic sauces being "soy sauce + chopped garlic". This is such a sauce. Still delicious, but different from my fantasy garlic sauce.

Garlic Mud Sauce,
aka "Go Crying to Your Mama If You Can't Handle the Garlic" Sauce

freshly buzzed sauce; more thickening happened while sitting

I whipped out the mini food processor and put AL's mother's words to the test.

I popped in an obscene number of garlic cloves in there and started whirring away. To make a purée out of the garlic, I figured I needed a liquid in there. So I added some soy sauce.

Lo and behold! The mixture was starting to take on a pale brown color, not like soy sauce at all. I was giddy with excitement.

I added soy sauce, sugar and a tiny amount of rice vinegar, all to taste.

Success at last!

My "garlic mud" was a little too fine because when I was using the mini food processor, Boss #2 (now aged 4) came and wanted to help.

This resulted in a gratuitous amount of pulsing on the machine.

But, too fine a garlic mud is fine by me. My sauce was a success!

I feel I must warn innocent readers at this time.

This sauce has true, true, pure garlic flavor. There is none of that "mellowing out" of the garlic by roasting, turning it into a sweet paste, or even by just plain cooking.

This is no-holds-barred, punch-you-in-the-gut, in-your-face, full-on RAW garlic flavor!

User discretion is advised.

But, this is the garlic sauce I love.

White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways

To serve, warm your pork belly slices. We could've steamed them, but we took the lazy way out and simply used the microwave. Top with your preferred garlic sauce.

There you go. The saga is complete.

A final note. Sprinkling some peanut sugar (seen in our gua bao post) on the dish is heavenly!

White Pork with Garlic "Mud" Sauce with Rice, sprinkled with Peanut Sugar.

Pork Skin; Pork Fat.

Scroll down for the recipes.

Just a few of the numerous GARLIC-intensive dishes here at eatingclub vancouver.
Roast Chicken Adobo (or any of our adobos!)
Beef Salpicao
Skinless Longganisa (Philippine Pork Sausage)
Sinangag (Garlic Fried Rice)
Grilled Cuban Chicken
Hazelnut Gremolata
Creamy Chanterelle and Roasted Garlic Pasta
Piedmont Marinated Eggs
Philippine-style Chicken "BBQ"
Philippine-style Pork "BBQ"
Baked Tahong (Mussels)

White Pork with Garlic Sauce (蒜泥白肉)

"White Pork"
pork belly

In a pot, boil water. Add pork belly. When the water comes back to a boil, turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about an hour, until meat is tender but not falling apart. Let cool in the liquid and store overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, take out pork belly and slice thinly. Set aside.

Garlic Sauce, Version 1
Makes about 3/4 cup

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
green onions, chopped
chili peppers, chopped

Combine all ingredients together. (Add your desired amount of green onions and chili peppers.)

Garlic Mud Sauce ("Go Crying to Your Mama If You Can't Handle the Garlic" Sauce)
Makes about 1 cup

1-2 heads garlic
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sugar
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Note: Decrease the amount of garlic, if you wish.

Make sure to finely chop or mash the garlic well. Use a food processor for ease. Add all the other ingredients and mix well.

To serve the dish
Warm sliced pork belly. Stir your garlic sauce (either one) well before drizzling over the pork. Top with peanut sugar, if desired. Serve remaining garlic sauce on the side.

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eatingclub vancouver Weekend Wokking posts:
Ravioli "Caprese": Tomato, Basil, Bocconcini
Eggplant "Clafouti"
Pumpkin Congee w/ Pumpkin "Beignets" & Sesame-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese w/ Pipián Verde
Adobo Mushroom Tart
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce
Almond Eggplant "Bisteeya" (Bastilla)
"Mashed Potato Beef Burger" (Red-skinned Potato Salad in Taiwanese Sacha Cheeseburger)
Korean Soybean Sprouts Pancake (Kongnamul Jeon)
Lemon Chamomile Tiramisu
Cilantro Horchata
Strawberry Cilantro Salsa, on Grilled Flank Steak
Duck Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Salsa
Clear Oxtail Soup with Corn, Cabbage and Potatoes
Beijing Pickled Cabbage
Salsa Romesco ("Queen of the Catalan Sauces!")
Aguadito de Pollo (Peruvian Chicken Soup)
Bangus Belly à la Bistek (Milkfish Belly with Onions, Calamansi and Soy Sauce)
White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways (蒜泥白肉)
Mr. Zheng's Soupy Tomatoes and Eggs with Tofu (蕃茄雞蛋跟豆腐)
Steamed Fish and Tofu with Chinese Black Beans
Spinach and Cheese with Puff Pastry, Three Ways

We're submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks celebrating the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient.

The host this month is Sijeleng of Javaholic.

If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check
who's hosting next month.

Check out
all Weekend Wokking Roundups.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Beef Fajitas

Quick. Delicious. Healthy. What more can I say?

One doesn't even need a recipe to make these fajitas.

I simply cooked sliced beef (we used flank) on a griddle. Then, sliced onions; then, sliced bell peppers. All they had was a quick toss with a small amount of olive oil, and salt and pepper. I suppose one can sprinkle some chili powder on the beef if one is so inclined.

They all landed in the same serving dish.

This being fajitas and all, we ate the beef filling inside tortillas, whole wheat in this case. I actually don't need all sorts of kooky condiments, just fresh-tasting pico de gallo (salsa of tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and lime juice).

Now roll and eat!

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Beef Fajitas

beef, flank or sirloin
onions, sliced
red bell peppers, sliced
green bell peppers, sliced

Preheat grill or griddle.

Slice beef into thin strips. Toss with olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Cook on grill/griddle to desired doneness. Set aside.

Toss sliced onions with olive oil to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Do the same with the bell peppers. If you wish, you can combine the onions and peppers when cooking on the grill/griddle. Cook to desired doneness.

To serve, place beef and onions/peppers inside tortillas. If you wish, serve with various condiments like salsa, guacamole, sour cream. Roll and eat!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What is this?

Isn't it so pure and white and pretty? Any guesses as to what it may be?

It is pork fat! This was scraped off the top of pork bellies left to cool in their poaching liquid. Click here for some pork goodness.

White Pork with Garlic Sauce, Two Ways (蒜泥白肉)

We are holding a LE CREUSET GIVEAWAY! Have you entered it yet? If not, enter to win now. Click here:

Friday, March 26, 2010

wd-50 (New York, NY)

We are holding a LE CREUSET GIVEAWAY! Have you entered it yet? If not, enter to win now. Click here:

Know who Chef Wylie Dufresne is? This is his restaurant. JS and I actually managed to do enough planning during our trip to NY to make a reservation at wd-50.


It was so hot and humid in New York that we were already very much wilted and droopy when we arrived at the restaurant.

bathroom doors

I like how they "hide" their bathroom doors. =)

Actually, they only had the toilets inside rooms, while the sinks were outside. A nice move, since sometimes I just want to wash my hands and not have to deal with nasty bathroom door handles.

hand sinks

I really like the tiles by the hand sinks. Pretty.

Now on to the food!

Crisp "Flatbread" with Sesame Seeds

I applaud the professional front-of-house staff at wd-50 as they served JS and I, two very strange customers indeed.

Here we were, looking like we were about to die, and really, just not acting the way the rest of their diners were. ;)

Actually, I think by this time JS and I were experiencing "stomach fatigue." We will soon illustrate what and how we had been eating during the trip. (See our NYC Eating Extravaganza here. Insane.)

But also, the heat and humidity and walking around Chinatown before arriving at wd-50 did not help. We were both very lethargic and felt very heavy and slow.

To combat this, we ordered tea.


We both ordered tea upon receiving our starters. Strange by "normal" standards, I guess. But we were hoping that the tea will help revive our stomachs, in much the same way as drinking tea is supposed to help in digestion of oily foods during dim sum.

With the stomach fatigue and all, we didn't feel it was wise to order the chef's tasting menu and its numerous, numerous dishes. So, we decided to order à la carte.


Eggs Benedict
Egg yolk, Canadian bacon, and hollandaise sauce inside dough that has been battered and fried.

Canadian bacon wedged on egg yolk.

Hollandaise sauce oozing out of its fried dough casing.

Shrimp and Zucchini Noodles, Chamomile Yogurt, Mushrooms.
The "noodles" were made with shrimp. The chamomile yogurt was interesting.


Pork Loin, Fried Caraway Mashed Potato, Coconut Dijon.

There were more slices of pork in there. See. Those fried balls are caraway mashed potato fried balls.

The pork was very nicely cooked. However, JS doesn't recall the flavor combinations of coconut-dijon and the caraway-potato very fondly at all.

Duck Breast, Worcestershire Spaetzle, Parsnip or Turnips.

This is the STRANGEST plating I have ever seen! Those turnips/parsnips (I can't remember which) dipped in green sauce look like teeth! Shark's teeth. So, so strange.

Those brown things hiding behind the duck, beside the greens, are Worcestershire spaetzle. Once again, the meat was nicely cooked.

We couldn't finish our main dishes, so we had them packed up to take home. Actually, both dishes had quite a substantial amount of meat in them.

(As witnessed here, we ate the pork and duck meat alongside our Katz's pastrami sandwiches in the plane.)

But, soldiering on, we ordered desserts!


Hazelnut Coconut Tarte, Chicory Foam.

This was not bad at all. I'm a sucker for hazelnut.

Pistachio Cake, Pistachio Tuile Wrapping, Honeydew Ice Cream, Chartreuse Foam, Anglaise Sauce.

I liked the color scheme.

I'm not too sure about the pistachio and honeydew pairing.

But the cake itself was not bad.

To end our meal, we received these truffle-looking things. I mean, truffles from the ground, not the chocolates. ;)

These cookie crumb balls were filled with condensed milk ice cream! So I had to eat them right there and then. We were obscenely full by this time (seeing as we were already slightly full before dinner began).

All in all, the meal was "OK". There were some misses along the way in terms of flavors, but the execution was top-notch. I was left thinking if we should have ordered the tasting menu instead, as the dishes there seemed more interesting. The table beside us certainly seemed to be enjoying their tasting menu immensely.

JS and I were not wholly satisfied with our meal, but I'll be willing to visit the restaurant one more time and try their tasting menu. I figure we should give wd-50 the benefit of the doubt since we were feeling oh-so-very-less than stellar when we dined here (what with the insane way we've been eating and all).

New York, NY
Visited in August 2009

We ate all the food below -- and more -- in 4 days! Insane. See how: NYC Eating Extravaganza (August 2009)

[eatingclub] vancouver in New York
Rice to Riches
Shake Shack
Grom Gelato
Bleecker Street Pizza
New York Burger Co.
Artichoke Basille's Pizza
Katz's Deli
Lombardi's Pizza
Hummus Place
Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Amy Ruth's
Taïm Falafel and Smoothie Bar
A Tale of Two Dogs: Gray's Papaya & Papaya King

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