Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My road trip to Utah - and the things I ate

Growing up, my family and I would venture away on road trips regularly. But I don’t quite remember going anywhere too too far. But maybe the trips did seem far at the time. The concept of time and distance to the little me was probably far more than what it actually was. With the constant whines of “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” “I’m going to throw up.” “I’m bored.” I am sure time seemed to drag on forever to my parents as well. My fondest memories from the road trips I’ve been dragged to have got to be the food indulging moments.  After having gone through the endless hours of ear popping, being bored, being hungry, being cranky, being car sick, eating time was the saving grace of it all.  Food was kept in a large red Igloo ice box, one that had been with us through the years of torturous-memorable-good times.

In the earlier days, my family never ate out during road trips. Everything we brought was kept in the ice box, and whatever did not fit was kept in the fridge of our RV (for some reason, we relied more on the ice box than the fridge…maybe because the fridge acted flaky sometimes and required more maintenance). Our usual road trip food included kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), galbi, ddukguk (rice cake soup), tuna sandwiches, and ramen. The mountains were one of our most frequently visited destinations. I don’t know why, but to me, food always tasted so good in cold mountain air. From a young age, it was all about food. ( #foodieintraining ) Many of my fondest memories in life have some kind of yummy eating involved.

During the road trips in my adult years, I mostly ate out on the open roads. So it was all about relying on finding the nearest McDonald’s on the highway, getting stale sandwiches at gas stations, or if lucky, finding a random yet decent mom and pop hole in the wall joint. We’d rely on these types of foods to keep nourished until a restaurant of choice was to be found.

In my recent road trip to Utah, I was on the road for four days. I knew I didn’t want to eat out for every single meal for every single day. And venturing into a place where decent Korean food would be scarce would make me crave it even more. If I go on too long without Korean food, I just don’t feel regular. The most exciting part about the trip was the food planning and eating on the road.
Other than a medium sized suitcase, a tote bag, and a couple of purses, the rest of my luggage comprised of eating related items, which made up about 75% of what I was bringing. I was determined to not suffer through not eating well on this trip.

Three ice boxes, a burner, a couple of bags and a box filled with eating/cooking related items.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A day in the life of a food lover - Taking on "the world's best pastrami"- the #19 at Langer's, drooling as I sat through "City of Gold", and being hooked on mukbang (eating show)

I recently took on Part II of venturing out to explore what Phil had in “I’ll have what Phil’s having (Los Angeles)”. One of his many LA stops was at Langer’s, home of “the world’s best pastrami”. Look how happy Phil looks to just even be at Langer’s, and the sheer excitement of about to say “#19”. Phil, who is from New York (meaning he probably knows his pastramis better than most Angelinos) attests Langer’s pastramis as not up to par with New York’s, but “better”. So yeah, that had me daydreaming about Langer’s #19 for weeks.

As I mentioned in a previous post, watching that episode of “I’ll have what Phil’s having”, had me realizing how much of LA I have yet to discover despite having been an Angelino my entire life. I still have a few more places on my list to try, from that episode alone. 

Here's a little quick rundown of what Langer's is all about, told by a second generation Langer. He claims that the best advice he ever received was by his father, who told him "Allow people to experience the same product they received XX years ago. As long as you gave them a good product then, they will continue to come back, looking for the same product. Don't change the quality. Don't change the quantity. Give them the same product."  

Langer’s is located on 7th and Alvarado, nestled in a location that one might not expect a world famous deli to be at.. It is in a neighboorhood where one might come to pick up a fake green card or hear the melody of Mariachi music being played from a nearing establishment or the local cars driving by. I have passed by and through this area many times, but never looked twice to pay enough attention to acknowledge what was a landmark. I would definitely not consider coming here alone at night. But then again, Langer's closes at 4 pm anyways. 

I did not have any breakfast on this day….and as usual I was freaking behgopa! I think it took a little less than an hour to arrive here. Traffic wasn’t a total nightmare, but it was still there. The torture of sitting in traffic in starvation mode was starting to become unbearable halfway there. But soon, I’d get from torturous state to blissful fulfillment. My mind wandered into daydreams about the #19. Would it be everything it was hyped up to be and more? Would it send me to a foodgasmic coma? Would it be something I’d dream about for days after eating? The wait was making me ache in behgorage and anticipation.  

My oinking partner and I arrived a little past 11 am. We left early in hopes to avoid the lunch rush. As expected for a worldly famous place, there wasn’t an empty table in house, but there also wasn’t a line out the door at the time. Glad we came early before the craziness began.

We came here in pursuit of one item…the #19…so of course, that was a given. But we also wanted to try another dish. With the plethora of the many items on their list, it was a challenge to decide. The roast beef also sounded tempting. So did club and the corned beef. Decisions, decisions....Oinking partner said the roast beef sounded good. At this point, I was too deep in behgorage mode to think, and a second vote on the roast beef won the vote. So roast beef it is. 

The food came out quick, felt like a minute or two upon ordering. I expected to suffer in begorage torture a little while longer, but bam! In no time, the torturous behgorage pain started to melt away of when the epic moment of the world famous #19 arrived at the table.

Woo la la~ This was the pastrami that people from all over the country wanted to come plant their faces into.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Oinking adventures - Food ventures at Grand Central Market and goat stew at Mirak

Due to being ridiculously sick recently, my writing endeavors had to be put on the back burner, including blog posts. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve sat in front of the computer screen. The recent flu I had was a biatch. I was in dying mode for the first week. I spent days living off of flu medicine and porridge. I had no appetite and everything tasted like crap. Yeah, life sucked. 

By week two, most of the severe symptoms had disappeared, but it lingered with an annoying cough that still not has gone away. Freaking cough, I hate you! It subsided here and there but seemed to have gotten worse when I ventured out one afternoon into congested areas. Maybe I wasn’t ready to venture out until I was 100% fully recovered. Maybe I should have been cooped up at home, resting and recovering until the flu had been long gone. A couple Sundays ago, I went on a pigging out adventure and it’s almost like the outside, unfamiliar and very congested environment worsened my condition, just when I thought I was starting to get better. 

The night before, I was Netflixing and came across “I’ll have what Phil’s having”, the Los Angeles episode. OMG it was late and night and watching a food program late at night is not a good idea. I about died as I watched Phil make one food stop to the next. It made me realize how much of LA I have yet to discover, even though I have been an Angelino all my life. Among the several spots he visited on his LA food adventure, the Grand Central Market was one of them. How have I never been here? The place is a landmark that has been around for almost 100 years.

Phil and his dining buddy, Allison Janney, had a field day trying out different vendors from tacos that made me drool to grass fed burgers, wieners, ginseng extracted lattes, and ice cream! I wanted to eat everything they ate and more! I wanted a day of fun, exploring and oinking like the one they were having. The next day, I immediately made plans to have that kind of day. I planned on pigging out all day at Grand Central Market during the day. But I also wanted to go eat goat stew in Ktown for dinner since I had been craving it all week ever since I saw a video clip of the boiling yummy goodness on Miss Piggie Eats' Instagram. She is always eating tons of yummy-makes-you-drool kind of stuff but doesn't seem to ever gain an ounce lol. Where does it all go, Miss Piggie? 

It was going to be an *eat ‘till I explode* day….my kind of day! But it definitely isn’t something I could do on a regular basis, or I’d be fatter than I already am and would develop multiple health issues.

It took about an hour to get here from OC. Approaching the DTLA area, there was major traffic, moving about a foot a minute. It was close to two and I was starting to enter my hangry stage, and on top of that, had to pee. Frustrated cars behind and in front were honking….not even honking at specific cars but honking just for the heck of honking out of the frustration of being stuck.
Proceeding ahead (following the GPS directions) did not look promising, so another direction had to be taken. It turns out that a movie was being filmed, hence the nightmare traffic preventing the gorge fest that was already supposed to be happening.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Jjimjilbang de-virginized

For the longest time, I was probably one of the very few remaining Koreans that had never stepped foot into a jjimjilbang (korean spa/bathhouse), ever. I guess it just never really appealed to me. But as I got older, the appeal of a jjimjilbang got me a bit curious. I was always hearing people talking about how relaxing a day at the jjimjilbang is…how their skin becomes so soft and glows afterwards…and yada yada…all these wonderful things that piqued interest. 

But still, the public nudity part made me very hesitant. And being a bit OCD, the walking around barefoot in a congested area part just added to the reluctance. Like, what if I get athletes’ foot or something? For at least a year or so, I was unable to actually get myself to find the balls to go.
Having a friend that went regularly, I asked him nonstop questions about all the things I wanted to know about a jjimjilbang. If you are a jjimjilbang virgin like I was and have some questions or concerns, you can most likely find them on my questions list (all the things I had been wondering have been answered, listed below). I have probably asked the general things most people might wonder about and then some. 

Earlier this week, after all the wondering and hesitating, I decided to just suck it up and go find out everything I wanted to know about jjimjilbangs.

The jjimjilbang at where I got devirginized was at the Imperial Health Spa in Fullerton, CA.

Imperial Health Spa
1885 N Euclid St
FullertonCA 92835

Since this is the first and only jjimjilbang I have ever been to, I don’t really have anything else to compare it to. I wish i had taken more pictures, but I left my phone in the locker. I just did not want to get too distracted with all the picture taking action to relax and enjoy the full so very unlike me, I know. I also didn't feel too comfortable about taking my phone in to some of the very hot rooms. It's like leaving your device in the car during a heat wave....there's possibility of damage.

My overall first time experience was pleasant. I came on a Monday night, around 7ish. There weren’t too many people. Had I came on a weekend or whatever other time when it was crowded…OMG I think I would have ran and been traumatized. I can’t even fathom the night of having kids running around here. Luckily, there were zero kids around the night I went.

And my biggest fear…the shower part would have been like my nightmare come true had it been packed. Being naked and having too many naked people around me is not just something I am comfortable with yet. It’s just too much communal nakedness than I can handle. I know that is all part of the whole traditional jjimjilbang experience, but it still makes me a bit uncomfortable. I can’t even fathom the thought of going in the tub…stewing in a communal tub of water with a bunch of strangers…OMG it just sounds gross to me, personally.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Efren's Korean tacos and Mexican kimchi

When Chef Roy Choi revolutionized the marriage of Korean and Mexican fusion, many fellow Korean American chefs were soon to follow in his footsteps. Just look at the rise in the popularity in the recent years of the Roy Choi wannabes putting their take into the spin of things. 

As a fellow L.A. native, Mexican food has been embedded into the culinary repertoire of what I grew up eating. We Angelenos are serious about Mexican food.  And Korean tacos are nothing new to us (Korean American Angelenos). Many of us grew up stuffing our tortillas with bulgogi, kimchi, and the likes far before Roy Choi turned the concept into an empire. I remember when I was growing up, we always had tortillas in our pantry. Tortillas and sandwich bread slices were like our rice alternatives. Have marinated meat left over? Throw them together in some tortillas along with some kimchi and whatever else was available that tasted good with it. Putting them together just made sense. 

In the work kitchen, tacos are one of the overly consumed items that we live off of. Tortillas are cheap and versatile, making it a practical item for busy restaurant staff on the go….you know, the ones that are either too hungry or too busy feeding others that they hardly have the time to maintain food sustenance. As much as I love tortillas, after living off of them days at a time, there are times when I just naturally get sick at the mere sight of them.

Once I’ve gone through a reasonable tortilla detox period, I am ready for them tacos, tostadas, tortilla chips, and more all over again. Heck, it’s not like I have too many options readily available at all times, especially when I am so unbelievably-out-of-my-mind crazed with hunger that I would eat almost anything in front of me.

The fellow that used to make me lunch every day had recently left us. No one probably felt his absence more than I did. Without someone to prepare my meals on queue at the end of an exhausting, behgorage-inducing lunch service, I was likely to fall into that unhappy zone. 

I jokingly made a cooking schedule for the kitchen team to go around taking turns cooking for me to make up for the estranged cook’s absence. Here is an example of one.... this is more of a recent one. The one I made the previous week listed Korean tacos on the schedule. lol

While in a rational, nonhungry state, I was texting Efren, my Tuesday guy, suggestions what to make for me that day. You might recognize Efren’s face from a previous post. If not, here he is again... This is Efren...

For random reasons, Korean tacos came to mind. I was kind of joking and curious what he’d say.

Me: Make me Korean tacos. 

Efren: Korean tacos? I am no Kogi chef.