I took a walk over to Chelsea Market today for a look around. The official Chelsea Market website describes the space as “a one-stop, NYC culinary food shop, a gourmet lover’s wholesale-retail wonder world, and an energetic, industrial-chic hotspot, all meshed into an entire city block of space in the heart of West Chelsea.” In other words, it’s a wet dream for a foodie like me.
At the Thai restaurant-cum-import food market inside Chelsea market, I picked up a bottle of my favorite hot sauce, Huy Fong’s Sriracha HOT Chili Sauce, an all-natural, hot chili and garlic sauce with a Thai name, made by a Vietnamese/Chinese immigrant-owned company in California, and a holder of cult status in my culinary canon since the late 90’s (my late teens). Me and my friends in Arizona have given this sauce the nickname, “cock sauce,” because of the rooster on the label. Huy Fong’s cock sauce has many imitators, but none replace the original’s all-natural, pure ingredients and versatility. Cock sauce has the perfect amount of heat and spice from ripe, red jalapeño peppers and garlic balanced with a bit of sour and sweet notes. Put some cock sauce on your hotdogs, hamburgers, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Mexican, etc.. Cock sauce to go with any ethnicity of cuisine. Cock sauces for the masses! Cock sauce for all. Long live cock sauce! Vive la “cock sauce”!
My review of Washoku: Recipies From The Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh has just been published online at JapanVisitor.com. Check it out here.
Here’s a photo of the meal I had in the ANA Lounge in Narita Airport. There was a huge bar of free drinks and snacks (BTW, did I mention that free upgrades to Business Class ROCK!). I had this bowl of udon noodles with a piece of kamaboko (surimi fish paste) with the ANA logo stamped on it and a glass of white wine. I still can’t decide if the idea of that is delightful or disgusting, but in any case, it tasted alright.
Last night, I had dinner with the girls (Tash, Natalie, Isa) at Hakata Kinryu Ramen, a ramen restaurant across the street from my house. In local foreigners lingo, we often refer to this place as the “Green Dragon” becauce of the cute mascot on the sign and on the menus, but curiously, the Japanese name of the restaurant actually means “Golden Dragon”.
Japanese-style ramen should not be confused with the instant noodles that we often refer to as “ramen” in the West. Japanese ramen is legitimate restaurant food made with fresh ingredients. There are a variety of different region variations of noodles, soups and toppings across Japan. Kyushu, and in particular, the Hakata area, is famous for tonkotsu (豚骨) broth, which is made out of pork parts and bones which have been boiled down for hours. Basically, it is liquid lard, but it tastes really good!
I ordered my usual favorite and a house special, the black sesame and black vinegar ramen (黒胡麻黒酢ラーメン) with a side of 3 deka-gyoza (でか餃子) a.k.a. giant pan-fried pork dumplings, a unique Kinryu spin on the traditional, regular-sized gyoza. The black sesame/black vinegar soup is a lighter than the tonkotsu pork broth, which is a good thing during the humid Japanese summer. The ground up black sesame adds a richness and complexity in flavor to the soup, while the black vinegar adds a little bit of a zing and lightness to the whole production.
I went to visit the Usa [oo – sah] Shrine with Tash yesterday. The Usa Shrine is one of the most important shrines in Shintoism and is dedicated to the god Hachiman, who is the god of war and the divine protector of the Japanese islands and the Japanese people. Even though this shrine is only 30 minutes from my house, in the 3 years I have lived here, I had never been there before, so I decided to squeeze in some last minute cultural sightseeing before I return to the other USA, the United States of America. The shrine is an oasis of nature, with big trees and overgrown foliage and of beautiful, traditional architecture in an otherwise mundane modern suburban city of Usa.
Omikuji (fortune paper strips) tied to ropes.
Ema (wooden prayer plaques)
On Monday night (July 24), Tash and I headed over to Aki-machi to visit our friend Jessica and to check our her local matsuri (festival).
Local girl (above) wearing a yukata (cotton summer kimono)
The highlight of the festival (below), a fire dance on a boat in the river. According to a local that chatted us up, the fire ceremony is a revived tradition dating back to olden times that pays tribute to the spirits of the river.
Jessica will be going to the University of Arizona in Tucson (about 2.5 hours south of Scottsdale where my family lives) to finish her masters program this August, so I hope to be able to see her again soon.
Japanese Festival Food
Ikayaki (grilled squid)
Takoyaki (Octopus balls)
Yakisoba (stir-fried noodles)
On Saturday night, I went to have a final dinner with the Nishimura family. I used to live next door to them in the inaka (countryside) outskirts of Nakatsu during the first year that I lived in Japan, before I moved to my current house in “downtown” Nakatsu. The two Nishimura children are named Akari and Yuu. We would hang out together once every week and play and I would teach them English and they would teach me Japanese. Mrs. Nishimura prepared a wonderful meal consisting of somen (thin cold noodles), sashimi, and Hamburg steak (a Japanese version of Salisbury steak). The girls made a chocolate cake. Yum! As a going-away present, they gave me a pair of geta (Japanese sandals) and a folding fan. Thanks so much! I hope we can stay in touch and meet again!