Thursday, March 30, 2006

Curry in a Bread Bowl

Inspired by a post on aromacookery.com, I decided to take some leftover curry I made two nights ago, and put it in a sourdough bread bowl.

Japanese curry is is usually a thicker based sauce than the traditional Indian curry. Japanese curry also doesn't use coconut milk. I usually keep my curry simple: beef (usually short rib meat), carrots, and brown onions. My favorite curry spice mixture is Vermont Curry from House Foods.

There are three great curry restaurants in West LA, and they're all on Sawtelle Blvd: Hurry Curry, Blue Marlin, and Sawtelle Kitchen.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

America's Love for Mayo Salads

Americans love their mayo-based salads: Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad, Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Lobster Salad, Waldorf Salad...

The list is endless. I'm personally a big fan of the egg salad (though sometimes I really hate that hard boiled egg smell). What I'm not a big fan of is the amount of mayo used in most places to make an egg salad. I made a different version of the classic egg salad today that incorporates just a small amount of mayo (just barely enough to wet the indredients). I used some ingredients that focused the flavors away from the mayo:

Dill
Olive oil
Mustard
Ground pepper
Garlic powder
...and some sweet relish for tang

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hiro's Pulled Pork Sandwich

I took a stab at making my own version of a pulled pork sandwich. The Carolinas are famous for their slow cooked pulled pork sandwiches. They are traditionally served on a bun with a heaping of cole slaw in the sandwich. The BBQ sauce is also very important. In North Carolina, the BBQ sauce is usually vinegar based, whereas in South Carolina, the sauce is more mustard based. I attempted to make a BBQ sauce that incorporated both vinegar and mustard.

My interpretation of this dish is Asian inspired. The slaw is a mix of cabbage, carrots, and scallions. The slaw dressing ingredients are as follows (I just eyeball everything like Rachael Ray. No measuring spoons here. Just mix dressing to your own liking:

Soy Sauce
Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Wasabi
Mustard (I use a Japanese variety)
Ground Pepper
Ginger
Shichimi Togarashi(seven spice pepper blend)

Always remember that with any salad or slaw, you don't want to drown your veggies in the liquid. Pour and toss just enough for a nice even coat.

I used a small pork loin, and rubbed it with a simple blend of salt, pepper, and brown sugar. I also put some garilc cloves inside the meat to infuse it during the slow bake. Always let the meat sit for a few minutes after cooking so the juices won't run out of the meat. After it's rested, just start "pulling" the meat into pieces.

I took the garlic cloves from the pork, and I used them in my BBQ sauce. I mixed together ketchup, rice vinegar, mustard, soy sauce, ground pepper, some of the juice from the cooked meat, and brown sugar.

I took some Japanese white bread that I bought from Mitsuwa Market and toasted them lightly in butter.

Mitsuwa Marketplace - 3760 Centinela Ave, 90066
310.398.2113

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ramen - In All Its Glory

Let us take a second to appreciate this beautiful dish called ramen. Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish loosely derived from the Chinese "mein." Like pasta, ramen noodles have a certain chewy yet delicate texture and helps fulfill our carb cravings. Before I ramble about my love for ramen, it's important here to not confuse authentic ramen with the instant variety we find in supermarkets. What we're talking about here is soup stock that takes almost an entire day to prepare, topped with slowly cooked pork (cha siu) and vegetables.

Although there are many ramen variations, the classic ramen is the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. Every restaurant has its own recipe for their base broth, but it generally consists of slowly boiling pork, pork bones, leeks, and other vegetables. There's a certain art in parboiling meats and veggies as well. The shoyu broth is essentially a compound broth that combines the base with soy sauce. Another popular variation is the miso ramen, which is a compound broth that incorporates the base with miso paste. The traditional shoyu ramen is topped with (from bottom left) spinach, bean sprouts, seasoned bamboo shoots, egg, scallions, and pork.

One of my favorite films of all time is "Tampopo," directed by Juzo Itami. This film revolves around a woman's determination to achieving the perfect bowl of ramen. There's also a great message about the universal appreciation of food in this film for all you foodies out there.

West LA is fortunate to be graced with a few ramen restaurants. You can find me at Yokohama Ramen at least once a week. Another great ramen joint is Ramenya on Olympic. There's also a few nice ramen shops on Sawtelle Blvd. as well. Cheers to good ramen!

Yokohama Ramen - 11660 Gateway Blvd, West LA
310.479.2321
Ramenya - 11555 W. Olympic Blvd, West LA
310.575.9337

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ono Grinds and Nijiya Market

Here's an interesting fact: Hawaii has the highest per capita consumption of Spam in this country. Hawaiians love their Spam. They put it in every possible recipe they can think of. It's a fascination as well as a way of life, similar to how the people of Gilroy praise their garlic. From the eclectic vault of unusual Spam dishes emerges one very focal dish in Hawaii: the Spam Musubi.

This is comfort food at its finest. You have your rice and meat (though some would say meat is a loose term when referring to Spam). It's sort of like a poor man's sushi. The meat and rice are wrapped in a sheet of seaweed. Variations have rice seasoned with furikake (which is dried seaweed, sesame seeds, and seasonings), or brushed with a little teriyaki sauce. The Spam is usually fried on a frying pan for a slightly crispy texture on the outside. You can also buy Spam Musubi molds that help make perfectly rectangular Musubis. A more cost effective way is to just use the Spam cannister as the mold.

If you're not in the mood to make these musubis at home, stop by Nijiya Market for a quick musubi (under 2 bucks), or treat yourself to a Hawaiian brunch at Rutt's Inn (I'll have to do a separate review of Rutt's Inn sometime in the near future). Ono grinds in West LA!

Nijiya Market - 2130 Sawtelle Blvd, West LA

Rutt's Inn - 12114 Washington Blvd, Culver City
310.398.6326

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ode to Trader Joe's

On the menu tonight: Roasted garlic and button mushroom pizza

By the way, there's nothing more satisfying than roasting your own garlic. Slice off the top of a head of garlic, drizzle some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. The cut side goes down on a piece of aluminum foil (for easy clean up). Garlic goes in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Your house will smell like garlic heaven.

Trader Joe's ready made dough is the best alternative to making your own dough from scratch.

Trader Joe's has many locations in West LA: 3212 Pico Blvd., 10850 National Blvd., 3456 S. Sepulveda Blvd., and 9290 Culver Blvd.

There will be more Trader Joe's conversations to be had in future blogs, but right now, I'm going to go enjoy my pizza. I leave you tonight with Trader Joe's approach to genetically modified foods.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

No More Orange Drinks and Beefaroni

An article in The Mercury News describes the Santa Clara Unified School District's efforts to curb junk food eating in their schools.

It's amazing to think back to my days in kindergarten, eating beefaroni and drinking those "orange drinks". In high school, the only things in the vending machines were sodas and candy bars. My high school years were spent while on a sugar and caffeine high.

It's sad that decision makers are often faced with sacrifing health and well-being for cost effectiveness. If school boards in this country have a hard time replacing textbooks, they sure as hell can't spend a few extra bucks to buy orange "juice" over orange "drinks." I hope more schools will take some initiative and find ways in their budget to take health more seriously. The diabetes rate in this country is mind boggling.

Monday, March 06, 2006

What's With the Egg Sushi?

So what's with the egg (Tamago) sushi on the menu at sushi restaurants? Does anyone ever order it? Is it merely reserved for sushi beginners who are afraid to try raw fish?

There's actually a very specific reason why sushi chefs offer egg sushi. In Japan, many sushi purists judge the quality of a sushi restaurant not by the quality or freshness of the fish, but by the effort and care that goes into making these egg omelets. Purists will order the egg first, and decide if they will ultimately finish their meal or simply walk out.

These egg omelets are traditionally made with eggs, dashi (a bonito and kelp broth), mirin (sweet cooking wine), and sugar. The omelet is mostly sweet, but has a slight savory aftertaste from the dashi. The texture is also something that chefs take pride in. There's a certain firmness and jiggle point that needs to be achieved.

As a kid growing up in Japan, I always liked egg sushi because it simply tasted good. I think the logic behind the purists' thinking is that any chef who puts so much care and effort into something that most people don't typically order is probably a very meticulous and thoughtful chef. I can see that in Japan where fresh fish is abundant, one would need something other than the freshness of fish to judge a good restaurant. Next time you're at a sushi restaurant, order the egg sushi first.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My contribution for tonight's Oscar Party

I'm calling my contribution to tonight's party "Mini Thanksgiving Treats." I first prepared a corn bread stuffing using corn muffins, sage, celery, onions, toasted almonds, chicken broth, and Italian sausage.

Next comes the turkey portion. I cut up lean turkey breasts into little medallions. I dredged the meat in a light flour and spice mixture (sage, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper) and fried them lightly in olive and canola oil (to bring the smoking point higher). The dressing goes in buttered muffin tins and placed in the oven until a slightly crisp top is formed. The fried turkey medallions go on top with some Craisins (you gotta have the cranberry to get the full Thanksgiving effect). If you let it sit properly before serving, the dressing comes out clean and in a nice mold.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pizzicotto Review

I'm generally more partial to Northern Italian meals over Southern. In the Northern regions, butter is favored over olive oil, and homemade pasta is favored over the dry variety. Most Italian restaurants in America, from what I've been told, generally incorporate both Northern and Southern influences in their menus.

I had the pleasure of dining at Pizzicotto in Brentwood this evening. There is a wide variety of pasta dishes, including various stuffed pastas. I elected to try their lobster ravioli (at the suggestion of our waiter). The basil complimented the dish very well. The richness of the creamy sauce with the lobster filling was excellent. Definitely a good chemistry of various Italian regions.

This clam appetizer dish cooked in a wine sauce and topped with bruschetta was also a solid dish. Their wine list is pretty extensive as well.

My only complaint is that being a small restaurant, it can get a little cramped. Some may call it quaint, but I prefer to call it claustrophobic.

Pizzicotto - 11758 San Vicente Blvd, Brentwood
310.442.7188
Welcome to Hiro's West LA Food Blog. This site will be a forum for all things culinary in the West LA area (which for this site will include Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey, Culver City, Century City, Westwood, Malibu, Playa Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, and Bel Air).

I do not in any way claim to be a critic or an expert on food. However, I am very much fascinated by food culture and value other people's opinions on food culture, and I welcome everyone's comments.

So with that said, on with the food blog!

-Hiro