Good thing I was in Berlin — I’d been told before getting here that there’s good Vietnamese food to be had in this city. Vietnamese immigrants, after all, have been a fixture in Berlin since as early as the 1950s, when East Germany began extending invitations to North Vietnamese to come over for training programs.
Where to go? All signs pointed to a spot in East Berlin’s Lichtenberg neighborhood named Dong Xuan Center …
My mother discouraged snacking when I was a child. (A policy I’m hugely thankful for now that I know just how little willpower I have.)
These bite-sized morsels were adorable — panda-shaped cookies filled with oozy strawberry filling, thimble-sized chocolate “hamburgers,” tasty biscuit sticks I’d pretend were cigarettes as I held them between two fingers, slowly nibbling them down to nubs. But my favorite was something very basic: Crisp Choco, a milk-chocolate pizza-like pie made with compacted chocolate cornflakes.
In the grand scheme of things, this snack doesn’t seem terribly sinful — it’s not a rich molten chocolate cake or mound of bacon, after all. But it was a treat that we looked forward to — one I count as a guilty pleasure I now allow myself just a few times a year.
So when my Let’s Lunch bunch decided on sharing a guilty pleasure for our virtual lunch date this month, Crisp Choco it was …
There are some people whose food instincts and advice I greatly respect. One of them is the voracious (and all-around awesome) Ed Lin, author of New York Chinatown thrillers “One Red Bastard,” “Snakes Can’t Run” and more.
So when Ed recently posted a photo of a bowl of noodles at his favorite Taiwanese place in New York, I immediately sat up. I trust Ed on all matters gastronomic — especially Taiwanese, a cuisine he knows inside and out.
Which is how a few days later, sous chef and I found ourselves wending down a narrow curvy lane in Chinatown, eyes peeled for one “Excellent Pork Chop House” …
Among the problems to have, this was a good one: What to do with that tub of leftover ssamjang in the fridge?
After whipping up a batch of the sweet, spicy and garlicky Korean dipping sauce for a recent night of kalbi, the leftovers remained front and center in my fridge, nudging me to do something — anything.
Sure, marinating a few pounds of short ribs for another round of kalbi was tempting — perhaps when I have more time.
For now, however, I had other easier plans …
Every few days or so, a craving will kick in.
If I haven’t been cooking or if I’ve been on the road, unless I’m in Asia, I’ll start to really need the taste of Asian food of some sort. So, after a few days of lovely fish sandwiches and hot dogs at Rockaway Beach, I started sniffing around for something a little closer to home.
And then I remembered a sign on a building by the water: “Thai Rock.” And off we went …
Anyone who has eaten with me understands that I generally view vegetables the same way one would dentist appointments or exercise — they’re a necessary evil.
This has long held true, and is something that has exasperated my mother since I was a child. Back then, once it was clear that threats and bribery had absolutely no power in persuading me to eat any greens, my mother wisely appealed to a different side of me: The one that (perhaps not so) secretly enjoys the idea of a good conquest.
Think of broccoli as a little tree, she said.
And so, at the dinner table, I began to imagine myself as a giant, ripping out whole trees from the ground and snarfing down clumps of leaves, then branches, before finally devouring their trunks. Destruction, obliteration — all adrenaline-pumping stuff that finally got me to clean those plates of greens.
Perhaps this could have been seen as an early sign that I might grow up to be a serial killer but, no matter. I was eating vegetables. And that was good.
I was thinking of this story when my Let’s Lunch crew decided on doing “a dish that made me eat vegetables” for this month’s virtual lunch date toasting Joe Yonan’s new cookbook “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook,” which hit bookstores this week. Congrats, Joe!
What should I cook up? Why, broccoli, of course …
Fiery foods are never far from my mind — but the summer months are when this yearning really consumes me.
Perhaps it’s because spicy food and sweltering weather are so intertwined in Singapore, where I grew up. Regardless, whenever the weather turns hot in New York, that’s when my hankering for mouth-numbing flavors truly rears its head.
This week, this led me to try my hand at a dish that I’ve adored for years in Korean restaurants but had never considered trying: Soondubu Jjigae …
A Singaporean auntie laughed when I once mentioned my late grandmother’s “gambling rice,” a one-dish meal she concocted that was easy to make — and for busy gamblers to eat — in the little gambling den she ran.
“Gambling rice?” my auntie said. “We called it ‘landuo fan!”
Lazy rice — a name that’s stuck with me ever since.
I’ve been all about lazy food in my kitchen recently — with a book deadline looming, food has become immaterial. (During a recent month of writing at The Studios of Key West in Florida, strong Cuban coffee was my main sustenance some days.)
So recently in Brooklyn, cooking has become all about looking in the fridge and throwing dishes together. Some of these winged-it meals, however, have turned out so much tastier than expected that I’ve started recording the haphazard madness that led to their being.
One of the favorites so far? Chinese roast pork with broccoli in an easy home-made char siu gravy. It’s so easy that dinner took a little over 10 minutes to make. Want the recipe? Just click on through …
I haven’t had much time to cook recently, with my book deadline looming.
But one does have to eat. So recently, when I found myself having to take a quick break from writing to prep a dish for a potluck party at The Studios of Key West, I turned to an old reliable: Spicy Korean tofu.
This dish is so easy (and delicious) that I find myself making it sometimes as often as once a week. Each tofu bite is packed with the intense swirl of garlic, chili flakes, nutty sesame oil and more — it’s terrific on its own but even better over hot white rice.
Every time I’ve made it, people ask for the recipe — so when my Let’s Lunch crew decided to make a dish that honors Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month for our May virtual lunch date, I decided it was time to share it …