The Wharf (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): A View — With Food on the Side

Remember how I mentioned that people love to tell me where I must eat when I travel?

Well, The Wharf in New York‘s Rockaway Beach is certainly not one of those places.

Check it out, yes — I definitely heard that. With its outdoor dining deck with sweeping views of the water and Manhattan’s skyline in the distance, The Wharf’s vista for a sunset cocktail can’t be beat. But eat? We had read and heard enough about the food to know there were probably better restaurants in Rockaway Beach.

Even so, on a recent evening, as our cocktails on that famous deck were disappearing, the vaunted view was nudging us to stay.

How bad could the food truly be? We decided to find out …

Continue reading

Soondubu Jjigae: Korean Silky Tofu with Beef & Seafood, A Quick WeeknightTake

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 …

Continue reading

Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood: Vietnam in the Heartland

It’s always a treat to find good Asian food where you don’t quite expect it.

Recently, that unexpected place for me was Wichita, Kansas, where yes, I’d thought I’d find terrific steaks but Vietnamese? Never crossed my mind.

Now, no matter where I’ve been, be it little Strasburg, Virginia, or Boring, Oregon (yes, there is such a town and yes, I have been there), I expect to find decent Chinese food. (I’ve learned that any place in the U.S. tends to have a Chinese family hard at work somewhere churning out OK versions of General Tso’s chicken and kung pao beef.)

Any other kinds of Asian food, however, is a different matter. So I was pleasantly surprised to come across a restaurant in Wichita that served up not just Vietnamese — but good and less usual Vietnamese dishes.

You can read my full report on Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood in this weekend’s New York Times Travel section. But if you want to see more visuals, carry on reading here…

Continue reading

Fishermen’s Grotto (San Francisco): A Taste of The Old Wharf

It’s not every day that I look forward to eating at a cheeseball tourist trap.

The Fishermen’s Grotto in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, however, holds special meaning. Thirty years ago, when the sous chef was an undergrad at Stanford University, his father would breeze into town from their Iowa homestead and whisk him away to San Francisco.

There, the man would regale his son with stories of his own youth in 1950s San Francisco — and invariably, these trips would land the pair at a little place in the wharf. The old man would order a Shrimp Louis, remarking with prickly nostalgia that the pricey platter of creamy shrimp “used to cost just $3.50 back in the ’50s.” And over heaping plates of shrimp and fish, he would share the colorful stories of his bygone years.

So when the sous chef and I found ourselves in San Francisco last week, a visit to the old hangout became a must.

Battling sidewalks jammed with tourists and street artists offering to sketch our portraits, we wended our way along the breezy waterfront and found it: Fishermen’s Grotto, the very first restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf …

Continue reading

Hong Kong: Sunday in the Sai Kung With Daphne

Sunday in Hong Kong and two sisters have nothing but empty hours and sunshine ahead of them.

The possibilities are plentiful — shall there be some dimsum? Or a lovely pork chop bun, perhaps? Because the day is beautiful, however, something outdoors becomes a must. Into a car we hop, squeezing through the city’s narrow, congested lanes, whizzing down a highway past thickets of toothpick -thin skyscrapers. Before long, there is a blur of greenery, squat shophouses, the sounds of children squealing.

As we tumble out, there is a smell. It’s the sea — and there is a vast expanse of it.

“I thought you would like Sai Kung,” Daphne says. And she is right, even if this is just the beginning.

We gather ourselves and amble on. Not so far away, a lively fish market awaits …

Continue reading

Doenjang Jjigae: Tofu & Seafood Stew (Commoners’ Food)


IMG_5617 

You could say I haven't exactly been the kind of daughter-in-law a Korean mother would have wished for.

I can't speak Korean. (I don't think being able to say "kalbi" and "bulgogi" counts.) And while I'm awfully good at eating Korean food, well, making it is another matter entirely.

I'd never attempted many Korean dishes simply because they seem terribly complex — each stew, each grilled meat I sample is always bursting at the seams with complicated clusters of flavors. How could I ever replicate those tastes in my little Brooklyn kitchen? No, no, it was always far easier to just throw in the spatula and hop on a train to New York's Koreatown.

After spending some time in the kitchen with my mother-in-law in Honolulu for book research last year, however, I started to come around. 

Since she lives in Hawaii and I live in New York, it's been impossible to keep the lessons going. So I've been turning to a blogger whom I deeply admire — and adore — who's essentially a one-woman Korean cooking school: the irrepressible Maangchi.

Many of her recipes are incredibly simple — foolproof, almost — and watching her videos helps you figure out whether you're chopping things the right size or grilling meats to the right doneness. Recently, I had her to thank for a lovely tofu and seafood stew I'd been craving …

Continue reading

Sin Huat Eating House: A Red-Light Special


FRP2 296 

To say that the prospects of having a good meal at Sin Huat Eating House seemed dim when we first arrived would be quite an understatement.

For starters, it was hard find the place. Located in a desolate corner of Geylang, Singapore‘s big red-light district, this restaurant situated in an open-air coffeeshop was so dark that it blended right into the furtive blackness of its block. On top of that, every so often, its few fluorescent lights would flicker and go out for several seconds.

Then, there was the row of grimy, green fishtanks displayed front and center. And the sweaty cooks who would emerge now and then to reach into these fishtanks up to their arm-pits in order to scoop out shellfish whenever someone placed an order.

This was the place that Anthony Bourdain had included on his list of “13 Places To Eat Before You Die” for Men’s Health magazine?

In all my years of eating around Asia, however, I’ve come to learn that it’s usually the least appetizing-looking places that create the most memorable dishes. And in Singapore, some of the best places to eat are to be found in the seediest of neighborhoods. (In a travel story I did for the Washington Post this weekend, I list a number of mind-blowing places to check out in Singapore’s red-light districts. These would be places to eat. Food, that is.)

And Sin Huat, once you get past its stomach-churning trappings, definitely fits this bill.

Continue reading