Taste Testing… Korean Pork and Potato Stew

"Korean Brand Pork and Potato Stew"
“Korean Brand Pork and Potato Stew”
Yea! Instructions in English, too...
Yea! Instructions in English, too…

A few months ago we picked up a frozen stew that was recommended to us by a friend of The Girl. After he promised that it would not be rocket-hot spicy, I was game.

I figured it would be good if served with some rice, so, while the rice cooked in my steamer (a laughably small steamer, according to our resident rice expert International Guy), all I had to do was heat up the stew in a micro-safe dish.

Smells pretty good...
Smells pretty good…

Between The Husband, International Guy and me, we all decided that it isn’t too bad. It’s not too great, either. I think it would be good choice if you had a cold- just enough spicy heat to help clear your head. The potatoes didn’t fare too well with the defrosting, as potatoes are wont to do. But, the broth had a decent flavor. The pork smelled great, but was stringy and dry. And it was more of a soup than a stew- no need to serve over a rice or noodle.IMG_8723

Li'l Turtle Dude says "Go ahead, try something new today!"
Li’l Turtle Dude says “Go ahead, try something new today!”

Overall, I’m game enough to try one of the other flavors by this brand… but then again, I’m making myself get around to trying new things for the fun of it. I can say that I highly recommend trying new things for no reason in particular.

Sunday’s Farmers Market- La Jolla

IMG_8605Vista may host the oldest and longest running Farmers Market in the San Diego area, but La Jolla has one of the best- the La Jolla Open Aire Farmers Market. A couple dozen international food stalls serve breakfast and brunch foods for you to snack on while you shop at a wide variety of produce stands- organic and conventional. Need to pick up some specialty oils, vinegars, or specialty food treat for a gift (or a treat for yourself)? La Jolla’s Farmers Market has you covered. To top off the variety of vendors the market includes upwards of forty or more stalls selling hand made clothing, trinkets, art, and the odd collection of curios for sale.

IMG_8633One guy dives shipwrecks, for instance, and has a small table of items he has brought up from the ocean floor. He’s dived all around the world and has brought up literally millions of dollars worth of gold and artifacts. Go visit him and ask questions- he’ll tell you about the most expensive individual find, oldest, surprising, and the dive that made him the independent hobbyist that he can be today. It was quite fascinating to hear his stories.

IMG_8610 IMG_8613 (1)Smit Farms sells at several markets I visited this week, and I bought their cherry apple cider at Mira Mesa’s market, their onion and garlic pistachios at the Ocean Beach market, but The Husband was the one to cave in to their produce this time. The apple samples pushed him over the edge- we are now the proud owners of two pounds of honey crisps and one pound of those delicious grapes.

IMG_8620Anyone selling cage free eggs had great prices here- as a matter of fact, they were some of the best prices that I can recall from all the local markets. Some of the egg vendors really appreciate it if you can bring back the cartons and reuse them, how’s that for reusing and recycling?

This is a wonderful, lively, varied, great place to shop. We know people that spend the entire morning and afternoon here in La Jolla- they attend their church’s early service, eat a nice breakfast at Harry’s Coffee Shop, then hit the Farmer’s Market. I think they have a great thing going, for sure.

Did you know that Kashi foods started in La Jolla?
Did you know that Kashi foods started in La Jolla?
Beautiful bracelets and colorful gifts for sale. Fabulous prices, too- those bracelets are $1 each!
Beautiful bracelets and colorful gifts for sale. Fabulous prices, too- those bracelets are $1 each! From Ariela’s Unique Gifts
I didn't know
I didn’t know “chayote” were a soup squash…
Never tried a guava... holy cow, they were delicious!
Never tried a guava… holy cow, they were delicious!

More than one person buying from Belinda’s Cocina swore to us that they eat here every weekend because it is The Best Mexican Food in The Entire Area. Our chile relleno and chorizo burritos were fabulous.

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The chorizo burrito (right) didn’t stand a chance against The Hungry Husband. It was indeed DELICIOUS! So was my chile relleno burrito (left).

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San Diego Ramen Scene #1- Rakiraki & Tsukemen

Kearny Mesa has a bounty of international restaurants, especially Asian shops. From Chinese dumpling houses to Japanese ramen restaurants, this seems to be the area to hit. It took us several years, but we finally made it to one of the more talked-about noodle joints: Rakiraki & Tsukemen on Convoy Avenue. One of the biggest reason we have never eaten here is because it is on the same corner as O’Brien’s Pub, and it is hard to pass by this pub even when you want to try a new place… O’Brien’s is just that good.

My bowl of the Super-Delux
My bowl of the Super-Delux

The Girl and I hit Rakiraki tonight, and although we were only mildly impressed, we both agreed we would still like to come back for another try at the menu. Tonight we each had ramen. She tried the original with chicken: “ORIGINAL SIGNATURE RAMEN- Custom craft noodles and original chicken broth topped with green onions, bamboo shoot, organic crushed sesame, nori dried seaweed and your choice of aburi chasiu or chicken chasiu.” I had the super-delux, also with chicken: “SUPER DELUXE HAKATA TONKOTSU RAMEN- Custom craft noodles and deluxe tonkotsu broth topped with sizzled garlic chips, five-spice soy sauce pickled egg, bean sprouts, green onions, bamboo shoots, wakame seaweed and organic crushed sesame.”

The Girl is pretty squeamish about fats and oils… the texture just does not appeal to her, and she felt that the layer of oil floating on her soup was just too much for her. She dug the flavor, but couldn’t get past the greasiness. She did, however appreciate the organic chicken- have you noticed that “Organic Chicken” tends to be less fatty? I think it is… Just wondering if I am the only one who noticed. I liked my dinner overall, but was not bowled over by it. The noodles, broth and toppings were just… all right. Good enough to try the restaurant another time, but not containing any wow factor that I hoped for. I’ll try a different dish next time.

For any of you who may be interested in learning more about the Ramen scene in the San Diego area, here is a nice summary put out a couple of years ago by our main newspaper. This Union Tribune San Diego article “Who Serves the Best Ramen in San Diego?” has a good list with a short review of seven different foodie’s favorite spots. Click on for more recommendations!

Taste Test and Recipe: Chicken with Red Curry Sauce from Trader Joe’s with Homemade Hummus

I made most of my family try something new for dinner tonight that I was pretty sure that they would flat out refuse- a chicken curry sauce over rice. They have been relatively on board with me trying new things this year, pretty supportive overall, but are getting to the breaking point with the food experiments.


IMG_6565
IMG_6566Tonight I made them try Trader Joe’s Chicken Breast Medallions with Coconut Red Curry Sauce. The photos all stink tonight, sorry… lost my mojo for the day, what can I say.

In a nutshell: The Boy gave the best performance of his life, feigning torture at the hands of his mother. His drama teacher for next year would have been so proud! Because this is mildly spicy, The Girl got a Get Out Of Tasting Free pass with her sore throat. Neither reaction from my kids surprised me, but here was the kicker: The Husband loved it. This guy does not care for Indian food. We have Indian friends and it kills me that he doesn’t like most of the home made foods we have been fortunate to share. He is always game to try it… he’s not an unmannered slob, for Pete’s sake, he just doesn’t enjoy the the spices. As for me, I liked it a lot. Great flavor, not to spicy (hot), super easy, the big chunks of chicken weren’t dry and tasted freshly made, and the stuff looked like the picture on the box- no food stylist magic was done by TJ’s.

As for this box of curry from Trader Joe’s fridge section, I know it isn’t authentic, but I’ve received a seal of approval from a friend who knows her Indian cuisine; she likes this ready-made dish, too. I served the curry over brown basmati rice (also from Trader Joe’s), with a side of peas, and hummus that I made this afternoon. Holy cow, that hummus was GOOD!

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Here’s the world’s easiest recipe for fabulous hummus:

Into the bowl of a food processor add the following:

-fresh squeezed juice from one lemon
-one clove garlic
-one 14 oz. can of chick peas drained, but reserve the juice from the can
-one tablespoon of tahini
-one tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil.

Blend until smooth, this could take a while to get it good and smooth, and to get the hummus to the right consistency you will probably need to add some of the reserved juice from the can of chick peas- add a little at a time, you don’t want too much. Add salt to taste, also. You may want your hummus with more garlic, lemon, or tahini so adjust to your tastes.

This is kick-butt-good because it uses fresh garlic, fresh lemons, good extra virgin olive oil and real tahini. If you substitute any of these with something that isn’t fresh, it won’t be nearly as good. And you will be cursed in the kitchen. And you will stub your toe and get a paper cut. Really.

Trader Joe's  Chicken with Coconut Red Curry Sauce, served with Brown Basmati Rice
Trader Joe’s Chicken with Coconut Red Curry Sauce, served with Brown Basmati Rice

Taste Testing Korean Snacks with a Couple of Ringers! (Part TWO)

Part Two of our taste-testing extravaganza focused on the sweet treats and drinks while the K-pop was playing in the background…
IMG_6528Banana Kick- Can you imagine your basic cheese puffs, with NO cheese or powder, but with banana flavor instead? Comments included “Holy crap, it’s a banana cheese puff!” and Weird, but cool; tastes less banana-y than they smell.” We dug these things.

IMG_6525Corn Silk Tea- Joseph was so happy that we didn’t like this as much as he did. This was clearly one of his favorite home foods. Corn Silk Tea is a very mild tea that, very oddly, I thought tasted like tea plus the milk left over from a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. Yeah, I know, like I said- odd… but not in a bad way. I can totally see why this would be a favorite if you grew up drinking it- kind of like how most other world cultures can’t stand our root beer, but we Americans LOVE it.

IMG_6537Custard Cream Cakes- Joseph and The Boyfriend said that these are Korean Twinkies. Honestly, the comparison is a bit insulting. These are WAY better than Twinkies.

IMG_6538Matdongsan- One of the snacks that the boys were most excited to eat and have us try. To quote them: “Tastes like Korea.” I thought these were really good, peanut butter cookie meets cracker-y wafer-ish treat stick.

IMG_65572% by Lotte (Peach Flavored)– Oh, man! This was great! 2% is a non-carbonated soft drink that is not overwhelmingly sweet. We all liked it. “Ooo, right in the Childhood,” was The Boyfriend’s comment. We totally should have gotten more of this in different flavors. Get this- you can buy Lotte’s 2% Peach from Amazon, if you are so inclined.

IMG_6541Jolly Pong- almost exactly the same thing as the American honey puffed wheat cereal Sugar Crisps (now called Golden Crisp to not sound so sugar laden) or Honey Smacks (does that cereal even exist any more) . But more delicate. Really good!

We still have the frozen treat to try, and another aloe flavored soft drink, some various ramen and a couple more sweet snacks to try… Looks like Joseph will have to ask for an extension on his student Visa? We can hope. Have a great summer with your family, Joseph, and we wish you all the luck in the world when you start university next fall. New York doesn’t know how lucky it is to be getting you, I hope you take Manhattan by storm! We should make Willy do this with Chinese snacks next year, shouldn’t we- maybe between the Fall play’s Saturday performances? Ha, look out, Willy, you are next!

Taste Testing Korean Snacks with a Couple of Ringers! (Part One)

The Girl attends a school with kids from all corners of the globe. Actually, pretty much all schools in the greater Southern California area fit this description. For tonight’s new adventure, tasting Korean snack foods, we conscripted two great kids (I can call 18-year-olds “kids” since I have 30 years on them).IMG_6519 (1)

  • Joseph, from South Korea, classmate and friend of The Girl for several years, our native expert
  • The Boyfriend, who lived in Asia for four years, and totally on board with steering us toward his favorites

I bought five packages of snacks last week. It took the boys all of TWO seconds to take me up on my offer to drive back to our local H Mart to make sure we covered all of their favorites. Now we were up to over twenty, savory and sweet- not counting the soft drinks and ice cream the boys were excited for us to try.

The Summaries
The kids were fried after Week #1 of A.P. Exams, so we kept K-Pop going on Pandora and snacked away for three hours and came up with the following:

IMG_6527“Shrimp Crackers” from the boys: “Aaaaahhh!!! What did they do to our favorite childhood snack?!? Wait! By the 3rd bite it is starting to taste right.” We newbies thought they were pretty good.

IMG_6530“O!Karto” Italian Gratin flavor… we dug ’em. The favorite of The Boyfriend. good!

IMG_6532“Crab Chips” Meh. Unanimous. Tasted better than they smelled.

IMG_6534“Onion Rings” Like wheat based Funyons. Good, but not as good as King Funyuns.

IMG_6536“Tako Snacks” Thought I would slip octopus flavored chips past my son. The Boy resisted. Although they tasted better than they smelled, all these rated was another “meh.”

IMG_6539“Gg-Ggol-Corn” Joseph says this is his best attempt at Anglo spelling of Korean… A whole lot like Bugles, but WAY less salty. Very good!

Next post- Sweet snacks and beverages!! Holy cow, this was fun!

Be Flexible- It Could Mean You Get Korean BBQ!

Tonight I had The Family all ready to be forced to come along with me to eat at the vegan restaurant that I tried last month, The Loving Hut.

It was closed. The Boy fairly rejoiced.

He was positively elated when we decided to try the Korean BBQ place nearby. “Because, MEAT, Mom!” was his reason. Actually, this is a restaurant we had been wanting to try for about five years. Sometimes it is hard to get out of your sushi rut, you know?

Spicy salad dressing!
Spicy salad dressing!
About eight side dishes...
About eight side dishes…

Shozen Korean BBQ was really delicious, with very helpful servers who are ready to offer all the aid newbies like us need… so we understand what we are doing… so we don’t burn down the joint cooking the bacon. Yes, that is bacon on the meat platter!

The meats we had cooking were brisket, rib eye, tongue (delicious!), chicken, and uncured, unsmoked bacon… and maybe some more. I can’t remember. I’m still in a meat coma. Even though I ate all my salad, the rice, and nearly my entire bowl of Korean Miso soup, that was still a lot of meat. Korean Miso soup at Shozen has several vegetables, meat and large tofu chunks. The miso base was different than Japanese miso soup, too. I wonder if they use red miso? Or maybe miso without the dashi stock? I’ve got to ask someone now… I dig on international foods and their ingredients, if you can’t tell.

The other side dishes included a bean sprout salad, scallion pancakes, broccoli and tofu, kimchi, a cabbage and carrot salad, potato salad (that one surprised me), and a rocking green salad with a home made dressing- spicy, but incredibly delicious. Shozen also has a couple of dipping sauces for your meats, a soy sauce/jalepeño sauce and another of sesame oil with salt and pepper. Both added a nice dash of flavor to the meats that cook on the table top right in front of you.

Shozen Korean BBQ- I highly recommend it.