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Monday, November 23, 2009

Can't get enough COCONUT?!! Homemade Puerto Rican Coconut Popsicles

Well, me either!! I have been hooked on this recipe since I first tried it!! I happened upon it just randomly searching for Puerto Rican recipes. The recipe is for Puerto Rican-style homemade popsicles called limbers. These tasty frozen treats come in flavors like pineapple, dulce de leche, banana, guava, cookies and cream, cheesecake (I am really looking forward to trying this one one day, and I'll be sure to report back on how it turns out), peanut butter (not sure which is better, coconut or peanut butter) coconut, and just about any other fruit flavor you can imagine. I have yet to go to Puerto Rico and have them for myself, but I hear it's the type of thing women make at home and sell to both neighborhood children and adults for something like a quarter or so.

Limbers [LEEM behr] are super easy to make and kill any store-purchased popsicle you've ever had. Here is my adaptation of the recipe I found ( I just add about two teaspoons vanilla in addition to what the recipe calls for. By the way, to make them, they're traditionally just frozen in small plastic cups and people get creative as far as how to eat them :). What has worked for me is to fill the cup half way so that you can squeeze around the sides to loosen it, then push it up to enjoy it and flip the popsicle around to catch the juice once the bottom starts to melt.

Limber de Coco (coconut Puerto Rican-style popsicles)

1 can coconut milk
1can coconut cream
1 can water (fill the can of coconut milk to measure)
1/4 tb cinnamon
you can also add grated coconut before freezing, if desired
sugar to taste (maybe about a 1/4 cup)

Mix it all up in the blender and taste it to be sure it's to your liking. Freeze and enjoy a yummy, fresh-tasting, creamy limber!

You can cover the tops of the cups by pressing a piece of plastic wrap flat to the surface to delay the tops of the limbers getting that freezer taste. It happens sometimes, but the whole thing isn't can rinse the top with hot water, if necessary or just flip it and eat it from the bottom first.

I've also added two baby bananas in the mix and it was sooo good!! You can add a half a regular banana as a sub.

And sorry this is a little out of season for most of the U.S., lol. Hey, it's still in the 80s here in Miami, lol. Nonetheless, I would probably still be eating them if I were at home because they're just that good :).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Check out my reviews on yelp!

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to invite you to check out my reviews on yelp. I have some for Richmond, N. VA, DC/Silver Springs, NYC, and, of course, Miami. Check me out at

For those of you who are unfamiliar with yelp, it's pretty much a foodie's paradise! People reviews restaurants they've been to, so it's great if you need help finding a new place to try or finding somewhere to eat before going out-of-town. It's great because there are nice features like a Talk forum (which can be found on the top bar) and many features that make it a hybrid that combines social networking in the mix as well. That means that people create profiles (nothing long or cheesy, just a few basics and a couple quirky questions), add friends, and send private messages. I say it kills facebook any day! Plus...they have EVENTS! Awesome! I hear they are amazing! I'll post if i get to go to the one I RSVPd for in Brickell Key in Miami. We shall see what happens!

Rich, Warm, and Comforting Tomato Soup

Okay, for those of you who are skeptical about any dishes with its flavor based off of just about nothing but veggies, try this recipe. I promise this dish will make a convert out of any meat-a-tarian out there. It's nothing like the ketchup-y Cambell's version of so-called tomato soup, so just erase that comparison from your mind altogether. This is my mom's recipe that I've have tweaked slightly by adding basil, thyme, and fresh cayenne pepper for extra kick. I absolutely LOVE this stuff! It's comfort food at it's best that's actually somewhat healthy (if you take out the fact that heavy cream is obviously full of fat :P!). This recipe is so rich and creamy, you almost have to have a new word besides soup for it--there's nothing thin and watery here, just lots of rich flavor! Meat-a-tarians, I especially want you to try this one out and get back to me. I made a convert of one of my biggest meat-loving friends, so I'm confident you'll change your mind to.

This dish is so warm and comforting and it always makes me think of fall. Just when it starts to get chilly, around October or November, my mom usually makes a huge pot of this stuff and I'm so nostalgic for it now!! I can't wait to get home and get a nice, warm bowlful!

Here's the recipe. It's nice and easy for those of you who may not be comfortable in the kitchen. Try your hand at this one and be prepared to wow your friends and family with your culinary skills!

Oh, and before I get into the recipe, let me say that the quality of your tomatoes is important in this dish as they are the principal ingredient. If you can, try to go for something like Hunt's Natural. You'll taste the difference.

Creamy, Flavorful Tomato Soup
1 28 oz can organic crushed tomatoes
½ cup heavy cream
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic (3 if they’re small)
2TB butter
1 carrot (peeled and diced)
1 celery stalk diced
1 slice crispy, thick-sliced bacon
About 2-1/2 cups chicken broth (as long as its not too watery – I don’t know exact measurement)
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 bay leaf
1 pinch thyme
About a thumb’s length of fresh cayenne pepper
- could probably be substituted with 1/8 cup orange bell pepper and cayenne powder to taste
Salt, seasoned salt, and pepper to taste
I would add a bit of white wine (a couple TBs or so) too if you have it. I couldn’t find mine, so that’s the only reason I didn’t add any.

Put the celery, carrot, onion and garlic (and orange bell pepper, if you’re using it, not fresh cayenne) in pan w/ olive oil and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, bacon, fresh cayenne pepper (if using) chicken broth, bay leaf, thyme, and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. If using cayenne pepper, peel off skin and place 1/3 of pepper in soup and discard rest (don’t want it too hot). Add basil and cream. Puree in blender until smooth.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The BEST coconut Macaroons EVER!

So I have really been craving something sweet, but I didn't want anything chocolate-y, and I really had no idea what I wanted because nothing was satisfying. I was surfing the net for recipes and came across Puerto Rican limbers (home-made popsicles), which are amazing! I fell in LOVE with the limber de coco and limber de mani (recipes forthcoming), but lately I've been wanting something else different. Finally, I remembered the amazing coquitos/besitos de coco (macaroons) that I had in Samana and La Romana, Dominican Republic. They were the amazing kind that had a cake-like softness to them.  I had them at the Shell gas station there, believe it or not.  They were homemade, too, lol.

I tried going to a local cuban bakery, El Brazo Fuerte, here in Miami, but the macaroons weren't what I was looking for. They were good, but they were the flourless kind and I had a craving to dive into some nice, soft yumminess! after surfing online, I found this beauty and made a few tweaks.  ABSOLUTE PERFECTION, friends! I promise!
Spanish -
English -

For the sugar, go to your local Southeast Asian market (Battambong or Sahath By in Chesterfield, Horsepen and Rigsby Rd area markets off of W. Broad in West W. End--I recommend Far East, which is in the middle area across from Pho So 1) and ask for Palm Sugar. If they don't know what you're talking about, just look around. I promise, they have it. It's like $2 something in the pack and maybe a little more in the jar. Yes, it makes a HUGE difference in the flavor. It's rich with a great depth of flavor, like nothing you've ever tasted before and brown sugar won't cut it. Anyhow, read the back of the packet and make sure all it says is "palm sugar" or "coconut sugar." Basically, you just want to be sure that it's the real deal natural stuff.

Soooo...what I was getting at is that the change I made to the macaroon recipe is that you use 1/2 cup palm/coconut sugar (same thing) and and 1/2 cup white sugar. Break up the palm sugar (you want it in block form, not jarred) with a fork or grate it (don't do a pressed/packed measure), then mix it up with the white sugar, using the fork to break up the palm sugar more and mix it with the white. Other than that, just use 1/2 tsp vanilla instead of 1/4 and there you go!! These are soooo good!! The palm sugar gives them an amazing texture. You'll get a little crunch on the edges, but a nice one!!!  I'm sure you could get a similar effect with brown sugar, but the taste will be soooo different, and perhaps a bit too dark for the coconut flavor and you might overpower it. But...try, if you wish. If you try it, write back to let me know how it turns out or if you made any changes.

Important Tips:
Baking in a glass dish is best if you don't want the crust, in other words, if you want the more traditional softness. But, guys, I'm telling you, the way I did them in the oven in a metal pan was a really tasty change. The bottom had a thin, lightly crispy crust, and a very slight crust on the top from the palm sugar, and the inside was warm and soft. 

As far as bagged coconut goes, you get what you pay for. Go for the gold on this one and use Baker's brand. It's a lot more moist than others. You'll use a full 14 0z bag of Baker's.

This recipe is from Puerto Rico, so when they say brown sugar (azucar marron o azucar negra), what they're referring to is not the sticky molasses kind that's popular in the contiguous States. Rather, what they are referring to is turbinado or raw sugar (also known as demarara), which is abundant and much more affordable than refined sugars in much of the Caribbean. Brown sugar is preferred for use in desserts and coffee throughout the region, while white is only used for things such as juices and other drinks that would otherwise be altered by the flavor of raw sugar.

*The English version of the recipe says to use lemon, but it has been mistranslated. The Spanish version specifies lime, and that's what I used. Both work, but there's a widespread preference for lime in the Caribbean and it's really nice in this recipe.

*Best if consumed within 3-4 days.

What on EARTH is palm sugar, you ask?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


all I have to say is SUPERMAN SUPERMAN SUPERMAN!!! go try it!! It is sooooo good. Served warm and filled with melty cream cheese, panko batter shrimp, imitation crab (typically gross, but VERY good in this dish), caviar and a AMAZING sauce on top. Slightly spicy and veryyyy flavorful. DELISH!!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp - Celebrating Charcoal Grillin and Summertime!

So everyone loves some a good grilled meal, but this one is quick, easy, and super tasty! But before I begin, I have to start a short rant--can anyone please tell me why you think a gas grill is better than charcoal. If you're grilling on a gas grill, why not just cook inside? You miss out on the nice, smokey charcoal flavor and literally 3 minutes, you can get sooo much more out of your meal. I've heard the argument "a gas grill is just so much easier," but seriously, people. I had never started a grill myself until 3 days ago and the first time I tried, it took me 3 minutes at the very most. All you do is pile your charcoal, pour on the lighter fluid, and ignite...easy as pie! Just let the coals turn mostly gray and let the flame calm down and you're ready to grill. So tell me your thoughts on the gas vs. charcoal summer battle. I'm curious.

So here's my recipe for bacon-wrapped bbq shrimp. It was adapted from a recipe by Sunny Anderson of the Food Network show Cooking for Real. The difference is that I did a homemade BBQ sauce that was totally different from what she had and, of course, the fact that I grilled mine on the charcoal grill as opposed to indoors.

hickory flavored bacon
extra jumbo shrimp
bamboo skewers (soaked in water for a couple hours to avoid burning and sticking)
homemade BBQ sauce

Remove shell from shrimp and devein. No need to salt or flavor in any way; the bacon and bbq covers that. Puncture the shrimp through the thicker end with the pointed end of a skewer and slide skewer through while straightening the natural bend of the shrimp. Once on the skewer, the shrimp should be straight. Place two shrimp to each skewer and wrap each one in half a slice of bacon. Slather with bbq and place on a hot grill over punctured foil to allow heat through. Let cook about 10 minutes on one side or until bacon is crispy (the shrimp will not be rubbery at this point, despite what you might think). Slather both sides with more BBQ and let cook 10 more minutes or until bacon is crispy on other side. ENJOY!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Funnel cakes!! Revised

I LOVE summer! Sometimes it might get a little too hot and, yes, the typical summer water restriction can be a pain (not this year--we've been getting a ton of rain, for once), but it's all worth the sacrifice to enjoy making memories and having a great time on a nice, sunny day. One thing I love about summer, besides cookouts and having more free time to cook for friends and family, is funnel cakes! A few years ago, I found a recipe and tried my hand at making them. They're incredibly easy and inexpensive and make for a great get-together treat. Kids and adults alike fall in love with them.

I used to use a recipe ( and it was really good, but I felt like it was just a bit short on flavor, so I've made a few small, but very important changes. The key to getting the great taste in the recipe is the brown sugar and the vanilla. Most recipes use white sugar, but you'll be amazed at how great the flavor difference is with brown sugar.  I have tweaked the amount of brown sugar in the original recipe in addition to adding in some vanilla extract, among other things.  This recipe make a nice thick and fluffy funnel cake.

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 c milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 -1/4 all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1- 1/2 tsp baking powder
Hint: this recipe is also great with a dash of cinnamon, but it's definitely amazing without it, too)

vegetable or canola oil for frying
toppings (sliced strawberries or any other berries with a little sugar - let sit a few minutes to produce juice)
powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) for dusting

Heat oil in a deep fryer or an electric skillet to 375 (have it ready just as you finish batter, don't let it sit hot or it'll burn). Mix flour, salt, and baking powder thoroughly in a bowl and set aside. Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl. Mix in milk, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly beat in flour mixture until batter is smooth. It should not be too soupy. You want it to be a little thick.

Special equipment:
deep fryer or electric skillet

Funnel in about 1/2 cup batter and use your finger to stop the bottom of the funnel as you pour. Once you have poured in batter, scribble batter and make a swirl design to make shape of funnel cake. Let fry until golden brown and turn and let fry until golden brown on other side. Grab with tongs and hold over oil to let excess oil drip into fryer. Place onto plate lined with napkin to drain excess oil. Transfer to clean plate and sift powdered sugar over cakes, then top with desired fruit toppings. You can also mix powdered sugar with cinnamon before sifting and eat with or without fruit.

You will LOVE this recipe! Tell me what you think once you try it. It tastes and smells just like the county fair and you will love the smell almost as much as the flavor. ENJOY!

*Source of photo -

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Locrio de costillitas - Dominican rice with spare rib tips

Yum, yum, yum!! Locrio is one of my favorite Dominican dishes. It is a red rice cooked with some sort of meat (chicken, spare rib tips, longaniza (a type of sausage), or even spicy sardines (pica pica)). It's always very flavorful and delicious! I didn't have much cubanelle pepper around (the sweet pepper that is typically used), so I used two small serranos (about 2 teaspoons - 1 TB, depending on how much spiciness you like) and about 1 teaspoon cubanelle pepper. This dish is not normally spicy, so if you have to go to the store anyway, you can make the choice to make it spicy or not. Use a whole cubanelle if you make it the traditional way. I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as I do!

3 cloves of garlic (two is fine if they are the gigantic cloves I've been seeing lately)
1 onion chopped
1 TB + 1 tsp tomato paste (sauce is NOT a substitute)
1 stalk of cilantro (chopped)
1 stalk of parsley (chopped)
1 teaspoon celery leaf (if available) (chopped)
a pinch of dried oregano
adobo (there are different Goya Adobo varities, but use the one with the blue top)
Baldom Dominican sazon (if available, otherwise, use more adobo)
crushed black pepper to taste (probably about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 TB salt
1lb to 1.5 lbs spare rib tips (cut into pieces with 1-2 of the small vertical bone pieces each - as close to equal size pieces as possible)
2 cups of long grain white rice
3.5 cups water

This method of cooking rice produces a nice layer of crispier rice on the bottm (this is the intended result. In Dominican cooking, it is prepared in a nonstick pan to get a crispier rice on the bottom. As most Americans are not accustomed to this (although I really enjoy it), you may want to make an effort to prepare it in a nonstick pan the first time to see how you like that first. When cooked in a nonstick pan, this crispier layer (referred to as "concon" in Spanish - the most desirable part of the rice in Dominican cooking) acquires a tasty, lightly nutty flavor.

To place the cooked rice in serving dishes. Spoon the softer rice off (without scraping off the crispy rice) and place in one bowl. Spoon off the bottom layer of crispier rice and place in a separate smaller bowl.

Season each piece of the spare rib tips with generously with salt, Dominican sazon, adobo, and dried oregano. Set aside. wash and drain rice (move it around with your hand in a large bowl of water until water becomes white). Season dry rice with about 2 teaspoons to one TB adobo and the 1/2 TB salt in the list of ingredients. set aside.

Place the garlic and onions (not the herbs yet) in a skillet (the one you want to cook the rice in) with about 1/2 TB - 1TB extra virgin olive oil until they are translucent.

Toward the end of the process, add in the tomato paste and sautee mixture with it for about 1 min, along with oregano and fresh herbs.

Once the vegetables are done sauteeing, turn the heat up to medium and add the ribs, being sure to cover them well in the adobo mixture as you cook them.

Let the meat brown on all sides. Add enough water to cover bottom of pan, cover pot well and let it cook for a few minutes to lightly stew meat. Once water evaporates, add rice and add 3.5 cups water.

Cook rice (UNCOVERED) over medium to medium high heat (the least it takes to get a boil), stirring CONSTANTLY. Continue stirring until all of the water evaporates.

Once the water has evaporated, spread rice and meat evenly over bottom of pan. Cover tightly and take temperature down to low.

Let the rice cook on low for exactly 20 min (do NOT check the rice or remove the top for any reason). Remove from heat.

Let the rice sit for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!

Most people like to enjoy this dish with a splash of fresh lime juice and sliced avocado on the side, but of course it's delicious just as it is!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer rolls!

Nam chow (fresh spring rolls/summer rolls)

1 package Rice paper (Summer roll wrappers)
shrimp (medium size works well)
fresh cilantro (stems are fine), fresh mint, fresh thai basil, and/or fresh sweet basil
thin rice vermicelli
1 plate or cutting board to roll spring rolls on
1 plate to set prepared rolls on
1 large head bibb lettuce (romain can work if you remove hard stem in middle or you can use another soft leaf lettuce)
bean sprouts (rinsed and dried)

  1. Wash fresh herbs, dry them, and place them into a bowl. 
  2. Boil rice noodles according to package recipe or until tender. Strain and set aside in bowl once tender. 
  3. As rice noodles are boiling, sautee raw shrimp over medium heat until bright pink. Set shrimp aside in bowl and let cool. 
  4. Create an assembly line with each item in a row on a table.
  5. Put a small pot of water on simmer and once it is warm, pour into a low-sided bowl. 
  6. To begin the process of rolling spring rolls, dip one round of rice paper into the warm water until the pattern disappears. 
  7. Although the paper will appear to still be a bit firm, don't worry. It will soften up during the time you place ingredientes on it. Don't over-moisten or it will tear.
  8. Place a piece of lettuce (maybe about as big as your hand without stretching it out)closest to the edge nearest to you. Leave a little space for the rice paper to stick to itself and seal at the end. 
  9. In front of (NOT on top of) the lettuce, place three pieces of shrimp along it's front edge (in a horizontal line). This placement allows you to see the shrimp through the roll like you do in restaurants, which makes it look nicer. 
  10. Place a small handful of noodles over the lettuce. 
  11. Cover noodles with a layer of bean sprouts (be careful to place any sharp ends downward so they don't pierce rice paper. 
  12. Add a line of your choice of fresh herbs along its length. 
  13. Roll the rice paper tightly over the noodles, tucking in the ends tightly as you roll. Keep rolling until you seal the end of the rice paper to the top of the roll. There you have it!

Enjoy with dtuk trei or fish sauce (I recommend 3 crabs brand, and recommend against Thai Kitchen). This dip should be prepared in advance (1 day if possible) because otherwise it tastes too strong and the flavors don't blend well). To the recipe below, add two or three cloves mashed then minced garlic. It's very important for a good flavor, in my opinion.

Fresh spring rolls (also called summer rolls) are best enjoyed fresh, but can be stored and enjoyed later if the proper precautions are taken. Rice paper tends to harden over time, but if you wrap your rolls in a damp paper towel (being sure to create space between each roll to avoid them sticking together) and store them in an airtight container in the fridge, they should be fine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fruit and Nut Rice

I tried a similar dish in the most unlikely of places and I absolutely loved it and so did a friend of mine. I actually tried it at UVa's dining hall, where the food is usually downright depressing, but every now and then they have a nice surprise. In their version, there was a mixture of dried apricots, raisins, prunes, and dates. Since a bag of dried fruit you won't use otherwise is pretty pricey, I settled for what I had in the house--raisins and prunes (prunes are very tasty, by the way. Of course you can't eat too many ;)

Fruit and Nut Rice
1 cup long grain white rice
2 small boxes of raisins (1/2 oz - I believe this is just one box Sunmaid)
about 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almond or a mixture
about 6 pieces or so of large dried fruits, such as apricots or prunes. Dates would work well also. (do not cut them because the skin will boil off and it's much better to just cut it on ur plate if you need to)
1 sprig of thyme
1TB cinnamon (dominant flavor)
2 teaspoons allspice (maybe a third one. This should be one of the dominant flavors)
5 cloves
1/2 TB coriander
1/2 to 1TB salt
2 TB onion
1 clove garlic (you don't need more, the spices should dominate in this dish)
5-10 peppercorns crushed in mortar and pestle, depending on desired spiciness (or use regular crushed, but it's a lot less spicy)
1 TB grated coconut (preferably unsweetened, but I used sweetened and it was fine)
1-1/2 cups chicken broth (beef would likely work well also)
1/2 TB oil
1/2 TB butter

I cooked my rice with 1-1/4 cups broth using the uncovered method that's typical in Dominican cooking, but I think this dish is actually better covered since there isn't much in it to make it as moist as rice dishes with meat in them. The Dominican style is to cook the rice uncovered on medium, stirring constantly until all of the water evaporates. After this, you cover and cook on low for 20 minutes. This creates a drier, more separated rice and can sometimes create a nice crust on the bottom and/or sides of the pot (which is desired in Dominican cooking). In the case of plain white rice, I love this method. I think it's also great for rices prepared with coconut milk instead of water or broth and it also works well with rice and meat dishes like Locrio because of the extra moisture/fat from the coconut milk and meat respectively. In the case of this dish, the typical method or a rice cooker is just fine. In this method, bring rice to a boil over medium heat while stirring it constantly, then you cover it for 20 minutes over low heat (#2 on numbered stove dials). Whatever you do, do NOT uncover your rice in this method until you have let it sit for 10 minutes AFTER it has cooked for 20. This way, all excess moisture evaporates and rice continues to cook to perfection.

Enjoy and let me know how it turns out!

Garlic Herb Steak

Do you guys ever randomly dream up recipes? I'm assuming I'm not the oddball out on this one. I do all the time and the ones I dream up are always the best. Last weekend I thought up this garlic herb steak marinade and it turned out to be amazing! It was so tasty! It really tasted like something from a fine restaurant's menu of gourmet foods. Try it out, my friends! I'm sure you'll love it!

Garlic Herb Steak (for 1lb of meat - I had ribeye)
3 cloves of fresh peeled garlic (add more if the cloves aren't a good size)
3 sprigs of fresh cilantro
a pinch of dried sage (about a teaspoon)
dried rosemary (this should be the predominate flavor, so maybe about 1/2 TBSP - I didn't measure)
about 10 black peppercorns (this is necessary to get a great spiciness)
1-2 teaspoons salt

about 1/2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Place all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle and pound into an even paste until well blended. Once paste is well blended, stir in extra virgin olive oil. Prepare meat by tenderizing with a fork, salting, and coating with a generous amount of the marinade. Add more olive oil, if necessary, to coat the steak evenly. Massage the marinade into meat. Let marinade for at least two hours, up to overnight.

Sear the meat on both sides over medium high in a hot skillet. Place uncovered in an oven heated to 425

Tip: I didn't have any fresh basil at the time, but I recommend adding two or 3 leaves of sweet basil, depending on the size of the leaves

Enjoy! If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think. I don't really use precise measurements, but they don't really matter in this recipe anyway, so it will turn out fine regardless.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

UMI Sushi!!!

Hey everyone!

It's been a while since my last post. Haven't really been eating out as much as usual, but Sunday I went to Umi. For those of you who have read my other posts, Umi is a sushi restaurant owned by the same people as Ichiban. Umi, of course, keeps up the high quality and flavorful goodness we have all come to expect from the owners of Ichiban. Umi is located across from Short Pump mall and, as you would expect based on the location, Umi is pricier. However, it does play the part to make up for the price difference. The menu has a few of the specialty rolls from Ichiban, but it also has some awesome one's only found at Umi. It has a very chic, modern decor with low lighting and deep purples and blues on the walls. It is very nice, clean, and intimate. You will wait a good bit for your food, just as you do at Ichiban, but it is well worth the wait and with such a nice ambiance, you don't mind spending a little time enjoying good conversation. And by the way, just like Ichiban, you get a nice photo album with photos of the plated rolls. This definitely comes in handy when it comes to making a decision so that you can see the size and amount of sushi you get and the type of sauce.

Sooo...the much awaited review... A bunch of friends and I went for my birthday and we all got a roll each and shared. My boyfriend and I got the Angel Roll and the Double Crunchy Roll and someone else at our table ordered the Superman. Those were the most memorable ones. The Superman was definitely my favorite of all of the Umi and Ichiban sushi. It was sooo incredibly flavorful! It has shrimp tempura, cream cheese, spicy crab, and caviar on top. That was, hands down, the best sushi I have ever had! My second favorite roll, counting the Ichiban ones, is the Double Crunchy Roll. Yes, it does defeat the purpose of eating a nice, healthy piece of sushi, the flavor was delightful! It has fried smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado. the cream cheese was nice and warm and melty and the salmon was so smoky it actually tasted like bacon. Can you imagine? Bacon and cream cheese in sushi and to top it off, it's all breaded in panko on the bottom side and lightly fried. Not a bit of greasiness, just wonderful flavor! This roll was great! Highly recommend both this and the Superman. Of course, the Richmond roll (one of the few rolls that are common between the two restaurants) is still a great option!

After we all ate, my boyfriend ordered another roll. I can't remember the name of it, but it was really expensive and it had steak and something else in it. I think it was $22. Whatever the roll was, just so you know, there are plenty of less expensive rolls that taste WAY better, although that one is tasty, too. But if we put it all in perspective, you're better off with a less expensive one because the flavor is amazing! In spite of the price, it just doesn't justify the price when you compare it to more moderately-priced options. This place is definitely worth crossing the river. haha all of you Richmonders know what I mean by that ;)!

Umi Sushi Bistro
11645 W. Broad Street
Richmond VA 23233
804.360.2077, 804.360.3336

Closed between the hours of two and 5PM in preparation for dinner.
***no lunch on Sundays***

Monday, May 25, 2009

Low Country Goodness!!

I was watching Anthony Bourdain's visit to South Carolina on his show No Reservations. He went to some of the best of the best restaurants in Low Country and the food had me practically drooling! I wanted to do shrimp and grits, but of course Virginia, the confused "southern" state doesn't have the real grits. Only instant and quick-cooking and that's just not what you use for real shrimp and grits. I was amazed at how close the food was to a lot of West African dishes! I had no idea how different South Carolina's cuisine was and how varied it was even within that very state. SO, I was really into the Gullah food, too, of course. They made this one dish called Frogmore Stew, also known as Beaufort Stew, that looked delicious!! No frogs, all flavor! It has shrimp, crabs, red potatoes, sausage (I used regular smoked turkey sausage), and corn on the cob, celery, onions, garlic, and a can of beer. It was sooo tasty!! The crab boil seasoning was absorbed into the sausage and made it nice and spicy! Everything blended well and was so flavorful!

Here's the recipe
Frogmore Stew
4.5 quarts of water
1 12 oz bottle of beer
2 lbs of sausage (cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces)
6 ears of fresh corn (cut into thirds or quarters)
4 lbs red potatoes scrubbed then quartered
3 lbs unpeeled shrimp (I prefer jumbo or extra jumbo for the sweeter flavor but we had mixed sizes in ours (extra jumbo, jumbo, and medium), mostly jumbo)
generous 1/4 of Old Bay seasoning
1 head of celery chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 onion diced into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic smashed

Cover pot filled with water and Old Bay, garlic, onions, and celery until it reaches a rapid boil. Once it reaches a rapid boil, leave uncovered for remainder of time and start by cooking the potatoes for 10 minutes. Then cook the corn and sausage together for 10 minutes. Next, take 2 or 3 minutes to cook shrimp (don't add shrimp until potatoes reach desired tenderness). To eat this boil, simply use a slotted spoon to serve yourself the meat and veggies without the water. Serve with yellow mustard for dipping the sausage and potatoes in (I like my shrimp in it, too). ENJOY!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Richmond Summer Food Festivals!!

Summer festivals that have already passed:

Asian-American Festival April 27

A Taste of India (

25th Annual Lebanese Food Festival
Location: St. Anthony Maronite Church
4611 Sadler Road
Glen Allen, VA 23060
When: May 15-17 10a-10p
More info:
What?: Lots of great home-made Lebanese food (shwarma's, stuffed grape leaves, meat pies, and more!), Lebanese treats, cook books, products from Lebanon for sale, cultural performances
Cost: free entry, parking, and performances, buy food from vendors

33rd Annual Greek Festival
What: cultural performances, Greek jewelry, rugs, and knick-knacks for sale,
cathedral tours, and huge menu of Greek food (more than just souvlaki,
spanakopita, and dolmades)with drive-thru from 11a to dusk daily.

When: May 28-31
Thursday May 28: 11:00am - 9:30pm
Friday May 29: 11:00am - 10:00pm
Saturday May 30: 11:00am - 10:00pm
Sunday May 31: 12:00pm - 7:00p
Where:30 Malvern Ave
Cost: free and purchase food
Payment methods accepted: cash, checks, master, and visa
More info:

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival
What: and I quote: It's a full day, as they say, of "beer sippin', bourbon tastin', music listenin', cigar smokin' and barbeque eatin.'"
When: Saturday May 31 noon to 6p
cost: starting at $25, 12 and under free
Where: Richmond Raceway Complex
More info: 800-830-3976

Stone Soul Music and Food Festival
Location: Brown's Island
Performers: Gospel and R&B artists such as God's Image, SOS Band, James Fortune, Case, Trey Songz, Eric Benet, Twista, Joe, and many more!
Food: Soul Food!!
Food Vendors: None other than Hawk's BBQ and Croaker's Spot, my friends, among others
Cost: $20 in advance ***Corrections on ticket locations***(buy at DTLR, BK music, or Praise 104.7 radio station
More info:

Broad Appetit Festival
When: June 7
What: sample food from 25 of Richmond's hottest chefs! Great food, culinary artists, and traditional art
Where: Broad St between Monroe and Adams streets
Cost: free admission, purchase food
Vendors: Savor, Strawberry St Cafe, 1 North Belmont, and more!
More info:

Saint Joseph Italian Festival
Saturday and Sunday June 13th and 14th
Location: 828 Buford Road, 23235
When: 11a - 8p
What: food, history, music, and cultural performances
Cost: free entry, purchase food
More info:

Richmond Vegetarian Festival
what: food, music, local businesses, and fun for whole family
When: Saturday June 21 noon to 6p
Rain date July 11
Where: Azalea gardens at Bryan Park
Cost: free entry, buy food

4th Annual Filipino Festival
August 8, 2009 10a- 8p with drive-thru from 11a to 6p
Location: Our Lady of Lourdes Church
8200 Woodman Road, 23228
What: food and cultural performances!
Food: lechon (roast pig), lumpia (eggrolls), and more!
More info:

Carytown Watermelon Festival
When: Sunday August 9th, 2009 10a - 6p
Where: Carytown in Richmond, VA
Estimated Attendance: 100,000 +
cost: free (i am pretty sure)and purchase food from vendors

Bonus suggestion:

Safeway 17th Annual BBQ Battle in DC
What: National BBQ championship
When: June 27 11a-9p, June 28 11a-7:30p
Where: Pennsylvania Ave in DC
Admission: $10, $5 kids 6-12, under 5 free
Why?: Tons of BBQ! Battle to be National Pork BBQ Champion
More Info:

DC Caribbean Carnival
What: tons of concerts from famous performers, huge Caribbean parade, lots of food and dancing, tons of parties the whole weekend all over the DC and Maryland area
When: June 27 and 28
Where: Washington, DC
Admission: $10
More info:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Hi Everyone!

So I realized that I almost forgot something very very important. Sushi! Well...I have a short, but sweet recommendation. ICHIBAN! This place is pure perfection!! I thought I had eaten good sushi before, but I promise you, if you have not eaten here, you are deceiving yourself. I have multiple friends who never even liked sushi before and after trying this place, they started going there to eat sushi every weekend. I'm so serious! It's to the point the water knows them personally. But this place is AMAZING! Nice ambience, but we all know I could care less about that if the food makes up for what's lacking in the space. So I will give you a list of my faves. Unfortunately, I can never remember what's in which roll, but I know the names of the ones I like

My recommendations
Tokyo Roll
Spider Roll
Richmond Roll
Rainbow Roll

My try it at your own risk list:
spicy tuna roll

I was pretty shocked that Ichiban fell short on the basics. The spicy tuna roll is just not good at all. It has way too much tuna and not enough anything else, so the texture and flavor is completely crocked. Besides that, I'm all about Ichiban. The flavors are creative and no one comes near the delish caviar cream sauces they put on top. I haven't found anything near the quality they give you at Ichiban anywhere else in Richmond. They always smile and make sure that everyone is well taken care of, they're incredibly friendly, and they always show how much they appreciate their frequent customers. So, in closing on the Ichiban portion of this post, you will never get sushi as good as what you'll find here...unless of course you go to Umi on West Broad, right across from Short Pump's owned by the same people :P.

Ichiban (**check the business hours before heading there**)
10490 Ridgefield Pkwy
Richmond, VA 23233
(804) 750-2380

Another tasty place for sushi is Sushi Go Round ***NOW CLOSED***
4040 Cox Rd # H
Glen Allen, VA 23060
(804) 346-1005

This place is a bit hidden, but it' pretty tasty. It's actually a cool place to try because the sushi is made fresh in front of you and placed on a conveyer belt. The table is a huge square with one side being the part where the sushi chef prepares and the rest of the table is for patron seating. The pricing is pretty convenient because everything is placed on the belt on color-coded plates according to price. If you don't want what's on the belt, simply put in a request and it will be ready shortly.

Below are some of my faves. Again, I forget what's in them, but they're definitely good!

Hot Night (yummy, especially when prepared fresh! It has cream cheese and it's so good when it's melting!)

Crystal Shrimp

eel (not a roll, but just plain cooked eel. I forgot how they prepare it, but it's tasty)

The spicy tuna is good to go at this place ;P

Also, I haven't tried any of them, but this place always has some AMAZING looking dessers on the belt. All kinds of gourmet cakes and delicious parfaits with fresh fruits. So, all in all, Sushi go Round is way above a Kabuto-like place, but not up to pare with Ichiban. Again, Ichiban is way above most of our expectations for sushi, so don't let the comparison lead you to believe a visit to Sushi go Round won't be worth your while. Have fun eating some delicious sushi!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cambodian Food Part II! Banh Chao (Banh xeo)

So I made Banh chao today!! It turned out perfect!! I was soo happy!  Banh chao is the Cambodian version (different only in name) of the Vietnamese crepe called banh xeo (bahn say oh). In Vietnam and Cambodia, it is a common street food. I actually tried to make it once a while ago, but I had never actually seen anyone make it before, so I totally messed it up.  It just fell apart, and my boyfriend's mom laughed at me.

Here is a video for you to take a look at the technique. It's very important that you tilt the pan immediately to spread the batter evenly because the temperature is up so high that this makes a huge difference in the end result.  If you don't tilt the pan properly, part of your banh chao will be doughy.  The goal is to have a nice, thin and crispy texture.  Dark brown spots are actually a good thing in this case.

So the recipe is as follows:
1 pack Banh Xeo mix (Banh Xeo is the Vietnamese name--Banh Tsyow)

2 green onions thinly sliced

1 yellow onion thinly sliced (rings cut in half)

2 cloves of garlic (optional)

medium shrimp (2 per crepe)

thinly sliced pork loin(about 3 pieces per crepe)(you can buy thick-cut center-cut pork chops and slice it)

bean sprouts (2 bags from Asian market)

1 cup coconut milk (not cream)

3-1/2 cups water

about 1/4 cup oil for pan

fresh basil
fresh mint
butter lettuce (also called bibb or Boston lettuce)
1 thinly sliced cucumber, seedless preferred
sweet fish sauce (

After slicing, preseason all meat with salt, pepper, and garlic (fresh or powder).
Mix both portions of Banh Xeo mix according to pack (1 c coconut milk and 3-1/2 c water) and add green onions (not the yellow) and let sit for 15 minutes.

Heat a skillet to high and put enough oil so that an omelete won't stick, for example. As skillet is heating, add pork, shrimp, and yellow onions stirring constantly. Once the meat is cooked and skillet is fully up to high temperature, ladel batter into pan (least amount possible to cover pan, assisted by tilting pan side to side). Put a hand full of bean sprouts on one side and let crepe cook until edges turn up. Another indicator to confirm doneness is that bubbles will come close to the center.

 Once dark golden brown, fold crepe and plate with herbs and serve with small bowl of sauce. Remember, the key to this dish is the crispiness, so don't rush it. It is worth it to wait until the pan is nice and hot and the crepe becomes dark golden brown. It really should be darker even than the picture I showed.

How to eat:
This dish is eaten with your hands using lettuce to grab crepe along with herbs and cucumber. Dip what you grabbed with the lettuce into the fish sauce and enjoy!

Can be refrigerated for a couple of days and enjoyed later.  Just cover well and reheat in a hot pan.

This dish can be found at Mekong (where it is horribly greasy and I don't recommended it there) and at the place in the plaza beside Tan A Market (I forget the name) at the corner of West Broad and Horsepen. Theirs is good, but I can't say the same for their spring rolls because they put entirely too much overpowering basil.

Source of picture:,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cambodian Food, Oh How I Love Thee

Hi again!

I'm back after a long break! The semester's about to end and final are soon to come, but I had to share this with you all. So last night, I made ktiew chaa. DELISH!! Ktiew chaa is Cambodian stir fried rice noodles. So, before I continue, just for a brief moment in education, Cambodian is in Southeast Asia (in otherwords, South of India), sandwiched in the middle of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. It has some elements in common with Thai cuisine, but much more in common with Vietnamese. In fact, Cambodian (Khmer - prnounced "k.mai" (the "i" sounds like "eye" in Cambodian)and Vietnamese food have tons of dishes in common.

So, back to the dish I made. Ktiew chaa ("iew" pronounced like the interjection "eew!" in English) is deeelish!! Cambodian food tends to be fairly low in fat and always maintains a flavor balance between sweet (sugar), sour (typically by use of lime or unripe fruits), salty (mainly through use of fish sauce), bitter (by use of herbs such as basil and cilantro and leaves such as lime leaf), and hot (lots of Thai chili peppers).

So in ktiew chaa, what you use is round pho noodles (those used in the delicious Vietnamese soup we all love), a base sauce made of fish sauce, salt, sugar and water with lots of chives, julienned carrot, green onion, yellow onion, bean sprouts, thinly sliced pork belly, and shrimp. If you like Thai food, you'll love this! It's a much "cleaner" flavored rice noodle dish, more along the lines of a Pad thai than a dark sauce dish like pad se-eew or drunken noodles. Below is the recipe I used. I am still learning Khmer (Cambodian) food, but I'm getting better and trying new things. This dish was pretty easy. Just spoon about a tablespoon of the sweet fish sauce you prepare at the end over your serving of ktiew chaa and enjoy!!

Where do you buy all of this stuff?? Well, we actually have plenty of Southeast Asian markets in the Richmond area, both in Chesterfield and in the West End. In Chesterfield, we have two within about 10 minutes of one another.

This place keeps fresh tasty Cambodian treats and Vietnamese pork-stuffed buns ( available for sale. The young staff members are fully bilingual and the older ones speak some English

New Battambang Market
6517 Iron Bridge Pl
Richmond, VA 23234
(804) 230-7267

This place is fully bilingual and the staff is very friendly
Sahath By Asian Grocer
4004 Meadowdale Blvd
Richmond, VA 23234
(804) 275-1444

In the West End, just turn turn right onto Horsepen from Broad(turn toward the side of the road Home Depot is on)and keep going until you can turn near Full Kee and there is a small complex of houses turned into Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries, and markets. Just drive around that block. The Vietnamese one is called Far East (they have a little more variety as far as other Asian foods, like Korean) and the Cambodian one is Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia). The one I go to, Phnom Penh, is on the street before you get to the last street of the complex, which is where you find Kim's Bakery and Tay Do Restaurant, but on the opposite side of the street, facing in the opposite direction as well.

So, enjoy your trip to the Asian market, look around (their limes tend to be way better than the crappy dry ones Food Lion has been getting lately)and compare prices. Herbs, leaves, and lettuces as well as coconuts, coconut milk, and Asian sauces (ie: fish sauce) tend to be much cheaper at Asian markets than elsewhere, though many of these products can easily be found in any supermarket.

Enjoy! I think I might make some Banh Chao tonight! It's the same as Vietnamese Banh Xeo (crispy Vietnamese meat-filled crepes)! Ill post about how it turns out :P!! Cant wait!

Bonus suggestion:

Though this post does not specifically relate to Thai food, it reminded me of something you may want to know. For anyone who has tried to make Thai at home, if you can't get it right, one reason may be that you are using regular basil found in the supermarket, as opposed to Thai basil, which has a strong licorice flavor and is a dark purple color. You cannot substitute one for the other. You can Thai Basil in any Southeast Asian market for cheap. Probably less than a dollar for a sizable bunch. Sometimes you can even manage to find a plant during the summer at Tom Leonard's Farmer's Market (actually a farmer's market-like grocer) behind Best Buy and World Market on West Broad Street. (4150 Brook River Drive, 23060)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fish in Coconut sauce (Pescado con Coco)

I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I'm back! This one will definitely be well worth the wait. So my good friend and I were studying...or at least trying to, and we were terribly distracted because we were both really hungry. So I started looking around online to see what type of local international restaurants were good in Charlottesville, where I study. After looking at a few places, particularly a Korean place and a Central American/Caribbean fusion restaurant, I decided I wanted Dominican food. Lucky me, no real Dominican food in Charlottesville.  How sad. But lucky me again, I DO know how to make my own Dominican food. Despite the lack of Dominican markets in the area, there are a few dishes I can make using what's available in the regular grocery store.

My friend Justin had already taken out Tilapia to thaw, so I remembered I had a recipe for Pescado con Coco (fish in coconut sauce) from when I was in the Dominican Republic. I had never made it nor eaten it before, but I figured it was worth a try. There are very few Dominican dishes I don't like. So we went to the store and gave it a go. Let me say, it was DELICIOUS!! For those of you who are picky about anything beyond the typical American or have friends or family members like that, this is the meal for you. I can't imagine anyone not liking this, and I have some terribly picky eaters in my family. I will likely make this dish for Easter to get the feet of some of those people wet as far as the international food goes.

So let me get down to the nitty gritty. This dish is AMAZING! It's creamy and has a very slight sweetness, which is a nice contrast to the faint lime flavor and the nice dark oregano that ties it all together. This one is a MUST try!!! Here's the recipe! It's courtesy of a kind santiaguera in the Dominican Republic, one of my host mom's neighbors when I studied there. Many thanks to her!


Dominican Fish in Coconut Sauce

6 pieces of fish is what I used. What you want is enough to cover a rectangular Pyrex
dried oregano
Adobo spice mix (found in Latin foods isle of any grocer or in Latin market. Get the Goya brand with the blue top)
4-5 garlic cloves, mashed
1 onion (sliced into rings)
about 1/2 cubanelle pepper (light green pepper found in most grocery stores ( here's a pic Be careful not to confuse with Hungarian
1 can coconut milk (NOT cream. They are different)
          This can be found at any grocery in the Asian section of the International aisle or in any
          Latin market or Asian market) If you have to get Thai kitchen brand because that's all
          you see, be aware that it will likely be completely separated when you open it. Don't
          worry, just scoop it all out and it will mix once you stir the sauce over the stove
2 TB tomato paste (NOT tomato sauce)
          be sure your paste is not seasoned/flavored - sometimes it is written small on the front
          and you may not notice it says basil flavor)
2 tsp cilantro
1-2 limes (NOT key lime)
flour - for battering the fish (don't do a cornmeal mix, just regular flour)
oil for frying

Heat a frying pan with oil over medium heat. Heat another pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium low heat (# 3 or #4). Wash the fish with lime (rub lime juice all over the fish and do not rinse it off ). Salt and pepper the fish and further season with Adobo. Sprinkle lightly with oregano (don't overdo it. Maybe 5-6 pieces of oregano per side. you dont want a coating).

 Season the flour generously with Adobo, add salt and pepper, and add oregano). Place vegetables (garlic, onion, cubanelle) and tomato paste in pan with olive oil over low heat and sautee, mixing tomato paste in well and stirring occasionally to avoid sticking or burning of paste. Sautee until translucent. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

In the meantime, toss the fish in seasoned flour until well-coated. Fry fish until golden brown on both sides.  Drain oil with paper towel and place fish in Pyrex in a single layer.

 Shake can of coconut milk well and pour it into pan with sauteed vegetables (should be translucent at this point) and tomato paste. Stir until uniformly mixed and pour sauce over fried fish.

 Enjoy!! Ahi tiene tu pe'ca'ito con coco pa' chuparse lo' dedo' (There you have your finger-likin' good fish in coconut sauce)!

 Buen provecho!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vietnamese Food

I think it's about time we switch things up. For those of you who haven't figured this out already, I am a firm believer in the hidden gems that are our local holes-in-the-wall. Do not underestimate the great abilities of a hole-in-the-wall to completely catch you buy surprise and draw you back in again the very next day :P.

 So I know many of you Richmond foodies out there may try to dispute me on this one, but I say with confidence that Richmond's best Vietnamese food is off of Horsepen road near the intersection with Broad St. No, I am not mistaken and intending to say that Mekong is the best because, quite frankly, it is nowhere near that status. I have been there twice and was completely disappointed with the flavor. The food may as well have been that gross Americanized Chinese food with all of the sugar in their sauces. Just not good no matter how you look at it. So anyhow, just for clarification, I'm not even talking about the little semi-ritzy spot, Vietnam 1, right there on the corner of Broad and Horsepen in the plaza right beside the big Asian market, Tan-A. The best Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond is...Tay Do (6328 Rigsby Road)!!! By the way, here's a tip for you new international foodies...follow the natives. You will rarely see a native in Mekong unless it's some young kid, likely because they know or knew someone working there. On the other hand, you almost never see anyone but natives in Tay Do. It's because that's where the goods are :).

I LOVE this place!! If you can get past the strange Adam & Eve-like murals on the wall, you can allow youself to feel right at home as you enjoy their speedy service and phenomenal flavor! The food is well-seasoned and never overly sweet. On top of that, you definitely get your money's worth. You can get a great meal for about $7 and leave happy and satisfied. Another plus is that since it's in the back and is a no-frills atmosphere, you don't have the wait you get with some of the restaurants in the front of the "business complex," if you want to call it that, but you definitely get the same quality. I'm not claiming that the other "house-like" Vietnamese restuarants in the same area aren't good. I just prefer this one. I have been to the busier one, Pho So 1, and it is good but they don't put herbs in their spring rolls.  Also, because of the location in the front, Pho So 1 is busier, but I definitely prefer the more low-key and, in my opinion, more flavorful Tay Do.

At Tay Do, I recommend the Pho (Vietnamese beef broth soup with noodles, beef, fish sauce, and herbs that comes accompanied with a tray of herbs, lime, peppers, and bean sprouts to allow you to tailor the flavor to your taste. I also highly recommend adding sriracha sauce and hoisin.), any one of the beef ones (I personally don't like tendon or tripe) with meatballs. I get the regular size and I am always well-satisfied. To "prepare" your pho, I recommend starting with the juice of one piece of lime, 3 sprigs of leaves of the herb for that day, 2 or 3 slices of jalapeno, a handful of bean sprouts, a very generous amount of Sriracha (this is extremely spicy! We do not have an equivalent that regularly appears on the American table)(add it to the point that it's slightly red, if you can handle spicy food), and slighltly over a half tablespoon of hoisin. 

Before your pho, go ahead and try the spring rolls. They're always perfect. They have thin slices of pork that has a little fat on the edges, noodles, a few shrimp, and bean sprouts inside, along with fresh herbs (no harsh basil like some places). I recommend trying the fresh ones (A2 on the menu), but the fried ones are also delicious.  One order includes two, one per person, which is generally perfect.

If you're thinking you really aren't in a warm soup kind of mood, I also LOVE the grilled pork noodle bowl. It's slightly sweet with a little tangy -ness (don't think American Chinese food sweet and sour), and a great charcoal flavor and comes accompanied by carrots, cucumber, lettuce, and, of course, noodles, along with the slighly sweet fish sauce (you only need about 1TB of this). I LOVE this dish!

I also HIGHLY reccomend the coconut water. If you've ever tried coconut water before, forget what you thought about it and try it again. Their coconut water is lightly sweetened and comes with huges slices of fresh coconut meat in the glass. I love to eat the coconut at the end :). Anyhow, it's definitely a great, refreshing getaway-of-a-drink. Anywhere else, I usually just get soda, no tea or nothing like that, but this drink is just plain AMAZING!  Like I said, I don't do sugary drinks, but...the Vietnamese iced coffee is also great! It's a nice, dark expresso with ice and topped off with condensed milk. (hint: it comes separated, but you should mix it).

So a little tip to help you find Tay Do...once you turn onto Horsepen from Broad, turn near the Mexican restaurant with the green sign (the last turn before the turn into the condo or apartment complex). Once you turn onto this street, you'll enter a neighborhood, but soon you'll start to see that many of the "houses" are businesses. You'll pass a market with a sign in Spanish on your left, a Muslim religious center and some Vietnamese cafes and finally, Tay Do will be on the left. I think it has a light blue sign. Seat yourself, check out the menu, and enjoy :).

So before I go, let's say make this vow together - I (name), do hereby vow that I will not today, nor tomorrow, nor any day in the future, claim that Mekong is Richmond's best Vietnamese restaurant.

Hope you guys enjoy your nice warm bowl of pho with a refreshing glass of fresh coconut water. How much closer could you possibly get to being right in Vietnam itself?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Don't Knock it Til You Try it

Okay, so I'm a student, so I'm not in Richmond at the moment, but, believe me, I come back often :P. So my latest obsession is this new bakery. It's called Panaderia La Sabrosita (The Tasty Bakery) and it's over on Midlothian Turnpike toward the city beside Chicken Fiesta (another one of my faves - a post about this place is definitely soon to come), which is near Mattress King. The company has actually been around for a while, but exclusively as a wholesaler to Hispanic markets from Charlottesville to North Carolina. I found this out the hard way when I thought I'd avoid the middle man by visiting the address on the label to my favorite "yoyos" What I found was this itty bitty, barely visible, closet-of-a-kitchen that couldn't possibly have had enough space for me to enter, not to mention space for a register for paying. Alas, I had to go home sad that I had yet to learn the secret of getting to the best fresh "yoyos" (round, heavy cake-like sweet bread cut in half and re-bound with a thin layer of strawberry filling and coated with what is likely that same filling before being rolled in coconut) and "conchas" (round, semi-flat Mexican sweet bread that is only mildly sweet and lightly flavored with cinnamon, then coated with a thin cookie-like crust on top) Richmond has to offer.

Anyhow, one day I was driving down the turnpike only to find that there was a huge glass building with a sign that said opening soon and.... La Sabrosita! I nearly fainted!! So...being the obsessed fan of La Sabrosita that I am, I drove by there every time I could over the summer and every time I came home after that until finally, a few Saturdays ago, I strategically asked my boyfriend if he wanted to eat at Chicken Fiesta so that I could see if the neighboring business, La Sabrosita was open. It was!!! My stalker-like tendencies paid off. It was actually opening day! I could barely wait until after dinner to check it out!

So...I went in and I was like "yeeeaaa, this is it!" Unfortunately, there were no "yoyos" that night, but I did get the scoop on the baking schedule. Apparently they alternate every other day on what they bake. So instead, I took the sales lady's recommendations. She told me to try some Colombian bread with dulce de leche, so, although reluctantly because I wanted my "yoyos," I did. That thing was AMAZING! AMAZING! Very good! Slightly sweet round bread with coarse sugar on top and a thin filling of mildly sweet, buttery caramel. It was great because the bread was pretty light compared to other treats I've had and so was the caramel. Great job, ladies! So the sales person also told me they had some crazy-yummy sounding French bread stuffed with cheese, simply called "pan con queso" that pretty much disappeared off of the shelves. One day, I'll get there early enough to try it. So, today's recommendation...stop questioning whether or not you should try the new Latino spots in Richmond. Just go for it! Until I post again, here are some recommendations along that same vein:

Panaderia La Sabrosita - 7730 Midlothian Tnpke- big yellow sign - near Mattess King

Chicken Fiesta - 7748 Midlothian Turnpike - right beside La Sabrosita, how convenient? Guess you'll have to go there, to0 :P. I recommend the chicken and steak combo with rice and beans and ordering a side of fried yucca (yuca frita)

La Milpa - 6925 Hull Street Road
Bangin real Mexican food right after Chippenham Hull st exit going away from the city and toward 360 W shopping center. They have a blue sign and are on the left) (this is not no El Paso, Don Papa Grande, or Mexico Restaurant, so don't expect that crap when you get there). I recommend the Torta de Carne Asada. Don't bother with the empanadas there; I could beat those anyday, but everything else is very good!

Papa Ningo
Very good REAL Dominican food, not that crap you get at Quisqueya. Only problem here is that they totally rip you off. No self-respecting Dominican eats their meals without fried yucca (yuca frita), fried plantains (plAtanos), and rice and beans, so who do these "ladronazos" think they are charging a la carte for this stuff and saying "choose one?" Get over it, peeps! Just put it all together and make what you can make from it because that a la carte crap turned me off. Anyway, so they are overpriced for sure, if you don't get the buffet that most rant and rave about (myself not included). So, don't do the buffet, as tempted as you might be. The stuff you really see on every Dominican table is right on the menu. Try some "chicharron de pollo" on for size. Just like Mami Lourdes hooks it up for me, so it's the real deal.

La Palmera
Been a while since I've hit this one up, but the I had some chicken dish that involved "sofrito" in the name, the tipical Puerto Rican seasoning. So, you guessed it! It's the only PR spot in town. Anyhow, just look for something "pollo con sofrito" or something along those lines. It's really good. Chicken smothered in this semi-creamy, lite-colored, gravy-like sauce with garlic, sweet peppers, etc. Good stuff! I hear they have banging "mofongos" (fried green plantains with meat, pork skin called "chicharron" in the traditional style) and pasteles, but I hear the pasteles cost a pretty penny. Whatever though, I'm pretty sure it's one of few, if not the only place where you can buy good pasteles around here.

Nuevo Amanecer
6515 Jefferson Davis Hwy - near, but past Falling Creek Apartments going toward Bellwood area
Just a market? Nope! Fooled you. Market in the front, Salvadorean restaurant in the back. They've got some of the best "pupusas" (white corn tortilla stuffed with any combination of pork skin "chicharron," refried beans, and cheese. I recommend "pupusas revueltas" which combine all 3) in town. They really need to work on their "curtido" (pickled cabbage and carrots), but I prefer bad curtido to bad pupusas. I've yet to find both good in one place, but I haven't looked as hard as I could lately with all of the new places opening.

Dona Mercedes
Best horchata (Central American drink made from strained softened ground rice and water with sugar, cinnamon, and almond) I've had so far.

Tasty's Chicken & Bread
4140 Meadowdale Blvd - right off of Hopkins road, turning beside McDonalds. Inside Food Lion shopping center on left side of plaza and at the end. I'm really not sure what the aim of this name was...a wannabe "pollo a la brasa" (Peruvian-style charcoal chicken) or a failed attempt to attract black patronage, but the food is less than tasty in my opinion. However, the "conchas" are up there with the best of them. So are the other concha-like creations, like the "gusanos," "besitos," etc. BUT, I don't recommend their other pastries at all. Sorry guys...

Amigo del Hispano Market
In the same plaza as Tasty's, but on the main strip closer to CVS. Not a place for food but....on Saturdays you can get some goodies. Try their empanadas. I have no idea who makes them nor from what country the cooks are but they're very tasty and I would definitely consider myself an empanada connoisseur. They are beef and potato or chicken and potato most of the time and come with a tasty spicy "pico de gallo" (literally translate's as rooster's beak - the typical sauce that we Americans imitate with our "tomato salsa"). But yea, the owner's are Guatemalan, but I'm really not sure that the empanadas are or not.

Coming Soon:
Southeast Asian cuisine
Soul Food
American Gourmet