Saturday, April 30, 2016

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 32 - COLOMBIA

I could not take my eyes away from the T.V. screen at El Portón Colombiano. Not only the places that appeared on the screen were breathtaking but the people looked absolutely beautiful. If you want proof, have a look at the singer Shakira and actress Sophia Vergara and imagine a country full of them. Contradictory to all that beauty, the walls of the restaurant was decorated with the art of famous Colombian painter Fernando Botero who depicts all humans quite large. One of my favorite of his is his interpretation of Mona Lisa:

Obviously food from where everything else is beautiful raises your expectations for satisfaction - we were not disappointed!

Our drinks were authentically Colombian. My native soda Colombiana - which the waiter called "the national drink of Colombia" - was a sibling of Peruvian Inca Cola with a prettier color and a similar bubble gum taste.

Rick's two drinks were both creamy white. First one was Limonada de Coco - yes you guessed it - lemonade mixed with coconut milk topped with shaved coconut.

His second drink was Jugos Naturales en Leche with Soursop.

Empanadas have become a natural appetizer for us to compare with other versions from other countries and these were very different in their texture. Also were smaller and less doughy.

From the appetizer menu, we also ordered Aborrajado. Even though what came to the table looked like a strangely shaped potato, it actually was slices of fried plantains wrapped around a cheesy center.

Last appetizer was Yuca Frita con Hogao. The large chunks of Yucca fried and served hogao sauce tasted like potatoes of an elite kind.

Rick's order of Bandeja Paisa had so much meat on the plate, it came with its own knife as usual. The meat was accompanied with white rice, beans, fried plantains, a small round corn cake, slices of avocado and a sunny-side-up egg.

My Tamal Paisa plate was much smaller in comparison. Cornmeal stuffed with various meats and vegetables were wrapped in plantain leaves like an edible gift.

After having the leftovers packed to go, we ordered one Obleas con Arequipe to share. This is a seemingly simple dessert blending Dulce de Leche, Blackberry Sauce and Cheese between two layers of thin wafers.

We each had two cups of world famous Colombian coffee while watching food travel to other tables deciding what to have next time we visit.

¡Buen provecho!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 31 - CHINA

"That's too much food!" is a sentence we've gotten used to hearing from the servers taking our order during our culinary adventure so it was no surprise to hear it again at Chef Chen's Restaurant as we kept adding to the list. Since we are aware that not all Chinese food is Chinese food in the U.S., we asked the server what on the menu is the most Chinese dish, she pointed at a picture of a fish dish aptly named Whole Fish. She pointed to several other things and we ordered all of them, two appetizers, two main courses and a side of vegetable rice noodles. Now, don't let the number of dishes fool you, the main courses are large enough to feed a family of four .... twice.

Instead of taking your drink orders, they simply bring a pot of hot tea to the table. First plate of food to arrive was the Vegetable Rice Noodle with bright colors enhanced in its rising steam.

The two appetizers were arranged on the same plate so that the Jelly Fish did not mix in with the Sliced Beef Szechwan Style. Jelly fish has the texture and taste of squids. The sliced beef was mixed with pieces of tripe and was spicy hot that stayed with you for a while.

My eyes grew wide when the Dong Puo Pork Leg Shank was brought to the table. It was enormous! Thankfully the server cut it into manageable pieces making it easier to eat with chopsticks.

The Whole Fish plate almost took a quarter of the space on the table! Laying on a bed of noodles and some red garlicy sauce, it looked and smelled like something that would come out of your Chinese-Italian grandma's kitchen. The waitress told us that the fish was Rock Cod and she was clearly proud of this dish.

There were no desserts on the menu so we asked if they served any. She said "I'll have it made for you!". What we got was (as she explained it) rice balls filled with black sesame paste in a fermented rice and egg porridge. This warm dessert is elegant not only in the way it looks but also in its subtle sweetness.

I was wise enough to not take a picture of the fortune cookies that came with the bill, since everyone knows those are not a true Chinese tradition. The waitress packed all of the remaining food for us right at the table and made sure we enjoyed every bite we had. 

吃好 (chī hǎo) - eat well

Sunday, April 10, 2016

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 30 - KOREA

I think we broke the speed record with our trip to BCD Tofu House in Irvine in this adventure. We were in and out under 40 minutes and we still managed to sample a wide variety of Korean food. I guess it is part of the Korean hospitality to bring small dishes of Kimchi, marinated cucumbers, pickled strange vegetables and the saddest looking fried fish.

I could not decide whether to use the metal chopsticks or the long spoon, so I used my fingers to eat the fish. We were also served two raw eggs to be added to our boiling hot Dumpling Tofu Soups.

We ordered Kimchi Dumplings from the appetizer menu. I love dumplings of any kind from all the countries that have them but the Korean version took its place in my top five list.

The word Bibimbap always makes me giggle but the Hot Stone Bibimbap combo special made me moan with colorful delight. 

Rick's Hot Stone Bulgagi combo also came in a scalding hot stone bowl with a side of rice even though it had glass noodles mixed in with it.

Since it was a workday lunch we went with some hot green tea to help with digestion of this fast meal.

I felt bad for leaving some of the bibimbap and soup behind, but I'm sure we will go back and enjoy other Korean specialties.

맛있게 드세요 (masitkke deuseyo)