Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thai Rice Soup

Thai Rice Soup  is a subtle tasting soup, one that is light and comforting, especially when you are feeling under the weather. 

From my Quick and Easy Thai Cuisine Lemon Grass Cookbook ....

Rice Soup - "a delicious breakfast soup or light snack." 

4 servings

2 Cups water
1 T seasoning sauce
1/4 t white pepper
1/2 t galanga powder
2 stalks celery

1/2 lb. (225 g) shrimp, shelled, deveined and butterflied
1 c cooked rice
2 T fish sauce

2 T oil
1 t minced garlic

cilantro for garnish

1.  Bring water to a boil and add seasoning sauce, white pepper, galanga powder and chopped celery.

2  Add shrimp

3.  Add rice and fish sauce.  Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.

4.  Heat oil in a frying pan and fry garlic on medium high heat until golden brown.  Serve the fried garlic with the rice soup.

I would recommend adding herbs such as cilantro and basil.  It adds much more flavor to the soup. 

The first time I made this soup, I really enjoyed it.  However, the second time around, I thought it tasted too much like seafood and pepper!  I will make this soup again in the near future to find a better balance of flavors because if you aren' accustomed to certain flavors (i.e. fish sauce), it may be overwhelming.  If you enjoy rice porridge dishes, you'll probably love this recipe. 

If any of you have a wonderful rice recipe out there, I would love to try it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Waikiki Spam Jam

Although most people consider spam disgusting, in Hawaii it is one of the most popular canned meats around.  In the mainland, SPAM may be considered poor people's food or even a form of mystery meat, but not here.  Since WWII,  locals have come up with tasty and creative SPAM recipes that have become a part of local cuisine.  In fact, SPAM is so popular here that you can even order SPAM and eggs at any local McDonalds.

Every late April, SPAM Jam Waikiki occurs on Kalakaua Avenue in celebration of the popular canned meat and its significance in Hawaii.  SPAM Jam also helps support the Hawaii Food Bank.  Tonight was my first time at SPAM Jam, the 8th annual event since 2002.  Besides crafts and entertainment, the highlight of SPAM Jam is being able to enjoy food with SPAM cooked by local restaurants.  SPAM fried rice, SPAM cakes, SPAM okonomiyaki were some of the things I tried tonight, among the many other dishes available.

A young Japanese tourist posing with a SPAM can mascot.

A row of tents a long the street for the Spam Jam event.

Chibo Okonimyaki began to reduce their prices by the end of the night.  They were almost sold out.  One okonomiyaki only cost $2.00 by the time it was 10:00 p.m.  If you aren't familiar with Okonimiyaki, it's basically a Japanese style pancake.  I have no other way to explain it, but it is good! 

SPAM Okonomiyaki

At Duke's, I tried the fried rice, but it wasn't the greatest.  I've had much better home made SPAM fried rice.

At Seafood Village, they were selling a number of SPAM dishes.  I ate the SPAM cakes, which tasted nothing like the canned meat.  In fact, the SPAM cakes reminded me of little potato cakes.  I wondered if there was even any SPAM inside. 

We got 4 SPAM cakes for $5.00 ... A lot of the restaurants were running out of food, which they gladly celebrated.  The event finishes at 11 p.m., so many tents were slowly closing down as the end became near.

The SPAM cakes were one of the best items I had tonight, although I tasted no SPAM. 

Two bands played tonight and both were great.

SPAM Jam Waikiki wasn't what I expected.  I thought there would be more SPAM food items being offered.  And I thought the food would be much better too.  It was good to at least check the SPAM Jam out, so that I could at least experience it and see what it was all about.  I'm glad that it at least supports the Hawaii Food Bank.  If anything, that is a major plus.

It was a weird night tonight in Waikiki though.  Besides the rowdy boys and drunk people around, a young female was having multiple seizures on the street.  It felt like 10 minutes before the paramedics arrived.  I really hope she is okay!  The traffic was crazy too, especially because there was a game going on at the university, while the Jack Johhnson concert had also just ended.  Everyone was trying to leave town, so it was a bit of craziness.

I don't know if I'll attend the next SPAM Jam, but I'm glad I checked it out.

For more on SPAM, I found a great article from Wikipedia:
Wikipedia - Spam

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cafe Taj Mahal - Hawaii

waiiAt the moment, I am trying to enjoy as many restaurants in Hawaii as possible and to find some of the top restaurants in the islands too.  My rule is to never eat at the same restaurant once, if I can help it.  Of course, there are those restaurants that you keep coming back to and some that you desperately want to return to.  Last night, I believe I found a new favorite:  Cafe Taj Mahal. 

Located at 3036 Waialae Avenue #B-4 (behind the Big Fat Greek), is where you will find Cafe Taj Mahal, one of the best Indian restuarants I have experienced yet.

At first, I was a bit hesitant to enter.  It looked expensive inside and I wasn't too sure if I would enjoy the food.  However, I was wrong.  Completely wrong.  The food was incredible at Cafe Taj Mahal and I have now deemed it one of my favorite restaurants in Hawaii for Indian food.  The prices are very reasonable, while the flavors of every dish have the perfect amount of spice and flavor.  The service is excellent and the atmosphere, extremely clean and comfortable.  I want to return again to try the Fish Malabri, which I hear is fantastic.  I can't wait to eat there again.

While you sit in the restaurant, awaiting your food, there are Bollywood movies being played that will catch your attention.  It will make you laugh too because some of the scenes are hillarious.

Chai Tea

Order an incredibly flavorful cup of Chai to begin your meal ... It's worth it.

Lamb Samosas with two types of dipping sauces

When I bit into the samosa, it had a flaky, delicious crust on the outside.  Inside, it was stuffed with lamb that was tender and flavorful from all of the added spices. There were two sauces that complemented the samosas.  One seemed to be a cucumber yogurt sauce, while the other I am not sure what it was made of, but it was much more spicy.  I loved both sauces. 

Why not give samosas a try?  They make for a delicious snack or appetizer.

Rice Polou (basmati rice with garlic and herbs)

There were a number of options for rice, but this one is much more simple and subtle, making it easy to eat with our masala dishes.  I would like to try some of their other rice dishes too.

Fish Curry Masala

I would highly recommend this dish.  Sea Bass Fillet simmered in a sauce with tomato and herbs can't go wrong. 

Mixed Vegetable Masala

If you are vegetarian, why not try this dish? It's loaded with vegetagbles and has perfectly blended spices. 

Dessert:  Halva (sweets made with wheat, ghee, cardamom, sugar, and raisins)

It was interesting to try the halva.  Slightly sweet, the raisins truly complement this dessert.

I'm not a big fan of halva because I am addicted to chocolate and ice cream, but this can be a refreshing dessert, especially for those of you who enjoy subtle sweetness. 

For those of you looking for one of the next best Indian restaurants in Hawaii, stop by Cafe Taj Mahal to enjoy an incredible bite of Indian food.   If you've never had Indian food, this is the place to try it for the first time.  It's a family owned business, so the qualify of the food, as well as the service, is excellent.  It's also a great place for vegetarians since there are a number of meatless dishes available.

There aren't many Indian restaurants in Hawaii either, so stop by for something truly unique. It's always nice to step outside of the box to try something different than the usual.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ruth's Chris Steak House - Waikiki, Hawaii

For my dad's birthday, we went to Ruth's Chris Steak House in Waikiki.  It was the perfect place to go for the occassion since my dad loves steak and beer. 

Ruth's is more of an upscale steak place, one that has excellent service and good quality food.  However, for a student's budget, be careful not to drain your wallet there.  The good news, however, is that if you still want to enjoy Ruth's, there are some early bird specials from 5-6 p.m. for you to enjoy.  If you order the rib eye steak, for example, you can choose a salad, side, and a dessert for a fixed price. I'm glad I saw the special or else we would've paid much more.  Also, I would encourage you to share food with one another because it is the best way to enjoy a good meal there.

There's a bar and restaurant in Ruth's.  For you wine lovers, there is a large selection available.
Suprisingly, they also offer lavash among other types of bread before the meal.
I ordered the Ruth's chop salad with 13 different ingredients.  I actually didn't like it, although it is considered one of their top salads.  It wasn't the crazy looking shape that turned me off (although I almost had mistaken it for my casserole), but more of the taste that I didn't enjoy.  It wasn't flavorful enough for me. 
Th waiter said there was enough to share, but at most fancy places, they don't offer a lot of food.  I shared my salad, but for those of you who eat a lot, this might be considered half a salad.
The ceaser salad was excellent and I would order this again.  I'm just a simple kind of girl I guess.
Shimp ($15.00) ... It tased like cajun style shrimp, so I loved it.  But if you are hungry, i'd order something else because this item only comes with 6 pieces of shrimp.
Louisiana Seafood Gumbo (incredible)
Sauteed mushrooms (delicious)
My favorite dish was the sweet potato casserole.  You could eat it as a dessert.  I'd highly recommend you order it.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
The best steak I've ever eaten in my life, sizzling on a 500 degree plate.  I didn't order a steak, but the staff brought out extra 500 degree plates for sharing.  Luckily, D shared some of his rib eye. 
Strawberry Sorbet

It was a good idea to share.  Everyone had a chance to try a lot of different food at Ruth's and we were all full afterward.  My dad and D were so full, they didn't want dessert, so I ate both of theirs.  I couldn't believe how much I ate, but it was worth it.  

My dad couldn't have been more happy either.  Not only did he eat a juicy steak, he found out Ruth's offers Primo beer which he hasn't had since the 1970s.  It's a local beer that recently made a come-back.  

Ruth's isn't a place I can afford easily, so I'm glad that I had a nice dinner there among family  I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Max's of Manila - Waipahu, Hawaii

I had only planned to shop at Pacific Market for some vegetables, but ended up in Max's of Manila, eating Filipino food for nearly an hour. 

I'm not too familiar with Filipino food, except for lumpia, pancit, and adobo.  But tonight, I had a lot of first time foods that I can't remember all the names to, such as the soup I ordered.   I think it started with an S and for sure it had an M in it.  It was also two words.  It's a tamarind based soup with shrimp and vegetables in it. I would order it again from the menu.

Let me know if you know what the name is because I can't remember.  I had to point at the picture.  It looked good, so I chose it.

D ordered pork knuckle, which I think is called crispy pata according to my friend.  I was a bit hesitant when I heard it was pork knuckle since I had an image in my head about what it might look like, but once the food came out, it looked fantastic.  I tried a couple pieces and enjoyed it.  It was fried on the outside and tender on the inside. 

I also had dessert tonight.  I ate halo-halo with ice cream.  It was my first time eating halo-halo and  I don't know what to make of it.  There was a scoop of ube ice cream on top of shaved ice with milk, sweet beans, and pieces of hard jello.  I am pretty sure I ate a couple strips of coconut and mango, but I wasn't too sure what I was eating at times.  It looked like nothing in the picture I pointed to when I ordered it.  That's the only way I can describe it ... I've seen halo-halo at other places, so I am sure it must be different depending on where you go.  According to my friend, there's much better halo-halo across the street, so sometime down the road, I'll venture out there to try it again.

You tell me, does this desert look anything like the picture in the menu (top left)?

Out of the few Filipino restaurants I've eaten at, I would  go back to Max's of Manila without hesitation.  I didn't think I was a big fan of Filipino food  because out of all the things I've tried so far that I didn't like, but I realize that it really depends on where you eat that will make a difference in your experience. Tonight, I realize I do like Filipino food and there's much more that I need to try.  I just haven't had a lot of it at the right places.

I always heard Max's of Manila was a good place to eat Filipino food at, so i'm happy that I ventured out to a new restaurant tonight.  It's always fun to explore new foods and I'm glad I found another restaurant to enjoy.

When I first walked in to the restaurant, I noticed there were a lot of people inside and outside the restaurant, waiting to be seated.  I knew it was a sign of good food.  Yes, the service is slow in Max's of Manila, so be warned.  But the food is excellent, so it was worth the wait.

Next time, I may want to try some other interesting things ...  One of them is the green mango drink.

Until next time ..

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Best Cream Puffs in Hawaii - Liliha Bakery

Liliha Bakery is one of the Hawaii's most popular and well-known bakeries.  It's a bakery that has been around for a long time and one that continues to have loyal, returning customers.

I've always known Liliha Bakery to be popular for their cocoa puffs, one of the most amazing cream puffs ever!  Cocoa puffs have chocolate pudding inside and are topped with chantily.  It's a classic item, if not a comfort food for those of you who are familiar with Liliha Bakery's cocoa puffs.

I wasn't on a mission to get cocoa puffs this time (although I did have one).   I wanted to eat breakfast and try Liliha Bakery's pancakes since I heard they were some of the best according to my sister and her friend.

I had a major craving for pancakes in the morning, so after an event, I had to stop by since I wouldn't normally wake up early on a Satuday.  After parking and entering the bakery, I noticed there were cutomers galore and it was only 0630 a.m.   I couldn't believe how early people wake up to eat at Liliha Bakery, but I can understand why.  It reminds me of a small town diner, where people like to eat at because it offers the comfort and simplicity of home.

Even though I desperately wanted pancakes, because of my addiction to French Toast, I changed my mind last minute.  I had to have French Toast.  I promise I will try the pancakes next time though.  I also had a cocoa puff and tried one of their other pastries.  I was happily stuffed.

Hello Kitty cookies!

If you want to cheer people up, buy a dozen cocoa puffs to share.

I could eat a cocoa puff for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

I love small businesses like Liliha Bakery because they have some of the most unique items. Liliha Bakery also reminds me of the past in many ways because unlike the many chain restaurants around today, it is a small business that continues to thrive because of its long history. 

Where else in the world can I enjoy a cocoa puff? I really hope Liliha Bakery stays in business for a very long time 


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