Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick & easy lunch to make at home: spicy cold tofu

My current favorite quick lunch to make on the weekends:

- cold tofu (soft or firm)
- squirt of shoyu
- dollop of Lao Gan Ma sichuan chili sauce (preferably the crispy chili flavor with sichuan peppercorns)
- chopped green onions or cilantro

Place in bowl. Devour.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Recent sweet treats: Palm d'Or, Bubbies & Bubble tea in Chinatown

Sweet treats

There was a line out the door on a Friday evening after Christmas (this was a few weeks ago...oops!). All the kids were back home for Christmas vacation and wanted to get one last Bubbie's before they headed back to the mainland.
What a classic - it hasn't changed in years.
Fridge case of all their hilarious ice cream cakes.
The mochi ice cream list keeps expanding...with seasonal flavors including candy cane, red velvet, strawberry chocolate chip, chocolate egg nog and cranberry.

The signs haven't changed in 20 years.
Mmmm strawberry cheesecake ice cream.
And some mochi ice cream.
There's a new bubble tea shop at Maunakea Marketplace. Feels like it's straight out of Hong Kong. It's in the center courtyard, right next to my favorite spot for fruity drinks, Thangs. I just realized I don't even know what this place is called. But it's easy to recognize with the poster of drinks, the pot of boiled corn, and the pictures of Chinese waffles.

Left: milk tea with grass jelly (xuan cao nai cha? my mandarin is failing me) and right: soy milk matcha bubble tea. Both were delish. The milk tea was super strong, like only in HK.
And then new to me: Palme d'Or at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Left: strawberry cream drink (tasted like a melted strawberry milkshake). Right: iced tea with pineapple jelly on the bottom. Perfect for a girly tea stop after shopping.
The case of fancy Japanese pastries.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dew Drop Inn (Northern Chinese)

You might have noticed that I eat a lot of Asian food on this blog: especially Korean, Vietnamese and Thai. But not a lot of Chinese food, even though I love it as well. There's a reason for that...I lived in China from 2001-2006 and 2008-2010, and after being spoiled for choice for amazingly delicious and varied Chinese food, I just can't eat at the regular Cantonese style restaurants here at home.

It's funny; when I first moved to China, all I craved was American style Chinese food. Picture lemon chicken, beef broccoli, and the like. There was one - literally one - restaurant in Shanghai that served it. I ca still picture it today by Xiangyang Lu: The Grape.

Luckily my tastes matured and I grew to love Chinese food - from sweet Shanghainese dishes, to cumin crusted Hunan ribs, to chili laden Sichuanese hot pot. I loved the variety, and that I could have a different provincial style every day of the week for every meal. Even for breakfast - I could have a Shanghainese treat of sticky rice wrapped around rou song (pork floss), you tiao (crispy fried dough) and pickled turnips. Or I could have a traditional Beijing style breakfast of a giant crepe, with an egg scrambled on top, wrapped around more you tiao (soft this time) and pickles, with lashings of plum and chili sauces.

Anyway, back to Hawaii. I don't really get excited about most of the restaurants here. (Ming's in Waikamilo is on my list to try - Nadine Kam says it's great Shanghainese. Any thoughts?) But I did want to try Dew Drop Inn which bills itself as Northern Chinese food...think dumplings and bing (bread) instead of rice.

It was packed on a Friday night.
Xiao long bao: Shanghainese (not northern) soup filled pork dumplings.
Mu shu pork with sesame bread pockets (like a crispy pita)
Cold tendon with cucumber and cilantro
Chili oil covered won tons
Ma po tofu (missing the sichuan peppercorns)
Verdict? They had a great range of dishes you don't usually see in Hawaii, but I am still going to have to keep looking...

Dew Drop Inn
1088 S Beretania St
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 526-9522

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dash Gastropub on McCully

Yelpers were already talking about Dash during its soft opening period, so we went to check it out in January. I guess they already had their grand opening last week (? I'm not cool enough to get invited). I like the concept of a "gastropub" - except that I always thought a gastropub signifies fancy burgers and "pub" food. I guess in Hawaii it means "I'm doing what Home Bar and Side Street Inn already do, but I'm going to call it something different so that you will come check it out."

Dash in on McCully where the ASB bank and a coffee shop used to be. They have a small parking lot (maybe 8 spaces?) otherwise you have to find street parking. It looks like a sports bar - I think they could've gone with nicer furniture given the prices and menu they have.

We started with cocktails - this is the ume-shiso mojito. They normally mix it with apple rum (?) but we requested ours with vodka, which was just sweet enough. $8 - no happy hour specials during the soft opening but hopefully they will have some now.
Ultimate hiyakko tofu: cold tofu with 3 colors of sauce, bonito flakes, green onion, and more yummy stuff that I can't remember.
Kettle chips: homemade french fries! I was torn between ordering this and the steak fries, but everyone on Yelp was raving about the chips.
Bacon fried rice: brilliant. I ate this until I felt ill. I thought I was in love with Side Street Inn fried rice, but this might have a new spot in my heart.
Ahi tataki with cucumber slices and yellow tobiko.
Total for 4 of us for 4 starters with 1 drink was about $110.

1018 McCully St
Honolulu, HI 96826

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Trying out vegan: Peace Cafe

Peace Cafe

After I read John Heckathorn's story on Peace Cafe, I put it on my list of places to try, but never made it over until now. I was making a paradoxical decision for dinner: vegan plate at Peace Cafe or loco moco at The friend convinced me to go the healthy route (for one night at least).

Peace Cafe is on King St near Isenberg - the Old Stadium area. Found parking on a little side street.

Inside is like entering a tiny, peaceful, rural cafe. Every detail is thought of - including lime and mint in the water cooler.


 Everything on the menu is vegan, meaning no meat, no dairy, no eggs. Picture ice cream without the milk or eggs. We split two mains: the Moroccan stew ($8.85 with chickpeas and brown rice)...
And the bi bim bap ($9.45) - a unique take on what in Korean restaurants is usually white rice, ground beef and a variety of marinated veggies. This one had brown rice, soft tofu (or TVP), marinated carrots, beansprouts, watercress, and a side of salad. The miso dressing (red stuff in the middle) was delish.
They also had tempeh and brown rice musubi...
...and homemade vegan ice cream for dessert! we tried the avocado - green like an avocado, but with a coconut milk base it was hard to taste the avocado flavor.

And also a tempting selection of cookies, candied nuts, and mochi on the side.

Peace Cafe
Peace Cafe, 2239 S. King St., 951-7555,

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hog Island BBQ in Kaimuki

Hog Island BBQ
Continuing with my recent Southern fascination, I went to Hog Island BBQ in Kaimuki (and I wonder why I keep gaining weight this year...must stop eating so much.) I am always amazed when I read Kathy’s blog because she consumes seemingly endless quantities of amazing food, yet remains stick thin. I also appreciate Padma Lakshmi’s interviews that she gives, where she tells viewers that she gains 10-15 pounds during a season of filming her show, and is just careful about what she eats after the season to get back down to her regular weight.

Anyhoo, after my recent obsession with Southern cuisine, I had to try Hog Island BBQ. It's a cute little place in Kaimuki, in the same tiny building as Himalayan Kitchen. There's a big 'ol smoker in the tiny little ordering area, which seemed super authentic. There's no seating inside, but there are tables & chairs available upstairs on the roof if it's not too hot.

I ordered the brisket plate (I love me some brisket). You choose your meat (small / med / large), and 2 sides. Meats include beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken breast or baby back ribs. Sides were tough to pick: mac & cheese, cranberry slaw, baked beans, dirty rice, scalloped potatoes or jasmine rice.

Here's my brisket plate. I liked that the meat was so nice and dry, but it was lacking in a smoky enough flavor.

3 stars at Yelp
1137 11th Ave
Ste 102

Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 734-1333