Archive for the ‘noodles’ Category

California Soul: Osha Thai Noodle Cafe (SF)

March 11, 2008

After driving around for about 30 minutes trying to decide what to eat (pho? Thai? Burmese? Tofu House?) Alice and CJ took me to the original Osha in the Tenderloin, which everyone says is the best out of the other 5 Oshas scattered around the city now. I guess all the other ones are fancy, while this one is pretty gritty. We waited about 30 minutes for a table, at the bar next door (great bar).

You know when I told you in my last post that I tend to over-order? You ain’t seen nothing yet. CJ and Alice are friggin unstoppable– even I needed to put on the brakes at a certain point. CJ’s mantra, “No, we need more, that’s not enough.” Love it.

Yum Woon Sen: silver noodle with pork, shrimp, chili paste and red/green onions. So refreshing and tangy. Ayagwa’s version kicks ass too.

Dish of the Night: Fried fish cake patties seasoned with curry and green beans. All of us agreed that this was our favorite.

Spicy pan fried rice noodles with tomatoes, mushrooms, bamboo, chinese broccoli, bell pepper, onion, basil, chili and chicken.

Osha Noodle Tom Yum: shrimps, ground pork, fishballs, bean sprouts, fish cake, lime juice, and noodles. Now, you know I can eat noodles all day, everyday: ramen, soba, pasta, pho, wonton noodle soup, udon, blah blah. But if I lived in SF, I would go to Osha for this every week, no joke. I know this looks nasty (sorry it’s almost gone), but seriously, this stuff was surprisingly addictive. Noodles in tom yum? I was a skeptic, but now I’m a fan.

Green curry fried rice. Yum.

Spicy string beans with chicken. Too much chicken!!! But this one was supposed to be with shrimp. We ate it anyway.

CJ with our spread. Check it out! Um, this is for three people. We are so ridiculous.

The interior is pretty neat- bright lights, black walls. You feel like you’re in a black box performance space. Lots of loud techno. Here’s Alice. I miss her.

Funny thing about the Bay Area is that people are REALLY into Yelp. It boggles me. When we were trying to figure out where to go for dinner, CJ and Alice had an entire debate based on Yelp reviews. It’s nuts!! These Yelpers have so much influence! One of the Oshas has 3.5 stars out of 5, based on nearly 600 reviews!!! 600!

If I had to rate it, I would give this place 4.5 stars. 1/2 point deducted cause they only use white chicken meat, another 1/2 cause the music was too loud and intense, but a 1/2 point regained for being open until 1am!

Osha Thai Noodle Cafe
696 Geary Street @ Leavenworth and Jones
San Francisco, CA

Pho Lovin’: Pho Bang (NYC)

August 20, 2007

With such a ramen frenzy going on in New York right now (a cute little “guide to ramen” column in Time Out this week; buzz on Eater about yet another Hakata-style rameneria opening in Greenpoint in the fall; the ramen war that Setagaya ignited with Momofuku before they opened a couple months back, etc), I dare repeat what I’ve been saying for years: ramen in NY SUCKS.

I’ve tried almost all of them: Momofuku, Setagaya, Rai-Rai ken, Rockmeisha, Menkui-tei, and more, and they are all subpar. None of them can get it quite right. The worst part? It’s always over $10 for a measly bowl! Drives me nuts.

So instead, why don’t we focus on a noodle soup that is wonderfully plentiful and ridiculously underrated (and CHEAP) in this hype-infected city: PHO. I cannot proclaim to know a lot about Vietnamese food, but I crave it all the time, especially pho and banh mis. It’s all so perfect, a bowl of pho, with its fresh, crispy sprouts, the lightly seasoned soup, the various internal beef parts, the al dente rice noodles.

My obsession continues as I hunt down the best pho in this city- one that outshines any bowl of ramen here, any day.

The other night, I went to Pho Bang in Chinatown for the second time, it’s a little place with french bistro chairs, glass table tops, and good lighting. I had the standard bowl of pho, the Tai nam Fau Gan Sach, a combination of eye of round, brisket, tendon and omosa (basically tripe).

I love that the round comes almost raw- better to eat it right away before it gets over cooked- so tender. The omosa has a crunch to it, and the tendons have this great jelly-like consistency. Not for everyone, but I love it. Next time I will take pictures of the parts, for all you cow-part-non-believers.

The soup has so much depth of flavor- not overly beefy, just aromatic, and kinda sweet. A few squirts of sriracha adds a little kick. The raw onions and scallions are also a plus.

The most ingenious part about pho is the standard plate of bean sprouts, fresh basil and lime that comes on the side. Coming from a ramen background, where you stir fry the sprouts and veggies before hand (not standard, but I like to), this was always a bit puzzling to me. But it all makes perfect sense- the crispness of the sprouts, that cooks just right in the hot soup; the distinct flavor of fresh basil, the squirt of lime– all come together to act as a cooling agent in the hot hot heat.

It’s summertime in a bowl- the perfect food in this heat! I think that Pho Bang is excellent- had a fantastic meal the first time I went too- make sure to get the rice crepes with beef that they advertise on the walls!

And of course that the best part of all this is that a bowl of pho is only $4.95! Add $1 for an extra large bowl with more noodles and more beef- more, more more!!! Can’t beat that!

How much exactly did I enjoy my pho, you ask? See for yourself…

Pho Bang
157 Mott St
(between Broome St & Grand St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-3797

Mon-Sun 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.

Related Readings:
Pho Fever: great site I found devoted to the bountiful pleasures of pho
– LA foodblogger Oishii Eats backpacks South East Asia and chronicles her pho finds and other street eats in Vietnam

Adventures in Cold Noodles and Mad Turtles

August 13, 2007

It probably reached the usual 96 or so degrees F in Tokyo yesterday. On days like these, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the air conditioning vent. But at around one o’clock, this was achieved knowing that food adventures were to be experienced.

Upon flipping through Brutus’ issue on parks, there was a review of Pepacafe Forest in Kichijoji’s Inokashira Park.

Not really knowing anything about the place except that it was surrounded by trees, we stumbled into find it freakin packed – the photo above was snagged off the internet (yesterday, all these seats were bumpin). Anyway, we were seated in the back corner next to the fan (yeay). The cafe overlooked more trees than I had seen combined in the past few weeks, which was very welcoming in my book. By this time, we had figured out that everyone was chowing on Thai food. Perfect – vinegar, spiciness in times of heat is a match made in heaven.

By this time I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera. We ordered cold Tom Yum ramen, fresh spring rolls, and the boiled chicken with rice lunch set. I have to say that the Tom Yum ramen topped the list, although the spring rolls will definitely taunt me in my dreams. The chicken lunch set was also 9 out of 10 enjoyable for it’s tenderness and perfectly firm basmati rice. (this is what the chicken lunch set kinda looked like – without the egg).

What’s more, is being able to order a cassis oolong (cassis fruit, tea and shochu – it’s an alcoholic drink) amongst an impressive list of drinks. By the end of the meal, there was a Phuket beer bottle (empty), a glass of cold ice tea (that came with the lunch set), a cassis oolong and a mojito (er… empty and empty…).

I have never had such an eclectic array of chilled noodles since living in Tokyo. What was so exceptional about this ramen, was it’s subtle but not wishy-washy taste. Spice and sour in perfect harmony. The ramen noodles, were also cooked to perfection – very thin yet firm.

After this meal, thinking about dinner was put at bay…

When 8pm arrived, we were due to meet up with three other friends for dinner at Hatagaya station (near Shinjuku). It was decided to hit up a Chinese restaurant that we had been to before where they serve you grub until you holler stop! They bring you whatever the chef is cooking for the night, so everything is in season. Chinese food in Japan, is, I’d like to believe closer to the Chinese eat than Chinese food in the U.S. (although, I must say, there’s-nothing-wrong-with, and, I- have-a-thing-for orange chicken…).

I actually ended up not being able to participate in grubbing on two dishes (with full enthusiasm) – sea cucumber and suppon (turtle). Sea cucumber I just can’t get over, due to my snail/slug phobia – and did not touch. And suppon – well, I tried it, but it was just not very enjoyable… It was kind of chicken-like at parts and pork-knuckly in other parts.

But, what’s great about this place is it’s un-greasiness. Dishes with just greens are presented at perfect intervals – cleansing the palate for more curious eats.

When you do say stop, it is CRUCIAL to understand that the meal reaches its final conclusion with a carbohydrate dish – either fried rice or noodles (the only thing you can choose through out the whole meal).

Round two of cold noodles for the day. I had realized that I should’ve been taking photos all day with my cell phone. That is where I got this last shot. Green noodles from the gods with little bits of salty yummy pork… mmmm…..

(just a note, the only picture I took was the last one of the noodles)

Yuba County

March 26, 2007

Over the weekend, I spent some time in Nikko which is about three hours away from Tokyo. Most people go for the gaudy shrines – wooden and painted in bright red and gold reflecting Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s glory. Anyhow, the weather wasn’t very agreeable – so there was nothing else to do except…EAT!

Turns out, this place is famous for yuba or tofu skin. No complaints here as this is one of my favorite foods – and within the top 5 things I miss the most when in the States.

-yoko in tokyo

Pictured top right Yuba soba – buckwheat noodles with two types of yuba – in a roll and in flat layers. Absolutely delicious as the noodles were also handmade at this shop. 700yen (about $6)!

Pictured below Yuba shabu shabu – yuba hot pot. Throw in yuba and veggies into a clay pot full of soy milk – absolutely wonderful. 2,500yen (about $20+).

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2

March 25, 2007

before i start, let me lay out some ground rules for $100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC:
– i cannot be “taken out” for a meal, but i would love it if you would cook for me!
– i will, however, graciously accept “in-kind donations” if we go out. example, if you get a side of fries, i am allowed to steal a few (something i would do anyways)
– having drinks is INCLUDED in the $100 limit
– generally, i don’t eat breakfast (bad habit i picked up when living in italy), just yogurt and granola if i do at home before leaving the house, so i will usually only be talking about lunch and dinner (but will include breakfast if i spend $ on it at some point)
– i may not be able to find time to blog everyday, but you will just need to trust that i am not cheating

ok, here goes!

Friday, 3/24
Total Spent: $6

– leftovers from Sepi’s delish Nouroz dinner party
–> $0

– decided on Mee Noodle Shop in midtown after seeing a performance at my work. a bustling chinese takeout place (at least during lunch), with decent noodle soups. i’m sorta feeling under the weather so i got the large chicken noodle soup and the three of us shared the meat buns. i especially love their chicken noodle soup cause it comes in this metal tin bowl, like we’re camping or something.
–> $6


Saturday 3/24
Total Spent: $4

– i’m rushing to make it to a movie at BAM, with not so much time. after burrowing around in my fridge for a sec, i find frozen shrimp from Trader Joe’s– so i decide on a shrimp and scallion omelet (i saw a video piece by Mark Bittman about a month ago, which inspired me. LOVE Bittman!).

i make the rice, and the omelet is done in literally 5 minutes. ALWAYS good to have frozen shrimp from TJ’s in the freezer- it really adds that extra umph when you need some thing to add to salads or fried rice or whatever. as a rule, i always also have eggs and scallions in the fridge for the same reason.
–> $0

simple ingredients of eggs, scallions and shrimp.


run frozen shrimp under cold water for about 4-5 minutes.


heat up about a teaspoon of oil (veggie or olive, your preference) into a pan, and add chopped scallions and shrimp- fry for about a minute. add eggs. cook to preferred runniness.

serve egg concoction over steamed rice, and season with salt, fresh ground pepper and soy sauce (preference). et voila! you have a delicious protein-packed meal in under 10 minutes.


– after the movie, we head up to this relatively new burger place up the street from BAM called 67 Burger. it’s sorta pricey, about $7-8 for gourmet burgers, but they had a grilled cheese on the menu for $3.75. excellent.
–> $4

very crowded by 6pm.


excellent grilled cheese–you even get to choose what kind of cheese you want (american, cheddar, swiss, blue, pepper jack). AND, the tomatoes and onions were free additions! SCORE! the garlic pickle chips are also worth noting– they passed the crunchy/ salty/ sour test, vital for pickles.


fries were good, freshly fried. they had all sorts of great beers on tap too: Bass, Stella and Blue Point. thanks Fumiko and Troy for sharing this!! Fumi’s blue cheese burger was very good as well (i of course stole a bite!!)– from what i can tell the bun didn’t get all soggy with grease, which is the downfall of many a hamburgers in this city.

COMBINED TOTAL: $6 + $4 = $10
LEFT FOR 12 DAYS: $100 – $10 = $90


Guaranteed Satisfaction

March 6, 2007

Since Japan is very close to Korea, the Korean food is leaps and bounds better than anything in the States. The ingredients are close to Japanese food as well, so that alone guarantees better Korean cuisine. Although in comparison to the food I actually ate last summer in Seoul, I can attest that the Korean food in Japan is less spicy than the real stuff.

Anyway, about once a week, I eat lunch at Ginza Kankoku Shokudou “Duoungdeji” (the spelling is probably wrong since I’m guessing from how it’s written in Japanese). And I go there for the number 6. Always the number 6: Hiyashi Bibinmen or Spicy cold noodles (pictured). For 850yen (about $7), about the cheapest lunch you can get in Ginza, you get a great, big, silver bowl full of bright, red noodles and soup with beef and daikon (radish) pieces. Topped with daikon, cucumbers and half an egg, these noodles are genius. Just the right spiciness and tang, I would rate this among one of the best meals I’ve had in the world. It’s got life.