Winters in Rangoon…

DSC_0133 Apologies for the silence (and Austin Powers reference above) and here’s to a new year of gorging myself day in and day out! Quentin and I spent the last two and a half weeks on a whirlwind trip through Burma (Myanmar) and India. Needless to say, much Asian food consumption ensued. First, I’ll regale you with tales of the fascinating adventures in Myanmar.DSC_0219

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We stayed in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the acting (though no longer official) capital of Myanmar. Quentin’s sister lives there at the moment, and showed us an absolutely fabulous time. I fell in love with Yangon—the calming Buddhist sensibilities, fascinating street life, and magnificent (and plentiful!) gold pagodas—I vowed to return and explore more of the country as soon as possible.DSC_0135

Burmese food is an interesting mix of South East and South Asian food (think rice noodles side by side with spiced curries.) Street food is ubiquitous, with communal cauldrons of bubbling soup, meat both grilled and freshly butchered, fresh sugarcane juice presses, and immaculately peeled fruits sold on seemingly every corner downtown.

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We were also lucky enough to visit a local grocery store—one of my favorite things to do anywhere—where we came upon many very colorfully-named products: [I just want to make it clear, the spicy lobster pringles were nothing short of amazing and should be exported here immediately]

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Due to some pretty wild food poisoning in Yangon, I didn’t get to experience as much of the local culinary scene as I would have liked—and was chiefly disappointed not to visit Port Autonomy, a super-hip pop up restaurant, part of a group of happenings in Yangon. I was, however, largely cured by a delicious homemade rice porridge made by Nwe Nwe, Quentin’s sister’s lovely housekeeper. She cooked the rice until soupy, and served it with cilantro, lime, and flash fried shallots. I accessorized with a bit of soy sauce, and behold: the ultimate panacea.(null)

I did, however, still get to try some fabulous local delicacies at a cool new spot called Rangoon Tea House which serves traditional foods in a chic, modern atmosphere.DSC_0222DSC_0232Mohinga, a classic Burmese dish, is a brothy fish soup with rice noodles, most often consumed as a breakfast dish. It has a pleasantly sour taste, reminding me of pho, and I particularly enjoyed the accoutrements—especially the crunchy corn fritter seen at left.

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This is a chicken curry, served with a variety of pickled and preserved condiments. The top part of the tray had an exceedingly pungent preserved fish which was a bit intense, even for seasoned and adventurous eaters like me and Quentin.DSC_0229

We got two salads: Tea Leaf and Pennywort (a soft leaf). Tea Leaf salad is also very common in Burma and I really loved the freshness of the cuisine—something that is often sadly lacking in Indian eats. And also…fresh coconut water AND a tea matrix on the back of the menu!
DSC_0230DSC_0223DSC_0227Myanmar, Burma, no matter your old or new name, I’m coming back for you as soon as I can!

Places to Visit 
1. The Shwedagon Pagoda 
This enormous gold temple/collection of temples in Yangon is an absolute must-see. It was built to store 6 hairs from Buddha’s head, and is absolutely magnificent and impossible to miss. Go at dusk when it’s not too hot, or else your feet will burn (you have to be barefoot to step inside.)                                                  2. Bogyoke Aun Sang Market This indoor stalled market is a wonderful place to buy gifts and the like. Unfortunately, the jade is procured in horrifying work conditions, but it is plentiful here. Longyis (the traditional Burmese garment) are also available here in a multitude of colors. Go upstairs and visit the Naga Shop for amazing textiles.                   3. The Secretariat and surrounding area The old colonial buildings are wonderful to stroll around and look at.

Places To Eat
1. Gekko
37th Street, Yangon, Myanmar
http://gekkoyangon.com/
This pan-Asian restaurant in a historic downtown building has a lot of delicious izakaya (skewered) offerings. The spicy Korean beef noodles and octopus salad are particularly tasty. Get a table upstairs if you can.
2. Port Autonomy
Lanthit Jetty, Oo Pa st, Seik Khan Tsp
http://ts1yangon.com/port-autonomy/
Helmed by famed Bangkok Chef Kevin Ching, this pop up restaurant serves uber-satisfying fusion cuisine (think Soft-Shell Crab Melts and Hot Fried Chicken with “Burmese Buffalo Sauce”) in an iron bunker-style space right on the water. I couldn’t have been more disappointed to miss this one.
3. Rangoon Tea House 
https://www.facebook.com/RangoonTeaHouse
77 Pansodan Rd, (Lower Block), First Floor, Kyauktada Township Yangon,Myanmar
This new fun restaurant features traditional Burmese dishes served in a lovely, light atmosphere. Definitely try the Mohinga, a traditional brothy fish soup, with a fresh coconut juice on the side!

Old Bay and Messy Fingernails

IMG_7445When Quentin and I decided to take a walk down to DC’s waterfront “Maine Avenue Fish Market”, I didn’t envision that just a few hours hence we’d be having our first very own crab steam (I recently learned that “crab boil” is not the appropriate term, but let’s face it “crab steam” sounds pretty silly) complete with Old Bay (a pungent spice mix of mustard powder, paprika, celery salt, red pepper flakes, and a host of other ingredients) and cocktail shrimp.

Photo courtesy of leitesculinaria.comThe market was a sight to behold, with huge counters of fresh fish and shellfish everywhere you looked, and a salty, non-fishy scent wafting from the nearby water. Seemingly unaware of their impending fate in a deathly brew of boiling water and Old Bay, that classic Maryland seasoning, blue crabs fearlessly scuttled around, their claws pinching the sellers at every given opportunity.IMG_7446 IMG_7447 IMG_7452 IMG_7450

We settled for a half pound of large shrimp and a dozen bright blue crabbies.

We went for the classic preparations; I boiled the shrimp in a mixture of cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper and a touch of garlic powder (right) while Quentin tackled the crabs, expertly steaming them in  a combination of water and a can of ever-classy Bud Light and sprinkling them liberally with the Old Bay (left).  I served the shrimp with the classic combo of cocktail sauce and lemon wedges, and we watched as the crabs turned a reddish ochre hue.

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With some side  accoutrements and plenty of cold white wine, we laid out newspaper on the balcony, munched happily on lots of succulent crab, and thoroughly encrusted our faces and fingernails with plenty of Old Bay.

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Seafood Purchased from:

Jesse Taylor Seafood
1100 Maine Ave SW #2 Washington, DC 20024
(202) 554-4173

Old Bay photograph courtesy of http://www.leitesculinaria.com, Cocktail Sauce photograph courtesy of http://www.cavegirlcuisine.com

In Which We Wait in Line for Dulce de Leche-laced, Salt-speckled, Chocolate-dipped Soft Serve

photo (6)Never one to ignore the local delicacies, I ventured to Big Gay Ice Cream with my friend Zoe, for a taste of the East Village flavor (the neighborhood to which I’ve just returned!) and some heavenly creamy goodness. After 15-20 minutes, we finally entered the hallowed halls (read: small, bright room) and ordered the much-loved, and cheekily named Salty Pimp.

Cloud-like vanilla soft serve was loftily layered on a cone (don’t worry–I also requested a coating of Nutella inside the cone–keeping it light is my motto), pierced with lashings of carameltastic dulce de leche, studded with flakes of sea salt and, of course, dipped entirely in chocolate.

There’s a reason why people wait in line for this.

Big Gay Ice Cream
NYC Locations:

EAST VILLAGE
125 East 7th Street
(between 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
New York NY 10009
212.533.9333

WEST VILLAGE
61 Grove Street
(at Seventh Avenue South)
New York NY 10014
212.414.0222

Strong (Sandwich) Island

DSC_0090Last week, on a glorious not-too-hot summer day, Quentin and I took a trip out to the North shore of Long Island. The trip’s purpose was for car servicing, but my real goal was a deli sandwich expedition with some downtime at the beach. After dropping off the car, we sampled fairly standard but tasty breakfast sandwiches at Cold Spring Plaza Deli before exploring the lovely surroundings bathed in sunlight.

DSC_0026Following a relaxing hour or so baking in the sun, the most important part of the day arrived: selecting the ideal deli in a region known for its delis. After much consideration, I decided that Huntington’s gourmet Italian spot Mr. Sausage would be the perfect place to satiate my craving for a hero piled high with Italian meats and cheeses.

From the moment we entered, I was utterly captivated. The hanging legs of meat, endless cans of imported Italian goods, and the thrum of Italian soccer on the radio enticed me, not to mention the live ravioli-making occurring in the center of the shop.

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DSC_0038 DSC_0042 I began snapping pictures and soon struck up a conversation with Mr. Sausage’s proprietor, Sal Baldanza. Laced with a light Calabrese accent, he described the osso bucco-filled ravioli that he and his twin Rocco were carefully preparing as I eagerly watched.DSC_0051 DSC_0055DSC_0064DSC_0065DSC_0073DSC_0074He then showed me around the store, while telling me of his 30 years in the U.S.—all of them spent in Huntington’s surrounding areas. DSC_0085DSC_0039DSC_0047He ushered me towards one of the numerous deli counters, which held a stack of his very own cookbook “Delectable Italian Dishes for Family and Friends.” As I perused the beautiful prepared foods, in-house cured meats, and many more authentic Italian items I knew I’d be back as soon as possible.

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