Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ning Jing Hai Restaurant (Suzhou, China)

Located in Suzhou, China, this restaurant is one of a kind. The ingredients they use are grown and raised locally and dishes are made fresh to order. The outside has beautiful landscaping while the building looks like a cheap motel, but don't let looks fool you, this place is a food gem.

Sour Cabbage Hot Pot
They start with pickled cabbage that's sour in taste and boil it in a house broth. To this they add tofu, pork, seafood balls, green onion, and chili peppers. When this dish comes to a boil, the flavors meld together and go great with a bowl of rice. This is one of their most popular dishes.

Stir-fry Vinegar Large Intestine
What we don't eat in America, we eat a lot of in Asia. You can find pig large intestines in the US for very cheap at an Asian supermarket, but in Asia, these things cost a little more. It's chewy in texture and stir-fried with vinegar, garlic, lots of ginger, and chili peppers.

Stir-fried Fried Tofu
Different from the usual tofu dish you see that's stir-fried, they flash fry the tofu pieces first and then throw it in to stir fry with mushrooms, garlic, and green onions. The frying brings out the the flavor of the tofu even more and the sauce is the perfect combination of sweet and salty.

Baby Chinese Bok Choy
A variation of bok choy, this vegetable is picked when it's still young and cooked. The texture is very crisp and fresh and it makes even those that don't like vegetables like it.

On another non-food note, I went to the restroom before I left and found it to be quite unique. The sink, urinals, and toilets were all made of stone. Each seemed to be custom made cause they all looked different. It was the first time I saw anything like it, so if you go to this restaurant by any chance, be sure to use the restroom before you leave!

Verdict? This place was one of the best places I ate in Suzhou. The food is authentic and the ingredients are fresh. I would definitely recommend coming here if you're ever in Suzhou.

Ning Jing Hai Restaurant

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CoCo Curry House (China and Taiwan)

CoCo Curry, with locations in all over the world (even Hawaii), specializes on curry dishes. Aside from curry, they offer other rice and noodle choices. If you don't already know, curry is very good for your health and supposedly can prevent some diseases.

When you're ordering curry here, there's 3 steps. First, you order the type of curry you want (ie. chicken, fish, combo, etc). Then, you pick how much rice you want (money is added/subtracted depending if you add extra or want less than regular portion). Lastly, you pick how spicy you want it and this ranges from mild to super spicy.

Salad with Sesame Dressing
I made my meal a combo which adds this salad and a drink. The salad was refreshing and light even though the sesame dressing looks a little thick.

Grape Calpis Drink
Calpis, explained in a previous post, is a light uncarbonated soft drink that's milky in texture but tastes like yogurt. I ordered the grape flavored one because it was a featured new item and it ended up to be better than I expected.

Mushroom Curry
My mom ordered the mushroom curry. I'm assuming the mushroom was stewed with the curry while making it because you could definitely taste mushroom infused into the sauce. This would be a very excellent choice for any vegetarians out there.

Tonkatsu and Clam Curry
My dish however, was not so vegetarian-friendly. The tonkatsu (friend pork chop) was fried just right and not overdone. I wasn't expecting a lot of clams, but surprisingly there was plenty. I was pretty satisfied with my dish and I'd definitely order it again.

Verdict? If you're ever craving curry, this place won't not disappoint you. The food is quick, hot, and delicious. Although my first time here was in Suzhou, I'm definitely going to find it here in Taiwan and eat there again.

CoCo Curry House
refer to the following website for the locations closest to you
China Website
Hong Kong Website
Taiwan Website
Japan Website

789 Xin Gai Nian Hot Pot (Shanghai, China)

789 "New Concept " Hot Pot, with locations in Suzhou and Shanghai, is a great clean place to have individual hot pots. Sometimes called "shabu shabu", these hot pots are a very popular thing all over Asia, especially in the winter time.

Hot Pots consist of 3 main things, the soup base, dipping sauce, and raw ingredients. Soup base can be made of several things and can range from light and healthy to thick and spicy.

There's a "sauce bar" where they have all sorts of ingredients where you can customize your own dipping sauce to your taste. You use this sauce with the things you cook in your hot pot.

Lastly, you order raw ingredients that you throw into your boiling soup base to cook and eat.

Duck's Blood
I promise it doesn't taste as bad as it looks. For most it'll probably be a textural issue, but for those that can get over that it's a great thing to eat. Rich with iron and good f

Beef Tripe
A little whiter than it should be in this picture, tripe is part of the lining of the cow's stomach. When cooked, tripe had a very chewy texture that isn't as gamy or grassy as you would think.
Seafood and Meat Balls
Starting from the bottom right going clockwise: beef balls stuffed with cheese. When you cook them the cheese melts and it tastes pretty unique. Next are shrimp balls, then fish balls, then squid balls. Each of these start in the pate form and are rolled into balls by hand so they're made fresh and never frozen.

Lamb Slices
When you eat hotpot, the whatever meat you choose always comes thinly sliced. In this case we chose the chop cut in which they slice and roll them thinly.
Ribeye Beef Slices
Fresh and delicious. The beef comes out very tender assuming you don't cook it for too long.
Tofu Skin
Made with soy beans, these tofu skins are delicious when added to hot pots. They come out slightly stiff, but after you cook them they become soft.

Veggies are a must when eating hot pot. Eating meat and seafood along with other things can become very heavy, so throwing in the occasional vegetables can help the appetite to continue on.
Assorted Mushrooms
If you don't already know, I love mushrooms. Here, there are 4 popular mushroom types eaten not only in Asia, but also in the US. 

After ordering all the raw ingredients, you throw what you want into your pot with the soup base you chose and let it cook away. Once it starts boiling, you're good to go. 

Verdict? The ambiance and the food here is great. It's perfect for family gatherings or just eating with a friend or significant other. If I go back to Shanghai again during the winter time, I'll surely be hitting up this hot pot joint.

789 Xin Gai Nian Hot Pot