Wednesday, July 24, 2013

FASD Filipiniana Philippine Café Halo Halo, Bubble Tea, Ube Cake in Tampa FL

It has not rained for days, and the temperature is up to 90 degrees now. When the weather is sweltering hot, I cannot help but fiendishly crave shaved ice desserts. When I heard Filipiniana Philippine Café just opened in a newly built mini strip mall off of Waters Avenue, and claims to have the best Halo Halo shaved ice dessert, I drove an hour from Bradenton just to give them a try.

Halo Halo is a shaved ice dessert, covered in various toppings, all floating in milk. Toppings vary from maker to maker, and at Filipiniana are; mung bean, kidney bean, cubed flan, green pandan crispies, coconut meat shavings, ube (taro) mash, and a scoop of custardy vanilla ice cream. At Filipiniana, they have the best Halo Halo I have ever eaten.

Since the location is brand spankin’ new, the space is immaculate and has a Halo Halo theme. The walls are brightly colored. In the back seating area, the walls are dark purple imitating ube extract coloring, often the color of ube ice cream or cake. The pictures on the walls are of different toppings used in Halo Halo. The staff is super sweet and asked me over and over again, “How do you know about Halo Halo?”

Filipiniana also serves coffee, smoothies, and bubble tea. I love bubble tea, and tried the Green Apple Tea with Tapioca. It was fine, but not my favorite bubble tea in Tampa.

The pastry case varies daily. Luckily, when we visited there were large slices of Ube Cake in the case, the deep violet hue of the sponge cake and the soft fluffy princess frosting stark against the purple palette calling my name. This Ube Cake is spectacular, and I ate it slowly as I watched crowds of customers arrive from the restaurant next door to quickly buy up the supply.

I’m really excited that they serve Taho, tofu custard in browned sugar sauce. Sometimes flavored with ginger in the syrup, and often served with sago (white tapioca) pearls. Next time, I’ll definitely check it out, because it is my favorite served the Chinese way at the local dim sum place.

It is great that they are a dessert only shop, but we are definitely missing some decent Filipino savory foods in the bay area.

Filipiniana Philippine Café
3848 W Waters Ave
Tampa, FL 33614

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New York Trip and 1st Vlog

I was in Manhattan for work for only one night and two days.  It was totally action packed every moment with vendor appointments, comp shopping, food-acquiring, and other miscellaneous adventures.  My camera ran out of battery, but I tried to film as much as possible with what I had. 

My co-worker there is actually one of my buyers.  She is super cool, and that's all you need to know. 
The hotel ran out of regular rooms, so I got a penthouse suite--- sweet.  We stay in the Manhattan Koreatown area, known as Murray Hill, in midtown.  Later hours, after we are done with work, I often go out exploring and sometimes continue to shop for work.  This time, I was lucky enough to meet up with both of my cousins that live there in the same night! 

Since we were shopping at Union Square--- For lunch we hit up my first-love Saints Alp Teahouse in the East Village (3rd Ave around 11th st).  I really wanted to take my co-worker to one of the Izakaya houses in St. Marks, but they are not open until dinnertime.  Saints Alp has some ok Lu Rou Fan (five spice pork over rice with tea eggs), and some matcha toast with condensed milk.  The main focus is the bubble tea though!  My favorite being the classic black tea with milk and boba, followed by iced black tea with grapefruit and agar, at this location. 

Deb is my new cousin-in-law, but she has always been family to me.  She met up with me and we took the 7 train out to Flushing Main Street--- Where we met up with my buddy Lesie (who is also awesome).  We immediately went to the New World Mall to hit up their Food Court, which is packed with local Chinese-Taiwanese food stalls.  We got some Takoyaki there, because I tried to get some earlier and failed at lunchtime.  After that, we tried a dessert stall, where we got some shaved ice with black sticky rice and mango. 

Then, Lesie took us to 101 Cafe where we ate some Taiwanese Sausages, Oyster Pancake, and Pork Bao (the Bao was massive).  Also, we had some 3 Cups Chicken.  That was followed by the Three Brothers Bubble Tea at Coco on Main Street.

My cousin Shelley flew in from Chicago that night, with luggage and all, came to meet up with us in Flushing.  I think it was almost midnight at that point and we were all tired.  But, it was so nice to see Shelley!!!  We all visited with Lesie, until it was her bedtime. 

We ate some breakfast at the hotel and then headed to our last and biggest appointment to work for hours.  After that, we went to my favorite Korean BBQ place in Manhattan, called Ma Dang Sui (pronounced "Ma-dang-sway").  They were having a Spicy Pork lunch special, and their Dwen-jang-jigae, that is complimentary, is my favorite. 

After that, we went shopping in Soho, Little Italy, and then Chinatown Manhattan--- before taking the subway back to the hotel to pick up our stuff and go home.  I filmed some videos there of the Cherry Blossom trees in the park and my favorite Green Barley Tea at Teariffic, but those videos are still trapped on my phone.

This is my first video ever!  Making the video with my not-so-great camera is also not helping the quality of the video either.  I found out also... that if I do not script what I am going to say in the video or in the voice over, that it comes out terrible (whether I am speaking English/Korean).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kimchi Paste ( 김치 양념 )


Making kimchi is not as difficult as many will lead you to believe.  Sure, you can purchase kimchi from your local Korean market in various forms...but, often it is expensive and the portions are too large for a small family like mine.  That is why I prefer homemade kimchi.  It is inexpensive, and if you make too much, you can give it away to friends. 
This post is specifically how to make just the kimchi paste.  The paste is used to apply to prepared vegetables of your choice.  I will post how to make different kinds of kimchi later on. The recipe I like to use is an adaptation from the above cookbook by Taekyung Chung's,"The Korean Table."  I have made various changes to adjust to my family's personal tastes.  My family tends to favor kimchi on the sweeter side, more ginger, garlic, and with less seafood taste.

The recipe yields about 3 1/4 cups, stored in a air tight glass jar:
1 cup Korean coarse red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Korean fine pepper powder
1/2 cup water
8 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup peeled minced ginger
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce

At the time I was making this recipe, I recently moved and did not have any of my food processors with me, so I chopped the ginger and garlic by hand.  It worked just fine.  Chop ginger and garlic first, then mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Once it is all mixed, add to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two months. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Monthly Korean Food Meet-up

Kimchi Pajeon (김치 파전)
Once a month, Lisa from Let's Cook Tampa, hosts a Korean food meet up group on a Friday night.  The usual venue is Rice Restaurant in Tampa, FL- which is a yummy dining destination at any time, and I'll post a review in the future of just the restaurant.  The night is called "Monthly Korean Barbeque and Karaoke," but I have not witnessed the karaoke portion yet. 

The stars aligned and my friends and I were not only in town, but available to try out one of these amazing meet ups!  Lisa does an excellent job explaining all of the dishes and checking to make sure that everyone is having a blast.  She works hard cooking and taking photos at the same time!  The entire meet up is completely fascinating- the food is explained, placed on the tables, and then you dine and ask questions.

The FEAST of Korean style cooking started with Kimchi Pajeon (김치 파전) pictured above.  I absolutely loved it because the pancake was super crispy and the kimchi inside was cut into just the right size bits.  The pancake was also nice and thick, but not too greasy.  There are not many places that can make a pajeon this good.  If you have never had one before, it is a definite must-try for a savory item.  The flavor profile is completely different from a Chinese style scallion pancake or an Indian style bread.

Bulgogi Jongol just when it started to boil.
The main attraction of the evening was the Bulgogi Jongol (불고기), which is a beef based stew cooked in a pot on the table. As you can see from the photo, the dish has vegetables and glass noodles.  The diner is also encouraged to wrap pieces of the cooked beef in lettuce and add rice and ssamjang to make a lettuce wrap.  You can also eat the tasty soup in a bowl.
Bulgogi Jongol again, being cut up into bite size pieces.
All of my favorite foods need to be cut with scissors sometimes to make smaller pieces.  The host was kind enough to come to each table and assure that your food was cooked properly before you dive in.  The broth has a sweet "dashi" flavor that is slightly sweet, salty, and meaty. 

Kkang Pung Ki (깐풍기)
My favorite dish is Lisa's Famous Kkang Pung Ki (깐풍기), which is almost as much fun to say at it is to eat!  Luckily, she posted her recipe for the dish on her blog.  The dish is crispy sweet and spicy chicken, similar to General Tso's Chicken, but also very different.

Kkang Pung Ki is an addiction of mine... So whenever I dine at a restaurant that serves Korean-Chinese dishes, I have to order it.  Everyone makes it differently, some people put bell pepper, corn, jalapeno, and/or even ketchup.  No matter what, I have never had a disappointing version of this dish (*knock on wood*).  Anyways, the version from Rice freakin' rocks! 

Panchan (반찬) side dishes
Rice is also known for serving up to a dozen panchan (반찬) with their entrees.  That is twelve complimentary and totally refillable house-made side dishes.  There are so many panchan per table that the waitress must bring the dishes out on a cart, since there is absolutely no way to carry them all.

I highly recommend checking out the Lets Cook Tampa meet ups if you live in the Tampa area and are interesting in trying Korean cuisine.  We cannot wait to go back again!

Rice Restaurant and Lounge
7525 W Hillsborough Ave
Tampa, FL 33615
(813) 889-7766

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pre-made Ho-ttok Cakes 호떡

 Ho-ttok are fairly difficult to make from scratch in small batches.  So, if you are really craving Ho-ttok and just want to eat a few cakes-  you will be left with about twenty more.  However, after searching high and low I was lucky enough to find pre-made frozen Ho-ttuk cakes at Kim Brothers Korean Market located in Tampa, Florida.  This brand is made by Wang Korea, come 8 to a bag, and are currently $6.99USD.  In my opinion, it is totally worth it!

They are really simple to prepare and already come frozen in patty form.  Sweet fluffy breading on the outside and cinnamon sugar and nut filling on the inside.  There are two flavors to choose from Regular Original flavor, or Green Tea flavor.  I chose the Green Tea flavor because I have never tried that flavor Ho-ttok before.  Just quickly fry them in some non-flavored oil or butter in a non-stick skillet until they are heat through, brown, and crispy on the outside.

Kim Bros Market
4021 W Hillsborough Ave
Tampa, FL 33614 United States
(813) 886-8989

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gainesville, FL: 2012 Korean Food Festival

Korean Food Festival 2012 in Gainesville, FL
Very beautiful Hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) worn by the Greeters upon entering.
The 2012 Korean Food Bazaar is an annual event held in Gainesville, Florida at the Korean Baptist Church. This year was the most organized yet--- with many people greeting visitors and explaining the menu.  If you look around the room carefully, there are also items available that are not on the main menu.  Just pay close attention, accept and give items with two hands, smile, be patient, open your mind, and bring cash.
Korean Food Festival 2012 in Gainesville, FL
The base menu, but you will find other goodies.  The prices are very low compared to most restaurants, and the food has a homemade effect.  This is the closest taste you will get to dining in a Korean-American home. 
The dish I always look forward to is the Ho-ttuk (#10 on the menu), sweet chewy pancake filled with cinnamon and sticky sugar.  I always buy more to take home for later.  This time, my family devoured all of them before I was able to have a second serving.

Originally, I am from Gainesville (moved there when I was six years old).  After High School, my husband and I moved around quite a bit.  When I lived in Gainesville last year, I would come to the Gainesville Korean Baptist Church once a week for Korean language lessons.  Also, I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Tower Road Branch Library's Language Exchange Program, where I was able to learn from and teach many adult Korean students.  If you are interested in this program, please contact Jin Lyons by submitting your resume and completing a formal application at that branch.  

Even though I live in Tampa now, I try to visit at least 1-2 times a month to visit my family (who still live there) and meet with my Korean language teacher/friend at the church. Luckily, I have made a great connection and I am able to learn about the culture and food.  It was so nice to see happy familiar faces at this event. 
Korean Food Festival 2012 in Gainesville, FL
One of the many dining areas.  This is the main room where the food stalls were located.
As I have noted before in last year's post on this event:  Gainesville is lucky to have such an open and outgoing Korean-American community that is willing to open their doors to everyone.  The above photo was taken as soon as the event opened around 4:00PM, and you can see how many locals have already started dining.  It was definitely a success!
Korean Food Festival 2012 in Gainesville, FL
Spicy Pork Bulgogi (돼지 불고기) with a side of Korean steamed rice and salad.  
Out of all of the meat dishes associated with "Korean Barbeque,"  Dwae-ji Bulgogi (돼지 불고기) is my favorite because of the vibrant taste--- a mix of sweet. spicy, and umami.  I have found this dish easy to make at home, when thin sliced pork is available at the market.  
Korean Food Festival 2012 in Gainesville, FL
Perfectly cooked spicy cold squid with radish kimchi, comes with a side of rolled rice (충무김밥). 
Every year there is a new authentic style Korean dish that I have never had before, so it is always an experience.   This year my favorite was the above photo of Chung-mu Kim-bap (충무김밥), originating from the seaside city of Chungmu (충무).  The squid (꼴뚜기 무침) is spicy, sweet, meaty, and tender- and the radish (무김치) is crispy and slightly sour.  It all is served cold and goes perfectly with the soft rice rolls.  I like how the squid and radish are not rolled inside the rice rolls as a regular kimbap, which would be quite messy and soggy.  Instead the squid and radish are served as side dishes.
Korean Food Festival 2012 in Gainesville, FL
Korean rice punch,  (식헤) Shik-hye.
Since I have been eating Korean food for a long time now, I have started craving Shik-hye at the end of a meal as well as sliced fruit.  It is a sweet rice punch that is made from starch sugars and ginger, you will find grains of rice in the bottom of the serving and sometimes pine nuts.  I like to try to swirl the drink around in the bottom to get all of the rice without having to use a spoon. 

For the entire photo set, please visit my Flikr Page.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Next Weekend: Asia Fest 2012 in Tampa, FL

Sadly, we missed this event last year.  But, we did make it to the year before and had fun.  The event takes place in the park directly in front of the TBT Forum.  We usually park in the parking garage next door.  There is a large stage set with some food vendor booths around it.  But, don't miss the other vendors that are further down by the water. 

The event can be quite hot, so bring your sunscreen and a hat.  Come early (11:00AM) to grab a bite to eat and a seat in front of the stage to watch the traditional dances and pageantry.  My favorite are the costumes from different countries and the more authentic snacks that are served by the vendors.  The Thai Sticky Rice and homemade Beef Jerky make a delicious snack.  You can also buy some Halo Halo to cool down.  Bring cash and your camera!

You can check out more info on the official website:
Asia Fest 2012