Friday, November 21, 2014

Loy Krathong at Wat Monkolratanaram Thai Temple in Tampa, Florida

This past weekend, on a rainy and cold Saturday night, was the Loy Krathong event at the Wat Monkolratanaram Thai Temple in Tampa, Florida.  Parking was backed up all the way to the highway on the west side of Palm River Road, but luckily I was able to create my own parking space once in the temple parking lot.  Attendees were inside the beautiful temple, feeding on the amazing food assortment that the vending area, and lining up along the bridge to watch as the floating flower boats were released into the Palm River.
Loy Karthong is celebrated annually in Thailand and a few other countries.  The festivities take place on the full moon in November where baskets are floated into the water with a wish or prayer given to each basket.  Some sources say that this ritual evolved from an ancient offering to the river spirits.
Me being the curious adventurer that I am, I decided to take a walk over the bridge onto the dock where the boats were being released from to get a better video.  The bridgecollapsed under my feet and dumped myself and about a dozen other folks intothe saltwater river.  The video camera was totally ruined, filled with saltwater.  And, so were my high-top sneakers that I paid a pretty penny for.  Thankfully, no one was hurt that badly.  But, I managed to save the data disc from the inside to bring you this footage. 

It took about fifteen minutes before some of the staff at the temple put down a ladder of some sort and then put plywood boards across that.  Everyone on the dock walked over one by one until we were all safe on shore.  As we were pulling out of the parking lot, the fire trucks showed up. 

The next time I return to The Wat, it will be for their Sunday Market and I will not be going back out on the docks anytime soon.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


The first in a long series of videos is posted from our trip to Japan and South Korea.

As you can see from the video, we are totally exhausted with only one hour of sleep the night before. The flight was very cramped and we were not able to sleep either.

We start off arriving in Tokyo late at night and going straight to the guesthouse we stayed at in Koenji area of Tokyo, Japan. It was very difficult to find the guesthouse, because the addresses are not posted on the outside of the buildings--- it took almost an hour to find and was very stressful. However, once we were able to put down our luggage, we went right back out again to explore the area on foot.

Koenji is an area located in the Suginami Ward of Tokyo, Japan. I had never heard of this area before coming to Japan, so we were very lucky have stayed in such an awesome neighborhood. The only other neighborhood that I can compare it to is St Mark's in Manhattan (3rd Ave at 8th St); filled with old buildings, bars, karaoke, izakaya restaurants, live music, and punk rockers. Yes, Japan still has punk rockers with mohawks and spikey leather jackets and all that goodness. We quickly fell in love with Koenji and would like to spread the word about this area that is almost unknown to foreigners.

The video looks small on the blog post, so please watch directly on YouTube and subscribe to our channel for new uploads once a week.

This first video just scratches the surface of everything we experienced on our trip, but I hope you enjoy!

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