Events

Korean Wedding Banquet=Awesome Pork Belly!

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I have been looking forward in attending my brother’s / family friend wedding this entire week since it will be the first time ever to experience a Korean wedding.  What I looked most forward to to be honest was the banquet and being a Korean buffet style, it was gluttony at it’s best. 

The wedding was held at a church in Teaneck, New Jersey with more than 90% Koreans attendee and church friends, my family and I were the outcast.  With similar physical features with a slightly language barrier and with the common love of food we manage to be more than OK.  The ceremony was a Christian church wedding with the exchange of rings and follow by hymns and songs (ode to joy- in Korean). After a bit of picture taking we head across to the banquet hall where there was a buffet line out the door.  To start off the buffet line was every Asian staple two choices of rice, the traditional white rice and white rice with a seaweed.  Next to the rice was what defines Korean cuisine the kimchi.  The amount of selection was overwhelming and trying to balance the mountain of each dish in my hand along with photo taking of the elaborate, vibrant colored dishes in beautiful lacquered server trays was challenging.  I took a sample of every dish but without the knowledge of what the dishes are called only based on my senses everything looked amazing therefore must taste amazing too.  There was kim bob (Korean sushi), shumai, somen, zucchini and shrimp tempura to name a few that are identifiable. The common vegetables used in the dishes are napa cabbages, daikon radishes, and a lot of Kochujang (Korean chili red pepper paste) which is a sweet and tangy, mild sauce used for Korean rice dishes and even for a fish marinate.  Down the buffet lane for a good 5 minutes finally approached pork heaven!   I know a lot foodies out there  who worships David Chang owner of Momofuku Ssams Bar, Noodle Bar, Ko, and Bakery Milk Bar and of Korean descent is known for his pork belly I knew I needed to have those sliced of Jokbal (pork belly steamed and cooked in broth for 2-3 hours).  It was definitely not the leanest meat to savor on if you’re caution on your health and it is not the most pleasant sight for any vegetarians but the pork belly was an equal proportion of skin, fat and meat and the taste of the broth somehow is nicely absorbed into the meat.  

Well into 20 minutes into the banquet, the bride and the groom had changed into traditional wedding clothes Hanbok to bid farewell to the guests while I made my third round around the buffet bar.  With many guests having the remaining leftovers to go and in a hurried way, my sister said to probably catch their 8pm KBS /SBS drama there was not much food except for the beef short ribs soaked in a medjool dates stew that was strangely calling to me “Eat me.”  I have not eaten beef for the last five years and frankly I do not miss beef much but here I was in an authentic Korean wedding banquet and knowing Korean takes their beef just as serious as they do with pork belly I was tempted to try.  It wasn’t like I was smoking pot so I had a piece.  I know I should not be over joy when consuming meat but the beef stew was a surprising highlight.  The flavor of the dates is a surprising Asian flair that makes this dish unique and as long as I remember when I used to eat beef it was usually one of the tougher meats to chew on but the beef came off nicely without a mess from the rib bone making this dish oddly my favorite.  Ending the meal on a sweet bud we had traditional mochi and what seemed on the exterior like mandoo (Korean Dumpling) but with a sweet filling and Korean Sweet Cinnamon Punch (fruit punch).  The variation and selection of food at the wedding from dishes I am familiar with  to newly introduced to are all nonetheless described to be bold flavors as well as the presentation and colors of the dishes.  As always as I am curious about food and culture.  With each dish or at least the dishes I was able to get to were all unexpectedly exciting and in a crowd of people eating together in a long communal table I assure the newlyweds will be surrounded with joyous people and happy bellies from beginning to the very end.  Congratulations!

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New York City Eats

Unicorn, Bao, Truck and Di Fara Pizzeria!!!!

img_1659  Photo taken by my 7 yrs old cousin Clara Wong

What a productive week it has been…well, in terms of EATING OUT!  Starting with Monday, my family and I attended a relative’s wedding banquet with Fujianese traditional customs at the Golden Unicorn restaurant.  A Fujianese custom wedding or generally Chinese wedding is literally an evening of binge eating.   A total of 10 dishes family style presented one after the next in a round table of 10 guests of the bride and the groom.  Wedding food are usually as expected to be awful and because wedding banquets in Chinatown in grand restaurants are very frequent, food and services over the years have become lackluster, however, I have to say Golden Unicorn remains to impress it’s guests.  The 10 dishes are predictable as it is the 10 must have for a Fujianese weddings though with a few twists:  1.) Lobster salad – I’m not huge fan of mayonnaise over fruit salad (cantaloupe, honeydew, + apples) with lobster but the iced cold plate over a steamed hot plate created a nice wow effect and extra points for the presentation. 2.) Ping Poon (cantonese pronunciation) the Fujianese has taken this cantonese traditional starter dish in weddings to another level.  Traditionally there would be cold jelly fish in the center of the dish over shredded daikon and carrots, and a various parts of a pig: crispy pork belly, pig tongues, slices of ham and some salty ducks but the Fujianese have transformed this dish into a high cholesterol feast with dungeon crabs in the center and a side of mini fried fish, sweet and sour pork ribs with taro, Japanese seaweed, salty ducks, and the cold jelly fish with daikon lives!  3.) Shrimps -swimming shrimps to be exact.  4.) Stir-fried Geoduck with sugar snap peas  5.) Stir-fried Scallops over asparagus with panko fried crabmeat + shrimp balls  6.) Shark Fin Soup –  a must in Chinese weddings.  7.) Abalone over shitake mushrooms and bok choys.  8.) Crispy fried skin Chicken with shrimp chips -my favorite. 9.) Two steamed fish  10.) Yee meen + Ba bo fan (cantonese pronunciation) noodles and sweet sticky rice to end the banquet.

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To end the work week, I met with two foodies: Tina and Helen since Tina will be traveling abroad soon and I have not seen her since we last had a group outing at Co. Pizzeria.  We made advanced engagement at Baoguette.  The original location is on Murray Hill with a third shop opening this week in Christopher Street. Tina, Helen and I decided to check out the Baoguette on St.Mark’s Place at the location in what used to be the Japanese vending machine kitschy, Bamn (R.I.P).  Baoguette is the first banh mi chain restaurant introduced outside of Chinatown NYC and it is  expanding as fast as Pink Berry from last summer.  I ordered a Spicy Cat Fish Banh mi ($7) and Tina ordered the original Banh mi ($5) with both of us sharing half of each and vietnamese iced coffee for the hot weather.  I’m used to my banh mi in a paper bag so I was surprised to have my Cat Fish Banh Mi in a fancy pint sized brown takeout box.  The cat fish was like fish sticks and the fillings consist of what seem to be relish and sauerkraut so it reminded me more of a hot dog and a banh mi would not be a banh mi without the cilantro and carrots and daikons.  The bread/ baguette / baoguettte was really the star of the banh mi.   The bread is baked nicely soft and crunchy.  I then tried half of Tina’s original Bahn mi with pork terrine and pate and of course with cilantro and carrots and daikons.  To be honest I was a little disappointed.  The pork terrine was too salty for my taste which was unfortunate and where is the awesome vietnamese mayonnaise I know banh mi with?  By the time we have finished eating, Baoguette was packed but I think for the future banh mi I will stick to Chinatown, whether it is catered more to my taste or it is as close I can get to for a taste of Vietnam.  Afterwards, when dining with Tina, when there is a beginning there is an end, so  to end the meal we headed over one block away  where Dessert Truck parked.  I was really really stuffed prior to Dessert Truck from Baoguette and a big lunch that afternoon on upper west side Cafe Con Leche but I got pressured into ordering a Molten Chocolate Cake since Tina was super shocked that I have never had Dessert Truck.  Tina ordered her usual Goat Cheese Cake which I do agree the Goat Chesse Cake is amazing.  The taste of goat cheese is subtly nice and it is very light for a cheese cake.  The Molten Chocolate Cake on the other hand is opposite of light, it was intense with innards of thick dripping hot chocolate.   The concept of upscale dessert in a truck is ironic and people are lining up like we all do when we hear Mister Softee as a child, regardless of who we are, we all occasionally have a sweet tooth.

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My dad had just returned from his 3 months stay at home in Fuzhou, China so I had decided to plan a day in rediscovering Brooklyn with my dad, my sister and my friend Jesse who is practically like family on Saturday. We went to Brooklyn Botanical Garden for Hanami which is Japanese for cherry blossom viewing.  Since we were in Brooklyn, it was the opportunity to trek to Di Fara Pizzeria, one of the five places I wanted to eat for a very long time now.  We took a bus through Flatbush Avenue to Avenue J which was a bit of a culture shock and walked along on Avenue J which was even more shocking with pleasantly beautiful houses in the neighborhood.  Di Fara is on a corner after a trestle and is conveniently located near the Q train.  As seen on Time Out New York on demand 2 years ago, the owner and chef, now probably at the age of 70 of Di Fara Pizzeria is a one man pizzeria and really makes every pie ordered at the moment first hand, from molding the pizza dough to grating fresh cheese to the very  last touch of snipping fresh basil, it was absolutely mesmerizing to watch him at work and to watch him work with passion for his art in making the pizza was truly inspiring and magical.   He asked me with a crowd of people waiting behind me “is this pie your’s?  as I watched the chef put finishing touches to our regular pie we ordered with freshly grated parmeggiano – reggiano cheese, fresh snips of basil, and dressing with olive oil.  More than an hour long wait or almost 2 hours for a pie, my dad, my sister, Jesse and I can conclude that it is worth the trip and the wait.  The secret of Di Fara is they starve you then eat.  The crust was at perfection and the ingredients are extremely freshly tasty. Di Fara Pizzeria is definitely on my list for 1,000 places you should visit before you die and I can now die happy. 

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iLuvpotato, Family and Friends ate at:

Golden Unicorn Restaurant /// 18 East Broadway New York NY 10002

Baoguette ///  37 St Mark’s Place (between 2nd & 3rd Avenue) New York NY 10003

Dessert Truck ///  St. Mark’s Place (8th St & 3rd Avenue) New York NY 10003

Di Fara’s Pizzeria /// 1424 Avenue J Brooklyn NY 11230

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