Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 350

Potato Kugel: Remember a few days ago when I mentioned finding something else interesting at the Toco Hills "Kosher Kroger?" Well, that's today's new food. While I was browsing the Kosher section a few days ago in hopes of finding something (which is hard to do anywhere after almost a year), I noticed this box of Manischewitz potato kugel on one of the top shelves. I'd had noodle kugel several times and loved it, so I wondered how this potato version compared. I couldn't resist, so I put one in my basket to take home.
The noodle kugel I'd eaten before was a mildly sweet dish made from egg noodles, sugar, cottage cheese, cinnamon, and varied fruits, but this potato version was definitely going to be more savory than sweet. The main ingredients were potatoes, vegetable shortening, onion, and salt, and the prep was super easy. All I had to do was take the dry mix and combine it with oil, water, and eggs, then bake for an hour. They even provided the aluminum baking pan, so screwing this up was basically impossible.

After baking as a side for tonight's dinner, the mix developed a nice brown crust on top. I plated a piece and took a bite, and was really happy with the results. The interior reminded me of fluffier potato pancakes or hash browns, but with a stronger onion flavor than either of those. It was almost like a potato souffle, and I knocked out seconds of this pretty quickly after eating the first piece. Really good.
Even though this dish was vastly different from the sweeter noodle kugel, I'd definitely buy it again.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 349

Dry Meat Bun: Out of all the foods I've tried for this blog, this one had to have one of the most unappetizing-sounding names. Dry Meat Bun? It doesn't sound like something anyone would ever want to eat, but when I saw it at the Oriental Bakery on Buford Highway a couple days ago, I was intrigued. The bakery had a rack of the ubiquitous cellophane-wrapped Asian pastries (most of which I'd already tried), but this one was something I'd never seen before.

It looked like a small loaf of white bread, but it was topped with a brownish substance that I couldn't identify. Was that the "dry meat?" The first few ingredients were pretty standard (flour, sugar, oil), but the last two were "salad" and "dry pork sung." Hmm, ok. I had to know what this was, so I bought one to take home.
Since fresh pastries have a habit of going bad quickly, I gave this one a try this afternoon for a snack. I broke it in two to see if there was any sort of filling, but it was just plain bread on the inside. The bread itself was light and fluffy, and a bit sweet. However, the topping was something entirely different. It was indeed "dry meat," and it tasted like finely shredded dried pork that had been sweetened. It actually tasted good, and the saltiness of the topping worked well with the sweetness of the bread. Not as scary as I first expected, but I doubt I'd buy one again.
I had to know what "pork sung" was, so after some research, I discovered that it's a Chinese dried meat product that's made by stewing cuts of pork in a sweet soy sauce mixture until the meat can be fork shredded. It's then dried in an oven, followed by drying in a wok. The resulting product (also called "rousong") can be used as a topping for many dishes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 348

Red Bean Crisp with Egg Yolk: Anyone who's been following my blog knows I've eaten quite a few Asian pastries during the last almost-year, but this one that I found yesterday at the Oriental Bakery on Buford Highway (in the same plaza as Chef Liu and Chicago Supermarket) offered something quite unexpected. In addition to some of the pre-packaged pastries that are easy to find at almost any Asian grocery, they also featured a glass case with some house-made treats that I'd never seen before.

Rather than overload on pastry, I decided to pick out a couple. One caught my eye immediately just based on the name: red bean crisp with egg yolk. I asked the girl behind the counter if there was actually egg yolk in it, and she said yes. I couldn't discern anything about it from just looking at it, but there was apparently egg yolk in it, and that's all I needed to know.
My level of curiosity about this one was pretty high, so I eagerly gave it a try this afternoon. The pastry itself was egg-shaped, with a hard outer crust that was topped with some sort of yellow substance (egg yolk?) and sesame seeds. I cut it in half, and the interior looked entirely different from what I was expecting. Instead of traditional yellow yolk, it was filled with red bean paste and what looked to be part of a preserved duck egg (the darker part in the pic). Not exactly a combination that sounds appetizing, but I took a bite anyway.
The results weren't too bad - the outer pastry crust was flaky, and it provided a thin covering for the red bean/egg filling. Nothing really new to report with the red bean paste, but the egg had a gamy, rubbery texture much like the kind I'd had before as an ingredient in congee. I'm still not sure what the coating on top was, but as a snack, it was definitely an unusual experience. Kind of a sweet/salty combo, so if you're into that, you may like these.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 347

Dolmas: As I've mentioned a million times before, shopping for this blog has become extremely difficult, and with less than 3 weeks left, it's almost impossible for me to find things that are new to me. Well, in Atlanta, anyway. I had to do some shopping today, but I wanted to make a conscious effort to stay away from the Buford Highway Farmers Market. As great as it is, I just didn't want to resort to it during this trip, so I explored other options that luckily turned out well.

Even though traditional big-box grocery stores don't offer me much anymore, some chains offer fare that not every location has. I decided to hit the Toco Hills "Kosher Kroger," hoping to find some interesting Kosher products. I'd been there a couple times before with good luck, which I hoped to repeat. I did find one Kosher item (more on that later this week), but I also found something else on the fresh Mediterranean olive bar near the front of the store that was new to me: dolmas.
I knew enough about Mediterranean cuisine to know that dolmas were stuffed grape leaves, and these were filled with long-grain rice. They appeared to be served with some sort of lemon sauce, so I scooped up a couple with a bit of the sauce to take home. I love being able to buy things by the pound in situations like this - a couple dolmas only cost me a little over a dollar. I've eaten Greek/Mediterranean cuisine many times, but I'd never gotten around to trying these.
Once I gave these a try tonight, I was impressed. Each piece was tightly rolled, so I cut through the outer grape leaf, which revealed the rice filling. The grape leaves were extremely tender, almost like collard greens in texture, and they were a good pair for the rice filling. They had a mild flavor that reminded me of other leafy greens I've tried, but a bit more salty. Not much to report with the rice (it was just plain rice), but there was a strong lemon flavor that I assume came from the sauce it was served in. Not sure if that's typical, but it was tasty just the same.

I've got some super-interesting stuff coming up over the next couple days...stick with me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 346

Champ-O-Rado: Ever wonder what chocolate oatmeal would taste like? Well, look no further than this product I found during my last visit to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. I've made an effort to search in different sections there instead of my usual standbys (Korean, Eastern European, Japanese), and I've actually found lots of interesting new things in the Philippines aisle. While not as extensive as some of the others, the aisle has supplied me with several finds, one of which is today's new food.
At first glance, the picture on the box made it look like chocolate pudding, but as I looked closer, I realized it was much different. Apparently, it's a popular Filipino dish made with glutinous rice and cocoa powder that can be served as a snack or dessert. At first, I thought this might be too similar to congee (which I'd tried before), but as I kept reading, it seemed extremely different. Into my basket it went.
Since this was the last stockpiled item I had on hand, I went ahead and made it today. Preparation was easy - I just had to add 3/4 cup of sugar to the powdered cocoa/rice mix, then boil it for about 10 minutes until it thickened. Once it was done, it resulted in a thick, soupy, dark liquid that resembled oatmeal. The directions advised drizzling some milk on top, which I did before trying.
Despite the good amount of sugar I added, it really wasn't that sweet. It actually reminded me of a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles that had been left sitting for awhile to get soggy, then heated. Not too bad, and definitely not like congee at all. This recipe made a lot of this stuff, so I guess I have some eating to do if I want to finish it. If the concept of chocolate hot cereal or oatmeal appeals to you at all, definitely check this one out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 345

Lobster Roll: Today's new food was definitely unplanned, but that's a good thing. It's easy to get in a rut with new things that I stockpile from various markets, and breaking free from that is always a welcome change. I attended a "tweetup" tonight at the Shed at Glenwood in East Atlanta, and the restaurant featured their well-known sliders as a special. In addition to some featuring fried chicken, chorizo, and prosciutto, they also featured a lobster roll slider. I'd never had a lobster roll anywhere, but I'd heard they were tasty, so I figured this could be a good start.
I knew that lobster rolls (made from a mix of cooked lobster meat and mayonnaise) were typically served on a grilled hot dog bun, but the Shed's version featured a small bun that looked like brioche. The filling almost resembled a seafood salad, and the mixture looked like it contained some cucumber and celery along with some small chunks of lobster. In addition, it was topped with a "crispy potato" that added some crunch. Once I dug in, it actually tasted pretty good, despite my usual dislike of heavy mayo. I didn't really find many pieces of lobster, but that was probably to be expected for a small slider like this.

I've heard that there are several good versions of this dish around town (Bocado and the Sound Table, to name two), so I might have to try this again somewhere else if possible. I feel like this one might not have been the most authentic, but it was still good nonetheless.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 344

Banana Cracker: As my readers know by now, it's pretty hard to stump me, but when I saw this unusual snack item at the Fiesta Farmers Market last week, I had no idea what to think. The market carries a primarily Hispanic inventory, but I actually found this Vietnamese import there after doing some intensive searching. Despite being called "banana cracker," I knew it would probably different from any cracker I've tried.
I decided to give it a try as a late-night snack tonight, and after I cut the bag open and took one out, I was surprised. It reminded me of a thin flour tortilla filled with ultra-thin banana slices, and I could actually see little pieces of banana layered on the surface. The only ingredients were banana and wheat flour, so I guess I was almost right with the tortilla comparison.
Once I finally took a bite, the results were strange, to say the least. The texture was also a lot like a flour tortilla, but one that was left out on the counter all night to go a bit stale. It took a bit of work to bite off a piece, but once I did, I was left with a chewy, slightly crunchy substance that had a strong banana flavor. There was also a strange plastic-y taste that was a bit disconcerting, but it was less noticeable as I tried a few more bites. Interesting, but I can't say I'd recommend them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 343

Uthappam: I can't think of any other time during this blog where I've gotten to try two brand new cuisines in one week, but that's exactly what happened this week. In addition to trying Ethiopian for the first time on day 339, I finally tried Indian cuisine today. I know I've eaten plenty of Indian items over the course of the blog, but I'd never eaten in an actual restaurant until tonight. Crazy, but true.

I'd heard good things about Saravanaa Bhavan in Decatur, and when Scoutmob issued a discount recently, I figured it was finally time for me to try. They specialize in South Indian cuisine, and their menu was all vegetarian. I have no problem with vegetarian fare as long as it tastes great, and I'd really liked all the packaged Indian food I'd had so far, so I was excited to find out how it compared.

In addition to lots of things I recognized (curries, samosas, etc.), I noticed something new that sounded really tasty: uthappam. The menu described it as a sort of pancake, served plain or with various fillings. I opted for the one filled with onions and green chiles, despite my low tolerance for spice. I guess I was in the wrong place for low spice tolerance.
Once our server brought the dish (served on a cool looking stainless steel platter), I was impressed. It looked like a large pancake, and I could see several pieces of red onion and green chile pepper studded throughout the dough. The utthapam was served with several dipping sauces, none of which I could easily identify. One was sweeter, one more spicy, and another was mild and almost cottage cheese-like. I was hungry, so I dug in.

My first few bites were good - the dough (made from rice flour) was cooked well, with a nice crunch on the outside. It was bit thicker and breadier than I expected, and after a few minutes, I started to feel the heat from the chiles. The sweet dipping sauce (pictured on top of the pancake) was my favorite, but I still can't quite pinpoint its flavors. Me and the GF demolished all of it quickly, expect for one small chunk with a large concentration of chiles. If you decide to order one, make sure you have someone to share with - it was extremely filling.

After I got home from dinner, I noticed that I'd actually bought a box of utthapam mix from the Buford Highway Farmers Market during my last trip, but I hadn't even remembered that when I ordered it tonight. That was bound to happen at some point, right?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 342

Guenepa: Today's new food is - you guessed it - another find from last weekend's trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. Somehow, I'm still able to find new things in the produce section, despite having already eaten my way through most of it. When I saw these, I had no idea what to think - they looked like little green berries, but they had an extremely tough skin that I assumed might yield to something tasty on the inside.
Even though I bought them a week ago, that tough outer skin hadn't spoiled at all when I finally tried them this afternoon. I wasn't able to break the skin with my fingernails, so I used my chef's knife to make a small incision. It peeled away easily to reveal a tiny orange pod covered with pulp, so I took it out of the shell, popped it in my mouth, then began to chew.
Ok, not good. There was yet another tough shell to get through, so I spit it out and gave it a look. The inside of that shell was filled with a crunchy, segmented pit that didn't taste like much. Where was the edible part? I got online and did some some searching, and apparently I was supposed to just chew the orange pulp off the inner pod. I grabbed another one and repeated the process, but this time I just tried to savor the pulp. Once I did that, it was actually kind of tasty. Even thought the amount of pulp was miniscule, it tasted like a cross between mango and lime. Not bad.
Guenepa (also known as quenepa and mamoncillo) are a popular snack in several Latin countries, including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. I can't say I'd buy these again - they just didn't give me enough to actually eat.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 341

Tindora: I've eaten a lot of food during this blog that looks and tastes a lot like something else. Since I don't do much research before I buy something, I can either be surprised or disappointed if that happens. Much like yesterday's nectarine mango, this "tindora" I found at the Fiesta Farmers Market instantly reminded me of a gherkin or mini-cucumber. I was interested enough to grab a couple to take home, and at only a few cents apiece, I really couldn't go wrong. Maybe they'd be really different from what I expected.
Even though I bought these last weekend, they held up surprisingly well in the fridge until today. I wasn't quite sure how to eat them, but based on their cucumber-like appearance, I assumed I could eat them raw. I cut one in half to see what was happening on the inside, and it looked like a much seedier cucumber, with little chambers filled with small seeds. 
The flavor didn't leave me with too much to write about. Much like the appearance, it tasted like a seedier cucumber or gherkin, with a decent amount of crunch. Some online sources compared it to bitter melon, but I didn't detect any bitterness at all. Apparently, tindoras are considered to be a small gourd, not cucumber, and they're a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine. Maybe they're more exciting when worked into another dish, but I can't see trying them on their own again.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 340

Nectarine Mango: I've eaten quite a few varieties of mango during this blog, but that's fine by me. Mango is one of my favorite fruits, and I jump at any chance to try a new one. When I saw this unusually named "nectarine mango" at the Buford Highway Farmers Market a few days ago, I knew I had to try. It was unlike any I'd seen, with a shape/size that was more like a peach than anything else.
It was still a bit firm and under-ripe when I bought it, so I let it sit on my kitchen counter to ripen. The green color it originally had eventually turned to a greenish-yellow, and since I didn't want it to spoil, I went ahead and tried it today after lunch. Since I'm not skilled at slicing mangoes, I cut off wedges from each side and peeled them the best I could. I didn't want a trip to the ER to be on today's schedule.
After finally taking a bite, the flavor/texture reminded me of a juicy, ripe peach much more than mango. I don't know if my brain was tricked by the peach-like shape and size, but I had a hard time detecting many mango qualities. It was almost like a peach with mango skin. At any rate, it was really tasty, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes fresh peaches (or mangoes, I guess).

Not much else to say about this one. After 340 days in a row of new food, it's hard to expand on every single thing I eat unless it's really good (or really bad).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 339

Ethopian Vegetarian Platter: It's not too often that I experience a cuisine for the first time, but that's exactly what happened tonight. I'd been meaning to try Ethiopian food for awhile, but for some reason, I'd never made it a priority. However, the blog is close to winding down, and I wanted to make sure I tried it before the 365 days were up. With that in mind, me and the GF hit Desta on Briarcliff Road tonight. Several people had recommended it, so off we went.

The menu was actually much more extensive than I expected, with items ranging from breakfast specialties to full-on dinners. It was the first time in awhile that a menu's language had stumped me - it featured lots of words I'd never read, not to mention the food itself. Instead of trying to narrow down my choices to a couple dishes, I opted for the combination vegetarian platter, which featured a small portion of everything on the vegetarian section of the menu. I usually don't order vegetarian anywhere, but I'd heard that it was a great choice with Ethiopian cuisine.

Once the server brought my order, I was pretty amazed at what I saw. The colors on the plate were incredible, and the presentation almost made me not want to eat it. Almost. The meal was served with injera, the spongy flatbread that's apparently a staple during most Ethiopian meals. Keep in mind that I'd never had any of these dishes before, so I'm going to attempt to cover a few instead of all. This type of combo post is a first for the blog!
Since there were 9 different dishes on the plate (not counting the salad), I wasn't even sure where to begin. I tore off a small piece of injera (no utensils here, folks) and scooped up a small portion of the first thing that caught my eye, which was the shiro fit fit. According to the menu, this was a "mix of ground chickpeas in a rich Desta's sauce mixed with bites of injera." I was basically scooping up bread with bread, but the shiro fit fit was tasty, with an vinegar-like flavor that paired well with the ground chickpeas. Ok, off to a good start.

On to the next one, which unfortunately, I couldn't identify. Considering that this plate had 9 new dishes for me to try, I really needed a guide to follow since I had no idea what I was eating. However, the dark brown stuff (bottom row center of the pic) was probably my favorite. It almost reminded me of mole, but was much thicker and spicier. I'm not sure what it was made from, but it was awesome.

I should really talk about the injera bread itself, which until tonight, I'd never had. It had a sponge-like texture that fell somewhere between a crepe and half-cooked pancake, with a slightly sour flavor that paired well with the spicy food. Since it's used primarily for actually picking up the food, we went through a lot of it at the table. Not exactly a low-carb meal.
Except for the dishes containing beets (upper right corner of pic), potatoes (lower left corner), and collard greens (second from top left), I'm really not sure what the rest of this plate contained. I don't think I've ever tried this many new dishes at once, and it made me think back to what got me started with this blog in the first place: my love of trying new foods. It's been easy for me to forget that after almost a year of doing this, but this meal made me thankful that I started.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 338

Rambutan: Today's new food is another produce find from last weekend's trip to the Buford Highway Farmers Market. How many times have I typed that sentence during this blog? I don't even want to know, but that's ok - the BHFM has kept this blog running on days when no place else has been usable. Even though I'm sick of shopping there, it's value has been unmeasurable. I hate that I've grown tired of places/things I used to love, but I guess that was to be expected.

Anyway, while I was browsing the produce, I spotted these unusual looking things called rambutan. They were cherry-sized, dark red in color, with prickly hairlike pieces covering the surface. I'd read that they were similar to lychee, but I was curious to find out how similar, so I found a couple loose ones and threw them in my basket.
I didn't get around to trying these until today, and based on their thick outer skin, I figured they'd still be fresh. I made a small incision in the skin, then peeled it away, revealing a spherical fruit on the inside that looked like a peeled white grape. I figured these would have a pit, so I carefully chewed the fruit from around the outside. The flavor reminded me a lot of lychee, but a bit more grape-like. It was sweet and sour at the same time, but the only drawback was the amount of crunchy seed covering still left on the edible fruit. I tried to get rid of all of it with the second one, but it was almost impossible.
If you like lychees or longans, make sure to check out rambutan. If you don't want to do all the work with the fresh ones, a lot of markets sell them canned in syrup.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 337

Pirozhochki with Cheese: Anyone who has read this blog knows how much I love the Eastern European section at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, especially the fresh pastry and dessert counter. In addition to some awesome sweets, they also sell a small selection of savory pastries filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. No offense to vegetables, but the meat/cheese varieties are definitely my favorite.

I've pretty much had all of the counter's savory pastries at this point, but I noticed one during my last visit called "pirozhochki" that I'd never seen before. Much like the pierogis, pirozhkis, and samsas I've had before, this one looked like a little pastry turnover, and was filled with farmer cheese. I love the saltiness of farmer cheese, so I knew I had to take one of these home to try it.
Once I got it reheated for a snack today, I hoped it had held up well since buying. The flaky exterior was light and buttery, with a scattering of sesame seeds. Once I cut into it, I noticed that the cheese filling looked a lot like cream cheese, but a bit more textured. Luckily, it tasted as good as it looked. The pastry tasted great, even after hanging out in the fridge for a couple days, and the farmer cheese brought the creaminess and saltiness that I expected. It was just as good as any of the meat filled Eastern Euro pastries I'd had before, and at only $0.75, it was a great little snack.
After doing some research, I'm not exactly sure how these are different from piroshkis. They seem to be extremely similar, but this pirozhochki definitely tasted different - it was much more buttery, and probably better suited for breakfast. It looked like a cross between a piroshki and a samsa, but either way, it was really good.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 336

Pan Dulce: After doing some errands in the Buford Highway area yesterday, I managed to make a couple food stops along the way since my stockpile at home was completely depleted. I'd been to the Fiesta Farmers Market (located next to the Plaza Fiesta) once before and had decent luck, so I went in again in hopes of finding something. In addition to a couple of new fruits, I also found a few interesting products in the store's bakery. I love discovering new sweets, and the bakery had a whole array of traditional Mexican pastries for sale. They all looked good, but some of them were just standard cookies and cakes.

As usual, I opted for something I couldn't identify. I spotted a rather large roll-type pastry with some sort of pink frosting on top. The bakery referred to all their pastries as "pan dulce" (sweet bread), so I'm not sure if this particular one even had its own name. I knew it would probably be good for breakfast, so I bought one to take home.
Since fresh pastries don't tend to stay that way very long, I went ahead and gave it a try this afternoon. It was definitely tasty, but I don't have too much to report. Like the name promised, it tasted like sweet white bread. It wasn't quite as moist as I hoped it would be, but for a light breakfast option, it was pretty good. The pink frosting on top wasn't as sweet as I expected, and I'm still not entirely sure what it was made from. It wasn't as rich as cake frosting, and it crumbled easily. 
I definitely want to go back and try some of the market's other pastries now. I saw several others that looked good, and at only $0.89 apiece, how could I go wrong?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 335

Albondingas (Wild Boar Meatballs): Me and the GF headed down to the Iberian Pig ( in downtown Decatur for dinner tonight, and while I was looking forward to the meal, I wasn't sure if I'd find anything new for the blog. I hadn't been before, but the GF had, and she loved their selection of Spanish-style tapas. In addition to some other great dishes, I was also lucky enough to find something I'd never experienced: wild boar. I don't have much experience with wild game, but I'm always eager to try any type I can find.

The Iberian Pig's version was called albondingas - wild boar sausage meatballs stuffed with piquillo peppers, Macedonian dates, and roasted tomatoes. The dish was finished with a pimenton creme and oyster mushrooms, and based on the ingredients, it sounded like it was going to be tasty. I suspected them to be much different from standard pork or ground beef meatballs, and I was right.
Once our server brought the dish, I was looking forward to digging in. I wanted to try some of the meatball without the pimenton creme, so I cut off a piece and tasted. It wasn't like ground beef, and was much less oily and moist than either beef or pork, but it was definitely more similar in flavor to pork than beef. The piquillo peppers added some heat, and I really liked the pimenton creme - think melted pimento cheese, but not at all greasy or goopy. Based on this dish, I'd definitely be up for trying wild boar again. Good stuff.

I know the whole tapas trend is played out, but everything I had at the Iberian Pig was delicious. It's good to discover another great restaurant so close to home.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 334

Soup Vi Ca (Shark's Fin Soup): Ok, I'll be honest. I really wasn't looking forward to trying today's new food. I discovered it during my last trip to the Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth, and I bought it solely based on its shock factor alone. I usually prefer to try dishes like this in a restaurant that's good at such things, but for now, this canned version had to suffice. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to try the dish itself, but the picture on the can, featuring a odd looking bisected shark fin, wasn't exactly winning me over.

Since this was the last food I had stockpiled, I had no choice but to try it today. The ingredients listed shark fin, oyster mushroom, artificial chicken flavor, oyster sauce, and some spices. Once I opened the can, I poured the contents into a plastic bowl for microwaving, and to say it looked unappetizing was an understatement. I've had the misfortune lately of eating a lot of new foods that look like vomit, and this was no exception. However, I try to not judge anything based on its appearance, so I heated it up and gave it a shot.
Once I got it hot, the vomit vibe was lessened a bit, but I noticed a lot of strange stuff going on aside from that. The shark fin looked like small pieces of white fish, but the truly disturbing thing was the hair-like tendrils floating in the broth that came off the fin. They looked like little eyelashes. In addition, there were a couple large chunks of oyster mushroom (the black pieces in the pic) that were probably the least disturbing things in the mix.
Oh, right - the taste. The broth was sort of like a fishier-tasting chicken stock, and the pieces of shark fin were actually pretty tender. They tasted a lot like any mild white fish, but the odd hair-like connective pieces (bottom pic) had a gelatinous texture that I just couldn't appreciate. I'll pass on the rest of those, thanks. The oyster mushrooms were the best thing about it, and they actually retained a firmness that I wasn't expecting from a canned soup.
This wasn't as scary as I was expecting, but not exactly tasty, either. I'd be willing to give it a shot in a restaurant, but I doubt I'll finish the rest of this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 333

Tonkatsu Ramen: After a few weeks in a row of eating new things that I wasn't that excited about trying, I finally got to try something today that I'd been curious about for awhile: ramen. No, not the dried garbage that's notorious for keeping college students alive. I'm talking about the real thing, made from scratch in the authentic Japanese style. I didn't know any restaurants in Atlanta had it, but I recently heard about a place called Yakitori Jinbei out in Smyrna that supposedly served the best version.

Since I only have a few weeks left with this blog, I wanted to make sure I tried it before the end, so me and my fellow food blogger friend Dan made plans to meet for lunch today. If you haven't visited his website (, please do so. Once we got there, there was no need for me to look at the menu - I knew what I wanted. There were other selections (sushi, udon, etc.), but it was all about the ramen today.

Once our server brought the still-steaming bowl, I was immediately curious. This didn't look anything like any ramen I'd ever tried. In addition to the broth and noodles, the dish also included 2 slices of pork tenderloin on top, as well as some cabbage for garnish. The broth almost looked like it contained cream, but Dan informed me that it didn't - the creaminess comes solely from the lengthy cooking process of making the pork stock. It was studded with little globs of pork fat, and based on the appearance, I knew it would taste great.
I decided to try the broth first - wow. One of the best things I've tried in a long time, and I could have drank it out of a glass if necessary. The buttery, pork-y flavor was the perfect match for the ramen noodles, which had a firmness and crunch that the dried versions could never dream of achieving. The slices of pork on top were also amazing, and they were tender enough to cut with chopsticks. If you've only had the cheap, dried ramen, forget it. If you like pork or noodles at all, you need to try this dish. I knocked out the whole bowl quickly and could have easily eaten more.

I'll definitely return to Yakitori Jinbei for this dish alone, but I also want to try their yakitori, which is only served at dinner.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 332

MoonDish "Laing" with Tuna Flakes: Today is my second attempt with these MoonDish brand canned foods, imported from the Philippines. My experience with their gintaang ampalaya (bitter melon in coconut cream) wasn't that spectacular, so when I saw this can of laing (taro leaves in coconut cream) at the Great Wall market last week, I wasn't sure if I wanted to try it. However, it was only $0.50, and I was desperate for new foods that day, so I took one home. It looked interesting enough.
Since I was down to my last 2 items from my stockpile, it was either this or canned shark fin soup for today, so obviously, this won. According to the ingredients on the can, it consisted of coconut cream, taro leaves and stalks, tuna flakes (not sure what they mean by that), ginger, garlic, red chili pepper, and salt. The can also promised it to be "hot & spicy."
Once I got the can open, I heated the contents in the microwave for about 30 seconds. The results looked a lot like creamed spinach or baby food, but I suspected it wouldn't taste like either. Surprise - it actually did taste a lot of creamed spinach, but a spicier version with coconut cream instead of regular cream. The taro leaves were almost a pureed consistency, and while I didn't detect the "tuna flakes," it was still pretty tasty. Not bad. I've thrown away a lot of half-eaten blog food lately, but I may actually finish this one.

In case you were wondering, laing is a common Filipino dish, and can also contain shrimp paste, fish, or pork in addition to the base ingredients of taro leaves and coconut cream.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 331

Panchy Aloe Vera Dessert: When I saw this unusual dessert at the Assi Market in Duluth last week, I had no idea what to make of it. It looked more like a bag of colored liquid than dessert, and I didn't know that aloe vera was used for anything other than healing sunburns. However, you can apparently eat it, so I grabbed one and put it in my shopping basket.

Since I didn't have any other dessert options lined up tonight, I decided to give the aloe a try. According to the package, it was mango flavored, and the only listed ingredients were aloe vera, water, sugar, artificial mango flavor, and citric acid. The packaging suggested serving it chilled, so I put it in the fridge earlier today for maximum enjoyment. Well, hopefully maximum, anyway.
Once I opened the package, I was kind of confused. I didn't see any instructions regarding how to eat it, so I poured some in a bowl and grabbed a spoon. The liquid inside the package was clear, and the "dessert" consisted of square, translucent, almost invisible chunks of what I assumed was aloe. It looked like Jell -O, but I suspected it would taste a bit different than that.

Once I tried it, I was definitely surprised. The aloe cubes had a slightly firm, fruit-like texture, and they tasted a lot like lychee or longan, not mango. Funny that I can easily reference lychee and longan now, right? Anyway, I noticed that the watery liquid also had the same flavor, but due to its sweetness, I didn't have more than a couple spoonfuls. It was an extremely light, refreshing dessert, but I can't say I'd want to eat it often.
After doing some research, I found out that the little cubes were actual pieces of aloe taken from the plant. The leaves are skinned, then cut and rinsed before eating. They're usually flavored with some sort of fruit syrup before serving.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 330

Basil Seed Drink with Honey: As my readers know, I don't usually count beverages or condiments for this blog, but when I discovered today's new food at the Assi Market in Duluth last week, I knew I might have to make an exception. When I spotted this unusual looking bottle on the shelf, my curiosity level was high. It's not often that you see beverages with stuff floating in them, and based on the description, it sounded tasty. And hey, basil seeds are solid food, right? I had to have it, so I put one in my basket to take home.
After spotting it in my fridge today, I went ahead and popped the top so I could try it. The liquid inside was sort of a translucent yellow, with what I assumed to be basil seeds floating throughout. I shook it up, then poured a few ounces into a glass with ice. Bottoms up.
Despite having "honey" in the name, it wasn't nearly as sweet as I expected. It had a light honey flavor, with a bit of a fruity aftertaste, and the basil seeds provided a squeaky crunch that reminded me of the tapioca pearls in bubble tea. Remember that fruit-flavored "Orbitz" drink from the late 90's that had the gelatin balls floating in it? That's the closest thing I can think of to compare it to. Despite the strange texture of the basil seeds, I really liked this one, and I bet it'd be good in a summer cocktail.

Artisanal mixologists, here's your next hot ingredient.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 329

Mo'Pleez Rajasthan Indian Snack Mix: Even though I still haven't gotten around to going to a real Indian restaurant, I've really enjoyed trying the various Indian snacks I've found at different markets around town. In addition to some ever-present ingredients (lentils, curry, etc.), you can usually count on a good dose of spice, and that's exactly what this snack mix brought. My forehead is still sweating.
I found this bag of "Rajasthan" snack mix (made by the strangely named "Mo'Pleez" brand) at the Assi Market in Duluth last week. It reminded me of the "bhel puri" mix I ate a few months ago, but this one was just a dry mix, with no wet ingredients. It claimed to be a "mouth watering mix of fried Indian snacks," containing gram lentils, chickpea flour, rice flakes, green peas, peanuts, and a healthy dose of Indian spices. It seemed like it could be a more exotic Chex Mix, so I bought a bag to take home.
Once I gave it a try today, I was impressed. It really was like an Indian-style Chex Mix, with green peas, rice flour discs, and lentils taking place of the cereal and pretzels. The whole concoction was crunchy and super-spicy, and considering my low tolerance for heat, I was sweating in no time. Good, but hot. I'm apparently going to be in trouble if I ever make it to an authentic Indian restaurant.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day 328

Dried Olive: Today's new food is actually the second unusual olive product I've found at the Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth. I wasn't too thrilled with the "preserved olives" I bought a few weeks ago, and from what I've read since then, I don't even think they were actually olives. Based on their appearance, I was pretty sure these were real olives, and they looked more like little stones than food.
Even though they were dried, I didn't want them to go to waste, so I decided to give them a try this afternoon. I took a bite - well, I attempted to take a bite, and my teeth couldn't even break through the outside on the first attempt. Wow. I knew these were dried, but I didn't know they were almost inedible. Once I finally got a bite dislodged, I was left with a super-chewy, salty version of what used to possibly be a green olive. In addition, there was a sizable pit that didn't leave much actual olive. Not good, and if these were intended as a snack, I could definitely think of better choices. I got through one bite before giving up - it didn't taste good enough to risk unhinging my jaw.
With only a little over a month left in this project, I'm gonna have to start working harder to find some new things I really enjoy. It's hard to fill 365 days with one new thing a day, and I knew going into this that they all wouldn't be good, but I really want to end on a positive (and tasty) note.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 327

Viet-Style Liquorice Plum: As I mentioned before, I found a lot of pretty cool new items at the Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth earlier this week. I had great success with their dried/preserved bulk food section, and that's exactly where today's new food post comes from.

I've figured out that I'm not exactly a fan of dried or preserved fruits, except for spreadable "preserves," which are a whole entirely different thing. However, I'll try almost anything once, so when I saw these tiny "liquorice plums," I figured it couldn't hurt to take some home. They almost looked like oversized raisins, with what appeared to be a sugary coating on the outside. They were also coated with something else that looked like dried grass - weird.
I finally got around to trying these today, and to be honest, I wasn't that impressed. The exterior of the dried plum was super-sugary, and after a couple of chews, that gave way to a sour interior that was hard to enjoy. I debated spitting it out, but I continued on and tried to enjoy. After a few seconds, the sourness subsided a bit, but I still didn't eat another one. And despite the name, I didn't taste any liquorice notes.

I think I'll stick to eating fresh fruit from now on. I'm apparently not equipped to enjoy the funky dried stuff.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 326

Rabbit Confit: After a less-than-stellar day, I wasn't in the mood to cook, so me and the GF decided to hit Top Flr in Midtown for dinner. I've had several great meals (and blog posts) there, and even though I wasn't anticipating any potential posts from tonight's dinner, I wound up finding one anyway. In addition to some tasty cocktails and a couple of small plates, I also had the pleasure of tasting something brand new to me: rabbit confit.

If you aren't familiar with confit, Wikipedia defines it as a "generic term for various kinds of food that have been immersed in a substance for both flavor and preservation." Meats are usually cooked in fat then preserved in fat, but the fat can sometimes be from a different animal. Top Flr's version featured rabbit, which was served shredded in a hand-cut parpardelle pasta dish.
From first glance, it looked exactly like pieces of white meat chicken. I expected it to be much darker, but it wasn't at all. Once I tried it, I actually couldn't find much difference in flavor from chicken, which really surprised me. It was a little bit richer in flavor, but if presented in a blind taste test, I'd be hard-pressed to tell a difference. Don't get me wrong - it was extremely moist and tender, but it didn't offer the new experience that I was expecting.

We also had a hummus dish as well as the apple-orange tofu, which recently made Creative Loafing Atlanta's "100 Best Dishes" list. Good stuff.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 325

Soft Cookie with White Bean Paste: After doing some blog shopping at the Great Wall Market in Duluth this past Monday, I couldn't resist checking out the Mozart Bakery next door. I'd been to the one on Buford Highway once before, and I loved their Asian-style pastries and bubble tea. I was curious to see if this one offered the same inventory, and while it wasn't quite as extensive as the one on Bu-Hi, I didn't leave without finding something.

I've definitely eaten my fair share of Asian pastries during the blog, but I've never tried anything featuring white bean paste. Red bean paste seems to be the more popular choice with these desserts, so when I saw this cookie/pastry filled with sweetened white bean, I was interested. It looked to have been baked then sprinkled with sesame seeds, but I was curious to find out what the filling was all about.
Once I got the wrapper off, I discovered that it wasn't much different from the varieties filled with red bean. The pastry itself (made from flour, milk, sugar, salt, butter, eggs) was light and flaky, and the white bean filling was slightly grainy and a bit less sweet than the red bean type. If the idea of a sweetened, pureed bean filling doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you should try it before you make up your mind - it's actually good. The mild sweetness can be a welcome change from the sugar overload of most desserts.
 I liked this one, but it didn't offer much of anything new for me. Oh well - no big deal.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 324

Sweet Winter Melon: After previously finding so much great new food at the Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth, I figured it couldn't hurt to swing by there again yesterday while I was in the area. I also visited the nearby Assi Supermarket (more on that tomorrow), but I was able to find a few more interesting new at the Great Wall before moving on. I'm not gonna lie -shopping for this blog has become more and more difficult. While most of the ethnic markets used to thrill me every time, that's not so much the case anymore. Some days the shopping feels like a chore, and yesterday was definitely one of those days.

Despite all that, I still managed to find a few things, one of which is today's new food. The Great Wall has a really nice bulk dried food section, which has allowed me to buy small tastes of several new items. When I saw this "sweet winter melon," I couldn't decide if it was fruit or candy, so I grabbed a couple pieces to take home. Its bright green color didn't look natural, but then again, I'd never seen a winter melon.
I decided to give it a try tonight for what I assumed would be dessert. It looked like it was candied or coated in sugar, and when I bit into it, all I tasted was sweetness at first. However, once I chewed a couple of times, I definitely tasted the melon. It reminded me of what a candied piece of sweet honeydew would taste like, but considering I'm not a big honeydew fan, it didn't do much for me. The inside was moist and chewy, and I'm guessing this one is exactly what I thought it was - candied winter melon.

Unless you love melon or candied fruits, I'd pass on this one. I didn't think the melon worked well with the sweetness, but I'd still be up for trying it plain.