Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Soba Noodles with Broccoli Slaw

I hosted a pot luck lunch recently with five former coworkers. We've known each other about 20 years now, but it's been almost two years since we all got together. Time flies. Life happens. Seasons change. But we can all still connect like no time has passed at all. :)

Here's an easy soba noodle recipe that my friends enjoyed. While I haven't run an actual nutritional profile on it, it's pretty dang healthy, and you could add some protein too.
South Austin Foodie soba noodles

Soba Noodles with Broccoli Slaw
© South Austin Foodie 2017

10 oz soba noodles (whole wheat spaghetti works too)
12 oz bag broccoli slaw
2 medium cloves garlic, center stalk removed (that's where the bitter garlic taste is)
½ inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
½ cup soy sauce (I prefer a higher quality soy sauce that has better flavor over a low sodium one, but entirely up to you)
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbls. tahini
1 Tbls. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbls. rice vinegar
Optional 1: chile paste or flakes to taste
Optional 2: 1 - 2 Tbls. sliced scallions or chopped peanuts; ½ tsp. sesame seeds

  • Cook noodles to package directions; drain,  rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly. Place in large bowl
  • Cook slaw to package, either via microwave (about 3 minutes) or blanching (about 2 minutes); drain and rinse under cold water.
  • While noodles cook, prepare the sauce; in a small food processor add remaining ingredients and combine. Taste it! Add more of something if you wish!
  • Toss sauce over noodle and combine well. Let refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Add protein of choice if desired (grilled chicken, baked or fried tofu, etc.
  • Serves 4 - 6

Like many dishes, it tastes better a few hours after it's been assembled. Also great for picnics/outdoor events because there's no mayo/eggs.
South Austin Foodie soba noodles

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Food Fun at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot!

I don't eat at many chain restaurants, much less write about them, but three of us had so much fun recently at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot that I feel it warrants a blog mention! Located at 24th and Seton, they are three blocks west of Guadalupe near the UT campus; a small parking lot is available and they are open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Warm soup was just the thing we needed on a recent (rare) blustery winter day here in the ATX. I should have taken more photos of the set up, but I didn't so you'll just have to trust me. Each table is has it's own built-in hot plate. And this is designed to be communal food. If you don't like sharing your food or eating family style, this may not be your thing. You do have your own individual bowls to portion your items into, but my friends and I are comfortable enough with each other that we just picked things out of the hot pot with our individual chopsticks (read: double dipping) half the time.

First you have to decide if you're going to order a la carte or just do the all you can eat price of $21.99. We decided to do a la carte and ultimately may have been a bit over-zealous in our ordering, because the total came out to exactly $21 each before tip. No regrets though! They have these handy menus where you just check off the items you want.

Then you need to decide on a soup base (original or spicy), or they have these nice ying yang pots so you can try both! We were also impressed by the ladles as they have a hook on the backside that latches over the sides of the pot so it doesn't get lost in the broth. Genius!
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot broth
And upon closer inspection of the broth, it was chock full of all kinds of things, like longan nuts, goji berries, black cardamom pods, and of course chiles in the spicy one.  According to their website, the broths are made from the colonel's secret recipe of more than thirty ingredients.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot broth
For meats, we went with the lamb shoulder (pictured in the back) which was my favorite, and the pork belly. They slice the meat while frozen to get these paper thin slices which cook in a flash when you dip them in the simmering broth.
And being the hearty eaters that we are, we went for THREE kinds of noodles! In the white bowl are the Korean-style sweet potato noodles, as well as fresh noodles and the thicker Japanese-style udon in front. The leafy greens are called tong ho, and they have a really nice taste to them, but it's not one I could really verbalize. We looked it up and discovered it's chrysanthemum! Other items include tofu, luncheon pork (aka Spam), beef tendon, and a trio of meatballs (beef, fish, and lamb), and sweet corn on the cob which proved to be a bit difficult to eat once immersed in very hot broth. Everything was very fresh and came out beautifully presented, particularly the sliced meats.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot noodles
Then there's this loaf of bread that's called a sesame pancake.  I got excited seeing it on the menu, because I thought it might be like the thin, flaky green onion pancakes that I adore. Clearly this wasn't that. The crispy parts on top with the seeds were delicious, and the fairly dense, bready, yeasty insides were plain, but good for sopping up the broth and saucy bits. But at 4 - 5 inches tall and about 8 inches wide, I'd hardly call this a pancake!
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot sesame pancake
Apart from just having a great meal with friends and bonding over a shared love of food, what's so fun about a hot pot meal like this are the options. There's tons of them! And if you're not a huge fan of beef tendon like me, then you just avoid it and let the others enjoy it or get over there and try new things. It's just a fun way to share a meal, call it breaking bread or slurping soup together, it all brings us a little closer.  Food and friends, what more do you need?

Friday, January 27, 2017

June's All Day Shows Promise

June's All Day opened last summer at 1722 South Congress (at West Annie Street) in the former Wahoo's/Texas French Bread space. With a moniker of "new American," its multitude of twinkle lights gave it a comfortable feel and for me at least, kept it from taking itself too seriously.

On one of these recent warm January days, my friend and I dined at one of the sidewalk tables for dinner. Given the noise from the evening traffic, I am not sure I would choose to sit there again, but c'est la vie. They have happy hour from 4 - 6 pm EVERYDAY with ALL FOOD 50% off (yup) and discounts on various drinks. We sat around 5:45 pm, and our friendly waitress said she'd give us a few minutes but wanted to be sure to get our orders in before 6 pm.
June's All Day exterior
We both had a glass of Weinert Malbec, and wine of course makes everything better! There's the wine list that's with the food menu, and then there's the Wine Zine list that's in a cute hand-drawn booklet. It should be noted that June's is named for June Rodil, master sommelier of the McGuire Moorman Hospitality group.
June's All Day Wine Zine
Food-wise, we started with the salt cod croquettes, which were perfectly fried and come with a laurel leaf aioli and mojama. Mo-what? Yeah, had to look that one up. It's salt-cured tuna, which explains why I thought it was a buttery prosciutto when I first tried it. Not sure I got laurel flavor in the aioli, but there was garlic, and it was also real good with the accompanying rustic bread.
June's All Day salt cod croquettes with mojama and aioli
Next, the French onion soup, which had a really nice thick crusty layer of Gruyere across the top. The broth was a touch on the sweet side; I would have loved a little more thyme or sherry in there or something, but the cheese pretty much made up for everything.
June's All Day French Onion soup
My friend had the matzo ball caldo, which had a really nice spicy broth. I didn't try to matzo balls but I didn't hear any complaints from the other side of the table.
June's All Day matzo ball caldo
I had the bone marrow bolognese, made with fresh tajarin, or thin Piedmont-style egg noodles. Silky smooth noodles and a wonderfully savory sauce that wasn't overly rich. And given the previous courses, I took over half of the bolognese home, where it made an outstanding lunch the following day. I would order this again in a heartbeat. And I didn't think about light for photos when we choose to sit outdoors; I was forced to use my flash as it got darker out!
June's All Day Bone Marrow Bolognese with tajarin noodles
We finished off the meal with a Meyer lemon tart. Fantastic lemony flavor to the tart but the bottom of the crust was a bit soggy, which dampens my enthusiasm for it. But the tartness of the lemon was nicely complimented by the fairly neutral meringue.
June's All Day Meyer Lemon Tart
All in all it was a fine evening, and at happy hour pricing, that certainly sweetens the deal. We encountered very friendly waitstaff at the bar and our waitress Alyssa was spot on.  I hear June's has an incredible creme fraiche donut for breakfast, which sounds just up my alley. A welcome addition to South Congress; glad to have June's nearby and I look forward to returning.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best Bites of 2016

It's been a bit since I've blogged, and now I've decided to scramble and put together a post on the best things I ate this past year. There's some places I've been meaning to write about, but time has just sped along! Here's my recap of another very tasty year. All photos © South Austin Foodie 2016.

Rockman's Basque Cake at Cafe No Se
Rockman's Basque Cake at Cafe No Se

Duck confit tacos on jicama tortilla at Vinaigrette
Duck confit tacos on jicama tortilla at Vinaigrette
Potato churros at VOX Table
Potato churros at VOX Table... their bread + cultured butter are outstanding too! 

Proscuitto and apricot jam crepe at Crepe Crazy
Proscuitto and apricot jam crepe at Crepe Crazy.... sweet and savory.

Ceviche at Alcomar
Ceviche at Alcomar  (no filter!)

Pork arepa from Four Brothers trailer
Pork arepa from Four Brothers trailer

My biscuits!

Ippudo ramen in Kyoto
Ippudo ramen in Kyoto

Eel donburi bowl in Oyabe, Japan
Eel donburi bowl in Oyabe, amazingly fresh.. best meal of the trip.

Opie's BBQ in Spicewood
Opie's BBQ in Spicewood, still my regional fave

Vietnamese crepe (banh xeo) from Sunflower
Vietnamese crepe (banh xeo) from Sunflower

Parker house rolls stuffed with pork at Odd Duck
Parker house rolls stuffed with pork at Odd Duck

Sue's lobster roll, Kittery, Maine
Sue's lobster roll, Kittery, Maine...lobstah!

Kao soi at Tuk Tuk
Kao soi at Tuk Tuk

Sesame balls at Wu Chow
Sesame balls at Wu Chow...also the amazing soup dumplings

Butternut squash toast at Forthright
Butternut squash toast at Forthright

Catfish po'boy at Deckhands
Catfish po'boy at Deckhands, but don't forget the Thai dishes like the Crying Boar salad!

Happy New Year, thanks for reading, and keep on eating!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Wu Chow Dim Sum

Wu Chow austin restaurant

I finally made it to Wu Chow for dim sum! The downtown Chinese restaurant, from the Swift's Attic team, opened earlier this year on West 5th Street, six blocks west of Congress Avenue. While they are neighbors to the federal courthouse, there are touches of whimsy throughout that I appreciate. From the smiling dumpling faces on the sign board, to the goldfish bowl with a huge gold chain *bling* around it, to the chopstick wrappers, little touches to make you smile.
Wu Chow sign board
Wu Chow chopsticks
But more importantly, they take their dim sum very seriously, and they only serve it on Sunday mornings. They don't have the fun little carts with stacks of bamboo steamer baskets being pushed around the room, but rather an actual menu and wait staff service. Our team of four ordered a bunch of plates to share, and the overall verdict was eight thumbs up! The highlights are below.

The gai lan broccoli with oyster sauce was steamed perfectly; not overcooked and not bitter. The sauce had a touch of sweetness to it, and the crispy shallots were a good textural contrast.
Wu Chow gai lan broccoli
The green onion or scallion pancake was much thicker and doughier than what any of us had seen before. It wasn't bad, just different, though I think I prefer the thinner, crispier, flakier versions better.
Wu Chow scallion pancake
Char siu bao, or steamed pork buns with crispy chicken eggrolls with a gingery sauce. The bao were a perfect size and one of my favorites, and the eggrolls a nice switch up from the Americanized standard.
Wu Chow char siu bao and eggrolls
Shrimp fritters, which were nicely fried and not greasy.
Wu Chow shrimp fritter
The soup dumplings, which had a nice lighter dough and a very succulent broth that tasted like it has been simmered for hours. My close up picture where you really could see all the pleats didn't come out as well as I had hoped, so you'll have to make due here. Get the soup dumplings! $10, but worth it.
Wu Chow soup dumpling
Turnip cakes with sausage; sometimes when you get these at other places they have a sheen of oil on them, but these did not.
Wu Chow turnip cake
One of the better sesame balls (or fritters) that I have had anywhere. Nice amount of red bean paste inside, but not TOO much, and like other items we had, devoid of grease. In the background are the egg custard tarts.
Wu Chow sesame ball and egg custard tart
The dumplings had a nice sear to them.
Wu Chow dumplings
Overall, I found the various sauces and broths to be full of flavor and not too salty, and fried items were not greasy. To me, these are the factors that help make each dish shine overall. The one disappointment was they were out of the Niman Ranch beef and chive turnover by around noon when we decided to add a few things to our order (and we got there at 11 am when they opened). After tax and tip, we each paid about $21, not that much more than you'd pay at a traditional dim sum spot. Plan ahead though, and make a reservation.

Finally, a great dim sum place in Austin that I don't have to go all the way up north for! What's the Chinese word for *hallelujah*?!