Monday, January 30, 2012

Sammy Chon's K-Town BBQ

911 Race St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215 574-1778

I had been to the Cherry Hill Sammy Chon's, but the new outpost in Chinatown had me intrigued. Koagies are a pretty great fusion concept and the promise of Korean Fried Chicken meant that I was headed to C-town.

They brought out two dishes of banchan, I suppose they throttle your free snacking when you don't order Korean main dishes. Others around me had about seven little dishes.

I went with a four piece order of the Korean Fried Chicken, which they allowed me to order two ways. Sweet soy, and spicy pepper (Diablo) sauces coated the crispy breaded chicken pieces. Unfortunately, this was not the best rendition I have had. Cafe Soho way up in K-town is significantly better. While the batter was crispy, it flaked off very easily, as though they had not been given the proper rest time to let the batter set up. They were still good, just not as good as others I have had.

I also went with one beef bulgogi and one spicy pork koagie. They are served on a Sarcone's roll and come pretty loaded with meat. The spicy pork (jae yook bokum-style) was far and away the winner. Cabbage, pork, onions and a side of white sauce made for a well balanced sandwich. The spicy marinade really packed a punch and the cool sauce subdued the burn.

The bulgogi was slightly disappointing. Especially compared to the pork. It had okay flavor, but really needed some kind of sauce. It was a bit dry without smothering it in the white sesame sauce provided - and when that didn't pack enough punch, a side of go chu jang was required to really round it out.

It was a pretty decent experience, and I would certainly go again, but I would likely try some of their more authentic food, and mop up those sauces with a pork koagie.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mike and Emma's

601 MacDade Blvd
Folsom, PA 19033
(610) 461-9194

Mike and Emma's is a Delaware County Institution. Whenever I ask people where to get a hoagie or cheesesteak down there, Mike and Emma's is at the top of the list. I had to see for myself what all of the fuss was about.

When you walk in, it's pretty apparent that they have not updated the interior for a number of decades. That is always a good sign.

For about two minutes I stood looking at the menu until an adorable little Italian woman, who at first was terrifying and then incredibly nice, came out to take my order.

While I pined for her deli slicer, she began to assemble my special.

One thing I have never seen done before is that she takes slices of tomato, and cuts them into chunks as she assembles the sandwich. Talk about making it with love.

They use delicious bread (I am unsure of the origin, as I was not willing to push my luck/the language barrier in finding out), crusty outside and perfectly soft in the middle. They use a combo of salami, prosciutto, coppa and ham with prov. I got mine with the works, including sweets and hots. In typical Del Co fashion, it's assembled veggies on the bottom, meat and cheese on top.

Mike and Emma's is the type of shop I love to eat at – small, family owned, and they take pride in their work. They use great ingredients, and put a whole lot of love into their sandwiches. I will definitely return for a run at the famous cheesesteaks, and will perhaps have to pick up a bonus hoagie for later.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Little Pete's

219 S 17th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 545-5508

I had another encounter with one of the funniest writers around, @TVMyWifeWatches and this was a mission for tuna melts. Only I didn't get to go where I wanted, so I protested by ordering something else. We had originally wanted to find the perfect tuna melt in the city of Philadelphia. After our initial investigation, we can say for sure it is NOT at Little Pete's.

In all honesty, I had never been to Little Pete's in the light of day. My only memory (or lack thereof) of a L.P.'s encounter was likely half a decade ago - and no doubt nearing 3am, after a long night of boozing. They are one of the few 24 hour joints in Rittenhouse area, so I assume that was how numerous nights had ended in my younger days. The service is good, the counter is great, and the food is, well, predictable. Though we were "those people" at the counter (the only ones who were actually talking and enjoying ourselves, not wallowing in sadness-piles of chicken strips), no one seemed to be too annoyed by our (my) ADHD banter. Look at how jealous the girl who was dipping her toast into her coffee looked of this guy's plate next to me.

So the two "true believers" actually ordered tuna melts, while I maintained a safe distance with a Reuben. Remarkably, the melts came with fries, a soda, and a bowl of soup. My tuna guest ordered some kind of red soup, I think it had clams. He was more upset that they served wheat saltines than traditional white with the bland soup.

The other tuna adventurer ordered chicken orzo soup. Let's just say, Little Pete's does NOT have Progresso on the ropes.

Let's start with the good. Little Pete's makes an entirely passable Reuben. Is it the best I have had? Not even close. Is it somewhat delicious, and something I would order again? Absolutely.

Now, the tuna melts were another beast altogether. I will go on the record and say it was the worst "tuna anything" I have ever tasted. The croissant version was shitty, as was the one served on toasted rye. The tuna was low quality, dry, and lacking any flavor whatsoever. It was strangely reminiscent of cat food. See croissant below.

And where was the mayo? Oily Swiss was the prevailing flavor here, with a tinge of mildly-catty tuna-texture. See rye toast below.

If you are lucky, you might just stumble upon an urban cowboy. All in all, Little Pete's has crappy diner food. The greasy spoon breakfast is probably your best bet. Stick with the Reuben if you are there for lunch, and stay far, far away from the tuna. Anyone have any recommendations for tuna melts?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recipe: Sweet Potato Crusted Fish with Lime Vinaigrette

So one of my favorite places to eat in this world has an amazing crusted fish variety, and I felt the best way to beat the winter doldrums and think fondly of my favorite Florida restaurant was to recreate their famous sweet potato crusted fish over mixed greens. Plus, I am fat after the holidays and I needed a tasty and somewhat healthy weeknight recipe. I found a great site that recreates the famous preparation here, so I am adapting that recipe below (with permission) for my own cooking style and taste.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette:
1 whole bunch cilantro large stems picked
2 medium cloves garlic
2 limes (juiced)
½ cup olive oil (or grape seed/canola)
1 tablespoon mayo (Hellman's or homemade)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

pinch of sugar
pinch of cayenne

1 pound light flaky fish (I used Cod, it's cheap and a good vessel for crispy starches, but many types will work)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and shredded
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
½ cup flour - seasoned with a pinch of cayenne, sea salt & cracked pepper
2 TBS canola oil (or any high smoke point oil)
2 TBS butter

First make the vinaigrette. Throw everything in the food processor, hit it for about 10 seconds, transfer and reserve in the fridge, covered. Really easy. And incredibly delicious.

Next, get the sweet potatoes in order. Anyone who has worked with these knows they can be hard as hell to work with due to their incredibly hard interior. I combated this by cutting it into chunks and then throwing it in the food processor that was already out and running – just switch out the chopper for the grater blade. Quick, easy, and perfectly shredded. Season up your flour in one dish; get your 2 egg whites plus 1 egg in another dish and mix, and heat your pan.

If you are doing this over a salad, I highly recommend it for a quick healthy meal, get the salad totally ready. Don't worry about dressing. Remember that vinaigrette? Right.

I literally just cleared all of the veggies out of the fridge, opened a can of chickpeas, threw on some dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and shredded some nice Parmigiano Reggiano right on top.

Get your pan good and hot (medium-high heat) and lay down a bed of potato shreds for each piece of fish.

Batter those fish pieces, flour first, then egg, and throw them right on top of the shredded starch piles.

Be careful, because those things will burn. Adjust the heat as needed. When it's moving as one, and to your desired crispness, try to get it all with a thin and sturdy spatula (fish-spatula highly recommended). (Tip: this side will be the one you are displaying, so make sure it looks pretty and don't worry about a little burning, it won't come through in the finished product and will build flavor.) At this point, while it's held mid-air, you build another potato nest and carefully flip your fish in a blanket onto it's un-crusted side.

Lower the heat a bit and cover if the fish is thick, but in my case, the fish cooked extremely fast, so just try to get the other side crispy as well. Don't forget to add butter. When it's finished, carefully throw that thing onto your pre-built salad. If you forgot to pre-build, give yourself a light smack for failing to follow directions and let your dinner get cold on a plate while assembling. Or if you are not a masochist, just have a delightful piece of sweet potato crust fish with the vinaigrette and pretend you never wanted the salad in the first place. The fish will stay incredibly moist, and the dressing will make you look like a pro, even though the total cook time (including prep, excluding cleanup) start to finish is less than 40 minutes.