Archive for August, 2011

August 31st, 2011

High tech food court

You may remember me saying that the thought of eating at a food court makes me queasy, but the idea of a food court is still something I love. Why? The food court was the setting for almost every crappy American teen movie I saw when I was growing up in Japan, so it made sense that in my young mind, the food court was THE place to be. As an adult, the food court still has its appeal, but surely we can do better than Sbarro and Hot Dog on a Stick, can’t we?  Yes!  FoodParc in New York City is as close to a traditional food court as possible, save for a 21st century twist unrelated to food.  But first things first…how is the food?  It’s not overly gourmet (read: expensive) as Eataly or Food Hall, but that they offer non-chain fast food makes all the difference.
FoodParc serves up the usual suspects: burgers, pizzas, Asian food, cup cakes, coffee and even beer.  So why is this better than what’s found at your local mall?  One word:  Quality.  How much would you pay for delicious food that doesn’t leave your fingers with that greasy, barbecue restaurant feeling?  Instead of a reheated corn dog, FoodParc lets you opt for a tasty treat like grilled salmon with rice noodles.  But surely every food court offers variety, right?  What sets this place apart?  Just look around (and don’t call me Shirley).

It’s the future…or is it?  That FoodParc was designed by a conceptual artist for Hollywood movies like Blade Runner, Aliens, and Mission: Impossible III, means it’s pretty likely that the phrase ‘out of this world’ will be overheard describing more than just the food.  For a Japanese girl who grew up dreaming in Hollywood, eating at FoodParc felt as if I had just arrived on set.  But don’t take my word for it.  Watch for yourself, as even the most jaded New Yorker is taken aback at the scenery.
In the future, will we have to suffer through long waits on line for food?  Not if FoodParc has anything to say about it.  In the digital age, ordering from a cashier is just so passe. At FoodParc, orders are placed via computer, and payments made by credit card.  When your order is ready, you’re notified by text message.  With food of this quality, I suggest upgrading to the unlimited plan, as you’ll probably become a regular.
The future may only be just around the corner, but FoodParc is a few blocks further.  But if you’re looking for a unique place to catch up with friends without putting up with those annoying teenagers hanging out at the mall’s food court, FoodParc is definitely worth a visit.

August 30th, 2011

Food court

There is nothing exciting about the word “court” unless it is preceded by the word “food”. Food courts full of little eateries at malls and colleges are fascinating things to see when you’re Japanese and used to having only small rice places and noodle shops to choose from. When I saw Taco Bell at my college cafeteria, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I thought “Wow, American colleges offer fast food! USA #1!” But, like many things in life, the novelty was better than the reality as in four years, I probably ate there less than ten times. (I forgot about beloved “depachika” of Japan. I’ll explain in near future. It’s fabulous)

The best feature of a food court is its seemingly endless variety. You can find something for everyone amidst the rows of vendors. There are always pizza and burger options as well as a couple of Asian places and even a Middle Eastern selection or two. If you can possibly squeeze dessert in there, you’re in luck, as there’s no limit to the number of cookie, ice cream and pretzel stands ready and willing to satisfy that sweet tooth. Why then, with all this variety, is there still nothing more horrifying than hearing someone say, “Let’s eat at the food court?”

It comes down to simple mathematics. When you have a limited number of calories to ‘spend’, do you really want to trade quality for variety? Let’s admit it, most of the time, that pizza or burger isn’t the best you’ve ever had, is it? Once in a while, it’s fun to grab that Auntie Anne’s pretzel, but unless I want my taste buds to go on strike, and my wardrobe to include stretch pants, I’d better find another option.

Why then, are food courts bustling with activity? Maybe it has to do with the fact that most American kids grew up in the suburbs where busy malls substitute for vacant lots and playgrounds. I lived through a great example of this, with my husband when instead of taking me to the field where he hit the game winning homerun in little league, he took me to the shopping mall to try Orange Julius, a favorite eighties mall staple.

Knowing that a big part of the food court experience is the socializing, I can understand how it would be fun to linger over an average slice of pizza from Sbarro and think it’s the greatest thing ever. As a kid in Japan, watching movies like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or Animal House, I too, wanted to be part of that scene. While I’d love to do my best John Belushi impression and yell, “Food fight,” at the top of my lungs, somehow I know that the second I’m hit by a ketchup laden hot dog on a stick, I’m done!

August 27th, 2011

The day I hosted my first taco party

All I needed was an excuse.  For what, you ask?  To make fish tacos as good as the ones that my fish-phobic husband ate multiple times a day during our trip to Hawaii.  Sure, the beautiful sunset probably had something to do with it, but when there’s any kind of momentum in the ongoing quest to turn my husband into a seafood lover, I’m going to do what I can.  Anything to help achieve my dream of enjoying seafood (and Asian food) with him everyday (I can already sense his fear as he reads this post).

How did I get fish back on his plate on the mainland?  Having our niece and nephew in town from Florida was the perfect excuse for a family meal.  I volunteered to cook as my menu was already planned out in my head–fish tacos.  Of course, I was going to make beef and chicken options as well, but if I could duplicate the taste of the fish tacos he ate on the big island, it would be easier to introduce more seafood into his diet later.  Now you have to understand, a taco ‘party’ is a pretty ambitious move for a girl who just discovered soft tacos in the first place, but when it comes to cooking, I have no fear.  Sure I had rookie questions, like: ‘Do I heat up the store bought tortillas first?’ but I wasn’t going to let those deter me from completing my quest.  As far as toppings go, my plan was to make regular tomato salsa, mother-in-law’s green sauce, and a spicy mayo just for the fish.  Once the actual cooking began, the chicken and steak were the easiest to prepare; just marinate and grill. Preparing the perfect fish taco, however, would require a bit more effort, starting with the shopping!

Finding the perfect kind of fresh fish would be a battle.  Mahi mahi is the ideal choice, as it’s a meaty white fish, whose texture is similar to that of swordfish, but where could I find it?  I have lots of childhood memories of my mother buying fish, and I could hear her advice in the back of my mind.  She NEVER bought fish from the supermarket, but rather, preferred the fish market.  Her philosophy was, “The fewer the middlemen, the fresher the product.”  But I don’t live in Tokyo anymore… This is Los Angeles, where there aren’t fish markets in every neighborhood.  Where could I find fresh mahi mahi without having to wake up at 4am and drive down to the docks?  Luckily, I happened to remember
Santa Monica Seafood, one of the few places in this town where you can find a good variety of fresh fish.

With fresh fish, spicy salsas and warm tortillas, everything was in place.  How did it go?  Well, if the reaction of picky teenagers is any indication, it went pretty well, as I saw them return more than once to assemble seconds, thirds and even fourths!  But the big test was watching my husband as he carefully looked over his three meat choices.  Would he go for the tried and true options of chicken and steak, or would he continue to expand his horizons?  He chose the fish!  Mission accomplished! As you can imagine, there is no one happier than I am…with the exception of you, with whom I’m now going to share the recipe.  And yes, if you’re wondering…you should heat the tortillas before serving.

August 25th, 2011

The day I became a fan of tacos

Growing up in Japan, when I heard the word ‘taco’, I knew a good meal was coming.  No, it’s not what you’re thinking, because sadly, there’s no good Mexican place in Tokyo.  When a Japanese diner hears the Japanese word ‘taco’, he or she knows they’re not going to be served a Mexican classic, but instead, about to enjoy…octopus, tako.   Most Japanese people wouldn’t know what a Mexican taco even looks like.  I, however, was different. Thanks to a fancy grocery store that sold imported luxury items, I was familiar with the western version, having once seen a festive yellow box with some mysteriously shaped item inside.  In the dark recesses of my mind, I wondered what this taco thing was all about.  Can you imagine my excitement when I finally got my hands around a real taco?  It was my turn, as now I was invited to this party of ground beef, shredded lettuce, and salsa.
Wouldn’t a place with the word ‘taco’ in its name, be the perfect restaurant to sample this Mexican delight?  One of my college friends believed that theory and convinced me that my ‘introduction’ to tacos, be at Taco Bell.  Unfortunately, the excitement transformed into annoyance upon my first bite.  The sensation to hit my lips was salty, and the first chew led to crumble.  I guess it happens to all rookie taco eaters at least once in their lifetimes — taco shell shatter.  After one bite, my mighty taco had turned into a messy taco salad.  The experience was so disappointing, that it derailed any curiosity I might have had about Mexican food for years to come. Until…

…about 10 years ago, I was sent on assignment to Los Angeles to study the culture of…low riders.  Looking back, maybe they just wanted me killed?  Anyway, I was happy that finally, my anthropology degree would pay off!   During our lunch break, one of the coordinators took me to a Mexican place for lunch; an unassuming little taco stand in some industrial area of East Los Angeles that was equipped with metal bars that separated customers from cashier.  In addition to that comforting scene, I noticed that all the menus were in Spanish.  Feeling awkward, I was about to ask him if we could change our lunch plan.  Surely there must be a sushi place somewhere nearby, right?  Well, somehow we found the only block in Los Angeles without one.  At that point, I would’ve settled for even a Yoshinoya, but all I could see around me were car repair shops and factories.  ‘Ok’, I though, I would just have to dig in my heels and try to enjoy the experience.

Finally, the food came.  I was shocked.  I ordered tacos but there were no shatter-prone yellow shells.  Instead, I found flour tortillas wrapped around delicious smelling grilled meat.  I was then led to the topping bar, where before my eyes, lay salsas the color of the rainbow, alongside cilantro and onion.  This time, my first bite was a colorful explosion of flavors with a spicy kick.  And more important, thanks to the soft tortilla…no crumble!  This experience left me a couple of questions.  Why there’re two pieces of tortillas come as one taco?   How will I find my way back to this taco stand my own?

August 23rd, 2011

Chinese take out 2

Is it me, or do you agree that the perfect, white Chinese take out container is a classic piece of pop art?From pop art to pop culture, Chinese food has become a big part of American life. Don’t believe me? Just turn on your TV.  What, it’s already on? Good.  Then you’ve probably noticed, as I have, that every American TV show has at least one scene where the characters are eating, ordering or running-over-the-bringer of Chinese food. From the drama around the dinner table at Tony Soprano’s house, to the nothing-ness across the river at Jerry Seinfeld’s place, Chinese food is everywhere and I want to join them for every meal.

Ready for the educational part of the show? The classic container I was raving about was actually invented for carrying oysters. Somehow this odd device was given the name, the Oyster Pail. Once the take out food became popular, Chinese restaurants adopted them and the oysters were replaced by orange chicken.

This should make you want a Chinese tonight!

August 22nd, 2011

Chinese take out 1

 

Ready for a Geography pop quiz? Which country is closer to China, Japan or America?  Nice work! Japan is much closer to China than America.  So logically, you’d expect Chinese food to be as popular in Japan as Mexican food is in America, right?  Not quite.  Believe it or not, America has more Chinese restaurants than Japan does.  As a matter of fact, the number of Chinese restaurant in America exceeds the number of McDonald.  Need proof?  Look to my husband’s joke: He says that if you want to name a Chinese restaurant, just combine any of following words in any order: China, panda, bamboo, wok, happy, dragon, garden, golden, and cave.  See if it works in your town.  I’m sure it does.  To further prove my point, I’m willing to bet there are at least 3 different Chinese take out menus in your menu drawer, right now.  Go check, I’ll wait.
Well?

While yes, we do have Chinese food in Japan, it lacks THE most fun element its American cousin provides.  The take out experience.  How can Chinese food be enjoyed without those white containers and stale fortune cookies?  I can read your mind right now.  You’re thinking, why don’t I start a Panda Express franchise in Tokyo?  Well, nice idea, but don’t invest your life savings.  Why?  The overly-sweet sauces drenched upon overly fried food which we love, would definitely turn off the Japanese palate.

In Japan, Chinese restaurants are not for quick take out meals, but rather, are for dining.  Patrons usually enjoy a dozen dishes per table, with lower sugar but higher prices than in the U.S.

When I was a kid growing up in Tokyo, the closest we came to Chinese take out was our ramen delivery.  While ramen is as popular as burgers with American hipsters, delivery ramen hasn’t quite made the scene on these shores.  In Japan, having the convenience of door-to-door ramen has always been the go-to solution for busy mothers with hungry kids.  While they do deliver, Japanese ramen places don’t do “to go orders”.  Come to think of it, many restaurants in Japan don’t offer the “to go” option.  Besides the obvious fact that ramen needs to be consumed right away before the noodles absorb the soup and lose al dente, I think there’s a bigger reason.  For the most part, we eat on real plates, not paper or plastic containers.   When we call a restaurant for delivery, the delivery includes ramen, but it’s brought on real bowls, in plates etc.  After we eat, we wash everything and leave the dishes outside for the delivery person who makes a second trip, later in the evening, to pick them all up.  Could you imagine picking up your to-go order served in fine china?  Half of the dishes would spill and the rest would break.
I got used to the idea of take out Chinese food while I was in college, here in the States.  I was so excited to get affordable Chinese food that came in ample portions! I was even more excited to not have to wash dishes!   Even though most of dishes have the same, oily, heavy and sweet taste, I was hooked.  When I got married, my frequency for ordering take out Chinese food dropped significantly.  Although my husband loves every Chinese restaurant reference on Seinfeld, he rarely craves Chinese food like I do.  I shudder knowing that he’d actually prefer a bowl of cereal with a banana.  Of course, when he does want Chinese, he wants the most Americanized Chinese dish there is: Orange Chicken.  Believe it or not, I actually never had orange chicken before we met, because all I ever want is lo mein and fried rice, whose color should be white, not browned by seasoning.  I still prefer Chinese for my carb indulgence, and to be fair, orange chicken is not that bad when it’s hot, which is a good thing…considering I can’t tell the difference between it,  general tso’s chicken, and sesame chicken, I’ve tripled my menu options.

More on my Chinese obsession tomorrow.

August 21st, 2011

For here, then to go

How could they just kill the King like that?  No, I’m not talking about the shocker from last season’s HBO hit, Game of Thrones, but rather the regicide at the hands of the fast food company that put to an end, the short reign of Burger King’s King.  Sure he was creepy, as kings go,  and I was never really sure which directions his policies leaned, but for some reason, I was still saddened when I heard the news that Burger King was directing its marketing campaign in a healthier direction. Couldn’t they just keep the King, and have him do jumping jacks or something?  If you’re like, me, you’ll want to watch him address his subjects for one of the last time.

After a bit of research, I learned that the King  wasn’t always the static faced creep we see today.  In the 1960’s, Burger King used a friendlier looking animated character that was actually kind of cute.  Not quite Ronald McDonald, but still, he made hamburgers look like fun.  But times change, and sadly, I now have empathy for those fans of long ago, who probably wept royal tears when it was time for their smiling cartoon king to go.

When I shared my pain with my husband, he asked, “Don’t they have crazy Japanese mascots too?”  Having been in the U.S. for the last twenty years or so, I had to consult the experts, my Japanese friends, on Facebook.   Here’s what I got:

Peko-chan for Fuji-ya

Just like the King, her expression is frozen, but she’s a cute little girl who looks like she’s enjoying food (maybe too much!).  She mainly sells a chewy candy called “Milky” from the Fuji-ya company.  The candy itself tastes like condensed milk, and for Japanese people, its a nice childhood memory.  While you can catch the sentiment from their tag-line:  “Milky wa mama no aji” (mama=mother; aji=flavor), the English translation doesn’t quite work,  “Milky is the taste of mother.”  If that were an American commercial, half of the consumer’s money would go to candy, while the other half would go to therapy!  Fuji-ya company also runs a chain of restaurants where you can see Peko-chan standing in front of restaurants like a skinnier “Bob” from Bob’s Big Boy.

Being the home of Hello Kitty, are you surprised that even Japanese mayonnaise gets its own strange/cute mascot?  Check out the Kewpie doll character from Kewpie mayonnaise.  Because nothing makes me think of mayonnaise more than a happy baby doll…

While we don’t have anyone as elegant and classy as Mr. Peanut, with his cane and monocle, there is a middle aged man called “Curl oji-san (uncle), who hawks a corn snack called Curl.  While I liked my fictional uncle, I loved his commercial’s theme song.

Ronald McDonald and Col. Sanders are icons who lack Japanese peers, as most characters and mascots in Japan represent products, not fast food companies.  Maybe the Japanese should follow America’s lead as in Japan, local fast food favorite, Yoshinoya is a distant 4th to number 1, McDonald’s.

So yes, I’m sad the Burger King King was dethroned, but I’ll save my tears for another day–when Jack in the Box finally decides to pull the plug on my absolute favorite fast food mascot, Jack.  While I’ll never tire of Jack’s pointy profile or the pure passion he has for his work, I know the fickle whims of the advertising market change, and he too, will have his time.  When that happens, jaded and hardened, I doubt I’ll become attached to any future replacements.  It’s just too hard to get that excited over a lizard that tries to sell you auto insurance.

 

August 19th, 2011

Friday night munchies

I know you’ve been there.  It was Friday night, 10:45pm, and I had a certain yearning.  I walked over to my husband, seductively, and whispered in his ear, “I want something…deep fried.”

While he was most likely disappointed, fried food is still a pretty close second. Why this craving?   Thinking back, I blame the Man Vs. Food episode I watched yesterday, where ‘Man’ was eating heart-clogging-ly disgusting state fair food. Like everyone else, I understand that fried food is terrible for you so I do my best to stay away, but I’m only human.  French fries and tempura (my national dish) are just too tasty, which coincidentally, is the same explanation my Jewish husband gives me, when I see him eating bacon.

Of the delicious variety of fried goodies available to Americans, why was I particularly craving a chimichanga?  And more importantly, why is this particular dish so hard to find?  Don’t all Mexican restaurants have a deep fryers and burritos in the same kitchen?  With most of the restaurants nearby, either closed, or non-chimichanga-carrying, we started to console ourselves, with, “At least we saved a lot of calories!”  While it’s a nice thought, it’s no chimichanga.  I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I began roaming around the kitchen to see if there was something I could put together to satisfy my craving.  Right there in front of me were seasonal peaches and celery, but those healthy snacks were for another day.  I had to dig deeper.  Finally, with nowhere else to go, at the bottom of the freezer, I found a Trader Joe’s frozen burrito that my husband forgot about, roughly 3 months ago.  I was halfway there, right?  I’m pretty handy in the kitchen; I could fry a burrito.

The Trader Joe’s 99% Fat Free Bean & Rice Burrito was my husband’s go-to dinner of choice back in his bachelor days.  He had graduated from the regular supermarket to T.J.’s, but still couldn’t leave behind the foods of his youth.  When we were dating, there was a tower of frozen burrito packages, standing watch, in his freezer.  He explained that they didn’t always have them, so he had to stock up.   When we got married, the tower shrank into a duplex, then into a shed, and finally, into nothingness.  I know he loves them, but I’d just rather not eat store bought, frozen food when twice a week, we could shop at farmers markets near us, and cook with fresh ingredients.  When I was out of town for a few days, he became the food shopper.  I think you know what happened.  I got home. I opened the freezer.  You guessed it.  They were back.  It was the return of The Trader Joe’s 99% Fat Free Bean & Rice Burrito.

But that Friday night, craving chimichangas, with no late night restaurant options, I not only absolved my husband of his burrito buying sins, but nominated him for sainthood, as now, I had the foundation for my deep fried (almost) midnight snack.

Frying it in olive oil, I managed to get that perfect, brown flaky crust.  Believe it or not, it was pretty good.  Nicely done, Joe.  While my McGuyver-ed chimichanga was satisfying, my quest is far from over.  Only a real, restaurant chimichanga will satisfy my current obsession.

The question remains: Why don’t more places have this ‘traditional’ Mexican dish?  They have the technology and the ingredients.  Maybe for the same reason I can’t get a grilled cheese sandwich at McDonald’s.  Ooh, a grilled cheese sandwich… be right back…

August 18th, 2011

Do people eat sandwiches for dinner?

Just like my husband thought he knew all there was to know about Japan from listening to the lyrics to “Mr. Roboto,” much of my knowledge of everyday America too, came from pop-culture.  To be more specific, sitcoms.  If Everybody Loves Raymond is a true representation of America (and if it isn’t, my world is shattered), Americans like to eat sandwiches for dinner.  In Japan, this is unheard of, and as such, I was shocked when Debra offered to make Ray a turkey sandwich.  I thought, a sandwich is something you’d drop into your kid’s school lunchbox, not something you’d feed to your husband as a reward for a long day at work.  To make matters worse, if you’ve watched the show, you’d know that Debra isn’t exactly skilled when it comes to food preparation.  Are average Americans happy when their evening meal consists of two pieces of white bread wrapped around a few slices of supermarket turkey?
To find out, I asked the first average American I could find…my husband.  His answer was an ambivalent, “Yes and No,” as he went on to explain that yes, Americans might eat a sandwich for dinner, but the sandwich should be a little better than the lousy turkey sandwich described above; maybe something from Subway, perhaps. Subway?  Can’t we do better than that?

Japanese people (or maybe just me) show love, care and appreciation through cooking. By that logic, if someone made me a boring turkey sandwich, I’d eat it, but deep down, I’d feel unappreciated.  Even if you’re not blessed with a culinary instinct, it’s important to make some effort when cooking for someone you love.  Even my husband, whose specialties include eggs over easy and frozen burritos, once made me quesadillas for dinner.  While his dish would most likely have led to his elimination on Top Chef, I still enjoyed every bite. More than just melted cheese in between tortillas, it was made with love, care and enthusiasm.  Sorry Debra!

Growing up in Japan, we didn’t eat turkey, and when I arrived in America, I have to say, I wasn’t initially fond of this new taste I had discovered. With time, I learned to appreciate not only its interesting flavor, but its cultural significance as well.  I’ve even managed to create a few turkey sandwich recipes of my own that helped change my mind about this American favorite.  Click the pictures below for the recipes for two of my favorites.  Stay tuned as well for my seasonal Thanksgiving turkey sandwich recipe that always gets rave reviews (if I understand what my husband is saying when he talks with his mouth full).

Turkey, apple and blue cheese sandwich (for recipe, click here).To really make this sandwich perfect, make sure to use a good, fresh baguette.  If one isn’t available,  the recipe can transform itself into a great salad or wrap, by adding more tomatoes, walnuts and a drizzle of vinaigrette.

Turkey and brie pressed panini (for recipe, click here).Even if you don’t have a panini maker, do not fear!  I don’t have one either.  Just use your stove top griddle or frying pan and press the sandwich using another, heavier pan.  The results are delicious!

So to answer my own question, I guess we do eat sandwiches for dinner.  If only Debra could master these recipes, she could prove to her husband that everybody really does love Raymond.

August 16th, 2011

Chicken and rice (on 53rd and 6th, SW corner, of course)

There’s one dish that I truly miss and simply can’t get in Los Angeles.  No, it isn’t fancy, pricey or found in some exclusive hidden locale.  What is it?  It’s the chicken and rice plate from the 53rd and 6th Halal Cart in midtown Manhattan.  Yes, some of New York City’s thousands of fine restaurants are being outdone by a food cart that is so famous, its positive online reviews would take up the memory of a 2001 ‘smart’ phone.  How could one street vendor serve a block long line of people at midnight, while a trendy restaurant in the Village struggles to fill the house?  The secret is:  are you ready for this… the food.

The Halal Food Cart’s signature dish is delicious.  After your first bite, you’ll immediately understand why you’ll have to endure a fifteen minute long line just to order seconds.  Does grilled, finely shredded chicken lying majestically on a bed of perfectly cooked long grain rice sound good to you?  How about if I mention the chopped iceberg lettuce, pita bread and two kinds of sauce that each has its own charm? The white sauce is something between ranch dressing and tzatziki, while its counterpart, the red sauce, is VERY hot, so be careful, and sample a bit before pouring the entire portion over your food.  Like a crazy chemistry experiment, if you mix them all together, your result is a magical junk food that other vendors just don’t deliver.  Try it for yourself and bid your taste buds ‘sayonara’ as they instantly travel from midtown Manhattan to the gates of Heaven.  The price of admission: a large dose of patience and a small serving of dollars as chicken and rice will cost you $6.  Where else can you experience a true New York phenomena for only $6?

Yes, there are lots of Halal meat carts in New York City, so why is this particular vendor the one that has them lining up until four in the morning?  One reason is the chicken itself. Unlike its competitor’s version, It’s shredded very finely and sauteed at the cart.  It doesn’t hurt a bit that it’s seasoned well.  The true mystery is how the chicken retains its moisture when the same chicken from other vendors appears dried out.  While the chicken is spectacular, the rice should not be dismissed as a mere side.  Even though it’s a shade of bright orange, the ‘Yellow Rice’ is full of flavor without that cheap Chinese take-out place rice smell.  I know you’ve been there before, right?

When my husband and I took our first trip to NYC together, I convinced him that he had to try this fantastic street food.  To me, the food was so tasty, I knew it would be able to stand up and defend itself against my husband’s aversion to rice.  To help sell my case, I tried to convince him by describing the meal as the inside of a burrito, without the Mexican food flavor.  In my excitement, I forgot my own advice, and bought the dish from a shady vendor downtown.  I soon paid the price for my infidelity.  Instead of a taste of paradise, I received rubbery chicken atop sauce-less, mushy rice.  To make matters worse, we both got sick!  From that day forward, I never cheated on my Halal vendors again.

Still convinced he’d like it, I asked my husband to give it one more chance and try the ‘good’ chicken and rice from 53rd and 6th.  He agreed, but just couldn’t get over the still fresh memory of nausea. I have mixed feelings when my husband doesn’t like the foods I love (and as you may have read, it happens a lot).  Sure, there’s the positive side: there’s more for me, but that’s not the point.  It’s great sharing something you love with someone you love.

PS: I tried to duplicate chicken and rice using Zankou chicken leftovers (chopped&sauteed) + rice&lettuce + tzatziki + tabasco or tapatio = close, but not the same…