Mogo and Cubacan – Eating at Asbury Park

Mogo – Korean Fusion Tacos

Boardwalk and First Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

Monday – Thursday and Sunday 11am-10pm (or later)

Friday and Saturday 11am-3am (or later)

eatmogo.com

and

Cubacan Restaurant

800 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

(732) 774-3007

Open 11:30am – 10pm

cubacanrestaurant.com

I was recently at Asbury Park, somewhere I haven’t visited in more than twenty years. The boardwalk is still there but with some new storefronts and eateries. The Stone Pony, of course, is still there. So, too, is Convention Hall. What wasn’t there twenty years ago, however, that is there today are Cubacan and Mogo.

We were there as part of a mini-weekend getaway, staying at a friend’s place in Sea Girt. The weather wasn’t conducive to the going to the beach so we ventured into Asbury Park so my wife and son could experience a Jersey–perhaps, The Jersey–boardwalk. The rides and such weren’t too keen on our son’s list of things to do but the mini-golf was. We were also pressed for time and the weather wasn’t on our side so we made it a quick visit. During our time there, naturally, we got hungry so we perused the boardwalk and examined a couple of menus until we decided upon Cubacan for lunch. I’ll discuss more on that later.

As we strolled along the boardwalk, our son became famished and needed an immediate snack–or so he said. We came upon a small takeout stand called Mogo, which my wife and I had both heard of but never tried, so we decided to give it a go. Our son is not very adventurous when it comes to food and less so when he’s almost hangry (extreme hunger that leads to anger that turns a person into Karen Black a la The Exorcist). Our son has not yet exhibited hangriness (yet) but my wife has on occasion so it’s natural that one day he might. As for now, he takes after me–just deal with it.

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While Mogo was intriguing to my wife and I, my son didn’t want to have anything to do with it so he settled for an orange soda. So much for being famished. My wife and I, on the other hand, ordered one Bulgogi (beef) taco, one Sae Woo (shrimp) taco and one Jae Yook Bokkeum (pork) taco. Before I go on, let me say that I love Korean food. Ever since I first tried Bulgogi at Arirang Restaurant in Hong Kong–once in Causeway Bay but now in Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui­–to today when I go to Palisades Park, New Jersey or K-Town in Manhattan or Keo Ku Restaurant in Parsippany, New Jersey, I’ve had a love affair with Korean food. In fact, I count Kalbi Chim as one of my all-time favourite dishes. However, I also have to confess that, while many fusion dishes do succeed, I am, generally, not a fan of fusion cuisine. I was excited to try Mogo for the first time but, I’ll admit it, I was also apprehensive.

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Mogo Tacos; bottom to top, Bulgoggi, Sae Woo, Jae Yook Bokkeum

As tacos go, they were okay. I might even say they were good. They had the requisite taco trappings–vegetable garnish, some kind of salsa, the taco and the protein filling. Unfortunately, as a ‘fusion’ taco, I was a little dissatisfied. I was very excited as I bit into the first taco–the Bulgogi–and I wanted terribly to be knocked off my feet. I wasn’t. The beef itself was very tasty and comparable to most Bulgogi I’ve had at other Korean restaurants. Unfortunately, and here’s one reason why I don’t typically dig fusion cuisine, the tastiness of the meat and the sweat renderings of the Bulgogi marinade and seasoning were overshadowed by the pico de gallo and romaine lettuce. I didn’t taste the meat until several chews into my bite and this wasn’t because I’d bitten off only a small chunk of meat. It was like having a salad followed by the main course in one bite instead of having the two tastes come together in culinary harmony. With the Sae Woo, the shrimp itself lacked any kind of flavour. It was simply some kind of cooked shrimp buried under the toppings of its taco. The menu description says “tangy sweet and sour shrimp” but I tasted neither sweet nor sour in the shrimp when I pulled a piece out of the taco and ate it by itself. Lastly, the Jae Yook Bokkeum taco offered some redemption. The pork was delicious and something I’d like to have over rice. In its taco, combined with citrus-mayo slaw, there was something in each bite that the other two lacked. Each part expressed its own identity and they combined nicely with each bite. Unfortunately, the beef took a backseat to the pico de gallo and the shrimp just kept silent.

I’m not panning Mogo but I’m also not giving it raves. There was a long queue when we stopped by and there are days when things don’t always go right. The beef and pork, by themselves, did have tremendous flavour and as victuals, on a whole, there was some spicy kick and a nice contrast of crunchy and soft in each taco. As Korean fusion cuisine, however, at least on that day, it didn’t work for me and I really wanted it to. As a result, I’m still not a full-on convert to fusion cuisine. I would like to try Mogo again. Perhaps if the line isn’t long or maybe I’ll go to their sir-down restaurant, which is also located in Asbury Park. Unfortunately, I live a little far from Asbury Park so my next taste might not be for a while; but, hopefully not for too long a while.

As an Asian, good or bad, I’m naturally drawn to Asian and Pan Asian things. As a longtime student of Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, I have a pull towards Korean things as well. From both viewpoints, I wanted to love my Mogo tacos. I truly did but, alas, that didn’t happen. My experience with Mogo reminded me of something Bruce Lee said to Dan Inosanto, his best friend, student and training partner about martial arts and, specifically, the Filipino martial arts. He’d told Guro Inosanto, who is Filipino American, not to embrace the Filipino martial arts just because they’re Filipino. Bruce Lee was a pragmatist and examined many different martial arts and combat systems to develop himself into the best martial artist and fighter he could be. He took from (western) boxing, fencing, non-Chinese martial arts and Chinese martial arts to express himself. The same concept can be applied to cooking.

It was after our Mogo experience that we walked up and down the boardwalk, peered in storefronts and examined menus. The most interesting was from Cubacan–the first restaurant whose menu we looked at– and it was there where we decided to have lunch. Having had tacos to tie us over, we skipped ordering any starters.

For drinks, my son, whom I already mentioned is obsessed with orange soda, tried Cubacan’s version. It was house-made and not a Fanta or Sunkist and tasted more like an Italian Blood Orange Soda but with less fizz.

 

My wife and I weren’t sure if our son was going to like it but he did and gave it a ‘thumbs up’. For my wife and I, we tried the Red Sangria. It wasn’t as sweet as the Red Sangria I make, the recipe of which I stole from a Spanish restaurant on West 4th Street in Manhattan’s West Village. Nonetheless, it was a refreshing fruity drink that, if you’re not careful, you’re going to feel when you stand up. It wasn’t one of those cocktails that hide the alcohol but it wasn’t overbearing either. Regardless, it was delicious and perfect for a summer shore getaway.

For lunch, my wife had the Mejillones; blue bay mussels in a green jalapeno soup with fennel. There was, as expected, a hint of fresh garlic in the salsa.

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Mejillones

Mejillones is listed in the menu as an appetizer which, after having the Mogo tacos and scheduled to attend a dinner party later, was exactly the kind of healthy, light and extremely tasty lunch my wife was looking for. While it was very tasty, it wasn’t different from many of the other mussels in green sauce I’ve had at other Spanish or Hispanic restaurants.

I was a little nervous that our son wouldn’t be inspired by anything on the menu. He’s very picky and only eight and I thought it was going to be bread and butter for him but Cubacan has, also as a starter, Sliders de Cubana.

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Sliders de Cubana

He ordered that and he thoroughly enjoyed it even though it was a touch spicier than he would have preferred. The sliders at Cubacan aren’t made just from beef. They’re made with beef and chorizo (Spanish sausage common in Spain, South and Central America and Mexico), which is on the dry side and tangy. (Don’t confuse the Spanish-style sausage with the Filipino kind, which I knew growing up also as chorizo but is more commonly referred to as longanisa. Of the Filipino chorizo, there is a sweet variety and a spicy variety.) Although he had his without it, the Sliders de Cubana also comes with Manchego cheese. Accompanying the mini burgers on the plate were some very tasty, freshly made French Fries.

For me, I was torn between a traditional Cubano or the Choripan, a sandwich made of chorizo, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato. I asked our waitress which she recommended but she informed us that doesn’t eat meat and hadn’t tried either one. She did say that the Cubano was very popular so I went with that.

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Cubacan’s Traditional Cubano

I’ve had a Cubano before but here it was elegantly balanced. Between the roasted pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles, each bite blended each flavour perfectly so I could taste each part by itself while chewing the sandwich as a whole. Compared to other Cubanos, the pork in this one was not dry and it was thinly sliced. It also tasted like the Roast Pork my college girlfriend’s mother would make during the holidays. My ex-girlfriend’s mother was from Spain but her husband was from Cuba and I have to say, to this day, hers is still the best Cuban Roast Pork I’ve had. Cubacan’s comes close. The pickles with Cubacan’s version were also thinly sliced which prevented it from overpowering the entire sandwich. Overall, the Cubano at Cubacan was a near perfect sandwich and one I highly recommend. My son tasted it and it also received his approval so it must be good and kid-friendly.

Accompanying our meal, we ordered two side dishes–Garlic String Beans and Yuca Fritta (Yucca Fries).

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Yuca Fritta

The only Yucca dish I’ve had previously and subsequently made on many occasions is boiled peeled yucca that is drizzled with olive oil and fresh garlic; another dish I learnt from my college girlfriend’s mother. So, when I saw a different yucca option, I ordered it and, boy, am I glad I did. To be honest, I still haven’t worked out if the Yuca Fritta is dipped in batter before it’s fried or if the batter effect is a natural result of the yucca when it’s deep fried. Either way, it’s an excellent side dish. Adhered to the surface of some of the yucca fries were crystals of rock salt or, perhaps they were some kind of garlic rock salt (Is here such a thing and, if so, where do I get it?). This, for me, made the dish. Accompanying the Yuca Fritta was a small dish of what tasted like a garlic pesto dip.

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Garlic String Beans 

The Garlic String Beans were equally as tasty, sautéed lightly in olive oil and chopped garlic. They were cooked just right, maintaining their crunchiness without being hard.

Overall, our trip to Asbury Park was a successful one. We enjoyed some down time, away from the mundane monotony of our lives, our son enjoyed some mini-golf and we all savoured some new dishes. As a result of this experience, I may begin a third culinary mission–find the best Cubano. I’m already on a quest for the best New England Clam Chowder and a search for a version of the Monte Cristo my father introduced me to at The Holiday Inn in Hong Kong. On my last trip to Hong Kong, in 2007, the Monte Cristo was no longer on the Holiday Inn’s coffee shop menu and the coffee shop itself was very different from the way it was in 1978. Back to the present, I give kudos to both Mogo and Cubacan for their innovations in the kitchen. Unfortunately, Mogo didn’t deliver its best but Cubacan did and I’m looking forward to my next meal there.

My ratings:

Cubacan – 1 1/2 bites

Mogo – 1 bite

0 bites = Don’t bother. I suffered for you.

1/2 bite = I enjoyed it enough – I had to eat something, after all – but I wouldn’t recommend it.

1 bite = Good. I’d have it again but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.

1 1/2 bites = Very good/super tasty. I’m definitely going back and I’m bringing friends. If I weren’t married, it’s somewhere I’d take a first date to. That’s how good it is.

2 bites = Unique, I’ve never had (and probably won’t ever have) better than this. This is what I want if I were going to be executed and I could have whatever I wanted for my last meal. Epicurean Orgasm!

 

 

The Best New England Clam Chowder In Montauk

Montauk’s Best New England Clam Chowder

Before I ruffle any feathers or am accused of being unscientific and completely biased, let me clarify that my search for the best New England Clam Chowder in Montauk began as an impromptu pursuit and is based solely on the places at which I ate. I hadn’t done any kind of pre search research either. I’ve always liked New England Clam Chowder and as part of our first dinner, I decided to have a bowl. We were vacationing in Montauk, after all, where fresh seafood is in abundance.

The following day, we had lunch out as well and I decided to have a cup of the second eatery’s version. I hadn’t eaten any kind of New England Clam Chowder in ages (other than the night before) and I guess it was on the brain. So, after the second taste, I decided to make it a fun holiday mission – my New England Clam Chowder Taste Test. Wherever I ate, that had New England Clam Chowder on the menu, I had a cup.

Here are my, completely unscientific and biased, results.

1. Gosman’s Clam Bar (www.gosmans.com)
At Gosman’s Dock, 484 West Lake Drive, Montauk, NY
(631) 668-2447

Well, this isn’t THE Gosman’s restaurant. It’s from one of the side counters in the Gosman’s waterfront complex. It’s a counter that serves up burgers, fries, chicken fingers and, of course, an abundance of seafood dishes; things like soft shell crab, lobster roll, seared flounder, crab legs, etc. Around the corner is another restaurant and counter where you can get various alcoholic beverages (I treated myself to a Piña Colada) and sushi, maki, temaki and sashimi.

It’s summer and the weather had been in the high 80s to low 90s so you might be wondering why I’d have soup; least of all a thicker, hot and heavier variety. Well, right by the water, we were treated to a refreshing breeze that brought the temps down to a cool 70 something. Plus, as I mentioned in the intro to this piece, I hadn’t had any kind of New England Clam Chowder and I don’t think I’d ever had one until my early years in the United States. I’ve been in somewhat of a nostalgic, melancholic frame of my mind lately and reminiscing with the New England Clam Chowder was my form of ‘comfort food.’

Anyway, back to the soup. The Clam Bar’s version was very tasty with large chunks of clam. It was a little thick – dense might be a better word – but it wasn’t clumpy and it wasn’t the usual white one associates with New England Clam Chowder. It had a hint of grey to it, which detracted neither my desire nor enjoyment of the soup, but it did lack some kick; at least in terms of basic flavour. A little (more) salt might have been all it needed. The difference in flavour though – the kind that’s expected of a New England Clam Chowder – may actually be a plus for the Clam Bar’s version, however, making it different from most of the varieties I’ve had. This, in turn, is due to a smokiness that, I think, came from some kind of bacon infusion. I didn’t detect any bacon pieces in my bowl so I think some kind of blend of bacon grease may have been added to the base broth.

Chowder Rating: 1 bite

2. Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe (www.crabbycowboy.com)
435 East Lake Drive, Montauk, NY
(631) 668-3200

Sitting outside with a constant cooling breeze, the weather was prime again for a cup of soup. With New England Clam Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder the only soups on the menu, and having never been a true aficionado of the red variety, my decision was made for me – New England Clam Chowder it was! Rick’s Crabby Cowboy’s variety was more like what I am used to. It’s not like they opened a can and simply nuked it in their microwave, however. Unlike the Clam Bar’s variety, Rick’s Crabby Cowboy’s was thinner but without being watery and its consistency was the perfect balance of milk or cream and broth without turning it into a condensed, over starchy starter; all perfect for a light, seafood lunch. Without being pedestrian, Rick’s Crabby Cowboy’s had small pieces of diced onion and smaller chunks of clam, more similar to a diner soup than that from a five-star restaurant. It had, though, a touch more bite than the smoky offering of Gosman’s Clam Bar. After the soup, we had a serving of Steamers that came with the usual melted butter and a green dipping sauce, made with crushed garlic, wine, and clam broth. Tasting the green sauce by itself, it was very similar to the soup but without the cream and chunks of clam which, in addition to being a dipping sauce, makes me think it’s the base for their soup. Rick’s Crabby Cowboy’s New England Clam Chowder was so good that my wife, who enjoy a creamy Brie with a nicely chilled white wine, after tasting the soup said, “It’s like eating cheese.”

Chowder Rating: 1 1/2 bites…nearing 2 bite territory

3. Duryea’s Lobsters (www.duryealobsters.com)
85 Tuthill Road, Montauk, NY
(631) 668-2410

This was our third trip to Montauk; the first was in 2010 and the most recent was last year. Coincidentally, in 2010, we’d just discovered Lobster Roll and when we were planning our first Montauk holiday, naturally, people recommended that we go to Duryea’s for theirs. We did and we enjoyed it so we’ve been back since. This time, however, I made it a point to try their New England Clam Chowder and, unlike with their Lobster Roll, I wasn’t thrilled with it. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. Immediately, just looking at it, I was on the offensive when I got my bowl. A good New England Clam Chowder should, generally, be white in appearance but it should possess some kind of graininess and even a hint of off white or even greyness to its color due to one of its flavoring ingredients. A hint of curry powder or turmeric, for example, would give the broth a touch of orange and a subtle kick. The New England Clam Chowder at Duryea’s, however, was milk white. Perhaps, milk is the broth and not an added ingredient or even the base of the broth. As a base, you’d add clam broth, white wine perhaps, a little water to make the soup. In some cases, I believe there are variations with sherry added. In this case, it tasted as if the solid ingredients and barely a touch of clam broth was added to a quart of milk. The soup did have large chunks of clam, however, including the siphon, and diced potato giving it some body. Drinking the soup, I could taste the freshness of the ingredients but, from this untrained blogger’s palate, Duryea’s New England Clam Chowder is the closest one can come to making canned soup from the day’s catch.

I’m glad to report, though, that everything else I’ve had at Duryea’s has been more than satisfactory. In fact, everything else has been outright delicious. Their Lobster Roll is, so far, the second (or third; see The Lighthouse Grill review below) favourite I’ve had and their Cole Slaw is, according to my wife who is a self-proclaimed Slaw expert, the “best in the world.” This post, however, is about the soup I tasted and, unfortunately, while I will return to Duryea’s again, I won’t be having the chowder.

Chowder Rating: 1/2 bite

4. Inlet Seafood Cafe (www.inletseafood.com)
541 East Lake Drive, Montauk, NY
(631) 668-4272

Although not strictly a New England Clam Chowder, I decided to include Inlet Seafood’s Montauk Chowder in this review since it’s a blend of New England and Manhattan Clam Chowders and I have to say I enjoyed it. The blend of the two versions was well balanced, overall, resulting in a light soup that served its purpose nicely as an appetizer. The lightness was also a welcome touch being that I’d just come off the beach, in 90 plus degree heat. In fairness, though, I have to say that all the chowders I’d had up to this point on this trip were on the light side and none of them sat, overly starched or too creamy, in my stomach. The combination of the two versions of clam chowder allowed for the lightness to happen – the consommé effect of the red Manhattan version cutting some of the heaviness from the New England – but the influence of the Manhattan was more noticeable in appearance and taste than I would have liked. Like I said, the balance was well-proportioned, but I would have preferred a tad more New England influence.

On a side note, Inlet Seafood’s Kani Salad was absolutely sublime. It wasn’t overly ‘mayonnaised’ and it had a spicy kick most Kani Salads I’ve tasted don’t possess. The spice, though, didn’t overwhelm the salad allowing the crab (albeit fake crab) and the cucumber to compliment each other perfectly. Lastly, it had Panko, not just sprinkled on top of the salad as a garnish, but into the salad. Other varieties of Kani Salad also have a little roe sprinkled on it, each bite crackling in your mouth with an explosion of moist fish taste; an accent, if you will. Sometimes, though, there is too much roe added which takes over the subtlety required of a Kani Salad. The Panko, however, added the crunch
needed without altering the overall taste.

Chowder Rating: 1 bite

5. Lighthouse Grill
1900 Montauk Highway, Montauk, NY
(631) 668-2058

From the outside, The Lighthouse Grill looks like a sit down restaurant with wait staff and white table cloths. Once you go in, however, you discover an easygoing souvenir shop with a counter, complete with a bar, and a one cook/one station kitchen. There are also a gift shop, a sofa and some round tables that made the single room make me think of the gift shop cafe at the Caticlan Airport in the Philippines where I waited to board my plane back to Manila from a week in Boracay. Outside, there’s a veranda that offers one of the best views of the Atlantic Ocean. It was extra exquisite when I was there because the sun was setting. In addition to the view, there are tables and, on this particular night, The Lifeguards, a trio of men ranging from late 30s/early 40s to 50s, were performing. They offered some acoustic bluesy/soft rock/country entertainment.

Anyway, back to the chowder. The soup was a little too hot when it was served, burning my tongue just slightly, but the taste was spot on. Offering a near perfect balance of the soup base and the cream, the Lighthouse Grill’s New England Clam Chowder, had just the right amount of celery to give the green’s flavour without bossing what touched my taste buds. Additionally, the amount and size of the clam pieces were very generous. What I liked best about this chowder was that it – or rather its creator – gets it. Some New England Clam Chowders are too involved, their chefs trying to hard to be different and trying to do more than what is asked of a New England Clam Chowder. This version was humble – simple even – without being unsophisticated. It felt like it came from a mother’s kitchen.

At this meal, my wife had their Lobster Roll, which I got to taste, and, much like the chowder, the Lobster Roll got it. Some Lobster Rolls I’ve eaten have either too much dressing or are too seasoned that the taste of the lobster is dominated by the other flavours. The lobster is always evident – the chunks are usually pretty large and it’s cooked just right so you can enjoy the shellfish’s texture – but at The Lighthouse Grill the lobster remains the star of the dish. Here, the dressing is minimal at best, offering the slightest hint of enhancing flavour, but what you get here is a true Lobster Roll.

Chowder Rating: 1 1/2 bites

I’ve never made a New England Clam Chowder – although after this trip I vow to give it a go – and my introduction to it came in 1985 from, I believe, a diner or the Chunky line of Campbell’s soups so, for some of you, my opinions here are without foundation. On some level, I might agree. I’m not a trained chef and I have no sense of what making a New England Clam Chowder entails. I am, though, a consumer who has taste buds and likes to enjoy a good meal. In no way have I intended to offend any of the chefs or establishments whose New England Clam Chowders I’ve written about. What I hope I have achieved is give a reader or two, with a palate similar to mine, a hint of where to find New England Clam Chowders he or she will enjoy in Montauk.

Thanks for stopping by and, if you try one of the chowders I’ve reviewed, come back and give your review. I might have missed a subtlety and need to retry it the next time I’m in Monauk. Or, perhaps, you’ll agree with me.

Rating System:

0 bites = Don’t bother, I suffered for you.
1/2 bite = I enjoyed it enough – I had to eat something, after all – but I wouldn’t recommend it.
1 bite = Good. I’d have it again but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.
1 1/2 bites = Very good/super tasty. I’m definitely going back and I’m bringing friends. If iI weren’t married, it’s somewhere I’d take a first date to. That’s how good it is.
2 bites = Unique, I’ve never had (and probably won’t ever have) better that this, this is what I want if I were going to be executed and I could have whatever I wanted for my last meal, Epicurean Orgasm!

Inihaw na Baboy (Grilled Pork Belly)

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Ingredients:

I pack of pork belly (usually three strips come to a pack)

Bay leaves (4-5)

Garlic powder (about 1 tablespoon) or Fresh Garlic, finely chopped. I prefer the latter but, in a pinch, the garlic powder does a nice job.

Ground pepper (approx. 1 tablespoon)

I can of Coca-Cola or Kalamansi Soda

Soy sauce and/or Knorr Seasoning Sauce (mixed with the soda, enough for the strips of pork belly to be submerged)

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients, minus the pork belly, in a Tupperware container or Pyrex dish. Stir it to make sure all the flavours blend

2. Add the pork bellies, making sure they’re submerged. DO NOT slice the pork belly*. You can let this sit for a few hours and it’ll be ready for grilling but I like to leave it overnight in the refrigerator. If you do that, make sure its covered so it doesn’t dry out.

3. When ready to grill – which you can do in a barbeque pit, outdoor grill, or the broiler pan of your indoor oven – cook each side for approximately 8 or 9 minutes (could be less or more, depending on the proximity of the pork to the flame and/or the strength of the cooker you’re using). Bottom line: make sure the pork is cooked thoroughly and that there is a nice browning on the outside.

4. Once the pork is cooked, slice each strip into 1/2″ pieces.

5. Serve with white or Filipino garlic rice, laing (stewed banana leaves in coconut milk). As a condiment, you can use Mang Tomas dipping sauce and/or suka (white vinegar), with or without diced red pepper.

Garlic rice, inihaw na baboy and a scoop of laing

Garlic rice, inihaw na baboy and a scoop of laing

 

* Do NOT slice the pork belly until after marinating it and, for me, after cooking. For my taste, this is the best process for the following reasons: 1. Cutting the bellies before marinating it can lead to the pork getting overwhelmed by the marinade. When eating it, you should get a taste of the marinade while still being able to taste the meat. 2. Cooking the baboy when it’s already sliced can lead to the pork becoming dry.

Kalamansaki

 

Kalamansaki (aka Cabanatuan)*

 

Kalamansaki

 

Ingredients:

Saki (your choice; the variety will determine how dry or smooth the drink is)

Tonic Water

Kalamansi juice concentrate or Fresh kalamansi juice (with or without sweetener)

 

Method:

It’s really a case of bunging everything together, to taste, stirring it and serving the concoction over ice. Actually, it tastes very much like a Mojito. The amounts you mix together depends on how much kick you want from the saki and how much sweetness or tart you want from the kalamansi concentrtate or kalamansi juice. Living in the United States, the concentrate is much easier to get than fresh kalamansi, and I have a bit of a sweet tooth anyway, so the concentrate is nice. However, there is still nothing like the smell and taste of fresh kalamansi, whether it’s being used in a cocktail, for kalamansi juice or soda, or as a condiment for pancit or daeng na bangus with toyo (soy sauce) and/or suka (vinegar).

Anyway, back to the Kalamansaki.

1. In a highball glass, pour 2 or 3 shots (or saki cups) of saki and 1 or 2 shots of the kalamansi concentrate. Stir.

2. Fill the glass about 2/3 full of Tonic Water and stir gently.

3. Pour into another highball glass with lots of ice in it.

 

 

* I’ve decided to give the Kalamanskai an alternate name, the Cabanatuan. This is for the area of The Philippines where what is regarded as the greatest rescue mission of World War II took place. US servicemen, alongside Filipino guerillas, rescued a battalion of captured US soldiers who were held in a POW camp by the Japanese.

 

 

Lobster Roll

It’s that time of year – summer, barbeque, beach and seafood season – and with that comes a change in how we dress, where we go and, of course, what we eat. One of the things popping up on menus these days is Lobster Roll and I had my first of the season at, of all places, a Nathan’s counter at the food court at The Livingston Mall in Livingston, New Jersey. And, it wasn’t half bad. In fact, it was surprisingly good.

You’re probably wondering why anyone in their right mind, and a self-proclaimed foodie at that, would even dare to get something as delicate as a Lobster Roll at a fast food counter in a mall’s food court. Normally when I’m there, after a trip to the attached Barnes and Noble or from perusing seasonal sales with my wife, I’d grab a couple thighs and a side of Rice and Beans from Popeye’s or a two item rice combo meal from Master Wok. This time, however, those items didn’t appeal to me and neither did anything else that’s there – Burger King, Sakura, the Italian joint, Subway. The Bubble Tea counter didn’t call to me either and I’m always up for boba.

Then, in the same corner and with the same employees as Nathan’s, I saw Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips. Having grown up in Hong Kong during the 1970s and 1980s, I’m very much an Anglophile. So, you can imagine my excitement at the thought of Fish and Chips. (Doing a little research writing this post, I discovered that Arthur Treacher’s is a Florida-based franchise and not an English one.) When I got to the counter, I checked out the menus. Treacher’s had, naturally, Fish and Chips. There were also Clam Strips, Fish Sandwich, Clam Strips Sandwich and Lobster Roll, among the other items. The Nathan’s menu had a Lobster Salad Sandwich with bacon. I love a good Lobster Roll but I’ve had some great ones that I’ve really enjoyed – Duryea’s in Montauk, St. James Gate in Maplewood, Stony’s in South Orange – so I opted for the Nathan’s version with bacon and I’m glad I did.

It’s likely the lobster salad used for the sandwich I ate is the same stuff that’s used for the Arthur Treacher’s offering and chances are it’s shipped in daily, probably from a mass produced food plant. Regardless, the sandwich was super tasty. Lobster is a delicate meat. I’ve grilled, boiled and steamed lobsters myself and, on occasion, I’ve kept them cooking just a tad too long. And that can turn the lobster from something that should melt in your mouth into something a little more than rubbery. Well, I am glad to report that the lobster I ate wasn’t rubbery at all. The salad was light on the mayo and seasoned with what I think was some kind of dill dressing but perfectly balanced so I could still taste the lobster and enjoy its texture. The bacon added a nice touch of saltiness and it wasn’t grilled too crunchy so that it crumbled at the slightest touch. There was a touch of smokiness to the bacon that blended well with the sweetness of the lobster and the dressing’s mild tang. Finally, there’s the roll. Many sandwiches live or die by the bread they’re made with. Well, this sandwich does more than live. Most Lobster Rolls I’ve had are served on a hot dog bun. The Nathan’s sandwich was served on a round roll, lightly toasted, but not to the point where it scratches the roof of your mouth or loses the softness inside the crust. It completed the sandwich nicely, a compliment to the bacon’s mild fire and the lobster’s subtle sweetness.

So, as Memorial Day leads into July Fourth into Labour Day, I’m sure I’ll have my fill of Lobster Rolls, Steamers, battered cod, you name. I may even report on each one, coming up with my top five list or something like that. But, the season’s only just begun and it’s fair to say I’m off to a good start. If you’re a lobster fan, I suggest you give the Nathan’s version a try. I give it, until I come up with my own rating system, two thumbs up.

By the way, anyone with ideas for a rating system I can use, please don’t hesitate to shoot me a message via the Contact Panlasa page. Thanks for stopping by.
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