Los Tacos No. 1

The origin of the taco is mostly unbeknownst to mankind, but one theory persists. According to the Smithsonian, the taco is believed to have originated from the 18th century silver mines of Mexico. “[T]he word “taco” referred to the little charges [the miners] would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face.” Since then, the taco has made its way to the US—first through the migrants who came to work on the railroads and in the mines—and soon the ingredients were adapted to what was available locally such as lettuce and minced meat. Today, tacos are everywhere. From Taco Bell to Chipotle and fancified versions at high-end restaurants, the taco continues to win over the hearts of any who chance upon it. I mean, how many people do you know who absolutely hate tacos?

To celebrate our love for this wrapped delicacy, we headed over to Los Tacos No. 1 located in Chelsea Market. According to their website, Los Tacos No. 1 was founded by three close friends from Tijuana, Mexico, and Brawley, California whose goal was to bring the authentic taco to the East Coast. Right next to the spice shop in the middle of Chelsea Market, this small taco place is usually packed. When we arrived one evening, there was already a line forming with people fresh out of work looking for a quick bite before heading out. Luckily, the line moved fairly quickly and we soon found ourselves ordering the carne asada and chicken tacos, along with the especial quesadilla and a sweet hibiscus drink called Jamaica. Ordering is easy, but to actually get your food, you need to be quick and push your way through the throng of customers, either waiting for their food or eating at the counter, to hand your ticket to the cooks. Once our dishes arrived we quickly piled on some pico de gallo, spicy sauce and grabbed a few lime wedges and headed over to an empty corner. There are two options for the tortillas, flour and corn. We somehow ended up with corn (make sure to specify!), which and had a nice yellow hue with a slightly chunky texture. Our favorite was the carne asada taco which was filled with perfectly seasoned meat, green sauce, and fresh pico de gallo. All this was devoured in minutes. Yes, it was that good, but also the tacos were small, making us wish we had ordered a bit more. Next time!

Los Tacos No. 1
Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave
New York, NY
www.lostacos1.com

Hakata Tonton

Japan is a small island country, but within it lies a rich variety of cuisine. As odd as it sounds, despite growing up in Japan, I never got a chance to delve into or explore the many different faces of Japanese cuisine. I was always longing for “foreign” dishes that to me, were exotic and exciting. Now that I live in the US there’s a reversal of perspective—Japanese food has become my “longing,” to discover the many dishes each region has to offer.

For instance, take Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture, located in the southern region of Kyushu Japan. Hakata is widely known for their specialty ramen and also their ever popular “motsu nabe.” Motsu nabe is a Hakata-style hot pot that usually consists of either beef or pork intestines and a variety of vegetables simmered in a delicious broth. Yes, disgusting to some but for the adventurous, it’s a delightful and delicious discovery!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t fly out to Japan, but we did find a restaurant that serves a delicious spread of Hakata-style specialty dishes. Hakata Tonton located in the West Village on the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue has brought to New York authentic Kyushu Japanese soul food. As described in their about page, some of these dishes may seem “strange to the eye, but are delicious renditions of the food made famous in Hakata, Japan.”

The main eating area is very small, but there is another secret entrance just around the block that takes you to the back where there is more space for seating. It was there that we were seated at a nice cozy corner and were offered steaming hot roll of wet towels to cleanse and warm up our hands. As we had done some research before, we were ready to order immediately. To start off we got three appetizers, the Foie Gras Inari Sushi, TONTON Famous Homemade Gyoza, and their Garlic Fried Rice. The inari sushi, sticky rice wrapped in sweet fried tofu skin, was topped off with a beautiful foie gras steak, which was melt-in-your mouth tender and oddly enough, paired well with the sweetness of the rice and tofu skin. The gyoza was served on a sizzling hot cast iron plate, perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. But the garlic fried rice might have been one of the best things there. Made with pork tonsoku (pork feet!), egg, and plenty of garlic aroma, the dish was topped off with scallion and fragrant cilantro. Finally for the star of the show, the Hakata Tonton Hot Pot that included their special collagen broth (beautifying for the skin!) tofu, chicken, dumplings, cabbage, chives, spinach, Berkshire pork belly, and pork feet. There was no heavy pork smell, the broth was clean and spicy, and surprisingly very light. We made sure to leave a bit of soup, vegetables, and meat for the rice bibimbap, which was the perfect finish to our meal.

We recommend making a reservation in advance and coming to Hakata Tonton famished! Trying a variety of dishes and exploring their menu will insure you get the full experience of Hakata cuisine this special restaurant has to offer.

Hakata Tonton
61 Grove St, New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-3699
www.tontonnyc.com

Anna’s Soba Noodle Recipe

One thing we love equally as much as eating out is cooking at home. For our very first recipe post, we’re sharing a quick and easy way to whip up a heartwarming noodle dish for the cold months.

Soba noodles hold a very special place in our hearts. When we were growing up, every Sunday when our grandpa would visit our home, we would order from a noodle place that delivered delicious soba and udon noodles, hot or cold. Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but when I make soba noodles, it brings instant comfort and happiness to any dull day.

Of course, it’s up to you what you prefer in your noodles, but nailing the broth and perfectly cooked noodles are key. Most days I don’t feel like making my broth from scratch, but lucky for you and me, a lot of grocery stores nowadays carry soba or udon noodle concentrates. My personal favorite is the Kikkoman brand hondashi, a mixture of bonito and kelp broth with soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. If you have a hard time finding these ingredients at your local grocery store, there’s always Amazon. I’ve added links of products I recommend for some of the harder-to-find ingredients below.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once water comes to a full boil, place soba noodles in pot. Refer to package for proper cooking time.
  2. While the soba noodles cook, combine Hondashi and water (1:4 ratio) in a separate pot. Bring to a simmer and include dried seaweed, chives, and egg.
  3. Take out soba noodles while still al dente and include in the Hondashi mixture with other ingredients. Cook another minute, and serve in a bowl.
  4. Optional: sprinkle togarashi pepper to taste

Look out for more recipes to come!

Drunken Munkey

When friends or coworkers ask for restaurant recommendations, they expect good tasting food, but are also looking for restaurants with the right atmosphere that fit the occasion. Whether that be date night or a girls (or boys) night out, atmosphere plays a huge role in making a satisfying restaurant experience. We recently took a trip to the Upper East Side (a rare occurence for us Brooklyn kids) for some delicious Anglo-Indian food at Drunken Munkey. This eatery brings a refined dining setting with a whimsical colonial Indian backdrop perfect for those nights you’re feeling a little grown-up.

The Drunken Munkey is easily identified with its hazy red lights and the monkey statue that welcomes you at the door. The darkly lit den is adorned with vintage artwork and monkey chandeliers and candle holders. Unfortunately, all tables were reserved that night, but we were able to grab two seats at the bar. Naomi ordered a refreshing glass of Elderflower Champagne Cocktail ($13) that consisted of Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace, fresh squeezed lemon juice, rosemary infused St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and club soda (recommended if you’re in the mood for something classy). I ordered the Dark N’ Stormy ($13), which included Gosling’s Black Seal rum, ginger beer, fresh squeezed lime, sugarcane. The black seal rum creates this beautiful dark and cloudy layer at the top of your drink, and the best part is this drink comes in a beautiful vintage cocktail glass.

For food, I ordered the Drunken Munkey Lamb Biryani ($19, pictured) and Naomi ordered the Butter Chicken Tikka Masala ($18). During the two centuries of colonial rule, British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese recreated variations of their own dishes with Indian ingredients resulting in the new genre of dishes called Anglo-Indian cuisine. Drunken Munkey pays tribute to these historical flavors with their dishes. The Tikka Masala was a delicious bowl of creaminess with well-seasoned chicken and a few pieces of perfectly chewy naan bread. But we have to say, the lamb biryani was our favorite. It came in something that looked like a pot pie with naan bread baked over the metal bowl. The generous portions of lamb really tied this dish together, pairing well with the spice-filled rice.

Look out for more delicious dishes from the Upper East side. Don’t be surprised, there’s some good eats up there!

Drunken Munkey
338 E 92nd St, New York, NY 10128
(646) 998-4600
www.drunkenmunkeynyc.com

Ippudo: Hakkaisan Ramen

One of the things we love about Ippudo is their constant ability to get experimental with their dishes. This Monday, August 8th was Hakkaisan Day—Hakkaisan (translated: Eight Peaks) is a famous sake brewery known for their top quality sake—and to celebrate, Ippudo’s Ramen Master Fumihiro Kanegae (aka Foo) created a dish called Hakkaisan Ramen. This special bowl of noodles claimed to be the world’s first clear miso ramen, where the broth consists of Hakkaisan and kombu, dark roasted rice that was aged for two years, red and white miso, and kagura nanban pepper radish for some added spiciness. And of course, it wouldn’t be an Ippudo specialty if each ingredient didn’t represent something: the aonori (fragrant Japanese seaweed flakes) infused noodles and soup represent the Land, the Duck Chashu is Mount Hakkai, and the grated daikon radish infused with wasabi is the snow. Eaten all together, the broth had a delightfully sweet, light flavor and the noodles hinted at an earthy aonori seaweed flavor. All this was accompanied with Hakkaisan’s Tokubetsu Junmai—a crisp, smooth sake with the a hint of sweetness—that came in Snow Peak’s special Double Wall Titanium Sake cup that kept our beverage chilled. We wish you could have tried this, but to make things a little better, we got word from Ippudo that they will be reinventing their entire menu this coming fall!

Ippudo
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-0088

Ippudo Westside
321 W 51st Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 974-2500

ippudony.com