This product is pretty cool.
Spray on heat!
One or two squirts adds a nice, neutrals-flavored spice to any dish. I used it on leftover lasagna, pasta, pork tenderloin, and even in cocktails. I love it!
I highly recommend.
This product is pretty cool.
Spray on heat!
One or two squirts adds a nice, neutrals-flavored spice to any dish. I used it on leftover lasagna, pasta, pork tenderloin, and even in cocktails. I love it!
I highly recommend.
My wife and I tried these pork rinds when we were in New Orleans. My snack obsession was satisfied with these delicious chicharrones that were flavored with Louisiana hot sauce.
I can eat pork skins all day, and I definitely recommend these if you come across them.
I recently had the pleasure of dining with a bunch of food friends at this new Szechuan joint in Flushing called Guan Fu. They do an incredible job of showcasing the different kinds of spice that the cuisine is known for (numbing as well as heat), while also developing intense, robust flavors that you can actually taste. Contrast with many other Szechuan joints in NYC that just blow your mouth out with heat and numbness, leaving you unable to actually enjoy the food.
That’s not to say that the food here isn’t spicy. It sure as heck is! But the balance is so well done that it’s quite impressive. But let me get down to business, because we tried 17 different dishes here. There is a lot to discuss…
The first four dishes were cold preparations.
1. Thinly Sliced Pork Liver
This was nice. No mealy texture or gamey flavor. Good heat from the red chilis. Excellent citrus-flavored sauce.
2. Sweet Fried Pork Ribs
These were awesome. Great crispy texture, super tender, and with just a little bit of heat to gently contrast the sweet.
3. Razor Clams
These were served with Mexican green peppers (likely a poblano or hatch variety) as well as some red Thai chili peppers. Great preparation, and the clams were perfectly cooked.
4. Bean Jelly
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The bean jelly was reminiscent of a snappy, thick noodle. This was served with chili oil, peanuts, sesame seeds and scallions.
Okay now onto the warm food.
5. “Water Fish” Tilapia
This was both numbing and heat spicy. The fish was served in an over-seasoned broth so as to get all the flavors into the flesh of the Tilapia. In fact, the sauce/broth isn’t meant to be eaten, as is the case with many of the dishes we were served.
6. Dry Pot Frog
This was another favorite of the night. The frog was so tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. It was served with crisp, fried potatoes and lotus root in the mix too. That textural contrast really blew me away. Just be careful of the tiny bones in the frog meat!
7. Sliced Beef With Pickled Cherry Peppers
This was a really fun dish. The peppers were pickled, but the beef and cucumber cooked in the sauce were both fresh (meaning not pickled). Really nice.
8. Hot Pot
In addition to cabbage and mushrooms, this also contained slices of lamb meat and beef meatballs. Awesome flavors going on here when you mixed it all together, and a little bit of numbness from those famous Szechuan peppercorns.
9. Sweet & Crispy Corn
This was a nice way to knock back any heat that might be lingering in your mouth. These little nuggets were a perfect snack. Juicy inside, bursting with kernel corn flavor, but crispy and batter-fried on the outside.
10. Kung Pao Chicken
This is a famous dish, but done right and as close to authentic as you’re going to get. Lots of heat, really tender meat, and a great contrast of flavors and textures in the stir fry mix.
11. Ma Po Tofu
This is another famously spicy dish from the Szechuan region. The sauce here is a blast of heat and numbing spice, meant to be eaten with rice. I skipped the rice, though, and was just spooning the sauce into my mouth, gulp after gulp. It was great!
12. “Fishy Pork”
There is no actual fish in this dish, but it is made with the intent of giving the diner the essence or flavors of fish. The actual protein here is shredded pork, and it is delicious.
13. Hand Ripped Cabbage With Pork Belly
Bacon makes everything better, especially cabbage. This was a really nice way to get a veggie into the mix other than incorporating peppers and onions into a stir fry.
14. Double Pepper Chicken
Wow. Just when you thought Kung Pao was a kick in the balls, you discover double pepper chicken. The two peppers are green chilis (jalapeños) and red chilis (Thai chilis). But the sneaky spice here is the numbing Szechuan peppercorns that are also worked into the dish. Excellent.
These head-on giant shrimp were excellent. They even serve small shrimp where you can eat the shell as well.
16. Green Beans
I love how the veggie comes out last. These were simple and delicious though. A welcome addition to the meal.
17. Fried Sesame Cakes
I’ve had these babies before and I love them. These were filled with a squash mash or paste of some kind. I generally like the red bean or mung bean pastes better (they’re a little sweeter).
That about does it. I really want to come back here and try more stuff, or even just put down full portions of my favorite dishes from this trip, like the bean jelly and dry pot frog. Get your ass out here and try this stuff ASAP!
GUAN FU SZECHUAN
39-16 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
Sweetwood Jerky Co makes a really nice, tender, sweet and spicy beef jerky.
I was really happy with this one. Look at the pepper seeds! But that spice was nicely balanced by the sweet, so it didn’t blow up my taste buds. I highly recommend.
Outer Limits sent me an awesome four pack of their hot sauces to try out: Habanero, Jalapeño Habanero, Jalapeño Lime and Serrano Cilantro.
My favorite is the Habenero sauce. It’s really great for things like tacos or for spicing up pasta dishes. The heat is a nice up-front pop that doesn’t linger or kill your taste buds.
If heat isn’t your thing, then go with the Serrano Cilantro sauce. It delivers a nice, fresh, herby green kick without any of the sweat that you normally get from a hot sauce.
I highly recommend these sauces.
Type 2 Creative and Be Fat Be Happy threw an awesome holiday bash at Tortaria to help promote the restaurant. But it ended up being the sort of unofficial holiday gathering for all of us foodporn slingers on Instagram.
Everyone slapped on hats and ugly sweaters to crank up the “festive” levels. This one, worn by @StuffBenEats, was by far the clear winner:
And he was even sporting some nice Mexican corn there, which looked like yellow Christmas trees covered with cheese-snow.
Here’s my sweater, in an awesome guac photo that Ben took:
The guacamole here is tight, speaking of. Lots of flavor, and good restaurant quality chips and salsa to go with.
And the pitchers of margaritas? Slammable!
A few interesting new menu items were trotted out for us; the tortas (sandwiches). This one is made with thinly sliced fried eggplant, and topped with chipotle sauce, bacon and avocado. Really nice.
The one I was drawn to most, however, was this short rib torta:
This, too, is topped with avocado. There’s also lettuce, fried onion and jalapeno peppers on there as well.
And of course, tacos!
I’ll definitely be back here. This is a great place to just get blasted and eat your face off. Nothing pretentious about it!
94 University Pl
New York, NY 10003
This Thai joint serves up “isan” style Thai food, which is generally saltier, spicier and more pungent with ingredients like fish sauce than the typical sweet Thai places you see around town. They still serve up an amazing sweet Thai iced tea, though:
This first plate is crispy beef with a tangy hot sauce. These were very similar to the dish I tried at Thai Select in Thai Town.
The Tom Yum soup was very good. It had a great acid base from the tomatoes, and it was spicy. The mix of seafood was fish balls, shrimp and squid.
Below was a crispy pork belly dish. This was heavily fish-sauced and spicy. It was really nice.
This platter below contained various meats, like head cheese, crispy pork, pork rinds, noodles and cabbage.
75 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10003
This one is pretty simple, and it’s something my wife and I make on occasion as a snack for holiday meals.
Get a pack of pre-cooked bacon and sprinkle some brown sugar, cayenne pepper and chocolate powder all over the slices. Bake in the oven to crisp up the bacon and to melt the chocolate and sugar. EAT!
You CAN make the bacon from scratch and skip the pre-cooked aspect, but I like shortcuts. You can find some very good pre-cooked bacon out there these days.
This little hole-in-the-wall in Key West serves up one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had. A lobster grilled cheese!
Essentially it is the meat they use for their lobster rolls, but slapped between two buttery toasted sliced of bread and covered with melted cheese. Fucking insanely buttery and delicious. I could eat this every day!
The lobster rolls are pretty good too. We went with the diablo roll, which has a spicy sri racha and jalapeno kick to it.
Definitely get to this place if you’re ever in Key West. Look for the lobster cut out:
With ramen season kicking into high gear, I suppose it’s high time that I put out a guide to ramen for all of you cold, hungry fucks out there looking to get your soup on. This should serve as your singular, all-encompassing resource for all things slurp. This is more of an informational page, clearly, so if you’ve landed here looking for my ramen reviews, you should go to the Ramen-Ate-R page, where you can read about the tremendous shitload of ramen that I’ve eaten.
There are a bunch of things you need to keep in mind when thinking about ramen. Namely, you need to think about the thickness of the broth, how the broth is made, how it is seasoned, what kind of noodles are used, the toppings, and, finally (if you’re into food knowledge), where the ramen style was developed and the history behind the dish. So let’s get into it:
This is classified as either assari (light) or kotteri (rich). Assari broths are generally thin or clear, as they are typically flavored with vegetables, fish or seaweed. If animal bones are used at all, they are usually just simmered lightly for a short amount of time.
Kotteri, on the other hand, are thick and usually opaque, due to all the emulsified fats, proteins and minerals that are rendered from boiling animal bones for long periods of time. That makes them stocks, technically, not broths. Kotteri are also known as Paitan (from the Chinese). Paitan translates to white broth, which makes sense, given that they are usually cloudy in color and thick in texture.
Ramen soup bases are classified by the main ingredients that are boiled or simmered to make the soup stock (if bones are used) or broth (if no bones are used). As expected, a stock can be made from animal bones (chicken, beef, pork, fish). But lighter broths can be made with dried seafood or kelp/seaweed (like dashi – a broth made from dried, smoked bonito flakes and kelp), and sometimes even just straight up roasted veggies and mushrooms + water.
An example I will use to illustrate here is tonkotsu. “Ton” means pork, and “kotsu” means bones. Thus, the tonkotsu ramen base is a kotteri style thick stock made from pork bones, which would then need to be seasoned with a salty or savory component, which is covered in the next section.
Tare or kaeshi is the seasoning – the main savory element or source of salt – that is used to flavor the ramen. Ramen seasoning comes in three major varieties: Shoyu, Shio and Miso.
Shoyu: This, simply, is soy sauce. If you didn’t know, soy sauce is made from a paste of fermented and boiled soybeans, roasted grains and seasoned water.
Shio: Sea salt. Pretty straightforward. As you can imagine, sea salt as a seasoning is nicely suited for thinner, assari style broths.
Miso: This is an earthy flavored, thick, fermented soybean paste. Seasoning with miso will almost always result in a thick, kotteri style broth, as you can see below:
Ramen noodles are made with wheat flour, water, salt and kansui, an alkaline water which gives the noodles their yellow color and characteristic bounce. In China, it’s more common to see ramen made with eggs instead of kansui.
Depending on the soup they’re added to, ramen noodles can range from wavy to straight, thick to thin, flat, round or square. The type of noodle selected for a bowl of ramen is based on its broth-clinging characteristics, its bounciness and its texture. For that reason, one noodle style may be better suited for a particular soup base or broth thickness than another.
Depending on the noodles used, cook times will vary as well. In addition, their ability to last for a while, soaking in the soup broth, will vary. After a few minutes certain noodles will lose their spring and bounce, and the texture will change.
Just an FYI here: if you need more noodles while you are eating, yell out kaedama!
We have a bunch of categories to discuss here. Let’s start with the most important one: meat.
Obviously if a ramen base is made with animal bones, it only makes sense to use the same animal meat as a topping for the soup. Tonkotsu should have copious amounts of kakuni (pork belly), or chashu (rolled pork loin or belly that is cooked slowly in a sweet soy and mirin sauce, stew-style, then sliced and sometimes charred or grilled afterward for texture). Clearly, chicken is a good topper for your chicken-based ramen. But some chefs get creative. For example I’ve had beef ramen that was topped with crispy beef intestines. I’ve even had chicken broth that was topped not only with chicken but with ground pork as well. Mixing is not a bad thing and it is quite common, as you’ll learn below.
In addition to meat, ramen broths also contain aromatics, such as garlic (fresh, charred, fried or fermented), onions (charred, pickled or raw), ginger (either pickled – beni shoga – or fresh), leeks (fresh or charred), scallions (usually fresh, typically sliced or shredded) and mushrooms (both dried and fresh, and a ton of different types). These can also be incorporated into the creation of the soup base at the start, not just as toppings that are added at the time of serving.
Other common toppings include seasoned soft boiled or hard boiled eggs, sliced fish cakes (naruto), bamboo shoots, corn, cabbage, seaweed, bean sprouts, spice pastes, butter and various oils, such as chili oil, onion oil, pepper oil, garlic oil or sesame oil (and certainly sesame seeds, too, for that matter).
On many occasions, the toppings you see will depend on the region in Japan from which the ramen hails.
Japanese ramen varies greatly by region. Some areas focus on thinner fish- and seaweed-based broths, while others tend to be hearty and thick animal bone soups. I’ve highlighted some of the regional styles below, alphabetically:
Akayu: A sweet and mild ramen soup is topped with a spicy dollup of miso mixed with chili and garlic. Chewy, thick, wavy noodles grace this style, and it is usually served with powdered seaweed as well.
Asahikawa: Asahikawa is Hokkaido’s second-largest city, and is located at the base of the mountains in the middle of the island. Its ramen is a mix of chicken, pork and seafood broth, with a shoyu base. The soup is topped with a layer of melted pork fat to seal in the soup’s heat in the colder months, as well as pork meat, bamboo shoots and scallions.
Hakata: Also known as Nagahama ramen, this style comes from Fukuoka, a prefecture in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, which is famous for its pork dishes. This is my favorite of ramen styles, because it is a thick, fatty, pork bone broth with thin, al-dente noodles. Toppings usually include sesame seeds, pink pickled ginger and fried garlic.
Hakodate: Ramen arrived in Hakodate from China. The soup is thin and light, and the shio-seasoned broth had a mild pork and chicken base. Noodles are usually soft, with toppings like roast pork, bamboo shoots, scallions, nori, fish cakes and spinach.
Kagoshima: Kagoshima is known for its Berkshire pork-like black pigs, yet the ramen is a mild mix of both veggies and chicken, combined with the black pork bone stock. The broth then gets finished off with burnt onions and seasoned with soy sauce. The noodles are soft, and toppings consist of pork meat (obviously), scallions, wood ear mushrooms (kikurage) and bean sprouts.
Kitakata: Kitakata is famous for a clean, light soy-based breakfast soup. In the bowl there’s usually a serving of chewy, wide, flat and curly hand-cut noodles with pork, scallions and bamboo shoots.
Kumamoto: When tonkotsu ramen arrived in Kumamoto prefecture from Kurume, the locals started cutting it with chicken broth. It’s also served with straight noodles, though they’re softer and thicker than the Kurume style. Most bowls have pickled mustard greens, sliced wood-ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, and cabbage on top, but the unique thing about Kumamoto ramen is the use of garlic. You’ll see fried garlic chips and mayu, the black liquid made from garlic that’s been burned in sesame oil. That shit is delicious.
Kurume: This town on the southern island of Kyushu is the birthplace of tonkotsu. Melted bone marrow, fried lard, sesame seeds, pickled ginger and garlic give Kurume ramen a unique and pungent style. Toppings include pork meat, scallions, nori, and spicy mustard greens, in addition to those just mentioned above.
Kyoto: Kyoto’s home to two distinct types of ramen: a thinner assari shoyu ramen, and a thick kotteri chicken soup. The thin version is a blend of pork and chicken broth, with a dark soy base. The thick version is a rich porridge-like chicken soup, topped with garlic, spicy bean paste, chives and odoriferous local onions called kujnoegi. Both are seasoned with shoyu, but the toppings vary for each.
Nagoya “Taiwan” Ramen: “Taiwan Ramen” is Nagoya’s reimagined version of Taiwanese danzimian, which has lots of ground pork, Chinese chives, hot peppers, green onions and garlic. This shit is for people who like spicy soup.
Onomichi: Take a bit of pork, a heap of chicken, some local seafood and a big mess of lard and you’ve got Onomichi ramen. The soup has a shoyu base and is served with chewy, homemade, wavy, flat noodles. It’s usually topped with roast pork, bamboo shoots, scallions and pork fat.
Sapporo: Sapporo-style ramen hails from Japan’s northernmost province, Hokkaido, which is the birthplace of miso ramen. Sapporo miso ramen generally has thick, strong noodles and is commonly topped with bean sprouts, sweet corn, cabbage and ground pork. Soft boiled eggs and thick slices of chashu pork are also common, as well as pats of butter.
Shirakawa: This town developed a refined ramen typified by light, simple soup and hand pulled noodles. It features a shoyu broth, but local mineral water makes for springy noodles with a good chew. Toppings include roast pork, bamboo shoots, fish cake, scallions, seaweed, spinach and even wontons.
Tokushima: Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, and udon is the preferred noodle. But Tokushima prefecture has an aged, extra strong shoyu soup that originated with tonkotsu stocks made from leftover pork bones from nearby ham factories. This is similar to Wakayama ramen. Ramen shops here will add a few strips of thinly sliced pork belly and break a raw egg on top. Tokushima ramen is sometimes divided into “yellow,” “black,” and “white” styles (how racist) of varying strengths. Other toppings for this ramen consist of scallions, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts.
Tokyo: This ramen is usually made with pork and chicken broth and typically features slightly curly, somewhat wide noodles. Very often in Toyko you’ll find broths that are flavored with dashi (broth made from aged bonito flakes and sea kelp). This style of ramen is generally seasoned with shoyu and has a medium-thickness. It’s similar to Yokohama ramen, though that tends to be heavier and meatier than the dashi broths of Tokyo ramen.
Tsubame-Sanjo: The cities of Tsubame and Sanjo are in a freezing cold area, and the ramen from this spot is bizarre and unhealthy. The hearty stock is made of chicken, sardines and pork bones, and the bowls are blasted with tons of pork fat (common in soups from the colder climates). There’s thick, flat noodles in this shoyu-based soup, and toppings include pork meat, bamboo shoots and lots of chopped white onions.
Wakayama: This is the median between thick, rich tonkotsu, and thin, clear broth. Wakayama ramen has a strong shoyu tare seasoning with a long-simmered tonkotsu base. The noodles resemble the thin, firm and long threads of Hakata style ramen, but you also get fish cakes like those in Tokyo style ramen. These soups are also topped with the seemingly ever-present and most common of toppings: roast pork, scallions and bamboo shoots.
Yokohama Ie-Kei: Yokohama is known for ie-kei ramen, a viscous, salty, and fatty tonkotsu shoyu style of ramen. When ordering, diners can designate how firm they want their noodles, the amount of fat they like on top, and the saltiness or strength of the soup. This is my kind of ramen – catering specifically to each unique diner. The toppings for this style of ramen usually include sheets of nori (seaweed paper), spinach, garlic, spicy bean paste and ginger.
Although these dishes are not quite ramen, they’ll still be able to satisfy the most intense need for a ramen fix.
Abura Soba: The name of this soupless noodle dish translates to “oil noodles.” It consists of cooked ramen noodles dressed with flavored oil and tare (usually shoyu). It often comes topped with an egg, and diners are meant to stir everything together in the bowl to form a creamy, fatty, thickened sauce. One can also add vinegar, chili oil and other shit before slurping. Hot peppers, mayonnaise, fried noodles, chopped garlic and pork fat are also crowd favorites to add in.
Chanpon: This originated in Nagasaki and is made by boiling thick noodles directly in a thick pork and seafood soup. It’s viscous, and eats more like stew than ramen.
Hiyashi Chuka: This literally means “cold Chinese.” As such it’s a dish made with cold ramen noodles and various toppings like fried egg, ham, carrot, cucumber and chicken. It is usually dressed in a light soy-vinegar sauce. I’ve even seen fish sauce used in some versions around NYC.
Mazemen: This is a hearty “dry” ramen, characterized by thick noodles and weird toppings like cheese. Similar to Abura Soba, this is essentially cooked noodles with a small amount of strongly flavored sauce on the side for dipping. Toppings and sauces can vary a great deal, and are often experimental in nature.
Tantan-Men: This is an off-shoot of Chinese dandan noodles. Based on a pork broth, it comes with a scoop of heavily spiced ground pork and is generally served with bok choy and/or spinach.
Tsukemen: This, like Mazemen, is also a “dipping” ramen. Cold, undressed (nekkit) noodles are served alongside a hot, concentrated ramen broth. You dip the noodles into a bowl of broth as you eat, grabbing the toppings whenever you choose to.
Yakisoba: This is the Japanese version of Chinese fried noodles. It’s made with egg noodles that get stir-fried with veggies and occasionally meat or seafood. This shit then gets hit with a Worcestershire style anchovy and vegetable sauce. It’s often topped with shaved bonito flakes and pickled ginger (beni shoga).
All around NYC we are seeing various kinds of fusion ramen items being offered, which makes a lot of sense given that the history of ramen in Japan involves a lot of Japanese-Chinese fusion.
However some of the more wild examples I’ve seen in NYC include:
Korean-inspired kimchi ramen (Mokbar):
Thai green curry ramen (Bassanova):
Flavors common to Burmese cuisine that feature coconut milk in the broth base (Tabata):
Indian-inspired massaman curry ramen, even complete with potatoes and carrots and (Yasha):
Italian spaghetti ramen, with pepper oil, arugula and crispy porchetta (Maialino):
Thanksgiving turkey ramen, with gravy, mushrooms, stuffing and cranberries, of course (Talde):
And Jamaican jerk chicken ramen (Miss Lily’s 9A):
There are even ramen burgers (L&L Drive Inn, among others)…
…and now ramen cake (courtesy of my wife, The Cake Dealer).
So that about does it here. If ramen isn’t your thing, but soup most definitely IS your thing, as a general matter, then there’s always pho, bun bo hue and laksa out there to soothe your hot soup needs in the cold winter weather that’s about to strike.