Category Archives: Japanese Food

Sad Times July 23rd 2014

It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.

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Noodling in Chinatown-July 1st 2011

I’m sitting on a long Island Railroad train heading for New York City, behind me a crazy cat lady is telling the conductor that it’s” Take your cat to work day” …I didn’t get that memo. But it doesn’t matter to me because I am on vacation and this is my first in three years. So I’m heading into the city to get out of dodge for a while and having not been here since April, I’m rather looking forward to just loafing and sitting and watching the working world go by me. I am armed with Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and a laundry list of places to eat and drink, but to be honest I’m back on austerity so it’ll have to be cheap. I spent 225 bucks on my car repairs and after 11 years and many upgrades my old desktop computer just gave up. I was forced to buy a reconditioned laptop. It’s got 4 gig of memory and a great processor, but I don’t like it much as a writing tool. I’m used to my old setup so part of the next ten days will be spent setting up my desk and introducing the laptop to my peripheral devices. This has set me back over 500 bucks so my dreams of three star dinning are out the window.

But at least I’m out of the rat race for ten days and my garden is in full swing with veggies growing and war being waged organically on pests and a big barbecue is planned for the 4th with everyone bringing food and drink so life is good. Recently I saw an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s” Bizarre Foods” which actually has him working in restaurants trying to work a shift like he used to in the old days. He goes to Xian’s Famous Noodles in Chinatown and works the busy lunch and dinner shift. Here they make every dish of noodles by hand and after brief instruction he is stretching and slapping the noodles on the counter like a pro. Each dish of noodles is made with a delicious combo of meat or veg in a sauce and the most popular is the Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles. During the episode his friend and fellow Food Network Star Adam Richman stops by to have a bowl and declares it to be fantastic. I’ve read that Anthony Bourdain has also declared that Xian’s is among the best in New York, so at just 7 bucks a bowl-for me to day-it’s all about the noodle.

Recently, I was looking at Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations website and found that he is writing for a HBO show called “Treme”, I don’t have HBO but he is also contributing to a new culinary quarterly called “Lucky Peach”, this is the baby of David Chang the legendary owner of Momofuku in New York, the home of possibly the best Ramen noodles in the western world as well as three other restaurants. This magazine is available only through McSorleys on the web and this first issue is devoted to Ramen noodles. There are articles by Anthony Bourdain and original artwork  and recipes and maps of Japan showing how Ramen is made in different provinces. It’s an off-beat unconventional magazine and owning a subscription makes me feel like I’ve joined some secret society, known only to a few who have the password and secret handshake. I am today entering the complex world of the noodle, a humble Buddha-like food product so important to so many.

So I get topside and head for my first destination which is another food network episode memory, again to the Lower East Side where many simple good things seem to have been invented, up to and including the donuts at Doughnut Plant, a little shop where hand-made jellies and sauces go over hand-made batches of donuts. It’s a place that’s a little smaller than my house where chef/owner Mark Isreal has come a long way. He has made the doughnut a work of art and they even sell t-shirts for tourists to show off back home! This is a small Jewish enclave on the outskirts of Chinatown on Grand St next to Kossars Bialy and a kosher bakery. But when you come to this small shop, it’s all about two things. The Peanut Butter and Jelly doughnut and the even more venerated Creme Brulee doughnut, so I sit down on the window ledge after a family from Nebraska leaves and tuck into my PB&J, this is a square doughnut that has a square hole in the center with grape jelly running all through it. The outside is covered in a peanut butter sauce, it’s good but I really should have milk with this rather than bad utility coffee. But the Creme Brulee doughnut is another matter. This is good, I mean blackout good, this doughnut is made with creme Brulee filling and the outside is actually got the hard toasted sugar just like the classic French dessert! This reminds me how much I need to learn how to make the French dessert myself from scratch, yet another chapter in my cooking pursuits.

There is much going on today in the city, for some reason Elizabeth St is closed with police barricades. They are moved by officers to let sporty black police edition Dodge Chargers through however, and down the block men in suits and white shirted officers stand around for what…I don’t know. But I later learn it was an accident of some sorts. I walk on and get a text message from mom, she wonders if The Golden Dragon is still open in Chinatown. This was a place where she and her girlfriends would have lunch back in the day. I have no way of tracking this down myself but with additional texts from my brother, I use my map to go to 51 Division St but find it’s not there, I actually go to two more addresses but I come up empty handed. It would have been cool to find it still open but that was back in the fifties, most places don’t last that long. It was a good effort though and it made me hungry. So I decided to double back to my noodle lunch destination. The fascinating thing about being here is how much you feel like an outsider in your own country. You are literally the one in one hundred who doesn’t look or talk like everybody else. The streets are mobbed with people shopping, talking and bustling about. Many are laden with bags of food, unfamiliar greens thrust up from shopping bags, others are heavy with fish, large eyes staring through plastic that were only hours before searching for food in the sea. The streets are lined with vendors selling all manner of colorful hats and shirts, battery operated toys, fans and those ceramic cats with writing on their bellies…I wonder what that’s about? I find Xian’s easily and go into the crowded space and wait my turn. This is not the same location that was used on TV but the food is the same, I am however disappointed that I won’t be seeing my hand=pulled noodles made today. I place my order and go sit in the back and wait for my number to be called, the orders are made in a downstairs kitchen and come up on a dumbwaiter. My number is called and I go up and get my tray and choose my weapon of choice-chopsticks. I tuck into my spicy cumin lamb noodles with gusto, this is a whole other level of good! The noodles are soft and yielding at first but then become chewy, and the chopped lamb with onion and cucumber and scallion swimming in an fiery orange sauce. This is savory and hot, evil and good. It’s too bad the A/C is blowing so cold, I rush to eat my food before it is chilled down. My lips are burning as I slurp down the last of my dish and I really wish I could try another but that would be gluttony so I clean up my tray and head out into the warm summer day. I decide to head back to the Doughnut Plant to get some Creme Brulee’s for the family, it’s a long walk but that’s okay. I make my way back in the growing heat of the late afternoon to Penn Station, zig-zagging to keep to the shaded side of the street, like they do in Provence. Soon I find myself in the growing crowds entering the station proper and the coolness wraps you as you descend. The long walk was tiring but at least I burnt some of todays calories off, this beats the heck out of standing at that hot counter! I grab a cold water and go down for my train, relaxed and happy.

Chow
Glen

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Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Food, Food Writing, Japanese Food, Lower East Side, Memories, New York City, Writing

Winter Medley – Jan 11 Th 2008

 It’s a sunny cool day as I sit waiting for my brother to come out of the house, I have to drive him to work before I head into Manhattan today to see the new pieces of Abstract art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. The weather has been strange lately, we had a few warmer days so it’s not too bad weather wise.  I’m off this week so I don’t care that I’m getting a late start, my brother finally comes out and we go to his job. The two of us joke around in the car a little on the ride there but I feel bad that he has to work and can’t join me today. I drop him off and make my way to the train station and search for a place to park, I try to park under the lights so I can feel safe we I come back at night, this isn’t a bad neighborhood but it’s better to be safe.

 I board the train and am happy to find it’s an express-good deal, so I sit looking out the window and and listen to the people around me, as an artist and writer I find that this kind of voyeurism is good for my creativity. I write this poem by looking and listening…

 Old places glass and steel.

Bricks with black lettering.

Pools of water on rooftops.

Shinning rails of travel, momentary blindness.

A man sleeps seeing nothing

A man sighs behind me.

Sleeping man passing gas oblivious to the

Smoke billowing black from chimneys.

A man sighs again alone.

A lone flag flies in the distance.

Is it all nothing to you?

Copyright  G. Henley 2008

 We are going into the tunnels now and I feel the creative energy coming back, must keep it turned on always I think as the train stops and I head out into the stuffy platform and walk upstairs to Penn Station and up to the street. I grab a taxi to the Met, I will walk later but right now I just want to get in and see the exhibit, later I will head to the Village for some Hong Kong style Octopus balls, which I will explain later.

  This is a collection of 55 new works given by Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman, an astute collector of art who collected works of both the old guard of Abstract Expressionism, but also the work of younger artists that proved to be worth her attention years later. This is an exceptional show, many new pieces by some of my boys, I am happy to see a Robert Motherwell. I am lucky to own a large hand signed print by him, it’s not in great shape but at least I got one-too bad it’s so big I can’t frame it. There’s also a few by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg (god rest his soul) that I hadn’t seen before, there’s a Pollack, a Kline I especially like, a DeKooning and work by David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Rivers, and Anne Ryan. But it was a smallish exhibit so it doesn’t take me long to see it all and I make my way to a special exhibit of African Reliquary Art.

 The word reliquary means literally container or vessel where religious relics or artifacts are stored.  Some held the remains of  tribal people who had died, say a finger bone or a piece of the skull which were thought to be magical andwere used with carved guardian figures on top in tribal rituals. Many reliquaries were used used in Christian ritual from the 4th century and have been venerated by Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. These carved figures are fantastic, detailed and so finely made, the most famous of these is The Pahouin or Black Venus made by a member of the Fang people, Betsi group; Gabon. Many of the most famous artists in Paris collected and studied tribal art including Pablo Picasso, Andre’ Derain, Henri Matisse, and Maurice de Vlaminck just to name a few. There are also beautiful statues made by the Punu and Kota peoples, the fascinating thing was the Gothic ones made from metals, a finely wrought hand in a magical gesture kept my attention for twenty minutes, the only time I really wanted to steal a museum piece in my life. I then watched a short film taken in the 30’s by an Anthropologist, a burial of a huge reliquary. The dead person was sewn inside a huge stuffed Golem like doll which was carried and buried in a huge grave with much crying, singing, and ceremony and the TV on which this was viewed was about 5ft away from the actual reliquary in the museum!  This thing was bigger than a Volkswagen Bug standing on it’s end, I won’t forget this exhibit anytime soon…I just wish I had the money and the proper space to collect African art myself like my old friends in Paris, now we know where the influence for Cubism came from!

 I leave the Met and take the subway all the way down to the East Village, I’m on a kind of pilgrimage you see, after watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where he ate them in Osaka, I just have to try the Takoyaki at Otafuku. Located on 235 E. 9th St (Btwn 2nd& 3rd Ave) this place is the real deal, it’s tiny-I mean there is enough room for about three people to stand inside and place orders. The two young men that run the place are cramped in front of a tiny grill, a special device for making octopus or squid balls sits next to the take out window. But what are they? you ask puzzled. Well it’s a seasoned batter witha piece of octopus inside which is cooked in a grill that has dozens of  holes the size of a golf ball, as they cook crispy they are turned crispy sideup so that more raw batter hits the hot grill until they are crispy on the outside-gooey on the inside, they even turn a switch and the grill shakes to help loosen the hot treats so they come out easier, they also make a great batter pancake with veggies and your choice of toppings. Everything is covered with sqeeze bottles of Japanese mayo, thick soy sauce and dried flaked pork or fish, they also serve yakisoba noodles and a good assortment of teas or soda.

 I take my hot food and go to find someplace to eat, finding a little park at E.6th St and Cooper Square I settle down to try my food, it’s magical and delicious, crispy then chewy then gooey describes the balls, the pancake is savory and sweet and the hot tea is welcome as it’s getting colder. I see a group of people coming down the sidewalk and wonder what’s going on, but I am surprised when the group stops and the guide begins to talk about the building behind me. This is strange because I can see that everyone is not watching the guide, they are all watching me eat! Here I am, dressed in many layers of clothes looking like a bum dinning Al fresco on a bench using chopsticks no less!  They move off and are replaced by a group of young goofs with thier girlfriends who come inside the park apparently to throw pennies at the Pigeons, a boom crane moves slowly nearb, sirens, traffic, the bang and boom of work being done and people walk by. I go on enjoying my meal and ignore the world for a while…It’ll still be there when I get back.

  I ride home on the train enjoying a young redheads reflection in the window, she is facing me and I can see her even though a seat separates us(a miracle of refraction or reflection?) and enjoy being a voyeur, I wish I had a drawing tablet with me, she looks like the actress in “Lady In The Water” when we come topside I can’t see her anymore, the glare of the setting sun robs me of the view, so I write and remember the day and hope to do this again real soon.

Peace

Glen
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