Thailand: Tiny Fiery Pots

I love Thai food. Since my first bite of pad Thai as a child, I was hooked. Since then I’ve experimented with cooking Thai, I’ve eaten at dozens of restaurants and tried as many dishes. Matt does not like Thai. This makes it hard for me to get my Thai fix. You all can imagine how excited I was when it was finally time for Thai in our country cuisine challenge! Since we ate at Thai Xing (http://www.thaix-ing.com/) for our anniversary last year we wanted to try a new spot. As a side tangent though, I will say that Thai Xing is a delicious and intimate Thai dinner experience.

I learned of BKK Cookshop (BKK is the airport code for Bangkok) opening quite some time ago and told Matt to add it to our list of places to try. The early descriptions of their menu sounded unique and not like your typical watered-down American Thai restaurants. The chef of another local Thai restaurant promised to bring small plates and main dishes, with a Thai street food-inspired flair.

Matt and I started out with a few drinks and some appetizers. I ordered a Thai ice tea and Matt ordered a Singha beer, which they sold on draft.

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We kind of went a little crazy with our appetizers and ordered a few. We started out just getting the steamed buns (yep, they’re a Thai food, we checked) but then we saw something that looked too good to pass up. Our second choice was a dish called son-in-law eggs. I’ll just gloss over the buns. The eggs, on the other hand, were exceptional.

Son-in-law eggs are two hard boiled eggs halved and fried and then covered in a sweet sauce, BKK Cookshop used a tamrind sauce. At first read, it doesn’t sound like a tasty combo but after first bite, you’ll already be reaching for a second.

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For our main course, Matt ordered the boat noodle bowl dish. Which was a choice of pork or beef (he went with beef) in a spicy broth, herbs and spices, with rice noodles, and veggies. I tried some, it wasn’t too spicy. Matt slurped up the whole dish.

20150825_174937I chose the Bangkok spicy noodles,a  rice noodle dish tossed with ground pork, crushed peanuts, and bean sprouts. My dish was spicy as well but the spice did not take over the Thai flavors. I didn’t finish my meal but not because I didn’t enjoy it, I was stuffed from all of the great food we tried.

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My Bangkok noodles
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Matt’s boat noodle bowl

You may have noticed all of the mysterious silver pots in the photo of Matt’s dish (oh you didn’t, I’ll wait here while you scroll back up and look). The server brought out this quad of little silver pots. Pretty much everything in the pots was a spicy sauce of some kind. After all the spicy food I’d tried, I passed on taste testing the sauces (especially after our sever gave us a pretty stern warning on the heat level).

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To top off a great dinner al fresco on a mild summer evening in DC, we were treated to live entertainment. A young neighborhood boy was playing his violin outside of the restaurant because, “he wants to save money to buy legos.” At least that’s what his mom told us.

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Not sure if you’ll get the entertainment every but the great food will certainly be available. I know I’ll be back as soon as I can!

-Bridget

Brazil: Restaurant Week Churrasco

I know what you are thinking, Fogo de Chao is a cheat way to eat “Brazilian.”  But in all honesty, the style of cooking they use and many of their foods are authentic Brazilian cuisine.  They use a Churrasco grilling tradition that comes from Brazil.  The founders of Fogo de Chao are from Southern Brazil and brought their cooking style (plus all you can eat meat) to America.  Because of this, we chose (by chose I mean I begged Bridget to go until she gave in) Fogo de Chao.

On top of getting to go to Fogo de Chao we were also heading out for DC restaurant week.  This is one thing we have never really done and were excited about it.  Restaurants choose special menus and have set prices (decent as well) for a full meal.

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We started the meal with Bridget getting a Caipirinha, Brazilian cocktail.  I went with a Xingu gold lager.  Xingu is a cerveza de Brazil.  Both were enjoyed and were refreshing with our meal.

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Not only do we get tons of food at Fogo de Chao but Bridget having to go through the ordering process is null and void.  If you don’t know how Fogo works then you are in for a treat.  They give you a two sided “button” that is green and red.  Green means GO and tons of gauchos (servers) come by with variety of meat on a skewer ready to be served.

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One of the many meats served by a gaucho on a skewer

To go with the meal you get to enjoy their market table.  This is basically a fancy salad bar meant to distract you from the main event of meats.  We splattered our plates with a few veggies but made plenty of room for the gauchos and their skewers of meats.

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Also to go along with the meal is another distraction of foods in side dishes.  Now mind you these were all delicious and some even were authentic Brazilian.  For example one of the best things all night was the Pao de Queijo or Brazilian cheese bread.  Fried polenta (which was to die for), loaded mashed potatoes and fried bananas were also served on the side.  Everything was enjoyed but filled parts of my stomach I saved for meats.

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Couldn’t wait to eat before a picture

The gauchos come fast and the meat is placed on the plate delicately together.  Included in this meal is different beef, pork and chicken.

  • Picanha: a popular Brazilian cut of meat that is a prime top sirloin.
  • Alcatra: another top sirloin popular in Brazil.
  • Fraldinha: an excellently salted bottom sirloin.
  • Cordeiro: leg of lamb.
  • Linguica: robust pork sausage
  • Costela de Porco: pork ribs
  • Lombo: parmesean encrusted filets of pork
  • Frango: bacon wrapped chicken breasts

It really is hard to say which was the best or which was the worst.  By the time the meal was done and our buttons were turned red for good it really didn’t matter.   You enter this place with such a happy smile and smell the excitement in the air.  However, you leave ready to be rolled out the door and flopped in a bed.  Mind you we were upstairs and had to waddle down, slowly, to leave.

After done with meats and our buttons firmly on red, the gaucho came over and said we get a dessert, EACH!  Since it came with the meal we couldn’t say no, ordering a slice of chocolate mousse cake and key lime pie.  We both said we would have a bite and before we knew it they were both gone.  They may not be Brazilian but I am not one to pass up dessert at any time for any reason.

I regret nothing in going here.  I enjoyed begging to go and felt bad bringing Bridget until I saw her enjoying her meal.  There is nothing like being brought skewers of meat all night and being treated like a king, a fat lazy king.

-Matt

Paraguay: Messy Plates

Going from 5 to 4 days a week of work leaves me sometimes just simply, bored.  Today was no exception and I decided to prepare another fun home cooked cuisine.  Tonight’s cuisine of choice was Paraguayan!

For this meal I found a few sites online that spoke of the traditional foods of Paraguay.  The most popular of these dishes I found was a “soup” and meat pie.  I put “soup” because it was barely that; however, as I explain more of the Paraguayan way you will understand.

The first dish I found to make was sopa Paraguayan.  From that I had to assume a Paraguayan soup, boy was I wrong.  The sopa Paraguayan was originally a soup but accidentally too much corn flour was added and this dish was discovered.  I would describe it as as souffle or quiche almost.

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It had THREE onions in it, so that was the majority of the flavor but was mixed well with eggs, milk and cheese.  With adding the cornmeal, it thickened up while cooking.  I wasn’t too sure how it was going to turn out and was pretty scared.  After an hour of baking in the oven it came out brown and fluffy in the bread pan.  I cut around the sides and flipped it over on a plate.  It came out a little softer than it should have and looked like a hot mess.  However, the dish tasted fantastic, maybe a bit too many onions, but had great flavor.

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The other dish we went ahead and tried was the So’o Ku’i.  This is basically Paraguayan style of meat pie.  I cooked up some rice and beef, mixed them together for the filling.  Seasoned it with plenty of salt and cumin.  I baked a few pastry shells and hollowed them out when done.  I filled them and whallah! it was done. This dish was very easy to make and tasted great.

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On the side we went the standard fried plantains.  Sadly the local groceries don’t have the best selection of plantains right now (took two stores to even find some.) They were good but not as sweet as preferred.

Thanks to great company by half the Devitos we had a great meal at home on a Tuesday night.  The night start rough in the kitchen and I was unsure how the meal would come out.  But after watching Bridget and Michael clean their plates I was happy with how it turned out.

-Matt

Ghana, Nigeria & Ivory Coast: African Fest

After a delicious Filipino meal earlier in the day we set out for the Silver Spring annual African Fest.  We had no idea which country cuisine we would have tonight but were sure of one thing, we weren’t hungry.  However, I couldn’t help myself and this was a special event I wanted to go to in order to enjoy African cuisine.

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The fest was a mixture of many different African cultures and cuisines.  We noticed that there was a good selection of cuisines to choose from so we chose not to choose.  With there being such a variety we ate a bite from a few different countries.

To start we found a Nigerian specialty: Suya.  This is basically a spicy shish kabob and when I say spicy I am not kidding.  This line for suya by Suya Master (suyamaster.com) was the longest by far.  We split up our order and got 2 beef and 1 chicken suya.  He asked if we wanted it spicy and I was adventurous enough to go with it.  Hot was an understatement but the flavor was ridiculously good.

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The Suyamaster
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Freshly grilled
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Suya beef and chicken

I then got the taste for some stew. I found a Ghanaian (looked this up to make sure it was correct) tent with a Waakye and stew.  Waakye is basically rice and beans cooked together.  On top of the waakye was served stewed chicken.  The chicken had good flavor and fell right off the bone.

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Waakye with stewed chicken

After enjoying this meal Bridget and I watched the fashion show going on in the main area.  This was enjoyable but both of us were stuffed.  However, there was one item I didn’t want to pass up on and never will: doughnuts.

I found an Ivory Coast tent that sold freshly made fry donuts, which is a African specialty.  They have many names across the continent but in Ivory Coast they are called Gbofloto.  They are a sweet and need no sauce, but would of been delicious with some on it.

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Proudly showing their Ivory Coast colors
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Freshly fried
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Fry Donuts (Gbfloto)

To wash down this meal we definitely didn’t need anything sweeter but got something anyways.  I bought a Jus de la passion, Passion Fruit drink.

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We came out with a full stomach and but I made some room for the delicious African cuisines.  Bridget maybe not as much as me.  I enjoyed the variety and seeing the cultures shared with people of all cultures.  DC is best for this and I will always love it

-Matt

Philippines: Purple Yam Ice Cream

As stated many times before, I don’t understand brunch after noon; however, I won’t make this a diatribe about “brunch.”  Instead I am going to tell you about the most delicious Filipino food I ate around noon time on a Sunday.

We found a little spot in the Mt. Pleasant area of DC for this “brunch.”  Bridget picked me up after I enjoyed a Sunday morning at the DC Record Fair. Walking up to the Purple Patch (www.purplepatchdc.com) we realized it looked familiar.  A good friend of ours was a bartender here back when it was called Tonic.

After talking about the past, we realized how much nicer this place was now.  The staff was incredibly nice and even hooked us up with a little taste of their famous ice cream (something I think was not allowed).

Everything on the menu looked fantastic and made it hard for us to choose. The easiest part, however, was that everything was pretty authentic Filipino and nothing we chose would be “wrong.”  Both dishes we ordered were outstanding but we do regret not ordering the one dish that was so hard to pass up: Filipino Chicken and Waffles.  Neither one of us wanted anything sweet (it was served with purple yam ice cream) though.

Since it wasn’t too early in the day and definitely 5 o’clock somewhere I ordered a Filipino beer, Red Horse.  It was good to see a restaurant that specialized in a cuisine import some of the beers too.  Usually the alcohol of that country is not seen as important but to me it is just as the food the is.

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Bridget ordered Sisig, which is basically fried pork marinated in lemon juice or vinegar.  The Purple Patch uses pig shoulder and belly  marinated in lemon juice and vinegar.  They also use some onions and birds eye peppers.  Throwing a raw egg in it (still raw when served) makes it a “brunch” dish.  The dish came out sizzling and steaming on a cast iron plate.  On the side Bridget received some jasmine rice to eat it with. The server told her to mix the egg into the dish so the hot cast iron would finish cooking it.

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I went with the Tapsilog (or Tapa) which is a cured beef that is thinly sliced.  The beef was served with fresh tomatoes on the side and a bed of garlic fried rice.  On the rice was too fried eggs.  The beef was so damn good and fresh, while the garlic fried rice was different but tasted great.

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There was no dessert to order but we saw the Chicken and Waffles being brought out to another customer with the purple ice cream.  I decided to kiss up to the server a bit and see if we could get a scoop for dessert.  This turned into a long game of wait and see as no one was sure if this was allowed.  I always assumed if something was on the menu, it would be served for a guest.  After waiting a few a manager came over and brought us a small bowl with a scoop, well worth the drama.

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The ice cream is a purple yam and made into an Ube Ice Cream.  The sweetness of this ice cream completely surprised us and it had no “yam” flavor.  The ice cream was that of coconut milk and had a piney or nutty flavor.  It was gone in 30 seconds, quite happily I must add.

The Purple Patch (which as I write this, just totally got the name) was an incredible brunch spot of authentic Philippine cuisine.  We will not only be back for brunch but dinner as well.  Next time might be a bit harder as an article in the Washington Post is coming out next week.  But I will gladly wait in a long line for this cuisine.

-Matt