RSS Feed

Tag Archives: bean

Simply Bowled Over (Brazilian Bowl, Chicago)

Posted on

Bemvindo to another chapter in the epic food-filled saga that is Mastication Monologues!  Things have been a bit more laid back as of late as I enjoy the wondrous time in school known as Spring Break where the pressures of the typical quarter fall away.  Thankfully, with this free time I’m able to commit myself to at least writing more than usual, and you all get to read about a new cuisine you might have never have tried before.  Talk about a win-win!  Not only that, but this is officially my 300th post!  It has been a long time coming, but let’s get down to the food.  Today’s featured restaurant is Brazilian Bowl located on 3204 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657, but there is another location on Lawrence Avenue in the Little Korea neighborhood further north in Chicago.

I’ve always been a fan of trying different types of food from throughout Latin America, but typically Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban food take center stage in Latin American cuisine.  Boiling down this giant geographical area to three countries is doing the rest of the nations’ cuisines a major disservice.  Brazil, on the other hand, occupies a unique position in both the continent and the food world.  Not only is it the largest country in South America, but it is predominantly Portuguese-speaking while swimming in a sea of Spanish speakers.  The size of the country has also led to an interesting blend of cultures.  Brazil’s Amazonian region is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world that is inhabited with Amerindian tribes who have lived in the sadly shrinking rainforest for over 12,000 years now.  Add into that mix, Brazil imported 40% of all African slaves to the Americas as well as being home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. This intermingling of cultures led to Brazil having a diverse food scene as well.  Thankfully, Brazilian Bowl manages to go beyond the southern regional specialty of churrascaria or grilled meats made famous through chains like Fogo de Chao.

There’s not just meat in Brazilian food.

My friend Drew brought me out to try this local eatery since he had been going on and on about how good their food was.  It was a small establishment in the form of a cafeteria-style eatery where we ordered at the counter and had them bring our meals over to our table.  Looking over the menu, they had a variety of dishes including hotdogs, hamburgers, salads, empanadas, traditional Brazilian plates, fresh fruit juices, and of course, make your own bowls.  I looked beyond anything else and went with Drew’s recommendation:  feijoada ($10.95).  I had tried an Indian fusion version of the Brazilian national dish before during Chicago’s Restaurant Week, but I never was face to face with this mythical creature.  While we were waiting for our food to come out, I also managed to see that they were selling a variety of Brazilian snacks and ingredients in the front like a mini mini-mart.  I didn’t indulge, but a package of bread crumbs reminded me to also request an order of the pão de queijo (5 for $4.50; 2 minimum or 10 maximum per order).  Eventually, the staff brought us our food, and it was a mountain of food for the price.  Feijoada (derived from the Portuguese word for “bean”) takes many forms depending on the region of Brazil it comes from, but Brazilian Bowl focuses on the Rio de Janeiro version which includes four different types of meat (blood sausage, pork, beef, and ribs), black beans, collard greens, pico de gallo, farofa, and a bed of rice which serves as the foundation for the hearty meal.  While many conjecture that the stew comes from the era of when African slaves would make the most of the pork scraps they would get on the plantations in addition to African ingredients like collard greens and farofa or cassava flour, others say that the dish arose from Brazil’s black bean boom.  Both upper and lower sections of Brazilian society enjoyed the beans, but the elites preferred to eat the black beans with a stew of meat and vegetables, a carryover tradition from Northern Portugal.  Whatever the origin, this was a meal that was both hearty and overflowing with flavor.  The meats were plentiful and tender with an emphasis on the smoky blood sausage and blended perfectly with the black beans.  The pico de gallo was fresh and slightly tangy due to some lime juice they mixed in.  The collard greens were sauteed and brought even more color and some crunch to an otherwise mostly chewy bowl of ingredients.  When mixed together, the entire melange was like the sambadrome during Carnival in my mouth.

Dramatic recreation of our meal’s flavors (photo credit: AP)

The only downside was the farofa which basically blended into the background, so I’m not sure why it was included.  It was just what I needed to warm-up on a cold Chicago night.  Our meal didn’t end there though.  The pão de queijo or Brazilian cheese bread was the perfect side.  This bread originated in the slave communities of northeastern Brazil in the 17th Century.  Originally, slaves would make a bread out of cassava roots with no cheese, but as the mining communities grew in wealth over time, the slaves were able to make the bread with cheese inside as well as with imported wheat that normally wouldn’t stand up to the intense heat of the region.  The little lumps of bread were piping hot with Parmesan crusts on the outside and even more on the inside.  The interesting part of the interior was that the cheese was thick and taffy-like instead of being more rubbery or stretchy like melted mozzarella.  Definitely worth a try if you’re not looking for extremely exotic cuisine.  Finally, we reached dessert.  I tried an order of brigadeiros ($1 per piece) and a slice of bolo prestigio ($4 per slice).  The brigadeiros has an uncertain past, but they are balls of sticky, sweet condensed milk and chocolate.  If you have a sweet tooth and/or are a chocoholic without any loose fillings, these are for you.  As for the bolo prestigio, it was very similar to the brigadeiros in regard to the chocolate and same sprinkles on the outside.  However, the condensed milk was combined with coconut milk to create a choco-coco masterpiece.  Plus, the cashier gave me basically half the cake when I ordered in Portuguese.  I don’t know if it made any difference, but overall Brazilian Bowl does not skimp on portion sizes.  Drew and I only had a few bites of the rich cake before we drew our dining experience to an end.

Brazilian Bowl was a great recommendation on behalf of my friend, Drew, and I highly recommend everyone try this simple but culturally and culinarily enriching establishment.  Bom apetite!
Brazilian Bowl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

Happy Is the Stomach That Wears the Crown

Posted on

Well, the summer is just rolling by, and the weather is getting as wild as some of the food adventures on which I’m embarking.  Today’s post is another addition to my already extensive Far East collection of restaurant reviews, but it serves up some new dishes that I’ve never tried before.  While I’ve experienced some dim sum that has been out of this world, I’m always up for trying novel places like Triple Crown in Chicago’s Old Chinatown.

I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this location from my friends who are of Chinese/Taiwanese ancestry since some have said that they’ve sold out to Western tastes while others have conjectured that they still keep it old school with some of their menu selections.  Adventure time!  I went there with my girlfriend since we had a craving for dim sum, and luckily, they indulged us in the afternoon when other diners only serve the Chinese version of tapas at night. IMG_3682 After scaling the stairs, we were greeted with a spacious dining hall that was sparsely populated, but I’m sure come dinner time it would be packed.IMG_3681  It was tastefully decorated but unusually warm as if the air conditioning didn’t work, clearly an air conditioning repair is in order.  It didn’t help they gave us hot tea to drink upon sitting down.  While living in Korea, I learned the best method for allegedly cooling down is to consume hot food and drinks in order to make it not seem as sweltering outside…it doesn’t work for me, but who knows?  So we looked over the dim sum menu, and it was quite minuscule compared to the selection at other competitors.  Triple Crown’s normal entree menu is quite encyclopedic though ranging from fried rice and orange chicken to more old-school dishes like tripe and duck tongues.  We saved those options for another day though.  After picking a smattering of dim sum plates, we waited for about 20 minutes for the first wave to emerge.   We were greeted by three steamed char siu barbecue pork buns and three scallion and shrimp cakes.  I started with the bbq pork buns since I love pork and savory sauces.IMG_3683  The chewy, white exterior gave way to a blood red interior that immediately gave me a minor case of the meat sweats.  The pork was tender and slathered in a semi-sweet yet tangy sauce. IMG_3685 I still think they could have been better with a meat to bread ratio that leaned toward the former rather than the latter, but I did enjoy them from the first to the last gooey bite.  As for the shrimp and scallion cakes, they were much more interesting since the delicate, translucent covering gave way to a plethora of verdant onions that provided a real pep to the chunks of plain shrimp. IMG_3684IMG_3686 I like my shrimp, but the scallions were the only saving grace of this dim sum choice since the shellfish weren’t even seasoned.  While we were gobbling down the first wave, the second installment invaded our table with a trio of fried sesame balls and a quartet of siu mai/shumai dumplings.  I’ll start with the latter first since they have an interesting background.  While many scholars contend that these uniquely shaped dumplings originated in Inner Mongolia, they quickly became associated with Cantonese cuisine in the West due to this population’s mass diaspora throughout Europe and America.  In Chinese, “shumai” literally means “to buy and sell”, and while we did buy them, I wasn’t completely sold on them. IMG_3688 The outer dough was chartreuse, but didn’t bring much to the table (pun intended) in terms of flavor.  On the other hand, the interior was adequately prepared.  It seemed to be a mix of pork seasoned with soy sauce and ginger that reminded me of a Swedish meatball sans sauce.  Nothing really mind blowing though even with the generous helping of orange fish roe atop the meat like an ill-fitting ginger toupee.  Our meal took a turn for the better with the fried sesame buns.  IMG_3687While they did contain a hefty helping of one of my few bugbears in Far Eastern cooking, sweet red bean paste, I loved the copious amounts of savory sesame seeds that jived all meal long with the crunch exterior encasing a chewy rice cake interior.  I hated eating plain rice cake or “tteok” in Korea, but the Chinese managed to find a way to make it much more palatable.  I’d highly recommend these if you’re looking for a dim sum plate that has great textural and taste variety.  As we were working on this penultimate round of dishes, the piece de resistance emerged:  the chicken feet.  While they’re more commonly known as “phoenix talons” in Chinese, these chicken feet are another one of my must-have’s when going out for dim sum.  While most people, including my girlfriend, are disgusted at the sight of me chomping on the chickens’ tootsies, they’re truly missing out a delicious delicacy. IMG_3689 The feet are boiled, deep fried, and then seasoned with a black bean sauce that is sweet with a hint of spice.

Getting cold feet.  Hiyo!

Getting cold feet. Hiyo!

I’m not going to say that it’s for everyone since there are a lot of bones and cartilage to deal with and not a ton of meat, but what meat there is, it’s mind blowingly tender along with the slightly crispy skin.  IMG_3762It’s a mind over matter sort of choice, but you’d be crazy not to try it.

By the end of the meal, we were stuffed and paid only 20 bucks total for two people for a ton of good food.  While I’ve been spoiled by dim sum restaurants overseas or other local establishments with bigger menus, I’d still recommend Triple Crown if you’re looking for a new Chinatown eatery or even want to try dim sum for the first time.

Triple Crown Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Got the Munchies?

Posted on

Hello everyone to another installment of Mastication Monologues!  Life continues in Korea, and I’m writing this since the weather is cold and wet outside.  I don’t think the seasons really know what they’re doing around here.  One day it’s sunny and warm and the next day it’s cold and wet.  Oh well, at least one thing has remained constant:  me trying new and crazy foods.  This post will talk about different odds and ends of Korean snacks I have tried since touching down here.  First, there are the items I have received from my teachers.

I’ll start with one food that my teachers have given to me in various forms, but I have yet to find one that really catches my fancy:  rice cake or tteok in Korean.  Obviously, rice holds a special place in Asian cuisine as a staple grain just like wheat and corn in the West, and therefore, there will be many different products made from it.  However, I have never tried so many different types of rice cake in my life.  It seems like there are as many varieties of rice cake as there are varieties of kimchi.  The rice cake is made by pounding sticky rice into a dough, mixing in various ingredients, and then portioning them out into more manageable to eat pieces.  One of the first types of rice cake I tried with my coteachers was coated in semi-dehydrated red beans.  It was dry, gummi, and tasted like bland beans…yummy.  On another day, I saw strange purple squares saran-wrapped on the table, and I found out that it was rice cake with cut almonds in it.  I took one bite, and it had a strange floral flavor that clashed with the almonds.

Very natural looking...

Very natural looking…

The only two types of rice cake that I actually enjoy are the black sesame coated type or one infused with raisins.  The black sesame powder one is quite expensive, but tastes like sweet sesame seeds.  As for the raisin tteok, the absence of flavor in the actual rice dough allows for the sweet raisins to really shine.  Overall, rice cakes have failed to grow on me as of right now.

Moving on to treats my teachers have given me that I actually enjoyed, I’ll start with the mystery 12 grain sticks.  One of my teachers who occupies a cubicle kiddie corner from me gave me a small foil package and said “For you”.  I looked at it, and it just said, “12 grains crispiroll.”IMG_0015  So I was expecting some sort of granola bar to emerge from the wrapper, but what I encountered was something completely different. IMG_0016 Instead of seeing a granular bar, I was greeted by a light yellow, crumbly tube.  I took a bite, and it was an interesting experience.  Not only was it crumbly, but the interior somehow seemed to be filled with some sort of cheese flavored substance I couldn’t see for the life of me.  It must have been hidden under the interior layer, but it was like eating a healthy version of cheese puffs.  Another great treat from my students was chalboribbang.

Although the name is somewhat long, these little sandwiches really hit the spot.  Our 5th graders took a trip to Gyeongju, and they came back with boxes of chalboribbang.IMG_0017  Apparently they are the region’s specialty and have been made since the Silla dynasty of Korea (57 BC to 935 AD).  The perfect combination of freshness and delicious taste explains why they have been around for millennia.  The small pancakes are made from barley and between the cakes is a sweet paste made from azuki beans.  They’re moist, chewy, and have a very slight maple syrup taste.IMG_0019  Perhaps that last part comes down to my love for pancakes, but chalboribbang pack a lot of quality flavor into a small package.  Finally, there are two small snacks I tried this weekend that I would like to comment on.

First there are the Doritos.  World recognized food brands adopt their flavors to suit the local population in order to boost sales and be respectful to their potential consumers if they have religious qualms with the ingredients.  Naturally, the Korean Doritos I picked out for our guys night seemed to be flavored like barbecue ribs since Koreans love to barbecue any type of meat.

Not all that and a bag of chips

Not all that and a bag of chips

However, they were a gigantic letdown in terms of flavor.  The chips were like back in the states in terms of size and texture, but the bold, savory barbecue flavor that is synonymous with a rack of ribs was severely lacking.  On the other hand, my friends took me to a shish-kabob place in Bupyeong in Incheon right outside of the club Shelter that brought both the flavor and the heat.

We had just finished our guys night at my friend Nate’s place, so we headed to Bupyeong to check out some new bars.  Instead, I ended up in front of this food truck that had a chef inside who was diligently pressing chicken skewers on the red hot griddle and slathering the piping hot meat in different sauces.

Poetry in motion in Bupyeong

Poetry in motion in Bupyeong

I was goaded into trying the “So Spicy” option, and I took it down no problem.  I’d liken the spiciness to probably a couple jalapenos consumed at once.  The chef saw that I finished it so quickly, so he decided to make a special sauce just for me.  He was laughing while putting chili powder and vinegar into a cup.  As he mixed it he said, “Ok I kill you”.  Culinary challenge accepted.  Eventually my skewer of death was finished, and I went to town on it.

I can play with fire and not get burned

I can play with fire and not get burned

The pieces of chicken were succulent and the green onions had a nice crunch to even out the chewy, grilled chicken.  As for the spiciness, it was more in the Habanero/scotch bonnet range.  As I was taking it down, other Koreans waiting for their skewers were staring at me like I was a supernatural being and wanted to know where I was from.  I finished my complimentary death skewer in no time, and the guy asked me if it was too much.  I said nope, and he smiled, nodded, and said, “You very strong”.  Got to love being able to consume spicy foods and make friends along the way.  Not too bad for only a $1.50.

%d bloggers like this: