food

Backdoor Dragon

I am always in awe of those food challenge people.  You know, Adam Richman, the Man v. Food guy,  or even the stuff that comes up in the news, like the Super Bowl of Pho.  There are also the spicy challenges, which seem like a form of masochism.

Not to be outdone, my people decided to create their own challenge:  The Samyang 2x Spicy Noodle Challenge.  Okay this is not officially a challenge, but still.  I saw a video on YouTube about it, and when I found them in the store, I knew I had to try it.

She’s a wuss, right?  She can’t handle the Korean fire, right?  Well, we shall soon see…

I found them in a store near a bar I happen to enjoy, and of course I needed to buy them.  Before you ask, we’d not even gone in the bar yet!

Dinnertime rolled around the next day, and while I wasn’t super hungry, I figured it was now or never for the fire noodles.  I warn you, all the photos from hereon out are unedited for lighting or making me look better.  There was simply no time.  My mouth was dying.

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I mean, the packaging is so unassuming!  Cute, even! Yes, it says 2x spicy, but there’s a pirate chicken throwing bombs and lightning bolts!  How bad can it really be?  Leave it to the Koreans to make something terrifying look adorable.

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I was pretty skeptical.  I accidentally had a bit more water than the directions called for, and instead of leaving it plain, I added some shredded lettuce, egg, furikake seasoning, and a bit of old grilled chicken.  It was dinner, after all!  (Also, as a PSA, spicy, soggy lettuce does NOT taste good…)

I did put on a lipgloss protectant with soothing aloe and other things to make chapped lips feel better prior to eating.  You’ll see how well it helped…

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First bite!  Here we go!  Okay, it’s not so bad…a little sweet even!  I notice a lot of people don’t actually chew ramen, so I made it a point to chew it like I would chew any normal food…wait…omg, my lips are tingly!  Delicious tingles..wait no, definitely not delicious.  My tongue feels like it’s swelling.  The fire is going straight to my sinuses.

Have some milk!  Okay, we’re okay now.  No biggie, it’s….wait the milk is gone and I’m still burning.  It is like licking a hot cast iron pan…

Another bite and my lips are scalding hot.  Not just the part that is touching the noodles, but it’s spreading! I am surprised I’m not blistering!  Maybe I am, I feel like anything that’s touched the sauce is 2x the size (maybe that’s what they mean by 2x?) I quickly slurp up more noodle, and it splatters onto my chin a bit!  Damn!  now my chin is a bit tingly!  Oh man, gotta keep going!  We can’t waste it!!!

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My nose is red, and running profusely.  My lips are red.  The red “aura” around them is the burn.  Notice that the “protectant” didn’t work at all.  (It did serve an unintended purpose, however.  It kept them from chapping from the heat!)  My eyes were watering, and I felt like every exhale was going to light something nearby on fire.  This must be what those Game of Thrones dragons must feel like.  What a bad way to live!…and this was three bites in.

With a rating of 8400 Scoville units, it’s about the heat of a jalapeño (you know, the hot ones, not the lame regular ones).  I routinely eat jalapeños, and enjoy them, so it shouldn’t be that bad, right?  I mean, those aren’t all that spicy, right?  WRONG.  It’s HOT.  Like really hot.  Imagine not one but a bunch of them, mashed up, seeds and all.  And then you eat it with a spoon.  It’s so hot, if you get it on your skin, you will break out in a rash.

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I thought I could handle it.  I thought I would be fine.  Nope.  A full glass of milk later, it burns.  Ice cream, ice, anything you can think of, and it still burns.  The “extras” were no help, either.  They just absorbed the hot oil, and it was like eating spicy everything.  Even this morning (it’s 8:51 and I ate it at 18:30 last night), there’s still a faint tingle on my lips.

But what I’m more concerned about is when it’s time to come out the other end.  While I was breathing fire before, I might be shitting fire now.   Let’s hope I drank enough milk to negate it…only time will tell.

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The Top 5 Things I Learned at an Indian Wedding

Friendship blessed me with the opportunity to attend a Punjabi Sikh wedding last weekend.  Not only was it my first time in NorCal (San Jose!), but it was also the first Indian wedding I’ve ever attended – which meant days of parties.  I returned home Sunday night, exhausted, full of curry, and armed with new knowledge for next time.

In no particular order, here are the top five things I learned this past weekend:

1. Be prepared to eat.  No, not “eat a meal at the reception.”  We had dinner at the Mehndi ceremony on Thursday and the Sangeet on Friday.  And Saturday, we had breakfast and lunch at the hall (sandwiching the religious ceremony), and then dinner at the reception.  If you don’t like Indian food, this could be a bit challenging, but give it a chance if you’ve never had it.  You just might surprise yourself.

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Image courtesy of purvajcaterers.co.in

I’m fairly certain I ate about 12 pounds of paneer, chicken, lamb, samosas, rice, saag, kebob…I actually decided to change my outfit one night so I could eat more.  Side note – Indian desserts are a bit….different.  Spongy and very sweet.  My advice would be to fill up on the food.

2. Some of the parties may be dry.  In the U.S., “wedding” is usually synonymous with “booze,” but consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Sikhism.  This doesn’t mean that every event will be dry, but we were told, “You do you.”  Which, to many of us, said”be prepared with your own drinks.”
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Punjabi people are known for partying and having a good time, and the first two nights were not dry.  (My new drink invention is chai with spiced rum and a bit of sweetener.)  Out of respect, Saturday’s religious festivities and the reception were, however, so we made do with our own flasks.  Just don’t be too obvious, and take swigs privately.

3. It’s totally appropriate to wear a saree.  Bold and bright colors (no solid black or white), beading, embroidery, you name it.  My saree was an impulse buy between the Saturday morning ceremony and reception from a secondhand boutique that donates proceeds to help abused women.
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There are lots of videos on YouTube to teach you how to wear one, and they’re definitely not bad.  Invest in safety pins, and give it your best shot.  And if you’re still having trouble draping it, an Indian auntie will most certainly help you.

I was in the ladies’ room, trying to fix it, and she came up to me, asked if I needed help, and before I knew it, I was standing there with her hands tucking the fabric into my petticoat (aka skirt worn below your belly button).  It was a bit odd at first, but about 4 seconds in, I was immensely thankful for her help, and before I knew it, she had a line of people needing her expert advice.

4. Bring your dancing shoes.  Not dancing is not an option.  You’re at a wedding where the dance floor will basically turn into an Indian club, with pounding, energetic Indian music and flashing lights.  Plus, you’re there to celebrate.  Get off your butt and dance.
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At the Sangeet, there were choreographed traditional dances, a group dance, and then what seemed like every person trying to show off even more energetic moves.  It was bhangra style, it was American style, and it was totally fun.  It was even better with all the swirling colors.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Pace yourself.  Indian weddings last for days and have several events.  It’s worth it to take the time to appreciate all the work that went into the coordination, the gorgeous settings and colors, and to celebrate the happy couple.  There are traditions in which you can participate, such as the groom riding in on a white horse, with his friends and family dancing around it (which in our case was a fancy Mercedes), or hoisting the bride up and carrying her while the groom tries to get a garland of flowers around her neck.  Participate in the group dances, try all the food, and make new friends.  Indians are warm and welcoming, and they certainly know how to have a good time.

At heart, weddings all share one common thing:  They are a celebration of joining two families and many friends together, and this was no exception.   I can’t wait for the next one!

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OK! Oktoberfest!

I’m baaaaaaaack!  Did you miss me? 🙂

I promise I will a) not leave you for that long again, and b) will finish both my Hong Kong and Epic Road Trip series, but for now, here’s something else.

I’ve been discovering new places as of late, as my new job offers more more flexibility and freedom than I ever though possible.  And the latest place I discovered was Fort Worth, Texas.  Okay, okay…it’s not really “discovering” it, but it was my first time there.  And no, it wasn’t to visit the Stockyards.   I might get there eventually, but this time, it was for an Oktoberfest.

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Not having the privilege of attending an actual German Oktoberfest, I suppose I can settle for a Texan one.  Aside from the cowboy boots and hats, there were plenty of lederhosen and beer wenches to go around.  It’s as authentic as you can get given the location!  It was sponsored by Spaten, who brews one of my favorite Oktoberfest beers, and with a free 19oz stein, it was going to be a good day.  I even learned some trivia.

img_20160924_164029950I’m not a lush, I promise, and I got to play a gigantic game of Jenga (which I won, thank you very much).  I mean, it might’ve been better if I could have reached the top rung, but then again, beggars can’t be choosers.  There was also a bunch of cornhole, but the Fort Worth hipsters (which seem to be a cross between kids from Williamsburg and a straight up ranchero cowboy – at least they both wear plaid?) had monopolized it.

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I am no match for the beer barrel rolling or the beer wench contest (though some might say I have the wench part down pat), so instead, I opted for food.  And food there was!  This little piggy ate schnitzel (OH EM GEE what have I been missing all my life?), sausages, sauerkraut, and warm potato salad.  There are no photos, because I ate it too fast.  I didn’t get to try some of the other things, like the roasted nuts or the pretzels, but it was time for dessert anyway.

It was cake, and it was delicious.  If I lived in Germany, I’d be a drunken fool that ate schnitzel and ate cake all the time.  And maybe that potato salad.  But definitely the cake.

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Birthday Weekend, Part 1

My third 29th birthday was last Thursday, and what better way to celebrate than a weekend getaway to…Dallas.  No, I didn’t go to Cabo, no I didn’t go on a cruise, or even New York City.  Instead, I packed a bag and set off for the winter warmth of Texas.

Of course, birthday weekend wouldn’t be off to a good start without some birthday present (to myself), in the form of new running pants.  Now all I need are some running sneakers to match 🙂

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These are super fun – the squiggles are actually silver.

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I was told these look like the 80s threw up on my black pants.

Upon my arrival in Dallas, I was greeted with a sushi dinner (being Friday and Lent and all).  It was at a place I’d been to once before, and they were nice enough to let me use my Groupon on a Friday night.  I think I have a new favorite sushi spot in Dallas, though only if there’s a deal.

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IMG_20160304_195029643The first picture is missing a few rolls that came later, and yes, you do see two of the same rolls in each photo.  They’re hands down my favorites – the black caviar one is called the White Russian…what can I say?  I love Anna, I love this sushi roll – I just love my white Russians.

Somehow, despite the weekend being insanely busy, I managed to hit a vintage market (which was actually more of a disappointment – I was hoping for much more.  Maybe next year, though) coupled with a home and garden show.  I got in trouble for taking photos, but there were some cute little cacti and lovely cards.  I also bought some hot pepper-infused jelly.  I recommend the blueberry and the jalapeño mint.

 

 

 

Post market, it was such a beautiful day, I wanted to take advantage of the weather and the marginally safer streets, and went for a run outside.  When it’s 77 degrees out and winter everywhere else, you’d be a fool to not do something outside.  A short 5k around some of Dallas’s main arteries meant that I should probably reward myself.  I had wanted to go to a brewery for ages, and finally made it:  Deep Ellum Brewing Company.  $15 gets you three pints, a souvenir glass, and some prime people watching.  And folks, my PSA soapbox comment:  Just because you think you are hot stuff and wearing leggings in public does not give you permission to go commando.  Especially if the leggings are already stretched tight.  That material stretches further when you bend over, and when that material stretches and becomes transparent….ooof.  That was NOT a Grand Canyon I wanted to visit.

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Dinnertime meant a trip to meet some friends at Chino Chinatown, which was in a fancypants area with lots of restaurants I want to try.  It’s a Latin-Asian fusion, and I have just four words for you:  Duck.  Fat.  Fried.  Rice.  Everything was delicious, but really, that fried rice was divine.  To die for.  I could go back and eat just that.  The drinks were inventive but not terribly strong, so the beers beforehand were helpful.  I’m not an alkie, I swear.  I just enjoy feeling bubbly 🙂  Good conversation, good food, nice area.  I couldn’t really ask for more for my birthday.

Like all good things, weekends come to an end, and unfortunately, so do birthday weekends.  I flew back to reality this past Monday, and have been stuck in an office for the last few days.  Friday brings about Birthday Weekend, Part 2 in DC, when I head down to see some racing friends.  I think I’m pretty lucky – who else gets to have two birthday weekends?

Life is a Highway, Part 20: Fantastic Foods

Part of what makes travel so awesome is the opportunity to eat new foods.  Sadly, on a road trip, most of the food consists of quick meals eaten on the run – but sometimes you do get some gems.  From Denver, through Wyoming, passing through Idaho, a long few days through Utah, and back to Denver, I had some pretty good dishes.  One was so good, I’ve since made it at home – the legendary croissaffles.

While I did start my trip off with some sushi, I had everything from burgers, to sandwiches, to steak tips, and the occasional dinner of bottled water/granola bars (or even fast food).  And it’s those makeshift meals, searching for a good place to eat, that make the whole trip worth it.  And now, for your gastronomic pleasure, I present my favorite foods.

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Because really, how can you go wrong?

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OH MY GOSH CROISSAFFLES! I haven’t been able to duplicate the gravy, or the breaded chicken, but holy moly. It’s the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had.

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Hash and eggs…good stuff.

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Korean short ribs…in Colorado.

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Wyoming sandwich!

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Typical sandwich, but those onion rings could have been giant bangles for my arm.

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The only way to have a burger: Bacon, fried egg, BBQ sauce, and under it all were some mushrooms and cheese.

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Random fruit – I have no idea what it is. I didn’t try it because it was like $5 and I had no idea how to open it, but if anyone knows, let me know!

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I WANNA ICE CREAM! Square ice cream from Idaho, and it was so good. Fun shaped food just tastes better.

 

Let Them Eat Cake: Hong Kong Edition

When it comes to birthdays, my least favorite part is the cake.  I know, I know.  She doesn’t like cilantro, she doesn’t like bread, and now she doesn’t like cake?!  What the heck is wrong with this broad?!  (Lady of the Cakes, I can hear you howling in pain from here.)

Sadly, it’s true.  There must be something wrong with me.  I don’t like cake.  But while in Hong Kong, there was a pastry store ever 250 feet.  No joke.  And even though I don’t like the cake itself, I can certainly appreciate the aesthetics.  And, faithful readers, so can you.  Yes, these photos are for all two of you 🙂

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*No pandas were harmed in the making of this post.  I did not buy them, nor did I eat them.

Curiouser and Curiouser: Hong Kong Edition

Whenever I travel, I keep an eye out of the crazy, the unusual, the very odd…because what could possibly be better than a story for later?

Hong Kong was not a disappointment – believe you me.  I saw all sorts of odd things on the streets, in the restaurants, everywhere.  Between the foods and the people, plus my summer in China, I don’t know that there’s anything that would surprise me now.  The two most stand-out stories are below, and I apologize for the blocks of text.  I don’t have photos for either, because, well, I just had no idea what to do about them when they happened.

Man Eats Leftover Soup, Jenna Lives to Tell About It:  The backstory to this is that in Hong Kong, should one need a seat in a casual eatery, one does not necessarily need to find an empty table.  Should there be a seat open, one is welcome to sit, and then leave the tray and leftovers to be cleaned up by housekeeping.

I ended up eating lunch at quite possibly the most elaborate food court I will ever be at in my entire life.  No joke, the food courts are worth it.  It was a bit crowded, so at my table, seated across from me, was another couple, and next to me was a single woman.  When the woman was done, she got up and left her half-eaten soup.  I was preoccupied with taking advantage of the free WiFi and trying to figure out where to go next, when I realized someone was still sitting next to me – eating.  I figured it was someone else taking the woman’s spot, but when I glanced over, I noticed the soup and drink were the exact same fullness – even the napkin was crumpled in the same way.  That’s when it hit me: this person was eating the woman’s leftover lunch!  It took about thirty seconds to process it, and then I was completely disgusted.  Needless to say, I got out of there as soon as I could.

Woman Eats Cup-O-Noodles from Airport Bathroom, Jenna is Both Horrified and Intrigued: This part was still technically Hong Kong, but I was on the plane, heading home.  I was lucky enough to get a seat sort of near the bathrooms, which on a 14-hour flight, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Especially because if you DO have to pee, you can easily see when the bathrooms are open.

I had to pee (it was a long flight, with free booze!), and had to wait my turn.  A few minutes prior, a woman went into the bathroom just before me.  Okay, fine.  But when she reemerged, she had a Cup-O-Noodles in her hand, and was carrying it precariously, as if it were hot and/or cooking.  Whaaaaaaaaaat?  First of all, the water isn’t hot enough to cook the noodles.  Second of all, GROSS!  There are signs all over the bathrooms that say “This water is not for drinking!”  It blew my mind.

Bonus:  The Worst Sign Ever:

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