Category Archives: Reviews

The oldest Japanese American business in the US: Fugetsu-Do

One of the trips we wanted to take over the last two years was to Japan, however, that trip was canceled due to COVID (like so many people’s trips over the past few years). However, on our recent trip to Los Angeles, we got a real taste of Japan at the Fugetsu-Do Bakery Shop (315 East First Street, Los Angeles, CA) in historical Little Tokyo Japantown in downtown Los Angeles. The Fugetsu-Do shop has been operating since 1903, and is considered the oldest store in the neighborhood, and the oldest Japanese American business in the US!

The specialty of Fugetsu-Do is mochi, made from pounded glutinous rice flour shaped into single-bite balls. In the US, mochi are often popularly filled with ice cream. However, in Japan, the filling is usually red bean, or simply the mochi itself is served unfilled, and can lean either savory or sweet. Also available at Fugetsu-Do are manju, treats made from cake flour. At the helm of Fugetsu-Do is Brian Kito, third-generation owner, and master confectioner. Inside the shop, there are well-worn bakery cases filled with a myriad of multi-color mochi, which you can buy by the piece, or in prepackaged sets of enticing rainbow-colored wagashi confections perfect for tea.

Among these choices are some traditional flavors like inaka or habituai (filled with red bean paste) or kiku (filled with white bean paste). There are also more idiosyncratic and colorful flavors like peanut butter, blueberry, or mango. In the springtime, the pretty pink cherry blossom Sakura flavor is particularly popular, and often sells out quickly.

The texture of the mochi was amazingly smooth and chewy. We also liked the mix of traditional and more avant-garde flavors. The store accepts credit cards only over a certain amount, so you should bring cash. If you are not able to get to LA, you can even buy Fugestsu-Do mochi online. We are so glad we got to visit Fugetsu-Do, and taste a living piece of Los Angeles history. The stores of Little Tokyo were hit hard by the pandemic, so we encourage you to give them a visit as well (either in person or online).

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The Best Al Pastor Tacos in Los Angeles

One of the things we look forward to most when we visit in Los Angeles is going on a self-styled taco crawl across the city. We developed our first taco crawl – focusing specifically on our beloved al pastor tacos – in the Spring of 2022, on what was actually our first plane trip since the start of the pandemic. We crowned a winner in 2022, but we wanted to sample a few more spots before we were ready to declare a true champion. Fortunately, we returned to Los Angeles in April of 2023, allowing us to add some more contenders, and to re-test our previous winner. For the taco crawl we focused on al pastor tacos, since they are our favorite variety, and the gulf between excellent and mediocre tacos al pastor is wide.

Al pastor tacos are typically made by shaving meat from a large rotating cone stacked with marinated pork topped with a pineapple – known as a trompo – in a fashion similar to gyros. However, not all taquerias utilize this technique for al pastor, but for us it is a must, so we narrowed down our contenders to only those taquerias with a trompo. When assessing tacos we rated each on a few different parameters (admitting to some subjective preference). The parameters: 1. Trompo / Meat Quality 2. Meat Delivery Method (cut directly off the trompo vs finished on the grill) 3. Presence of pineapple 4. Tortilla quality. 5. Price 6. Other intangibles, which include general vibe and topping options. At each taqueria we ordered al pastor tacos to eat there immediately, with only the classic topping of onions and pineapple.

When deciding where to visit, we gravitated towards spots on the west side of LA, since that is where we were based. We started out by consulting “best of” lists alongside Yelp, Google Maps, and Instagram to gauge the highest-rated taquerias. But all this research notwithstanding, we were floored at how many al pastor trompos we saw simply spinning at roadside taquerias on the literal street corners. In fact, all of the tacos in our competition were street stands or food trucks. People in LA simply don’t know how good they have it. We invited our lovely hosts in LA, C and A, to come along for the taco crawl with us, and they were more than game, and helped us assess the contenders. After visiting a total of 6 spots – including a follow-up visit to our 2022 winner – we landed on a unanimous grand champion.

So, what was our favorite al pastor taco in Los Angeles? Tacos La Güera Pico (2949 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006), also our 2022 winner!

  1. The trompo at La Güera was a thing of beauty, as you can see in the photos. The pork was extremely flavorful, had a good color, and was and not fatty or gristly. Upon being sliced off the trompo, the meat was extremely thinly sliced, with some nice char. We loved the crispy texture, and one of our friends described this quite accurately as a “meat croissant” in terms of its thin, almost translucent, texture.
  2. The meat was shaved directly off the trompo into the tortilla. We consider this to be the superior delivery method, but requires some additional skill from the taquero to decide which parts of the trompo are done enough.
  3. We feel that pineapple is a must, and here it was included generously.
  4. The tacos were composed on a two small corn tortillas, not particularly memorable, but they got the job done.
  5. Each taco was $2.50, slightly more expensive than other places which charged $2, but ultimately worth the small difference.
  6. La Guera was a simple stand with a tent, and a street corner setting. One one end was the trompo, and the other, a generous toppings bar with veggies, salsa, limes, etc. However, there is not much in the way of seating, and it was cash only (or Zelle). We visited on a rainy night and simply scarfed down our tacos, so this didn’t really matter for us.

La Güera takes the al pastor trompo crown! After visiting across 2022 and 2023, La Güera was the unanimous winner amongst all 4 of the taste testers, giving us confidence in our verdict. Many of the other taquerias were nearly as delicious, and we give honorable mentions to fan favorite Leo’s (1515 S La Brea Ave., our winner prior to 2022), and Tacos Zempoal Mixe (2541 S Barrington, pictured above), an under-the-radar stand that simply caught our eye when we drove by, but was justifiably highly rated. Other contenders were: Tamix, Naomi’s, and Brother’s Cousins. Even though we have a solid winner, we feel that we only scratched the surface of the al pastor options in LA. We would encourage you all to go out on your own taco adventures, wherever you are. We are already looking forward to the 2024 edition of the LA Al Pastor Taco Crawl.

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The best Italian Bakery in New Orleans: Angelo Brocato

I am shocked that I do not have a post for Angelo Brocato yet, particularly since it may be our platonic ideal of an Italian bakery in America. First of all, you are greeted by an amazing vintage neon sign. Second, the shop has operated continuously since 1905 (not at this particular location the whole time) and thirdly, it is simply delicious! Every time we visit New Orleans, we have to give their flagship store a visit (214 N Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119, there is also a new branch with ice cream only in the MSY airport). In fact, Angelo Brocato was one of the last places we visited before COVID-19 shut everything down in February 2020. We were so happy to return in 2023!

Though we think of it primarily as a bakery, Angelo Brocato is also a coffee shop and ice cream parlor. The old school copper espresso maker is serious, and you can get any number of classic espresso drinks. However, ice cream was their original claim to fame. A native of Cefalù, Angelo Brocato himself got his start making gelato in Palermo, Sicily before emigrating to New Orleans. The original Angelo Brocato shop opened in the French Quarter in 1905, when it was a hub of New Orleans’ Sicilian immigration wave. Befittingly, there is still gelato on offer by the cup or pint, but also some of the more old-school frozen sliced ice cream treats, which you rarely find anywhere else. These vintage ice cream specialties include torroncino, vanilla and cinnamon; spumoni, pistachio, almond, and tutti frutti; and the cassata, spumoni with a cake layer.

Of course, they also have many pastries, Italian and otherwise: rum baba, cream puffs, eclairs, mini cassata cakes, and holiday specials like the St. Joseph’s Day zeppole. The cannoli are filled to order with the somewhat unorthodox half chocolate and half vanilla cream by default. All of the pastries are delicious, and who can resist a fresh cannolo? This time around, we tried the eclairs for the first time, and M particularly approved, especially since it was filled with chocolate cream. The sfogliatelle are one of L’s favorites, and she also appreciates how they are one of the few places where you can get an authentic mini Sicilian cassata cake (covered in green marzipan and filled with cake and cream – similar to Swedish princesstarta).

However, our favorite treats at Angelo Brocato are the full assortment of Italian cookies, of course. There are dozens of varieties on offer: cuccidati, pignoli, rainbow cookies, biscotti, ricotta cookies, chocolate drops, etc. They also have some rarer varieties like nucotoli (cinnamon spice cookies). You can buy cookies by the piece, pound, or even in sealed packages for some of the more popular varieties. The Sicilian representation in the cookie varieties is significant, and we particularly love their cuccidati and biscotti regina, both of which are staples for St. Joseph’s Day.

We were surprised to learn that Brocato’s moved to their current location only in the 1970s, due to its vintage flair. The store boasts a small amount of seating, but be prepared, because it is not unusual for there to be a sizable wait to order, and to get a table. On St. Joseph’s Day weekend, there was a line out the door both times we visited. Despite the crowd, it is also an interesting time to go, since on St. Joseph’s Day, they even have an altar in the back, showing the traditional elements: shaped breads, fava beans, cookies, etc.. Remaining a local staple for over 100 years, Angelo Brocato will always be one of our New Orleans must-dos. It is a great place to satiate your sweet tooth, and get a taste of bygone Sicilian New Orleans.

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Coffee for hard times in Italy: Caffè d’orzo

Enjoying caffè d’orzo and cornetti in Bologna

Italians had to make do with less – or no – coffee during and after World War II, so they developed an alternative, orzo, roasted barley prepared in the same manner as coffee, in an espresso machine, known as Caffè d’orzo. Orzo means “barley” in Italian, and is also the origin of the small, grain-shaped pasta’s name. Similarly, in the US and elsewhere, chicory became popular as a coffee substitute in lean times, and is still popular in places like at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Though, of course, coffee roared back in Italy in the decades after the war, orzo is still hanging on, too, and you can find it in some traditional cafes throughout Italy. The barley imparts a lovely malted, roasty flavor, though no one would mistake it for coffee. I was looking for decaf options in Italy, and both M and I really enjoyed trying orzo with our morning pastries, usually cornetti (croissant-like pastries with various fillings). If you are particularly dedicated to orzo coffee, you can even by a special orzo maker, similar to a Bialetti Moka, an orziera.

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Mauritius: Le Dodo Restaurant and Market in Paris

Mauritian cuisine was a something of a mystery to us, not knowing anyone from that country, or having the opportunity to try the food in the US (though there was at one point a Mauritian restaurant in Portland, Oregon). However, we did know a little about its history as an island in the Indian ocean, home to the poor, extinct Dodo bird. We did a little digging and learned that the food is a reflection of the country’s position sitting as a crossroads between Africa and India in the Indian ocean, reflecting those two strong culinary traditions, along with European culinary influences from French colonizers.

Since Mauritius used to be a French colony, there are a few restaurants and grocery stores sprinkled across Paris as the Mauritian diaspora has traveled. We were looking for a well-regarded restaurant that would offer takeout, and Le Dodo (14 Rue de la Fidélité, 75010 Paris, France) emerged as a favorite. Le Dodo is both a restaurant and a small market selling packaged goods, spices, produce, and snacks from Mauritius. The array of goods was overwhelming, but we settled on buying some blended spice mix to make rasam, a classic Mauritian lentil soup with Indian roots, at the recommendation of the affable proprietor.

Mauritian food is heavily Indian-influenced, so many dishes will seem similar to those who are familiar with the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent. As a reflection of the Indian influence, there were several breads on offer, including naan and roti, and various types of samosas. This Indian influence continued in the entrees: chicken tikka masala, chicken korma, palak paneer, and tandoori chicken. One of the Indian-inflected specialties of Le Dodo, well-known in Mauritius, is the beef or chicken briyani. Another Mauritian specialty reflects Chinese influence on the island: “Mine” a noodle dish with vegetables and a protein stir fried in soy sauce, likely a descendant of Chinese mein noodles. Further Chinese influence is also seen in fried rice on the menu. Proudly displayed in a glass display case were a selection of scrumptious-looking desserts, including Indian ladoos and gulub jamun, alongside oundé, a semolina and coconut truffle, and Napolitaine, a frosted sandwich cookie filled with jam.

For takeout, we ordered another Mauritian favorite, Dholl Puri, a chickpea pancake with a spicy mustard and vegetable filling, and a roti, which turned out to have the same filling. For entrees, we picked chicken biryani and chicken mien. To add to that, we couldn’t resist a mango lassi (also available in coconut, vanilla, or rose), one of M’s favorites. Even after a 20-minute trip back to our apartment, we highly enjoyed everything we ordered from Le Dodo, and we were impressed by the sheer amount of food. The noodles were bright, punchy and flavorful, and the Dholl Puri was crisp, hearty and full of warming spices. The chicken briyani was tender, and one of the best renditions we had sampled anywhere. The oundé (our dessert pick) was a delicious confection with a bit of a toothsome bite and lovely light coconut flavor. Mauritius’ cuisine is an intriguing blend of cultural influences, bringing the best of Indian and East African flavors together. Le Dodo is a great place to get your feet wet with Mauritian cuisine, and to bring home some ingredients to try it for yourself.

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Where it all began: Le Village, Senegalese cuisine in Paris

This blog started almost exactly 15 years ago in November 2007, can you believe it? We really can’t. Eating the World all began over a dinner in Paris in August 2007 where we talked about the international cuisines we had eaten to that point while dining at Au Village, a wonderful Senegalese restaurant in the trendy Oberkampf neighborhood. However, despite this formative experience of having Senegalese food for the first time, we actually never reviewed the restaurant. Perhaps it seemed like it loomed so large in our lore that naturally, we believed a review must have come out of it. Well, 15 years later, we are rectifying the omission.

We haven’t been to Paris since 2011, and when we decided we were returning to Paris this year, we wanted to see if Au Village was still around. Turns out they are still there, going strong, and have renamed themselves as Le Village, at the same address, (86 Parmentier in Paris). The bi-level interior is simple, with wood accents and Senegalese-inspired decor, plus a small bar. They also have a few tables outside, and we were grateful that Parisians aren’t deterred by a slight chill for dining al fresco.

We visited Le Village after 15 years away on a chilly fall day, but were promptly greeted by the ebullient proprietor. To warm up, we ordered 2 pots of tea, classic mint tea, ataya, and a new drink us: quinquéliba, a Senelagese herbal infusion made from the Combretum micranthum shrub. The quinquéliba was woody and herbal, and very refreshing. The menu at Le Village is full of Senegalese and West African classics. For appetizers, you can get fish or shrimp acaras (bean fritters, and a relative of acarajé in Brazil), fried pastries filled with tuna, along with lighter options like avocado puree and crab and tomato salad. Some of the most classic Senegalese main dishes are represented, including Mafé peanut sauce, and the mild mustard-and-onion Yassa sauce. You can pick your choice of protein: beef or chicken, or even veggies. For those who prefer fish, you can try Thieboudienne, fish with red rice, or Firir, a whole fried fish. On weekends, there are special dishes, including Thiebouyapp, a lamb and rice dish.

We ordered beef mafé (top) and chicken yassa, two of our favorite dishes, and those by which we judge any Senegalese restaurant. For an appetizer, we got the fried plantains, alocos. The mafé was rich and delicious, and the yassa was light and delicate. The mafé and yassa were perfect versions of these Senegalese classics, and tasted just as good as they had all those years ago when we tried them for the first time. We didn’t have room for dessert, but there were several intriguing options, including coconut flan, banana flambeé, fresh tropical fruit, and mango tiramisu. The food at Le Village is a greatest hits selection of Senegalese classics, and the service was warm and friendly, making us feel like we were regulars. We loved everything we ordered, and we still feel that Le Village is a great introduction to Senegalese cuisine. There may be dozens (hundreds?) of Senegalese restaurants in Paris, but Le Village will always have a special place in our hearts.

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Gelateria La Sorbettiera: Our favorite gelato in Florence

We consider ourselves something of gelato experts, after many years of American and international experience. When we were in Florence this summer, we had gelato at least once a day, trying samples from all over the city. After four days of trials, we settled upon one gelateria in Florence that was head and shoulders above the rest: Gelateria La Sorbettiera. Gelateria La Sorbettiera’s principal location is at Piazza T. Tasso, 11/r – 50124, a little off the tourist track, on the southern bank of the Arno river, which bisects Florence. The store is blink and you’ll miss it small, only a small walk up counter on the side of a compact but busy city square ringed with shops and restaurants.

Over time, we have developed a few rules to find the best gelato. The absolute best gelato is usually found in stainless steel tins as it is at La Sorbettiera, meaning you cannot see the gelato itself. While perhaps not as visually appealing, this will insure that the gelato is being stored at relatively even and stable temperatures, meaning the texture will be better preserved. There is some good gelato to be found outside tins, but avoid place that have super whipped-up gelato. The more the gelato is piled up, the worse it will probably be, because there is mostly air! Secondly, some flavors will clue you in to the quality of the gelateria. Our go-to favorite flavors – both for taste and assessment – are pistachio and chocolate (both pictured below, along with caramel). Pistachio in particular, lets you know how skillful the gelato-makers are, since there is a vast difference in flavor and colors between the best quality pistachios and poor quality/artificial flavors or colors (bright green color, in particular, is a bad sign).

Both the chocolate and the pistachio at La Sorbettiera are excellent: creamy and smooth with pure flavors and no artificial colors. The fruit flavors in particular were bursting with flavor – a perfect distillation of fresh fruit. Along with our go-tos, La Sorbettiera has some great, more unusual flavors, including chai, cheesecake, coffee cardamom, and fig; along with old favorites like lemon, hazelnut, and cream (fiore di latte). Beyond the pistachio and chocolate, other flavors we liked there were salted caramel, raspberry, and mascarpone. Of course, the flavor offering will vary by day and season. The prices are very reasonable, and a large cup or cone with 3 flavors is only 3 euros. A small cup is only 2 euros, and 50 cents extra for whipped cream. You can also get the Sicilian specialty of gelato in a warm brioche for only 4 euros. Talk about a decadent way to start (or finish) your day. If you are in Florence and are looking for some delicious gelato beloved by tourists and locals alike, take a trip to La Sorbettiera.

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Our favorite Bay Area matcha at Third Culture Bakery

When we were in LA and San Francisco this past month, one of our goals was to find the best Matcha latte in each city (and across both). Matcha is powdered green tea, made from specifically shade-grown tencha tea leaves. At, home we make our own matcha drink every morning using Sugimoto Tea Reserve Mizuki Matcha, however, we are always on the lookout for good tea on our trips. After our searches, we can say hands-down that our favorite matcha stop on our most recent trip was Third Culture Bakery (2701 Eighth St, Berkeley, CA 94710).

Third Culture Bakery is the brainchild of Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu, who wanted to pay homage to their upbringings in Indonesia and Taiwan in the cafe’s flavors. Third Culture has a variety of matcha lattes ($5), and you can get all kinds of add-ins, including caramel and strawberry lychee for and extra 50 cents. My personal favorite was the caramel swirl, seen in front here. There was also an unusual offering – the roasted matcha latte ($5) – which has a tan hue, and a roasted hojicha-like flavor. At Third Culture, they prepare the matcha in a traditional bowl with a whisk, which is one of the tell-tale signs that you are getting a made-from-scratch matcha latte and not a powdered mix. The matcha itself is also very high quality – smooth and not bitter at all – and you can taste the difference in every sip. If you want even finer matcha, you can order a special ceremonial-grade matcha ($7).

For those looking for options other than matcha, there are also cold brew or pour over coffee selections, and even some decaffeinated options like sodas with house-made syrups. The other key offering at Third Culture Bakery are their mochi baked goods (made from sweet michiko rice flour), which have gotten a certain amount of fame in the Bay Area. You can get mochi muffins in flavors like black sesame (pictured in front above), ube, chocolate, and matcha, alongside mochi doughnuts and waffles. We are particularly fond of the mochi muffins, especially the chocolate, and the “original” flavor (seen in back, above), which is lightly scented with pandan and topped with black and white sesame seeds. These mochi treats have a delicious chewy texture, and a savory heft that complemented the sweetness.

The inside of the shop is cute and colorful, with a small selection of merch, and a large kitchen. You can enjoy your treats to go, or sit outside on a row of outdoor seating built into the steps between the store and the sidewalk, which we happily did on a lovely sunny day. We highly recommend Third Culture Bakery, since we have tried a fair number of matcha lattes in the past few years, and this is definitely our favorite so far. We love their mission, style, baked goods, and most importantly, their matcha!

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Where to find Semla in Chicago

When Andersonville’s storied Swedish Bakery closed in 2017, Chicago collectively let our a huge gasp. Where could we get our Swedish treats? In stepped Lost Larson, with their modern take on Scandinavian baked goods. For Lent in Sweden, sampling Semla (plural semlor) pastries is a must, and Lost Larson has their own rendition (seen below). Traditionally, semla are eaten on Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday and also throughout Lent on Tuesdays. Lost Larson’s version has an almond cream filling, chopped almonds, and whipped cream all in a house-made cardamom brioche. Yum! They were fresh and full of almond flavor, definitely the most delicious version we have ever had. The semla at Lost Larson frequently sell out, so it is recommended that you place your orders in advance for pickup on the Lost Larson website (at either location). Plus, their new Wicker Park cafe (2140 W Division St.) is extremely charming, so we recommend that you pop in. If you need any more convincing, Lost Larson also has one of our favorite matcha lattes in Chicago (also seen below).

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Puerto Rican mofongo and more at Cleveland Mofongo

Owing to a large Puerto Rican population in Northeast Ohio, Cleveland actually has some pretty great Puerto Rican food spots. We have tried quite a few, and one of our our favorites is Cleveland Mofongo (11621 Lorain Ave, Cleveland, OH). We have written about mofongo before, and this emblematic dish consists of garlicky, fried mashed plantains (traditionally pounded in a wooden mortar and pestle, called a pilón) with savory fillings. As the name would suggest, the key thing to order when you go is mofongo. I mean, sure, you can order a salad or empanadilla (preferably guava and cheese), but only as accompaniments to the mofongo.

At Cleveland Mofongo, you can get a variety of mofongo fillings including: vegetarian, pork, chicken, shrimp, salmon, steak, bacalao (dried cod), or even surf and turf (prices range from $10-15.50). The mofongo comes with a simple side salad, or you can also substitute rice and beans, or make the whole dish into a rice bowl. So what’s the verdict on the mofongo? We love mofongo, and can be pretty picky about it, and Cleveland Mofongo lives up to the hype. This mofongo is not too dry, or greasy, two common failings, and the fillings are ample. The roast pork is our go-to-and it is flavorful and tender. Cleveland Mofongo has even gotten the stamp of approval from a Boricua who knows a thing or two about mofongo.

But, truth be told, they really do have a pretty large menu in addition to the mofongo: salads, tacos, quesadillas, sweet empanadillas for dessert, and adobo chicken wings are on offer. Plus, if you are into that sort of thing, they also have brunch featuring American staples like french toast and omelettes. Everything we have ordered so far beyond the mofongo, including the appetizer platter with empanadillas (little fried empanadas), tostones (fried, smashed plantain rounds), and yuca are delicious accompaniments, too (pick 4 for $13.50)! There is a new dining room at Cleveland Mofongo, which is usually full, but we have opted for takeout during the pandemic. You have to call in your orders, and sometimes they are so busy that it takes a while to get through. One time, actually, we were not able to get through at all over the course of an hour, so you may have to be a little persistent, or lucky! We are glad they are doing so well, and if you can, give Cleveland Mofongo a try for a little taste of Puerto Rico.

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Celebrating the New Year in Japan with Kagami Mochi

A few years ago in Chicago, our friends shared kagami mochi with us, one of the many traditional foods and decorations used to celebrate the new year in Japan. Kagami mochi, meaning “mirror mochi,” is a two-layered stack of white mochi (pounded rice cakes), topped with a citrus fruit, usually a daidai or mikan. A symbol of the new year for centuries, they are called mirror mochi because they somewhat resemble old copper mirrors, and the double stack is considered auspicious. The kagami mochi may be simple stack, or may sit on wooden stands (sanpō) where they are festooned with paper chains (gohei) and other accoutrements. In Japan you can buy kagami mochi throughout December pretty widely, and you can also find it at some Japanese grocery stores in the US. If you don’t have access to this, you can make your own mochi at home. It is then considered auspicious to then “break” the mochi (kagami biraki) and eat them on January 11th!

Kagami Mochi by Midorisyu

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Eggs as Street Food in India

Even though it would be unusual in the US, Having an omelette as street food is pretty intuitive, since eggs are cheap, nutritious, tasty, and quick to prepare. Nowhere in the world is the egg-based street food culture as distinctive and varied as in India, and Priya Krishna has a rundown of some of the most iconic egg dishes in India on Bon Appetit. The state of Gujarat, in Northwestern India, is also particularly known for its egg-based dishes. A typical Gujarati egg street food dish from the town of Surat is Anda Ghotala, eggs mixed with tomatoes, garlic and ginger. If you are in the US, Egg o holic restaurant in the Chicago area (along with other locations around the US) specializes in Gujarat’s egg-heavy cuisine.

One type of eggy street food, the bread omelette, is popular throughout India, with endless variations by region. The bread omelette even went viral across the world on Reddit in 2019, introducing it to a large fanbase outside of India. Check out the video to watch a real master at work making bread omelettes at a street stall in Delhi. Elsewhere, in Goa, you may enjoy the local version of the bread omelette, Goan Omelette Poi. We think that the US should start embracing the egg street food culture!

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Pa Lian: A taste of Burma in Chicagoland

Prior to visiting Pa Lian (254 E Geneva Rd, Wheaton, IL) we had only sampled Burmese cuisine a few times before, and there are no Burmese restaurants in Cleveland, so it had been a while. So when we heard there was a new Burmese restaurant opening up in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, one of only 2 in Illinois, we were really intrigued! Burmese food is a delicious marriage of Southeast and East Asian flavors, with a touch of spices from the Indian subcontinent, a combination that can’t be beat. Pa Lian opened last year and has been introducing the suburbs to Burmese food, while serving a small, local Burmese community. Currently, Pa Lian is takeout-only and you can order online by Grubhub or by phone. The first time we visited Pa Lian was in May, and we ended up taking the food out to eat in a nearby park with a friend, and we were all impressed. Since then, we have been back a few times, and have never been disappointed. The menu at Pa Lian consists of Burmese favorites including a wide array of noodles, salads, and curries over rice, alongside Burmese-style tea and coffee. We are impressed by the variety of the Burmese dishes at Pa Lian, and while the menu isn’t huge, nearly every dish is new to us.

Our favorite dish from Pa Lian so far is Nangyi Dok ($12.50), a complex noodle dish (lower dish in the photo below), consisting of rice udon noodles, which are light and springy, topped with curry chicken, fried onion, carrots, cucumber and hard-boiled egg, and even the unusual topping of chickpea powder. Another standout noodle dish is Shan Noodles ($13.50) thin noodles topped with curried chicken, gai choy (a green leafy vegetable similar to bok choy), fermented black beans, peanuts and sesame (top dish in the photo below). In each of these noodle dishes, the combination of the springy noodles with the piquant curried chicken, vegetables, and fermented elements make for a surprisingly complex and delicious combination.

Perhaps the most famous Burmese dish is Tea Leaf Salad ($13.50, pictured in top photo), also known as lahpet, and we love Pa Lian’s rendition. This is a dish that is unlike anything else you can get in other countries, and involves fermented tea leaves topped with fava and yellow beans, peanuts, sesame seeds, tomatoes, cabbage and lime. This salad is tangy and refreshing, and the fermented flavors make for an extremely interesting flavor profile. The tea leaf salad is completely vegan, and vegans and gluten-free diners will find many options at Pa Lian. The papaya salad ($15.99) with the unique addition of Thai eggplants, is another favorite salad, bright and tangy. Along with tea leaf salad, another Burmese national dish at Pa Lian is Moh-Hin-Gar ($12.50) a spicy soup with thin rice vermicelli in catfish broth, topped with boiled egg, lime, cilantro, and crispy lentils. This warming dish is perfect for a chilly day, but we even enjoyed it in the 80-degree heat.

We are intrigued by Pa Lian’s comprehensive Burmese menu and are looking forward to trying some of the other dishes including Pe-Eih-Kyar-Kwe ($5.99) Burmese fried bread with vatana (cooked yellow peas) and the goat and split pea ginger curry ($17.99) Pa Lian’s dishes are a combination of salty, sweet, sour, tangy and spicy, and we are absolutely hooked. Be sure to visit Pa Lian when you are in Chicago’s western suburbs, you won’t regret it! Plus, if you are in the market for Burmese groceries you can also visit Papa Win (1730 E Roosevelt Rd, Wheaton, IL), a small Burmese grocery store nearby.

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The Best Pastel de Nata in Newark

When we drove to New York last month, our route took us through Newark. Newark has a very large Portuguese community, and as a result, has some of the highest per capita availability of Pasteis de Nata (in our estimation). The Ironbound neighborhood, in particular, is a stronghold of Portuguese identity, and is home to dozens of bakeries serving these Portuguese cream tarts. While traveling in and out of Newark, we were able to sample a variety of local bakeries, from the under-the-radar, to the more well-known. As with our previous Pastel de Nata ratings we assessed the pasteis on the texture and consistency of the filling, the flakiness of the crust, the value, and of course, the overall flavor.

Among those pasteis de nata sampled in Newark, the clear winner was Canela (180 Wilson Avenue, Newark, NJ). When we sat down at Canela, they were out of pasteis, and cooked us up a fresh batch from scratch. The name of the bakery means “cinnamon” in Portuguese, and the tarts are given a customary dusting of cinnamon when fresh out of the oven. It is not advisable to eat pasteis de nata piping hot, so we let them cool down a little bit before tasting. Though perhaps a little bit deeper than those we have eaten in Lisbon, the crust was flaky and solid, the cream was smooth and flavorful, and the nata boasted a nicely broiled top. All of the elements added up to more than the sum of their parts, the true test of a successful pastel de nata. These were some superlative pasteis, and we had to struggle in order to not eat all of our pastel haul at once.

On the second time we visited Canela, we chatted with the proprietor who said that he himself once worked at Pasteis de Belem, perhaps the most famous purveyor of pasteis de nata, located just outside of Lisbon. However we found that Canela’s were much better! And the quality was no fluke, Canela’s offering were just as good the second time around. There are other pastries, coffee, and salty snacks (salgadinhos in Portuguese) available at Canela, including coixnhas, however we were so enchanted with the Pasteis de Nata that we didn’t even sample anything else. Canela is cash only so make sure you are prepared in advance, and the pasteis will only set you back $1.75 apiece. Trust us, it will be worth the trip: this was definitely one of the best pasteis de nata we have ever had in America!

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Superior Al Pastor at Taqueria Chingón

You may know by now, if you a frequent reader of the blog, that we are always on the hunt for the best tacos al pastor, near and far. And in Chicago, we may have found a new top contender in Taqueria Chingón (2234 N Western Ave Chicago, IL 60647). Taqueria Chingón is a counter-serve pickup or takeout spot, and we particularly liked their nice outdoor space, especially in these Covid-stricken times. We arrived on a weekday right after they opened at noon, and there was already a small line forming, a good sign of things to come.

The menu at Taqueria Chingón is limited: tacos, appetizers (quesadillas, ceviche), plus a few sides (nopal, frijoles) and desserts (churros, flan). For tacos, there is a full range, from the classic beef asada and chorizo alongside some more esoteric options like duck carnitas and vegetarian al pastor, made with mushrooms. All of the tacos are $4-6 dollars, which is a little steep for tacos, but hear us out, for a change, it is actually worth it!

The al pastor tacos ($5) are a thing of beauty, and they contain all of the factors we think one needs in a perfect taco. First, the homemade tortillas are pliable, and thick enough to handle the fillings, but not too chewy. Second, to creat the tacos, juicy pork is shaved right off of a spit (trompo) with a nice charred bark. Usually, al pastor tacos are pre-cut from a trompo and finished on a flattop, or never on a trompo to start with, but we think it makes all the difference. Finally, the taco has to have some pineapple on top, alongside the traditional onion and cilantro topping. A good al pastor taco is more than the sum of its parts, and Taqueria Chingón certainly delivered on every part. We enjoyed these tacos so much that we even went back to get another. Not wanting to give the other tacos on the menu short shrift, we also tried the cochinita pibil: stewed Yucatecan pork, which was spicy and flavorful.

Overall, Taqueria Chingón was a stunner, and everything we tried was at the highest level. It reminded us of taquerias in Mexico City: high marks for both style and substance, which was the goal of the owners. Taqueria Chingón is definitely going into our Chicago taqueria rotation and we recommend you visit if you get the chance.

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Filipino Specialties at Nipa Hut

Though Cleveland is much smaller than Chicago, we are always heartened to see how much diversity is really tucked away in the city and surrounding area’s restaurants. We had a craving for Filipino food recently, and were happy to find that there were actually two Filipino options in the Parma area: Nipa Hut (6775 W 130th St, Parma Heights, OH) and Mely’s Kainan (5382 State Road, Cleveland, OH 44134). We were craving Halo-Halo (pictured below), so we opted for Nipa Hut, since we saw it featured prominently on the menu (very scientific, I know).

Nipa Hut is primarily a grocery store, but also with a separate seating area to dine in, but it did not appear to be open when we went. Instead, during our Covid-era visit the only option was to pick up food from their ready made take-out selection. However, this restriction was not too big of a deal since the take-out section actually consisted a large number of refrigerated items, as you can see below. From these we selected: pancit bihon ($7.95), chicken afritada ($9.95), Laing (taro leaves in coconut milk), and we finished up with pickled papaya salad. Other options included chicken adobo (soy and vinegar marinaded chicken with thousands or variations), menudo (pork stew, different than the Latin American menudo, a tripe stew), fried sardines, palabok (noodles in a shrimp sauce) and kare-kare (peanut curry stew). We brought home our choices to reheat in the oven, and overall they held up very nicely. We were really surprised by the Laing, which we had never tried before – it was both tangy and creamy, with a nice shrimp paste kick – all complementing the slightly chewy, toothsome taro leaves. The pancit, a rice noodle dish, is one of our go-tos because its mix of stir-fried meat and veggies is so comforting (in this case chicken and bell peppers). The chicken afritada, a homey stew with a delightful savory sauce of tomatoes and spice, was surprisingly complex, and the chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender.

And now for dessert, which for us, was the main event. We ordered a halo-halo ($6.99) to go for each of us (and who wants to share?), which we enjoyed in the car before it melted. This dessert was made to order, and not available in the takeout counter. Halo-halo is a frozen Filipino sundae-like dish that means “mix mix” in Tagalog, and it is an idiosyncratic combination of lots of different sweet delicacies all contained in a single cup. No two places make it the same, though there are often common elements, like ube ice cream and jellied fruit. Our Halo-Halo contained: puffed rice, a scoop of ube ice cream, a slice of flan, shaved ice, condensed milk, jackfruit pieces, chickpeas (!) and bright-green pandan jelly. The beauty of halo-halo is that the combination of elements is more than the sum of its parts, trust us!

Nipa Hut was also connected to a sizable grocery store filled with any sort of Filipino grocery your heart could desire. We were also extremely intrigued by the large selection of ube frozen treats, including a frozen ube pie, which we really regretted not buying. Within the aisles of Nipa Hut, there was a staggering assortment of Filipino sauces, canned goods, and treats, and a selection of jellied fruits to make your own halo-halo! There were also more esoteric inclusions tucked away, including balut, a fertilized chicken egg. We highly recommend Nipa Hut if you are in search for Filipino ingredients, hearty comfort food, or even a little halo-halo as a treat.

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HaiSous: Innovative Vietnamese in Chicago

When we were living in Chicago we frequently visited HaiSous (1800 S Carpenter St., Chicago, IL, 60608), a Vietnamese restaurant in Pilsen run by husband-and-wife team Thai and Danielle Dang. We really enjoyed our food and overall experience at HaiSous and its sister restaurant Ca Phe Da (right next door) each time we visited. And we were not alone in our praise: HaiSous gained accolades as a Michelin Bib Gourmand Pick and as James Beard award nominee.

Dining at HaiSous Pre-Covid

The restaurant is still open during Covid, so we wanted to heartily recommend them to those still in Chicago. We are happy to see they still have some takeout options (both curbside and delivery) of their best-loved dishes (available Thursday – Sunday 4pm-8pm), along with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks including their famous Cà Phê Sữa Đá – Iced Vietnamese-style Coffee. During Covid, they have also pivoted Ca Phe Da to a new concept: Dang Good Wings, which has a pared-down menu of coffee drinks and HaiSous’ famous chicken (plus waffles)!

Green Papaya Salad

HaiSous used to have a set prix fixe menu, along with a rotating menu of a la carte Vietnamese favorites. You can still get some of our favorite dishes for takeout including: Crispy chicken wings with caramelized fish sauce and chili and Vietnamese Fries (6pc/18pc $15/$38). Papaya Salad (seen above) – shredded green papaya with beef jerky, fresh herbs, sesame and chili ($13). And of course, the classic Bun Bo Hue – a rice noodle soup from the region of Huế – beef/pork broth with lemongrass, chili and annatto oil ($15).

Pho in simpler times

Alongside their takeout options, HaiSous has developed some additional innovative experiences, including a multi course meal with a pre-recorded cook-along demo for $40 per person. According to the site, “you cook one dish along with us, we’ll make the rest! Watch as many times as you’d like, it’s pre-recorded.” Each month there is a different menu, so you can keep coming back for more. March 2021’s menu includes a cook-along for Bún Đậu Phộng Gà, a savory dish of rice noodles, peanut hoisin sauce, chicken and Thai basil. Along with the March cook-along, you receive the following pre-made dishes: green papaya salad and Chả Giò, a Vietnamese egg roll with a lettuce wrap, plus a pandan waffle with whipped coconut mousse for dessert. HaiSous new menu and cook-along experience looks amazing, and we wish we were in Chicago to try it. If you do, let us know what you think!

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For The Culture Issue 01: It’s Personal + The Pandemic

The first issue of For the Culture is out! For the Culture is a new food magazine dedicated to African, African American, and African Diaspora women and femmes in the food and wine industry. The first cover features historian and author, Dr. Jessica B. Harris, and the overall theme of “It’s Personal + The Pandemic.” The magazine is edited by chef and cookbook author Klancy Miller, and features work by all Black women writers and photographers. Miller describes the magazine as filling a void in the food media world, and serving as a place to celebrate and amplify Black voices. The magazine was first funded through a crowdsourcing campaign and a bake sale in 2020, and the first official issue just came out in January 2021. The first issue is centered on personal stories of the pandemic, and contributors from around the world weighed in with their experiences. The original theme was only “It’s Personal,” but Miller later modified it to include the pandemic as 2020 went on, which has obviously affected the food and wine industry and communities of color (and their intersections) particularly severely. I treated myself to a copy of For the Culture for my birthday, and I highly recommend this beautifully photographed, written and researched magazine. Get your copy on the For the Culture website here for $25.

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Issho Ni: Ramen and more in Cleveland

Issho Ni Ramen Sushi & Hibachi (34302 Euclid Ave, Willoughby, OH 44094). We are always on the hunt for good ramen in Cleveland, and we are sad to admit that it is a little bit hard to find. We had heard good things about Issho Ni, in the eastern Cleveland suburb of Willoughby, so we finally decided to bite the bullet and make the trek all the way out to the east side. If you blinked, you would miss it, since Issho Ni is an unassuming restaurant in a strip mall just off of I-90. But appearances could be deceiving. The menu at Issho Ni was pretty extensive: ramen is only one of the options, there is also a full hibachi menu, and a wide variety of sushi rolls. Plus, as a bonus in these COVID-19 times, we really liked that you could order and pay in advance.

Despite the large menu, we were all in on ramen, of which there were five different varieties: Issho Ni Ramen (no broth, topped with an egg yolk $14.55), Kuro (Black) Ramen with pork broth ($14.55), Kiiro (Yellow) Ramen ($12.47) made with a rich pork and chicken broth, Spicy Tonkatsu Ramen ($13.51), and a lighter choice of soy-based Shoyu Ramen, which could be made vegan (without an egg $11.43). We decided to get two varieties: the black ramen, which was seasoned with black garlic oil and squid ink, and the spicy tonkatsu ramen, marked with four hot peppers, piquing M’s interest. There was also the option to order extra broth or noodles, along with other extra helpings of other toppings (or to omit ingredients). We ordered our ramen for takeout – and greatly enjoyed the contact-less takeout service – we placed our order online, and they brought it right out to the car for us. They were certainly attentive to the details, and we appreciated how they put the toppings/noodles and the broth in two separate containers, so they would not get soggy.

It took about a half hour to drive home, so unfortunately, we are sure that the ramen suffered a little bit from the transportation. However, we found that the ramen broth was still pretty hot by the time we got home. The toppings were generous: in addition to the roast pork, we got a soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and green onions. The tonkatsu broth that was the base of both of our ramens was rich and delicious, and the black garlic also added an unexpected umami flavor. Additionally, the roast pork on top had a nice char and umami flavor. The only mark against them, is that the noodles were not as springy as we would have liked, and were a little tough. However, we have to say that, overall, this was one of the best bowls of ramen in Cleveland so far, especially taking the broth into consideration. Based on our first experience, we look forward to trying all of the varieties of ramen at Issho Ni at some point in the future. We are so glad that we gave Issho Ni a try, and think it is a great addition to the ramen scene in Cleveland.

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Japanese Shortbread Dove Cookies – Hato Sabure, 鳩サブレー

There is a bit of Japanese theme going on at ETW this month, since January is M’s birthday month and we were supposed to be in Japan right now, if Covid-19 were not occuring. In lieu of a trip to Japan, we are indulging in lots of Japanese food this month. When looking for an easy dessert to make to go along with our Japanese green tea, I came across these dove-shaped shortbread cookies called Hato Sabure, 鳩サブレー (translating to “dove sable cookies”). These cookies were created by the Toshimaya company in Kamakura, Japan in 1887 when European-style sable cookies were introduced into Japan, as the country opened to foreign influence. Hato Sabure has grown over the years into Toshimaya’s iconic cookie, and the bird theme carries throughout the shop and its decor, as you can see below. I love a good cookie as an accompaniment to a cup of tea, so I am happy to report that these sable cookies went perfectly with our Japanese green tea. The recipe I used for Hato Sabure was from the ever-reliable Just One Cookbook. I didn’t have any bird-shaped cookie cutters, so I made them into dinosaur shapes, which I think taste just as good!

The Toshimaya Store by Marc

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