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Late Nite Adobo

Typing out thoughts on a website… when the cravings hit you in the late nite…

116 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654

Talking about your favorite soup is like talking about politics; there are no winners. Heated debates on pho, bun bo hue, Taiwanese beef noodle soup, sinigang, Mom’s chicken noodle soup (i.e., Campbell’s), etc. can go on for days and days. Nevertheless, with chilly weather on the horizon, it’s time to lower your chopsticks from combat position, sit down with your favorite bowl of whatever soup you love, and get slurping!

I’m embarrassed to say that my experience with ramen is mostly of the instant variety. Maruchan, Ichiban, Top Ramen – along with Optimus Prime and He-Man – were allies in my childhood battle against brisk weather. The one real bowl of ramen I had was from Mr. Ramen in L.A., and the only thing I remember was the pressure of trying to get an ear-piercingly loud slurp going because that’s what I saw on TV. And most other ramen places that I’ve come across have had crazy long waits that made quick Pho stops a more attractive alternative.

Fast-forward to a rainy, cold day in Chicago, which led me to The Slurping Turtle – Chef Yagihashi Takashi’s take on Japanese comfort food, and purveyor of ramen. Could this be fate?

Tan Tan

Tan Tan Ramen (Fall in love all over again)

With my limited experience, I’m not sure what constitutes a good bowl of ramen. Generally, if food is tasty and pleasing to my senses (or any extraordinary spidey/umami senses I may have), it’s good to me. The ramen must have fit that criteria, since I finished the whole bowl in record time. I had the Tan Tan Men Ramen, and the Tonkotsu.

The Tan Tan was just a’ight. It wasn’t too spicy, and the flavors were really subtle compared to the salty, rich broth of the Tonkotsu. Each were good on their own merits, but I prefer the heartier, stick-to-your-ribs Tonkotsu. The only thing I “ragret” is not getting a poached egg…on account of my pro-eggy stance on life…

Tonkotsu

Tonkotsu (Uh-huh)

I’m gonna take the easy way out and say that I crave certain soups at different times. A gigantic bowl of BBH or pho hits the spot when I have an equally gigantic hangover. On the other hand, a warm, loving bowl of arroz caldo at my parent’s house has a soft spot in my heart feels. While my curiosity has come up a little late, my obsession for trying more and more authentic ramen is rising quickly. I won’t rest until I’m slurping at a bare minimum 12th grade level. Get your ear plugs ready!

So as I raise my soup spoon in battle-ready mode, I ask you the reader: What’s your favorite soup to combat the chilly weather?

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The Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave,
Chicago, IL 60611

Not since Purple Rain has a range of hues of color occurring between red and blue garnered so much of my lavishing attention. Enter Chicago’s The Purple Pig. After deciding to skip out on plans for a $300 fancy dinner at a restaurant that will remain anonymous, a trek out into the concrete wilderness lead me to this restaurant for late night eats.

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Wha-uh-oh. Uh-oh-oh. Uh-oh-oh.

Crispy Pig Ear Salad: Crispy pig ears, crispy kale, and a fried egg on top. This dish is beer drinking food at its finest, and qualifies as “healthy” due to the inclusion of a leafy super-food, even if it’s deep-fried. My only gripe was that I wanted more egg yolk to cut through the teensy bit of over-saltiness. Heavy beer consumption is highly recommended!

 

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JLT (Jowls, Lettuce, and Tomato…oh my…): The Purple Pig’s take on a classic BLT. Holy shit, call me late to the party, but pig jowls are the new pork belly! It has a caramelized bacony taste that’s salty, sweet, and highly addictive. The gigantic sunny-side-up duck egg on top made me want to frame the dish and hang it on a wall as a gorgeous piece of art. This was a tasty dish with balanced flavors and a nice contrast of crunchy, chewy, and creamy textures.

 

Milk-braised Pork Shoulder: Pot roast’s melt-in-your-mouth second cousin. The pork shoulder was fork-tender, flavorful, and paired well with the accompanying mashed potatoes. It was like Sunday supper at grandma’s house, sans the frilly doilies.

 

Not-so-naughty tentacles

Not-so-naughty tentacles

Grilled Octopus: Hey wait a minute, there are no pork products involved?! Truly truly truly outrageous! This dish was a simple, delicious plate of food. The octopus was flawlessly cooked, so the texture was just the right amount of chewy with a nice smoky char on the outside of each tentacle. Steve Zissou would be proud!

Until I can open up a restaurant specializing in putting fried eggs on top of everything, which I would call — wait for it — If You Like It Then You Should’ve Put an Egg on It, this place will have to do. With it’s moderate pricing, generous portions, and fun atmosphere, I’d go back to The Purple Pig in a heartbeat – be it an irregular or normal heartbeat.

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I’m all about comfort food. As a matter of fact, if I had a stack of pancakes right now, I’d rest my head on them like Dan in Real Life. Which brings me to one of the original kings of comfort food: Shrimp & Cheesy Grits.

As if I was assembling a quilt of deliciousness, I took bits and pieces of a few googled recipes, while making sure the standard cast of ingredients made appearances. My grits were loaded with butter, cream, cheddar and monterrey jack cheese. I prepped the shrimp mixture with garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lime, parsley, shrimp, and subbed in spicy italian sausage instead of bacon.

Harm me with hominy.

Harm me with hominy.

While I love the smokiness that bacon normally gives the dish, sausage was a perfectly suitable alternative. It adds a heartiness that’s guaranteed to cut down your commute time to the ‘itis. Nevertheless, the shrimp & grits were cheesy, creamy, spicy, savory…completely satisfying…and mmmmm…why am I even typing this when I could be eating a bowl right now?!

Like Monty Python & The Holy Grail, shrimp & cheesy grits are the perfect pair. AND, it’s socially acceptable to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! I challenge anyone to question my lifestyle choice of eating it for all 3 of my daily meals……okay fine…all 6 of my daily meals…

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Filipino adobo is not to be confused with the Goya spice blend seen in commercials, or the bad guy from Double Dragon, or Adobe-style architecture. While it does have Spanish roots, the Filipino version evolved into it’s own thing. For the most part, the basic building blocks of adobo sauce are vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves. From there, anything can be adoboed: veggies, eggs, fish, chicken, pork, unicorn…the only limits are your imagination!

There are numerous variations of adobo in the Philippines based on region. The 2 recipes I tried are a “traditional” prep with chicken thighs, and a Luzon-style prep with chicken wings and coconut milk.

This traditional adobo recipe was simple to cook, with the hardest part being the prep work of cutting the chicken and mincing up the garlic cloves. I asked friends and family beforehand for some tips and tricks, and I quickly realized there’s no easy “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start” cheat code for cooking adobo. Everyone cooks it somewhat differently, and everyone has a variation on the Golden Ratio of soy sauce-to-vinegar. Chicken Adobo

Nevertheless, I simmered away, permeating my apartment with the sweet sweet smells of garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar. 45 mins or so, I was the proud daddy of a decently delicious chicken adobo. It was a little on the salty side, which I prefer to an overly tangy/vinegary sauce. The only caveat to the saltiness is that I usually end up eating a family-sized portion of rice…Oh, and there’s that high-blood pressure thing too. (Just make sure to get the defibrillator ready after you turn on the rice cooker.)

The recipe for this fancier chicken adobo was passed on to me from a NY Times article. Lets just say the final results were worth all of the skepticism that came with getting a recipe from the NY Times. From marinating, to simmering, to broiling the chicken to get a nice golden brown color, there was a good amount of labor involved compared to my previous experience cooking adobo. But even with a shit ton of dishes to wash after all of the extra steps, my hard work payed off and I was rewarded with a beautifully balanced, tangy, salty, sweet chicken adobo! The coconut milk does an awesome job balancing the flavors and adds a nice creaminess to the sauce, while the chilies give it a spicy punch. S-u-c-c-e-s-s! Adobong gata sa manok

Adobo is one of those simple comfort food dishes that’s an icon of every Filipino childhood. Along with rice, this meal hits the spot every time I have a craving for home cooking – whether it’s in the middle of the day, or late at night after stumbling home drunk at 2a.m. (Nothing good ever happens after 2a.m…with the exception of late night adobo…)

Morning, noon or night, what’s a dish you grew up with that absolutely hits the spot like nothing else?

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Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof!

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof!

So…I kinda went on a bender at World Market, buying as many Kinder products as I  could get my grubby little hands on. The reason being: this strange youtube series on Kinder surprise egg unwrappings. I don’t even know how I discover these sorts of things…probably while surfing through funny cat videos. It’s always the funny cat videos.

Sadly, Kinder surprise eggs aren’t available stateside, as it’s apparently a choking hazard to have toys encased in food or something. I remember Disney having a similar product that wasn’t as good, but I digress. Child-safe Happy Hippos for everyone!

The packaging for the hippos is fun and colorful. The size easily fits into a purse/satchel for late night movie sneak-ins. And I really dig foreign nutrition information. Why doesn’t the U.S. refer to calories as “energy” so real life can be more like a videogame? The happy hippo itself, is more of a caterpillar shape than anything. And some of them look like they’re rolling their eyes with indifference. Along with the suspicious neck-beard looking chocolate shavings on the underside of the biscuit, I’m lead to believe they’re, in fact, hipster hippos. Dissection

The thin outer wafer has a nice crispy texture that I like in these kinds of snacks. When I bit into one of the biscuits I couldn’t help but think that the chocolatey cream inside the hippo was blood. So naturally I laughed like a maniacal madman while eating these. I like how these hippos aren’t too sweet, especially compared to the other Kinder candies. They give you a hit of sweetness that satisfies your chocolate cravings without sending you into a diabetic coma.

Mr. Hippo: Um, excuse me. I only eat locally sourced farm-to-table.

Mr. Hippo: “Um, excuse me. I only eat locally sourced savannah-to-table.”

At $4.99 for 3.62oz of eye-rolling (and probably back-talking) hippopotamii, I can’t recommend getting these Happy Hippos. As an alternative, I’d get a box of Hello Panda at $5.99 for 9.1oz of essentially the same snacky desert biscuits. Chocotastic endangered species goodness with a value? Yum!

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Bravo, Pillsbury Doughboy. Bravo. Your implacable campaign of Unsloppy Joes  on the tele was super effective. Convinced that my meals have been lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, I’m determined to make dinner “pop” for a change. This is my story.

My production line.

So wow. Much clandestine.

CliffsNotes Recipe:

1. Cook sloppy joe meat – Brown ground turkey meat, drain, and mix with Manwich bold sauce. All Manwich sauce should be bold and manly!

2. Flatten out biscuit dough with a rolling pin or a bottle of your best pinot noir.

[Side note: Is there anything more tense than opening up a can of biscuit dough? It’s like watching a twisted version of Saw and the Pillsbury Doughboy is playing the role of Jigsaw.]

3. Put a spoonful of sloppy joe meat and a scoop of shredded cheese of your choice on a biscuit round.

4. Fold the biscuit round to enclose the filling, making a little pocket, and crimp the edges with a fork to make it look purdy.

Here’s where I did a little experimenting. Since I had no eggs and no baking knowledge whatsoever, I sealed some of the biscuits w/ olive oil, some w/ water, and some w/ melted butter.

5. Bake in a 375 degree pre-heated oven for 14 minutes or so, and voila! Oddly-shaped mutant empanadas! The sealant experiment didn’t matter, as most of the biscuits exploded open like skinny jeans after a buffet.

Heroes in a half-shell. 'Panada power.

Heroes in a half-shell. ‘Panada power!

All that & a side of slaw.

All that & a side of slaw.

Overall, this was an easy-peasy “semi-homemade” recipe, worthy of a Sandra Lee hair twirl or two. It could be that these unsloppy joes are made with buttermilk biscuits, but somehow these meat pockets exceeded my expectations. I think of them as an alternate, lunch lady land version of an empanada.

They’re extremely compact too, which make them perfect for multitasking on TPS reports, one-hand clapping to congratulate yourself on a poppin’ dinner, or…dare I say…homework! What in the…these unsloppy joes really ARE perfect for a school night!

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They see me rollin'

They see me rollin’


I’m a sucker for gimicky food packaging. Whether it’s a frog with a cap & sneakers selling me Honey “Smacks” or a tub of lychee jellies shaped like a giant panda head, i’ll have it in my cart faster than you can say “product placement.”

So naturally, I had to get this frozen Korean Taco with Tofu, because well…it’s a fricken mini food truck, that’s why. It’s a well known scientific fact that the circus-theme for Barnum’s Animals made the animal crackers contained inside the box yummier. It’s science. 

It's Ron Cadillac!

It’s Ron Cadillac! Frickin’ epic!

Will this tiny food truck deliver the goods? Or will it blow a tire and crash in a firey, tofu-scented disaster?

Surprise, surprise – this ain’t no Kogi. How can a graphic of a piping-hot thermometer advertising hot hot heat levels tell so many lies? The taco was not spicy at all, and was in desperate need of that “overhyped hot sauce that shall not be named.” The veggie/tofu filling had a gingery miso/soy flavor, which wasn’t too bad for what it was. Overall, it tasted like stir fry wrapped in a soggy corn tortilla. 

On the plus side, the taco was successful at triggering a craving for spicy bulgogi and galbi. Since I didn’t have a cook-top or slices of marinated beef lying around (darn meatless Mondays), I settled for spicy buffalo Wheat Thins I had in my desk drawer. Those had more zest than you can shake a taco at.

Taco Libre

Taco Libre

And so, a dark, ominous cloud shadowed over the miniature world of Teenyville. Somewhere there’s a tiny research assistant taking his lunch break at this mini Korean taco food truck; instagramming a snarkly captioned photo of this mediocre Korean tofu taco, #meh. And he’s probably taking the rest of the afternoon off to write an equally snarky review on chibi-Yelp.

These kinda things take time. I should know…

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