Chilean Casual Dining Churrasco Sandwich

Churrasco Sandwich from Chillán, Chile
Originally uploaded by jihfang.
The photo, taken about two weekends ago, is that of a churrasco sandwich, available in a few varieties as detailed on the menu. The "Fuente Alemán" is the place where I feasted on this monster of a sandwich.

First comment: SIZE. If those fries in the photo are any indication, the sandwich is huge. Just half of the sandwich EASILY can fill you up. (but in my case, i ate the whole thing because it was the first REAL MEAL I had eaten since leaving my seemingly perpetually sick state that lingered from the beginning of my trip) A plus on the size for the hungry hippos.

Next: Contents. This monstrosity was filled with thinly and toughly cut strips of beef churrasco grilled, most likely, and generously layered with other hefty portions of tomato, crisp lettuce (I asked for extra) and pickles (there were so many the sandwich looked like it was being attacked). The red sauce I added...it is the supermarket available "ají­ chileno" that i liken to a less vinegary-zesty rooster sauce...but still does the duty nonetheless. The bread is like most of the bread folks eat here in chile, unleavened, white and quite "duro" (thats "hard" for you uninitiated). In this case, not as hard as usual. Normally, this variety also includes a helping of mayo, which is almost always included in the chilean sandwich businesses (as is the availability of mayo for hot pasta dishes...why? i donno). The fries, the waiter admitted after a quick query...is really just for looks.

TASTE: Not the best sandwich i´ve every had but it did it´s job to fill my stomach. The ingredients tasted fresh, a plus, but the churrasco was just too tough for me...as is the case with most of the meat i have purchased in Chile (Concepción, that is). Maybe they don´t know the concept of cutting meat against the grain.

PRICE: Barely 5 dollars for the whole beast...which is actually on the pricier side in Chile for a sandwich.

BONUSES: If anything, save room for dessert because there is a full bakery at this location in downtown Chillán (the restaurant is a chain as far as i can tell...). Chile has been real good to sugar producers because every variety and type of pastry and dessert is pack by the square inch with sweetness. Yum. Get a little cortada coffee with that and you´re good to go.

RETURN FACTOR: I would go back to the place...but for the dessert. (Not unless you wanna try one of their hamburgers with a generous smearing of fresh "palta" or avocado. MM MM. Another commodity in abundance around here).


A Meal in a Crust (this one is chicken)... Posted by Hello

do-it-yourself ahi (kauai)

jimmy's big catch
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
while on vacation in kauai, we decided to bbq our own fish one day. but when we drove by the fish express to buy some fresh fish, we found that they had just closed for the day. on our way to another grocery store, we saw this guy on the side of the road, standing next to his pickup truck with 2 large ice chests at his feet and a handwritten sign on a piece of cardboard saying, "AHI."

as luck would have it, this guy apparently went fishing that morning and had two ahi tuna left in his chests to sell. he offered a 9-lb. beauty to us for $18. as you can see by the picture, we took it.

our friends, anita and jimmy, did a fine job of gutting (anita) and fileting (jimmy) the ahi back at the condo, and jimmy marinated and grilled it up. half was seared; the other half grilled to medium doneness. so fresh and tasty, there's nothing more to say except... yum!

spam musubi

spam musubi
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
ok, this is my last entry for tonight on our kauai grub. this is me making spam musubi on our last day in kauai. without any other resources, i used the spam can as a musubi mold and, as you can see in the photo, they turned out quite well, thank you very much (we packed the seaweed separately and wrapped it around the musubi before we ate it so that the seaweed wouldn't get all soggy). even nicole, who was so anti-spam, became a spam convert once she had a taste of one of my tasty musubi. ha!

[as a spam-related side note: in hawaii, you can find many varieties of spam that i've never seen here on the mainland: hickory smoked spam, turkey spam, hot & spicy spam (made w/ tabasco sauce), and spam with bacon! i bought a couple of cans of that bacon spam to take back home, but haven't had the chance to try them out, yet.]

fish express (kauai)

fish express
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
another highlight of kauai's grub scene is Fish Express, a tiny deli-style take-out place that specializes in all manners of poke (a kind of salad made of raw fish or other types of cooked or uncooked seafood, typically marinated and mixed with onion, seaweed, or other hawaiian style seasonings).

in this photo, taken at the cash register end of the deli counter, you can see the wide variety of poke, including ahi (tuna), tako (octopus), squid, abalone, and raw crab. there's also lomi salmon, seaweed salads, and all sorts of other delights that you'll only find in hawaii.

there's also a kitchen where you can order hot lunches, or you could pick up fried hawaiian style chicken chunks. and they also sell fresh fish by the pound, if you want to go home and make your own.

fish express is located in lihue, directly across from the wal-mart.

Jo Jo's Shave Ice (kauai)

jo jo's inside
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
for the best shave ice on kauai, you've got to go to Jo Jo's in Waimea. what distinguishes it from all the others is the wide range of flavors of syrup, ice cream, and toppings, so that you can make the ultimate hawaiian style shave ice.

in this picture, you can see the menu board lists some favorite combinations, but you are free to make your own combo (ala coldstone's ice cream).

to make the ultimate hawaiian shave ice, you first need to decide on your preferred ice cream flavor (or you could decide to go ice-cream-less, but why would you???). then choose your syrup flavor/s -- you can usually choose up to 3 flavors.

some of my favorite ice cream/shave ice flavor combos include:

- vanilla or coconut ice cream, coconut syrup, topped with azuki beans and condensed milk -- the japanese obon staple, but made even more deluxe with the ice cream and coconut syrup.

- macadamia nut ice cream topped with pineapple, guava, and mango shave ice.

- strawberry ice cream topped with strawberry shave ice.

- vanilla ice cream, root beer syrup -- like a slushy root beer float!

one of the more unusual choices offered at jo jo's was li hing mui flavored syrup. for those of you not in the know about li hing mui, it's a chinese dried plum that's sort of salty and sweet and the hawaiian people love the taste so much they put it on everything -- including shave ice. i didn't particularly enjoy this one...

big thumbs up for Jo Jo's. if you have a chance to go to kauai, check it out. it's on the main road in waimea, right across from the high school.


Daikokuya in J-town

Originally uploaded by illewminator.
Daikokuya is one of my new favorite spots in j-town. it's a fairly new place in j-town on 1st street, between san pedro and central (located where the old okonomiyaki place used to be).

even though i'm not necessarily a big ramen fan, i must say this was perhaps the best ramen i've ever had. their broth is made from pork bones (kyushu-style or tonkotsu ramen), so it's a cloudy whitish soup, as opposed to clear, shoyu-based broth typical to most ramen. the broth is probably the best part of the ramen and is what distinguishes this ramen from the rest (a warning from my friend, winston, about the broth: do not spill any of that precious broth on your clothing because it will leave a permanent stain that no dry cleaner can remove. to me, this means there must be a hell of a lot of bacon grease in this broth, which explains the secret of why it's so damned tasty!).

the noodles are cooked to just the right chewy consistency and you get 3 generous slices of black pork, which is like the thick pork bacon slices you get at some korean bbq joints. there's also the slices of that thick, yellowish vegetable (is it gobo?) and a whole boiled egg, which is just barely cooked so the yolk is still on the soft/almost runny side. and the whole thing is topped with a generous heap of shredded scallions. in addition to the regular white pepper and togarashi (chili pepper), there are also jars of minced garlic and pickled ginger on the table so you can add to your taste.

the "daikoku ramen" is $7.50 for a (large) bowl. you can also get it with the broth and noodles served separately for $7.75. i can't remember what this was called, but after the waiter described it to me that way, it seemed pointless to me, anyway. other items on the menu include sushi (which was just ok), tempura (pretty good), ginger pork, tonkatsu, oyako-don, and unagi-don (i haven't tried any of these, but i hear the ginger pork is good). for the really hungry, you can also get a combo of ramen plus tonkatsu, ginger pork, and a bunch of other choices. these seemed to run in the $10.50 and up price range.

i also tried a "dessert" that was listed on a sign posted on the wall in japanese writing. it turned out to be a skewer with 3 little (cold) mochi balls and basted with a thick, sweet teriyaki-ish sauce. it wasn't bad, but i think it's more of an appetizer or snack to eat with beer -- in my mind, anything with teriyaki sauce disqualifies it from being a dessert. i found it difficult to choke down after my ramen, since i was expecting something sweet and creamy, like the mochi ice cream i wished i had ordered... they also serve alcohol (beer, shochu, and plum wine).

it seems word has spread quickly, since i just went again a few nights ago and it was packed with people waiting for a table. but no worries -- you can always sit at the counter.

A Meal in a Crust

That's the motto of Pasty Kitchen, a little hole-in-the-wall corner store on Katella Avenue in Los Alamitos. I've often driven by this place on the way to my nephews' house in Cypress, but had never set foot in it. Finally, having joined the Grub Club, my curiosity finally got the better of me, and I made a quick u-turn to find out what "A Meal in a Crust" was all about.

Score! A "pasty" is like an English version of an empanada, but as big as a char-siu bao! A huge fistful of meat (chicken or beef) and vegetables (potatoes being the major veggie here) is stuffed into a pastry shell and baked to a golden brown. It is hot, filling, pretty good-tasting (I prefer the chicken to the beef; they also have a veggie-version.) Each pasty is about $2.00, but I challenge you to finish one and not say that you are full, or almost full. A pastry is truly a "meal in a crust" like the handpainted sign outside claims. Stop in, buy a half dozen or so, freeze them, and voila! You have a "meal in a crust" ready to be microwaved for any meal!