a bunch of reviews

it’s been a long while since i posted anything, so here are some stuff for your perusal.

friend of mine treated me to some ocean delicacy.  behold its glory.

uni

uni closeup

it is sea urchin.  or uni if you’re japanese, or a sushi lover, or a japanese sushi lover.  what, you think all japanese folks are sushi lovers?  you racist bastard.

aaanyway.

for those who love sushi, you’ve probably had uni before (and maybe paid a pretty penny for it).  but it is quite an experience to eat it fresh.  i’ve often heard of food shows talking about getting closer to the source, or having more affinity for your food by gathering it yourself.  for me, a total city boy with no outdoor genes whatsoever, this is darn close to catching then eating something with my own hands.  i can see why people would want to catch and eat a fish, instead of buying one from a market.  it is that understanding of what you’re putting in your mouth that brings you closer to what you eat.

maybe this is a sign that i should go kill something.  that will please some vegans.

the flavor of the uni is pretty hard to describe.  it started salty and slightly briny, but much less than i had anticipated.  about two to five minutes after i ate a piece, a sweet flavor emerged.  even from all that sea water loaded with salt, i still tasted a sweetness similar to crab meat, except deeper.  umami is an overused word now, but in this case the word describes the uni flavor quite well.  it’s just one of those thing you have to experience yourself, because no two people would get the same sensation from uni.  at least that’s what i think.  btw, the uni roe is the reproductive organ of the sea urchin, in case you’re not already grossed out.  just here to help.

on the pool front, i’ve recently had a chance to try out the poison vx break/jump cue.  here’s a picture i snagged from the poison cue website.

poison vx break jump cue

poison vx break/jump cue. image retrieved from http://poisonbilliards.com/.

the vx break/jump cue comes with a phenolic tip as standard equipment.  i think the basic gist of the cue is to give you a more efficient way of transferring power to the cueball.  the hard phenolic surface offers almost no shock absorption, so whatever energy you generate will go into the cueball with minimal loss.  i don’t know the weight of this particular break cue, but it feels quite light in my hands.  unfortunately, this break/jump cue did not immediately give me a magical break, so i declare this product a failure.

all kidding aside, i had to really practice my break to get a feel for this cue.  the phenolic tip worked great for transferring energy, but it was also more prone to miscue than leather tips.  i found that concentration was the key to break well with this cue; when i focused on hitting the center of the cueball, the break worked very well.  when i didn’t, i’d miscue like a total amateur.  wait, i AM a total amateur.  never mind.

just like any equipment i’ve ever used, practice is the key.  no cue will give you a magic break/stroke, and this cue is no exception.  but it does work well when you figure out how to use it.  as far as jump shots, i did find it easier to jump due to the phenolic tip.  maybe that’s cheating, but i like that it made things easier for this lazy azz.

players cues makes the HXTP1 pure x break/jump cue.  the pure x breaks down into four pieces, which gives you more configurations.  if you focus a lot on your jump shots, the pure x may work for you since you can customize the length of your jump cue.  i haven’t used it yet so i can’t say how well it works, but the pure x does look like a neat concept.  try them all out for yourself is all i can say.

aside from work, i’ve had a chance to watch a few movies.  Runner Runner is a movie about online gambling, starring ben affleck and justin timberlake.  the movie was panned by most critics, but i thought it was entertaining.  it’s no oscars effort, but i didn’t think it was that bad.  just don’t buy the dvd.

Seeking a friend for the end of the world is a movie about two people connecting right before a giant asteroid is about to strike the earth.  steve carell and keira knightley headline the flick.  the movie surprised me.  the bond between carell’s and knightley’s characters were very sweet and moving.  if you didn’t watch it yet i think you’d be pleasantly surprised.

i also watched R.I.P.D.  i know, dumb show, but i liked it.  the movie made me laugh, so i don’t care.  at least i didn’t watch Twilight.

that’s it for now.  until next time, folks.

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meh.

howdy folks, and happy belated new year.  it’s been quite awhile since my last post.  call it laziness or boredom, but i just didn’t have anything to put up here.  not much happening pool-wise except for the recent TAR match; i didn’t watch it but i heard that svb ran right through darren appleton.  i think the next TAR will feature mike dechaine, so look for it if you’re interested.

i didn’t do a whole lot except stuffing my face, so here are some pics of my recent carnage.

MI

ramen of course.  gotta have the staple.

me and asian friends went for asian food.  in chinese cuisine, soup dumpling, or xiao long bao (xlb), is a famous item that has gained popularity in the western hemisphere in recent years.  so off we went.

xlb trip 01

here’s the cucumber appetizer.  very refreshing and palate-cleansing, which perfectly readies you for . . .

xlb trip 02

 . . . the famous xlb.  the pork filling was delicious, the skin chewy yet delicate.  try this at least once.

xlb trip 03

the restaurant also offers regular dumplings.  the pork filling was chewier than the ones in the xlb but also delicious.

xlb trip 04

stir-fried green beans.  for something so basic, this dish absolutely stole the show.  the ingredients are simple: green beans, salt & garlic.  however, the execution of the dish was so perfect, the beans wokked so spot-on, that my friends and i wiped the dish out in mere minutes.  should have ordered two plates.

continuing the theme of asian food, we also tried a different place that offered the beef noodle soup.

beef noodle trip 01

here’s the beef noodle soup.  the broth was quite savory but very flavorful.  the hand-made knife noodle, however, was the star of this show––chewy with a very meaty mouth-feel, this is the noodle to get for this dish (several types of noodles were available).

beef noodle trip 02

pan-fried pork dumplings.  very good with soy-vinegar dipping sauce.

while the food was delicious, the owner (or manager) of this place was so b**chy and so mean to her employee that the meal became less tasty than it should have been.  she openly scolded her waitress right in front of the customers!!  the owner did not stop berating that poor woman the entire time we were there.  i was shocked at how the owner’s attitude actually ruined our meal; i would go back to this place, but the owner is making me think twice.  there’s a good chance that my friends and i won’t eat there again.  anyway, that’s it for now.  laters.

enter the ramen [UPDATED]

ah, the humble ramen.  when people hear “ramen”,  they likely think of this:

while the cup noodles is a form of ramen, the actual thing is a thousand miles away from this humble variation.

ramen is a dish originated in china; the word means hand-pulled noodles.  but after years of mutation, the modern japanese ramen bears no resemblance to the original.  so what is ramen?  is it a beef noodle dish?  chicken?  pork?  does it contain pork slices?  bamboo shoots?  tomato?  corn?  the answer is that it depends on who you ask.  based on my meager understanding, here’s my take on what ramen is.

ramen, in its purest form, has no purest form.  the modern ramen contains as much (or as little) ingredients as the chef would care to use.  the basic link between different ramen styles, as far as i can tell, is that they contain soup and noodles.  while the type of noodles used in the ramen seems very similar from shop to shop (a wheat flour noodle), the soups are as different as the chefs who make them.  the toppings are even more varied than the soup.  like i said, there is no set of rules that govern what a bowl of ramen should look or taste like; the chef decides what the ramen will be.  having said that, there are some fairly common ingredients for the ramen.

noodles: the typical ramen noodles are made with wheat flour.  i think most shops will get this from the local factory, though some may ask the noodle shop to make it to their specifications.  there may also be shops that make their own noodles, but i haven’t been to a ramen shop that hardcore.

chashu: the pork slices you see on your ramen is the chashu.  this is found on a majority of ramen, but not always.

bean sprouts: some shops love to use this while other shops avoid them.  these are typically blanched then placed on top of the ramen.

menma: this is the dried bamboo shoots.  these are typically boiled then served as a topping.

black fungus: you may know them as wood ear fungus.  some shops like them while others don’t.

nori: seaweed.  usually served as a small sheet on top of the ramen.  depending on the style of ramen, you may see this in your bowl.

green onion (negi): normally a garnish, although some shops use this as a main ingredient and make what’s called negi ramen (green onion ramen).  you typically get a huge load of green onions (a big handful or two) in the ramen if you order that.

hanjuku egg (hanjuku tamago): some ramen shops will serve this boiled egg with soft yolk.  they are delicious.

hard-boiled egg: if the shop doesn’t want to bother, they’ll serve the hard-boiled egg instead.  lazy bastards.

since pictures are always better, here’s a simple diagram.  click on the pic for Konishiki version.

rest assured that your favorite shop will serve something completely different from this pic.  in fact, if you watched the hokkaido episode of anthony bourdain’s no reservations, you’ll see the hokkaido variant with crab legs, scallops, corn, and BUTTER.

(fast forward to 1:21 to skip to the ramen scene.  i apologize, but the skip code in the video link doesn’t work for some reason.)

as you can see, there are almost no rules for ramen.  if a chef can make something tasty, it is a successful bowl of ramen, corn and all.

here in L.A., the most prevalent form of ramen seems to be the pork bomb variety––by that i mean the shop will violently boil the pork bones to extract every ounce of marrow, fat, and whatever porky essence to make the stock.  as a result, the soup is typically very thick and rich, with a layer of oil floating on top of the soup.  some may think that sounds disgusting, but that’s how you get that porky flavor.  there are many other styles of soup, but in L.A. the pork bombs seem to rule the landscape for now.  you will find ramen shops that specialize in chicken or shoyu (soy sauce) broth, but that takes some digging in the city of angels.  to me, if a shop makes tasty ramen, i’ll try it.  now who makes a hokkaido-style ramen around here . . .

besides ramen, i’ve also had a chance to try the filipino crispy pork, also known as lechon kawali.

i know nothing about filipino food so i’ll have to compare this to other dishes i’ve heard of.  i think lechon kawali is similar to chitlings: pork belly pieces slowly deep-fried until crispy and delicious.  the ones i ate came with a sweet sauce for dipping and was quite tasty.  still, this is not a dish you wanna eat everyday; it’s extremely fatty and i presume not good for you at all.  but once in a while, you can satisfy your grease quotient with this dish.  it’s fattylicious.

on the pool accessory front, predator is entering the chalk fray and selling their new octagonal chalk.

the new predator chalk is supposed to be comparable to blue diamond, but we’ll see what happens.  i’ve been using blue diamond and i’m quite happy with the results.  if the predator chalk works like bd and cheaper, i’d definitely try it.  for those that use a chalk holder, the octagonal shape may be a problem; time will tell.

in other news, the iphone launch is THE biggest tech story right now.  not far behind is the new iOS 6 and the impact it’ll have on iphones.  since i’m poor i’m not buying the new iphone right now; kind donations of $570 toward the new iphone will be greatly appreciated if you’re so inclined.  😛  with the new iOS 6, the biggest problem seems to be the new maps application.  now that apple has broke away from google maps, there have been a number of complaints about inaccuracies of the new map.  some users even reported that the new map gives wrong directions.  due to this reason, some owners of previous generation iphones are reluctant to upgrade the OS.  apple stated that as more users use the new map, the more accurate it will get.  (read: early adopters will become guinea pigs.)  i kept wondering if apple would ever team up with thomas guide to boost the usefulness of the new map; after all, thomas guide sits on a mountain of geographical data that would no doubt help apple’s cause.  just a thought.  on the plus side, the new maps app uses vector based graphics to render the streets, so we get a bump in speed while zooming in or out.  (click here for an explanation of vector graphics, and here for a comparison between vector based graphics and pixel based graphics.)

i’m a latecomer to gordon ramsay’s kitchen nightmares.  started in UK in 2004, ramsay’s kitchen nightmares became very popular and now has spin-offs in five countries, including the US.  (the original UK series ended in 2007.)  i’ve watched both the US and UK version, and i think the UK version is much better in terms of storytelling.  it’s really neat to look at restaurants through the eyes of a chef, and through what perspective he finds strengths and weaknesses in a restaurant.  currently the UK reruns are shown on BBC America; if you haven’t seen the show it’s a fun ride.

sorry about my aimless rambling, gentle readers; i’ll try to write in a more coherent manner next time.  toodles.

[update sept. 24, 2012]  thanks to longtime reader q&b, i realized that i forgot to include a video.  below is a cooking video for yakibuta ramen (roasted pork ramen).  you’ll notice that the ramen is not the pork bomb variety i described previously.  rather, the broth is clear and (probably) a lot gentler than the pork bombs.  the video is quite informative and (i think) very adorable.

btw, the end of the video included an announcement that the chef was injured and hospitalized.  i think she was riding a bicycle and got into an accident; according to the internet, she has since recovered and is now back to cooking and shooting videos, so panic not.

i will also include another sample of ramen.  this is the shio ramen (salt ramen); i believe the pork broth is seasoned with salt instead of soy sauce, hence the name.  again, click on the pic to Konishikirize.

enjoy!  ’til next time.