Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Han Yang Korean Market Prepared Foods

Han Yang has been my go-to store for Korean ingredients (usually frozen salted mackerel, kimchee, and sweet potato starch noodles for Japchae).  Every time I go, I can never resist buying a package of prepared food as a way to explore more home-style Korean food.

The colorful Korean mochi always looked appetizing, especially the ones covered in peanut powder.  However, this package of mochi is flavorless.  Mochi is usually super sweet, but these were barely sweet!  And although it looks like there's an assortment of mochi in the package, they all taste the same.  If I remember correctly, the multi-colored cake-like variety in the middle had a different, more cornmeal-like texture, it still tasted similarly bland.  I really can't recommend these sweets.

Korean Mochi

On the other hand, I loved and highly recommend the giant package of cooked pig feet with tiny dried shrimp preserved in brine!  I love the combination of savory, briny, and sweet flavors.  I would've never thought to use the pungent preserved dried shrimp as a condiment to pig feet, but it really makes this humble dish even more delicious and memorable.

Pig Trotters with Fermented Dried Shrimp Condiment

Another prepared food you can find at Han Yang is Gimbap, which is Korean sushi rolls.  It seems to have more of a rice to filling ratio than Japanese sushi rolls, and it usually has cooked ingredients.  It is also never served with soy sauce and wasabi.  Gimbap here is a quick, filling,and inexpensive solution to satisfying sushi roll cravings.


Friday, March 25, 2011

What Do You Eat after Skydiving and Flying?

Thanks to the online discount certificates to restaurants and fun activities around Austin, I have been able to do things that I never thought I could afford!

My brother and I spent some quality sibling time learning how to fly a helicopter and airplane last week in Seguine, TX.  I also went skydiving November 2010 in Lexington, TX!  These two activities were among the highest ranked activities on my bucket list, and it feels so good to be able to check them off my list!  

My biggest concern was what to eat after piloting a plane and jumping out of one.  For both activities, I made sure to have a super light breakfast to so that I don't regret eating before doing the activities.  However, this made me super hungry after I finished doing each activity.

I was a bit queasy after skydiving because the gliding part was a bit disorienting.  The sudden change in direction when my tandem instructor showed me how to turn by tugging on my left arm made me want to vomit into the vast span of farmland below.  I survived and put on a brave, if weak, smile upon landing.  By the time I recovered a little bit from the motion sickness, I was definitely hungry.  But I didn't know what I could eat that would not make me feel worse.  My skydiving partner and I settled on sushi because it's a somewhat light option.

Getting ready to jump

Getting into position

Free Fall!

Parachute opening up


Back on land

On the drive from Lexington back into Austin, we discussed all the inexpensive sushi options in Austin, and there really weren't a lot.  There was Sushi A Go Go, which we opted against because at that time, they only operated out of one trailer at Medical Arts, which was a bit inconvenient for us.  Finally, we decided to try Haiku in the Southpark Meadows strip mall.

For non-traditional maki rolls, these were pretty good!  The portions were huge, so one roll for each of us would've sufficed, but we ordered 3 just in case.  The sauces were a bit too sweet for my liking, but I just ate the rolls without the sauces.  My favorite roll was the South Park Roll because it was spicy, packed with my favorite maki roll ingredients, and didn't come with any sauce.  
South Park Roll - crawfish and fried tempura batter wrapped with snow crab, spicy tuna and wasbitobiko with avocado

Longhorn Roll - tempura shrimp, snow crab, cream cheese, smelt roe, and fresh tuna with spicy mayo and eel sauce

Tropical Roll - tempura shrimp, snow crab, wrapped in soy paper with salmon and fresh mango

Flying a helicopter and a plane was thrilling but definitely not as nerve-racking as skydiving.  However, so much adrenaline pumped through me while piloting for 30 minutes in the air that I felt weak again, this time from hunger!
Bro ready for take-off

Bro about to show off his hovering skills


Yup, the wing is my step...I feel super safe

Flying over New Braunfels


My brother suggested that we drive 30 minutes to San Marcos to have an early lunch at Red Lobster.  Now, now, I know foodies out there balk at the idea of eating at the Olive Garden  and Red Lobster chains, but it's just like how I think about the numerous Americanized Chinese food joints across the U.S.  They're not authentic; they're mutated versions of the original cuisines that should be taken as is and not compared to authentic ones.  It can still serve a satisfying meal, and we should let go of attaching "guilty" to "pleasure" when aligning ourselves with some of these establishments.  While growing up, my family frequented the neighborhood Red Lobster on weekends.  Hey, affordable seafood that tastes pretty good!  We're not going to put our noses up in the air!  

I recently tasted their awesomely addictive lobster pizza, so I didn't hesitate to order it again for my post-flight nourishment.  Judge all you want!

Lobster Pizza

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Johnson City: Benini Sculpture Ranch and Silver K Cafe

Our school has organized countless trips to the Hill Country, and they all seem the same: wine tasting, LBJ ranch, and German food in Fredericksburg.  That's all great, but I figured that there has got be other things around the Hill Country for it to be such a highly acclaimed destination!

After some searching on the internet, I found out that the metal bull, which I've passed by a gazillion times in the past on the way to Fredericksburg, is actually a sculpture ranch that's open to the public Friday - Sunday.

The Benini Sculpture Ranch is 140 acres of open space with sculptures by various contemporary artists.

This was a great break from the routine Texas Hill Country day trip!

Benini Sculpture Ranch

Artist, Jonas Perkins, working on "The Great Benini"

After a long day of climbing and walking, we settled on Texas-style comfort food at the Silver K Cafe in Johnson City.  The Honey Pecan Fried Chicken Breast was awesome!  It's super crunchy, and the sweetness of the honey isn't overwhelming.

Prickly Pear Iced Tea

Honey Pecan Fried Chicken Breast with Green Beans and Scalloped Potatoes

Chicken Fried Steak with Cabbage and Green Beans

Monday, March 14, 2011

Enchanted Rock and a Texas Saloon in the Middle of Nowhere

Sadly, I have never really used my Spring Break to do fun things.  I can't remember actually having fun on any of my Spring Breaks in grad school, no thanks to the profs, who tend to pile on assignments the week before. 

Since I'm hoping that this is my last Spring Break ever (no more school...until I'm ready for academic torture again...), I decided to finally treat myself to some fun with friends. 

I admit that I'm a Type A kind of person, who needs to plan out everything before taking action.  I even plan for spontaneous things that may present itself in my itineraries.  I had a packed itinerary and thus told my friends to meet at 7 AM sharp on the same day as Daylight Saving Time when we all lost one hour of sleep.  That's how I roll, folks!

Good thing we departed Austin early because by the time we arrived at Enchanted Rock, there were already a lot of visitors, and by the time we left the park, lines of cars spilled out onto the ranch road trying to enter. 

Enchanted Rock

After 3 hours of climbing the rock, we headed out to Willow City for some burgers at the eccentric Knot in the Loop Saloon.  It's a saloon that serves fantastic burgers and doubles as a "Wild West-o-rama Museum."  I love the kookiness.

Knot in the Loop Saloon

Dollar Bills on the Ceiling

Restrooms...it's a mini-museum inside...

Darn Good Cheeseburger!

2009 Fredericksburg Day Trip: Lunch at the Auslander


I had a feeling that German food in Fredericksburg is meant for tourists, but at the same time, it just doesn't feel right to go to Fredericksburg for tacos.  We settled on dining at the Auslander because the name aptly describes us Austinites.

The food isn't grand, but I think the point of the German restaurants in Fredericksburg is to fill up your bellies, give you a break from your normal work day, and give you a generic taste of another cuisine.  They don't take themselves too seriously and neither should the diner.  With that mentality, Auslander provided a comfortable setting and a satisfying meal at the end of an awesome Texas Hill Country day trip.

Kassler Rippchen - smoked pork chop with green beans and spaetzle

Wienerschnitzel with Apple Sauce, Green Beans, and Potato Salad


Beer Battered Mushrooms with Ranch Dressing

Fredericksburg Day Trip 2009

In the summer of 2009, I took a leisurely trip out to Fredericksburg for a good dose of the Hill Country and the Texas sun before I departed for China.  I was in such a hurry packing for Shenyang that I forgot to post about that beautiful day.  Here are some of the highlights.

Odd Trees around Dripping Springs

Miller Creek Lavender Farm

Picking Lavender

Becker Vineyards

Becker Vineyards Wine Tour

Free Tacos at Becker Vineyards

The National Museum of the Pacific War