Monday, 30 July 2012

Costless Biang!

(Note - sorry for the slow updates...this entry is a week behind due to last week's craziness. I'll try to catch up to the times, literally =)

After waking up late from last night's late plane trip, we hit Costcos to remind ourselves again of the in-expensiveness of mainland cuisine.

Costco cafe

I've never noticed this in other Costcos, but this neat little device struck me as kinda funky and cool. It's an onion pumper that when you rotate clockwise like on the instructions, you can get some onions for your hot dog!

Onion pumper

Couldn't believe that they served hot dog + drink for only $1.50. In St. Thomas, that would cost at least $7!

I was hungry from the morning's tidying up that I needed something substantial to eat. So we got a chicken bake, a churro, a frozen swirl yogurt and a Very Berry smoothie - all for the low low price of $7.

Chicken Bake

The chicken bake was fresh out of the oven. We split this in the ratio of 6:4, with me taking the smaller part of course. The chicken was oozing out of it, with the rich creamy broth following right after.

Wonder Bird

It was really an amazing creature of salty creaminess with tender chicken bits and a crunchy yet not too hard coating with felted shredded bits drizzled all over it. I could eat this everyday!

Very Berry Smoothie and Swirl Yogurt

Then the yogurt. Oh man it was pure dairy goodness. I got this versus the ice cream because I wanted to be at least a little calorie-conscious, although I know that's not really possible when everything on the Costco menu is above 300 calories.

Want a bite? (Get it yourself!)

But what I like best about this yogurt is that it's not too sweet. And you can keep on enjoying it even after the meal because of the large proportion.

The smoothie was full of berries like the name suggests. But it wasn't artificial like a lot of the other smoothies - this thing is the real deal. Although I don't like berries all that much, this was still pretty awesome. (Next time I want to try the frozen mocha.)

Churro

The churro though fell short of expectations. I guess it must have been sitting in the window for too long, because there were bits and pieces that were hard to chew. But still, we finished it, with me dipping it into my yogurt.

In the afternoon, we went furniture shopping for a coffee table. I thought this painting has a pretty exclamatory remark =) 


Then later on, we went to Flushing to get some groceries (yay!). While hubby was busy, I got an iced coffee from Kung Fu Tea. This is their original (isn't everything these days?) iced coffee, and it was actually pretty good! Contrary to my other Kung Fu tea experiences, this one was surprisingly full of good coffee flavor and just the right amount of cream, and not too much sugar like I requested.

Iced Coffee

In the Flushing mall, we saw this large shoe.

Would you like to live in there?

Before shopping, we went to Biang! The reportedly top 10 cheap eats by New York Magazine.


Created by Jason Wu, a first-generation Chinese American, his entrepreneurial genius transformed his father's Xian mall-stand into a hip young trend that can be compared to Mission Chinese.

Complicated character

Yes, biang is a real Chinese character, a complicated one albeit. It's supposed to be the sound of dough hitting the table (they specialize in hand-made, hand-cut noodles), but it's sounds more like a gunshot to me.


Their menu is pretty cool, printed on parchment paper and then stuck to a cardboard backing by two old-school silver pins.

It was just starting to get busy when we arrived, and Jason was at the greeting table to seat us down. I would have gushed "omg are you the Jason Wu featured in NY Magazine?", but thankfully I was too busy detangling my hand bag from my sweater to react.


The waitress brought us water right away. Compared to the islands, we're already starting to feel the speed of the East Coast. 

We ordered the tofu and lamb skewers, both 3 for $3 (just like the ones on the streets!). We also got the cold chili noodles with cucumbers and cilantro, and the lamb dumplings (as recommended by NYM). The food came almost 8 min after we ordered. I couldn't believe the speed! 

During our wait (which was barely enough for us to drink some water!), I was telling hubby about what I read about Jason Wu, while drolling over the next table over. The two ladies ordered everything on the menu, from the skewers to spiced quail wings to the cold chili tofu skins to the lamb pao mo to these scrumptious looking spicy cumin lamb burgers. (I thought they were Chinese food critics or something, til I started talking to them...just regular customers who has a great appetite =)

Tofu skewers 

The boiled tofu skin skewers are slathered with spicy fermented tofu sauce, Szechuan bean sauce, sesame paste, garlic and chili oil. With all those ingredients, they were a little too salty. Actually, way too salty.

Cumin Lamb Skewers

Being a Xian meat staple, you can't leave Biang! without trying their lamb. And what could be more authentic than lamb skewers? These slivers of fatty lamb bits are barbecued over open-flame grill, seasoned with cumin, red chili powder and other spices. 

You could smell this dish from miles away. The meat is tender, with the bits of fat soaking up the spices  fully. It's a little hard to get off the silver skewers, and you have to be careful eating it lest you poke the poor person sitting beside you.

Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles

Of course, we also had to try the Liang Pi, their signature dish. This is wheat-based cold and chewy ribbon-like noodles, with wheat gluten slices, blanched mung-bean sprouts, cucumber and cilantro, and fizzled with chili oil, soy sauce and vinegar.

It was the dish recommended by NYM. Personally, I didn't really enjoy this dish. Although we asked for mild spicy, it was still quite spicy in terms of my tastebuds. But of course, my tastebuds can't really handle spice all that much anyways. The hand-pulled noodles were pretty good though.

Steamed soup dumplings with lamb meat

These little things were delish! Handmade into bite-sized pieces, the dough is oh-so-tender and the meat  fresh and flavorful with a slurp of soup in every bite (well, there's only one bite from start to finish). I ate most of these since I love lamb and bao zi, especially the combination of such. 

I heart bao zi


The noodles kind of grow on you after a while, that is, after you are numbed by its intense spiciness. Hubby really liked this dish which reminded him of his hometown cooking.

All done! (dare you to drink the sauce)

And once again, we managed to swipe the plates clean. And the total bill? $17!!! I couldn't believe it. All this under an hour of service + eating + bill. Incredible! Just for the bill, I had to go thank Jason personally. He was rather confused when I approached him and said his name, I guess because he just had to deal with a difficult customer who was unsure of what they wanted to go and how to pack it to go. 

Me  - "Jason, I just wanted to say.."
J - *blank look*
Me - "Thanks for a great meal!"
J - *huh look* "Oh...you were sitting over there?" *point at table*
Me - "yes, you are doing an awesome job, keep it up!"
J - "Oh thanks."

Wow, I guess years of restaurant service (esp in Flushing) dulls you down huh?

Next time I would love to try the Chang-an Spicy Tofu, the Spicy Cumin Hand-ripped Noodles, and of course, the Lamb Pao-Mo Soup. I also like their fusion menu, like the sunny side up quail-egg toasted on slices of mantou and home-made spicy pork sausage, almost reminiscent of tostini. 

Unfortunately hubby wasn't completely full (he should have told me - we could have ordered some more dishes hehe), so I suggested the $1 Peking duck served from a window shop.


I peeked inside the store, and it was chaos. The lady measuring the food was practically screaming at the customers and her coworkers, although most of what she said was just the weight of the food.


These slowcooked chicken wings were only $2 for the whole box (but you don't get much meat on it, just lots of bones).

Duck-burger

The duck burger consisted of a Chinese mantou bun, some sweet duck sauce, few slices of duck and some slivers of scallion. Hubby said it tasted awesome, and wondered why he never saw it before. Sigh - that's why you need a wife to notice these things.

Finally, the moment I was waiting for - grocery shopping in a Chinese supermarket!


You won't find as diverse a range of veggies as here, as like this veggie pictured above. Don't know the English name for it but it's in the shape of a fist, which is why Chinese people often call it "Buddha's palm".

We explored their shampoo section quite a bit, and found some pretty interesting combinations of Chinese ingredients, like this one here:

Nourishing and Tastes Good

And let's not forget Mr. Good-luck Panda (this is shampoo btw).

Notice the red banner wishing you good luck after you wash your hair?

And some leftover New Year's choco wafer sticks...
Happy Year of the Dragon!

Ah...it's nice to be back in the diverse (and cheap) mainland!

Costco Cafe
$
***** (5/5)
Kids-friendly

Biang!
$
**** (4/5)
Kids-not-friendly (small restaurant, about 20 (small) tables)

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