family visiting | chow mein sandwich

chowmeinsandwich

Met my aunt and cousin for lunch. They’re the Rhode Island relatives; I hadn’t seen my aunt in absolutely ages and I don’t remember her daughter at all. I think when I last saw them last my cousin was still a kid. She’s now all grown up and very tall.

Went to the peking duck and shark’s fin place, which we all agreed is a family favourite. Everyone has memories of going there with my grandparents as hosts. Whenever someone comes for a visit from the US and Canada, that’s where we all go.

My aunt and uncle have a restaurant (or restaurants, I’m not sure) in RI, their parents had a fabulous fried chicken place that I have vague and fond memories of. My cousin showed us a video of their signature dish, the chow mein sandwich. I asked her to send me the video but she hadn’t gotten round to it yet, so here’s a stock pic. My aunt says the dish was responsible for paying for their house and college education for my cousins. It’s been around for decades, so can be considered a precurser of the ramen burger that was the craze a while ago. But where the ramen burger is all hipster pretentiousness, the chow mein sandwich is more down-to-earth. The ramen burger has noodles as the bun, whereas the chow mein sandwich is

crunchy noodles soaked in a super salty, meaty, brown gravy until they’re no longer all that crunchy, then combined with ground pork, onion, celery, and a gelatinous brown gravy that tastes better than it sounds, and slapped sloppily between either half of a cheap hamburger bun

A little investigation, together with a very interesting article at the New England Historical Society reveals that the chow mein sandwich originated at the town of Fall River, Massachusetts which is less than 30mins’ drive from where my RI relatives live, in the Providence area. The sandwich is also unique to that part of southeastern MA and RI.

What’s intriguing is that the chow mein sandwich is attributed to Frederick Wong who started the Oriental Chow Mein Company in 1938. Their Hoo-Mee chow mein mix is what goes into the dish. Frederick’s son Albert and daughter-in-law Barbara took over the family business and the chow mein sandwich mantle. I wonder if they are related to my uncle, who is also a Wong.

There’s so much of my family’s history in that part of the world–my grandmother was born in Newport in 1916 so there’s history going back 100 years–I really want to know more about them. Need to plan and scheme.

ramen

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Had a meeting in the morning, don’t want to jinx it by giving too much away.

I finished around noon, so I was on the lookout for a quick lunch. Wandered around and the candidates were the usual diners, one that has pasta and a glass of wine, or this ramen shot that usually has a big crowd outside waiting. When I went to the ramen shop, it was just 12.05pm and there were counter seats. So ramen it was. The name of the shop is Yokohama ramen, but I don’t think there is anything special about Yokohama.

Watched the chefs make the ramen and they were authentic enough. The ramen were from Japan and the broth made from pork bones. I had one with the charsiu in cubes as opposed to the usual sliced. Overall, enjoyed the meal. When I left, there were already more than 10 people queuing outside.

sunday lunch

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After church mum and I went to the noisy vietnamese place near the market. They were so short of staff that it was a long wait for tables, for someone to take orders, for food. That it was busy despite the slow service is a sign that the food is good.

We enjoyed our lunch, even though my iced tea came after I finished my meal and we had to share a table with a young couple. Mum had beef phở, she said the broth was very good. I had ox tongue bún thịt nướng: cold vermicelli noodles; I can drink that nuước chấm sweet spicy fish sauce like soup.

Made braised pork with mushroom and daikon at home. Did two loads of laundry. Sent out a bunch of gcls emails.

That was sunday.

asian lunch with sis

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Lunch with sis at a vietnamese/thai restaurant. It’s on a pedestrianised street nicknamed “food street” with lots of different types of restaurants. Aside from this asian themed one, there’s simply life, mediterranean, tapas, burger, steak, a taproom and around the corner a posh chachanteng and a gelateria.

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We had the set lunch with a choice of noodle dishes: laksa, pho, bun vermicelli, fried noodles. There’s an optional starter platter of rice roll, spring roll and satay. We ordered one starter, supposedly to share but I ate all of it. Sis had laksa and I had bun vermicelli with pork which is a cold noodle with crunchy salad and the ubiquitious nước chấm sauce.

All very nice. Sometimes it’s hard to find good vietnamese / thai places that are one step up from street food. This is by a large conglomerate, but done pretty well.

wine, cheese, ramen

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Met up with sis and niece for lunch at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Walked there quickly, so spent the entire meal being still very hot and sweaty. Didn’t eat a whole lot as a result. Went to visit their new place. I like it very much, open plan living/dining/kitchen (albeit very small kitchen with no counter space). Lots of storage and decent sized bedrooms. Sis needed to get rid of some of her cube shelves so I claimed a few for myself—finally I can unpack the last few cardboard boxes scattered around my place.

We dropped off my niece for a playdate and went to happy hour. I’m still coughing badly but since I’m not on any medication I reckon I was okay to have wine. There’s a new craft beer place but we didn’t go there, definitely no cold drinks whilst coughing. We also ordered a cheese plate, 3 varieties but not very generous.

Quick dinner at a ramen place, they had 3 types of ramen—regular pork, miso and ox tongue. Unusual to see ox tongue ramen so we both ordered that. The ox tongue was great, very tender without the unpleasant gamey taste. The broth lacked depth of flavour though, seemed to be mostly chicken based, which couldn’t compare with the thick slow cooked pork bone base in other places.

bamboo noodles

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Every travel and food show has been there: Bourdain, Bizarre Foods, nomad chefs, adventurous chefs, Hairy Bikers, even Samantha Brown. In a cramped, unassuming kitchen a thin, middle-aged man in grubby t-shirt and shorts kneads and presses noodle dough by bouncing a bamboo pole up and down using his bodyweight. Every single visitor then proceeds to sing their praises for said noodles, which have a smooth, fine and al dente texture. A far cry from mass produced noodles.

There’s a mesmerising quality in watching the sifu make the noodles. Or it’s Bourdain’s narration. Or the edgy cinematography. Or the haunting score. It seems…romantic.

Parents thought it’d be a good idea to try, after watching an episode of the Hairy Bikers. The branch is opposite the big messy computer centre and near the food court where we get chili prawns. I had the basic wonton noodles. Always go for the most commonplace item, because if they can’t get the staples right, they shouldn’t be in business. It was good. The noodles had a great chewy yet smooth mouth feel, the wontons were decent and the broth was light. There were jars of pickled turnips that was a bonus. Since it’s where I sometimes go for computer stuff or gadgets or to the market I’ll likely visit again. 

udon with egg, tofu sheet & scraps

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Spent almost all afternoon with mum getting her a new phone, changing her plan and going to the supermarket. We stopped for a snack at an udon place opposite the supermarket. I had udon with a soft boiled egg, mum had udon with tofu sheets—she gave me one sheet. We can add garnishes ourselves—ginger, spring onion and soy sauce: the usual suspects. In addition, we could also add scraps, or bits of leftover tempura batter.

I thought scraps (aka scrumps or batter bits) are more of a nostalgic northern thing, cos I don’t remember ever seeing them. It seems like they’ve been outlawed by Health & Safety. Spoilsports.

I should have known that the Japanese, with tempura frying, will save these delicious bits. Interestingly, the Japanese are also divided in the name of the product. Those in western Japan call it tenkazu and in eastern Japan they call it agedama. 

beef brisket noodles

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Mum took me to a place that had beef brisket noodles. The sign on the door and walls suggested that the restaurant had something to do with Michelin stars, but apparently it was merely one of the many places mentioned in a Michelin guidebook for budget meals. A slight twist of the truth. Nevertheless, the noodles were good. The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth tender and even the soup was light and tasty.

I’m not generally a fan of brisket noodles. I tend to go for wonton noodles or some sort of fish balls. There are more and more beef brisket places cropping up, and they are beginning to use different types of brisket — lean, fatty, crispy depending on cut and cooking method. This place also had noodles in a tomato-based soup and Pakistani curry that came in 4 different spiciness levels. Minimal décor and a tad on the expensive side, worth trying again though.

pork chop ramen with cheese sauce

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I was home sorting the kitchen — about 90% done, most stuff in cabinets, I need drawer liners, cutlery tray and to screw in my new magnetic knife holder. Mum came with me to iron my shirts — I never iron, she insists on ironing everything, even t-shirts we wear at home.

We went to dinner at a local diner. This set had ramen noodles in cheese sauce, fried pork chop and garlic bread which came with scrambled eggs. Adding cheese is one of the ways to upgrade ramen. It tasted good, I dread to think how many calories were in that dish.

relief

Late night shopping tonight. The streets don’t look so dead when I come out of the office. So much so I bought ice cream — fresh berries & panna cotta, 2 scoops.

Backtrack, had lunch with sherlock today, Japanese ramen that’s pretty authentic, for my not so sophisticated tastebuds, tastes like the ramen in Japan. Walked round a little bit after lunch and bought a couple of spare swatch straps for my new one.

Wasn’t too interested in shopping, never was. But was glad the eating places were open. Went to the food hall of David Jones and bought some quince paste, something I’ve only seen in Australia, and I think once at either Harrods or Selfridges. There are a few food counters there — grill, sushi, antipasti, noodles, oyster. I looked and I looked but none of them appealed. So where did I eat? The mmore common foodcourt next door at CentrePoint. Had a Florentine crepe — spinach & cheese. Took an apple & cinnamon crepe back to the hotel but only managed half. They have lime flavoured diet coke here, a new taste.

Friday tomorrow, what a relief.