Edible South Florida Winter 2013 : Page 26
FAR EAST/WEST BROWARD B roward County’s demographics have experienced a similar shift. In my day, if you wanted diversity – well, you drove to Miami. But lately, that’s clearly changing. According to the last census ﬁgures, Broward’s population is actually more racially diverse than Miami-Dade’s, and its “diversity index” is projected to be higher by the year 2030 than any county in the nation other than Queens County, New York. A small but signiﬁcant driver of that increasing diversity is Broward’s Asian community. Virtually non-existent in Broward a generation ago, people of Asian descent are now estimated to make up more than 3 percent of its population. They are also one of the fastest growing groups in the county, I’m a South Floridian born and bred. Having spent my formative years in Hollywood before venturing south to Miami, I feel like I know Broward County pretty well. But Broward is in some ways a very different place from when I was growing up. First of all, much of it simply didn’t exist. Back then, there was pretty much nothing west of University Drive other than cow pastures. These days, civilization stretches all the way to the Everglades. with their numbers having doubled from 1990 to 2000. And they’re coming from all over: China, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, India, Pakistan and more. I care about this not as an amateur historian or ethnographer, but as a dedicated eater. When I was growing up, our idea of “ethnic” food was Wan’s Mandarin House, where Hot and Sour Soup was about as exotic as it got. But now, as is so often the case, an increasingly diverse population supports an increasingly broad selection of restaurants. These days, it’s easy to ﬁnd a favorite Chinese or Japanese restaurant. So instead, I set out to explore some of the further reaches of the Far East in West Broward. Here’s what I found. Lmhkr =:OB=KHL>G=HK? Iahmh`kZiar KH;>KMI:K>GM> +/ ∙ winter 2013 ∙ edible SouthFlorida.com
Far East/West Broward
I'm a South Floridian born and bred. Having spent my formative years in Hollywood before venturing south to Miami, I feel like I know Broward County pretty well. But Broward is in some ways a very different place from when I was growing up. First of all, much of it simply didn't exist. Back then, there was pretty much nothing west of University Drive other than cow pastures. These days, civilization stretches all the way to the Everglades.
Broward County's demographics have experienced a similar shift. In my day, if you wanted diversity – well, you drove to Miami. But lately, that's clearly changing. According to the last census figures, Broward's population is actually more racially diverse than Miami-Dade's, and its "diversity index" is projected to be higher by the year 2030 than any county in the nation other than Queens County, New York. A small but significant driver of that increasing diversity is Broward's Asian community. Virtually non-existent in Broward a generation ago, people of Asian descent are now estimated to make up more than 3 percent of its population. They are also one of the fastest growing groups in the county, with their numbers having doubled from 1990 to 2000. And they're coming from all over: China, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, India, Pakistan and more.
I care about this not as an amateur historian or ethnographer, but as a dedicated eater. When I was growing up, our idea of "ethnic" food was Wan's Mandarin House, where Hot and Sour Soup was about as exotic as it got. But now, as is so often the case, an increasingly diverse population supports an increasingly broad selection of restaurants. These days, it's easy to find a favorite Chinese or Japanese restaurant. So instead, I set out to explore some of the further reaches of the Far East in West Broward. Here's what I found.
I CRAVE KOREAN FOOD LIKE FEW OTHER CUISINES. The smoky heat of Korean chiles, the fermented tang of kimchi, the elemental pleasure of meat hot off the grill: I eat these things compulsively. Once when we were in Long Island for a family gathering, I noticed that our hotel had a section of their restaurant that offered a Korean menu, primarily to serve the Korean Air Lines crew who stayed there. I pantomimed my way through the family dinner, then bolted down to the restaurant before it closed. It was fantastic.
Here at home, such stealth is unnecessary. Instead, I just make the short pilgrimage up to Lauderhill to visit Gabose. While their menu is fairly broad, the place is something of a Korean BBQ specialist. There are other local restaurants that have tabletop grilling, but Gabose is the only one I know of that offers both gas-powered or traditional charcoal grills, with different protein options available at each.
At the charcoal grills it will be the galbi gui you want: short rib, on the bone but sliced thin, and infused with a soy and garlic marinade that caramelizes from the heat of the charcoal as the fatty striations in the beef bubble and brown. Boneless short rib, beef tongue, chicken, shrimp or pork are also available. At the propane-fueled BBQs, you can order thinly sliced beef, pork or chicken in a sweet-salty bulgogi marinade, but the surprise hit here is the ojingo bokum – squid and vegetables marinated in a spicy sauce redolent with gochuchang (Korean fermented chile paste). Of course, if you don't want to go home smelling like you've been on a campout, you can sit at a grill-less table, and the kitchen will do all the work for you. But what's the fun of that?
As is typical of most Korean restaurants, a meal at Gabose will start with a selection of about a half-dozen "banchan," various salads and pickled things: the ever-present cabbage kimchi, daikon radish dressed in vinegar, potatoes with chile powder, marinated fish cakes and the like. If that's not enough for you, round it out with appetizers like mandu (dumplings) and jun (savory pancakes), plus various soups, stews, rice and noodle dishes. One of the best is their dolsot bibimbap: rice, an assortment of vegetables, sliced beef and an egg, served in a blazing hot thick-walled metal bowl whose heat continues to cook the rice at the table, producing a delicious crispy crust on the edges.
You will not find a friendlier introduction to Korean cuisine than that offered by Susan and Fred Kim, who run Gabose along with Susan's parents. They are glad to guide guests through the menu and explain the dishes and how they are served.
For something a bit different, venture even further west to Myungga in Weston. Though they have galbi, bulgogi and other typical grilled items, there are no tabletop grills at Myungga. Rather, the specialty is soondubu, or tofu soups, available in several variations. The kimchidaiji soondubu (kimchi, pork and tofu) arrived at our table literally bubbling like a lava pit. The creamy, silky tofu provides a welcome foil for the broth, dyed brickred with Korean chile powder, pungent with the welcome funk of the kimchi. Another interesting twist at Myungga is the nakji dolsot bibimbap, with spicy octopus in place of the beef. Some shochu, or Korean rice wine, can help soothe your tongue in between bites.
IF KOREAN FOOD IS RENOWNED FOR its fire, then Vietnamese food is perhaps best characterized by its finesse. People often say "fat is flavor," but in Vietnamese cooking, much of the flavor comes not from fat, but from clean, clear extractions, the rounded umami of fish sauce, the brightness of fresh herbs and vegetables.
There is perhaps no better example than a well-made bowl of pho, the noodle soup that could arguably be called the national dish of Vietnam. The heart of pho is the broth – typically a long-simmered brew of beef bones, charred onions and ginger, infused with spices. A big bowl will be filled with hot broth, rice noodles, slivered scallions and onions, and various cuts of beef, which can then be customized at the table with additions of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime, chiles, hoisin, sriracha and fish sauce.
You can find such a well-made bowl of pho at Noodle House in Lauderdale Lakes. There are more than a dozen different variations to choose from, but unless you're squeamish, the way to go is the "dac biet" (which loosely translates to "house special," and often means "with everything"). The broth is translucent and golden-brown, with an intense but clean meaty flavor and the heady but not overwhelming aromas of star anise and cinnamon. The noodles are slick and soft, and the bowl is piled high with various beefy bits: slivers of rare steak; marbled fatty brisket; dark, crispy flank steak; fluffy meatballs; gelatinous tendon; nubby strips of tripe.
For a change of pace, try Noodle House's bun bo hue. The broth is amped up with lemongrass, chiles and shrimp paste, the noodles are a thick, round, udon-like variety, and the bowl comes stocked with crisp flank steak, a braised pork knuckle, slices of cha lua (a fine-grained pork sausage with a passing similarity to bologna) and cubes of congealed pork blood (actually quite mild-tasting, with a texture similar to tofu), topped with shredded cabbage and fragrant, woody banana blossoms. The menu gets rounded out by a customary selection of appetizers (various rice paper rolls, both fresh and fried); bun (noodle) dishes topped with grilled pork, shrimp or other items; fried rice dishes; stir fries; and bubble teas.
As an alternative, you could pay a visit to Pho 78 in Pembroke Pines. Pho 78 is also a pho specialist; their broth runs perhaps a bit more hearty, a bit less clear than Noodle House's, but is every bit as satisfying. Their cha gio (fried spring rolls) have a delightful, shattering crispness, the flavors of the shrimp, pork and vegetable filling brightened by a swipe through the nuoc cham dipping sauce. Pho 78 also offers another specialty: banh mi, the Vietnamese take on a sub sandwich. A crisp baguette can be filled with a variety of different options – grilled pork or chicken, a fried egg, cha lua sausage, or all of the above. But it's really the garnishes that make a banh mi special: lightly pickled carrot and daikon radish, slivers of cucumber and jalapeño, big sprigs of cilantro and mayo can brighten up any sandwich. Together with a salty lemonade or a bubble tea, it makes for an ideal lunch.
KNOW YOUR ASIAN CUISINE
Banchan – (or panchan) a variety of small dishes, often salads or pickles, served as an accompaniment to a meal. Bibimbap – literally, “mixed rice,” a dish of rice and vegetables mixed with chile paste, often with sliced beef and an egg. When served in a hot stone bowl, it’s “dolsot bibimbap.”
Bulgogi – grilled marinated meat (usually beef, but can be chicken or pork); the marinade usually contains soy sauce, sugar, garlic and sesame oil, among other ingredients.
Galbi – (or kalbi) short ribs, sliced thin for grilling, often marinated first with soy, garlic and other ingredients (sometimes sugar, fruit, fruit juices, or even canned sodas).
Gochuchang – (or kochuchang) a fermented paste of Korean chiles, garlic, soy beans.
Jeon – a savory pancake or omelet that can have a variety of fillings.
Soondubu – Korean soft tofu, often used in stews with a variety of other ingredients.
IT'S EASY TO FIND A THAI RESTAURANT IN SOUTH Florida. It's not easy to find a good one. Sometimes it seems that they're all using one of two regulation-issue menus distributed by some Thai Restaurant Central Headquarters: the one with sushi, and the one without. Otherwise, it's the same salads, the same bland sauces, the same ubiquitous, and usually sticky-sweet, pad thai.
That's not true at Panya, in North Miami Beach. Now, I'm cheating here some – Panya's not particularly west, actually just east of I-95, and it's not even in Broward County – but it's so good it's worth bending the rules.
Their som tum, a salad of shredded, pounded green papaya that has a vegetal crunch and just a hint of sweetness, is tossed with fish sauce, lime juice, tomatoes, long beans, chiles and peanuts. But it's the chewy dried shrimp and the diced bits of whole lime, rind and all, that provide exclamation points of intense flavor. Larb, a salad of minced pork (or beef or chicken) tossed with slivered onions and scallions, is brightened by fresh mint leaves and then anchored by the intriguing toastiness of roasted rice powder.
Panya's guay tiaw kee mao, also known as "drunken noodles," features broad, thick rice noodles tossed with garlic, chiles, green onion, spicy Thai basil, and your protein of choice, stir fried in a hot wok that leaves a hint of smoke and caramelization, what the Chinese call "wok hei" or "breath of a wok." Or for something clearly not on the "regulation" Thai menu, try the catfish pad ped – chunks of fish on the bone, tossed in a chunky, spicy red curry together with tiny, crunchy Thai eggplants, long beans, fragrant kaffir lime leaves, and potent clusters of pickled green peppercorns. It is a parade of flavors and textures.
Most South Florida Thai restaurants are too timid with the spice; the result is dishes that are unbalanced, overly sweet or just insipid. At Panya, spice takes its rightful place. They will ask how spicy you prefer a dish. If you opt for "medium," you'll definitely feel it; if you opt for "hot," you'll probably feel it the next day too. At its best, Thai food is not subtle stuff: it blasts the palate with competing notes of hot, sour, sweet, salty and bitter. But while it may lack subtlety, it does not necessarily lack grace. When it really works, all those powerful flavors come together in fantastic harmony, like a multi-instrument jam band playing at full volume. That's how Panya cooks.
Banh Mi – a Vietnamese submarine sandwich with a variety of fillings (for instance, grilled meats, Vietnamese pâté, sausage, eggs, tofu), served on a crispy baguette, typically dressed with mayonnaise, pickled carrot and daikon, fresh cilantro and cucumber.
Bun – rice noodles, also sometimes called "vermicelli" or "rice sticks," often the foundation for dishes topped with various grilled meats: "bun thit nuong" is grilled pork served over rice noodles; "bun tom nuong" is grilled shrimp served over rice noodles.
Cha Gio – crispy fried spring rolls in a rice paper wrapper, usually filled with some combination of shrimp, pork and vegetables.
Com Tam – rice plates, usually with similar toppings to "bun" dishes; fried rice is "com chien."
Nuoc Cham – a thin dipping sauce typically made with fish sauce, citrus juice, sugar and water, sometimes with additions of chile peppers, garlic or julienned carrots.
Pho – a Vietnamese noodle soup, typically with a beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, onions and scallions, and various cuts of meat, garnished at the table with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, chiles, lime and various sauces.
THE CUISINE OF THAILAND IS BETTER known around these parts than that of Indonesia, so it's no surprise that Indo Quest, in Pembroke Pines, offers both, with a menu that's literally split down the middle between Indonesian and Thai dishes. I'm sure their Thai food is fine – but it's the Indonesian items I seek out here.
There are undoubtedly areas of overlap. But Indonesian cuisine has many unique items, with a style that's gentler, sweeter, highly spiced but not necessarily with the brash heat of fresh chiles.
To experience some of those differences, start with a fresh salad – gado gado offers a mix of cabbage, green beans and fresh sprouts with hard-boiled eggs in a peanut dressing, while gudangan coats the vegetables in a spicy dressing of freshly grated coconut. If you have a sweet tooth, the battered and fried plantains known as pisang goreng, served with a sticky peanut sauce, are like having a dessert for an appetizer.
But really, the way to do Indo Quest right is one of the combination platters. The nasi rames ("mixed rice") includes more than a half-dozen different items – pisang goreng, gudangan, lumpia, beef satay, ayam indo (chicken stewed in sweet soy sauce and Indonesian spices), nasi goreng (fried rice), nasi kuning (rice steamed with coconut milk and turmeric), bami goreng (fried noodles) and sambal goreng (delicious crispy shoestring potatoes dressed in a sweet chile sauce) – for under 20 dollars. It's also available in a vegetarian version. Or, for only five dollars more, you can do the full-blown rijsttafel ("rice table"), which lets you sample 13 different dishes.
It's hard to get much farther from South Florida than Indonesia. But you can still get a taste of it in west Broward.
Guay Tiaw – flat, wide rice noodles, similar to Chinese chow fun.
Kee Mao – "drunken" or "drunkard's" stir-fry, typically including chile sauce and/or fresh chiles, garlic, spicy Thai basil, oyster sauce and dark soy sauce.
Larb – a spicy salad of minced cooked meat (pork, beef, chicken, duck, fish can all be used), tossed with onions and scallions, flavored with fresh chiles, fish sauce, lime juice and roasted rice powder, and served over fresh vegetables.
Som Tum – a salad made with unripe green papaya, typically shredded and pounded in a mortar and pestle along with the other ingredients, which can include long beans or green beans, tomatoes, peanuts, fish sauce, lime juice and dried shrimp.
Bami Goreng – (or Mi Goreng) Indonesian stir-fried noodles. Gado Gado – a salad of fresh steamed or raw vegetables (usually green beans, cabbage, bean sprouts) with hard boiled egg, dressed in a sweet peanut sauce.
Gudangan – fresh vegetables dressed in a a spicy fresh coconut sauce. Nasi Goreng – Indonesian fried rice, usually made with kecap manis, or sweet soy sauce, and tamarind for sourness.
Rijsttafel – "rice table," a Dutch colonial adaptation of traditional Indonesian cuisine, usually featuring a broad selection (sometimes as many as 40) of small portions of various dishes.
Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/Far+EastWest+Broward/1282307/142031/article.html.