Monday, December 24, 2012

New Asia on Market Street: New Cambodian Restaurant with buffet

With my mother living 2 hours away in CT, its not always the easiest to fulfill my cravings for authentic Cambodian food.  Although I do know how to make a handful of simple dishes, I leave the time consuming traditional dishes to others.

Sure, Cambodian sandwich shops and fast-food joint are opening up in town quicker than anyone can keep track of, but sometimes its nice to just have a small sample of everything instead of committing to just one or two dishes from places like Yummy Express in Lowell.

Growing up in the 90's, my siblings and cousin used to take turns and help out at my uncle's office on Westford Street doing basic filing and answering phone calls.  During lunch, we would walk across the street (then later next door) to Khemara restaurant where my uncle had a tab and we would eat the Cambodian lunch buffet.  It was a steal then at $4.95.  We filled our little tummies with rice, chicken and soup.

As a young adult, I still loved going to Khemara restaurant and would go with friends for the weekend brunch buffet that served Cambodian specialties such a "nom pa chok" rice vermicilli and a traditional fish lemongrass soup base or "bun xiow" more of a Vietnamese dish with pork and bean sprouts filling in a tumeric rice flour crepe.  I was sad to see it close a few years ago and have longed for a new Cambodian buffet since.

Viet-Thai in Lowell offers great Southeast Asian cuisine and authentic Vietnamese dishes and the Mo and I like to go whenever we get a chance.  The only downside is that is that the buffet is only served on weekdays so the Mo and I can only go when we have the day off from work.

After going to a small mom and pop's Asian store, New Asia Market, I discovered that they had purchased the restaurant in the same building, the old Southeast Asian restaurant.  The Mo and I actually both worked there for years and I was sad to see it go through different ownership over the years.

The new restaurant, "New Asia Restaurant"  has a weekday lunch buffet was advertised in the store for  $7.50.  I asked the clerk what kind of food was offered and was thrilled to hear that it was mainly Cambodian.  The restaurant also serves a la carte Cambodian dishes in addition to Cambodian hot pot and grill. (Koh Leung Phnom..aka cow goes up the hill...aka butter beef pan)

The Mo and I decided to head there today for Christmas eve brunch.  The restaurant got a mini face lift and the moved the food stations in the main dining hall versus the previous set up.  The restaurant seemed brighter and a new flat screen TV was installed.  This is pretty typical in any Cambodian restaurants where karaoke or Asian soap operas are on display for the patrons during their meal.

We got there a little bit after 11:00 AM so they were still putting out a few dishes under the food warming lamp.  It was definitely a Cambodian buffet with traditional soups, stews, curried pork, pra hok dishes, etc.  A few dishes can fall into the general Southeast Asian category  such as eggrolls, wings, phad thai, fried rice and chicken sate.  There was also a variety of vegetarian dishes that included stir fry vegetables, steamed garlic and green beans and tofu.
Buffet Offerings View 1
Buffet offerings, view 2, before they added the other 2 dishes
Fresh Vegetables paired with pork curry and prahok, fresh garden rolls on the far right
The food at the buffet was presented very nicely and most importantly, everything looked clean.  Since the restaurant had been only opened for a month, there was only one other table that was there. The owner/waitress advised that it does get busy during the lunch rush with its close proximity to city hall and downtown Lowell.

The food was average and it did the trick to satisfy any craving for Cambodian food.  I was excited that they had one of my favorite soups, stuffed bitter melon with pork and vermicelli. It's one of the many things my mom always made growing up in our household.  It's sometimes hard not to be biased as one is always used to their own family's recipes.

The curried pork was a bit spicy for me but the Mo enjoyed it.  The fresh rolls left a lot to be desired. I'm not a fan of ground meat in my fresh rolls and they had ground chicken, the texture didn't go well.  The Phad thai was great and the wings were full of flavor.  It stayed crispy under the heating lamps and I was surprised that it didn't turn into a soggy gross mess.

We were too stuffed for dessert but it looked like there was only one offering, tapioca in coconut milk.

We would probably be back again on a lazy day as the service was fast and friendly and the price was just right.

My only wish is if they served "Nom Pa Chok", "Bun Xiow" or "Nom Crook" (Pureed rice and Scallion pockets with fish sauce)

For more pictures, visit their Facebook page. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Casual Friends Soiree

We headed back to the Mo's aunt house for a 2nd round of noodle soup for brunch.  Since the broth had an extra day to simmer, it was even better the 2nd time around (similar to spaghetti sauce tasting better the next day).

I signed up for a free trial at the new Best Fitness in Lowell since I was NOT going to drive all the way to Woburn on my days off just to work out.  They were kind enough to extend my free trial to the end of the year instead of the usual 7 days.  After some cardio and pumping some iron, I felt a little less guilty about the rest of my day.
Nat's festive cookie jar and napkin holder
(that I wanted to steal)

Between 2 PM and 5 PM, I happily "slaved" in the kitchen, prepping and cooking for a casual dinner get together with some great friends.  My friend Nat was kind to host and we all brought dishes to share among friends. Her house is more "kids friendly" aka no wild dogs running around clawing their newborns and eating people shoes, purses and brand new car keys.

Our gracious host brought out the Belvidere vodka, an assortment of fine wines (I'm used to drinking $4.00 brands) and allowed us to help ourselves around the kitchen and fridge. I think we've all become too comfortable... but that's a different story.

For tonight's soiree, I made a variety of appetizers and entrees.  A holiday party wouldn't be tradition without my usual goat cheese spinach stuffing but since I forgot to pick up goat cheese, so I made a seafood & spinach stuffed mushrooms instead.
(Raw Mushrooms ready for baking)
I hate to admit, but I have to give credit when credit is due, I also made Marcia's recipe for sweet and sour meatballs.  It's someone I work with that makes it for all our work "pot luck" events. She usually makes it with turkey meatballs. The recipe is so easy, meatballs + grape jelly + chili sauce and set it in the slow cooker and forget it.

I vamped it up a little bit and added sweet Italian sausages and jalapeno peppers to give it a little kick.

Another staple of mines, is fried chicken wings, any style. For tonight's gathering, I made combination of habanero mango and "Asian Zing" using sauces from Buffalo Wild Wings.  Wings are always are hit at any party and they are cheap and easy to make and everyone loves wings!

No holiday dinner is complete without stuffing. I prepared an "out of the box" Stove top stuffing and added sausages, raisins, vegetables and topped it with fried onion bits and shredded cheddar cheese.

 I made a chicken parmasean baked ziti that I left in the broiler for a few minutes too long since I was too busy taking shots and what not, I was a bit disappointed in the outcome. It was a bit dry and a little burnt.

Everyone loves eggrolls and my friend Nat prepped some delicious eggrolls. I'm pretty particular about my eggrolls as people tend to skimp out on the filling but hers were perfect.

Most of the pictures were taken at the beginning of the night and I forgot to pull out my camera for the rest of the dishes that everyone brought.

Our friend Nang ordered 3 quarts of Legal Seafood's delicious clam chowder that was served with oyster crackers.  This was a hit! He wanted to do something different and he definitely succeeded! I don't think I've ever been to any gathering that served Legal's chowder, if only I got invited to presidential inaugurations then that would be a different story.

Thien and Lemar served my favorite spinach salad with goat cheese (my absolute favorite) and walnuts tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette.  Funny story, Lemar sent Thien into the grocery store and advised him on the ingredients she needed for the salad and Thien took it upon himself to pick up croutons and bacon bits for the salad. Needless to say, those ingredients were set aside and served "a la carte" for those who wanted it.   

Syn picked up mouth watering roasted pork from China Star and everyone feasted on that delectable goodness.  This dish always goes pretty fast.  Its so simple but so very satisfying.

For dessert, Sophea aka Fifi intended on grabbing a wonderful cake from H-mart but with the shit-show traffic on that road, it was impossible. Her mom made a delicious Cambodian coconut jelly dessert with tropical fruits and jelly.

I also ordered chocolate covered berries from Shari's berries using a groupon/living social special.  It was originally intended for my sister for our family holiday gathering but since it was postponed another week, the berries wouldn't last that long.  It was a dozen of their gourmet, Hand dipped cocktail strawberries  (Champagne, amaretto and rum flavored)

It was a great night, we shared drinks, lots of laughter, I tricked a parent into letting me hold their baby (buzzed.... not DRUNK.. haha) and I learned that Burma was an actual country and not part of Indonesia (yes... I'm pretty ignorant these days)..

I came home and found Kashi instant oatmeal in my purse... not sure why/how... but I'm sure there is a story behind that!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 days of Eating....

and eating.. and gorging... and drinking...

For the past 2 weeks, I've attended numerous social gatherings with friends that included lots of cheese, creamy dips, and many bottles of wine.  I've gone out to multi-course luncheons with customers and indulged in our awesome office holiday party and even participated in a  work cookie swap (which I won, "Most Creative Cookie!" for my "Mrs. Claus Whoop Ass Whoopie")

Cook Swap Samplings

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tender & Cuban

It's been way too long since my last blog (September!!) .. I think one of my New Year's Resolution will be to find more time to blog.  I think bi-weekly posts are acceptable, NOT bi-monthly!  Pork is not part of my staple diet.. but I do have some favorite pork recipes including slow cooked ribs, anything with bacon and of course fried egg rolls!

Pork tenderloin was on sale at Market Basket the past week so I picked up a couple of small pork tenderloins at $3.00 each.  I've never really roasted a pork tenderloin before so The next I wanted to give it a try.  I looked up a few recipes online and didn't really find one to my liking.  I marinated the tenderloins overnight with some basic seasoning (salt, black pepper, garlic) and some olive oil.

The next day I roasted the pork in my counter top Nuwave oven... yes.. I said Nuwave oven...Don't get me wrong,  I have an amazing Electrolux stove, but sometimes its just easier to use the Nuwave oven. No preheating, easier cleaning, and the meat is always in view so burning or overcooking is preventable

For Sunday night's dinner, we had one of the tenderloins.  I made a balsamic, mushroom and habanero reduction sauce to top off the pork.  The meat was served with with boxed Market Basket brand instant garlic mashed potato (yes... not everything can be made from scratch all the time) and caramelized onions and garlic.  The meal was delicious and I would definitely make it again!

We had a leftover cooked tenderloin that we did not finish.  For leftovers, I created Mami's own version of the classic "Cuban" sandwich.  The meat retained its juice and was still tender.  The Cuban Classico is one of the Mo's favorite go to prepared food at Market Basket.  Although, sometimes they skimp on the meat, its still delicious.

I thinly sliced the pork tenderloin and stacked it within a sub roll.  I layered swiss cheese, onions, pickles, hots, pepperonici and spicy mustard on top of the sliced pork.  Next, I lightly buttered the outside of the sub roll and toasted it in a skillet on the stove.   A panini press or a foreman grill would have worked better but ours broke and we got a new one since.  The sandwich was served with sweet potato tater tots! The imitated "Cambodian" version of the Cuban Classic was the "Mo" approved!

For less ethnic flair, try just lettuce, tomato and mayo for a more subtle sandwich.