Jihye Chang

May 2010

Spicy Pie – Good (&Cheap) pizza in Downtown Fargo

Downtown Fargo now has a new pizza place – and it’s got good, cheap pizza, too!

Spicy Pie is a new pizza restaurant on the corner of 4th Ave N. and Broadway in downtown Fargo, where a.k.a. men’s clothing store used to be.  That corner has been under construction for a while, and then I saw it buzzing with people just a few days ago. It was closed on Sunday, so I checked it out today (Monday, May 24, 2010) with my husband.

First of all – it’s not a fancy or gourmet pizza restaurant, although the interior is quite nice with the brick walls and cool tables. There are a lot of TVs, too. Their menu is pretty simple: you can order either pizza by the slice or create your own whole pizza with basic toppings (sausage, salami, pepperoni, bacon, Canadian bacon, olives, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, pineapples, green and black olives, jalapenos, and anchovies).  They also offer a few sandwiches (“grinders”), tacos, and tostadas. That’s all. Oh, and a few beers on tap (Blue Moon, Flat Tire, etc.), cocktails and mixed drinks, and some wine options. You order and pay for your food at the counter, then get your number, and the server brings your food to your table in about 5 minutes.

At first I was quite disappointed that they did not have pizza margherita or any special pizzas with unusual toppings. So I ordered a slice of pizza with onion and pepperoni. My husband ordered a slice with pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives and another with japaleno and sausage. And we were both pleasantly surprised at the quality of the pizza. The dough was thin in the middle and fluffy at the edge. It was very tasty without being oily or soggy at all. Also the tomato sauce was very simple and  delicious – it’s like smeared whole tomatoes on the dough rather than a thick sauce with dried herbs and other ingredients. It was not salty or grossly sweet. I loved it! (They had a lot of big cans of “Alta Cucina” tomatoes on display: this is a canned plum tomato for restaurants.) The only quibble was that the sausages were too big, and they were more like meatballs. However everything else was far better than any other pizzas we have eaten in this area, except Stella’s. I even went back for dinner and got a slice of mushroom and onion. The onions were sprinkled more evenly than what I had for lunch. 🙂

And the best part is the price. A slice of pizza with tomato and cheese for $2! Additional toppings are only 25 cents each. The slices are quite big as you can see in my picture. Canned soda is $1. I am sure the beer and cocktails are priced nicely as well.

Usually great things are not cheap, and Spicy Pie is no exception. Their great pizza at a very low price comes with a small problem – they serve everything on a paper plate, and there is no real silverware in the restaurant besides the cooking tools. I would be happy to pay $1 more if that would help them serve on a real plate. I mean, it would still cost only $4 to get a big slice of pizza with four toppings..!! According to an excerpt from InForum, this is a “New York style pizza restaurant” opened by a company in Minot, N.D.

Anyways. Within just a few days of opening, this restaurant seems to have attracted quite a lot of young people and families. It was packed both at lunch time and dinner time today. Their website is www.fmspicypie.com, but there is nothing up yet.

Sunday – Thursday: 11am – 11pm

Friday and Saturday: 11am – 2am

One more thing to love about downtown Fargo, I would say.

Where to carb out before Go Far! Fargo Marathon

The Fargo Marathon is this weekend, Saturday May 22! I signed up for the 2-person relay with a friend of mine but have not trained myself all that much. So I plan to make it up by eating lots of pasta before Saturday! I have written a few things about restaurants in the Fargo-Moorhead area on this blog, but today I will present a list aimed at fellow marathoners and runners in search of good carb-loading/ pasta options.

Taste of Italy (Formerly Isabella & Stella) – 608 1st Ave. (close to Broadway) 701-365-0608

Stella was my (and my husband’s) favorite choice for Italian food and pastas in FM area, period. Their Ravioli, Pappardelle alla Bolognese, Spaghetti puttanesca (all $13), Rigatoni con porcini ($18), Seafood spaghetti ($21) are all very delicious and reasonably priced. I know they use San Marzano whole tomato cans for their tomato sauce, which makes a big difference. (I persuaded Tony to sell me a can once and made a great Bolognese sauce with it!) Their strengths as a restaurant are how well they do the simple things – the basic pasta dishes and simple tomato sauce that make or break any Italian kitchen.  Chefs here are not afraid of using a lot of garlic, and Stella’s pasta dishes are never salty or soggy. All dinner pasta dishes come with marinated vegetable appetizer, bread, and salad. Be aware that the service can be very slow, and the owner has a “personality.” Oh, and for their food the wine list is a bit sad. But the word is out – today (Monday, May 17th) I reserved a table for Friday (the day before the marathon) at 7pm, and already the restaurant was almost totally reserved for marathoners and carb-loading parties! (This restaurant changed their ownership in 2011. Some dishes are still same, some changed. No more marinated mushrooms, though!)

Toscana – 202 Broadway N. 701-235-9100

A lot of dishes here tend to be salty these days. (It was not the case when they just opened, but it has become that way and I don’t like it as much as I used to), but all the pasta dishes are reasonably priced and some of them are still pretty good. My husband likes their gnocchi, and I like their Piselli e prosciutto pasta. Their Arrabbiatta used to be good, but these days it’s too salty and too spicy for my taste. Also their shrimps (in any dish) tend to be too watery. Service is better than Stella’s.

Spitfire- 1660 13th Ave E. West Fargo. 701-478-8667

This restaurant is mainly a rib/roasted chicken joint, but 5-6 pasta dishes are on the menu. (BTW- their ribs are the best in town, if you would rather eat protein than carb.) My husband and I have tried their Diablo pasta with sausage, chicken and shrimp a few times, and it’s cheesy, peppery and tasty. Big portions, and satisfactory taste. Not anywhere near being “authentic Italian” but it’s good. Through many trips, I have not been disappointed at this restaurant, except getting a sad salad once. This would be actually a good restaurant to go after you run a marathon.

Granite City – 1636 42nd Street S. 701-293-3000

It’s been a while since I ate at GC, as they took some things I liked off the menu and their food tends to taste as if it comes frozen or pre-cooked, but a lot of people seem to like this restaurant. This place has 7-8 pasta choices on the menu, and almost all of them are parmesan or pesto-based. I recall trying a seafood pasta special, and it was not bad. Good beer selection and nice atmosphere.

Santa Lucia

This claims to be a “Mediterranean” restaurant. I ate at this place a while ago once, and today I went back to check out again. Spaghetti with bolognese sauce and meatballs (about $13, salad separate at $2.95) was not good at all. It had a very strange canned tomato paste flavor and was really salty, with very dry meatballs. Their Penne Arabbiata with shrimp ($14.95) was better, but it was also on the salty side. Both dishes were gigantic. You can probably go to this restaurant when you don’t want to go to Olive Garden/ when other restaurants are full.  I suspect that the Greek dishes on their menu would be more successful.

There are a few other non-chain restaurants with pasta menu, but I have not eaten their pasta dishes:

Sarello’s is a very nice Italian restaurant in Moorhead (28 Center Ave. Moorhead, 218-287-0238), but the only pasta dishes on their menu are Lobster Ravioli ($24) and Penne Arrabiatta. ($17)

Basie’s is also a nice restaurant inside the Ramada Plaza Suite. (1635 42 St. S. 701-281-7105) I have eaten their steak and fish dishes, and they are what you expect from this kind of restaurant. It would not be my first choice of restaurant, but it has nice service, good food, and good menu. They feature 5 very interesting pasta dishes. (Thai red curry sauce on Linguini with crab and mussels/ gorgonzola cream sauce over linguini to name a few)

Doolittle’s – 2112 25th Street S. 701-478-2200

Doolittle’s pastas all have Alfredo-type sauce, so I have never ordered a pasta dish here. But their food is usually quite good, and the portions are big. Oh, and their kitchen is open until 11pm, which is a bit later than the norm for Fargo-Moorhead.

Lastly, Speak Easy is a locally owned restaurant in Moorhead with an extensive pasta menu and a cute, old-fashioned deco. However their food is not something that I would recommend highly. Their spaghetti with meatballs was only marginally better than Olive Garden or other not so high-quality chain restaurants.

Well, good luck to everybody who’s running! I hope it will be warmer than last year!

Making Kimchi (Kimchee) Jigae #1 -with canned tuna

Kimchi is probably the most well known and widely misunderstood Korean food. If you have ever tasted really good home-made, well-ripe kimchi, you know that it’s not something just smelly or awfully spicy. Most popular and widely eaten kimchi is Paechu-Kimchi made with Napa cabbage, sliced radish, and seasonings (salt, fish sauce or other kinds of seafood stuff depending on the regional taste, red pepper powder, garlic, green onion, ginger, sugar, etc.) Good kimchi is has balanced taste of sourness, crunchiness, spiciness, saltiness, and it’s very sexy! Think of it as a spicy and more glorious version of Saurkraut. 🙂

You can make so many kinds of yummy dishes using kimchi – kimchi fried rice, pancakes, noodles, and even spaghetti! I plan to write more details about Kimchi and its history some other time, but today I am going to tell you how to make a very simple kimchi soup (“jigae” or “zigae”)

Kimchi jigae with canned tuna [Chamchi Kimchi Jigae]

There are probably as many Kimchi jigae recipes as there are moms and cooks in Korea. You can make this dish with various kinds of meat (canned tuna, pork belly, canned pike, canned mackerel, clams, bacon) and different types of soup stock. Methods varies a lot as well. (Stir fry meat first and then pour water, put everything in a pot and simmer for a long time, season the meat beforehand, cook the meat with kimchi, etc.). Chong-Ga brand’s un-cut kimchi is the best you can get at grocery stores. Un-cut kimchi is made with the whole head of napa cabbage, and you should cut it yourself before eating. If you can’t find it, get the store manager’s recommendation or a pick a jar that still has some liquid in it and has a faint sour smell to it. Kimchi jigae needs kimchi that’s ripe, not too “young.” If kimchi tastes too salty without much sourness, you may add some rice vinegar. Don’t buy small kimchi jars sold at regular grocery stores as they don’t taste good and they are so overpriced.

Ingredients:

About 2 cup (400g) cut Kimchi, mixed with 0.5 Tb sugar and 0.5 Tb sesame oil (See the picture above!)

1 can of Dong-Won brand’s Kimch Jigae Tuna. You can find it at any Korean grocery store. If you can’t find it, use any canned tuna (4.5 oz) in olive oil, and use 1.5 cans/ put a bit more seasonings and red pepper powder.

1/2 Onion, thinly sliced

1 Tb Canola oil (or any oil that has not a lot of flavor. If you want some more kick, use the Korean style chili oil.)

2-3 cups water (enough to cover kimchi, but not too watery) It’s more tasty if you use soup stock made with dried anchovies and dried kombu (“tashima” in Korean), but water is fine.

1/2 organic firm tofu, thinly sliced

0.5 Tb Korean pepper powder/ 2 strips green onion, chopped/ Soy sauce or Kimchi juice (from the jar)  to taste

(Optional: 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced)

How To Make

1) Heat the canola oil in the stainless steel sauce pan (2 quart) or Le Creuset (2 quart) type of pot. Stir fry kimchi for about 3 minutes, on medium heat, until softened a bit.

2) Put water. Then put the onion and canned tuna. Close the lid and cook with medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.

3) Open the lid and cook until the onions are soft and jigae smells good. Then arrange tofu slices around the pot and put 0.5 Tb of the red pepper powder in the middle of the tofu circle. (Add garlic with the pepper powder, if you are using.) Spoon some soup over the tofu slices and gently push them down so that they sits below the surface.

4) Cook until tofu is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning either with kimchi juice or a bit of soy sauce.

5) Put the sliced green onion and cook about 30 seconds more and then serve!

This soup with a bowl of rice makes such a quick and comforting dinner. Enjoy~ (Hmingi, I hope you like it! :))

How to make chili oil (Korean style)

chilioil2_jhjascha

My good friend Hmingi wanted to know how to make the chili oil I mentioned in my previous posting “Jihye’s Spicy Sesame Noodles” (http://jihyechang.com/wisdom/2009/11/27/jihyes-spicy-sesame-peanut-noodle)

Szechuan style chili oil is made with hot peanut oil and dried chili seeds or flakes. However we make chili oil with dried chili powder (“Gochugaru,” 고추가루) and garlic in Korea. Korean style chili powder is very different from “chili powder” that you would use for chili soup, so make sure you get it from a Korean grocery store! I also like to add a bit of grated ginger and salt. There are a few different methods for making the chili oil, but my favorite method is photographed above.

Here’s what you need:

1 cup oil (Canola or Sunflower seed)

4 TB Korean chili powder or powdered chili (Gochugaru), 4 cloves garlic, minced/ 0.5 ts grated ginger/ a pinch of salt

And this is how you make:

1) Heat up the oil in a small sauce pan – hot enough, but not smoking hot. I usually heat it up until the surface of the oil gets a bit shimmery. If the oil’s too hot, it will burn the chili powder. If it’s not hot enough, it will not release much flavor from the other ingredients.

2) Line a big strainer (as in the picture) with a kitchen towel. In a small bowl, mix the chili powder, garlic, salt, and ginger carefully. You don’t have to mix it thoroughly. Put the chili powder mixture over the strainer.

3) Prepare a heat-proof bowl underneath the strainer.

4) Pour the hot oil evenly and slowly over the chili powder mixture. If the chili oil comes through the strainer too slowly, wait a little bit and then pour again.

5) Cool completely and store in a glass jar.

This oil is great for making the best Kimchi fried rice and other yummy Korean foods. I will post something about Kimchi and Kimchi-related recipes soon!