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2 suggestions in Vientiane, Laos

I second both of mediakzar's suggestions. I just ate at Makphet for the 2nd time last night, and it was again delicious. Ron, I think you are just being dismissive.

I have studied the food of Thailand, Isan (NE Thailand), and Lao for 2 years, lived here for 6 months, eaten fancy meals as well as the khao niao, khao lam, kuay tiaw, and insects on the side of the road, all delicious. The yum hua plee (banana blossom salad) and yum mak khuea (grilled eggplant salad) that mediakzar describes are both traditional dishes. I've had both of them at Makphet and they are both delicious and prepared in a traditional way. Their presentation may not be traditional, but the ingredients are. They will also make it spicy if you ask for it, especially in Lao, which is easy to remember since it's just the name of the restaurant, 'mak phet" = "(I) like (it) spicy"

If you are going to dismiss this restaurant, at least offer an alternative.

Unforbidden Fruit

Sorry, the Honolulu one is

Jun 06, 2009
ephramzz in Features

Unforbidden Fruit

Also check a bay area fruit map I made in google maps:

and a similar one for Honolulu:

Jun 06, 2009
ephramzz in Features

Sapote as spice

Can you cut the seed in half and take a picture of the insides? That would give me a better idea of what it is.

Can you ask the spice store in Montreal where you got it more about its origins?

May 22, 2009
ephramzz in General Topics

Sapote as spice

Moh, that photo looks pretty much like Pouteria sapota (sorry to keep using latin names, but that's why we have them- to avoid this confusion of many plant species having the same common name). A bit hard to tell since it looks toasted, but it's the right shape. If it smells almondy I can't think of any other of the sapotes it could be.

There's even one sapote I forgot, the green sapote! Pouteria viride

Eat Nopal, I've been on Chowhound for a while, back when I lived in NY up to last year, where I was on an endless search for Khao soi, my favorite northern Thai curry noodle dish, which I have a whole blog about. Are you in Hawaii too? Know anywhere to get Khao soi here besides Spices which does a pretty good rendition?

My presentation on Mayan chocolate use is at the Society for Economic Botany annual meeting in Charleston, SC June 1-4, but I will also do a chocolate making class in New York in June some time where I'll incorporate some discussion of the Mayan ingredients. Email me if you're interested nbletter -aht- yahoo -doht- com.

AH, I'd love to find Hoja Santa, it makes a pretty damn good Patarashca, the delicious Peruvian Amazon dish of fish barbequed in leaves like Hoja Santa or Bihao, a large leafed Calathea lutea in the prayer plant/paintbrush plant/Marantaceae family. I haven't seen any Piper auritum here yet, but Lyon arboretum might have some, and I think many Mexican grocery stores (like La Raza here in Honolulu) have it. Makes a killer fish bake that blows banana leaves out of the water!

I see you bemoan the lack of good Mexican food in the US. Know anything passable in O'ahu? Seems like there's lots of mexican restaurants here, but so far I'm unimpressed. Contact me and we can go foraging for sapote seeds (and the delicious fruit too) and maybe some nopales!

Here's an interesting article about cyanide (or cyanide-producing "cyanogenic") plants:

May 22, 2009
ephramzz in General Topics

Sapote as spice

Ah, sorry, the seed case of Pouteria sapota is dark brown, smooth, and shiny, with a lighter part that makes it look almost like a cat's eye. Just inside, the meat of the seed (endosperm) that smells like anise is off-white. That's the part you use.

I just chopped it coarsely, boiled it for 30 min, strained it, dry roasted it till dry, ground it in a coffee grinder, and toasted it till brown. I haven't tasted much of it, but it's pretty good. I'll look into the chemistry of how cyanide is broken down and get back to you.

Hasn't had a negative effect on me yet, but that was just a 1/8 tsp.

May 21, 2009
ephramzz in General Topics

Sapote as spice

There is much confusion about this fruit due to the name. Sapote is applied to many fruits that are soft when ripe, at least 4 fruits in different families that I know of (Pouteria sapota in the Chicle family, Casimiroa edulis or white sapote in the citrus family, Diospyros digyna or black sapote in the ebony/persimmon family, and Quararibea cordata in the Durian/Baobab family). mamey is used to refer to mostly orange fruit like the Pouteria sapota, mamey apple or Mammea americana mentioned here in the mangosteen family, and Syzygium malacense in the guava family.

So it is very confusing, but Moh, I assume you have the Pouteria sapota since it is the one used mostly as a spice in Mexico, was a Mayan additive to chocolate to increase the foaming due to the saponins, contains cyanide, and therefore smells like almonds. Does it match this picture:
with a long white smooth seed?

I am an ethnobotanist living in Hawaii and collect these fruits and seeds regularly. Mammea americana seeds are very knobby, with a rough outer skin. White sapote or Casimiroa edulis look like giant grapefruit seeds with fine striations on the flat sides of the seed.

None of them smell like almond except Pouteria sapota. It does contain cyanide which gives it that almond/marzipan smell, just as many wild almonds do, but the cyanide is broken down by boiling, so just do that first!

I am giving a presentation on Mayan chocolate preparations and am experimenting with adding sapote seeds for the first time. Smelling the almond smell made me think it had cyanide in it, and doing a quick search led me to this posting, good timing! I hope I can clear something up. I definitely recommend being careful when using these seeds, but they do have a history of use, as do many foods we eat regularly that have cyanide like almonds, apple seeds, apricot pits, and bitter yucca/manioc/cassava/tapioca (all the same species Manihot esculenta).

I wrote a book chapter in this book:
on the pre-columbian medicinal and food uses of cacao in South and Central America, and became interested in traditional ingredients in cacao this way. You can here me talk about it more in this interview on Good Food, 44 minutes into the show,

May 21, 2009
ephramzz in General Topics

Where to find feijoa or pineapple guava

I'd love to find feijoa or pineapple guava, a deliciously fragrant fruit in the guava family, but green, smaller (size of a plum tomato), and very fragrant of pineapples (hence the name). It's from Southern Brazil, but it grows in California and New Zealand.

I've heard reports of it being found at Manhattan Fruit Exchange, but they don't seem to have it now. Anyone seen it in recent months anywhere? Chinatown(s)? Dean and Deluca? A tree in their back yard? ;-)


Jan 05, 2009
ephramzz in Manhattan

real khao sui, anywhere in Manhattan?

Chowbeth, what is it listed as on the menu at Bangkok Grand Palace? I don't see it on their menu on menupages

I've since heard about Pad Thai and been to Blue Chili (good, but lights give me seizures), Open the Sesame (pretty strange version), Tony Thai's on 7th in Park Slope (good for take out), and of course Rhong Tiam which has to be my favorite in the city overall.

Open the Sesame
198 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

541 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

251 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019

Thai Tony's
3019 Fort Hamilton Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11218

Pad Thai
114 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011

Dec 01, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Argentinian recs?

Azul in the Lower East Side is great too when I ate there, though it was 3 yrs ago last

152 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002

Oct 01, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Two New York City foodies in Montreal looking for suggestions

Wow, thanks for the amazing flood of excellent suggestions! Here's where we wound up going:
Restaurant Boustan lebanese- pretty tasty veggie plate, my friend didn't like the chicken Shwarma so much. The owner was from Astoria, Queens where he used to have a restaurant as well, which was pretty funny!

Fairmount bagels- excellent bagels, though their sesame was a little TOO sesame-y, tasted like a dim sum sesame ball, IMO. Strangely we ran into the only 2 people we know in Montreal at 1 AM here and spent the rest of the weekend with them!

Schwartz's- my friend liked the smoked meat, and we were pleasantly surprised that the ketchup and soda had no high fructose corn syrup in it and tasted much better. Is this illegal in Canada, as it should be in the states? We stocked up on soda to bring back to the states! I'm a vegetarian, so all I had was a pickle (which was fine), but was bummed to find out they neither had knishes nor even knew what they were!

ice cream place right across the street from Schwartz's (can't remember name)- pretty good lychee and mango sorbets

Aux Vivres vegetarian cafe- excellent Mekong (pseudo bahn mi) sandwich, which I'd been hoping to get from Cafe Saigon but it was closed when I went there.

Jean Talon market- excellent all around,
great cupcakes right near the front,
Havres' amazing blueberry chocolate, mango, raspberry, and chai sorbets
Great pastries from Premiere Moisson
Sausages my friend went crazy on that we can't get in the states
Good tropical fruit we can't find in the states as well- grenadilla, yellow pitahaya/dragon fruit
Maple syrup popsicles
Fresh corn
Cheap, excellent white peaches
We feasted there!

And the garden of the senses in the Botanical garden is really great for foodies! We had a stevia leaf/chocolate mint sandwich, spicy nasturtium flowers, spicy oregano, and much more.

Thanks again for all the recs, and let me know when your in NY if you need suggestions aside from the Thai places. you can contact me via my blog comments. I guess there's no private message function in chowhound. I don't regularly read all the NY boards.

Two New York City foodies in Montreal looking for suggestions

We're two NY jews willing to enter the NY vs. Montreal bagel debate, and looking for other great, low-cost suggestions.

We both love spicy SE Asian food, fish, ice cream/sorbet, chocolate, banh mi, fresh fruit, wild-food, and other tastiness. I'd especially like to find Khao Soi, a northern Thai curry noodle dish that I blog about.

I saw the recs on this post
and we'll definitely try the bagels, Cafe Saigon, Pied de Cochon, and Jean Talon.

Any other suggestions?

good restaurant in Little India?

Saravannah's on 27th or 26th and Lex is great.
Chinese Mirch is good Indian Chinese.
Pongal's is pretty good too.

Aug 18, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Rhong-Tiam (formerly Penang)

That's a good question, Simon. I've never been there when it's crowded enough to require that (before the reviews, and late on a Monday night), but I assume they'd be fine with that since they are very accomodating in my experience. There are only 3-4 seats at the bar however.

I think someone said that it's a different chef for lunch, so possibly not as good as dinners, so make a reservation and go early or late.

So glad to hear they still server Khao Soi, my favorite dish! I just called to double check that it wasn't a heat-induced mirage I saw last time I was there, and they said they definitely still have it. They better since it was mentioned in both the NY TImes and New Yorker review!

Aug 08, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Rhong-Tiam (formerly Penang)

Rhong Tiam made it into the New Yorker now, pretty favorably. I agree that the Achat and Catfish and Green Mango salad are both great.
This place will be overrun soon, get there quick! I guess I got my wish of filling it up to keep it going, but a little too much.

Aug 06, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Rhong-Tiam (formerly Penang)

I believe the Khao Soi is called Chiang Mai noodles or something to that effect with "Khao Soi" in parentheses. But strange, I just checked their menupages page and it's not on there at all, but I saw it there just last Monday when I was at the restaurant. Their own web page doesn't have it either! Hmm, mysterious! I hope they didn't get rid of it for their summer menu or something, it was one of their best dishes there and how I discovered it!

Aug 05, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Rhong-Tiam (formerly Penang)

Yeah, there's finally a review of Rhong Tiam on the New York Times $25 and under website!
Maybe now it'll fill up, but then again, maybe now it'll fill up too much.

Jun 25, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

How Green Is Your Takeaway Container?

I agree this is great to see on Chowhound! We need more discussion of all the waste in the restaurant industry.

I've been bringing my own quart deli containers to restaurants when I remember for the last 2 years. At first people thought I was a little strange, as when I use to whip out my own plastic bags at the supermarket, but now all my friends say, "Damn, I wish I could remember to do that!". I've never once had a server complain about me box up the leftovers myself at the table, why should they? They save work, cost of containers, waste hauling costs, and potentially cleaning costs (if you do a good job of getting it all in your container).

In fact given the restaurant owner's discussion of the cost of to go containers, perhaps we should start encouraging the restaurants we go to give a discount to people who bring their own containers, as some markets do for bags. That would greatly accelerate the coolness factor of BYO!

As to the recyclability of styrofoam, it is definitely not recyclable in New York City. Only plastics marked 1 and 2, and not even all of those, since it has to be in the form of a bottle (i.e. it has a seem and a narrower neck than the body), so even though all those deli containers are marked with a 2 on them, they are not recyclable since they are actually made of a different plastic than #2 bottles. This is a problem in the plastics industry with marking that needs to be reformed immediately.

Allstonian- yes your chinese place may have styrofoam, but don't they also have the plastic deli containers for soup and the coated cardboard chinese takeaway containers? Just ask them to put stuff in those instead, which you can recycle or reuse. You don't have to sacrifice food quality for environmentalism, you just need to start asking a few more questions and assert yourself a bit. Pretty soon it all be very cool with everyone, have no fear!

Jun 23, 2008
ephramzz in Features

Rhong-Tiam (formerly Penang)

I actually went to Rhong-Tiam again last friday and it was excellent once again, though still not so crowded. Rainy still, so I hope that's the only reason, becauseĀ  we've got to get this place filled up to make sure it stays around as a tasty Lower Manhattan Thai place!

I was taking a friend who's heading to Chiang Mai there, so we had Khao Soi again, eggplant with bamboo shoots (that had Krachai in it, a bitter ginger relative which I see very rarely in US Thai restaurants), and the Malaysian Pineapple Achat which was great. The Achat, a sort of dry chutney with fresh fruit, is probably a hold over from their Penang days, but nice to see on the menu, super tasty, and the waiter kindly warned me that was a Malaysian dish. They were also very nice when I asked them what the unfamiliar bitter taste in the eggplant was, and the chef himself came out and talked to me about it. I'm not sure I'd order that dish again since I have an aversion to super bitter things (can't drink coffee), but still innovative and someone might like it. It was at least a nice contrast to the sweetness of the Achat.

I gotta get my review out there since it wasn't so crowded for such a great place on a friday night.

May 16, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Rhong-Tiam (formerly Penang)

I can't believe there's no posts about Rhong-tiam Thai on Laguardia between Bleecker and W 3rd st. yet! Yelp's kicking our butts on that one with 14 posts about it! C'mon Chowhounders, I expect you to be on the bleeding edge. :-)

Well, I'll start it off. I went there last night since I found on menupages that they serve Khao Soi (that'll be reviewed on my khao soi blog soon enough), and I was blown away in several meanings of the word!

This apparently used to be part of the Penang chain of restaurants and is still under the same owner, as evidenced by the chopsticks wrappers that still said Penang on them, and several Malaysian dishes like Mee Goreng and Pineapple Achat that I plan to try when I go back because those are often great and my favorites at other Malaysian restaurants.

This place has a beautiful setting, and could even by used as a dating kind of place and must be especially nice when you can eat outside on the front deck. It wasn't very packed when I went, but it was late (10 PM) on a rainy Monday night, so not too surprising, and they said they've only been open for 5 months.

We ordered tofu Khao Soi (of course), Tom Yum Gai (lemongrass soup), and Yum Pla Dook Foo (grated fried catfish and fresh mango, red onion served w/ a sweet lime chili sauce), and fresh lemonade. The food came very quickly and immediately smelled great and looked scrumptious, but soon had us begging for some brown rice to chill out the chili flames burning in our head. I love hot food just as much as the next person, having lived in Peru, home of one of the hottest chilis, the Rocoto tree chili (, but especially the catfish was smoke-out-of-the-ears inducing, though addictive.

The crispy fried nutiness of the grated catfish went really well with the tangy juicy green mango salad. The soup though we ordered Tom Yum seemed to come as Tom Kha since it had coconut milk in it but we forgot to ask in our heat-induced trance, and it was delicious anyway with a nice balance of sourness, not overly sweet as this dish often is. The Khao Soi was killer, up there with the best in Manhattan and all of NYC, including all the tasty toppings.

When I asked the waiter if all their dishes were standardly this hot or if it was just because we asked for more obscure dishes that he thought we'd enjoy the heat, he said they are always like that, and now that I look back at the menu ( I see that the catfish and the Tom Yum are marked as spicy.

I'd say if we can collective get this placed filled up, that Rhong-Tiam is aiming to be a great, authentic Thai place, definitely the best in Manhattan, and it may even surpass (gasp!) Sripraphai!

541 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

Apr 29, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Mystery Asian Herb

Yep, that's definitely rice paddy herb. I love the stuff. It's killer in Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese sour fish head soup): http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.c...

I'm so addicted to rice paddy herb, I think it smells like watermelon rinds.

Apr 28, 2008
ephramzz in Home Cooking

real khao sui, anywhere in Manhattan?

Thanks for the tip on Blue Chili, Xigua. I'll definitely give that one a try soon as I just found it through the dish search on I was surprised as well that Ozen, a place that serves Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese food actually had really good Khao Soi. I usually discount those multi-cuisine places as well, but in this case I think the chef is Thai.

Apr 19, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Wanna try Afghan....

Went to Ariana last night and I was fairly underwhelmed, maybe it was I becauseĀ  only got veggie dishes like the eggplant appetizer Baudinjan Buranee, spinach dumplings, and pumpkin curry.
Everything was a bit bland and needed a heap of hot sauce thrown on top. My dining partner agreed.

Apr 18, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Cool/delicious fruits from around the world?

Ah, yeah, nespole = loquat, definitely a delicious cross of a pear and a peach in taste!

Apr 07, 2008
ephramzz in General Topics

Good Chinese in Upper Alphabet City?

Yes, I second that, Grand Sichuan is good in all the branches I've been to around the city. Never been to the E. Village one, but I assume it's good as well.

Apr 06, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Cool/delicious fruits from around the world?

I consider myself a fruitaholic and have tried over 200 different species of fruit, domesticated and wild, in my travels around the globe (yes, I keep a list of all these fruits, call me crazy!) in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. I can't possible list all the fruits I love, but I'll try to answer a few questions posted here and list a few of my favorites. Some can be seen at

Questions/confusing names first:
- chico = sapodilla = naseberry (nazeberry), but not black sapote. Sapote is a muddled term used for any tropical apple-sized fruit with a mushy sweet flesh, and there are many in different families. Black or chocolate sapote is in the persimmon family, mamey sapote is in the chicle family, white sapote is in the citrus family, and the orange sapote of Peru is totally different from the mamey sapote (also orange) of the Caribeean.
- Graviola (portuguese) = Guanabana (spanish) = Soursoup (english) and this is an excellent fruit with melting white grainy flesh around dark smooth black seeds, enclosed in a soft-spined green skin, closely related to the also delicious cherimoya, atemoya, and custard apple. I made sure to have graviola sorbet everyday in Brazil because it's so melting, creamy, and mildly acidic. I see this once and a while fresh in chinatown in the summer.
- the mountain apples mentioned in Hawaii here are the same as the tambis from the Philippines, and are also called malay apples or mamey in Peru. They are in the Guava family. There is a closely related rose apple with white flesh found in the hills of Hawaii as well that has a hint of rose water a bit like lychees.
- Loquats are now sold in stores in NYC's CHinatown, but hard to fathom at $6/lb when they are falling off trees uneaten all over california!
- Mocambo or Macambo or Patashte (in the Yucatan/Mexico) is definitely a cacao/cocoa/chocolate relative used in all of latin america, though mostly a minor fruit except in Mayan areas where it is still considered sacred. It's white pulp is pretty tasty, but not as good, IMHO as the pulp of the cacao fruit surrounding the cacao beans, which, unfortunately is discarded in most places, or used to ferment the cacao beans. In Brazilian Suco (smoothie) shops you can get a cacao pulp smoothie which is delicious and rich, though nothing like chocolate.

Some of my other favorites are:
- Mangosteen, much discussed. I especially liked the wild orange mangosteen I found in a national forest in Laos:
- Taperiba, jocote, or hog plum- a close mango relative makes an amazing ice cream in Belem, Brazil, and I had an indescribably delicious juice of it in Iquitos, Peru.
- Inga, ice cream bean, or guaba (in Peru, not to be confused with Guava), a legume with green pods up to 4' long filled with dark purple seeds surrounded by sweet fluffy white flesh, perhaps more reminiscent of cotton candy than ice cream
- Sweet grenadilla, fruta de moco, mentioned here, definitely deserving of the name 'mucus fruit' given the texture, but sooo good, refreshing, sweet, and still a bit of that tang of the standard passionfruit they're related to.
- pineapple guava, originally from S. Brazil, but now grown as a hedge all over California. The white with pink blushed flowers taste like candied violets straight off the tree, and the egg shaped green fruit is very fragrant and spicy like its Guava relatives
- langsat or duku, a unique fruit of northern SE Asia in Thailand and Laos, looks a bit like a white longan, but has segments inside that taste like grapefruit w/out the bitterness. Very refreshing in the tropical heat
- juneberries, service berry, shadbush- a native shrub of the US that has excellent little blueberry-looking fruit in June that taste like a cross of apples and raspberries. Starting to be used in parks all around NYC, but few know how delicious they are!

See, I told you I could go on forever! So many fruit, so little time!

Apr 06, 2008
ephramzz in General Topics

Xe Lua Vietnamese restaurant

Yeah, sounds like Culantro, aka Thorny Coriander

Apr 04, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Good Chinese in Upper Alphabet City?

I Like our Our Kitchen on 14th between Ave A & B. I think they're actually Singaporean or something, but a great selection of chinese dishes.

Our Kitchen
520 E 14th St, New York, NY 10009

Apr 04, 2008
ephramzz in Manhattan

Sodium Hydroxide ?? for Pretzel Wash

I've made Bavarian/Schwabian pretzels with lye used for making soap (food grade? not sure) and the Natrol brand land a friend brought from Germany. Both were great and tasted accurate to that in Germany. I had a chemist friend do the calculations and there's no way to get water as basic with baking soda as with lye since you'd need to dissolve several lbs in a cup of water to get the same pH and that ain't gonna work!

Apr 02, 2008
ephramzz in General Topics

Real Indonesian ?

I'm vegetarian and I went to Upi Jaya today and had a great meal, no, a feast. I've "lived" in Bali for 2 months, so I know some of the range of the food. I had no problem finding enough to eat: Krupuk Bawang (onion crackers, instead of the more standard Krupuk Udang shrimp crackers), Nasi Goreng (delicious fried rice, can be just veg), Gado Gado of course (steamed veggies with peanut sauce on top), Tofu marinated in chilis, Curried Jakfruit (used unripe, it makes a nice meat substitute), and curried kale in coconut sauce with a banana leaf sticky rice dish for dessert and a Es Campur (mixed ice with fruits and "jellies") as a filling beverage. All were delicious and brought me back to Indonesia. The service was a bit slow yes, and they were out of several things we asked for, but still well worth it.

If you're interested, there seems to be this cool culinary tour of Bali in July to learn more about their food:
and I've heard there may be some cooking demos in NYC leading up to it.

Mar 23, 2008
ephramzz in Outer Boroughs