Saturday, January 28, 2012

same same.... but different, aka maggi and sriracha

so we are in the middle of the middle of vietnam. central vietnam actually, da nang.

what do we do? go grocery shopping of course!

we wanted to check out what its like, so with a good lead from a resort staff member we hopped in a cab and get dropped off to what i would describe as a smaller korean style department store. its basically everything from tvs to makeup to prepared foods to a full on grocery store.

although the norebang (karaoke) machines looked cool by the registers (with customers actually singing), we hop right over to the food area.

i hear sriracha green is the new black

interesting. no rooster on the label. maybe its too gimmicky for these markets.

man, could you imagine being the sriracha guy? making a hot sauce thats as common as ketchup in where your from, selling a crapton of it in america, so much so that hot sauce basically means sriracha... well i guess it would be like being mr heinz!

this ones for my pinoys out there

soy bean flavored maggi? thats basically, soy bean flavor soy sauce with msg? interesting

kimhee and kimbap!

they call it the korean wave. all things korean, everywhere over asia. 

ahh crap. travel half way around the globe, stay in city where if you have consistent electricity its golden.... and you still cant get away from the crap they pump out of hollywood. 

luckily, im not the only weirdo that like to do things like this when i travel. bbb cofounder/cio/cto/chairman of the board, she likes it too, grocery shopping in foreign countries that is. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

you never had potato chips like this before, aka myung dong fried potato on a stick

so the myung dong area in seoul is a huge tourist trap shopping dining area. but unlike our our equivalents in the united states, these places actually have things a local would want to visit for.

for me, i love the food there. myung dong has some really amazing places to eat, but some of the best things you will find are from the street vendors.

maybe ive been hiding under a ddukboki tent, but ive never seen this.

fried potato on a stick!

so its real simple. 

but simple things tend to be the best, right?

you take a potato, spiral cut in and insert a long wooden stick. 

fry baby fry
roll it in some mystery seasoning *savory with hints of saltiness and sweetness*

enjoy the simple things

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

fusion maia, da nang, vietnam, a picture perfect getaway

fusion maia is asias first luxury hotel with an all inclusive spa. yes, an all inclusive spa. 

when you hear the term "all inclusive", it usually brings up memories of long lines for mediocre food and watered down cocktails.

this is not that.

this is an all inclusive spa, where all the amazing treatments they have are included in the price of your private villa. (more on this later in the post) 

continental breakfast included, all other meals and drinks are additional.

this is luxury resort, where all your cares melt away and all your needs are a friendly, helpful staff member away. 

when you enter this resort, you definitely get the feeling that this is a modern resort. there is no real check in counter. they will escort you to a nice lounge area by the bar and dining area. this huge, open, multipurpose area invites you to sit and relax while they check you in. 

as with all resorts in vietnam, you will need to provide your passports. pretty standard stuff.

view from our seats during check in, looking at the bar. dining area beyond the bar. 

while we were checking in, we were introduced to a fixture during stay. their amazing teas. i love my teas. it started with a love of green tea that was spoiled by a monk picking young green tea leaves, roasting them and sending them stateside for us. ever since then, i have had a love affair with teas.

here, they have some amazing flavored teas. everyday it was something new. flowery, fruity, totally balanced, never too sweet, never too bitter, never too hot... just amazing tea. i asked them about this, but i just cant remember the name of their supplier. 

their amazing tea. check in lounge, at the spa.... get it

at this point, id be happy if theyd let me crash on this super comfy couch. im not fancy. im not frou frou. i could have totally crashed out on these couches... oh but wait, thats right, we got a room here.

well i guess i can go check that out. seeesh. so much work this is. 

all their rooms have private pools. all the rooms are villas. the standard room is a private villa with a private pool. now you know what kind of place youre at.

they do also have two upgrades if youre in the mood to drop some more cash, a spa villa and a beach villa. pimp. and super pimp. check their website for the most up to date info.

in our cozy little private villa, you open the door to your seating area.

you glance over to your sleeping area

i guess i COULD call this home for a few days.

as you would expect, the bed was very nice. i hate bad beds. too bouncy, too firm, sagging.... the bed here at fusion maia... perfect. i havent slept that well in a very long time. the beds here are great.

right in front of both the seating area and the sleeping area? your own private pool! now this is exciting. whens the last time you had a private pool with your room. 

thatll do pig, thatll do

yes, its pretty pimp to have your own private pool, but plan accordingly because you might not be able to take full advantage of it. if you come in the winter season, it might be too cold. the pool is not heated and as it was for our visit, it might be a bit too cold to swim. but of course that didnt stop us from jumping in every so often. i mean, how often will you be in a villa with a private pool!

i can only imagine how AMAZING this would be during the warmer months.

real talk. i dont know how they maintain all these areas. although i am not the most gung ho nature man, i do understand it. ive also had a pool to take care of when i use to live in my sisters mcmansion.

keeping the resort looking good, let alone maintain all these private pools, to be mostly pest free, vermin free... thats a big task and they do it very well. very well.

view of the pool area at night

view of the pool area from the sleeping area

next to the sleeping area is a massive bathroom, with a sunken tub, vanity, shower and wc (look at me being all european)

im thinking of remodeling my own bathroom... this would be a good start. 

the far wall of the bathroom is a floor to ceiling glass wall that looks into your pool. pretty damn cool stuff if you ask me. 

sunken tub

wait, did i mention theres a flat screen that you can move around so you can watch tv in bed or in the bathroom?

view of the shower, wc to the left behind frosted glass

errrr, i know this might sound weird to say about a 5 star resort, but there are no hot water issues. 

we stayed at other 5 star resorts in da nang during this same trip. although they were really great places to stay all around, we DID have hot water issues.

everything about this resort says modern and chic. our room was minimal, with clean lines, yet warm and welcoming. designers better have gotten a raise!

even our front door, frig, closet, drawer area looks like a work of art. 

da nang area is not quite developed as of our visit in december 2011, but the resort has a way of making you feel like youre in a different place altogether. bravo.

so whats there to do beside drink awesome tea and hang out in your dwell magazinesque private villa with private pool?

actually, plenty. 

first, one of the main reason why we chose this place is their unique all inclusive spa. 

ive been to most every high end spa in san francisco. ive also been a member of burke williams for years. though im not frou frou where i need facials and mani pedis, i do like my massages. its a little luxury i allow myself. its time to decompress, it helps detox all the crap in put in my body. its a bit of time for myself. 

here, at the fusion maia resort, their spa is top notch. im not talking about being in another country, on vacation top notch, im talking top notch, top notch. 

only hang up might be that there might be a bit of a language issue. although every staff member we encountered spoke fairly fluent english, some things are lost in translation and accents can get in the way. 

these are very minor issues that you can easily work around.besides, youre the guest in the country... you should learn to work around them.

the spa area, with its separate swimming pool with waterfall, relaxation areas is awesome to just sit and lounge. the actual rooms where your sessions are held, well, they were better appointed them some high end places i have been to in san francisco. 

fusion maia spa menu (12/2011)

closeup of treatments available (12/2011)

we averaged three sessions per day.

tip, pre book your appointments. you dont want to lose out do you?

we usually went something like this. a scrub/treatment followed by a massage after breakfast. another session between lunch and dinner. 

after the second day of this. i was a soft, pliable, relaxed, revived, new person. this is about as close as totally relaxed as you can get. 

yes. this was grand. this made all the effort getting to da nang worth it. this made everything right in the world. you end up just walking around relaxed and smiling all the time. 

everyone we encountered, from the receptionists to the attendants were on point, friendly, and very important to me, they seemed happy to be there. 

you definitely come here for the spa. 

however, thats not the only thing to do here.

the other part of the relaxation equation for us was eating. 

there are a few dining options here and a few twists on the usual continental breakfast. 

fresh pool bar 

they have western and local style foods. all good. and who doesnt like to dine poolside.... 

well if you dont (or if its raining) there is an indoor dining area. and for a place that centers around well being and all that, they make some damn good cocktails. you wont hear me complaining about alcohol. 

the bar you first see when you come into the main dining area, there are some tapas inspired dishes, cocktails, stuff

the main dining area, where the continental breakfast and dinners are served... well, lets just say i enjoy food. i live for food. i cook. i garden. i spend most my free time thinking about food or making food. 

this place, though its not cutting edge (and i wouldnt want it to be cutting edge dining, im on vacation at a resort spa!), it is modern and the food is a well executed modern affair. every meal i had in the main dining area was of a very high caliber. very nicely surprised. of course it may not be like the complete shock and awe treatment from tfl or the subtle refinement of manresa (the two last significant meals we had in the san francisco area before we left for this vacation) but i could not be upset with anything i had here. the dinners were just fine, good to great in fact. something you really dont expect from a resort/hotel restaurant too often. all the dishes were great. executed and presented well. the proteins were good. the infusion of local greens were are great touch. i would be happy to be presented any of these dishes in most every setting. its just good food. 

one thing to note however, is that the meals here are more expensive than other meals we had in da nang area resorts however, the quality and service represented why. it was by far, the highest caliber dining experiences we had in da nang.

*side note. a dinner with drinks will run you a respectable 50-60 USD per person. at other five star resorts in the area, perhaps 30-40 USD. we also had dinner at an expat hang out in town, 10-15 USD per person. some local restaurants, 2-8 USD per person*

the continental breakfast. man, i loved their continental breakfast. nicely done. good spread. unusual finds. fun and different a noodle bar. ok let me try the pho. of course you have to eat pho. 

i grew up on pho. its pretty much a staple here in the bay area.

ive tried bad pho. ive had good restaurant pho. ive had great homemade pho. some of our friends own pho restaurants. 

the stuff here was done with a nice refined touch. like taking moms recipe and applying some stuff you learn at culinary. 

the handmade pho noodles were an unexpected treat. ive never seen it before. i make pasta pretty often. ive made rice cakes, all sorts of doughs..... but ive never thought about nor seen handmade pho noodles. it was like a given. you buy the packaged stuff. 

the handmade pho noodles added a texture to the party that might be overlooked by many, but adds a nice subtle note to things. 


i DID make some rice paper while i was here.... i shouldve asked if i could find out where they made those noodles!!! 

*how funny, five star, badass resort... and im inquiring about the noodles in their pho*

and another thing about their breakfast, they have an unusual service for their breakfast. as you would imagine, continental breakfast is included with your room, but whats unusual is that you can have breakfast anywhere, anytime.

if you didnt make the continental breakfast, no problem. they can bring you something off their menu and that will count as your free breakfast of the day. 

thats a nice service, but it doesnt end there.

you want to have breakfast on the beach? ask them. they will set up a table on the beach. 

want breakfast on the pool... no, not by the pool... ON the pool, theres an area where they will set up a table on the pool over looking the beach..... 

yes, you can have breakfast at 10am, on a table, on the pool. 

im sure there are limits to this, but anything within reason seems to be there unspoken motto here. 

i wanted a pack of smokes. they dont put those on any menu because, this is in fact, a well being type place. they got me some cancer sticks when i ask for them.

they DO state though, if you want, you can even have your free breakfast at their restaurant in historic hoi an. if you trekked out there in the morning on their free shuttle, you can grab breakfast there.

one of the larger tables in their main dining area

exploring around the resort, we found a pool table and ps3 located under the main dining area. pretended to know how to shoot pool, then went along our merry way. 

apparently they do yoga on the resort too. different areas... and wait, did they say an offsite yoga session on the marble mountains nearby? 

most any excursions around the area can be booked by the concierge desk. take advantage of the free shuttles into historic hoi an and walk around town, the farmers market. check out 4th century cham temples at my son holy land..... easy as a phone call away

*we didnt book our excursion with fusion maia because we had done so prior, while staying at other resorts in the area, prior to staying at fusion maia*

oh... and there is the small matter of the beach. 

this is also a beach resort, on one of the hidden gem beaches of the world. each of the beach front resorts in this area has their own private beach. i can only imagine what it would be like in the summer months... 

i guess we just have to go back

theres also the pool area, no more than a few foot steps from the beach.

what did i do? what do you think i would do? 

order some vietnamese bahn mi inspired thin crust pizza

post up at a poolside/beach cabana

sip on cocktails.

man, researching for this blog is hard work.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

i remember when michelle phan was ricebunny from xanga... aka manly man man haul post

circa 2003, i was blogging on xanga about my nightly binge drinking, the newest restaurant i tried... rant and rave about some meaningless topics.....

wait a minute... i guess not much has changed.

michelle phan was a young asian gamer girl that blogged about how she loved digital art and about the latest game shes into.

fast forward, 2010, the better half, the other half of bibimblog, shows me some videos on youtube about make up tutorials, shopping hauls, fashion.... hey wait, is that michelle phan?

apparently, she done did GOOD for herself. she was one of the pioneers of the asian hollywood movement. she basically created an industry where literally hundreds of people are following her lead.

michelle made it big. six figures from advertising on her youtube channel? make up line through lancome? yeah she getting paid.......

but this isnt a post about her.

this is a post in response to something she helped created.

shopping haul videos.

the better half showed me these last year and seriously? i just wanted to kick most of these girls in the face.

"ooohhh i just bought this shirt, its so nice. it goes with this and that."
"i just bought the new mascara that works real well to make me look more like a whore!"
"i just received the naked pallet from the manufacturers that you can never get, neener neener"

OH YEAH?!?!?!?


manly man man shopping haul

so i needed to grab a replacement floor lamp for one that broke. no problem. its temporary anyways until we get some recessed lighting in that room.

the lamp was the reason i went.

being a manly man man, and this being a haul post, for the integrity of this blog, for the purposes of purely scientifical things, i picked up these must have items

its a pretty simple 20v cordless compact drill. my old cordless drill found a new home at my shop, so i needed to replace it. hell, it was a 10 year old cordless drill, it was about time i replaced it anyways. one of the things i didnt like about my old drill was that it was big and bulky. this is a nice sleek compact cordless drill. and hey, its got a belt clip.

but what happens when you need to do more heavy duty work?

i dont care how many volts, amps, how much impact your cordless drill produces. when you have a heavy duty job, you need a corded drill. i got some 5" x 1/2" anchor bolts i need to install on some pallet racks we installed in our shop recently... this should do it just right. 

of course i needed some other knick knacks. 1/2" diamond tipped masonry bit. grabit drill bits to extract stripped screws. and of course, you can never have too much wd40.

grabit drill bits is something everyone should have in their tool box. if you havent had to deal with a stripped screw, you will. and when you do, unless you got one of these, youre pretty much shit out of luck. these basically drill into and grab the stripped screw so you can extract it properly without damaging anything.

*this post was written while i smoked a cuban cigar, drank some single malt. i also scratched and spit alot*

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

suh suh kalbi, (aka standing up kalbi)

about a decade ago, i was working in seoul. man. i could write a book just on that....

although i wasnt as interested in food as i am now, i still did spend a fair amount of time eating some damn good food.

as you can imagine, when it comes to kalbi, koreans consider it almost a religion.

back then i found two amazing places. they both made some of the best kalbi i have ever tasted in my life, but they were on the complete opposite spectrum as you can get.

buh du namu jeep (bamboo house) is high society kalbi. although its pretty casual, as it is a kalbi house where you cook your food at your table, it is frou frou also, with the price tag to match. you have basically two servers to every customer, bentleys in the parking lot, full bows by all staff...

it was definitely good. no doubt about it.

this is not a post about them.

this is a post about the kalbi joint on the WAY OTHER side of the spectrum.

suh suh kalbi

suh suh kalbi has become to known as a "style" of cooking kalbi in the last decade, where you stand around a converted oil drum (some places actually provide seats!) and eat some damn good kalbi. (suh suh means standing up)

its pretty common in korea to have a bunch of copy cats once something becomes popular. infact, you get entire neighborhoods of restaurants serving the same dish once one place becomes popular, for example, the marinaded raw crab neighborhood in shinsa dong in seoul.

this post is about the "original" suh suh kalbi restaurant in shin chun, seoul.

side note.... actually, taking a step back, this cooking style was pretty common decades ago... in the 50s 60s and into the 70s when korea was coming out of an active war and developing into what it is now. bare bones wasnt a style then, it was a necessity.

back to the suh suh kalbi restaurant that made its mark in modern times.

yes, that is a line out the door.

20 degrees fahrenheit outside.... and thats only half the line, the same amount of people are waiting inside.

we got there around 7pm. we waited an hour. we got a few orders in.

they ran out food.

they only make 400 servings per day. they open around 3pm. when theyre out, theyre out.

why all the fuss?

its damn good kalbi.

yes, it is that good.

the place is bare bones.

concrete floors, smoky as hell... you can see the years of smoke on the walls. 

theres barely a door. 

a few handfuls of converted oil drums into table/grills

their menu isnt as extensive as other kalbi places.

beef kalbi. 500grams. 14000 wons.

thats it. 

and consider yourself lucky if you get a serving. our party of four, that left home at 6pm, drove an hour to arrive at 7pm, waited till 8pm for a table... 

we got 5 orders... and thats it. 

we couldve ate 8 orders.... but they ran out. 

we swore we would NEVER come back..... all that damn driving, all that effort....

well, maybe not... the place is too damn good not to come back.... 

so first tip. come EARLY. like 3, 4 pm 

second tip, ask for a plastic bag to put you jackets, sweaters in. it protects it from all that smoke. 

third tip? eat.

with your orders of kalbi, they will give you sliced garlic, peppers and bowls of marinade.

fourth tip. dip the cooking meats in the marinade, put hella sliced garlic in one bowl of marinade and place the bowl on the grill. 

glorious glorious beef kalbi. im not the most patient person in the world. something has to be worth it to go through all this... and a decade after i first tried this place, on my recent visit during december 2011.. it was glorious. 

suh suh kalbi in all its glory. 

the meat is good quality. the marinade is second to none. the charcoal they use has a lot to do with the taste, as per the restaurant. the "charcoal" is a round, pressed charcoal they produce in korea, that they have used for decades for radiant heating.... wait, is this even legal to use for cooking?

whatever... its good. 

if you are ever in seoul, it is DEFINITELY worth the trip. 

its on the northwest side of seoul, near the shin chun subway stop. 

happy eating. 

OH and did i mention i have the marinade recipe? decade of trial and error by many peoples.... and finally some tips from the owner to my mother... i got it. 

recipe to come in a later post.