Saturday, June 22, 2013

El Zocalo Tortas and Bakery

El Zocalo

The nice young woman behind the counter warned us that the tortas might be bigger than we were used to, but I was skeptical.  Minutes later, I learned my lesson: biggest Mexican sandwich ever = no room for dessert.  

It hurt even to look at the racks of fresh cakes, cookies, and breads surrounding the dining room.  And I'm not the first to feel that way, judging by the fact that El Zocalo pre-packages to-go cups of its tres leches, diced cake soaked in evaporated and condensed milk, mixed with pineapple chunks and strawberry gel, topped with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a strawberry:  dessert for the road.

El Zocalo Tortas and Bakery
701 S 38th St
Tacoma WA 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Ube Halaya
Valerio's Tropical Bakeshop, $6.50

When you've grown up associating bright colors with bland sweetness (think cupcake sprinkles or grocery store frosting) the riotous colors at Valerio's Tropical Bakeshop are unexpectedly flavorful.  The golden yellow that makes rolls and pies shine like small suns comes from shreds of cheese, pats of butter, or salted egg yolks.  Shades of green are contributed by leaves including bamboo (used as wrappers) and pandanus (most often used as an extract), both of which impart an exotic aroma.  The root vegetable ube is an intense shade of purple that makes ube-based treats like ube halaya pudding ($6.50) a visible and indispensable feature of special occasion buffets. 

Putsinta ($1.99/4) are Valerio's mash-up of two Filipino favorites:  soft, fluffy puto rice-flour rolls and and chewy kutchinta rice cakes.  Here the purple marbling comes from festive food coloring, rather than actual ube.  

Maruya ($1.25) are fritters of ripe mashed banana, fried until golden and dusted with sugar. 

The addition of lye water gives the sticky rice in suman sa lihia cakes ($1.50) a creamy color and extra-chewy texture; enfolding the rice in bamboo leaves before steaming adds aroma and a tidy, environmentally-friendly wrapper that makes suman a cinch for picnics (like the cemetery-side meals enjoyed during the Undas holiday).  

Valerio's rainbow-colored offerings also include pan de sal, biko, ensaymada, buko pie, egg pie, cassava cake, and sapin-sapin.  

Valerio's Tropical Bakeshop
1368 Southcenter Mall Ste 150
Tukwila WA

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Budapest Bistro and Schnitzel House


Cheese Pocket and Almond Cookie (top)
Cheese Strudel (below)
Budapest Bistro and Schnitzel House

Growing up in Hungary in her grandparents' home taught Elizabeth Muszka a particular kind of self-reliance.  Since there wasn't much money to spare on restaurants or fancy ingredients, Elizabeth learned young that in order to eat well, they had to cook well. 

Today the owner of Mukilteo's Budapest Bistro and Schnitzel House specializes in Hungarian, German, and Gypsy dishes--and in cooking well.  Starting with traditional recipes and simple ingredients, Elizabeth lavishes attention on each item. 

The pastry case stuffed with fresh zserbo (apricot-walnut-chocolate pastry), dobos torte (layered sponge with chocolate and caramel), sour cherry cake, German chocolate cake, strudels (below), and cookies (above) is even more of a marvel when you consider that the strudel dough alone takes three hours to make.  


But for ex-pats who hunger for something other than home cooking, Elizabeth also stocks a large selection of packaged European candies and treats (below).   

Budapest Bistro and Schnitzel House
12926 Mukilteo Speedway
Lynwood WA

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hotteok and Bungeoppang

Hotteok and Bungeoppang
"Ho Duck" stall, $1 each

Look to the left as you enter the Boo Han Korean Market in Edmonds and you'll get one of the best deals in town on dinner and a show--assuming you can justify having waffles or pancakes for dinner. 

While you wait and watch, the cook in the "Ho Duck" stall crafts two of Korea's best-loved street-style sweets.  The eponymous hotteok (above) are crusty, golden pancakes of yeasted wheat and rice flours, filled with caramelized sugar and nuts.  It's a simple enough operation but made mesmerizing by the cook's practiced moves and enviable patience.  

The hotteok start out as a ball of sticky, bubbly dough.  The cook kneads it a little, then fills a dent in the center with a a mixture of brown sugar and crushed nuts.  He pinches the dough closed to seal in the filling, then uses a special metal tool to flatten the ball on a well-oiled griddle.  

Once the hotteok are underway, it's time to get going on the bungeoppang.  "Fish bread" is really more of a fish-shaped waffle, cooked a whole school at a time in fancy high-volume griddle.  To get exactly the right amount of batter, the cook spoons a little into each fish-shaped void, then tops it up with a seam applied with a squeeze bottle. 

On top of each batter cloud goes a dollop of sweetened red bean paste.   

Then the lid is closed up to seal the waffle around the filling.  As soon as the cook deems them ready, he uses a small metal hook to flicks them out of the iron and into a waiting box; it's not at all unusual to order six or a dozen at a time.  

Boo Han Korean Market 

22618 Hwy 99
Edmonds, WA

Friday, June 7, 2013

Buko Pandan Polvorones

Aling Conching at Seafood City, $1.99/10

Based on a Spanish cookie named for its dusty texture, these Filipino polvorones are bite-sized blocks of compressed flour, milk powder, sugar, and butter, given a faintly tropical flavor with the addition of buko (young coconut) and pandan (screwpine) extracts.