Sunday, August 30, 2015

A reinvigorated Wondee's, dayboat seafood at Simply Vietnamese

Air-Arisa Katengamkam, 28, is the new chef at Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, a popular BYO on Main Street in Hackensack. 


The new chef at Wondee's in Hackensack continues to spruce up the dining room of the popular Thai restaurant, and turn out the same great food as her predecessor.

In the last 10 years, I've tried only two other Thai restaurants in Bergen County, but I always return to Wondee's, a BYO that has the perfect balance of delicious food and reasonable prices.

Chef Air-Arisa Katengamkam, who trained at the side of Wondee's founder, Chef Wandee Suwangbutra, has mastered all of her specialties, including Ocean of Garlic, a dish of fried seafood paired with a crunchy pickled cabbage salad.

On Saturday, the meat eaters in my family enjoyed a small Wonton Soup with Roast Pork and Vegetables ($3.50), Shrimp Soup with Lemon Juice, Mushrooms and Chili Paste ($4), and an entree of Panang Curry with Pork ($11).

The spicy Shrimp Soup offers classic Thai accents from kaffir lime leaves, galanga (in the ginger family) and lemongrass.

Another change we noticed on Saturday is a new waiter who isn't Thai, a first as far as I know.

At Wondee's, lovers of seafood and fresh garlic rejoice over Ocean of Garlic ($18), which includes shrimp, mussels, squid and bay scallops.

Tod Mun Pla is an appetizer of chewy fried fish cakes served with a ground peanut-and-cucumber chili sauce ($7).

The new chef's version of Som Thum, a fresh, crunchy green papaya salad, includes whole garlic cloves, and a spicy dressing of lemon juice, chili and dried shrimp ($8).

The dining room at Wondee's, a BYO, has received accents of turquoise paint, above and below. Elsewhere, a wall is being prepared for photos.

The menu cover.


Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700. Open for lunch and dinner, closed Mondays.

BYO, free parking in rear off of Camden Street, and metered street parking. Takeout, but no delivery. No American Express cards.

See the chef's Facebook page: 

Simply Vietnamese

Eric Morris, 34, is trying to bring more attention to the men and women who land wonderful seafood year-round along 130 miles of New Jersey coastline.

He started a wholesale business, Local 130 Seafood, to supply fresh, dayboat fish to markets and up to a dozen restaurants, including Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly, his hometown.

Two Friday nights ago, I enjoyed an extraordinary steak of Jersey shore big-eye tuna that was seared on both sides and served rare over sauteed bok choy.

The special was priced at an appealing $21.95, including brown rice.

When I spoke to Morris on the phone today, he named the fisherman and the day boat that caught the fish I ate, also called ahi tuna.

Fish supplied by Morris usually is available on weekends at Simply Vietnamese.

Our dinner included two appetizers to share, fresh Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp ($10.95), and Summer Rolls with Shrimp ($8.50).

My wife ordered Pho with Beef Balls, the classic anise-flavored Vietnamese noodle soup with its garnish of bean sprouts, lime wedge and fresh cilantro ($12), a meal in itself.

We also ordered House Noodle Soup with Ribs to go ($12.50).

At Simply Vietnamese, a special of big-eye tuna steak served rare over sauteed bok choy.


Simply Vietnamese, 1 Highwood Ave., Tenafly; 201-568-7770. BYO, free street parking. 

Local 130 Seafood, Somewhere with Fish, New Jersey shore; 201-665-6113.

Web site: Dayboat fish from American fishermen

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Monsanto and GMOs, Trader Joe's and antibiotics, food that can't hurt

At Trader Joe's in Paramus, store-brand cold cuts are displayed above those from Applegate Naturals. Both brands are uncured (free of nitrates or other preservatives), but only Applegate says its cold cuts come from animals that were raised on a vegetarian diet free of harmful antibiotics and animal byproducts.

Editor's note: This post has been revised to make excerpts from Food & Water Watch and Consumers Union more readable, and expanded to include links to other Web sites on GMOs.


GMOs or genetically modified organisms are among the most confusing and controversial issues we encounter every time we shop for food.

The European Union requires producers to label food containing GMOs, but in the United States, big food companies have fought successfully against implementation of a similar law.

In the U.S., certified organic foods are free of GMOs, as are an increasing list of non-organic foods labeled by the Non-GMO Project.

Monsanto and Roundup

At the center of the debate is Roundup, a herbicide made by Monsanto that is a "probable human carcinogen," according to Food & Water Watch: 

"Roundup is an herbicide made by Monsanto, with the chemical name glyphosate. Hundreds of millions of pounds of Roundup are used on farmland across America every year, even though the World Health Organization's cancer agency found that it is a “probable human carcinogen."

"Glyphosate is turning up in rain, streams and air near agricultural areas, so we can't just avoid certain food or buy organic to avoid contact with Roundup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for protecting us from environmental risks like this. Tell the EPA to get rid of Roundup!

"Monsanto is a major player in the production of our food, and has made Roundup a necessity for big farms, packaging it alongside its genetically engineered (GMO) seeds.2 Then, when farmers use Roundup, the weeds on their fields get used to this exposure, forcing farmers to use even more herbicides to kill these "superweeds."

"Instead of allowing the continued and expanded use of Roundup, we need the EPA to put an end to its use.

"The widespread use of a cancer-causing chemical is just one example of how our current food system is broken.

"Instead of making sustainable food, the system is set up to benefit big corporations that control it, not people. This didn’t happen by accident. Decades of bad food policy designed to benefit big agribusinesses and mega-farms, combined with unchecked corporate mergers, have wreaked havoc on family farmers, public health and rural communities. It's not just the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides — there are a plethora of long-term, systemic food safety problems that are just as serious:
·         Drugs and artificial growth hormones used in the production of our food;
·         The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria stemming from factory farms;

·         And questionable technologies, like GMOs and irradiation, that have not been studied for long-term health impacts.

"Massive corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, Kraft and ConAgra benefit from the short cuts, the products and the practices that put our food and health at risk. And these corporations have strong political allies that have helped rig the system.

"Solving this crisis will require a complete structural shift — a change that is about policy, not just personal choice — and it won't be easy.

"But we have a strategy. It involves breaking the problem down into pieces — taking on issues like the use of Roundup to start, and building to bigger problems like the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms and labeling for GMO foods, and through this process cracking away at the power of the corporations that control the system itself.

"We know that this strategy works. It helped us pass bills to get the known carcinogen arsenic out of our chicken production, got Starbucks to stop using milk produced with artificial growth hormones and has kept GMO salmon off the market!3

"Through every action you take, we build people power and grow to make the big change that we need. 
Take action today to end the use of Roundup — help build the movement to make sure everyone has access to safe food by telling the EPA to stand up for our food and our health!
"While Monsanto and other big corporations hold a tremendous amount of power, and may be more powerful than any one of us, they'll never be more powerful than all of us together."

Click on these links for more information on GMOs:

Say No To GMOs!

Institute for Responsible Technology

Trader Joe's and antibiotics

Trader Joe's still hasn't heeded a call to stop selling meat and poultry raised on harmful antibiotics, as I saw on a visit to the Paramus store on Tuesday.

I bought uncured sliced turkey and ham from Applegate Naturals, which are from animals raised on a vegetarian diet, free of antibiotics and animal byproducts (bits of dead animals put into feed).

Seven-ounce packages were $4.49 each, a dollar more than 8-ounce packages of Trader Joe's uncured cold cuts, which come from animals raised on harmful antibiotics.

In 2012, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports magazine, called on Trader Joe's to stop selling meat and poultry raised on antibiotics:
Antibiotic Use in Livestock Poses Public Health Risk
Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not on humans but on livestock. These antibiotics are fed to healthy animals like cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in often crowded and unsanitary conditions on today’s factory farms. While public health campaigns are helping to curb the overuse of antibiotics in humans, the livestock industry has steadily increased its use of antibiotics over the past decade.
When antibiotics are used on the farm, the bugs that are vulnerable to them tend to be killed off, leaving behind bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can spread from the farm to our communities via meat and poultry, farmworkers, and through the air, soil, and water. As antibiotic resistance increases, the medications we all depend on become less effective.
Trader Joe’s Should Be A Leader
Over 500,000 consumers have signed petitions, postcards and flyers in support of Consumers Union’s campaign. However, Trader Joe’s has so far refused to change their practices or even meet with Consumers Union to discuss the issue. Trader Joe’s offers some chicken, turkey, and beef raised without antibiotics, but no pork. While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough, according to Consumers Union.

“Continuing to sell meat from animals that are routinely fed antibiotics contributes to the development and spread of antibiotic resistance,” said Halloran. “Trader Joe’s has demonstrated its commitment to its customers’ health by saying no to GMOs, artificial colors, and trans fats. It should take the obvious next step and help move the livestock industry in the right direction towards healthy animals raised without drugs.”

At the height of wild salmon season, you won't find any fresh fish at Trader Joe's in Paramus. These frozen Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Fillets are a pricey $11.99 a pound, compared to fresh sockeye for $8.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Hot dogs, franks, pasta

I also purchased two packages of Trader Joe's Uncured Beef Hot Dogs ($5.99 each), which are antibiotic free, but passed on the Jumbo Uncured Franks, which are from animals raised on antibiotics.

The hot dogs were a dollar more than they were in March.

Another price hike I noticed was for Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Pasta, now $1.49 a pound for a variety of shapes, matching what Whole Foods Market, also in Paramus, charges for its organic whole wheat pasta from Italy.

But the Luigi Vitelli-brand of organic whole wheat pasta from Italy is only $1.25 a pound at ShopRite supermarkets.

Other purchases at Trader Joe's included cans of 100% Arabica Dark Roast and Medium Roast Coffee Beans, which I ground to Turkish in the store ($4.99 each for 13 ounces or 14 ounces).

Also, half-gallon bottles of Low Calorie Lemonade ($2.69), and 100% juices called Garden Patch ($3.49) and Green Plant ($3.99).

HOMEMADE FOOD THAT CAN'T HURT YOU: Two cage-free organic eggs from Costco Wholesale with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and Middle Eastern flavors, Aleppo pepper, za'atar thyme mixture and chopped fresh mint from our garden, served with skin-on sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil.

Late-summer tomatoes from our garden with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix (Costco Wholesale), dressed with organic Spanish extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Pan-fried whole red snapper with garlic, onion, carrot, and sweet and hot peppers, all doused with hot vinegar and pimiento. The whole wild-caught fish were $6.99 a pound at H Mart in Englewood.

Fresh wild sockeye salmon fillet with pesto and organic diced tomatoes, all from Costco Wholesale, served with whole-wheat pappardelle.

DINNER IS SERVED: Leftover wild salmon is delicious right out of the refrigerator over organic spring mix with garden tomato slices, dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I grilled the salmon for 6 minutes on a preheated non-stick pan I sprayed with oil (medium high heat), starting them skin-side down, flipping them after 3 minutes and in the final minute, back onto the skin. Before I cook the fish, I add fresh lime juice and a little sea salt.

I cooked down a 15-ounce can of organic diced tomatoes with a half-cup of red wine, garlic powder, black pepper and other seasonings before I started to boil the pappardelle, which take about 11 minutes. When the timer hit 6 minutes, I put the fish on the preheated grill pan. The pesto requires no heating before you add it to the drained noodles.

Friday, August 21, 2015

ShopRite cuts price of lactose-free milk to near what Costco charges

ShopRite in Paramus is offering Jersey Tomatoes that are "locally grown and shipped from nearby," which sounds redundant to me.

Editor's note: Food prices go up and down. Here, I discuss  a few I encountered on the down side.


I'm mystified by the price roller coaster at Costco Wholesale and other food stores.

On Thursday morning, on the way home from the gym, I stopped at the ShopRite in Paramus to pick up lactose-free milk, because I had run out of the half-gallons I've been buying at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Costco introduced Kirkland Signature 100% Lactose Free 2% Reduced Fat Milk early this year. 

Three half-gallons are $7.99 or about $2.66 each, compared to $3.49 a half-gallon at ShopRite.

But on Thursday, ShopRite's Lactose Free Milk was reduced to $2.99 for a half-gallon, and that isn't a sale price.

ShopRite does have more variety: Lactose Free Milk is available as 1% and 2% reduced fat, and as whole milk. 

This week, the Paramus ShopRite also had a sale on cantaloupes for 97 each with a store card.

Kirkland Signature 100% Lactose Free 2% Reduced Fat Milk at the Costco Wholesale in Wayne.

A 3-pound net bag of Jersey Sweet Potatoes were $2.99 each at the Paramus ShopRite, but on Tuesday I found two that weighed 3.5 pounds and nearly 4 pounds. Meanwhile, a 3-pound bag of Organic Sweet Potatoes was $6.99, a dollar more than before. I enjoyed a baked sweet potato with an egg-white omelet, kimchi and homemade coleslaw.

Great wine in Wayne

After running an errand in Clifton today, I headed for the Costco Wholesale in Wayne, the only one I know that sells wine under the Kirkland Signature label, the house brand.

A best buy is the 1.5-liter bottle of a delicious 2013 California Cabernet Sauvignon -- the equivalent of two bottles -- for only $7.99. I bought two.

Another good value is Kirkland Signature Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy, for $6.99.

And I also picked up a bottle of Kirkland Signature Champagne (Brut) from France ($19.99), as are the bottles of Veuve Clicquot displayed next to it at more than twice the price ($44.89).

At Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on Thursday, large, heavy seedless watermelons were $5.49 each, above and below.

While her husband went to get the car, a woman and her children guard what looks like a couple of dozen packages of Bounty Paper Towels from the Hackensack Costco.
In Wayne, Costco sells its French champagne, right, for less than half the price of Veuve Clicquot, below.

More than three dozen drivers lined up at the Costco Wholesale gas station in Wayne, where regular was selling for $2.09.9 this afternoon. But I've seen that price at non-Costco stations, and can't figure out why they would want to wait on a long gas line.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hansang in Pal Park stands out with a generous array of side dishes

After we placed our lunch order at Hansang Korean Restaurant in Palisades Park, the server brought over complimentary side dishes of kimchi, tofu, vegetables and seaweed, arranging them in a circle around a thin seafood pancake, above and below.

The side dish of tofu, upper right, was served warm.


With up to three dozen restaurants, caterers, coffee shops and other food businesses, Broad Avenue in Palisades Park is the natural starting point for any serious exploration of Korean food.

But you'll find more Korean restaurants on another borough street, Bergen Boulevard, and that's where I met two friends for lunch on Monday.

None of the Bergen Boulevard restaurants I tried several years ago are still there. 

I went inside three of the new or newish Korean places on Monday, and all looked promising.

Hansang, where we had lunch, laid out a total of nine complimentary side dishes, a larger number than most of the Korean restaurants I frequent regularly. 

Our entrees were Bibimbap with Octopus, Kimchi Stew, and Soft-Tofu Stew with Seafood, the last two made spicy ($11.99 to $13.99).

There was so much tasty food we couldn't finish our side dishes or panchan.

I had a few minor complaints:

We were seated next to what turned out to be a noisy service counter.

The complimentary seafood pancake wasn't cut into wedges, making it hard to share.

And the stone-plate bimbimbap -- rice and shredded vegetables topped with octopus -- came without an egg or gochujang, a spicy red-pepper paste that is supposed to be served on the side.

Hansang served a white or water kimchi, lower left, instead of the traditional cabbage kimchi with red pepper.

Bibimbap with Octopus was served on a hot stone plate.

A Soft-Tofu Stew with Seafood included an unusually large clam and head-on shrimp.

Kimchi Stew.


Hansang Korean Restaurant, 520 Bergen Blvd., No. 8, Palisades Park; 1-201-592-1770. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

You can enjoy perfectly grilled, juicy wild salmon in only 6 minutes

Fresh wild sockeye salmon from Costco Wholesale spends only 6 minutes on a preheated stove-top grill. Here, I served it with Costco pesto and organic salsa, as well as chopped mint and other herbs from our garden.


We cook fresh wild salmon at home nearly every week during the season, which runs from June to October at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

A friend who just returned from a vacation in Alaska reported rivers are thick with salmon struggling to swim upstream and lay their eggs.

The price of fresh wild sockeye fillets has fallen steadily since June, and I've learned a thing or two about cooking this wonderful fish on a preheated stove-top grill.

For one thing, I was cooking the fillets too long -- 8 minutes to 10 minutes.

I reduced the cooking time to 6 minutes, and they came out juicier.

The longer cooking time is appropriate for wild king salmon fillets, which are thicker than sockeye.

Wild sockeye fillets are thinner and smaller than both king and Costco's artificially colored farmed Atlantic salmon, which are probably raised on antibiotics.

I usually get six serving pieces from about 2 pounds of wild salmon, and add sea salt and fresh lime juice before arranging the pieces skin-side down on the large, rectangular preheated grill.

The All-Clad Grill is 20 inches long and 13 inches wide, and the fish cooks best at both ends -- over the burners.

Quick dinners

Besides quick-cooking wild fish, my strategy for putting a meal on the table in less than 10 minutes includes making such side dishes as quinoa, brown rice, pasta and baked or mashed sweet potatoes in large quantities.

Then, you can plate and reheat some, add your wild salmon, enjoy dinner and finish with a big salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, also from Costco. 

In the morning, two organic eggs, sunny side up, are wonderful over sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil, especially when you break the yolks over them.

The All-Clad Grill I use straddles two burners of my stove. I preheat it, use spray oil and turn the heat on both burners to medium-high before adding the fish, skin-side down. After 3 minutes, I turn the pieces, and then again onto the skin for the last minute. If you're serving the salmon with ripe peach halves, grill them first, because they need much more time.

A package of 2 pounds of Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon yields about six serving pieces.
An electric cooker full of organic brown rice, organic diced tomatoes, low-sodium red beans and chopped fresh garlic, prepared with extra-virgin olive oil. The leftovers allow you to put dinner or breakfast on the table in minutes.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Costco egg whites and fresh blueberries are up, wild salmon is down

Medium-spicy Kirkland Signature Organic Salsa, a new item at Costco Wholesale, tastes great, judging from a free sample I tried in the Hackensack warehouse store today. Each of the two jars holds 2 pounds 6 ounces of salsa ($7.89).


Tens of millions of egg-laying chickens caught the flu and farmers killed them, raising the price of eggs, according to news reports last month. 

At Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, the impact has varied:

Kirkland Signature Egg Whites (six 16-ounce cartons for $9.99) were replaced by Egg Beaters, the same 100% pure egg whites, but members now get only four 16-ounce cartons for $8.99.

Meanwhile, the price of cage-free Kirkland Signature Organic Eggs doesn't seem to have been affected (two dozen whole eggs for $6.99).

Egg Beaters replaced Kirkland Signature Egg Whites.

Two organic eggs from Costco Wholesale made for a hearty breakfast over organic whole wheat pasta with sardines and chopped garlic. The price of organic whole eggs hasn't been affected by avian flu.

Blueberries and wild salmon

On Wednesday, my wife came home with an 18-ounce package of fresh blueberries from Michigan for $4.99, compared to a 32-ounce package of Jersey blueberries she bought at Costco a couple of weeks ago for $5.99.

But Costco has again reduced the price of fresh wild sockeye salmon fillets, this time to $8.99 from $9.99.

Tonight, I plan to grill the salmon on the stove top with a little sea salt and fresh lime juice, and serve it with Kirkland Signature Organic Salsa and Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto.

Now, fresh wild sockeye salmon fillets are $8.99 a pound, only $2 more a pound than artificially colored farmed Atlantic salmon, below.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Try mixing and matching flavors from kitchens around the world

Medium-spicy Roasted Salsa Verde from Whole Foods Market in Paramus puts a Mexican accent on Jun's Tofu, made fresh at H & Y Marketplace, a Korean supermarket (1 Remsen Place, Ridgefield).

Jun's Tofu is made from non-GMO soybeans. A 1-pound, 13-ounce package, with or without black sesame seeds, is $5.


When preparing meals at home, I love mixing and matching ethnic favors from around the world.

Aleppo pepper and Mexican salsas are versatile, and can be used with fish or egg dishes.

When you poach fresh fish, the salsa serves as both the cooking medium and as a sauce for the rice, quinoa or pasta you serve on the side.

Then, you can use leftover salsa in egg-white omelets stuffed with fresh spinach, smoked wild salmon and za'atar thyme mixture.

From the Middle East, za'atar and crushed red Aleppo pepper are available at Fattal's, 975-977 Main St., Paterson. 

Cabbage or cucumber kimchi is a great side dish with almost any meal.

Bland tofu is a foil for spicy cabbage kimchi made next door to H & Y, the Korean supermarket in Ridgefield, at Arirang Kimchi. A 64-ounce jar is $9.99.

Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan spice mixture I found at a butcher shop in Montreal, includes cumin, ginger and allspice. Here, I added a pinch or two to serving portions of fresh wild sockeye salmon I grilled on the stove top, below. I seasoned the fresh fish with sea salt and fresh lime juice before putting them on the grill.

Fresh wild sockeye salmon was $9.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. I cooked them on a preheated grill that straddles two burners for 6 minutes over medium to medium-high heat.

Grilled white peaces lend sweetness to wild salmon poached in Roasted Salsa Verde and accented with Aleppo pepper, below.

If you add the salmon to boiling salsa and cover the pan, the fish will be ready in about 7 minutes.

I stuffed an egg-white omelet, from top, with za'atar thyme mixture, salsa, smoked wild salmon from Costco Wholesale, fresh spinach I cooked earlier in the same pan and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, also from Costco.
I finished the folded omelet with Aleppo pepper and chopped herbs from the garden, including mint, parsley and rosemary.