Kiki & Lala

Archive for March 2010

Welcome to the first post of our intrepid guest blogger, My Melody! Join her as she chows her way through the Big Apple and beyond.

Nothing says “Girls’ Night Out” like martinis, dimly-lit lounges, and flirtatious banter with handsome strangers. But when it comes to me and my girl friend S., our definition of a great night out usually involves a platter of fried chicken.


I recently became a huge fan of Korean-style fried chicken, made popular in New York by Bon Chon, Mad for Chicken, and Unidentified Flying Chicken (which also wins the Best Restaurant Name Ever award). If you’ve never had chicken cooked like this before, you need to finish reading this post and run to your nearest Korean fried chicken joint. Why? Because it’s crispy, savory, juicy, and piquant all at the same time, and you can eat an entire bucket of the stuff without feeling greased-out. (I’ll admit: I know this from personal experience.) In other words, it’s like crack in chicken form. I don’t exactly know how they do it, but what they do on a daily basis is truly a service to mankind.

But there’s another kind of Korean chicken that occasionally gets some press, and it’s served at a restaurant called Baden Baden, located within spitting distance from Mad for Chicken in Koreatown. Their website states that they specialize in ‘Tong-Dak,’ which translates to rotisserie-fried chicken. And while I’ve walked by Baden Baden many times in the past, I’ve never ventured inside. Clearly, it was time to do some reconnaissance work.

First impressions: After spending a little effort locating our destination (it’s on the second floor), S. and I walk into a place that looks more like a college dive bar than a stereotypical Korean restaurant. But we quickly spotted–and smelled–a server walking past with a tray of fried food, which confirmed that we were in the right place.

...and after.

I had read beforehand that the only thing really worth trying was the chicken, so that’s what we ordered: a whole chicken, with the requisite side of fries and onion rings. (We ignored the look of shock on our server’s face.) The platter arrived soon after, overflowing with golden brown things that smelled like heaven, if heaven was a hot vat of grease.

Our initial thought: this was very different from the chicken we’ve had at Mad for Chicken; like the website stated, we were literally having rotisserie chicken that had a crispy-fried skin. There was also no glaze on this chicken, which I actually liked; the flavor of the chicken really came through, and even reminded me of the fried chicken I used to have as a child in Manila. The only thing missing? Big bowls of fluffy rice! I’m still not sure why Korean chicken joints don’t offer rice as a side order. Wouldn’t it be great if they provided little balls of rice wrapped in wax paper, just like they do in Jollibee?

Clearly, the chicken was a huge hit at our table, since the plate was taken away (empty) about 25 minutes after it arrived. Mad for Chicken still has the number one spot in my book, but I’ll definitely be heading back to Baden Baden for another round of Tong-Dak.


Drama Queen

Rocio: Mom, how did you feel at Christmas – without Boss Ding?
Lala: I felt a bit sad but I was happy that we were all together.
Rocio: I felt really bad because I had no one to talk to about elections and the President… you know… that stuff…
Lala: Politics?
Rocio: Yeah because you know Boss Ding and I we get really excited about elections. And Nadine wasn’t there and I had to make sure Nana Norma was OK… so it was a hard for me.


Yaya: Cio, where is your lunch boc?
Rocio: It’s lunch box! Say, lunch box…
Yaya: Where is your lunch bax?
Rocio: Oh! So in Tagalog it’s lunch bax?

My fave thing to do in any foreign city is head to the supermarket. It gives you great insight into how the locals live. Of course, the definition of “local” in Dubai is debatable since only about 5 – 20 % of the population is Emirati and everyone else are foreigners from Indians to Pinoys to Sri Lankans to Brits to Indonesians to Russians.

Carrefour seems to be the supermarche’ of choice in Dubai and there was one happily situated across the street from our hotel.

Here’s what I saw…

castanyas on steroids

Buckets and buckets of nuts…

Every kind of dried fruit…

Spices that literally threw me into an uncharacteristic sneezing fit…

Olives of all shapes, sizes and marinations…

Look closely now…

some very phallic cornichon-stuffed olives hahahahaha !

And here’s the last photo before I was told to stop taking pictures. The price of being being a blogging tourist… tsk tsk…

In honor of St. Paddy, I thought I’d share with you some Irish Blessings and Toasts.

Irish Blessings

  • May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go
  • May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
  • May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light. May good luck pursue you each morning and night.

Irish Toasts

  • Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold beer – and another one!
  • For every wound, a balm. For every sorrow, cheer. For every storm, a calm. For every thirst, a beer.
  • May the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load. May the mist of Irish magic shorten every road. And may all your friends remember all the favours you are owed!

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Lala!  I know this day doesn’t really mean anything to you and me, but it’s always a treat to see everyone and everything here painted green…to the extreme!  Check it out below.

Here! Have a green beer to go with that beard.

This green dog will feel right at home in the Merville Access Road, wouldn’t you agree?

Care for a green bagel for breakfast?

You know how there are some things you wished you were imaginative and witty enough to think of / say / invent?
This parody of a trailer is one of those things for me.
(Discovered it via Ashton Kutcher’s tweet the other day).

Don’t be freaked by the girls making out. It’s much more clever than that.

Abu Dhabi

Posted on: March 13, 2010

So back to my Dubai trip…

Our first day there was actually spent in Abu Dhabi which is the UAE’s largest and richest emirate. They got the oil, baby!

It’s about 2 hour’s drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. The place is also known for its “interesting” architecture. Here are a few examples.

A coin-shaped office building.

Then there was this Leaning Tower of Pisa-inspired edifice.

It leans oh so slightly but you can’t tell from the angles I took – apologies.

The true masterpiece though is this mosque. The third largest in all the world.

Check out the pure gold spires on top of the domes.


To enter the prayer rooms which are segregated according to gender, women need to don the black abaya and head scarf.

We got there right when prayers had started and once they start you can’t enter the rooms anymore so they were shooing us away. Here’s a very rude mosque authority guy telling me to get the hell out. As in he said, “Hey you! How many times I have to tell you to get out?!”

But I didn’t take it personally (sniff!)

I still got to appreciate the lovely details of the place.

ceiling and dome with floral details

placid waters

inlaid posts

Then there’s a palace which the Sheik got tired of so now it’s a hotel – with about 300 rooms!


Of course on the other side of the spectrum there were these recreated desert homes at the Heritage Village. They lived in these last century before they struck black gold.

It was surprisingly cool inside.

But nothing beats Abu Dhabi’s man made shore line. No need for words here.

Studio 23 jumps for joy.

The water was ridiculously clean and the sand was Bora-fine. There was nothing to do but marvel at how they brought the ocean to the desert like bringing Boracay to Makati. For this alone Abu gets my vote over Dubs!

And just to demonstrate how they don’t know what to do with their money, on the ride home we crossed another man made body of water with lots of construction going on around it.

After piping the ocean into the land which obviously cost billions, they are now reclaiming land in the same area to build resorts!! WTF?!?!

Other ideas for where to spend some spare billions…

an F1 race track, of course!

So that was Abu Dhabi in a day. More Dubai stories to follow – promise!

Here’s a lovely story that should restore your faith in compassion and remind you of the benefits of having effective public servants at the helm.  Say what you want about this country, but it still is the land of opportunity.  Just listen to this guy’s story.

His name is Qing Hong Wu.  He migrated to New York City from China when he was 5 years old.  He came with his mother who worked tirelessly as a seamstress and his father who worked as a cook.    They lived in Chinatown.  When he was a teenager this neighborhood turned out to be his playground for making bad friends and engaging in illegal activities.    His activity of choice was to mug elderly men of money, beating them up and leaving them for dead.   This went on until he and his friends were finally caught.

With his Fiance. Photo Credit: The New York Times

Photo Credit: The New York Times

Enter Judge Michael Corriero who happened to be the judge that presided over this boy’s case some time in the mid 90’s.

Being once a juvenile who grew up in a similar neighborhood as Qing Hong Wu, Judge Corriero understood how one careless decision can snowball into a life of lost opportunities.   He immediately saw that Qing Hong was a good kid (he scored in the 98th percentile in Math!) who lost himself in bad circumstances.   So instead of throwing him in juvenile prison and counting him as another juvenile delinquent, he did something different.   The judge sentenced him to three to nine years in reformatory but told him, “This is not the end. This is really the beginning of a new period for you. I want you to educate yourself. Continue to read, follow the rules, get a job and become a meaningful, constructive member of society to help your family”. Then he said something which I think made the difference. He said, “I will be there to make sure that you can.  If you do that, I am here to stand behind you And so a life altering agreement was forged and a story that takes an amazing twist of fate had begun…

Fast forward to 2010. Our boy is reformed, he finished school, he stayed out of trouble and he even got himself involved in civic oriented activities.  With a promising career as  a Vice President for Internet technology and resting on the solid words Judge Corriero left him with some 15 years ago, he decided to apply for his citizenship and disclose his criminal record.  His application raised a red flag with the immigration authorities.  They didn’t just deny him his citizenship, they wanted him deported and banned permanently from the USA!  Their basis was this ancient 19th century immigration law, which labels juvenile delinquent immigrants as undesirables.  Imaginate!   After this sobering news, Qing Hong Wu finds himself in South Jersey sitting in jail waiting to be deported.   What a nightmare!

When the news reached the now Ex-Judge Corriero, he went straight to work.  He wrote New York Governor David Paterson saying that Mr. Wu EARNED his second chance, he deserves the OPPORTUNITY to remain in this country.     He created a buzz within the youth and immigrant communities.  As a result, letters were written, articles were published and media interviews were conducted.   Four months later, Qing Hong Wu was told by jail guards in NJ that he was free to go.   He later found out that Gov. Paterson had pardoned him.  Yaaay!  All’s well that ends well.

What does this story tell us?  That the US immigration system is clearly flawed and full of holes.   Sure it is.  But show me a public system that is not.  I choose to look at this glass as half full.  This story is telling us that this kind of democracy is what works for regular people like Qing Hong Wu, like you and like me.  Here is a rare story where real pressure coming from below brought about relevant changes.  Here is a story about compassion and how it turns a blind eye on color and race; how it can also emanate from people of influence and power.  This is a story about working hard to deserve a chance, even if it were a second chance.  Inspiring no?

And what did Ex-Judge Corriero have to say now to Qing Hong Wu?  “Welcome home,  this has always been your home — New York City has been your home. We’re so proud of what you’ve accomplished and the way you have endured to come back.  This is an American story, and Qing is a model of what America can do.”

Such a heart warming story that was born by a simple yet timeless commitment between two people, two strangers!  So I ask you as the song Proud by Heather Small asks, What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Tulong Para Sa Rizal

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