G’Raj Mahal seems to encompass everything there is to love about Austin. Amazing food, friendly people, and a one of a kind “Keep Austin Weird” style food truck. Calling it a food truck would be a lie because it doesn’t move, but calling it a restaurant is further from the truth – it doesn’t even have walls. But somehow they turn this parking lot and trailer into one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I have ever had.
It located in the unique Rainey Street neighborhood where a bunch of old houses have been converted into bars and the whole block has a laid back vibe. G’Raj Mahal is only open for dinner, as we found out a few weekends back when we tried to go for a late lunch only to be disappointed. There was a lot of hype about this place because we had seen it on the Food Network show Eat Street and were really excited to see what it was all about.
It’s a bring your own booze joint so we grabbed a 6-pack of Shiner Ruby Reds and strolled over. Ruby Redbird is Shiners summer beer and has ginger and grapefruit and is one of my new favorite beers. It went really well with our dinner and I’d highly recommend it as your booze of choice at G’Raj Mahal.
The decor here is a contrasting mix of scrap metal, flowing white linen, and a few cats laying around the outside of the dining area. We were sat by a host and given a friendly server who helped us pick out our dinner since neither Katy nor myself are Indian food aficionados. It was very cool to be served at a food truck and it really gave it a brick and mortar restaurant feel.
We started with garlic naan and a side of Raita which is homemade yogurt sauce served cold with chopped veggies and is seriously AMAZING. Literally when the naan was gone I ate the rest of the sauce with my spoon. It should be noted that everything is served on styrofoam plates which completely adds to the no worries vibe at this place and I loved it.
For the main course Katy ordered chicken malabar which is a creamy curry made with a coconut milk base. It is thickened with a caramelized onion sauce and mixed with more spices than I knew existed, and had a perfectly creamy texture and sweetness. I was feeling spicy so I ordered the rechaad masala with shrimp, which is a red-chili paste that was pan-fried with huge plump shrimp. It was hot but not over-whelming or uncomfortable. I actually wanted something hotter but this is apparently their hottest sauce. I asked. It all comes with a big bowl of basmati rice and needless to say, there was nothing left when we stood up to leave.
I really, really enjoyed our trip to G’Raj Mahal and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a unique date idea or something other than the food truck parking lots. It has an eclectic vibe in an unusual neighborhood and is very much “Austin”.
91 Red River
Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend. Last night we grilled chicken out by the lake and built amazing tacos that I simply must share with you all. I’ve done these a few times now, and after bits of modification here and there, they finally taste just right. The ultimate balance of all delicious flavors and textures — juicy, super seasoned grilled chicken, crunchy coleslaw with the snap of balmy, nutty sesame seeds, sweet charred onions, and a savory, creamy, complex, homemade dressing to pull it all together in a soft tortilla, plus a squirt of lime juice. I literally dreamt about them last night. This is the ultimate stress-free summer finger food!
Start with a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I did three big ones and that was plenty for two hungry people plus some leftovers (we’ll see who gets to them first tonight :)). Trim anything gross-looking off, and cut each breast into 3 or so pieces. Now cover with waxed paper and use a meat pounder to gently pound these pieces to about half an inch in thickness. No real rhyme or reason here, they will all come out different shapes. As long as the thickness is about uniform, you’re on the right track! This makes for the most tender chicken.
Now, for the chicken marinade. In a blender, throw in 2 cloves of garlic, 2 scallions, roughly chopped, a quarter cup of soy sauce, the juice of 2 limes, 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar (or honey or agave, use about half if subbing agave) a squirt of Sri racha (or, if you don’t have it, try a little cayenne or chili flakes for a bit of a kick), a hefty shake of salt, and black pepper. Get this all spinning together, and after about 30 seconds, stream in about 3 tbsp. of vegetable oil. This will immediately emulsify the mixture and you’ll have a good, thick sauce. Lay your chicken pieces flat in a big Ziplock bag, and dump 3/4 of this mixture over the chicken, zip it shut, and squish it around gently to make sure all of the chicken is covered in the marinade. Throw it in the fridge and forget about it for anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days. The longer, the better. 🙂
You still have a quarter of that mixture in your blender. Throw in about 2 heaping tablespoons of mayo, and get the blender spinning again. As it’s going, stream in another quarter cup or so of vegetable oil. The mayo will further thicken the sauce, and the additional oil you’re pouring in will follow suit and continue to do the same. You’ve just made your very own delicious, flavorful, creamy dressing! Give it a taste. Go ahead and adjust for seasoning here, it may need more salt. This by itself would be so delicious over cucumbers and greens, or to dip french fries in, or mixed into canned tuna fish. Very versatile! Creamy dressings are one of my biggest weaknesses. I put the dressing in a squeeze bottle for easy application later, but if you don’t have one, you can keep it in Tupperware and spoon in onto your taco.
As your chicken’s marinating, the next step is to prepare the slaw. I used red and green cabbage because we had both in the house, but you can also just do one color. I happen to love the red especially, because once it’s dressed and sits a while, the pretty color seeps into the sauce and it all turns out a gorgeous light fuchsia. Sometimes it’s hard to believe colors so vibrant can come from a vegetable.
I sliced my cabbage (about a quarter-head of each color) very thinly. Also slice two scallions thinly and set these veggies aside. In a big bowl, prepare the sauce for your slaw: 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (or rice vinegar), 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, black pepper to taste, 3 tbsp. mayo, 2 tbsp. sour cream, and a small handful of sesame seeds. Whisk this all together briskly until everything’s combined into a smooth mixture. Then, dump your cabbage and scallions in and toss with salad tongs until everything’s coated. Done!
You are now ready to head to the grill (once your chicken’s marinated for your desired length of time). In addition to the chicken, the creamy dressing, and the slaw, you will need: flour tortillas (taco-sized), spring onions, and lime wedges. Spring onions look like mini white onions with a scallion growing out of the top. I believe these are seasonal (hence the name). We had these in Mexico for the first time and fell in love with them. If you can’t find them, I’d recommend using whole scallions instead. Either way will be great, as both will end up with a sweet caramelized onion flavor after charring on the grill.
Get your coals hot (or your gas turned on) and warm up the grill until it’s at about medium heat. Throw the chicken on first, and cook about 4-5 minutes on each side. This will vary, as it’s hard to control the temperature of a charcoal grill (at least, it is for me!). You’ll know when it’s done…the chicken will have a great deep amber color on it, even charred in some spots, and it will be firm to the touch.
Throw your spring onions on the grill about halfway through the chicken’s cooking time. Once they’re on, keep an eye on them and turn them every few minutes, to evenly cook every bit.
Pull your chicken off and wrap it in foil to keep it warm and let the juices redistribute throughout the meat. If timed properly, you should be able to pull the onions off about 8 minutes after the chicken comes off, which is the perfect amount of time for the chicken to sit after grilling. Doesn’t really matter, but I was hungry and didn’t want to wait longer than I had to. 🙂
Right before your build your tacos, toss your tortillas right on the grill grate and let ’em warm up for a few seconds on each side. I prefer mine soft and malleable, which really doesn’t take long at all on a toasty grill.
To assemble your taco: slice a piece of grilled chicken thinly, against the grain of the meat if possible. It’s going to be tender enough that it won’t really matter, but this makes for the perfect bite. Cut up as much as you like and throw it on your warm tortilla. Now dress liberally with the creamy dressing you made earlier. Slice a grilled spring onion or scallion up and toss that over the sauced chicken. Finally, pile some slaw up on top. Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over the taco, and voila.
It’s the perfect combination of flavors — the warm, soft tortilla, which will start to soak up some of the dressing, the awesome crispy char of the sweet/salty/tangy chicken, and the crunch of the slaw and sweetness of the onion make this a winning combo. A lot of ingredients pop up more than once in this recipe, which I think makes for a really complete end product. For example, there is scallion in the chicken marinade, the creamy dressing, the slaw, and on the taco. Each application is different, but not overpowering.
Hope you guys love these as much as we did! I’d love to hear how they come out, and do share any awesome substitutes or additions! Thank you for reading. 🙂
For the chicken/marinade/creamy dressing:
- 2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 c. soy sauce
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 scallions
- 2 heaping tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. Sri Racha chili sauce
- 3 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 heaping tbsp. mayo
For the slaw:
- Quarter head red cabbage, sliced very thinly
- Quarter head green cabbage, sliced very thinly
- 2 scallions, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp. mayo
- 2 tbsp. sour cream
- Small handful sesame seeds
- Spring onions or scallions
- Small flour tortillas
- Lime wedges
- Beer to drink!
My job this week and last has had me onsite at the Jefferson Square shopping center off 38th 1/2 street. The posh little center is apparently quite popular as it houses some nick-nack stores, an eye doctor, a hair salon, and Anderson Coffee (good coffee for only $1) among others. But there is also this lunch joint nestled in the corner called Lee’s Meat Market that last week I thought was a butcher shop but have since learned otherwise.
On Monday we were working (I do construction and renovations) outside the shop which happened to be closed for the floating holiday after Easter, but the 50 people who showed up throughout the day did not know that. Literally, from 10am until 5pm people would pull into the parking lot, get to the door, and moan in misery when it was locked. That’s when I knew I had to try it.
We started letting people know it was closed to spare them the extra ten steps from their car to the door. Eventually questions like ‘What’s good?’ came about. Most often the response was the beef tenderloin sandwich. So on Tuesday I by-passed packing a lunch and knew what to order.
It’s a small spot with only about 3 stools at a window bar for eating in, while the rest of the place was packed with people waiting for to-go orders. The line went quick and Lee, the owner who I have found out is very nice and hospitable (discounted iced tea because it was 90 out), took my order. Choose between wheat or sourdough. I went sourdough. Lettuce, tomato, mayo, spicy mustard, and provolone. I also ordered the small side of deviled eggs because I LOVE deviled eggs. Creamy and delicious and heavy on the mustard just like I like them. They were gone before the sandwich came out the window.
This was one of the best beef sandwiches I’ve ever had, better than famous Kelly’s roast beef back in New England. The meat was so tender and juicy and cooked to a nice medium rare. It was full of flavor and being tenderloin it didn’t come with the stringy gristle that is so annoying in most roast beef. Past the beef, the sourdough was fresh, although not as tangy as most sourdough, and the veggies were crisp and fresh. The spicy mustard gave a perfect kick to balance the whole thing out. Oh yea, it comes with a generous handful of potato chips which, if you are like me, you stuff into the sandwich for each individual bite. 🙂
Today I was excited to try it again, but being adventuresome I decided to expand my knowledge of the menu and be bold. I went with the fresh chicken salad sandwich, again on sourdough, with lettuce, tomato, onion, and provolone. It also, was magnificent. Chunks of chicken mixed with celery, red grapes, and chopped pecans mixing together for a salty-sweet-soft-and crunchy experience. To accompany the sandwich, I ordered a pint of tomato basil soup because my eyes are always bigger then my stomach. Although that may be the case, I’m glad I did. It was AWESOME. The soup was thick and creamy and not too salty and had roughly chopped tomatoes floating in the red sea of bliss. To top it off, it came with a side of cheddar toast. Yea, no hint on the menu that it comes with your soup for only $4.50 but boy did my eyes light up when I saw it. Toasty and cheesy and perfect for dunking in the soup. I’m seriously enjoying reliving this meal right now….
In closing, I HIGHLY recommend you try Lee’s Meat Market if you’ve never been. Sandwiches are about $7, and I get the big tea which is a quart of fresh iced tea for $1.50. The menu is huge and as well as food to-go, they do catering and bulk orders of beef, lamb, chicken, etc. So yea, I guess it was a butcher shop after all.
1601 West 38th Street Austin, TX 78731
I’ve fallen in love with many a food truck here in Austin. But my favorite so far has to be Kebabalicious. They serve Turkish-style wraps and operate out of two trucks permanently stationed (for the most part) downtown — one at Congress and 2nd (for lunch during business hours), the other at Trinity and 7th (for the late-night drunk crowd). Fortunately, I fall under both categories and I’ve tried both locations. The product and service is exceptional and consistent at both.
Kebabalicious is family-owned, locally sourced, and run with real passion. The wraps are made for you on the spot and truly have thought put into them. Each bite contains a bit of every ingredient.
I almost always order the same thing — the king-sized (12″) beef/lamb kebab. I go for the regular size (8″) when I’m lunching, but at night after a few beers, even when Kyle responsibly orders the regular size (and the lady serving us mistakenly assumes the larger one is for him), I need as much Kebabalicious as I can get. If I can’t finish it that night, into the fridge it goes until I open my eyes the next morning and crawl to the fridge to finish it at 10 AM. Not even kidding, it is THAT addicting.
The sandwich is wrapped in a perfect, squishy pita bread. It’s just thick enough to hold its contents without overtaking you with breadiness. It doesn’t crack when it bends, it’s warm, soft, and supple. The beef/lamb shawarma appears/tastes to be mixed with falafel or some type of grain. It’s formed into nuggets that are likely heated through on a griddle — amazingly seasoned, savory, and well-textured succulent meat, no icky bits. Each nugget is slightly charred and crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. Tons of flavor and enjoyable on their own, they melt in your mouth.
Next are the veggies…lettuce, locally grown tomato, red onion, and fresh parsley. Unlike other shawarma wraps I’ve had, the veggies are consistently fresh and perfect every time. No haphazardly chopped pieces, no off-tasting onion, just light, crunchy, ripened bites that perfectly complement the heaviness of the bread and meat.
They make these wraps mild, medium, or spicy (adjusted by how much crushed red pepper they shake on). Spicy is best — nowhere near unbearable or even overpowering, just another note to cut the richness. I also have them add feta to mine. Not necessary but a perfect extra indulgence. Amazing.
Last, but not at all least: the sauces. The wraps come with two sauces on them, both of which are incredible and balance each other out perfectly. One is a tzatziki (strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon, dill, often other spices), both creamy and herby, but not too tangy. Each component of the wrap is seasoned very well and this sauce is no exception. The coolness of the sauce also brings the heat level down a notch.
And finally, the spicy red sauce. I would pay serious, serious dough to get just a glimpse of this recipe. It’s also creamy but slightly heavier than the tzatziki, coral red in color, and appears to be almost a spicy or red pepper aioli. Phenomenal and adds the perfect amount of richness and a tad of garlicky flavor.
I remember Bobby Flay saying on TV once that the most common problem he notices in sandwiches is that they aren’t sauced enough and are therefore too dry on the mouth. The Kebabalicious sauces solve that problem all too well and provide the perfect vehicle to marry all of the ingredients together into one phenomenal experience.
The combination of these perfectly orchestrated ingredients create a heavenly, constantly crave-able meal. I really can’t say enough about how much I would recommend this to anyone who ever has the opportunity to try it. I also do not ever want to know how many calories are in one of these things.
Another thing to note is that I love how Kebabalicious brings to the masses what could be intimidating to some in such a great way. What better way to try out a cuisine that isn’t as familiar to Americans as Italian or Chinese than something this incredible?
Other options for the wraps are chicken shawarma, falafel, and the “spoiled brat” (chicken, beef, lamb, falafel, and hummus!) and run at about $7 for a regular, $9 for a king size. The chicken and falafel are exceptional, though I can’t speak for the spoiled brat as I haven’t graduated to that level (yet).
Finally, and this I can’t stress enough: if you have the good fortune to try Kebabalicious, try the loaded french fries. Words simply don’t exist to describe them. The fries alone are hot, fresh out of the fryer, perfectly crispy, and would be amazing all by themselves. But, they’re taken to the next level with tons of parsley, spicy red sauce, and feta. Tasting these fries for the first time was the biggest food-high I’ve had in a long time.
In closing, thanks for reading and please share your Kebabalicious-related experiences here. Kebabalicious has about 200 reviews and has earned itself an average of 4.5 stars on Yelp. That’s very impressive, but my rating is a solid 5 out of 5.
Read more here: http://www.austinkebab.com/.
Greasy Chinese (or any Asian cuisine) takeout is one of my all-time favorite treats. I love all of the dishes in the same order that they’re bad for me, the worst ones, of course, being my favorite. General Tso’s chicken, sesame beef and broccoli, curries, Peking ravioli, hot and sour soup, crab rangoon (though I’ve only maybe once eaten one of these with actual crab in it), any kind of crispy (read: ‘fried’) spring roll or dumpling…YUM! Other than the oil, salt, and sugar many dishes are laden with, the spice factor is one of my favorite parts — it adds the perfect extra dimension to the heaviness of these favorites. Mexican cuisine is my favorite go-to, something I’m always in the mood for. My relationship with Asian cuisine is slightly different, in that I’m not constantly craving it, but when I do, watch out — I’ve GOT to have it.
Most members of my family are passionate about food and cooking, and my Aunt Susie is no exception — this is a very slight twist on her incredible stir-fry recipe. The first time I tried it, I was instantly hooked. It’s seriously perfect — you get that same satisfaction of take out — all of the hot, sweet, sour, savory flavors, but you can control everything that goes in and therefore tailor it to your exact taste. The sauce is the key to this recipe and really, every ingredient in it can be increased or decreased, or eliminated all together (or add more components!). I’ve posted the measurements that I use, but go nuts…it’s simple and everything in the dish can be interchanged.
My favorite combo of meat and veggie for this stir-fry is broccoli and chicken. Auntie’s is asparagus and chicken. Kyle suggested I throw in carrots and snow peas along with the broccoli, and it was excellent. Go in any direction here — onions, peppers, bamboo shoots — you really can get creative.
Begin with some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. One large breast is plenty to feed two hungry people. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Throw the pieces in a bowl and sprinkle liberally with soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix around so all pieces are coated and let this sit while you prep the other ingredients.
Now, cut up your veggies of choice. Again, bite-sized pieces are ideal. Along with the veggies you’ll also want to finely chop a big clove of garlic and a good chunk of fresh ginger (in size equal to the clove of garlic or bigger). For garnish later, slice a few scallions, and if you’re into spice, a Serrano pepper or two.
For the sauce, I add all of the ingredients to a Mason jar and just shake it up. So easy! Throw in the garlic and ginger you just chopped, chicken stock, soy sauce, black bean/garlic sauce (easy to find in any grocery store in the international foods aisle), sesame oil, brown sugar, a splash of water, and cornstarch (this is the magic ingredient that will turn the cloudy, runny mixture into a thick, shiny, glaze-like sauce — reminiscent of, but better than, what you’ll find in takeout Chinese dishes). There’s one final ingredient, but it’s not as accessible as the others. In fact, Aunt Susie sends this to me all the way from San Francisco, along with a few other sauces I became addicted to while living there. One of many great Chinese food restaurants in SF, called Henry’s Hunan, bottles their own chili flakes and fermented black beans in a spicy oil. It’s absolutely to die for. I have to ration mine at home because it’s such a commodity. I’ll bet you could find something similar — if not, fine to skip it, or just add some red chili flakes (the same kind you’d put on your pizza). Screw the top on and shake away. Done!
I’m told the key to stir-frying properly is to cook everything quickly over a very high heat. Kyle and I have been looking for a good wok but haven’t found one yet (at least not in our price range). This is the ideal way to cook a stir-fry, as all of the heat is concentrated to the bottom of the pan. Until I own a wok, I’ll use a cast iron skillet for its excellent even-heating properties. It also gives the ingredients a nice color.
Get your pan super-hot and add some vegetable oil. Once this has heated up, throw in your chicken pieces. You want to make sure the chicken browns slightly, and there are a few tricks to this. First, the pan should be very, very hot. Second, make sure your chicken is in a single layer in the pan. If you have more than that, cook it in two batches, otherwise, it could steam before it sautés. My Dad is so good about this rule that he actually cooks each serving of stir-fry separately. I have the best memories of waiting for it to be my turn when Dad would cook this during my childhood years. His is a Schezuan-style stir-fry and absolutely amazing — I’ll have to share that recipe sometime, too.
Once you get the chicken in the pan, let it go a few minutes to really get some golden-brown color. Then, using a wooden spoon, stir it around to expose the raw sides of each piece to the pan. I’d say in total you’ll want to cook it for about 4 – 6 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Once it’s done, dump it into a bowl and add a little more vegetable oil to your pan.
Throw your veggies in and repeat the process — give them a minute or two to get some color and then stir. After 2 minutes or so, throw the chicken back into the pan and stir everything together. Now comes the fun part.
Push all of the chicken and veggies to one side of the pan (leaving a good amount of open pan surface), or, if using a wok, take the veggies out and leave them aside with the chicken, so that you’re left with an empty wok. Grab your Mason jar and be sure to shake again, vigorously — the cornstarch likes to stick to the bottom. Once you’re confident everything is thoroughly mixed, pour your sauce mixture into the pan (still on high heat).
Right before your eyes, the liquid will begin to bubble and become dark and glossy. Mix as it bubbles with a wooden spoon to keep it moving and to avoid super hot patches that could burn the sugar. Once all of the sauce has pulled together (about a minute) push the veggies and chicken into it and stir to coat everything (if using wok, dump all ingredients back in and stir to combine). Let everything reheat through and combine for a good minute or so.
Serve immediately over rice or noodles. Although I prefer noodles over rice in general, rice is ideal here for soaking up all of the delicious sauce. Either way works though.
Garnish with the scallions and Serranos, and, the perfect final touch…roasted peanuts or cashews! I promise you won’t miss the restaurant version…this has it ALL. The first time I made it, I knew I’d have to spend a bit more money than usual on groceries, since I didn’t already have a few of the ingredients. But trust me, it is a worth-while investment…this is a great weeknight go-to and an excellent base recipe to experiment with different meats and veggies. Someday I’d like to try deep-frying dark meat chicken before coating it in sauce (à la General Tso)…but for now I’ll stick to this; a truly mouth-watering, healthier, and more flavorful alternative to the deliciousness that is Chinese takeout. All that’s missing is the white cardboard box…and a few empty calories. 😉
Ingredients list (for 2 hungry-sized servings):
- 1/3 cup chicken stock
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp. of black bean/garlic sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp. of Henry’s Hunan crushed chili sauce (or 1 tsp. dried red chili flake)
- 1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- Splash of water
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced finely
- 1 sq.-inch piece of ginger, minced finely
- 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
- Sprinkle of soy sauce
- Sprinkle of sesame oil
- 2 cups broccoli (if frozen, let it thaw)
- 1 large carrot, sliced into coins, or julienned
- 1 handful snow peas
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 Serrano pepper, sliced thinly
- Handful of roasted peanuts or cashews
- Vegetable oil for cooking
I’d love to hear more winning meat/veggie combos, so please do share! Hope you guys love this, and thank you a million times to my talented Auntie for this recipe and for bringing a little bit of San Francisco into my kitchen via sauce and stir-fry! I love her.