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Five things to eat or drink in C-U this month: March 2022

Happy first day of March! What a time: spring is coming, spring break is coming, and the world is still a little wild. When there’s a lot going on, I like to turn to comfort: reliably good food.

These are foods that I am just obsessed with, dishes that I love to eat again and again — but it’s not one kind of food. This month, you should try some of my favorite comfort foods in C-U. I’m sharing a Filipino dessert, a filling lunch special, a Korean-fusion burger, a Nutella crepe, and a Thai noodle dish.

In a red plastic basket lined with parchment paper, there are two turons with two dipping sauces. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Turon Dessert | A Taste of Both Worlds

The turons ($3.25) at A Taste of Both Worlds are like dessert flautas. Each of the two rolled desserts were filled with fruit and had a crispy, paper-thin wrapper that had been deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The delicate, crinkly exterior gave way to a warm jackfruit and banana filling. The outside was savory and the inside island sweet. The Filipino dessert was satisfyingly sweet and crunchy without being over the top. 

The dessert was served with two dipping sauces: chocolate and caramel. Two dipping sauces for two turons is my kind of portion! The thick chocolate sauce was super sweet, and the caramel sauce had such a good caramelized flavor. These can be enjoyed in Broadway Food Hall or have it to go. Follow A Taste of Both Worlds on Facebook, and check out the rest of the menu here.

A Taste of Both Worlds
401 N Broadway Ave
W+Th 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 7 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On a circular metal tray, there are a variety of Indian dishes in small metal bowls, neatly arranged, for a thali lunch. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Thali Lunch Special | Kohinoor

This lunch special is only served for dine in customers at the Champaign Indian restaurant, and if you haven’t tried it, you should. There are four thali lunch options: vegetarian (regular or special) and non-vegetarian (regular or special). I like the non-veg special thali lunch ($14.99) which includes lamb curry, dai makhani, chicken curry, tandoori chicken tikka, a samosa, naan, rice, and kheer, all served on a metal platter with a trio of sauces on the side.

The chicken curry is my favorite dish at Kohinoor: perfectly spicy with a lot of sauce and flavorful chicken bites. The samosa was a fat pastry with a deep, developed heat, and the filling had potato and peas. The spiciness was never overpowering, just a soft warmth all over the palate. The lamb was wonderfully tender and had a great meaty, earthy flavor. The four naan pieces were plenty, and the rice pudding (kheer) was cold, sweet, and calming against the spices. The lentils had a hearty tomato taste and were cooked to a great texture. The chicken tikka was deliciously spicy and fantastic with the red sauce. Three meat dishes, a lentil dish, a samosa, some naan, rice, and kheer make for a big lunch just for one person, but it is one of my favorite things to eat when I need some comfort.

6 E Columbia
M 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
W+Th 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Galbi Burger | NAYA

This burger is so freaking good. NAYA’s galbi burger ($12) has cheese, pickles, Japanese mayo, and lettuce. The galbi-marinated burger patty had a tasty combination of sweet and meaty flavors on a soft sesame seed bun. The pickles were sliced long, so they didn’t fall out and gave a sour crunch to almost every bite. The burger was served with hot, skinny fries with just the right amount of salt. I really like how different this burger tasted because of the Korean marinade. The galbi flavor in this burger was dynamic with soy, garlic, and a little bit of sweetness. This burger is the only burger I’ve ever had like it —and it’s so damn good.

Right now, NAYA is open for dinner, both dine in and carryout. This burger has carried out well for me on a night in, so if you can’t make it to Green Street for the burg, order it to go and skip the cooking one night.

212 E Green St
T-Th 5 to 9:30 p.m.
F+Sa 5 to 10 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Strawberry Nutella Crepe | Pekara

When crepes came back to Pekara under the new ownership, I had to have them. Now, I’ve had every crepe on Pekara’s menu, and this chocolate covered strawberry crepe ($8.95) is my favorite of them all. This crepe has fresh strawberries and Nutella inside, served with a powdered sugar dusting and a scoop of whipped cream. The crepe itself was perfectly cooked and super, super thin. The strawberries inside were sliced and slightly softened. There was plenty of Nutella: gobs and rivers of the thick chocolate-hazelnut spread between the thin crepe layers. The soft vanilla crepe had a lovely chew, and the bright sweetness from the berries went so well with it.

It’s a classic flavor combination: chocolate and strawberries, but the ooey, melty Nutella just took it up a notch. I love this warm sweet crepe, and if you haven’t had it, go get it. Order online for pick up or enjoy at the bistro on Springfield Avenue.

Pekara Bakery & Bistro
811 W Springfield Ave
W-Su 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Pad Lard Nar | Sticky Rice

I love dishes with broccoli, and I am obsessed with pretty much everything I get from Sticky Rice, so it tracks that I’m telling you about this pad lard nar ($13). You can choose which protein to add (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, duck, or tofu), and I chose chicken.

Sticky Rice’s pad lard nar had deep-fried wide noodles stir-fried with broccoli, yu choy leaves, and garlic in a thick soy-based sauce. The noodles were fried crispy like fair food. In some parts, the rice noodles sat and soaked up that yummy brown sauce, but mostly, the noodles had a satisfyingly crunchy texture. The broccoli bites were cooked just enough with tender crisp stems. The flavors in the sauce marinated the veggies and noodles. The spiciness can be adjusted, but I think the medium (6/10) is the way to go if you like spicy food.

This dish is best eaten in person at the restaurant because of the very crispy noodles and how piping hot it comes from the kitchen, but I have also enjoyed this dish to go — and it was still just as tasty, just not as crunchy. For takeout orders, you can ask to have the noodles made extra crispy, and you should. You can order online here.

Sticky Rice
415 N Neil St
M 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
W-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

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