Posts Tagged ‘Dumplings’

Sake Bar Hagi

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011 by virginia

Sake Bar Hagi is sort of like a Japanese tapas restaurant that’s been written up about in numerous papers and magazines and was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. It’s in midtown so it draws the happy hour crowd, and it’s a great place for pitchers of beer and lots of little snacks. It’s important to get there early though because the place really fills up quickly. Josh and I had been there once after work and really enjoyed it so one Sunday night when it was just us and Josh’s parents, we suggested trying to get in for dinner.

The restaurant is located downstairs below street level but it’s a pretty large and bright space. The tables are kind of cramped together though, and it does get a bit noisy. We had to wait for about half an hour before we could get a table. Fortunately the waiting area wasn’t crowded and we were able to sit on some benches while we waited.

After we were seated an ordered a pitcher of beer, we set about perusing the extensive menu. There are so many different options to choose from, it was almost a bit daunting. There were the usual Japanese appetizers, like gyoza and edamame, different types of yakitori, as well as some more unusual offerings.

We started out with an avocado salad, which was pretty standard. It featured a good portion of sliced avocado on top of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, tomatoes, and asparagus. The ginger dressing was flavorful and not too sweet.

Avocado salad

We also got a yakitori set that included skewers of chicken meatballs, chicken, garlic, pork belly, and beef. The meatballs were a bit bland but the other meats were well seasoned and had good barbecue flavor.

Assorted yakitori

Agedashi tofu is something that we always order when we’re at a Japanese restaurant, and this version was pretty good. It’s deep fried tofu that’s silky on the inside sitting in flavorful broth, topped with grated daikon, bonito flakes, and shredded seaweed. It’s a good mix of textures and flavors.

Agedashi tofu

The bonito sashimi was one of our favorites of the evening. It was served with citrus soy sauce and topped with chopped scallions, fried garlic chips, and thinly shaved daikon. The fish was a gorgeous deep red color and tasted fresh. The combination was light and refreshing.

Bonito sashimi

The tatsu age, or Japanese fried chicken, was light and crispy on the outside, though I think there may have been a bit too much breading. Still, the chicken was pretty juicy and all it needed was a squeeze of lemon over the top.

Tatsu age (fried chicken)

An interesting dish we ordered was grilled clams topped with scallions. They were big and juicy, not too chewy, with lots of briny flavor. We just shot them straight from the shells, making sure to drink up all the delicious liquid.

Grilled clams

Another one of my favorite dishes was a grilled eggplant topped with miso sauce. The sauce was nicely caramelized on top, and it had sweet, slightly smokey flavor. The eggplant had a creamy texture and wasn’t bitter.

Grilled eggplant

I had high hopes for the grilled yellowtail collar as it’s usually a tender, luscious part of the fish. This version, unfortunately, was a bit dry and really bland. There was no seasoning or sauce on it, and even after we squeezed lemon over the top, it was pretty flavorless.

Grilled yellowtail collar

We got an order of gyozas filled with pork, which were decently pan fried and brown on the bottom, but flavor-wise they were just meh. These were probably the frozen pre-made kind, and not great ones at that.

Pan fried gyozas

Much to Alice’s dismay, Josh and I shared a yakitori of chicken skin. Crispy on the outside, slightly chewy, well seasoned, and very flavorful, we thought these were pretty fantastic. Probably not great for our cholesterol, but we only had one bite each.

Chicken skin yakitori

We got an order of shiitake mushrooms, which were topped with lots of bonito flakes. They had a meaty texture but were kind of plain, and I probably wouldn’t order these again.

Shiitake mushrooms

I enjoyed the fried octopus balls (takoyaki), which was kind of like eating an octopus doughnut. The balls had a light, slightly chewy texture and were filled with little chunks of octopus.

Fried octopus balls (takoyaki)

I wanted to try a grilled rice ball (onigiri) filled with spicy cod roe. I’ve eaten regular rice balls before but never the grilled kind. The rice on the outside was browned a crispy, and the spicy cod roe filling was definitely spicy. I just wish there was a bit more filling, and that it was more evenly dispersed throughout the middle of the rice ball. Otherwise it was pretty good.

Grilled spicy cod roe onigiri (rice ball)

Last, and definitely least, we got a yaki udon with chicken. It’s pan fried udon noodles but the sauce they used was cloyingly sweet and gloppy. There was so much sauce that it totally overpowered everything on the plate, so that was all we tasted. It was probably the worst yaki udon I’ve ever eaten, and it was a disappointing way to finish our meal.

Yaki udon

Even though the yaki udon was terrible, the rest of our meal was pretty good. They have a nice variety of yakitori, and I liked being able to try all the different skewers of meat. The fried items were all served fresh right from the fryer, which meant they were hot and crispy, as they should be. I think the best part of Sake Bar Hagi is the extensive menu and getting to try lots of different things. Most plates are small but shareable, and we washed them down with cheap pitchers of Sapporo. It’s definitely a great happy hour spot, though if you plan on being there for a while, you have to keep ordering food and drinks, otherwise the servers will tell you that other people are waiting for a table. It does get crowded but it’s got a nice low key vibe. I highly recommend checking it out.

Sake Bar Hagi
152 West 49th St. between 6th and 7th Ave.
New York, NY

Jing Fong

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 by virginia

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about Jing Fong, the ginormous dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, considering that it’s a place that has a lot of meaning for me and Josh. It’s been our go-to place for dim sum ever since we moved into the city, and was where we ate right before Josh proposed. It is also where we held our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding, a banquet style dinner that resulted in a lot of people eating jellyfish, accidentally mistaking the long chewy strands for noodles (we didn’t tell them what it was until after they ate it and enjoyed it). As with most of our favorite Chinatown destinations, since we’ve moved uptown, we just haven’t been around as often. Josh had a coworker in town one Sunday who wanted to try dim sum, so we knew exactly where to take him.

Dim sum at Jing Fong on the weekend is pretty crazy. If you don’t get there early enough, there’s a huge line, which is impressive considering how BIG the place is. Luckily we got there in time and were seated right away. There was a pretty long wait by the time we left though. Once you get up the escalator, it’s just a massive space packed to the brim with tables, all of which are full. If you have a small group (ie., 2-3 people), you generally end up having to share a table with other people. It’s not too awkward, the tables are big and you can either talk to your table-mates or not. We’ve experienced it both ways.

Huge line of people waiting to get in when we left

Ideally you want to sit near the kitchen (the right side of the long room, parallel to where the escalators are) because the carts that come out there have the freshest food and are stocked with more items. When you end up in the far corner away from the kitchen, usually you’re options are mostly just tripe and chicken feet, which isn’t bad if you like those items. Otherwise, you have to go with the aggressive route, which is taking your “scorecard” and waiting with a bunch of other people outside the kitchen, waiting to pounce at the carts as soon as they come out. Then you just have to carry your steaming baskets back to your table. There’s also a long table set up in the middle of the room, by the back wall, where they have prepared foods such as sauteed chinese broccoli or steamed clams in black bean sauce that you can pick up. Just remember to take your card with you!

We were a group of five so we wound up with our own table, in the right hand corner just opposite the kitchen. It was a pretty good spot, and there were lots of carts coming around. We basically just pointed at whatever looked good, keeping in mind that one person in our group was a pescetarian, so we got a lot of shrimp and/or veggie items. Here’s a rundown of what we got:

Steamed sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf - one of Josh's favorites. The rice is filled with bits of pork and dried shrimp, and has a nice chewy texture

Pork and shrimp shumai

Steamed soup dumplings - just meh, not enough soup inside, decent pork flavor

Shrimp and chive dumplings

Shrimp and pea dumplings

Crystal shrimp dumplings - a classic dim sum dish and one of my favorites

Crab and vegetable dumplings

Pan fried vegetable dumplings (that also looked like they had bits of shrimp in them)

Baked pork buns - the bread is sweet and the filling is bbq pork

Steamed rice crepe wrapped around a fried cruller topped with cilantro and a sweet soy sauce

Steamed rice crepe filled with shrimp

Pan fried dumpling wrapped in tofu skin

Dessert: deep fried sesame balls - the inside is chewy mochi filled with sweet lotus or bean paste

We actually got a few orders of each dish so we were pretty stuffed by the end of our meal. I was actually hoping to get some tripe, which they prepare very well at Jing Fong, but sadly it never came around. We did see and pass on chicken feet though. I also wanted some egg tarts for dessert but all the dessert carts were pretty bare by the time they got to us, so we settled for the sesame balls.

The ladies who push around the dim sum carts don’t speak a lot of english, but we managed to get by with a mix of english and my mangled mandarin. When you pick out the stuff that you want from the cart, they put stamps on your scorecard indicating the number and the size of the dish you picked. I don’t know how much each dish is, but our bill for all the food was ridiculously tiny. After tax and tip, I think we each paid about $12. Service is a bit brusque but efficient. They kept our teapot filled and gave us a pitcher of ice water for the table when they saw how thirsty we were. They also cleared our table of empty steamer baskets frequently.

There are lots of dim sum places in the city with varying reviews and we haven’t tried them all.  Jing Fong, though, is always a great experience. When we take people there who have never been, they are always shocked by the size of the restaurant and by the number of people packed in. There’s always lots of variety, and the food is usually fresh because of the high volume and turnover. If you’re patient, you can usually get the dishes you want. The key is to show some restraint initially, and not just pick out a million things from the first cart you see simply because you’re hungry. The carts come by frequently, and each lady usually has different items on her cart. While there may be other dim sum parlors we want to try in Chinatown, we’ll always come back to Jing Fong. Not only is the food good, the restaurant has sentimental meaning for us. Maybe that makes us a bit partial, but just give it a try if you’ve never been – it’s always a fun time.

Jing Fong
20 Elizabeth St. at Canal St.
New York, NY

Flushing Food Run

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 by virginia

This actually took place a few months ago, but Josh and I finally made our way to Flushing for a little food tour. As I’ve admitted many times, we’re pretty lazy, and we always say that we “don’t do boroughs.” However, after reading several posts on other blogs about some of the great snacks available in Flushing, I couldn’t take it any more and had to go try it for myself. I was especially excited to be able to eat some Taiwanese foods, as there really aren’t many Taiwanese options in Manhattan.

My family is from Taiwan and whenever we go there to visit, we eat nonstop. The food there is just incredible, with so much variety and lots of unique options. Josh has been to Taiwan with me three times and has fallen in love with the food just as much as I have. He’s proven himself to my relatives as being an adventurous eater, as demonstrated by our quest to find and eat a rooster’s crown at the Shilin Night Market, a mission we accomplished. We weren’t seeking to eat quite so adventurously in Flushing, but we did have a list of several places that we wanted to hit up.

On one sunny Sunday afternoon, Josh and I hopped on the train and made our way all the way out to Flushing. The 7 train wasn’t running from Manhattan, which only made the trip even longer. About 45 minutes later, we finally arrived. Our first stop was right outside the subway, a little takeout window outside the Corner 28 restaurant. There we purchased two peking duck buns for just $1 each.

The peking duck bun takeout window at Corner 28 restaurant

The buns were the soft, fluffy mantou variety, and the duck itself was perfectly roasted, with crispy skin and nice, juicy meat. The buns were stuffed to the brim with duck meat, cucumber shreds, and scallions. The whole thing was topped off with a healthy squirt of hoisin sauce. These peking duck buns were made fresh right before our eyes, and we quickly stepped off to the side and devoured them. They were delicious, and a total bargain at $1 each. We were tempted to go back and get a second, but we knew we had a full day of eating ahead of us, so we showed some rare restraint and continued on our way.

Freshly made peking duck buns

Our second stop was a tiny hole in the wall restaurant called White Bear. The menu there features several kinds of dumplings and noodles, but we were there only for one dish – the wontons in hot oil.

These gorgeous little meat-filled packets were doused in a chili oil mixture that was flavorful but surprisingly not spicy. The wontons were plump and meaty with nicely thin skins, and were tasty on their own but were even better dipped in the chili oil sauce.

Wontons in hot oil

The sauce tasted a little peppery, and there was also some minced pickled vegetable sprinkled over the top that added a slight sourness that complemented the savoriness of the dish. These wontons were probably my favorites of the day, and at $4.50 for a dozen, pretty reasonably priced as well.

Wonton innards

Next we visited the food stalls of the famous Golden Mall. This place has been featured in many different blogs, articles, and even on tv. On the surface it’s not much to look at but inside it’s a food lovers dream.

The entrance to the Golden Mall

I was surprised by how tiny the food stalls were, with small tables and stools crammed inside, but that really gave an authenticity to the place, as I was immediately reminded of some of my favorite food stalls in Taiwan. The stalls are located down a flight of stairs and as soon as we entered, we smelled the familiar stench of stinky tofu. We followed our noses and immediately found a stall that offered the smelly delicacies.

The Happy Family Restaurant food stall

We pulled up some stools and placed our order for stinky tofu, watching as they deep fried a batch and topped the pile with hot sauce, sweet soy sauce, pickled cabbage, and cilantro. The first bite was deeply satisfying, as I had been craving stinky tofu since the last time we were in Taiwan, in November 2008. Although the stinky tofu here is nowhere as stinky as in Taiwan, we could still taste the subtle funkiness in the background. The smell might turn people off but the flavor is really something deliciously unique. It’s a little bit sour but also a little bit sweet. The tofu should have a nice crispy skin and silky innards, and topped with the spicy chili sauce and salty fermented cabbage, it’s a great combination of flavors and textures.

Stinky tofu in all its glory

After finishing up the huge plate of stinky tofu (also a bargain at $4.50), we traveled down the hall to Xi’an Famous Foods, probably the most well known of all the food stalls at the Golden Mall. It was featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and has been highly touted in numerous articles. They’ve since opened up a few branches in Manhattan, but I’m big on trying out the “original” restaurant, if it’s an option.

Xi’an Famous Foods stall

There are many things on the menu that I wanted to try, but I also wanted to save some stomach room for more stops on our food tour. We had intended on getting a lamb burger and a pork burger to go, but as we were waiting we started chatting with the guy at the register, who I think is the proprietor of the place (he’s the one in the pictures on the wall with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert), and he convinced us to get an order of liang pi cold skin noodles, one of their most popular dishes.

The liang pi cold skin noodles feature slippery and bouncy thick wheat noodles and cubes of gluten, that have a similar texture to bean curd. The noodles are doused in a spicy, slightly sour sauce that is heavily seasoned with cumin. If you had no idea where this dish came from, you would think it tasted middle eastern because of the spices. It’s a dish with complex flavors but was also really spicy, so much so that my eyes and nose both started running. Yet we couldn’t stop eating it. There were fresh bean sprouts on top that provided a bit of crunchy, cool relief, but that wasn’t enough.

Liang pi cold skin noodles

I needed something milky and cold to relieve the burning in my mouth, so I sent Josh off in search of bubble tea.

The stall with the bubble tea

He came back with cups of ice cold green tea milk tea for me and black tea milk tea for himself, both with thick tapioca pearls floating inside. The milk tea immediately soothed my taste buds, and we polished off the entire plate of liang pi noodles. We decided to save the lamb and pork burgers for later, as we had more eating to do.

Bubble milk tea to pair with the spicy liang pi cold skin noodles

We headed towards the Flushing Mall for some shaved mango ice but I got sidetracked along the way when we passed some takeout windows (AA Plaza) under the railroad overpass that boasted scallion pancakes for $1 and 4 steamed pork buns for $1.25. How could I resist?

AA Plaza takeout windows

We picked up one order of each and continued on our way. The food court of the Flushing Mall reminded me of the food courts in Singapore, with lots of different options and places that specialize in just a few dishes.

I wanted to try many things but we were pretty full at this point so we just went straight to the shaved ice stand and got an order of mango ice.

The assortment of shaved ice toppings

I first had mango ice in Taiwan, at a place called Monster Ice, and it was absolutely wonderful. It featured delicate shreds of shaved ice topped with ripe, juicy mango cubes, mango ice cream, and sweetened condensed milk drizzled all over. The version at the Flushing Mall looked somewhat similar, with mostly the same ingredients, but the differences were huge. The mango here was sour and unripe, and the ice was shaved way too thickly, so that it clumped together instead of melting like snow in our mouths. The mango ice cream on top was tasty, but I was pretty disappointed with the dessert overall. It looked good, but taste and texture-wise, it fell far short.

Mango ice

We ended up eating the lamb and pork burgers for dinner the next day, as well as the scallion pancake and pork buns. I ended up reheating them in a skillet so the textures might have been off, but they were still mighty tasty. The lamb burger was served on a griddled bun and the meat was heavily seasoned with cumin. Again, it tasted more middle eastern than Chinese, but it was wonderfully exotic.

Cumin lamb burger

The pork burger was served on the same bun, and the pork itself was stewed so that it was tender and falling apart. It definitely tasted more Chinese, but the spicing was more subtle compared to the lamb burger.

Stewed pork burger

The scallion pancake wasn’t as fluffy and flaky as I would have liked, but I’m sure it was due to the reheating. When we first bought it I could see that it was hot and crisp on the outside, so I know it must have suffered after spending the night in the fridge.

Scallion pancake

The pork buns were still really good, even after being microwaved. They were juicy and meaty on the inside, and the bun itself was still soft and fluffy. I would definitely get these again, and more than just four.

Steamed pork buns

Overall we had a really great time walking around Flushing and trying food from numerous places. The Golden Mall didn’t disappoint, and I wish we had more stomach space to explore the food court at the Flushing Mall. I smelled stinky tofu in there, plus I saw people with bowls of soy milk with fried cruellers, one of my favorite Taiwanese breakfasts. I loved the wontons at White Bear, and there are countless other restaurants in Flushing that we didn’t get a chance to try. I definitely want to go back, even if it means another 45 minute subway ride. The food really brings back great memories of my trips to Asia, and it’s definitely closer than taking a 14 hour plane ride.

Corner 28
40-28 Main Street
Flushing, NY

White Bear
135-02 Roosevelt Ave, #5
Flushing, NY

Golden Mall
41-28 Main St
Flushing, NY

AA Plaza
40-66 Main St
Flushing, NY

Flushing Mall
133-31 39th Ave
Flushing, NY

More Tasty Lunch Specials from Yum Yum Bangkok

Monday, February 8th, 2010 by virginia

It has been a while since Rodney and I had one of our weekday lunches at Yum Yum Bangkok. It’s a pretty far hike from our offices and the weather has been pretty lousy lately. One day, however, we decided to suck it up and make the trek over to 9th Ave., as we couldn’t resist the great lunch specials and tasty Thai food.

As I mentioned in my first post about Yum Yum Bangkok, the lunch special is basically any entree from the menu, which ranges from approximately $6.50 to $8, and comes with your choice of two appetizers from a decently broad list. I decided to try some new appetizers this time around, instead of my usual spring rolls and soup. Rodney and I both opted to start with a Thai salad, which was a pile of iceberg lettuce, some shredded carrot, and one slice each of cucumber and tomato. The salad was topped with a sweet peanut dressing, and it was perfectly fine but nothing special. I think the salads are pre-made and refrigerated though, as they came out almost immediately and were ice cold. But even so, the vegetables were still pretty fresh and crisp.

Thai salad with peanut dressing

I also opted for the steamed dumplings, which came two to the order. The dumplings were similar to Chinese shumai, and featured ground chicken and shrimp in a steamed yellow wrapper. They tasted ok, but texturally, they were kind of mushy.

Steamed dumplings

Rodney stuck with the spring rolls, which I liked better. I think I’ll stick with those the next time. Freshly fried and super crispy, with a sweet and sour dipping sauce, these are pretty hard to beat.

Crispy Thai spring rolls

For my main course, I also deviated from my usual chicken pad thai and went with chicken pad kie mao, which are flat wide noodles stir fried with chicken, broccoli, peppers, onions, and lots of Thai basil. It’s a very flavorful, savory dish, perfect for anyone who likes basil. The slightly licorice flavor permeates throughout, and though it’s slightly greasy, the noodles are perfectly cooked, not too mushy, and the vegetables provide a pleasing crunchy contrast. Just watch out for some of the peppers, as I bit into one thinking it was a bell pepper but it turned out to be super spicy. I’m sure they’d adjust the spice accordingly upon request. I would definitely get this dish again.

Chicken basil noodles (pad kie mao)

Rodney had the chicken pad priew whan, which was chicken in a sweet and sour sauce with onions, tomatoes, and pineapple chunks. It was a dish that reminded me of General Tso’s chicken, but fresher tasting. The sauce wasn’t too sweet or cloying, and the dish was tasty spooned over the accompanying white rice. The chunks of pineapple were a nice touch, and Rodney seemed to enjoy it a lot.

Chicken in sweet and sour sauce (pad priew whan)

As usual, Rodney couldn’t resist a scoop of green tea ice cream, still just $1 as the “summer special.” It might be freezing outside but he always has room for ice cream.

Green tea ice cream

Yum Yum Bangkok is still one of my favorite lunch places, and you really can’t beat the lunch special deal. We always eat tons of food and never spend more than $10 each, including tax and tip. The food is tasty and service is quick and attentive. It’s always packed whenever we go but we never have to wait for a table, so even though it’s a far walk from our office, we can still usually get in and out in less than an hour. I would definitely still recommend this place to anyone looking to get away from work for a bit and have a nice reasonably priced sit down lunch.

Yum Yum Bangkok
650 9th Ave. between 45th and 46th St.
New York, NY

Holiday Wrap-Up and Tailgate Party

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 by virginia

We spent the Christmas long weekend in NJ, of course, having Christmas dinner with my parents on Friday, Hanukkah brunch on Saturday afternoon (Josh’s parents were away the actual week of Hanukkah), and attending the last Giants game at Giants Stadium on Sunday. We did a lot of eating that weekend, feasting on a variety of foods.

Christmas Dinner

With my brother and sister both living out of state, neither of them could make it home for Christmas this year so we didn’t really have a big, elaborate meal since it was just me, Josh, and my parents. We kept it super simple with a hot pot filled with tofu, fish cakes, cabbage, and thin slices of pork.

Hot pot chock full of tofu, fish cakes, cabbage, and pork

In keeping with tradition, we dipped all the items into a combination of sha cha (Chinese bbq sauce) and hot sauce before eating them. The pot bubbled away on an electric hot plate in the middle of the table and we merrily threw more items into it until we couldn’t eat any more, and the broth was rich and flavorful.

More tofu and pork ready to go into the hot pot

We also had a big plate of pan fried soup dumplings, which Josh and I request every time we’re at my parents’ house. Even though they buy them frozen at a Chinese supermarket, these dumplings are actually really good. They have thicker skin than most soup dumplings but the filling is hearty and flavorful.

Yummy soup dumplings

Lastly, we had stir fried beef cooked with scallions, hot chilies, and the latest harvest of pimientos de padron. The padron peppers actually worked really well with the beef, making kind of a fusion twist on pepper steak.

Stir fried beef with scallions, chilies, and pimientos de padron

Hanukkah Brunch

Instead of exchanging gifts every night of Hanukkah, Josh’s family usually does gifts all on one day. We get together with his parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and cousins and have a big brunch first before digging into all of the presents. The highlight of the brunch is always Alice’s latkes, which she makes from a mixture of potatoes, onions, and matzo meal. She blends the ingredients together and then fries up the batter, which makes for a crispy outside and a creamy inside.

Potato latkes

This year Josh decided to fry up a batch using bacon fat, which Alice wasn’t too happy about. Is that sacrilegious? I don’t know, but in the end, there wasn’t much noticeable difference in the bacon fat latkes. They were maybe slightly crispier on the outside but there was only a hint of bacon flavor in the background, and it wasn’t worth the effort to collect the bacon fat.

Potato latkes fried in bacon fat

Brunch at Josh’s house also isn’t complete without bagels from Three Star Bagels in Teaneck, NJ. I haven’t found a bagel in NYC that even comes close to Three Star in terms of flavor and texture. Jersey bagels are bigger than NYC bagels, which a lot of people might not like, but since I love bagels, the more the better. The crust on a fresh Three Star bagel is both crispy and chewy, and inside is airy and chewy but not too dense. These are my favorite bagels, hands down.

The best bagels

You can’t have bagels without an assortment of schmears. We got both scallion cream cheese and lox cream cheese. My preference is the scallion, since its chock full of chopped up scallion that adds a nice freshness.

Lox and scallion cream cheese

I also prefer the scallion cream cheese because I love to pile lox onto my bagels, and doing that on lox cream cheese would just be overkill. I absolutely love lox, and could eat it every day.

Lots of lox, with tomatoes and onions on the side

The salads at Three Star are also top notch. We always get the egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad, and break off pieces of bagel to eat with each one. My personal favorite is the tuna salad, as it’s not overly mayo-y or fishy.

Tuna salad (in front), egg salad, and chicken salad

We also got a container of whitefish salad, which was a bit salty and oily. While it wasn’t bad flavor-wise, I still prefer tuna salad.

Whitefish salad

Lastly, we had some slices mozzarella and prosciutto rolls. It was pre-packaged so I didn’t think it would be that good but it was actually delicious. The prosciutto was flavorful and the mozzarella was milky and soft. There were some basil leaves in the center of the roll that tied it all together.

Prosciutto and mozzarella rolls

Tailgate Party

Last summer we got tickets to go to the Giants game that would be over Christmas weekend. We figured it would be convenient since we knew we’d be in NJ that weekend anyway. We didn’t realize that this would be the last Giants game ever at Giants Stadium, which made it all the more exciting. We planned on meeting our friends in the parking lot around 9 am to do some tailgating.

Our tailgating spot right outside gate C

Josh and I volunteered to take care of the chili, which we put together the night before. It was simple – just ground beef, peppers, onions, kidney beans, and lots of garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin. We brought it in a big pot and heated it up on the small grill that our friends brought for the occasion.

Big pot of chili

Our friends took care of everything else, which was really awesome of them. After we warmed up with cups of chili, the brats were next up on the grill. First they were cooked in a pan with onions and beer.

Brats in a beer and onion bath

Then they were placed directly on the grill to get some nice char and grill marks on the outside. These were the first brats I’ve ever eaten (surprisingly!) and I liked them a lot. Juicy, flavorful, and the onions were a nice touch.

Perfectly grilled brat

We finished off with two giant racks of ribs, which were rubbed with a spice mixture first and then slathered with tasty bbq sauce. The ribs came out tender and flavorful even though we were running a bit short on time.

Two giant racks of ribs on the grill

We had also intended to make burgers but ran out of time before the game started. Unfortunately, the Giants didn’t show up for this game at all. It really was quite a disgrace, and we left early, completely disappointed.

Beautiful day for football but bad game overall

Still, it was a gorgeous day, chilly but not freezing, and we had a blast tailgating. It’s nice to be able to drink beer at 9:30 am and not feel guilty about it! When we got cold the guys warmed up with some scotch while the girls stuck with hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. I couldn’t believe the number of people out tailgating so early in the morning, but the atmosphere was fun and festive. I definitely hope that we’ll be able to do this again!

Three Star Bagels
402 Cedar Lane
Teaneck, NJ

Enjoying Dumplings and Hand Pulled Noodles in Chinatown

Monday, December 7th, 2009 by virginia

I cannot believe that it has been over six months since the last time we were in Chinatown! We’ve just been really busy these last few months and Josh has been traveling so much for work that most of our weekends have either been spent holed up in our apartment due to exhaustion or spent with our families out in NJ. So finally we made time during the weekend after Thanksgiving and headed downtown in search of our beloved hand pulled noodles and dumplings.

Prosperity Dumpling


When we lived in Battery Park City, we used to walk to Chinatown and shop at the fresh produce stalls along East Broadway on our way to Lan Zhou for hand pulled noodles. Now that we live uptown, we took the BD to Grand St., which leaves us approaching Lan Zhou from the opposite direction. We ended up passing Prosperity Dumpling on the way and decided to stop in for a quick dumpling appetizer.

Prosperity Dumpling used to be our go-to dumpling joint, as we preferred its more ample filling and crispier pan-frying job than our previous favorite, Fried Dumpling on Mosco St. After we discovered the pan-fried dumplings at Lan Zhou, however, we passed on making the extra stop to Prosperity as it was out of our way.

I was eager to see if Prosperity’s dumplings were still the same, as it has been probably a year since we last visited. The dumplings amazingly are still 5/$1, which is hard to beat. We ordered directly from the cook and staked out some counter space in the tiny store. Because they always keep a large batch of dumplings cooking in a huge pan to deal with high traffic and for quick turnaround, we received our dumplings almost immediately.

The order/pick-up window in the tiny shop

The order/pick-up window in the tiny shop

They were hot and crispy like always, though the bottoms were a bit more well done than I prefer. This was probably due to the time these dumplings spent hanging out in the pan waiting to be ordered. But if you like dumplings with super crunchy bottoms, these were perfect.

Hot, crispy pan-fried dumplings fresh out of the pan

Hot, crispy pan-fried dumplings fresh out of the pan

We doused them with soy sauce and a bit of sriracha and dug in right away. They were exactly as I remembered – slightly thicker skin, meaty filling heavy on chives, juicy, and crunchy.

Pork and chive dumpling innards

Pork and chive dumpling innards

We also got a sesame pancake with beef to share. The pancake is more like a focaccia bread – puffy and a bit oily. It’s split down the middle sideways and filled with thin, chewy slices of beef, shredded carrots, and cilantro. There’s also some sort of sweet sauce doused on top of the filling. It tastes similar to a banh mi sandwich, and at $1.50 for a decently sized wedge, it’s a bargain. Though the beef is a bit tough, the flavors all work really well together.

Sesame pancake with beef

Sesame pancake with beef

Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles

With our appetites whetted and our bellies warm with hot dumplings, we continued along our way to Lan Zhou. We wanted to try a different noodle soup this time so we went over the menu posted on the wall and settled on the noodle soup with duck ($4.50). And because we’re crazy, we also ordered a batch of pan-fried dumplings, just for research comparison purposes of course.

While we waited, we watched the noodle man work his magic. It was a different guy from the last time we were there but the process is still the same, and no less magical.

Noodle man working his magic

Noodle man working his magic

Our noodle soup arrived shortly and we quickly started slurping away.

Duck noodle soup

Duck noodle soup

The noodles were as wonderful as always, slightly thick, chewy, and springy. The broth, however, was not what we were expecting. We’ve tried the duck noodle soup at both Super Taste and Sheng Weng, and it’s always light, slightly oily, and fragrant with duck flavor. This soup had no distinguishing poultry flavors and tasted heavily of Xiaoshing wine. Whatever pieces of meat there was in the soup was so boiled that it was gray and unrecognizable. It could have duck, or chicken, or pork. We couldn’t tell. There were also some slices of I think cuttlefish in the soup, as well as some bok choy. I loved the noodles but I was disappointed by the broth, which is half the experience.

Yummy springy and toothsome noodles

Yummy springy and toothsome noodles

We didn’t specify when we ordered the dumplings so we ended up with the larger order of 12 pieces ($3), which was fine because they were absolutely fantastic. The skins are thin and were perfectly fried on the outside.

Thin-skinned pan-fried dumplings

Thin-skinned pan-fried dumplings

Even though I already had dumplings at Prosperity, I scarfed up the majority of this platter. Dipped in soy sauce and sriracha, these dumplings are the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and spicy. We picked up another bag of frozen dumplings (50/$8) to keep on hand in our freezer.

More porky and chivey dumpling innards

More porky and chivey dumpling innards

Overall I was happy that the dumplings at Prosperity Dumpling have not changed over the last year and the prices are still the same. While I prefer the thinner skinned dumplings at Lan Zhou, I still have a craving for the thicker and chewier ones from Prosperity. They’re actually pretty different in flavor as well, but both are very satisfying. I really liked the sesame pancake with beef, and it could have been better if the pancake was fresher and warmer. That depends on the luck of timing when you go.

However, I was disappointed by the duck soup at Lan Zhou. While the noodles are still fantastic, the soup really didn’t taste like duck at all and Xiaoshing wine is kind of an acquired taste. I’m familiar with it because that’s how my mom makes drunken chicken, but in soup form it doesn’t provide the depth of flavor that I’m looking for. Next time I’ll stick with the tried and true beef noodle soup. Hopefully it won’t be another six months before we make another food-filled journey to Chinatown.

Prosperity Dumpling
46 Eldridge St. between Canal and Hester St.
New York, NY

Lan Zhou
144 East Broadway between Pike and Rutgers St.
New York, NY

A Perfect Saturday (Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles, Paris Sandwich, Di Palo’s, Lansdowne Road, Famous 53rd Street Halal Cart)

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009 by virginia

When Josh and I lived downtown, we would walk over to Chinatown almost every weekend. It was a bit of a hike but that just gave us an excuse to eat more, since we figured that we’d at least be walking off some of the calories we consumed. Some days we spent trying to find the best soup dumplings and other days we would navigate through the hustle and bustle of the steam carts at dim sum. After our meals, we would always wander through the fruit/vegetable markets and fish stalls and pick up some fresh groceries for the rest of the week. Our treks to Chinatown will always hold a special place in my heart, as it is on the way home from one of these trips that Josh proposed to me, on the steps in front of the Federal court house.

But I digress; this is a food blog after all! So at lunchtime on Saturday, we headed downtown with Claire and Sean, who are staying with us for the weekend, to introduce them to some of our favorite Chinatown foods.

Lan Zhou Hand Pulled Noodles

We started out with hand pulled noodles at Lan Zhou on East Broadway. I know hand pulled noodles have been blogged to death in the last few months, but they are definitely worth talking about. Josh and I have tried Super Taste and Sheng Weng, but we always come back to Lan Zhou because of their tastier broth. We got seats along the wall right next to the noodle maker and proceeded to watch him intently for 10 minutes while we waited for our soups. We’ve seen him make the noodles a hundred times, yet we still can’t grasp how it’s done. It’s simply amazing to see him take a ball of dough, bang it against the table a few times, twist his hands around, and somehow he always winds up with perfectly formed strands of noodles.

Hand pulling noodle man

Hand pulling noodle man

Claire and Sean shared a bowl of beef noodles, while Josh and I opted for the beef brisket noodles (both $4.50 each). The broths are similar – deep, rich and peppery – but the beef brisket is fattier and chewier, which I like better.

Noodle soup with beef brisket

Noodle soup with beef brisket

The noodles here are just perfect – tender yet chewy. They’re thinner than I generally like, but they still have a lot of spring and bite to them.

Yummy yummy noodles

Yummy yummy noodles

We also shared a large order of pan-fried dumplings (12/$3.00). Thin-skinned, crispy, hot and greasy, topped with soy sauce and Sriracha, these are just perfect. Josh and I currently have several bags of frozen dumplings from Lan Zhou in our freezer. They’re perfect for days when we’re just too lazy to cook. You can just pan fry them or boil them straight from the freezer – no need to defrost.

Yummy yummy dumplings

Yummy yummy dumplings

We love this place because you get to watch the noodles and dumplings made right in front of you, and a few minutes later, you’re digging into a steaming bowl or sizzling plate of that same stuff. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Woman hand making rows upon rows of dumplings

Woman hand making rows upon rows of dumplings

We had planned to stop at Prosperity Dumpling on our way to the more touristy side of Chinatown but decided to bypass it so that we could save room for our next stop, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery. Unfortunately, due to the recent amount of press that banh mis have received, the line was almost out the door of the tiny shop. It’s really quite a change from when we used to go and the place would be empty so you could sit on the boxes along the side wall and eat your banh mi right there. Instead of waiting on the ridiculously long line, we headed across the street and down the block to Paris Sandwich, which was almost barren in comparison.

Paris Sandwich


There was no wait to order two grilled pork ban mis, and we nabbed a table in the back to eat our freshly made sandwiches. The seating area is the only advantage of Paris Sandwich, as you can have your sandwich made to order and eat it right away. The bread, however, while super light and crispy, is pretty tasteless. The grilled pork is tender and the vegetables are fresh but there isn’t enough filling overall. I prefer Banh Mi Saigon Bakery handily over Paris Sandwich, and even if the sandwich is pre-made or if it gets soggy on the way home, I just pop it in the oven for a few minutes and the bread crisps right back up. The filling is ample and the pickled vegetables are perfectly tangy and crunchy. Regardless, the banh mis at Paris Sandwich made for a refreshing “snack,” as we were still pretty full from the hand pulled noodles and dumplings.

Grilled pork banh mi

Grilled pork banh mi

Di Palo’s Fine Foods


The next stop on our tour was Di Palo’s to pick up some supplies for our planned picnic in Central Park during the afternoon. We got two loaves of excellent Sullivan Street Bakery bread, a one-pound ball of fresh mozzarella ($6.99/lb) and, most exciting of all, a ball of burrata ($7.99). A friend told us about it and we’ve been itching to try it ever since, so this was the perfect time. We picked up some white wine and headed back uptown to meet up with another friend for our picnic.

After debating whether we could get away with drinking the wine in the park, however, we ultimately decided to bring some chairs and a table up to our roof deck and enjoy the outdoors without the hassle. It turned out to be the perfect plan. The weather was just right – warm, not too sunny, with a nice breeze – and the view from our roof is spectacular. It’s basically a 360 degree view of the whole city; we can see all the way down to the Statue of Liberty to the south, the Hudson to the west, all the way up to the GWB to the north, and all of Central Park to the east. Really really stunning.

View of Central Park from our roof deck

View of Central Park from our roof deck

Southern view

Southern view

Northwestern view

Northwestern view

Southeastern view

Southeastern view

Ok back to food. We supplemented our supplies from Di Palo’s with some prosciutto, genoa salami and more fresh mozzarella that our other friend brought in from a deli in Hoboken. We also had some prosciutto and manchego cheese that Josh got from the supermarket nearby, as well as ripe tomatoes on the vine, and some fresh basil from our windowsill planter. It really was quite the spread.

Meats, breads and produce

Meats, breads and produce

Selection of cheeses

Selection of cheeses

The highly anticipated burrata did not disappoint. The smooth exterior of the ball was broken open to reveal the creamy innards, which we spread on the bread with a knife, like ricotta.

Burrata innards

Burrata innards

Creamy and delicious

Creamy and delicious

We tried all the different combinations of the mozzarellas and the prosciuttos, and ate slices of manchego cheese wrapped with salami.

Prosciutto, mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato on Sullivan St. bread

Prosciutto, mozzarella, fresh basil and tomato on Sullivan St. bread

Salami and mozzarella

Salami and mozzarella

We ate until we could eat no more, and there were still tons left over. We spent the next few hours eating, drinking and chatting, and only headed back inside when the sun went down and it got too cold up on the roof. Then we proceeded to eat and drink some more, moving on to strawberries and scotch.

Lansdowne Road

Later in the evening, we headed out for a reunion of sorts at Lansdowne Road (Claire and Sean used to live in NYC and still have tons of friends here). Claire had called ahead to reserve several tables in the back room, and we worked our way through several beer bongs of Magic Hat #9 (my favorite beer), Stone IPA and Blue Moon.

Mmmmmm beer

Mmmmmm beer

Famous 53rd Street Halal Cart

Afterward, Claire and I stumbled our way home (bathroom emergency!) while Sean and Josh headed to 53rd St. and 6th Ave. to get some streetcart food from the Famous Halal cart. The cart, which has a pretty long line during the day, apparently is even more crowded at night, judging from the blurry shots Josh took with his iphone.

The food though is just as good, if not better, after you’ve had a few beer bongs worth of drinks! It was the perfect way to end a perfect day of eating.

Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce

Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce

Lan Zhou
144 East Broadway between Pike and Rutgers St.
New York, NY

Paris Sandwich
113 Mott St. between Hester and Canal St.
New York, NY

Di Palo’s Fine Foods
200 Grand St. between Mulberry and Mott St.
New York, NY

Lansdowne Road
599 10th Ave. between 43rd and 44th St.
New York, NY

Famous Halal Cart
Corner of 53rd St. and 6th Ave. (SE Corner during the day, SW Corner at night)
New York, NY