Appetite Beaters

September 11th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK agree: Best restaurant ever when hungry beyond delirium was the China Barn (Memory slips — it was either located in Waitsfield, Vermont or adjacent to Sugarbush Mountain. Anyway, it’s long closed). HG/BSK, very young SJ and daughter Lesley, would rush to the restaurant after a frigid, high energy day battling Sugarbush’s icy ski runs. Temperature usually hovered around zero. Slopes were demanding (HG ended an undistinguished ski career there after a right leg spiral fracture). When the HG/BSK family were seated at China Barn their collective appetites were honed to sheer madness. HG, a renowned over-orderer, kept the food coming. Dumplings, Noodles. Stir fries of pork, beef, shrimp, chicken and vegetables, won ton soup (a kiddy favorite). Did appetite have something to do with the family admiration of China Barn? As they say in the middle west: You betcha!! After the sumptuous Chinese feast, it was back to the rented condo for hot showers and ice cream in front of the TV. This was recalled by HG/BSK last night at a very late Chinese dinner following a long (no lunch) day of Prince Edward Island shore walking, sun bathing and swimming on a perfect, sunny, cloudless day. HG cooked a spicy Chinese eggplant dish. BSK stir fried Souris sea scallops and delectable snow peas with ginger, garlic, oyster sauce, etc.. BSK provided a pot of fluffy rice. Red wine. Gahan’s IPA brew. Sugarbush-type appetites were appeased.


Chopsticks Night In Santa Fe

October 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG did some chopping and BSK got the woks sizzling. Yes, Chinese food for dinner tonight. Chinese restaurants in Santa Fe are miserable so Chinese dining is strictly DIY. On HG/BSK’s menu was Gong Bao Chicken With Peanuts; String Beans With Ginger and Garlic; and stir fried Spicy Eggplant that used the little Japanese eggplants that are in season right now. Instead of steamed rice, there was a big bowl of room temperature soba with sesame oil and a bit of hot chili. A great meal. Easy to prepare. And cheaper than flying to New York to partake in a Chinese feast in Flushing.


Chinese Food Heaven

July 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK have been in New York and, with SJ as an informed guide, have been dining in Chinese restaurants in Chinatown and one in Brooklyn (on the border of Bay Ridge and Sunset Park). Glorious gluttony.

First stop was dinner at Oriental Garden on Elizabeth Street. A bit pricey and formal and (surprising for a Chinatown restaurant) a reasonably ambitious wine list. First some steamed chive dumplings and a dish of delightful little cubes of bean curd, deftly deep fried and then smothered in parsley, garlic and ginger. Then came the most heavenly prawns any of us ever had. Big ocean prawns presented to us wriggling in a net before going into the wok. The prawns were juicy, firm fleshed and filled with flavor and seemed almost like a cross between a prawn and a langoustine. Then a big flounder, steamed in rice wine and finished with hot oil, garlic, ginger and parsley. Continuing the sea food theme there were giant sea scallops (still attached to their shells) in a light black bean sauce. Final course was chow fun noodles. These were charred in the wok and mixed with scallions in a lusty brown sauce and melded with generous quantities of squid, scallops and chunks of cod.

Next was a fiery lunch at Shanghai Hepking Restaurant at 100 Mott Street. First, some fried pork dumplings, then, a fiery Ma Po Tofu — tender little chunks of bean curd in mouth tingling chili oil. Fish filets with bok choy and mushrooms in a slightly less blazing chili oil. HG restored his taste buds with the restaurant’s special cooling coconut milkshake.

HG also lunched solo at the tiny, plain spoken Henan Flavor Restaurant on Forsyth Street. A lovely young woman with a winning manner turns out soups and noodle bowls from her native province of Henan in China (Don’t confuse Henan with Hunan, the province noted for sophisticated peppery food). Big bowls of noodles and chicken topped with a variety of fresh vegetables cost five dollars. The noodles are hand pulled and silky (broad like pappardelle). The flavors are rich and hearty, redolent of cumin seeds and varieties of pepper. The taste is vaguely middle eastern, reflecting Henan’s history as an outpost along the Spice Road, and portions are huge. Henan Flavor has proved to be a savior of indigent lower east side artists who flock there on cold days to enjoy a warming, nourishing cheap bowl. The restaurant’s two dollar pork pancake is the best food bargain in New York.

On to Brooklyn for dinner at East Harbor Seafood Cuisine, a majestic place at 714 65th Street. Here, there was perfect Peking duck served with Bao, puffy buns rather than flat pancakes. Filets of tender flounder were served with the vegetables of the season plus some delectable slices of winter melon. There was a nice platter of chicken breasts and vegetables in a subtle sauce, all nestled on a bed of chow fun noodles. There were more vegetables in the form of garlicky sauteed pea shoots. Adding crunch to the meal were fried squid dusted with garlic and chili pepper. Fresh melon and slices of orange for dessert. Family and great Chinese food spell a winning combination for HG.

Sol Hyang Lee: A Northern Chinese-Korean Gem In Flushing

December 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

SJ here. New York for all of its size and population often seems like the smallest of small towns. You live here for enough time and you develop a personal circumference — where you walk, where you eat, where you live. And, if you are like me, you get to know that personal space down to its grittiest details. You learn the smells, the people, the graffiti, the cracks in the sidewalk, the empty lot that sprouts wild sorrell and the ancient Chinese woman who shuffles along with 400 crushed cans of Malt Liquor on her back. You mark this space like a lion on the Savannah by infusing it all with your personal mythology, your stories, your emotions — you superimpose a map of your own interior over the narrow map of the city that you know the best.

This is why I love Flushing. It is the opposite of my personal New York. It is a place still marked with mystery and discovery for me and like some big game hunter, it makes my forays to Flushing seeking food feel like an adventure. Well, last night I scored the Big Buck, the Big Kill when I went to Sol Hyang Lee, a noted Northern Chinese – Korean hybrid restaurant owned by ethnic Koreans who were raised in China on the borderlands between the two countries and whom speak both languages. I was tipped off to the spot by the excellent food blog

Skewers Grilling Over Hot Coals

Sol Hyang Lee specializes in BBQ skewers cooked at the table over real charcoal (a sad rarity in these new gas and electric dominated times). We ordered Mutton, Chicken and Lamb Chunk Skewers from a menu that ranged to such esoterica as pork heart and bull penis. They come 10 to an order (except for the Lamb Chunk which is cooked in the kitchen and comes two to an order but with bigger pieces). The meat is tender, well seasoned and redolent of smoke. It is served with a spice blend made up of peanut powder, cumin seed, chili powder, salt and sesame seeds. You roll your meat in the powder and eat it right up! Cumin and smoke are a beautiful combination, each complimenting the other, egging their unique properties onto higher levels. We also ordered a brace of boiled dumplings (nothing amazing, but hearty and and unstructured in a very home-made, authentic way), pitchers of cold beer, water spinach in garlic sauce and a killer dish of tiny squids served whole on a bed of dried chili pods, cilantro and garlic scapes.

Squid with Chili Pods

The waitress, who was super nice and friendly, but none too adept in English, gave us a complimentary pickled cucumber dish which snapped with heat and bits of tofu skin and rubbery, clear noodles. There was also Ban Chan (the traditional small dishes served at all Korean restaurants). This was a totally unique meal with unexpected flavours (the cumin/peanut poweder will haunt my brain for a few weeks) and the joy of discovery. Everything I had was top notch and prepared with joy and love and I can’t wait to get back and try some deeper menu items including some of their offal choices and a quail dish that people seemd to be noshing on with much joy.

Vicki Whites

December 9th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s usual beverage with Chinese food is beer (sometimes mixed with Guiness Stout for a Black-and Tan). Never found an agreeable wine that enhanced Chinatown cuisine. Until…

At the feast HG recently enjoyed at Congee on the Bowery, Restaurateur Daughter Vicki F. brought two wines that added a new, positive dimension to the meal. Wine One: Sauvignon Blanc. Box O’ Birds, Marlborough, New Zealand 2011. Wine Two: Riesling, Thirsty Owl, Finger Lakes, N.Y. 2009. Super yummy. Would go nicely with Indian food, HG believes.

Eggy treat From the Past

September 19th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

When was the last time you saw or ate Egg Foo Young? It was an Americanized take on a classic Shanghai dish and a staple of the Chinese restaurants of HG’s youth. It was not, like the combo plate or the oft discussed Chow Mein sandwich, one of HG’s favorites.

Curiously, HG had a hankering for it yesterday. So, HG beat a bunch of eggs. Chopped onions and celery. Washed some bean sprouts. Shredded some Nori. Mixed it all together with a bit of salt and pepper. Heated peanut oil to the sizzling point. Made a big bunch of Egg Foo Young pancakes (mini omelets?) and served them with hot mustard, hoisin sauce and a tossed green salad. Don’t think it was the classic Egg Foo Young of yesteryear but it was mighty good. Give it a try.

Random Old Fogey Thoughts

September 13th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Why was New York’s Jewish population so fond of Chinese food? It was a Sunday night tradition to eat (in the ignorant parlance of the times) at the “Chinks.” When HG was growing up Moms cooked family dinners throughout the week and the whole family was present at these meals. Sunday was a vacation day for Mom. Therefore the journey to the “Chinks” and the joyful gastronomic mix and match game of putting together (from rows A & B, which were what how most Chinese menus at the time were organized) a fine “combination platter.”

The HG family bypassed Sunday Chinese cuisine for platters of corned beef, pastrami, cole slaw, potato salad and sour pickles from the neighborhood delicatessen (the HG family favored the Tower Delicatessen on Kingsbridge Road in The Bronx). Following that meal there was tea and pastries with family friends and vigorous games of pinochle. The Sunday-Vacation-Day-For-Mom theme was set by obligatory listening to the Sunday morning Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour which consisted of music (instrumental and vocal) from gifted kiddies. Horn & Hardart (renowned for its Automats) was promoting its take-out stores. The program’s theme song was: ” Less Work For Mother, She’ll Understand.”

Now, none of this actually explains the original question of why New York Jews loved (and still love!) Chinese food. For a searching analysis, HG turned to perceptive SJ. Here’s what SJ has to say on this cross cultural subject: SJ cannot definitively answer such a weighty and complex question. But, it is worthy of intellectual speculation. SJ suspects that it had something to do with immigrant Jews (who were trying desperately to fit into their new American homeland) feeling a sense of ease while dining in establishments where the Chinese staff was, if anything, more foreign then them; and furthermore, a staff who saw no difference between Jewish customers and any other customer — which could not be said for many restaurants of the time. Plus it was cheap, salty and delicious. The fact that linchpins of Chinese cuisine were un-kosher pork and shrimp, was blithely ignored.

Hey Now! He Nan Food! – An SJ Post

June 21st, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Thank God for Flushing. In that noble Queens neighborhood, cheap rents in the warrens of underground food courts and back alleys allow purveyors of obscure, Chinese regional cuisine the chance to thrive. And if they do in fact thrive the next step is to take their goods to Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Thus, Flushing’s Henan Feng Wei — lauded by heroic restaurant critic Robert Sietsema — recently opened an outpost at 68 Forsyth St named He Nan Flavor. Again, thank you Flushing!

Henan is a northwest province in China and He Nan Flavor celebrates the food found in the night markets of Zhengzhou, the capital city. Forget about typical Cantonese fare, this is a bold stuff that reflects Henan’s Middle Eastern and Sichuan influences.

The first dish I tried was the “Pancake with Pork” which just that — a crispy, griddled hot-cake dotted with sesame seeds and stuffed with anise tinged minced pork and cilantro. Not a bad treat for $2!

Next up was a dish called “Spicy Chicken Hui Mei” which was just remarkable. A huge bowl filled with hand pulled, chewy, wide noodles covered with stewed chicken. These noodles come lathered in a sauce of red chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, tiger lily bulbs and cumin seeds. It was a taste explosion. While the chili oil added a satisfying burn, the Sichuan peppercorns have a narcotic, numbing effect and great flavor — but it is the earthiness of the cumin seeds layered against those pleasantly chewy noodles and stewed chicken that makes the dish something to dream about on a cold, winter day.

On further visits, I tried the Lamb with Lo Mein Soup — which was those same amazing noodles in a milky broth redolent of lamb and an under tone of anise. Powerfully addictive. I also tried their boiled dumplings which come 15 to an order!!!! No dish here tops out over $6 and it is a generally clean and cheerful place with attentive owners who have a real pride and seem genuinely happy that you have decided to dine with them. On the wall there is a photo of a dish called “Big Tray of Chicken” — I will be back!

Gone But Not Forgotten Restaurants: Bo-Bo

June 20th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Bo-Bo was a tiny restaurant located on Pell Street in New York’s Chinatown. No reservations. Often there was a 45 minute wait. Well worth it.

HG has forgotten the details of some of Bo-Bo’s best dishes, but one stands out. HG and BSK always ordered (and savored!) a big lobster roll. No, it was not the popular, New England lobster-and-mayonnaise on a hot dog roll. This was a giant sized egg roll stuffed with big chunks of lobster. To die for, as the cliche has it.

Bo-Bo was the first of Esther Eng’s five Manhattan restaurants and it set a new standard for Chinese food in New York. Curiously, Esther Eng was not just an enterprising restaurateur, but a groundbreaking figure in Chinese cinema. From 1936 to 1949 she produced, distributed and directed nine features and gave Bruce Lee his first screen debut. One result of her incarnation as a cinematic auteur was that Bo-Bo was often adorned with gorgeous Chinese actresses. When she passed away in 1970, the New York Times’ obituary simply read: “Theatrical director, producer, restaurateur, a great lady.”

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