Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mushroom and Tofu Vermicelli

I just wrote my first article for the Friedman Sprout! Check out my recipe for a simple vegetarian friendly take on my shrimp and cellophane noodle  stir-fry. 

Mushroom and Tofu Vermicelli

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prosperity Dumpling and 456

I love dumplings. It's something that every Chinese child grows up eating because it's a filling meal that can easily be pre-prepared and frozen for future mid-day snack or dinner emergencies. But there are good dumplings and there are bad dumplings. Here, I will share with you two of my favorite places to get dumplings in New York Chinatown. 

Prosperity dumpling has about a thirty square foot store front and is a hidden gem even in Chinatown. I mean, who ever walks down Eldridge Street? But once you find this place, you will find yourself going back time and time again because their dumplings are simply one of the bests in Chinatown. Their fried dumplings/ pot stickers/ wo teeps are addictive. They're made of the classic pork and leek combination with a thin skin that is perfectly fried on the bottom. 5 for $1? $3, please! You can also buy them frozen by the bag (great investment). They only have a standing bar area that fits about four people, so my brother and I usually take our dumplings to Grand Park. 

Fried dumplings doused in soy sauce and black vinegar  

Prosperity Dumpling
46 Eldridge St # 1  
New York, NY 10002

As I said, I love dumplings. And the most famous dumplings are the steamed soup dumplings (xiao long bao) found in Shanghainese cuisine. Ergo, I love Shanghainese cuisine. The flavors of Shanghainese food can be characterized by the abundant use of dark soy sauce and black vinegar. It can be quite carbohydrate-intensive, for they have, for a lack of a better description, a lot of buns.

Eating xiao long bao is an art, for if you are not careful, you will probably leave your tongue with a third degree burn upon biting into it. The magic of the steamed soup dumpling is that there is a mouthful of steaming hot luscious pork broth inside the delicate dumpling skin. The skin is a very important aspect of the dumpling, for it cannot be too thick. Dumpling masters know how to knead the optimal thickness of the skins to hold the soup, yet not overwhelm the lump of pork in the middle. It's a very delicate balance and hard to pin down. I personally split open the dumpling and sip up the soup, then proceed on dipping it into a black vinegar and ginger sauce. Heaven on earth.

There are plenty of Shanghainese places in Chinatown, but 456 has recently become one of my favorites due their consistent quality of flavors, ingredients, and most importantly, soup dumplings (not the best in the world, but it will do for New York City). Here are some other Shanghainese dishes that I would recommend: 

Cold platter with braised tofu, garlic seaweed, and smoked fish

Steamed juicy pork bun

Dried tofu, prok, and hot pepper stir-fry

Sauteed string beans

Shanghai braised noodle

Scallion pancake (it's Shanghainese, not just Chinese takeout!)

If you're looking for soup dumplings in Boston, there are a few places that do not necessarily specialize in Shanghainese  cuisine, but have some of the aboved photographed dishes and dumplings: Gourmet Dumpling House, Dumpling Cafe

69 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Shin Ramyun BLACK

Everyone eats ramen. I mean, at some low point in your life, I'm sure you've had it for dinner, at 3am, or all too often. It's nothing to be ashamed about; I grew up with instant noodles as a Saturday night treat, and it was the only food that my dad knew how to prepare. Furthermore, growing up near K-town, I would  sometimes go to my corner Korean deli and order a ramyun. Yes, I pay for someone to cook a Shin Ramyun for me. Anyways, Shin is definitely my ramen of choice, closely followed by the Nissin instant noodle (note: NOT Cup Noodle) with the original soup flavor and sesame oil. 

I recently noticed a Shin Ramyun Black, and I had to buy it because I needed to understand the difference  between that and the original. The only difference from the all-red packaging is that it says "BLACK." Later when I paid, I also realized it costs twice as much as the original, at $1.79 a pack.  

Shin Ramyun Black is actually the premium line and it comes with the spicy broth base, a garlic and beef bone broth, and the dried green onion and beef pieces. WARNING: this ramyun is not vegetarian friendly. 

Compared to the original, I don't think it's worth twice the price. The soup definitely had more depth than the original, but it was a bit less spicy, and it leaves you with a sense of longing for the original spicy soup base. Still good, though. I wish I had a slice of American cheese to melt in it!   

Friday, February 24, 2012

A case of the leftovers: Chicken and peas orecchiette

I always seem to have leftover chicken in my refrigerator. I find it extremely difficult sometimes to prepare  single-sized portions for myself, so it's always good to have a few extra ingredients around to recreate your leftovers.

pasta- buy a few different kinds, so you're not always stuck eating penne
frozen vegetables- the easiest solution to a long day. In my fridge, you will find frozen peas, broccoli, and corn. 
box of salad-  quick way to add a vegetable side dish to every meal 

So with my leftover chicken, I whipped together a very simple pasta over salad.

Chicken and peas orecchiette
3oz chicken (shredded)
1/2 cup orecchiette
1/2 cup peas
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt, pepper
optional: 1 cup arugula

1. Cook the orecchiette and remember to add salt to the boiling water.
2. Sautee the frozen peas in olive oil. Add the chicken once the peas are thawed.
3. Add the pasta into the pea and chicken mixture. Sprinkle black pepper liberally.
4. Serve over arugula

And there you have it. A meal that will take less than 15 minutes to make that will totally transform your leftover chicken bits.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eating on Newbury: Charley's, Cafeteria, & The Met

I'm still figuring out the best places for a classier/less casual/yet still affordable meal in Boston, and whenever I want a nice ambiance and a decent meal, I always find myself wandering back to Newbury Street. 

A few months ago, I went with Jen to Charley's Saloon. All their brunch options come with a complimentary cockatial, so she got a mimosa and I got a spicy Bloody  Mary. She then ordered the eggs benedict, and I was feeling more in a lunch mood, so I got an onion soup and a Maryland lump crab cake. It isn't the most delicious tasting brunch I've ever had, but the seating area is very comfortable and lined with paneled windows. Not a bad brunch place or hangover cure. 

Eggs benedict

Onion soup gratinee

Maryland lump crab cake

Charley's Saloon
284 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02115

I honestly wanted to try Cafeteria for their parmesan fries, so I asked my cousin Emily to accompany me for lunch there one weekday afternoon. For starters, Cafeteria is no cafeteria. It has a very simple, modern-rustic (if that even makes sense) vibe. We split two sandwiches: curried chicken salad with grapes, almonds, curry aioli on sourdough and a Greek salad sandwich on a French roll. The curried chicken salad, I feel, is becoming an increasingly popular option at many modern restaurants or gastro-pubs; it's flavorful, familiar, and completely new. Definitely something that I would order again, especially at Penelope's or Foundry on Elm. The Greek salad sandwich is exactly as it sounds like, a Greek salad in a French roll held together by tzatziki, a cucumber yogurt spread. The fries were delightfully crispy, but my favorite fries in the Boston area is still in Central Square's Garden at the Cellar. Cafeteria is definitely a good choice for a quick bite when you're on Newbury Street. 

Curried chicken salad sandwich with parmesan fries

Greek salad sandwich with parmesan fries

279a Newbury Street  
Boston, MA 02115

Want another lunch place on Newbury? Read about Stephanie's!

Mid-afternoon snack: 
Saturday morning, I went for a run and then headed out for some afternoon shopping. I did not realize how sensitive my body's metabolism was, and I found myself dehydrated and famished on Newbury Street at 2pm. Good thing Megan wanted to get a drink, so we headed to the closest cafe-looking place: The MET. They have plenty of starters that I wanted to try including short rib tacos, wild mushroom pizzette, and hand-made buttermilk biscuits, but we settled on curried cauliflower. I then was craving a burger, so I pounced for the Kobe burger, LA style (it's good to keep things consistent). LA style means served with bacon, avocado, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and roasted garlic mayo (which was finger-licking good) on a sesame bun. The beef wasn't as juicy or tender as I hoped it would be, but it hit the spot. I was, however, quite disappointed by their MET truffle french fries because they were just plain fries. I even asked the waiter if it was right because there was not a single hint of truffle. How disappointing. Regardless, I think The MET has the most comfortable seating area with nice bay windows and ample seating space. Definitely a place that I would visit again for another casual afternoon snack, lunch, or brunch. But keep in mind, even though I got there at 2pm, there was still a slight wait. How queer.

Kobe burger, LA style with truffle fries 

The MET Back Bay
279 Dartmouth Street
Boston, MA 02116

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tout Va Bien

I was going to be in Manhattan this weekend, and I'm highly regretting staying in Boston. As this Linsanity trend continues, the rest of my family found themselves all over the TVs of New York cheering for the Harvard graduate. It's not the same in Boston as watching Knicks games surrounded by New Yorker Knicks fans (I mean, before Lin, why would anyone be a Knicks fan unless he or she was from New York?). Besides all this basketball talk, I am here to introduce you to my new found hidden French gem in the heart of the best city in the world: Tout Va Bien. 

It was 10:30pm, and my brother and I just got out of Jersey Boys. We wandered around the Theater District and by chance encountered Tout Va Bien. We walk into a quite dingy looking restaurant/bar, and it had the very familiar scent of a fraternity house. We were hungry; they had a traditional French menu. My brother and I decided to share a few starters. 

Warm goat cheese salad

Pate Maison

French onion soup


I am a huge fan of French food, and I think I just about ordered the basics for a great comforting meal. Basically, I need to go back here for a full dinner to try the bouillabaisse and frog legs. It was easy to get a table that late, and they offer a pre-theater prix fixe menu option. I think it turns into a European bar scene later on it the evening, and we got there during their transition time. The wait staff were all young and French, and our waitress even gave us a sad face when we said we were going to pass on dessert. I highly recommend this place if you're in the area; it offers great solid traditional faire that will slap a smile on your face. If you're looking for French, this place is more French than France. 

Tout Va Bien
311 W 51st Street
New York, NY

Friday, February 17, 2012

Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Brewery

I am incredibly homesick. And when I'm homesick, I start craving for foods that are pretty much unique to Manhattan, namely pizza. Pizza is just not the same anywhere else in the world. I am fortunate enough to be from New York City, home of the hand-tossed, thin-crusted, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese pizza. The pizza in NYC is so good, I was thoroughly underwhelmed in Naples, Italy, home of the absolute original Italian pizza. New York pizza is just honestly better than Italian pizza. (Sorry Shumpert, don't even get me started on deep dish. That's not pizza. #NYKallday #knicksnation) And I am spoiled enough to grow up going to school in Greenwich Village, taking for granted the $1 slice and soda after most schooldays. Though my favorite pizzeria on the corner of Bleecker Street closed years ago, there are still many worthy pizzerias in Manhattan. 

Most recently, my friend Elton insisted that we try out Artichoke. We ordered a margherita slice, their famous artichoke pizza, a stuffed artichoke, and two Stellas on tap. 
1. They serve their beers in 32oz styrofoam cups and allow you to take a cap and straw to have it to go. Drinking beer in the middle of the day in Union Square? Win. 
2. Don't bother with the stuffed artichoke. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was pretty much pure butter and breadcrumbs. 
3. The margherita slice is solid, but a little too crispy. The crust is a bit on the thick crunchy side, but all the flavors and the consistency of the cheese were perfect. So good, I burnt my tongue several times because I needed to eat it. 
4. The artichoke pizza is like creamy artichoke dip on crispy doughy bread. It was very novel, very delicious, and I will go back for more. I wish the crust were thinner, but the artichoke and cream sauce goes well with a doughier crust as well. 
5. Can their pizza get any more oily?? Be prepared to use 1/2 dozen+ napkins to soak up all the excess oil. 
6. $5 a slice and $30 a pie?? A splurge, but definitely a 2am crowd pleaser. 
7. This place is known for fried oreos and delivers until 4:45am? Amazeballs. 

Artichoke Basille's Pizza & Brewery 
328 East 14th Street
New York, NY

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Happy Valentine's Day! In honor of this highly publicized holiday, I will post about one of my favorite dessert places in Manhattan, Chikalicious. If you ever leave dinner in the East Village still hungry, do not hesitate to head to E 10th Street for a sweet fix (or if you're a girl and that extra dessert compartment in that stomach of yours is empty, this is the place to go).

They have prix fixe dessert menus that come with an amuse, a choice of seasonal desserts, and petit fours for $16. For $8 more, there is also a wine pairing available. Everything is prepared by the owner and his wife. The owner looks over the finances, the drinks, and the espresso machine, while the wife bakes, makes ice creams, and gently smiles at her customers. Her menu is creative, modern, original, and refreshing. How many places do you go to that will serve you a three-course dessert?

The space is extremely intimate, and you'll be lucky to get a seat. Also keep in mind that it is only opened on Thursday through Sunday (I went on a Tuesday night once, saddest day ever... then I walked to Veniero's #crisisaverted). Definitely worth a trip and the taste.

Have a very sweet day!

Fromage blanc island "cheese cake"

Selection of petits fours

203 E 10th Street 
New York, NY 10003

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Praha, Czech Republic

Prague: home of the famous astronomical clock, Franz Kafka, goulash and dumplings, Alfons Mucha, and really good beer. This was the final stop on my rendezvous in Eastern Europe, and I learned so many things about Czech history and Soviet occupation. The old King Wenceslas, the largest Medieval castle in Europe, and the Golem all have their mark on the city of Praha. 

Like I said, there was a lot of goulash and dumplings. I kind of made it a point to have goulash once a day, but because the weather is so cold, that's pretty much what you want after a day of trekking in sub-freezing temperature. What is goulash? It's a very hearty stew that will warm you up all over. In Prague, most of the goulash I ate was beef-based and more like a gravy sauce than a soup. The dumplings, or knedliky, are doughy bread-like side dishes that are meant to soak up the thick gravies and stews. It takes getting used to, but I must admit the Czech dumplings grew on me. 

Other things that I ate: the largest pig knuckle I've ever seen, Bohemian sausages, fried cheese sandwiches, mulled wine, grog (hot rum), and Czech dark beer. Dark Kozel was probably one of the best things that happened to me. The first glass I had tasted like liquid chocolate; it was love at first sip. What I would give right now for another mug of dark Kozel, even if it means wylin' out with a bunch of teenagers in a cellar. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Greek Corner: Gyros on Mass Ave.

I've never been to a Greek restaurant before. I've been to Greek delis for gyros, but that's about it. So I was very excited when Doug suggested that we go to Greek Corner, located on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. 

Again, the cross-culturally accepted fried calamari. 

I'm pretty sure we all got the gyro sandwich plate. It was good amounts of lamb balanced with salad and some fries (other option being rice pilaf). The only glaring problem: I wish the pita were freshly baked. 

We also shared a baklava dessert, which was served rather questionably (reference photo below), but we ate it down to the last crumb. 

For our three course meal, it was about $20 a person, including tip. Not bad for an off-campus venture. Overall, It was enjoyable, but I'm definite there are more things to try from Greek culture than lamb kebab. Next time!

Greek Corner
2366 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140