Friday, February 23, 2007

Mmmmm...Dim Sum....

Chinese food is definitely one of the most popular cuisines around, yet it's so diverse because of the vast regional differences in China that most people have a very limited exposure to it. We thought we'd give everyone a quick overview on one of the more popular dining experiences in Chinese culture, which is Dim Sum. Surprisingly, it's a word that thrown around very often, yet most people haven't had a chance to experience Dim Sum.

Well, what is Dim Sum? It's a dining experience where you can order small appetizer like dishes a la carte. Dim Sum is part of Southern China's Cantonese fare, and Dim Sum in Cantonese can be essentially translated as "small snack". It's often eaten in the afternoons as a meal for lunch or brunch, and is extremely popular with Chinese families and group meals.

There's no menu to order from, but rather the dishes are rolled around the restaurant on carts, where the dishes are usually stacked on top of one another in bamboo steamers. The servers will come up to each table, lift the covers off the steamers and show you their selection, and then if you want to order it, you simply tell them. The dishes are categorized as small, medium, large, and special dishes. Cost is based on these categorizations, and will usually run from about $2-$4 for small to large. Special dishes cost around $6 and up. They'll then tick off your order on your bill based on the categorization of the dish.

The dishes usually have about 3-4 pieces of whatever you order. Usually they'll consist of various dumplings, buns, rolls, and other items. Dim Sum is meant to be shared, and with a piece or two of every dish, you get to sample a very wide variety of food.

The other important part of dim sum is tea. Dim Sum is meant to be eaten with tea, and is often referred to as "yum cha" as well. Yum Cha means "with tea." Most dim sum restaurants will offer jasmine or chrysantheum tea as the norm. Sit down, eat, drink some tea, and just gab the afternoon away with friends. Dim Sum is really just one great big enjoyable social experience.

So go ahead, give it a try if you've never before. In the next few days, we'll be introducing some of the more commonly ordered items from the dim sum carts. Yum Yum!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fried Rice Cake

Unlike the last two dishes, Fried Rice cakes may seem somewhat odd and unfamiliar at first. It's not really normal rice and not really noodles, then what is it? Well it's made of glutinous rice (sticky rice), is somewhat chewy, and has a texture almost like the thick noodles used in the noodle soups at Joe's Shanghai. The rice is grounded and turned into a paste. The paste is shaped and cut up into pieces. Alone, it does not have much flavor, but there is a generous amount of good seasoning here.

The fried rice cake dish includes some greens, mushrooms, bamboo, and beef. The beef can be substituted with Pork, Chicken, Vegetables, Shrimp, Seafood, or Subgum. I prefer the beef or the pork. It's also a little more expensive for the shrimp, seafood, or subgum.

The texture from the rice cakes combined with the seasoning and the other ingredients creates a very fulfilling dish that you will not regret. The dish may look very strange and different from what you may usually think of when you think of Chinese food, but its nothing more then rice in a different shape. So give it a try!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Joe's Shanghai - Szechuan Beef Tendon Noodle Soup

Whenever I'm craving a good noodle soup from Joe's Shanghai I can always turn to this, Szechuan Beef Tendon Noodle Soup. It contains the same thick noodles used in most of the noodle soups served at Joe's Shanghai. There are also some greens, but what makes this dish is the very tender beef tendon. The marinated beef tendon is so tender, it will fall apart in your mouth once you bite into it. No need for excessive chewing here.

If you don’t know what Szechuan style dishes are like, you should know that they are very tasty, but better known for their spiciness. It’s speculated that Szechuan style cuisine has an emphasis on spice because of the region’s warm and humid climate, where people would need a good sweat. If you don’t have a high tolerance for spice, this will definitely give you a good sweat. What is great about it though is that the spiciness only adds to the flavor. Unlike many spicy dishes, this dish does not take away from the flavor or overwhelm it.

One of the reasons why I love Joe’s Shanghai so much is the value of the food. Like their other noodle soups, this one will cost you just under 5 dollars. Something this good and filling for such a price is hard to find.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Where do I find Dolsot Bibimbap??

This is response to a comment that was recently posted, as to where they can find some good Dolsot Bibimbap.

Well if you're in NYC, you're in luck. There are plenty of places for you to go.

So you just finished a great night out in the city clubbing, bar hopping, or just strolling around times square and your starving and youre craving some good Korean food. Here are some places that have good food and open 24 hours

is arguably the best and most authentic Korean restaurant in NYC. It's located on:
9 W 32nd St,
between 5th Ave & Bway.

Won Jo is another restuarant I would recommend. This is located on:
23 W 32nd St, between Bway & 5th Ave

Kum Gang San is also great! They have 2 locations, both open 24 hours:
138-28 Northern Blvd, between Union St & Bowne St
and also on
49 West 32nd St,
between Bway & 5th Ave

These are just a few places you may want to check out. Other locations you may want to check out is St Marks place or Northern Blvd between Main and 165th St

Monday, February 12, 2007

Joe's Shanghai - Pork and Salted Vegetables Noodle Soup

Usually two things come to mind when anyone thinks of Chinese food. Rice and noodles. For today’s entry, we’re gonna talk about noodles. Noodles are cooked in a variety of ways in China, from stir fried, fried, boiled, to even being made an integral part of soups. Noodle soups are great and simple meals, especially on a cold winter’s day.
Joe’s Shanghai offers a great selection of noodle dishes, and they’re all extremely delicious. One simple dish tends to often stand out for me, and is full of very standard ingredients often used in southern Chinese cuisine. It’s a noodle soup with pork and salted vegetables.
First off, it’s in a clear soup broth. The ingredients are of course the noodles, which tend to be of a thick variety, which become very soft and absorb the water and flavor from the soup. Accompanying the noodles are slivers of pork, which have been marinated and tenderized so that they remain very soft and have an almost springy texture to it. The vegetables are what seem to give this dish most of its flavor. Small slivers of bamboo are used, and if you’ve never had bamboo before, it’s a very unique taste. It’s often firm and crisp, but is also very sweet in its flavor. The salted vegetables are the dull dark green olive colored additions to the soup. They’re often small pieces of pickled radishes or other cucumbers, and are called salty vegetables for a reason. They’re really salty! It’s not advised you eat them alone, or you might not like it. They’re often eaten paired with rice or noodles, or often placed into soups to add a unique flavor to the soups like it does in this one.

To get the full amount out of this dish, you need not eat each element just by itself, but you need to take bites with all the ingredients placed juxtaposed next to each other. Use your chopsticks and get a nice amount of noodles into that soup spoon, and then sink it into the soup to get some of those vegetables, bamboo, pork, and most importantly, the soup itself. With it all nicely wrapped up in one nice package, go ahead and sink that sucker into your mouth and let the party in your mouth begin!


Spicy Beef Tendon Noodle Soup

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Joe's Shanghai - Soup Dumplings

When you enter Joe's Shanghai in New York City(once you manage to get a seat that is), the first thing a waiter will ask you before you even look at the menu is whether you want to order these little beauties. What are they? Most people simply translate them as Soup Dumplings. They appear as the first and second items on the menu as Pork Steamed Soup Dumplings. Its name in Chinese is xiao long tang bao, if any cares to know. Basically this is Joe's Shanghai's claim to fame. You'll be hard pressed to find these in many places, and Joe's Shanghai claims to have been the original inventors of this delicious steaming specialty. It comes relatively cheap too at $4.25 for that entire rack, (more towards $6 if you venture out into the expensive Midtown branch), and it's well worth the price. So what are they?

These little jewels are pork dumplings(the pork filling is heaven), wrapped in a nice thick chewy dumpling skin. Inside the skin, marinating and bathing the filling is a nice hot soupy mixture that gives the Soup Dumpling it's name. It' usually pools at the bottom and causes the bottom of the dumpling to splay out like you see in the picture. There's really nothing else like this, and I've had this at other restaurants, but nobody comes even close to making it like Joe's Shanghai does.

Now there is a proper way that this needs to be eaten, or else it can be a painful and burning experience, or a very sloppy and messy one. Too often I've seen people burn their lips, the roof of their mouths, and other parts because they weren't prepared for how hot the soup inside was and weren't prepared for it to squirt out of the dumpling like a nicked artery when they eat it wrong. Other times, if it doesnt squirt into their mouths, it ends up all over the table, or on other people's plates, or even on other people. That's not preferable, not because you're making a mess, but you'll be losing the soup, which is what makes the dumplings delicious.

So how do you eat it??(you can skip this if you think it's silly, but come back to it if you end up spilling the soup or burning yourself)

The first challenge comes in grabbing a dumpling for yourself. The dumplings come in a bamboo steamer, steamed on top of cabbage leaves. Many people just scramble for them, using chopsticks or forks, tear them apart, and watch the precious soup ooze out all over the lettuce. Then a look of disappointment comes over the entire table. The right way of grabbing these guys is to take the tongs that are provided, grab onto the TOP of the dumpling, where it the skin makes a little knob. This is the thickest and strongest part of the dumpling that hasn't been weakened by the soup, and will prevent tearing. You then SLOWLY lift the dumpling up, to see if it's stuck to the skin of another dumpling, so you can avoid tearing either, and thenif it is stuck, you gently use your soup spoon or chopsticks to slowly nudge away the skins from each other. You then place the dumpling in the soup spoon as much as possible.

You'll notice that the Soup Dumplings come with a little condiment. A sauce. What's in this sauce? It's basically soy sauce mixed with Chinese vinegar and a healthy addition of ginger. The ginger is an important part of the sauce because it's the ingredient that basically gives the sauce its unique taste and brings it to life. Without the ginger, it's just a salty and bitter mix of soy sauce and vinegar. With the ginger, it's a perfect complement to the dumplings. Take a small spoonful of this sauce, with some ginger, and just glaze it across the top of your soon to be eaten dumpling. Don't use too much, or the vinegar can be overpowering to your sense of taste and smell. Make sure u get some ginger on the dumpling as well.

Now you're ready to eat it. To avoid the soup spilling out as you eat it or burning yourself or anyone else, this is a two handed coordinated feat.You use your non dominant hand to bring the soup spoon up towards you, and your dominant hand will use chopsticks to grab hold of the dumpling and tilt the dumpling up towards you while it rests on the spoon. Then you can take a nice bite out of it. That first bite will give you a good taste of it, let steam out of the dumpling so u dont burn yourself in the same way if you took the entire thing in one bite, and also allow any soup if it leaks out, to leak into the spoon. Most likely the soup will not leak out much because the dumpling is tilted back, and the soup has pooled towards the part of the dumpling where the skin still remains intact. Good first bite, but the second bite is the best. Now that everything is settled, you can jsut take the spoon, and shove the entire rest of the dumpling in your mouth, soup and all, and savor a little taste of Shanghainese paradise.

These soup dumplings also come in a different variety, where the filling is pork mixed with crab meat. A little more expensive, with a bit of a seafood twist, they're just as delicious. Go ahead, and next time you're in New York City, give these guys a try.

NEXT UP - Pork with Salted Vegetables Noodle Soup

Monday, February 5, 2007

Joe's Shanghai, Chinatown, NYC

Well, we're back after a little hiatus this weekend, and we'll be covering some great cheap food in the heart of New York City's sprawling Chinatown.

Ahhh...Chinatown, where else in overpriced New York City can you get CHEAP and incredibly good, authentic food for just a few dollars. If you're ever hungry and a bit short on money, take a ride down to Chinatown, and be prepared for great eats.

I realize that alot of people think of Chinese food as what you can get from Chinese takeouts all across the country. General Tso does not live in real authentic Chinese kitchens. (General Tso's Chicken is actually a dish invented in America and is not known anywhere in China.) So what to do if you want to eat or try REAL chinese food, but simply don't know what to order? Well that's what we're here for.

Chinese food is diverse. Don't forget that China is HUGE, with over 2 millenia of history. Thanks to this, many different subgenres of Chinese cuisine have evolved, ranging from noodles, to rice dishes, to dumplings, and more. With distinct cuisines coming from several different provinces, it can be hard to navigate all these dishes.

We're gonna start with a restaurant that has become an institution in New York City's Chinatown. It's a great little place called Joe's Shanghai.

Joe's Shanghai is a staple in Chinese food in New York City, serving up some great dishes that you'll be hard to find anywhere else. It cuisine is as you guessed, primarily from Shanghai, a coastal city on the eastern border of China. Now the bustling financial hub of China, Shanghai still boasts some food that can't be missed. We thank Joe of the eponymous restaurant for bringing it to us over on this side of the world so that we can get nice and fat on it. =)

The first thing we'll be talking about is what Joe's Shanghai trademark dish is. Whenever you think of Joe's Shanghai, you think of this dish, and vice versa. Learn how to order it, and learn how to eat it, on your next visit to New York City.

UP NEXT: Soup Dumplings

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Dolsot BiBimBap

Now this is personally one of my favorite Korean dishes, Dolsot Bibimbap. It’s a variation of Bibimbap, which is a bowl of rice topped with an assortment of sautéed and seasoned vegetables, fried egg, ground beef, and gochujang (which is a sweet and spicy red sauce) to pour on top of it all. Instead, Dolsot (which means stone bowl) Bibimbap is made in sizzling hot stone bowl, like soondubu

Assortments of vegetables are used, which makes up most of the dish. Usually, they include: carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, mu, spinach, soybean sprouts and gosari (bracken fern stems). This is all put on top of the rice with the ground beef and an egg.

A raw egg is actually put in the hot bowl after all the other ingredients are put in. The bottom of the bowl is coated with oil, usually sesame or olive. The bowl itself is so hot, that when the egg is put in, the heat from the bowl cooks it, and the rice touching the bowl turns golden and crispy. The crispy golden rice only adds to the texture and taste of the dish.

As I was taught by a friendly waitress, you take your utensils and mix the ingredients together so that you get a taste of everything in every bite. But don't forget about the gochujang sauce. It adds a rich flavor to the dish, so be generous with it. Also, it's not extremely spicy, so even if you are sensitive to spice, you can still enjoy splashing some of it in.

Honestly, I'm not a big vegetable fan, as I suspect most of you aren't either, but even though Dolsot Bibimbap is made up mostly of vegetables, its still one of my favorite dishes. I encourage everyone, even those of you that hate vegetables to try this dish.