Award winning takeout
I recently took a business trip to Detroit and when I checked into my downtown hotel the front desk guy told me that the hotel restaurant and room service were out of commission, but here have some menus for pizza delivery. So I donned my Mighty Mighty Bosstones hoodie and took to the streets for a dumpling hunt in downtown Detroit. In pretty short order I came across a liquor store and New China 1, the local ghetto Chinese take-out. The guys in the liquor store gave me some top tips on food at New China 1 and their recommendation for the Pork Lo Mein was spot on. New China 1 has also won some recent accolades, in 2010 it made the Top 100 list “In recognition of Excellence in Chinese Cuisine” in the Top Takeouts category.
The money-food exchange airlock
New China 1 showed the remnants of the bad-old days, there was the remainder of a plexiglass partition that in the past would have divided customers from staff and there was a rotating air-lock like device that your food would have been passed through. At some point in the past the staff would have been completely sealed off from the customers. Today some of the plexiglass has been removed and you can hand your cash directly to the teller and the rotating air-lock is used to hold menus. Continue reading
I’ve had a busy couple of weeks at work and a couple of work dinners, so I haven’t had a chance to get out and try new dumpling spots to review. On the plus side I did get to eat at Le Bernardin and Fig & Olive in the same week. A couple of pieces of news caught my eye recently that I thought I would share.
- Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown hit Shanghai and featured several dumpling eating outings.
- Also in Shanghai, a Sports Illustrated reporter, Yang’s Dumplings, even going to the same location I was first taken to by colleagues in Shanghai. She also wrote up a great list of reasons to be skeptical about Din Tai Fung. I have basically had the same reaction at the LA and Seoul Din Tai Fung locations.
, who is covering Asian tennis tournaments wrote up a nice dumpling tour post. She hit my favorite spot,
- The owners of Mom’s House Chinese Market, a great Asian market in Amherst MA, have opened Mom’s Dumpling and Noodle in the old Mango Mango spot in downtown Amherst.
I have always crimped and pinched closed the wrappers of my dumplings by hand, but I was recently in my local Asian food market and saw these plastic clam-shell style dumpling crimpers and thought I would try them out. My take on them is that they produce a decent dumpling with some nice features but I will probably stick to hand crimping.
The circumference of even the larger of the two gadgets is smaller than the standard round dumpling wrapper available in Asian markets, so you can’t really pack a lot of filling into the dumpling. Until you get used to the smaller volume it is hard to keep the edges of the wrapper free of filling and get a clean closure. Also you get a fairly wide fringe of crimped dough around the edge. But if you pan fry the dumplings this fringe of dough fries up nicely and provides a crispy crunch feature to the dumpling. The crimping worked well and the dumplings stayed closed throughout the whole pan frying and steaming process.
The dumplings pictured above were stuffed with tofu, snow pea vine shoots and kim chi.
Wontons in Veggie Pho Broth
I have previously described Banh Mi Saigon as one of the few places I’ll write about that does not serve dumplings. But in their new incarnation they have expanded their menu to include wontons, so I can now review them without a qualifier.
Banh Mi Saigon built its reputation selling sandwiches and Pho in a small space in a strip mall in Hadley MA. After a devastating fire that destroyed the mall in October 2013 and wiped out some great businesses, the owners of Banh Mi Saigon regrouped and rebuilt in a bigger space in Northampton MA. They are being helped out by Common Capital, a Holyoke-based nonprofit community development financial group, that is backing several of my favorite Pioneer Valley restaurants, including Oriental Flavor. Banh Mi Saigon is now back and experimenting with some new menu items, making their classics again and re-establishing itself as one of the best restaurants in the Pioneer Valley. Continue reading
Dumpling Hunter just reach its second anniversary with 137 posts and 17,577 page views. The graphic to the left shows page views by country for the top countries. The top viewed Tags and Categories were Vegetarian/Vegan with 167 views and followed by Pan-fried at 62 and Soup Dumplings at 57 views. The most read post was the review of Oriental Flavor, 1,183 views, which I rated as being the Best Chinese Restaurant in the Pioneer Valley.
Wontons in Spicy Peanut Sauce
I have reviewed dumpling spots in China and in China-towns, in Korea and in Korea-towns, in Little-Tokyos, in Italy, in Tibetan enclaves and in old school Eastern European neighborhoods. But I haven’t yet reviewed an old-school Ghetto Chinese restaurant, a phrase I first heard when I moved to NYC back in ’91. The Urban Dictionary defines a ghetto Chinese restaurant as “Characterized by fast, cheap, and sometimes good Chinese food. In dangerous parts, there may be inch thick plexiglass barricades separating kitchen and diner, with a turnstyle for exchanging food and money.” (49 thumbs up and 18 thumbs down for this definition). These Chinese take-out spots were the pioneers of fast-food in many urban neighborhoods. My favorite reference to one of these joints is the Fugees’ Chinese Restaurant piece on the The Score.
I decided to try out Peking Kitchen II in Harlem, which is a small take-out joint with three tables for eating-in, but these are mainly used by people waiting for their to-go orders. It is so small and off the grid I can barely find any mention of it online, only seven reviews on Yelp. Peking Kitchen II serves the full panoply of American Chinese dishes and also serves fried fish fillets, fried shrimp, fried chicken, fried chicken wings, pork chops and fried sweat and green bananas (Plantain). Peking Kitchen II is not as armored up as some spots I have been to, there is no plexiglass between the customer and the cashier. Continue reading
I grabbed a bag of Assi Brand Vege Potstickers pretty much at random from the freezer cabinet at my local Korean market – turned out to be a good choice. A little googling around led me to discover that Assi Brand is the flagship brand of the Rhee Bros food company located in Maryland, USA. Rhee Bros was founded in 1976 by a Korean student living in the U.S., who, to make ends meet, initially sold dried squid shipped to him from Korea by his mother. According to the Rhee Bros website, Assi is derived from the traditional title for a young sophisticated woman. Continue reading
Street food in Myeongdong Seoul
The Sun Kim Bop food truck hit the streets in Western MA in winter 2013-2014 but I just spotted it this past weekend on the Amherst commons. Despite its signage the Sun Kim Bop doesn’t really provide the full Seoul street food experience, there is no blood sausage and rice cakes in spicy sauce, no fish cake on a skewer, no grilled sheets of cuttle fish, no roasted sweet potato, no mini-sausages on a stick and no deep fried kim bap. But their website explains that Sun Kim Bop is trying to provide healthy food in “the essence of Korea’s famous street and picnic food”. The specialty of the house is their own creation, the Bop Burger. The bun of the Bop Burger is made of crisped rice seasoned with dry seaweed and sesame seeds and is filled with sautéed homemade kimchi, pork, beef or chicken. The truck also has some interesting looking kimchi tacos, Korean wraps, Kim Bap and has awesome vegan mandoo that taste and eat like meat dumplings. Continue reading
Samurai Noodle is a Seattle based ramen bar mini-chain that serves fresh homemade noodles. They have a ton of options for adding ingredients to the base broths and noodles and for the pork broth you can order extra pork fat to deepen the broth flavor. They also have a couple of vegan ramen options. I thought the basic pork broth ramen was a strong effort, but next time I will probably get some additional pork fat. For my second outing to Samurai Noodle I focused on sampling their dumpling selection. Continue reading