I have given the Asian-fusion, vegan cafe, Franchia, a full review previously, but the Spicy Steamed Wontons that they recently added to their menu caught my eye and I had to stop by and try them. I am a big fan of wontons in in spicy sesame oil, a dish that is often on the menu at Szechuan style restaurants. Franchia’s menu describes their new dish as “Thin wonton skin stuffed with veggie ‘chicken’, tofu and vegetables topped with spicy sauce”, so I went into dinner hoping these would be a vegan version of wontons in spicy sesame oil.
Spicy Steamed Wontons
As you can see in the photo these weren’t quite the classic wontons served in a bowl of spicy sesame oil. Instead the wontons were sauced with a spiced soy sauce with flecks of scallion greens and carrots and flakes of crispy fried onions. Overall the dish was good, but the wonton wrappers were a little thick and chewy and the stuffing did not have a particularly marked chicken flavor. The sauce was pretty tasty, but the best part of the dish was the crispy fried onion flakes.
As a side note, we also ordered the Tofu and Vegetables Claypot in Spicy Ginger Sauce, which didn’t actually come cooked in a claypot, but was served in a Bibimbap stone bowl, and also didn’t come with any tofu. After we inquired with the waiter about the tofu, he brought us some raw tofu to add to the bowl – so nowhere really close at all, to a simmered claypot meal.
Boiled Vegetable Dumplings
Korea Town’s Mandoo Bar
is known for the cooks at the front window making and cooking fresh dumplings and has been around for years now. Over that time they have expanded the menu a lot from its original focus on just dumplings to now include noodle and rice dishes. They still have a wide selection of dumplings and their Pork and Kimchi dumplings, at least when I tired them last, are particularly good. I also really enjoy the dishes of pickles they provide with the meals.
I have not been there for a while, and when I went there recently I sadly felt like Mandoo Bar had lost a step. Continue reading
Fresh Pierogi is a family owned company founded in 1991 that sells a range of packaged, refrigerated pierogi through supermarket chains. Their store in NJ sells refrigerated fresh made pierogi and cooked take-out orders that you can get steamed, pan fried or deep fried. Fresh Pierogi makes all the classic varieties and the unusual Potato Cheddar and Jalapeno pierogi. They don’t use eggs so their varieties without cheese are vegan.
I got the Potato and Onion variety from my local grocery store. I prepared the pierogi by first boiling them for two minutes, straining them and then pan frying them in Earth Balance (staying Vegan) until they were crispy. I then tossed the pierogi with caramelized onions in the fry pan. I served them with chopped Napa cabbage Kimchi which added spice and pickle to the sweet of the onions – the Kimchi makes a nice substitute for sauerkraut.
The pierogi were really good, but I am giving them four out of five stars because the onions in the filling didn’t really add much flavor to the potato filling.
Pierogi in the pan with onions
Pierogi served with Napa cabbage Kimchi
Located around the corner from each other Tasty Dumpling and Fried Dumpling are two stalwarts of the Chinatown cheap dumpling scene. Recently I had a work meeting on the edge of Chinatown and decided to do a post meeting, head-to-head comparison.
Fried Dumpling and Tasty Dumpling
Sesame Buck Wheat Noodles because all the dumplings contain “Chicken Powder”
The inside of RedFarm looks like an American farm-to-table Bistro, lots of rustic wood decoration and red and white Gingham upholstery. The place also seemed to be overstaffed, there were a lot of good looking employees standing around not doing much. But RedFarm has picked up Zagat awards for Best Chinese and Best Dim Sum. although critics have referred to it as “Upper West Side Haute Chinese-American”. But accepting that, the food we had was good – Cold Sesame Noodles, Wok seared Greens Beans with Brussels Sprouts in a black bean sauce and Rice Noodles with Vegetables. The waiter told us that the plates were designed to be shared and that we should get three appetizers and two entrees – in reality this is probably way too much food because the Cold Sesame Noodle appetizer alone is big. I had the opportunity to try these dishes because, while the dumpling menu options are impressive, the dumplings were a fail. Continue reading
Mushroom and Sauerkraut Pierogi
With the closing of places like Leshko’s and Kiev over the past few years New York’s East Village is progressively losing its Eastern European flavor. With an old school diner vibe, Little Poland is one of the remaining holdouts where you can still get your stuffed cabbage. Borchst and pierogi fix. Oddly though Little Poland does not sell fried latka and the waiter gave us the stink eye when we inquired about them. My dining companions gave the stuffed cabbage excellent reviews, while I focused on the pierogi. Continue reading
The food cart
A lot of digital ink has a been dedicated to talking up the University of Pennsylvania’s food cart/truck scene, including favorable reviews of some Chinese food trucks. My walking tour of the carts and trucks found that most of the Chinese carts sold Americanized versions of Chinese food, very different from the strip of more traditionally minded Chinese food carts that have sprung up near Columbia University. One truck stood out for its name, “Real Le Anh Chinese Food” and its daily special, the Crab and Cheese dumpling. I had assumed that the prefix of “Real” meant that there was some sort of rivalry with another Le Anh cart or maybe a restaurant. But apparently the story is that Le Anh used to own two carts and sold one to a friend, adding “Real” to the name of her remaining cart in the process. The “Le Anh Chinese Food” cart is usually located just across the street. Real Le Anh Chinese Food cart sells a huge range of dishes, including a smattering of Vietnamese and Malaysian dishes. Continue reading
Sorry for missing a few posts lately, my work and travel schedule have been crazy lately. I have some new posts in the works, but I also have some more trips coming up, so the posts will may be a little less frequent this summer. Coming soon a review of a Chinese Food cart in Philly.
Pork Dried Shrimp and Cabbage Dumplings
Typically Vietnamese restaurants in New York do not serve dumplings, but Saiguette serves eight styles of dumplings. Saiguette is mainly a large busy kitchen with a small service counter and six stools at a tiny counter along the window. If you eat in, you will likely find yourself partially sitting on someone else’s lap. Surprisingly for a such a tiny place, they have a full menu of Banh Mi, Pho, Bun, Banh Hoi and other Vietnamese staples, but the vast majority of their business is take-0ut. Continue reading
My friend Mike from my college days just launched a cooking blog, “SquaredMeals.com“. He writes that his blog is a “…personal log of what I and my wife cook at home for our twin daughters, Willa and Phoebe. The name refers to both a square meal and what happened when we went from a family of two to a family of four. We try to make wholesome food prepared from scratch, and then we try to get Willa and Phoebe to eat it. It doesn’t always work out, and this blog is an attempt to keep track of it all.” The first post was for Bucatini all’Amatriciana, go check it out.