Handpulled Noodles and Tattoos
The Handpulled Noodle opened in Harlem in February of 2015 and quickly got good notices in the NY Times and the Gothamist. This spot specializes in dishes from North West China, as filtered through the owner’s recollections of his mother’s cooking when he was growing up. The Handpulled Noodle is small with counter seating for about 15 people, and has a raw design feel with a concrete floor, walls covered in pages from the The People’s Daily and the catch-phrase “We Pull Your Noodles” painted graffiti style over an exposed brick wall. Even if you are eating at the counter they serve all the food in closed to-go containers, which makes it a little hard to eat the food and also subjects the food to needless steaming. They would do better just using paper plates for service. The dumplings were really good, but because of the stylist similarities I found it hard not to compare The Handpulled Noodle to Xi’an Famous (and here) on the Upper West Side: I think Xi’an comes out ahead in the comparison.
The Dumplings: at The Handpulled Noodle the dumplings are home made and pan fried pot-sticker style. There is the choice of Pork & Chive, Beef & Daikon, Lamb & Carrot and Egg & Chive. On Fridays they serve Chicken and Shitaki Baozi and on Saturdays they serve Beer Belly Baozi. For this outing I tried the Pork and the Lamb dumplings.
The menu board at Dumplings & Things
I have been eating a lot of vegetarian dumplings lately and felt like re-embracing the pork. The guys from East Wind Snack Shop have been messaging me through Instagram to come check out their place and based on their Instagram feed they look like they serve some good pork belly. So last weekend I made the trek to Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn to try their dumplings and buns only to discover they were on vacation for a week – “Gone Fishing” was the official sign on the door. A quick Google search later and I was on my way to Dumplings & Things in Park Slope.
Dumplings & Things is a tiny, high ceiling-ed, raw brick walled place that has room to sit six at a communal table and three at a counter, and maybe host two more standing at another small counter. The menu is posted on a tall chalk board; check carefully because the best dumpling option, the Wontons in Hot Oil, is tucked away in the “Sides” section of the menu. In fact, a couple who seemed like regulars spotted my plate of wontons and asked me where the hell were they hidden on the menu. Continue reading
Vegetarian Dim Sum House
Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Pell Street
(aka Veggie Dim Sum) is a no frills joint that looks a little sketchy from the outside but has a great reputation for vegan dim sum. I had been going there for several years, but about a year before I started this blog I felt like Veggie Dim Sum
had fallen of its game some and I haven’t been back for a while. After my recent outing there, I am very happy to report that they are
back at full strength. Veggie Dim Sum
doesn’t serve the food from carts pushed around the restaurant like in larger dim sum places, rather you order from a waitress by checking boxes on a menu card listing the dim sum items. They also have a full menu of Chinese dishes that use really convincing meat substitutes – the “pork’ products are the best realized of the fake meats. From among the non-dumpling choices I highly recommend the Fried Rice with Ginger and Ham and the Congee with Corn. Continue reading
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