Archive for the ‘dumplings’ Category

UM Redux: Shanghai Cafe (NYC)

April 8, 2008

This post is dedicated to Tmonkey and Wong Kar-Wai.

Went to see my acupuncturist the other day in Chinatown. Dr. Wu is a miracle maker, truly, and I send everyone to him for their ailments. Migraines, bad shoulders, allergies, bad knees, insomnia– whatever you’ve got, he’ll fix it, for real.

While pinning needles into my back, he told me I think too much and I eat too much. Perhaps he’s somewhat of a prophet? Dr. Wu multi-tasks: he’s not just a certified acupuncturist, but also my therapist and nutritionist.

So what do you do when the prophet tells you you eat too much? Well, go eat, of course. As a Dr. Wu visit ritual of sorts, I walked two streets over to one of my absolute favorite restaurant in NYC. Remember Tmonkey’s awesome video from last year? He wasn’t lying, this place is THE BEST for soup dumplings.

Check out this awesome lighting! As Tmonkey said, this place has a very 2046 vibe. When I come here, I like to pretend I am Zhang Ziyi on a hot date with Tony. I won’t let you break up with me, Tony!
As soon as you sit down, order the #1 on the menu- the tiny steamed buns with crab and pork. It takes some time for these to steam, so better to order them right away to avoid drooling all over the dumplings on the table next to you. Trust me on this.
What makes these superior to other soup dumplings in the city (Grand Sichuan, Joe’s Shanghai) is that the crab does not dry out, which leaves you with a hot hot bite of fluffy, moist goodness.
Make sure to get the Shanghai Lo Mein– saucy udon-like pan fried noodles. Another favorite. I get it with shrimp and mixed meats.
Not on the menu- sauteed pea shoots. Kinda expensive at $15, but if you’re there with a few people, it’s worth it.
Our spread. For all this- 2 trays of dumplings, noodles and the pea-shoots, it was $30 maybe? They have all sorts of other Shanghainese goodies on the menu, but I usually just gorge on the soup dumplings.

Ladies making the dumplings.

Dumplings steaming behind the counter.

Is that Tony?

Shanghai Cafe
100 Mott Street
twn. Canal & Hester Streets
New York, NY

3 days of Rickshaw Dumpling

October 30, 2007
(sorry for the really bad cell phone pics and sorry, Kayoko, this took me 2 months to finally post)

Back in AUGUST, I took the most boring class ever for 3 days straight – my instructor wore a piano tie on the first day. Rickshaw Dumpling was literally on the same block where I was taking the course (it’s on W. 23rd and they also just opened in the NYU area).

So, of course, i hit it up for lunch every day and here’s what I got;

Day one (pics 1 and 2): Steamed Szechaun Chicken dumplings with chili and white soy bean and chili-soy dipping suace and watermelonade.
These dumplings were my favorite – if I went back, I’d get these fried in the noodle soup (there are 6 types of dumplings, and you can either get them plain (steamed or fried), in a salad or in a noodle soup – each dumpling type has its corresponding salad and soup type). These were nice and spicy. The watermelon drink was really refreshing.

Day Two, I got Classic Pork & Chinese Chive dumplings in clear soup (with greens, beansprouts, scallions & fresh shanghai noodles). Noodles were great, dumplings ok.

Day 3 (last picture) was Chicken & Thai Basil dumplings in peanut sate soup (with green coconut, cucumber, lime & fresh shanghai noodles). Again, great noodles but if I went back, I’d see if I could get the Szechaun Chicken dumplings in this soup. Peanut flavors were great!

If you are in the area, this is a great place for a light lunch or snack. I’ll definitely be going back!

Sushi Kuni Restaurant

June 18, 2007

Whenever I visit my hometown, Cupertino, CA (home of the beloved Macintosh computer), the first thing that I do, before I even go home, is stop off at Sushi Kuni Restaurant. In my five years in NY, I haven’t found a place that compares to the comfort, the authenticity (I hate to say that word, but you know what I mean), the freshness, the consistency, and the value of Sushi Kuni. It’s the REAL DEAL. Truly.

Sushi Kuni opened in 1995, and is located right down the street from Apple HQ. Formerly a little house-turned deli (I heard that the folks at Apple calls this place “the House”), this place only seats 13 people at the sushi bar and has only 7 tables (about 5 years ago they built a tatami room in the back for small parties). I went during lunch two days in a row, and it was pretty packed. I asked Kuni (founder, proprietor, chef; below left) how business was and he said it’s “too busy.” Ha! It really was though– there were people waiting for a table out front by 12:30pm.

Kuni, short for Kunio, is a classically trained tempura chef who worked at one of the most prestigious restaurants in Japan, Inagiku. He was transferred to LA to work for the restaurant there, and pursued a career in sushi when moving to the Bay Area in 1984, when sushi was just barely beginning to make a dent in America’s culinary landscape. Can you imagine life before sushi???

You see, it’s only Kuni and Steve (above right) behind the bar– when it gets really busy, it’s pretty amazing to watch the speed in which they slice the fabulous selection of sashimi to create such colorful, dazzling dishes. But they are never too busy to talk to the customers– they love to chat! Kuni loves to talk about the fish (he always has fish specials that aren’t necessarily on the menu, so make sure to ask what they are)– what region the fish is from, when they are in season, how best they are served. He’s an encyclopedia of fish.

Ok so the food: the first thing I ordered was of course the chirashi sushi. Assorted sashimi over rice– it is always super fresh and truly one of my favorite all-time meals. It’s just so simple and delicious! There’s ikura, maguro, hamachi, unagi, ika, tamago, ika, tako, ebi… all over a bed of Kuni’s nicely vinegary (but not too much) rice. It’s genius, if you ask me. With a bowl of miso soup at $13, it’s truly a good deal.

Kuni hooked me up with a few pieces of ‘hotaru ika‘ (below), also called ‘firefly squid’, which were on the special menu. These are tiny little whole squids (only about two inches long), that are slimy goodness very flavorful and truly delicious. I am just reading that they light up blue when migrating in the ocean!

If Kuni is the more straightforward, traditional sushi chef, Steve is the funkier counterpart who always brings in new “fusion” creations that are a huge hit with the experimental, cosmopolitan crowd. He used to work at Wolfgang Puck’s place in Vegas, so he’s quite the hipster chef himself.

This was avocado, snow crab and shrimp grilled in Steve’s special basil-mayo sauce. Superb!

Steve plopped this little cup of delight in front of me as a surprise– it’s his rendition of Hawaii’s poki!!! YUMMY! Tuna, scallions and tobiko, in a tangy ponzu sauce. So good!

The bento box during lunch is about the cheapest meal you can possibly imagine. For $7.50, you get your choice of two items (tempura, sashimi, sushi, gyoza, and chicken/beef/salmon teriyaki), rice, salad and miso soup. Friggin ridiculous. My personal favorites are the pan-fried gyoza (Japanese style pork dumplings) and the tempura– the tempura batter is crispy, never soggy or too eggy, and each delicious gyoza is handmade with love by Sushi Kuni’s other half, Hideko, in the kitchen.

Hideko (below) is Kuni’s wife– she and Victor make everything on the menu that is not done behind the sushi bar. So basically, all the hot food. They cook all the Japanese restaurant standards like teriyaki, tempura and nabeyaki udon (another favorite), and Hideko also is the brains behind countless other “authentic” Japanese dishes that are on a seperate, special menu. Little dishes like ‘kinpira gobo’ (sauteed burdock root) and ‘nasu no nanbanzuke’ (eggplant in a vinegar soy sauce) will immediately make you feel like you are hanging out at an izakaya in Tokyo.

Incidentally, Kuni also has a license to slice and serve blow fish– I think he told me once that he took the blow fish test at the famed Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Remember that Simpson’s episode where Homer almost dies when he’s served bad blow fish? While that episode is not in any way a reflection of Kuni’s mad skills, I always do think of it when I see his certificate on the wall. Hilarious.

Last but not least, let me comment that Kuni’s spicy tuna roll is the best in the WORLD. My brother and I have had spicy tunas far and wide, and nothing has compared to Kuni’s creation. What could it possibly be? Is it the Kewpie mayo? The green onions? The special spicy sauce? Whatever it may be, it is heavenly. Look, it’s pink! So pretty!

In the last 12 years, Sushi Kuni has changed little, but has blossomed into a thriving neighborhood restaurant that is truly a Japanese food destination in the Bay Area. The place has a really loyal following, and the customers all know Kuni and Steve and talk to each other– when I was just there, I ran into fellow Sushi Kuni lovers that I hadn’t seen in years, and we ended up chatting for a while. It’s like Cheers, but a Japanese restaurant- it’s so nice! The place is comfortable, reasonably priced, not ever pretentious, friendly, and the food is always fresh, consistent and just really solid, delicious Japanese food. Don’t just take my word for it– try it for yourself! *k*

Sushi Kuni Restaurant
10211 South De Anza Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 257-5864
Closed Sundays

I have a confession to make: Kuni is also my pops! Biggest shill EVER! I didn’t mean to be tricky, but I didn’t want this to be overtly biased given that this is the family restaurant. But really, I’m not just saying all this because my parents run it– it really is a great little place.

He and my mom (Hideko) have poured endless amounts of love, time and energy into Sushi Kuni, and I am so so proud of them both. This is essentially where me and my brother grew up– I was forced to waitress there EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT for ALL FOUR YEARS of high school (you know what that does to a teenage girl who is trying desperately to be cool?? Forget about trying to sneak into San Jose State parties for a night of underage drinking). My brother was forced to work in the kitchen when his delinquency started getting out of hand and my parents thought it would be the best way to keep an eye on him. Oh, and look at us now… Good times.

Despite the grueling long hours (he gets in at 10am, and generally doesn’t leave until 1am– but he does get to sneak a nap in there for about an hour), Kuni has a wry sense of humor and has aged little since the restaurant first opened 12 years ago. He also loves a cold glass of beer and is also quite the sake connoisseur so be sure to offer him some of yours when you are sitting at the bar. He’ll drink you under the table. And my mom will drink HIM under the table!

Happy Father’s Day とうち!!! You are the BEST!

Umamiventure: Ocean Jewel Restaurant

June 8, 2007

A few weeks ago, we ventured on our first official Umami Mart field trip, which I hope we can organize once a month. The idea is to get people in the area, UM contributors and local eaters, to travel far and wide (an outer borough, OH MY!) for infamous eats.

In the five years I have lived in NY, I had never gone to Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, so a dim sum adventure seemed like the perfect choice. After some hard-core research, I finally decided on Ocean Jewel Restaurant, a place highly recommended to me by my co-worker Wayne, who grew up on the streets of Flushing. Nothing more real than word of mouth, wouldn’t you say?

With my fellow UMers, Troy Division and Tmonkey in tow (Hamamama, my Queensgirl, couldn’t make it), we set out for what was to be an awesome experience, from start to finish. Take my word for it when I say that the Flushing Chinatown is FAR superior to its Manhattan cousin: it is more spacious; less inundated with people, hence it is actually bearable; and the dim sum was the best I have had in all of NYC (In Manhattan, I generally go to Sweet ‘n Tart and Ping’s on Mott and Golden Bridge on the Bowery).

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves– let the droolfest begin!

About every 15 minutes, several little vans like this leave from Confucius Plaza in Manhattan Chinatown, whizzes you over the Williamsburg Bridge, speeds its way down the BQE and drops you off in Flushing in about a half hour. The best part? It’s only $2.50!!! There is no excuse NOT to go to Flushing!

Ocean Jewel is located in the heart of “downtown” Flushing. Right around the corner from the 7 train, and the little shuttle stop.

The restaurant is in a typical banquet hall style so it’s pretty huge. But despite it’s size, it was not so rowdy, well lit, the servers were all very friendly, we got our own table (I was fully expecting to share with strangers since there were only 3 of us, but they gave us our own!), and all very clean (I’m not such a stickler about “dirty”, but the cleanliness was a noticeable trait).

Such cute little critters. Now GET IN MY BELLY!

Allow me to start with my MUST HAVE dim sum item of all time, the siu mai. Steamed pork dumplings (sometimes they have shrimp in them or a scallop, but these didn’t) topped with roe. For me, these are the deciding factor of how good a dim sum place is, and on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best), I give these a 5! Seriously, they were perfectly salted, perfectly steamed, simple and not overloaded with other stuff. They were excellent.

Pan fried turnip cake- I love these. Packed with bits of carrots and chinese sausage, the turnip has a smooth potatoey texture, which mushes in your mouth wonderfully.

The three of us talked about how the best part of dim sum is getting to order random things on a whim- it’s always an adventure! Troy sporadically pointed to these steamed buns, with absolutely no idea of what was inside. We were delighted to find sweet egg custard inside. GENIUS! It was the perfect combination of creamy and fluffy. From now on, I will be ordering them every time. Good call Troy!
I always order shrimp or beef filled rice rolls (you know the one drizzled with special soy sauce that comes on a plate?), but when I cut into these, they were filled with all kinds of other goodness. Bamboo shoots, ground beef, carrots, oozing in some special sauce (I think I remember some vinegar bite). I had never had anything like it, it was truly yummy.
You can always tell how good a dim sum place is by their hot chili sauce (much like how I rate other restaurants by their butter). This stuff was spicy, but the sesame oil undercut the heat, so it wasn’t crazy or anything. EXCELLENT!
Ah, the beloved char siu bao– tangy, sweet bbq pork nestled inside fluffy white doughy goodness. Tmonkey flipped out upon his first bite- he thought it was the best thing ever. Like the siu mai, these are pretty standard, but when it’s special, you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot.
Another Troy selection- and it was another good one (he has just the right dim sum instinct- you just have to aimlessly point and go with it). These were fried shrimp cakes– really satisfied that craving for something deep fried. I get those cravings pretty often.

This is something I’ve only started getting recently, warm tofu seeped in sugar water. Really comforting and simple, a good palette cleanser and dessert (along with the egg tarts, of course!).

Some of my favorites– shrimp and chinese chive filled dumplings in a transparent see-through skin. They usually come as round balls, but these were gyoza style. Mmmm…
Shrimp cake filled eggplant, in black bean sauce. I LOVE eggplant- pair it with shrimp, and you can’t go wrong.
Another dish I had never had before- these were basically the siu mai without the skin. They never did come around with my other favorite, steamed pork ribs, so these satisfied that void. Fantastic creation!

Har gow are little shrimp filled jewel pieces. Ain’t she a beaut? And these had something magical inside along with the shrimp (they are usually just shrimp)– celery! GENIUS! Now, I really am not a fan of celery (it’s one of two things that I never eat voluntarily), but they added just the perfect crunch with the shrimp. Oh so delightful.

So there it is, our meal in pictures– Ocean Jewel was fantastic, Wayne was spot on. Dim sum is perfect for big groups (you would have a tough time getting the bill to go over $15 per person), and for when you have a hangover. I’m serious, there is nothing like a Tsing Tao and a char siu bao to make the night before go away. The next time you NYers are planning on dim sum, I HIGHLY recommend skipping out on Manhattan, and taking the 7 or the convenient shuttle to Flushing. It’s so easy and a great excuse to explore!

Side note: My parents and I went to this great place for dim sum in Cupertino, CA, last weekend (I was hungover! I could eat dim sum every weekend, no joke), called Dynasty. Inside Vallco Fashion Mall! The only reason I went there is because my absolute favorite dim sum joint in the area, Canton Delights, has closed for good!!! I was horribly upset. RIP, Canton Delights. Anyway, I recommend Dynasty to all you Bay Area folks.


Ocean Jewel Seafood Restaurant
13330 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 359-8600

7 train to Main Street (end of the line)

If you would like to join us on future Umamiventures, please contact us!

2 Ways to Cook a Dumpling

April 26, 2007

In my book, the world’s most perfect food is the dumpling. I love dinner items that are an all-in-one meal. Like dumplings… vegetables, carbs, all of it in one perfect, neat little package. What more could you ask for? My dad makes these delicious fresh-from-scratch dumplings filled with shrimp, white fish, scallion and ginger. He wraps them with store bought wrappers and gets the thick skin that give the dumplings a little more texture. He knows I love them so when I come home to Cupertino, he packs me two huge Marina Food grocery bags of 100 beautiful little frozen dumplings and sends me on my way. But, what to do with all of these dumplings?

When my dad sends me home with dumplings, it is pretty much all I eat, every night until I run out. Thus explains the title, “2 ways to cook a dumpling.”

Tonight I cooked the dumplings two different ways for me and my lovely bf. It only takes 10 minutes if you already have the frozen dumplings, which if you don’t have a homemade cook to make them for you, you can get some from any asian grocery store, chinatown, japantown, or my favorite, Trader Ming’s (Trader Joe’s, very cleverly titled, asian food line).

7 Easy Steps to Dumpling Soup

Dumpling soup with egg, seaweed, baby bok choy and green onion:

  1. Boil a medium pot of water and carefully drop the frozen dumplings in.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up some baby bok choy (also called shanghai bok choy) and split each heart into quarters. Include the bok choy into the dumpling water and cook for 3-5 mins. Don’t overcook, otherwise it will be rubbery and tough to chew! Take out of the boiling water and set aside.
  3. In your serving bowl, add a few pinches of japanese fish seasoning, I forgot what it is called but I’m sure Kayoko knows. It is made out of fish and is delicious in seasoning. Also add a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon or so of sugar and spoon some of the hot boiling water that is cooking the dumplings. The hot water will help disolve the japanese fish pellet seasoning and the sugar. Optional step: Add very finely minced raw garlic to the bottom of the bowl. Again, the hot water will cook partially cook the garlic.
  4. In a separate pan, beat an egg and fry it up with a little bit of oil. Make sure it is a flat sheet and cut it up in the pan with the spatula. Set aside.
  5. After the dumplings are done, spoon the dumpligs and pasta water into the bowl to the top.
  6. Add the baby bok choy, the chopped up egg, and if desired, tear up some seasoned sushi nori and green onions and add to the top.
  7. Finish the soup off with a tiny drop of sesame oil. A little goes a long way, if you add too much it will overpower the soup.

5 Easy Steps to Pot Sticker Dumplings

  1. Heat some oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the frozen pot stickers and let the bottoms brown for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water mixed with a generous pinch of flour. This will help to create the “crust” on the bottom of the pan. Throw the water into the pan and put a lid on. You will hear it sizzle.
  3. Wait for 5-8 minutes. Don’t check on it too early!
  4. Prepare the dipping sauce. Soy sauce, sugar, vinegar (I like rice wine vinegar), sesame oil, green onions.
  5. Take the pot stickers out and plate.

I heart dumplings and I hope you will too!

The Best Soup Dumplings in Manhattan

March 26, 2007

I made this little video this weekend. Check it out and let me know what you think! It’s the first in a series…

The Best Soup Dumplings in Manhattan

I was inspired to take some photos and make a regular ol’ blog post, but then I decided to mess around and try to distill it into a little video. One thing I can say: it’s a completely different art to try to express something in video as opposed to words. Quite frankly, it feels a little “dumbed-down” or bullet-pointed. But then again, it’s a completely different medium! Hope you like my little experiment.