Saturday, November 25, 2006

THANKSGIVING: The Fat Kid's Day of All Days (Part Deux)

Haven't you always wondered what "ethnic" people eat on Thanksgiving? Do they eat turkey and mashed potatoes? Or weird things like duck and fish eyes. Well, my family eats both, kind of:

Coconut Shrimp

Mi mama made this to hold us kids over before the real food was ready.

Fried Japanese Tofu with Dried Shitake Mushrooms

Lobster Fen Si with Chinese Cabbage

This is my favorite. All of the fen si (glass noodles made of green beans) sucks up the lobster juices and mixes with the cabbage to create the most delectable flavor and texture combination ever.

Garlic Sauteed Asparagus

Grandma's Fen Si

My grandma's recipe involves carrots and dried squid.

Four Kinds of Mushroom

Normal, shitake, golden needle, and baby portabella

Shrimp with tomato sauce

Uncle #5's Sticky Rice

This is always a big hit - sticky rice cooked with pork, dried shrimp, and dried shitake.

Lion's Head

Lions head are basically Chinese meatballs. They are cooked with Chinese cabbage in broth.

Mei Cai Kou Rou

I really can't translate this. It's a very fatty pork with stewed with fermented cabbage. Hans Tang's favorite as a child.

Chinese Vegetable Sauteed with Garlic

Roasted Duck

Fish Dish

I wasn't able to take a picture before it was attacked.

The Turkey

It's more of a symbolic turkey, since no one really ate it.

But Uncle #1 is really good at making it!

We ate a lot of dessert when we were standing around waiting for the food:

I made cranberry-white chocolate chip cookies

My little cousin is a vegan, and she made vegan treats:
Pumpkin Muffins,

and Green Tea Cupcakes

Someone's neighbor made homemade pumpkin pie

And Aunt #5 made sweet black sticky rice with coconut milk, which is delicious, but I was too full to have more than a bite. I thought that was okay because my mom brought home a quart of it. Unfortunately, she, surprise surprise, didn't put it in the fridge so it went bad the next day. She didn't feel like it was a waste, though, cause she just gave it to Duke, who didn't seem to mind at all. My mother is an odd one. Very odd indeed.

Well that's it. That is all we ate (almost - a few things were able to escape the glare of the camera). My cousin Edith was worried it wasn't enough food, which says something about how much one Pei family can eat. I am very proud of my kinfolk and myself, and am already anticipating the gluttony that is sure to come during Christmas!


Friday, November 24, 2006

THANKSGIVING: The Fat Kid's Day of All Days (Part I)

Ahh Thanksgiving. That joyous, wondrous holiday where families get together and feast to show thanks for all they have (especially each other). As the official unelected president of the fat kid's club (me:world of food = bush43:u.s.), I declare Thanksgiving to be the noblest and fairest of all holidays. Oh Genius of Geniuses.

As per any Pei Family Event, this Thanksgiving was not to be denied her fair share of gambling, melodrama, and most importantly, delicious Chinese food. Just wait to see how much we ate! (to be revealed in Part II)

Aunt #4 - the Pei Family Resident Chef

She is my hero. Everything she makes tastes like a little bit of Chinese heaven.

Her Palette

Favorite family activity: Mah Jong

Not sure a family gathering could function without it. I definitely don't know what everyone else would do to kill time while Aunt #4 was cooking.

2nd Favorite Family Activity

And this was before we ate.

(I think she died from the anticipation of the fullness to come.)

Where Vultures Feast

My plate: round 1

To Be Continued...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Week in Review

You know how marathon runners train the week before the race? Well, I don't, really, but I assume they do something of the sort. Anyways, this week was the week before Thanksgiving. Like any good fat kid, I did as much eating as humanly possible in order to prepare myself for the big day. Here are some highlights.

I think shopping at Uniqlo whet our appetites for the finer things in life - after a show at the Knitting Factory, Trent and I were feeling particularly fancy and came here to eat. We found it about two blocks north.

This is what it looks like inside.

All high ceilings, wine barrels in the wall, loft-like Tribeca feel, with an open kitchen. It made me feel like I was in a restaurant in the French Alps.

Tribeca bread.

Or rather, what was left of it after about 2 minutes. I was really hungry.

What I ate:

Sauteed squid, potatoes, tomatoes, and olives. the combinations of textures, flavors, and colors made this a really intense, but delectable, appetizer. The squid was perfectly tender and just the right amount of chewy (which is not a lot, but with a healthy amount of elasticity)

You can see Trent's vegan pasta with tomato sauce in the background. Boring, but still pretty good.

Since my meal was an appetizer and we didnt' get drinks, I think our meal only came out to $40 or so. Not bad for a really decent place.
Food: 8.5 Service: 8 Atmosphere: 8.5 Value: 6 Overall: 8

I've been coming to this sushi joint for about ten years now, and this was the first time I've been there when there wasn't a line. I think that was an indication, because I found this experience to be both sup-bar and overpriced, which is truly sad for what was once my favorite Japanese restaurant in the city.

Toro Nakitori (around $9)

This is cooked toro ina sweet sauce. It was really tender, and the flavor was quite nice. However, I found it to be a too heavy, especially eaten as an appetizer.

Sashimi Regular (around $27)

The sashimi, which is really what makes Tomoe stand out, did not let me down. It is still amazingly fresh and well-cut into the biggest sashimi pieces I have ever seen.

It's a great deal - so much sashimi that even I couldn't eat it all. It's so beautiful.

What made the experience subpar was really owed to the uni handrolls, which were shameful. The uni was too mushy and had a bit of an aftertaste - not fresh. Plus they were $8.50 each. I was so sad I couldn't even take their portrait. The ones I had been eating all week at Marumi (on LaGuardia between Bleeker and W. 3rd), which were only around $5 each, were much better.

Food: 6.5 Service: 7.5 Atmosphere: 6.5 Value: 5 Overall: 6

2nd installation of the Chinatown food blog: This is another random place my mother and I stumbled into tonight. We'd never been there before, but decided to go because it was raining, I was starving, and it was right next to the parking garage. All excellent criteria for choosing a Chinese restaurant. 81 Chrystie Street.

This was a Cantonese place, which, in Chinatown, is really hard to go wrong in since the Cantonese are more obsessed with food than any other Chinese (as the saying goes, they'll eat everything with legs except the table, and anything that flies except the airplane). Actually the same can be said for most restaurants in Chinatown since they are primarily catered towards Chinese people and not "westerners." But the caveat here is that you have to know how to order. That is why, Jeffrey Max, you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Pork lo-mein, Hong Kong style ($6.95)

There are infinite varieties of lo-mein, and each restaurant does it differently. This is not what we were expecting, but it was very good. The noodles were thin but bouncy, the bean sprouts added a pleasant crispy element, and the flavor was just right.

Fried Japanese tofu with assorted mushroom (regularly $12.95 but part of the weekly special, so $6.95)

A great choice for vegans and those who love mushrooms of all kinds. There were four, to be exact.

T-bone steak with black pepper (also a special - normally $16.95, but $10.95)

Cooked just right so that the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender,and NOT well-done, which is a sin. The sauce was typical Cantonese - thick, soy, and robustly flavorful. It worked very nicely.


Cantonese restaurants usually provide complimentary "sugar water" for dessert, and soup to start. We didn't get a soup, but settled for the "sugar water" (this one was sweet red bean soup with an orange zest) and the honeydew.

This was one of those Chinese restaurants that I had an immediate prejudice against because they sold sushi. Of course we didn't order any of that nonsense, and the dishes we did order were quite satisfactory for what we were looking for - quick, filling, and delicious. Oh and cheap.

Food: 8 Service: 6 Atmosphere: 6 Value: 8 Overall: 7.5

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The End of Ignorance

Gandhi had the caste system, Mandela had apartheid, Che had capitalist pigs, and Fukuyama had history. I, Isadora Tang, have the eradication of ignorance as my great calling in life. Ignorance of what, you, oh naive reader, may ask. Of how to eat good Chinese food, doi! HOW-TO-EAT-GOOD-CHINESE-FOOD, and how to do it well.

Most people of a non-Chinese heritage background seem to not know that a world beyond general tso's chicken exists. And if they do know about this world, they know not how to enter - "oh yes, i was told by a wise old man about the existence of this magical fantasy land. i am still waiting for peter pan to come take me there in my sleep one day." NO!! WRONG!! There is also that strange hybrid non-Chinese person that i have seen in my eating travels. He is the one that I am shocked to see sitting beside me and my Chinese brethen in our hidden gem of a restaurant, who manages his chopsticks with such masterful elegance, who exudes in all directions supreme confidence in his food-ordering ability. Then his dishes (or, as is sadly too often the case, his sole dish) are served, and my mother and i turn to look at each other, wipe the quizzical looks off our chubby faces, and proceed to laugh heartily over this white fool's sad misadventure.

You see my friend, eating good Chinese food is an art. With my guidance, we will, together, learn how to refine this fine and ancient art in the always-smells-like-fish-or-dorian-fruit mean streets of Chinatown, New York.

Chinatown for Beginners: Shanghai cuisine
Mondays host my weekly dinner with mom. This past Monday, since I was feeling under the weather, I requested that we duck into the first Shanghainese restaurant we could find, so I could immediately soothe my sore throat with some delicious soup of dumplings. We went to Shanghai Cafe, on 100 Mott Street. We couldn't agree on whether or not we had been there before, but we decided to give it a shot regardless.

The decor of Shanghai Cafe is typical weird Chinatown - neon purple ceiling lights, industrial metal tables and chairs, big log cabin like wooden booths, all mixed into one nonsensical aesthetic. What differentiated this restaurant was the very very friendly waitresses, who answered our probing questions politely and helpfully, and who oooh and aahhed over my mom's watch. This is indeed a rarity in Chinatown, and I feel obliged to pay the waitresses of Shanghai Cafe homage here. What strangely good service.

What We Ate

These soup dumplings were okay. I would say the skin was too thick, not even clost to paper thin. We also didn't order the crab-pork dumplings, which was our own fault - those were probably a lot better. But in terms of satisfying my craving and my throat, they did a pretty good job of it.

This dish is called "Shui Li Hong," or, as listed on the menu in English, "Bean Curd Skin with Preserved Vegetable and Green Bean" (trust me, the name is much more appetizing in Chinese). It's traditional Shanghainese fare, and delicious! Basically, its tofu skin lightly sauteed with edamame beans and this salted Chinese vegetable called snow vegetable that is only grown around Shanghai. This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes.

Okay, so this is not a great picture. I need a better camera, ok?
This dish is nian gao, or sticky cake. On the menu it's listed as "Shanghai Rice Cakes." Rice cakes are another Shanghainese specialty. They are little oval cakes that are made out of sticky rice, so have a very sticky texture. In the Shanghainese version, there is shrimp, chicken, bamboo, carrots, and onion. It is a hearty helping of gooey goodness

Soup is a big part of Chinese cooking, especially in Canton, where a woman's worth is measured by the quality of her homemade soup. Unfortunately, there were no Cantonese women to be found. This soup is called "Stuffed Bean Curd Skin & Puff with Minced Meat." Basically, it is like an eggroll made out of tofu skin and filled with meat, and a fluffy tofu variety also stuffed with meat. I was really disapointed with this soup - it was so salty that you couldn't even taste anything else, and the texture was just off. I would not order this here again.

Shanghai Cafe: B