Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
Last weekend I enjoyed a 5 day weekend visiting NJ and NYC. In 6 of the last 8 years I’ve made the pilgrimage back to the Tri-state and got to enjoy suburban NJ Chinese food and the company of some New Yorkers to take me around town. On Thursday, I took the bus and got home in time for dinner at Shanghai Bun, which is a family favorite. The interior has gotten a huge face lift over the years, but the food is still great as always. I actually had dinner here both Thursday and Friday nights. That is how much I love this place.
Fish and Mushrooms with Wine Sauce
Fried Tofu with Fish
On Friday after working up an appetite at the gym, I finally got to try a burger place that opened up two or so years ago that a friend recommended. Frankly Burgers & More is now the burger to beat within a 30 minute drive from my house.
Frankly Burgers and More
Since it was probably the last warm weekend of the year, why not enjoy the last of the heat with some ice cream from Applegate Farms?
Pistachio and Cow Tracks
On Saturday, I woke up in Lower Manhattan and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time to eat at Grimaldi’s, which is among the most visited pizza spots in NYC by both tourists and locals. So much so that we barely made it on the first seating because a tour bus got priority seating.
Grimaldi’s Large Pizza with Sausage, Mushrooms and Ricotta
Mushrooms in Butter Sauce
Yakitori and Smoked Fish
The next day we trekked out to Queens to have Korean at Sik Gaek Chun Ha, which was featured on No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain visited with David Chang to down a huge platter of seafood and fresh octopus. Sadly, they were out of fresh octopus so we dined on a spicy seafood stir fry, seafood pancakes and pork skin. Poor us.
Pork Skin Crisping on the Grill
After this meal, we headed back to Lower Manhattan to have dinner in Chinatown to eat some Chinese fast food at Big Wong King. Think roast pork/duck over rice with some greens at those places with meat hanging from the windows. No pictures here as this type of food tends to be dumped on a plate.
Here are some pictures that capture the great weather, the great state of NJ, and the deliciousness of the weekend.
The Undirty Jerz
Thanks for the Delicous Trip NYC
In case you were wondering- 3 pounds gained over 5 days. Class.
If you’ve ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant and splurged on the pricier seafood dishes, you might have been lucky enough to have lobster with ginger and scallion. I distinctly remember that my sister never liked lobster until she had this dish. The lobster shells would always have the delicious sauce absorbed into the corn flour/cornstarch and made the dish great with white rice. Since I had a lot of scallions and ginger I decided to give this dish a try. Shaw’s also had lobster on sale for $6.99/lbs, which further convinced me that this was destiny calling.
This dish sadly also required you to chop up lobster prior to cooking. This would be my first experience cutting up fresh lobsters. I usually steam lobsters so that they’ll go without a fuss. According to multiple sites, you are suppose to put the lobster in the freezer before dismantling. I put Maude and Sue in for about 30 minutes and when I went to check them out, no movement. The next step is to stick a knife just behind the eyes, and essentially splitting their face in half. Mmmmm didn’t work. Sue definitely woke up to a knife in her head. I started to freak out and tried to put her out of her misery, but there was still movement. I felt like I was going to hell in a few minutes so once the movement stopped, I quickly moved onto Maude. I repeated process, but only faster. Maude didn’t put in much of a fight, but she still gave a little tail flapping (probably the lobster equivalent of the finger. FML.
Maude and Sue Hate Me
2, 1.25 lbs. lobsters cut into pieces
2 tbsp. cornstarch
4-5 scallion greens, cut two inches long
10 pieces of fresh ginger cut into 1 inch match sticks
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil
After taking the claws off and separating the knuckles, use the back of your knife and made a couple of hacks at the claw and knuckle shells so that it’ll be easier to eat after it’s cooked. Split the tail down the middle and clean the tail of any roe or stuff from the digestive tract. Toss lobster pieces with about 2 tbsp. of cornstarch and set aside. Heat a generous amount of oil in wok and fry up lobster pieces. If you are using a smaller wok like me, fry them up in batches so that the meat doesn’t get crowded. Once shells just start turning red and meat begins turning white (about 2 minutes), drain oil from lobster and set aside. In the wok, add ginger and toss for 30 seconds. Add scallions and garlic and toss another 15-30 seconds. Add lobster back into wok and toss another 15 seconds. Add chicken stock, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, white pepper and sesame oil. Stir for another minute or so until the lobster is completely cooked. Serve with white rice or with plain noodles.
Lobster with Ginger and Scallions
Tossed with Some Udon
In typical Ray fashion, I had friends over this past weekend and had a few days of pure gluttony. When friends come over, I try my best to get a sense of they are looking to try wherever I’m living and plan the weekend around meals that will be satisfying and give Boston a chance to impress.
To begin our journey, we headed to the North End since it would be a little less crowded on a Thursday night. We got on line at Giacomo’s and after 30 minutes, we were treated to calamari, garlic bread and pasta. Calamari was good, but could have been fried better. The marinara sauce was tangy and had a homemade taste to it. Pass on the garlic bread. Lobster Ravioli was finished off quickly as the portion size was small. Linguine with Fra-como sauce and shrimp and scallops and swordfish with a cream sauce were wins. Next, we braved the only semi-hectic crowds at Mike’s Pastry for cannolis. Peanut butter, yellow cream and pistachio all safe bets.
The next day, berry tarts from the previous day were for breakfast followed by UBurger. After some afternoon beer at Sam Adam’s Brewery, it was time for dinner at Yankee Lobster Fish Market were all 3 of us enjoyed clam chowder and Lobster Rolls. This was probably the most fulfilling meal of the weekend for me both because of the concept of fresh seafood by the water at the start of summer. Perfectly crispy fries and a long walk down Seaport Blvd. help too.
Lobster Roll from Yankee Lobster Fish Market
The next day, we hit up a few Asian establishments including Japonaise Bakery for some sweets including their Azuki Cream Bun, cakes and mochi. Take a pass on the cake and head straight for the Japanese cream items and pastries. For lunch we hopped between Bonchon Chicken for some wings, pork buns, and fried octopus balls and Jojo Taipei for soup dumplings, scallion pancakes and minced pork over rice. Finally for dinner, we headed to Redbones for some BBQ. St. Louis ribs won out above all and the smoked brisket was dry. Before my friends left, we had dim sum at Hei La Moon in Chinatown. If you’re concerned about my health right now, rest assured that I’ve been eating like a rabbit since the weekend.
Almond Cake with Oranges and Cream with an Azuki Mochi
After roaming around Central Square, I stumbled across an Asian (Korean) market and saw rice cake aka nian gao, aka rice ovalettes. Usually in Korean cuisine, I’ve seen these served in a soup form, but I grew up with a fried version along the same lines of chow foon, fried rice, and lo mein. With a whole head of napa cabbage left from last week’s Asian vegetable haul, I decided to make chao nian gao (fried shanghai rice cake). These come out soft and chewy and in a slightly light/gravy-esque sauce.
After failing to find a popular recipe for the savory version of rice cakes, I poked around a few blogs and youtube videos, and I came up with my own recipe based on what I had on hand. I typically see this served with shredded pork and napa cabbage so I went out and got some center cut pork chops and sliced them for the recipe.
Rice Cake, Napa Cabbage, and Sliced Pork
Meat and Marinate
1/2 lbs. sliced or shredded pork
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves minced garlic
6 leaves napa cabbage sliced horizontally 1/2 inch thick, (divide stem pieces from leafy pieces)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp oyster sauce
In a bowl, combine pork and marinade ingredients and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Also, combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Prepare nian gao or rice ovelettes as directed on the package, drain and set aside. I just put mine in boiling water until softened (about 2-3 minutes). Heat wok or skillet over high heat. Pour vegetable oil and move around to coat. Add garlic and cook for 5-10 seconds until it just starts to brown. Add pork and remaining marinade and toss in wok until pink is barely visible/not fully cooked. Move to side of wok and add white stem pieces of napa cabbage. After stem pieces cook in the hottest part of wok for 15-30 seconds, mix pork with stem pieces. Add remaining cabbage and toss another 30 seconds or until leaves begin wilting. Lower heat to medium, add sauce nian gao. Toss and let cook 15-30 seconds until mixed well. Serve and enjoy. If nian gao begins to stick add a tbsp or 2 of water or stock.
I can’t remember the last day I lived like a vegetarian, but I started my basic work day with a bowl of cheerios and skim milk. I also brought clementines, grapes and bananas to work for healthy work week snacks. Once late morning rolled around, one of my bosses bought in chocolate goodie bags for us with a few lindt chocolates. Lunch ended up being those chocolates and a banana. For Valentine’s Day, our office turned the dining space into “Cupid’s Lounge”, which served champagne and a chocolate fountain complete with fruit, cake, and other treats. Later on, clementines filled the gap due to the sustenance void (protein). Once I got home, I decided to continue the trend and made another Asian vegetable dish with rice, only this time I added an egg for protein.
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
10-15 stems of Chinese broccoli, cut into bite size pieces on a bias
2 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Heat wok over high heat. Add oil and move around to coat the bottom and sides of the wok. Add egg and quickly stir with a large spoon/spatula/chopsticks. Once it’s finished, place in a separate bowl and set aside. Let wok reheat and then add stem pieces. Toss and let cook roughly 3 minutes. Add remaining Chinese broccoli and cook another 3 minutes or until ready to eat. Set aside in a separate bowl. In the wok, add soy sauce, oyster sauce, honey, and pepper. Let reduce roughly 1 minute or so over medium heat. Add broccoli and egg back into wok toss to coat and serve with rice. I forgot to throw in the egg so so I just served it on the side.
Chinese Broccoli, Egg, and Rice