Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
My fellow dumpling seekers, Kristen and Andrew
Little XLB beauties
I crave certain foods. Like really crave it. And once I get it in my head, all other meals are meaningless. That’s a very bold statement but I’m known to make an exaggeration here and there. Great storytelling runs in my family and my grandpa did and mother still does add on some mild embellishments every time a story gets told. Anyway, Andrew planted the seed in my head a few weeks ago, and I’ve had buns on the brain ever since. We made plans to grab lunch this past Saturday and he, his girlfriend Kristen, and I were seated at Gourmet Dumpling House a few minutes after we arrived. We promptly ordered the pork XLB and the pork and crab XLB. And then we promptly ordered another round. The three of us ate 32 dumplings and in reality, Andrew and I ate around 13 each.
Under normal circumstances, I would be a complete wild woman and beast all over these buns. Two things stopped me and my embarrassment to eat like a truck driver in front of Andrew and Kristen is not one of them. The first is the temperature. These little suckers are filled with scalding hot liquid. They’re not dubbed soup dumplings for nothing. The second was my extremely ballsy decision to wear all white to lunch.
That being said, it should come as no surprise that there is a proper way to eat this without any spills or injuries. Please refer to the pictorial instructions below so nicely enacted by Andrew:
Andrew wins ‘Best Sport’ award
1. Get your dipping sauce ready – Chinese black vinegar with a nice heap of shredded ginger
2. Carefully pick up your dumpling with your chopsticks, taking care not to pierce the skin.
3. Dip bun in dipping sauce.
4. Nibble the side of the bun and suck the broth inside. If too hot, let the broth pour into your large soup spoon and drink once cooled.
5. Add more ginger and vinegar (optional) and eat the rest of the dumpling.
Won’t see any spilled soup on my plate!
NOM NOM NOM
It was my first time at Gourmet Dumpling House. I tend to shy away from the establishment because of the hefty line that accumulates on weekends. Because it has the recognizable word ‘Dumpling’ in it, I find that many non-Chinese folks gravitate here. The xiao long bao was wonderful here AND they take credit cards. If you’re prepared for wait, definitely check this place out. Otherwise, you can go just around the corner to Taiwan Cafe, which I think has equally delicious xiao long bao and a whole menu of other delicious treats. The only downer is that it’s a true Chinatown joint and is cash only. Long story short, bring your appetite and cash/patience.
Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach St
Boston, MA 02111
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.
Ramen. Just typing those five letters brings me back to late college nights, where fears of getting cancer or permanent brain damage from microwaving food in Styrofoam went completely out the window. I’m not proud of myself, no.
I was first introduced to this stuff by my younger cousin, Laura. I recall being at my grandparents’ house and seeing little Laura probably no more than 10, eating out of the ubiquitous styrofoam cup. I had a very limited scope of exposure to ramen before college. I knew Nissin’s Cup of Noodles from Laura and one “weird” girl from high school used to munch on uncooked ramen. I don’t know how she stored it, but it was as if her left blazer pocket was a bottomless pit of broken noodles (GAG).
I went into college having a pretty negative outlook on these seemingly innocuous noodles. Well, you know what they say about college… it’s your time to “experiment”. Hit the books, hit the bottle, hit the ramen block (the shin ramyun block to be exact). Somehow by the grace of God, I managed to evade the freshman 15 and other heinous weight gains in college. Don’t worry, I’m expecting that to catch up to me soon (starting with this trip’s terrible eating decisions). Since graduation in 2008, I’ve succumbed to the ramen monster maybe three times? Not too shabby, if you ask me!
Well, this past attack was a full fledged blow. It wasn’t the normal moment of weakness I experience. This was premeditated. Ivy, Ray, and I headed into the heart of Little Tokyo and we waited. Yes, we waited 45 WHOLE MINUTES … for ramen!
Heading into Little Tokyo Plaza
Enjoying some red bean treat while we wait // A very appropriate neon noodle sign!
Long ass line at Daikokuya Ramen
After some toying with hearts – there were three “Ray” parties on the wait list, we were finally called into the temple of noodledom. Because we had ample time to decide what we wanted, we ordered immediately. One tuna sashimi appetizer and three daikoku ramen combos – one tonkatsu, one shredded pork, and one teriyaki eel (not pictured).
Ramen packed with noodles, boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts, and sliced pork
NOT tuna sashimi // closeup on that fatty sliced pork (Chashu
tonkatsu and shredded pork
The verdict? The tonkotsu, not to be confused with tonkatsu, soup base was so rich. TonkAtsu – pork cutlet; TonkOstu – very creamy, pork bone based broth. I know, very confusing. Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Taking that quote completely out of context, the broth managed to have a profound and very rich flavor while still being subtle. After eating half of the delightfully thin, springy noodles in my bowl and a few bites of my pork cutlet and Ivy’s shredded pork, I realized that yet again my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I woefully admitted defeat and couldn’t even bring myself to eat the boiled egg, which Ray said was delicious.
Ray and I both agreed we liked the noodles best and regretted getting combos, as I would have easily given up my pork cutlet to make more room for the noodles. Ivy’s shredded pork was by far the best rice bowl. Sweet, thick sauce on pieces of pork belly really can’t be beat.
While Daikokuya may not broken my vow of less ramen, it did show me if you can’t beat the ramen monster, EAT the ramen monster (in moderation, of course).
I was determined to put my slow cooker to use and decided kill two birds with one stone by also making pulled pork for the first time. After reading so many times about the wonders of the slow cooker for winter time BBQ, I decided to use a simple recipe so that I could see the pork by itself and then try a bottled sauce as well.
Simple Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
3 lbs Pork Shoulder
Salt and Pepper
1 Bottle of BBQ Sauce
Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker and add water until the bottom of the slow cooker is covered. Set to low for 8 hours. Once shoulder is ready, take shoulder out of slow cooker and let rest 15 minutes. While the meat is resting, remove liquid from slow cooker and add BBQ sauce of choice to slow cooker bowl. Begin shredding meat from shoulder and place in the bowl. Mix with sauce. Return bowl to slow cooker and cook 30 minutes on high. Serve and enjoy. I use a Texas style sauce from World Market, which was bold and just a tiny bit spicy.
Mini Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I initially made some mini pulled pork sandwiches, but decided to use the leftovers with some cauliflower puree. Looks like cauliflower is good for something after all.
1 Head of Cauliflower chopped into 1-1.5 inch florets
1 cup Water, Milk or Stock
3 Cloves of Garlic
3 tbsp Butter
Salt and Pepper
Take cauliflower florets and place in a shallow sauce pan with 1 cup milk, water, or stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer covered for 10 minutes or until tender. While cauliflower is cooking, roast 3 cloves of garlic with olive oil in a foil pouch. Place 3 tbsp. butter, garlic and oil, cauliflower florets, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until desired consistency is reached. Use remaining liquid in sauce pan to thin out the mixture in food processor by adding a little at a time. Season to taste.
Pulled Pork Over Cauliflower Puree
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.