Carnivorous Cravings: Peking Duck House

Peking duck. Most of my other carnivorous indulgences are classics like barbeque or burgers, but Peking duck–this is my favorite. For my 20th birthday, I took a group of my friends, most of whom were unfamiliar with Peking duck, to indulge in what is supposed to be some of the city’s best peking duck. This mecca is more commonly known as The Peking Duck House. It is a nicely decorated and small spot on Mott Street in Chinatown.

Now, for those of you who have never had Peking duck, it is the best. Someone even told me once that it is globally known as the most balanced meal. You have your protein, the duck, your greens, the scallions, and your carbs, the pancakes. Ok, the most balanced meal may be a bit of an exaggeration or just wishful thinking, but it is pretty damn good. The dish is composed of a thin, crepe-like pancake filled with plum sauce, duck, and sliced scallions and then rolled up like a burrito.

Peking Duck House, of course, specializes in this Chinese treat. Almost everyone at the restaurant had ordered at least one duck. However, in addition to the duck, they provide all of the classic Chinatown treats like dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.
The dinner began with a slew of appetizers, including steamed pork buns, chicken dumplings, barbecue spare ribs, vegetable dumplings for the vegan at the table, and spring rolls. My favorites were the steamed pork buns. They are no Joe’s Shanghai, and the dumpling dough is a little too thick, but they sufficed for my pork fix. The little barbeque spare ribs were even better. While all of this was good, we weren’t there for dumplings, after all, but for the duck.

After the duck has been roasted, the waiters carry it out head and all to the customers for our approval. After giving the go-ahead, the waiters returned with two platters filled with sliced duck and its crunchy skin, huge bowls of plum sauce, bowls of scallions, and a huge pile of pancakes.
I immediately dug in, ignoring the plates of chicken, lo mein, and rice surrounding me. The duck was delicious. The pancake is a little thicker than I am used to, but it was still perfect. The duck is rich and the skin crisp and fatty. It is complemented perfectly by the tangy plum sauce and the crunch of the scallions. I think I blacked out because of pure joy as I scarfed down one duck-filled pancake after another.

As a palate cleanser, I dug into the delicious and simple vegetable lo mein, again for the vegan, the pork fried rice, and the chicken. Again, every plate was good Chinese food, but I’m sure you could get equally comparable versions at any number of the restaurants surrounding Peking Duck House.

The duck may be a little pricy at $48, but splitting one between four people makes it only $12, so don’t feel bad, just enjoy!


Street Food Wonders: Craving Some Craffles

In the chaos of my first midterm week at Columbia, this freshman thought it would be wise to stick close to home. Thus, in my first installment of Street Treats, I didn’t stray far from 116th and Broadway to find something über delicious.

Approximately 20 steps outside of the front gates sits Craffles, a French crepes and Belgian waffles pushcart. Walking between Barnard and Columbia during class rush, you might have smelled the sweet aromas of sugar, berries, and cream wafting through the air. As each day brings colder and colder weather, my longing for a warm, sugary crepe has become increasingly overwhelming.

Thus, in a moment of weakness, I found myself in line outside the cart last Tuesday debating between a classic sweet crepe filled with every berry they had, and a savory garden crepe, packed with mushrooms, spinach, tomato, mozzarella, and pesto. In the end, I went with The Crepe Deluxe, a classic combo of strawberry, banana, and Nutella.

I watched as the crepemaker began assembling my afternoon snack — using a cool crepe spreader to make a perfectly crisp circle. Then came the toppings. A quick flip with a spatula, and a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon and powdered sugar, and my crepe was complete.

Words to describe it? Warm, deliciously rich, a perfect combination of crispy and chewy, gone in under 5 minutes. The strawberries and bananas were fresh and managed to perfectly balance the richness of the Nutella. The sprinkling of cinnamon gave another level of spice that melded well with the sugariness of the crepe.

Will Craffles be my new Crepe stop? Yes. Will it be contributing to the freshman 15? Possibly. Still, I can’t resist!

Find them everyday right outside the gates of College Walk, or online at

Dinner and a Movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I would be entirely remiss if I did not include the king of all dessert movies in this series, and early on.  Mel Stuart’s 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may not be quite as true to Roald Dahl’s classic book as its 2005 adaptation, but if the chocolate river and gumdrop trees don’t leave you hungry for dessert I don’t know what will.  Gene Wilder’s Wonka can be mildly terrifying, but aside from the psychedelic trips the movie actually manages to impart messages about the downfalls of greed.  If turning into a giant blueberry or falling in with the bad eggs wasn’t enough to scare you out of gluttony, charming Charlie’s reward demonstrates without a doubt that good guys finish first.

Sappy messages aside, let’s get down to the only thing about Willy Wonka that really matters—the chocolate.  I half expect to find a golden ticket anytime I unwrap a Hershey’s bar; so far, I’ve been unlucky.  With no chocolate factory tour in sight, I’ve resorted to making my own chocolate.  This recipe doesn’t involve much work but sort of looks like it does, which is pretty much a win-win situation.  The amounts listed below are very rough estimates, and I’d encourage budding chocolatiers to try out their own unique flavors and additions!

Simple Chocolate Truffles


10 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

5 tbs. heavy cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract



Add chocolate and cream to a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir continually until the chocolate is melted.  Remove from heat and pour in vanilla (or any other flavoring).  Spoon the chocolate into a silicon ice cube tray, or ball it up and place them on a cooking sheet.  Refrigerate for two hours or until set.  Enjoy!

Voracious Vegan: Tofu 101: Three Recipes to Get You Started

Tofu has a bad rap for being a flavorless, almost alien-like vegetarian food–but it’s so much more! Tofu, also known as bean curd when used in Chinese cuisine, is made from soy milk that is fermented and pressed into small, white cubes that come in a variety of textures–extra firm, firm, soft, and silken. Tofu isn’t overly processed, but always try to buy non-GMO and organic (pro-tip: you can easily find it at Trader Joe’s)! Because it doesn’t have much of a flavor on its own, it is often marinated or sautéed with a variety of spices. Tofu can seem pretty intimidating at first, but it’s so versatile and easy to make once you learn how. Here are three of my favorite tofu recipes to get you going! Once you get the hang of it, try testing our your own recipe with different spices and seasonings.

1. Basic Baked Tofu (4 servings)

This is the tofu I grew up with. Simple, savory, and not too much prep. If you’re a newbie to tofu, this is your starting point. Ingredients: 1 block extra firm tofu, 2 tbsp Tamari or soy sauce of choice, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp sage, and 2 cups water

Directions: Set oven to “broil.” Slice tofu into rectangles, approximately 1/4 inch each. Lay out slices on a baking sheet and place in oven for 10 minutes, until tofu browns. Flip each piece and broil for another 10 minutes. In a Tupperware container (or a tall plastic container from takeout), combine lemon juice, Tamari, and sage. Place tofu slices, stacked, in the container and pour 2 cups of water over them. They should be completely submerged. Marinate for 1 hour. Set oven to 350 degrees and bake tofu for 5 minutes, until warm. Serve.

2. Scrambled Tofu with Spinach and Mushrooms (1 big serving or 2 moderate servings)

Having trouble giving up your morning eggs? This breakfast tofu will make you forget all about them. Silken tofu gives these faux huevos a soft texture and turmeric gives them the yellow coloring that may just make you forget that what you’re eating is completely vegan.Ingredients: oil of choice (I went for grapeseed), 1 package silken tofu, 2 handfuls spinach, 1 cup chopped mushrooms, 1/4 tsp turmeric, sprinkle himalayan salt, sprinkle nutritional yeast, pepper

Directions: Heat oil in a pan, letting it spread out evenly. Chop mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Gently crumble the tofu into large chunks. You don’t want them to be too small, because they will break apart further as you cook them. Add tofu to pan, stirring occasionally. Add spices and nutritional yeast. Once becomes a bit more composed (think scrambled egg texture), add the spinach. Allow the spinach to wilt, stirring frequently. Serve.

3. Maple-Cider Seared Tofu (serves 4)

This tofu is my most recent soy creation. Using seasonal maple syrup and farmers’ market apple cider, I whipped up this delightfully autumnal protein source.Ingredients: 1 block firm or extra firm tofu, oil of choice, 1/4 cup apple cider, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp Tamari or soy sauce of choice, 1/8 tsp ginger,

Directions: Press your tofu for at least 30 minutes or longer to get as much water out as possible. Heat oil in a skillet. Slice tofu into rectangles that are about 1/4 inch thick. Place slices (as many that fit) in the pan and allow to brown, flipping so that each side is browned. Apple cider, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, Tamari, and ginger. Once all slices of tofu are seared, add them back to the pan and pour the cider mixture over them. Allow the mixture to bubble and flip the slices a few times to ensure they are wholly covered. Repeat with all the slices and serve.

Try out these recipes and you’ll be a tofu expert in no time!



SoCal Cooking: Chickpea Picadillo

In the middle of a semester, these things called midterms that screw up students’ sleep cycles, challenge the efficiency of their work habits, and worst of all, distort their eating habits. I believe the best way to combat this stress-induced state of malnourishment (or sometimes gluttony) is to make a lot of really good food, and I mean a lot. And yes, this recipe is just that. 

Picadillo itself is a Latin American and Filipino dish, usually composed of potatoes and beef with tomato sauce as the base. Picadillo is served atop something like rice or plantains. It is essentially a spicy stew with diced vegetables. The Filipino variation, the one I made, is not as thick as a stew, but a bit more soup-like, and usually eaten atop rice. The best thing about this dish is that it serves up to  6-8 people just from 40 minutes of cooking, and, most importantly, it’s versatile! Especially during the weeks of midterms, versatility and brevity are the foundations of every college student’s meal. If the midterm stress is making you feel like you can’t accomplish as much as you want or that you’re not doing as great as you want, cook this dish. You’ll get it done, do it right, and feel good.  

Chickpea Picadillo


  1. 1 large white onion, diced
  2. 2 Green chili peppers, diced
  3. 4 large potatoes, cut into cubes
  4. 1 1/2 cup of corn
  5. 1 14oz can of chickpeas 
  6. 5 large carrots, chopped
  7. 3 green onions, chopped
  8. 1 clove of garlic
  9. 2 cups white rice
  10. 1 can tomato sauce
  11. 2 cups water
  12. 2 tablespoons of  black pepper
  13. 1 tablespoon of cumin 
  14. 2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes

1. Oil the pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
2. Add the garlic, cook for just a minute on medium heat.
3. Add onions, cook for 3-5 minutes.
4. Add the spices, stir well, continue cooking on medium high heat. 
6. Add the corn, carrots, chickpeas, green onions, and green chiles. Cook for 6-10 minutes.
7. Add potatoes, tomato sauce, and water
8. Cook, uncovered for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

9. Spread over rice and serve!

Fancy Mac and Cheese

You can call it a Gruyere Alfredo, but I prefer my name

I’m dedicating this recipe to midterms. In my opinion, there are few other organized institutions so well designed to make victims feel like they’ve lost control of their lives. I stumbled through a particularly fun one the other day, and like Stu Pickles, felt the need to stress-cook my way out of sobbing uncontrollably at my professor’s office hours.


I knew that I needed to create something extravagant, something to let The Man know that he can’t kill my vibe. And I find few things more satisfying to make than a velvety smooth cheese-like sauce (seriously, it’ll make you feel like a superhero). So I checked out some recipes online and found this one, which gave me a good start. I threw in some classy veggies, and in the name of extravagant and defiant cheese sauces, I created my masterpiece of love and joy and self-esteem, this “Fancy Mac and Cheese.”

It took quite a while, but by Alma, it let me taste the sweet flavor of achievement again.

Ingredients (This fed 6 hungry people):

1 medium/large white onion, chopped roughly

3 cloves garlic, diced

~1 cup asparagus tips

1/3 cup dry white wine or water

1 tbsp flour

1 cup whole milk

8 oz Brie cheese (or a similar variety), rind removed

5 oz Gruyere cheese (or a similar variety), shredded

1 lb dry pasta (I like using shells with creamy sauces)

salt and pepper

olive oil

~1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

shredded cheese of your choosing (optional)


1) Caramelize the onions. This takes a while, but is very much worth it. Put the onions in a skillet with a bit of olive oil over low heat, and stir them while they do their thing. The trick is to hit the (literal) sweet spot between translucent and burnt. Here is a mouth-watering tutorial.

2) Boil the pasta al dente.

3) Preheat the oven to 350 F.

4) Cook the garlic in olive oil over a skillet on medium heat for just a minute or so. Add the asparagus, and cook for another few minutes, until the asparagus starts to get a bit tender. Add the white wine or water, salt and pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Remove the asparagus from the pan, leaving the wine mixture. Turn the heat to low.

5) Add the flour to the garlic pan. The consistency we’re looking for is similar to hair conditioner or a little bit thinner. If it is too dry, add a little bit of milk at a time until it gets to the correct texture. Once it’s there, add the rest of the milk and stir until combined. Turn the heat to medium and cook while stirring until the mixture begins to thicken.

6) Remove the milk pan from heat and add the cheeses, a loose handful at a time and stirring well after each handful. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7) Put it all together in a bowl, stir well, and scoop it into an appropriate-sized baking pan (I used a 10-inch pie dish). Sprinkle breadcrumbs and the extra shredded cheese on top.

8) Bake for 20 minutes.


Georgian Cuisine

Oda House interior

New York is unique in many ways, but  the diversity of its residents may be one of the most important ways. This city has drawn immigrants from all over the world for centuries, and one of the lasting legacies of this is the immense diversity of the city’s food scene. One example of this unparalleled variety is located on the corner of avenue B and 5th street. Oda House is one of a very small number of Georgian restaurants, and I think it’s best to clarify that I am referring to the county located in the Caucasus and not the American state of the same name.

Khinkali - beef and pork dumplings

Georgian cuisine, while relatively unknown in the United States, has a considerable reputation elsewhere in the world. In Russia and other countries with closer contact with Georgia there is great respect and admiration for Georgian food and Georgian wines, which are often considered luxury items. My friends and I tried to order several appetizers and different entrees in order to best sample the sort of food offered at Oda House. For appetizers we ordered Qindzmari, boiled catfish in a cilantro, garlic, and vinegar sauce which was very flavorful and hearty; Khinkali, beef & pork dumplings which were well seasoned and very elegant; and also Megruli, a sort of cheese bread that looked a lot like a personal pizza and consisted of a mixture of Georgian cheeses. For entrees the party ordered Chashushuli (veal in a vegetable sauce), Chakapuli (seared lamb also In a vegetable sauce), and finally Chanakhi (lamb in a sauce of several herbs).

Megruli - cheese bread

Each dish was very sharable, presented on separate plates and with serving spoons, making the restaurant a good location for a group of friends. The restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere, its lively but was not overly crowded on a Friday night, and possesses minimal decorations to remind you that you are in a non-western restaurant. Most dishes have meat, and many also have nuts, but there is sufficient variety to meet most dietary restrictions and still enjoy the unique flavors. The restaurant was reasonably prices with entrees about $20 and well portioned appetizers about $10 a piece. Overall I would recommend the restaurant to anyone who is interested in experience the somewhat uncommon, but not particularly unusual and highly diverse and rich cuisine of Georgia.

Lost in Translation – France

This summer, I picked up a copy of Julia Child’s “My Life in France.” Engrossed by her tales of fearless cooking, I tried to imagine what it must have been like learning to cook in a foreign country, in a language not your own.  Later, as I was browsing through my cookbook collection this summer, I happened upon the baking book I had picked up in France.  I flipped through, realizing how rusty my French had become, and then my twisted mind thought, what if I tried to use this cookbook without a translation?  Thus, an idea was born: I would try to cook from a foreign language recipe without translating it and just working off my best hunches.  Italian food in Italian, Spanish tapas en español… what have I gotten myself into?

I’ll admit, I went easy on myself for this first foray into cooking sans subtitles.  I decided to try a French recipe, since I’ve taken French in the past.  And what could be more classic than French bread?  It started with a trip to Fairway in the rain – hardly an auspicious kickoff to my adventure.  I looked over the copy of the recipe I brought: numbers one and two on the list of ingredients were farine de seigle and farine blanche.  I knew farine blanche – white flour.  But seigle?  I resisted the urge to google translate, and grabbed a bag of “all-purpose” flour, figuring that all-purpose should cover both blanche and seigleSucre roux I figured was brown sugar, and levure de boulanger déshydratée just had to be yeast.  Overall, aside from the little flour speed bump which I’m sure destroys any credibility I may have among serious bakers, gathering supplies was relatively simple.

I can practically hear the francophones reading this and hollering “RYE!”  Yes, as I later found out, seigle means rye, so the bread I made was more “pillsbury’s finest” than anything French.  Oh well.  To that, I reply with one of the few phrases I can remember: C’est la vie.

Armed with my kitchen scale, since the measurements were all by weight, I set about making a vastly-underprepared mess of myself in my Hartley kitchen.  I squinted at my recipe and ran into the second roadblock in translation: cuil. à café.  I was pretty sure cuil. Was an abbreviation for spoon, but what sort?  Teaspoon?  Tablespoon?  I went with the assumption that teaspoon got translated across the Atlantic into coffee spoon, and hoped for the best.  Next step: “Mélanger de façon à bien amalgamer le tout plus pétrir jusqu’a obtention d’une pâte qui se détache des parois de la casserole…” Ok, so I was lost after mélanger de façon à bien amalgamer, but, undaunted, I kneaded away and then let the ball of dough rest while I went to a lecture.

Two hours later, I returned to a big ball of dough that had “doublé de volume,” so I guess everything worked out all right with the whole mélanger bit.  The recipe called for an oven preheated to 190 degrees Celsius.  I figured that burning down my dorm in a cooking translation experiment wouldn’t exactly endear me to the university; anyways, converting measurements isn’t exactly translation, is it?  So I set the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and popped the whole big boule in the oven to bake.  An hour later my bread emerged from the oven piping hot, apparently solid as a rock, and sporting a large crack along the edge that made it look like an eyeless whale.

After a bit of cooling, my suite-mates and I dug on.  The loaf was actually quite chewy on the inside, reminiscent of an enormous soft pretzel, with just a hint of the sea salt I borrowed from my neighbor.  The crust, however, was extremely thick and crunchy.  I couldn’t decide if this was particularly good bread, but most of it was eaten by the next day, so I’ll mark this attempt as a success.  Nothing was burned, nobody was poisoned, and I never even touched Google translate.  Voila!

Pain de Seigle 

450g de farine de seigle

225 g de farine blanche

un peu plus pour soupoudrer

2 cuil a café de sel

2 cuil a café de sucre roux

1 ½ cuil a café de levure de boulanger déshydratée

425 ml d’eau tiède

2 cuil. a café d’huile, un peu plus pour graisser


  1. Taniser les farines, et le sel danse une jaffe, ajouter le sucre et le levure et mélanger.  Creuser un puits au centre et verser l’huile et l’eau.
  2. Mélanger de façon à bien, amalgamer le tout plus pétrir jusqu’a obtention d’une pâte qui se détache des parois de la casserole.  Pétrir la pate 10 minutes sur un plan de travail farine, jusqu’a ce qu’elle soit homogène et élastique
  3. Enduire d’huile les parois d’une jatte.  Façonner la pate en boule, la mettre et dans la jatte et couvrir.  Laisser lever 2 heures près d’une source de chaleur, jusqu’a ce que la pate ait double de volume.
  4. Huiler une plaque de four.  Pétrir de nouveau la pate 10 minutes sure un plan légèrement farine.
  5. Façonner la pâte en boule, la mettre sur la plaque et couvrir.  Laisser lever encore 40 minutes près dune source de chaleur jusqu’a ce qu’elle ait double de volume.
  6. Pendant ce temps préchauffer le four a 190 degrés C.
  7. Cuire le pain 40 minutes au four préchauffé.
  8. Cuire encore 20 a 30 minutes jusqu’a ce que la croute sait bien dorée.  Transférer sure un grille et laisser refroidir complètement.
  9. Servir

Thai street food

Pok Pok NY serves up Thai cuisine that you are unlikely to find on menus of most Thai restaurants. The unfamiliar dishes are meant to be shared and they are delicious and unexpectedly filling. One of the desserts, described as a staple street side treat is the ice cream sandwich. It features sweet sticky rice inside a bread bun, with jack fruit ice cream on top, topped with crushed peanuts and chocolate sauce.  Indulgent doesn’t even begin to cover it!

Ice cream sandwich at Pok Pok NY

Photographed and sampled by: Onella Cooray, CC’14

Learn more about Pok Pok



The Perfect Bite: Bite Day

So my friend has this thing called bite day. Every Saturday she allows herself to eat a bite of anything she wants. Every other day she is very health conscious, eating mostly vegetables and lean meat. I admire her self-restraint; I can’t go more than 48 hours without eating something sweet. I’m a bite day, every day kind of girl.

Bite day is fun for me, too. It’s like a quest to find the ultimate bite of food. What foods would make it better? What can I make that will explode with flavor? Which cafés will have the best pastries?

So far this year we’ve done bite day at Maison Kayser (twice), City Bakery, Thai Market, and Artopolis. We usually throw in a cappuccino, because why not?

I made cheesy scrambled eggs with crackers and salsa. Officially the best eggs of my life.

Hershey’s mini bar with speculoos cookie butter? Check.

Entire container of pad thai in one sitting? But of course.

Raddichio and goat cheese pastry? Mindblowing.

Of course, I can never stop with just one bite and I usually end up gorging myself on tons of sugar and caffeine and buttery deliciousness, so I wouldn’t really call it a single bite day for me. But I like to think that bite day is the day I savor every bite, really taste all my food, and appreciate every second of it. And it is so much fun.