Tag Archives: meat

Best Soup Dumplings in Manhattan

Soup dumpling is a type of mini-steamed-buns originally from Shanghai, and it is quickly gaining popularity in New York. Its Chinese name Xiaolongbao has the meaning “small” “steaming basket” – which explains how it is cooked.

Since many Chinese restaurants in the U.S. are based on Cantonese cuisine, soup dumplings were introduced as a dim sum dish among other Cantonese dim sums. In New York, one can often order soup dumplings in dim sum restaurants in Chinatown. But if you’re looking for authentic soup dumplings, your best bet would be elsewhere.

Joe’s Shanghai was among the first Shanghai-style restaurants in the city, with its first store opened back in 1995. While the brand is well-established, the taste of the soup dumpling is not as special as one might expect. The dumplings are too big – when presented, they look like they have collapsed in the basket.

Carla Asian Tapas, on the other hand, serve great soup dumplings that outshine any other soup dumpling places I have tried in New York. Located at 38 Carmine Street, the chic Asian tapas serves contemporary Chinese food “with Western flare”, as its owner Luguang said, who is now a longtime New Yorker with a long time dream of opening a restaurant of Asian cuisine.

The restaurant is decorated with a modern flare – a full bar, two main dining rooms with the inner one often used as a venue hosting art and cultural events, and a garden decorated with string lights.

Busy on a Wednesday night.
Busy on a Wednesday night.

Upon looking at the restaurant’s succinct menu, names such as “Peking Duck Tacos” and “Panko Crusted Lobster Roll” immediately jump out. They are original dishes that truly make an effort to combine flavors from the East and the West.

Both the pork soup dumplings and the crab soup dumplings here are extremely well made and taste like the ones I used to have in the popular Taiwanese brand Din Tai Fung – the chain has become so popular that it has opened several U.S. locations in recent years . Indeed, the head chef James Yang at Carma came directly from Taiwan and had worked as the Executive Chef at Din Tai Fung. While at Din Tai Fung, Chef Yang trained chefs for the chain’s international locations such as Tokyo and most recently, Dubai.

The delicate crab soup dumplings has a subtle crab meat flavor and is not overly oily. Both types of soup dumplings have tender and thin outer skin, wrapping around just the right proportion of filling inside. Out of the two, I prefer the pork soup dumpling ($10 for 6pc) as I find that the flavor of the pork meat truly phenomenal.

Soup dumplings with crab meat and pork.
Soup dumplings with crab meat and pork.

A note on the etiquette of eating soup dumplings: when eaten hot – which is always preferred – one should dip the dumpling in vinegar, cut a little opening on the top of the dumpling using their mouth, drink the soup first, then eat the dumpling. This procedure is to prevent the soup from filling and your mouth from getting burnt. The dumplings tend to get cold very quickly. When they are at room temperature, these dumplings can be eaten as a whole at once.

Vegetable dishes and appetizer dishes here also did not disappoint. Cold appetizer dishes developed by the chef were full of flavors and different textures.

What I find special about Carma is that while it draws from Taiwanese, Shanghai-style Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, the finished results are always delicate. The menu strikes the perfect balance of playful experimenting and staying true to authentic flavors.

Shumai with beets.
Shumai with pork and beets.

One of the most exciting items on the menu, the Peking Duck Tacos, however, turned out to be different from what I had expected. Peking Duck served in Beijing restaurants has a combination of extremely crispy skin and savory, chewy duck meat. The tacos however, feature only the duck meat. Nevertheless, for taco lovers, it is a creative take to combine guacamole, crispy taco shells, and duck meat.

While creating new dishes, Carma Asian Tapas also offers Chinese classics that have truly authentic flavors.

 

 

 

Visit Carma Asian Tapas website: http://www.carmanyc.com/

Address: 40 Carmine Street (take the 1 train from campus all the way to Houston St and walk for 3 minutes)

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Los Sabores de Yucatán or: How I was Converted to Love Tacos

I’ve never been a huge fan of tacos. I know, I know. How could I not love tacos? I guess I never really saw the point. But I’ve been converted—I haven’t stopped thinking about the tacos I ate last week.

Tacombi’s website says “Born on the balmy beaches of the Yucatan, Tacombi began selling tacos out of a converted VW bus in Playa del Carmen. Now, comfortably parked in Nueva York, Tacombi on Elizabeth street transports people from the streets of Nolita to the streets of Mexico, offers a piece of the Mexican beachside lifestyle and shares with them the diversity of Mexican street food culture.”

This describes it. It’s a loud, relaxed atmosphere which, if you didn’t know, could be just off the beach somewhere tropical. Prep is done in the back, but the actual tacos are, I believe, cooked in the original truck, pictured below.

IMG_4913
The original food truck still has a place in the restaurant.

I’ve been meaning to go here for a long time—one of the co-owners is the brother of the chef I work for in Boston—but I hadn’t gotten around to it until last week, when, after an art history trip to the Met, a friend and I decided to take the 6 down to Nolita. I didn’t realize the restaurant takes reservations, so when we got there (7:15-ish) we had to wait for about 10 minutes.

But onto the food, because who wants to read about the wait?

Corn equites, lime & chipotle mayo
Corn esquites, lime & chipotle mayo

The corn esquites comes in a cup, with the toppings heaped on top. This is so delicious; sweet, spicy, savory. If you like sweet corn, mayo, cheese, and lime, this is the dish for you. Be sure to mix it up—this is a dish where it helps if all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Don’t be afraid to ask for more limes if you want them.

Tacos!
Tacos!

The restaurant recommends three tacos, but each comes with two soft taco shells, and diners are instructed to put half of the filling in each—so really, you’re getting six tacos.

From left to right:

Crispy fish: fresh cod tequila battered and topped with cabbage

Close up of the crispy fish.
Close up of the crispy fish.

This is a Tacombi favorite, and rightly so. Fried fish, more of that mayonnaise, and crunchy, (pickled?) cabbage? Squeeze a little lime on it, and maybe some salt, and you’re good to go.

Barbacoa: roasted black angus beef

IMG_5815

I’m not a huge fan of beef, in general, but I am a fan of tender, slow-cooked meat. This is tender and flavorful, and the toppings cut through the richness of the meat.

Pork belly: slow roasted berkshire pork

IMG_5816

Pork belly is my favorite food. This was incredible; again, the tender meat and great toppings. In general, I find that pork belly, despite its buttery, smoky taste, can often be too rich to eat much of. It’s a food that I often find myself needing to sit down after eating. This, however, was rich without being overpowering, filling without being heavy, buttery without being oily.

All in all?

Go to Tacombi. Go hungry, and order the corn esquites for me.

Ambiance
Ambiance

Tacombi at Fonda Nolita:

267 Elizabeth St; (917) 727-0179

Atmosphere: Open, casual, upbeat, young.

Sound Level: Loud.

Recommended Dishes: corn esquites, pork belly taco, crispy fish taco

Price Range: $$

Hours: 11am-12am Sun-Wed, Thurs-Fri 11am-1am, Sat 9am-1am

Reservations: OpenTable

 

Manzo in Eataly

No one usually looks to a marketplace for a great date night. There are too many people just standing around clogging the aisles with their hungry, indecisive bodies. There are too many kids running around screaming and begging for ice cream. But take a step into Eataly and you might see more than just a market.

Though there are many great restaurants in Eataly, I went to Manzo. Service was friendly and attentive. Waiters waltzed in between tables, ties dangling from their necks, and two men in suits strolled around, making sure everything was in order. The staff carried themselves with an air of professionalism, not often akin to marketplaces. After a while, I got the sense that the restaurant was not built in the market; rather the market was built around the restaurant.

I started my meal with a plate of carpaccio. The plate was covered entirely in thin circles of meat, striped here and there with tender, marbled fat. Peppered across the dish, shards of parmigiano reggiano provided a salty and nutty compliment to the meat. A clump of watercress rested in the center. The color and the taste of its citrus vinaigrette gave a pleasant contrast to the slices of meat. I meant to take a picture of the carpaccio, for it looked quite lovely. Yet, I already finished half the dish before I remembered to do so.

Next -and yes, I did get a picture of this one – I had a duck ragu with foie gras. The very essence of duck seemed to have soaked into the casarecce pasta. The dish was indescribably savory, rich, and hearty, but delicate as well. It was the type of dish you could picture both in the fanciest of restaurants and at a casual meal made by that great aunt from Sicily, who wanted to visit you while she was in New York even though you’ve really only seen her once or twice in your lifetime. Since I find myself grasping for words to describe this ragu, take a look at the picture and go to Manzo to get it for yourself.

Manzod Duck Ragu

At last, I got a wonderful lemon meringue, appropriately named Leggero. That’s Italian for “light.” Topping the meringue was a sweet blackberry swirl, a fresh blackberry, a tangy dab of lemon gelato, and a few sprigs of basil. Indeed it was a lemon meringue, but the basil made the dish. It added a certain complexity to the dish that forced you to keep eating in order to understand how it fit so well on top of a dessert. All in all, I found the meringue to be a delightful, palate-cleansing end to the meal. And just look at it. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Manzo's Lemon Meringue

Manzo is a gem hidden in plain sight. Ignorant of the bustling shoppers all around, this restaurant provides a warm and friendly dining experience with tastes to satisfy most everyone…except vegetarians. Sorry, Manzo’s specialty is meat.

Manzo

200 5th Ave

New York, NY 10010

Tel: 212.229.2180

Bistro Ten 18

Dining starts in the eyes, before you order and even before you sit down. Dining starts when you first enter the restaurant. And I must say, it was a fabulous start to my dinner when I walked into Bistro Ten 18.

The restaurant was dark, perhaps darker than the twilight outside. Yet, as night closed in over the restaurant, I became lost in the soft, intimate glow of candles. Wine racks lined an entire wall, and the white space behind them radiated from some unseeable bulbs. The windows were wide and plenty, but I barely noticed anything besides the superb ambience.

Kentucky Country Ham & Crispy Poached Organic Egg salad

I started with the Kentucky Country Ham & Crispy Poached Organic Egg salad. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but the dish tasted much like a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on salad instead of bread. Don’t knock it until you try it, though. Clumped on top of the bed of ham were mustard greens and snap beans, all dressed with a dijon vinaigrette. The light and sweet flavors of the salad balanced out the rich, salty taste of ham, egg, and cheese.

As soon as I finished and settled back in my chair, a waiter rushed forth to take my plate and refill my water glass. He was one of many waiters I had. Neither he nor any of the others waiters spoke much, though. They simply minded their own business and let me be, which isn’t such a bad thing on a date.

Next, I had the Braised Berkshire Pork Shoulder. The dish was simple, but perfectly so. Basically, it was a chunk of meat surrounded by beans and topped with a little bit of greens. It was warm, hearty, and unbelievably tender. The thick jus had completely soaked into the meat. I could’ve used a spoon to cut it.

Again, when I finished, a waiter took my plate and said next to nothing. I tried to speak to the waiter, but I realized how loud I was speaking. I could barely hear myself talk. Thus, I wouldn’t recommend this place for a first date. You can’t connect well with someone if you can’t hear what they’re saying. Yet, if it’s not your first date, the noise helps the romance. In order to converse, you need to lean in towards each other. From so close, your date’s eyes will glimmer in the candle light, and blaze like two elegant tongues of flame. You might not know what your date is saying, but you’ll certainly enjoy the intimate stares.

Finally, I got the Peanut Butter Brownie Sundae. Following in the pork shoulder’s footsteps, the sundae was simple. It wasn’t anything more than it needed to be. However, I was a little disappointed. Was it delicious? Definitely. But, it arrived in the classic sundae glass, topped with nuts, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry. It was clichéd. I wanted something more original. Plus, I could easily make a sundae without spending $10.

Regardless, Bistro Ten 18 was a great experience. The ambience was wonderful and the food was fantastic. And one final note: Bistro Ten 18 delivers. If you just want to cuddle up at home and eat a juicy pork shoulder, there’s nothing stopping you.

Bistro Ten 18

1018 Amsterdam Avenue at 110th Street. NYC

212-662-7600

http://bistroten18.com/

Allayet Bandora

Allayet bandora with a side of rice

I only really started to cook in the summer before I came to Columbia. I had spent some time in the kitchen, but never seriously. Before leaving, I believed that I needed to quickly learn how to cook so that I could feed myself when the dining hall closed. The first thing that my mother said I needed to learn to make was an allayet bandora, which means tomato stir-fry in Arabic. This is a simple meat sauce that can be eaten with rice, and is very easy to make. If you’d like, you can also turn it into a breakfast dish by frying some eggs with it.

 

 

For a recipe that feeds four, you’ll need the following ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped into small pieces

1 Ib. ground beef

4 tbsp. corn oil

A handful of pine nuts, fried in vegetable oil

1 tsp. Arabic spice mix*

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 Ib. tomatoes, cubed

1 green chili (optional)

*You can make this spice mix yourself by mixing the following spices, or you can try to find it at a Middle Eastern specialty store. If you’re only using this spice mix for this recipe, then I don’t think it’s worth buying all of the spices just make one teaspoon. You can just add whatever combination of these spices that you like or that you already have.

2 tbsp. ground black paper, 2 tbsp. paprika, 2tbsp ground cumin, 1tbsp ground coriander, 1 tbsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1 tsp, ground cinnamon, and ½ tsp. ground cardamom.

  1. This recipe starts out like you’re making any other ground beef/tomato sauce dish. You add a little of vegetable oil to a frying pan, and fry the onions until they become transparent.
  2. Add the beef, a teaspoon of salt and the teaspoon of the Arabic spice.
  3. Once the beef is cooked, add the cubed tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes on a medium-low heat.
  4. If you’d like to make your allayet bandora spicy, cut up some green chili and add it to the tomatoes.
  5. While the meat and tomatoes are being cooked, fry the pines nuts in a little bit of vegetable oil.
  6. Once you see that your tomato/beef sauce is well cooked, add it to a plate of rice and top it with the pine nuts.

I hope you will like making this recipe for a quick, traditional Middle Eastern stew!

A Home-Cooked Meal for Spring Break

Warm Waraq Dawali, with stuffed grape leaves, zucchini, and lamb chops

Much of what we associate with home is the food that we grow up eating. Many people will tell you that nothing is better than mom’s cooking. When we are homesick, what we miss most is our favorite home-cooked meal. After making the 12-hour-long trip back home for spring break, I could not help but ask my mom to prepare my favorite meal, and I’d like to tell you about it. This dish has many names depending on where you’re from. My family calls it waraq dawali, others call it waraq ‘inab, others dolma. Stuffed grape leaves (waraq in Arabic), are the main component of the dish. It is believed that the word dolma comes from the Turkish dolmak, to stuff. There are many varieties of stuffed grape leaves. In Greece and Turkey, they are served as cold mezzes, whereas in Egypt they are eaten hot, accompanied by other stuffed vegetables such as eggplants and cabbages.

My favorite dish, waraq dawali, is a pot with layers of stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, tomatoes, and onions, and lamb chops on the top. These layers are tightly packed in a large pot, cooked, and then inverted on a plate. The stuffing is usually a mixture of rice, minced meat, and tomatoes, although different households will have different varieties , just like different American homes have different varieties of Turkey stuffing on Thanksgiving.  While the pot is on the stove, the juices of the grape leaves and zucchini flow, trickling down through the layer to give moisture and a lot of flavor. The lamb chops at the very top of the dish (or the very bottom of the pot), are juicy and tender. This dish is really one of the most popular among people from the Middle East. It’s a perfect meal; it offers lots of protein from the meat and the stuffing, a healthy serving of carbs from the rice, and rich nutrients from the grape leaves and zucchini. It is a very filling meal, and can keep you warm when the temperatures in that part of the world occasionally drop below 60 degrees.

Appetizers: Lahmeh Mabroumeh on the left; Kibbeh on the right

Lunch in the Middle East is, of course, never complete without some delicious sides. The day I had my favorite meal, my mom also prepared two of my favorite side dishes. The first is called Kibbeh and originates in the Syrian city of Aleppo. A kibbeh is prepared by encasing a minced meat and onion mixture in a dough-like shell made from bulgur wheat, lemon juice, and even more meat. This oval-shaped dumpling is then deep-fried, giving the case a crunchy texture. No one ever said that all Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food is diet-friendly, but kibbeh is a really popular side-dish found all over the Levant and Iraq, with many different variations and shapes. The other side dish that I had was specifically a Palestinian pastry that consists of rolled up filo dough stuffed with, again, meat. Its name, lahmeh mabroumeh, is accurately descriptive because it literally means “rolled up meat.” Usually, this pastry is found as an appetizer accompanying other savory pastries like spinach or cheese pies (fatayer sabanegh w jibneh).

As you may have guessed, after eating all of this food in one sitting, I was too full for dessert, but this doesn’t mean that I didn’t have any. In my next post, I’ll tell you about my favorite Middle Eastern dessert, the knafeh. 

No-Work Pull-Apart Pork Belly

When I say that this little recipe is an absolute comfort in the winter but requires almost no work, I am not trying to trick you. If you have all the ingredients at hand, the preparation that goes into this totals about ten minutes at most. Warning: the pork is insanely good and tender, but also quite overwhelming on its own. I usually have it with rice, fresh vegetables, and occasionally a fried egg. Once more, my go to for the pork is the Los Vecinos Meat Market. They have the best prices by far and will slice your pork into happy single person portion sizes.

Ingredients

  • Pork belly, single-person portion
  • Oyster sauce, 1 tbsp
  • Chicken stock, 3/4 cup
  • Garlic, 3-4 cloves
  • Soy Sauce, 5 tbsp
  • Sugar, 2 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Thai peppers (optional)
Recipe

 1. Dump pork on foil. Cover in oyster sauce. Arrange garlic and peppers. 

 

2. Scrunge the foil into a parcel, covering the pork completely. Place in preheated oven at 350 F for 2 hours. 

3. Uncover pork, serve with yummy sides!
Final words: this recipe is not recommended for anyone who does not get along with tender chunks of animal fat.

 

Stewed Fish Lips Et Cetera

I’ve had a hectic weekend of running up and down New York at ungodly hours, grabbing sandwiches and ramen and too many cups of coffee at irregular intervals. I have a meat excursion planned for the coming weekend. But today, I am unfortunately unable to supply us with a usable recipe or restaurant review today. Notice that I said usable. Instead, you will find not one, but a good number of somewhat unusable recipes.

If you do intend cook these, you’d probably have to go into the woods and shoot a bear (actually) to gather some of your materials, figure out how to fry milk, and probably have some pretty crafty black market contacts. These recipes come out of a cookbook that used to belong to my grandmother who was a famous cook in her day in Malaysia. I have actually tried some variation of some of these dishes before, with substitutes for the more unusual kinds of meat. This post is, hence, dedicated to those of you meat lovers with a craving for particularly exotic foods.

 

If anyone needs an old chicken, let me know. I might have some in my freezer.

Bereket Turkish Kebab: Better than Halal and Worth the Price

Roasted Döner Kebab. Photo credit: Bereket Turkish Kebab House

Located on Houston and Orchard, the Bereket Turkish Kebab House is open round the clock, and offers Lower East Siders delicious Turkish kebabs, sandwiches, and mezzes. If you are feeling hungry after a night out in the area and are looking for a satisfying but cheap meal, this is the place to go. The place itself isn’t easy on the eye. It looks more like a high school cafeteria than a restaurant. That being said, the food is really what draws people to this kebab house. I had read about this place quite a long time ago, and it was only when I was actually in the area with a couple of friends that we decided to give it a try. My friends got a friend eggplant platter ($6.25), a nice serving of delicious eggplant with a generous amount of rice and tomato sauce, and an Adana kebab platter ($13.50), which included a skewer of spiced kebab meat with rice and vegetables. I ordered the Döner kebab sandwich ($6.50), which is pita bread wrapped around thinly sliced meat similar to the Greek gyro. The meat was tender and well seasoned, the pita bread was warm and comforting, and the vegetables added a fresh crunch to my meaty sandwich. The food is pretty cheap. It does cost a lot more than what you would pay for a platter from a Halal cart, but it is definitely better than Halal. The Turkish owners serving behind the counter were also great. They took care of orders quickly and talked to customers while they were filling pita bread, spooning some mezzes on a plate, or cutting out slices of Döner kebab from the large chunk of meat being vertically roasted behind the counter.

While the food was good, and the experience pleasant, I would say that it’s not worth spending half an hour on a subway to get to it for its own sake, since there are other cheap Middle Eastern options around Columbia, and, although it was really good, the kebab doesn’t offer anything new. But if you’re already in the area, then I definitely recommend giving this place a try. Sahtein w Afieh! Or, as they say in Turkey, Afiet Olsun!

Roasting Beef: Cut and Color

In keeping with the title of my column, I have decided to write a post about meat. Or, more specifically, I have decided to write a post just about meat. In particular, we will talk about perhaps the most quintessential of meat dishes — the basic roast beef.

Roasting beef is much less about a recipe than it is getting two basic components right — cut and color. It doesn’t matter whether your meat has a honey-mustard glaze or a chimichurri sauce. A subpar piece of meat or a bad roasting method will certainly bring down your roast. But find yourself a good cut and roast it well, and you can confidently leave your meat unadorned save for a bit of salt and pepper knowing it will be delicious all the same.

Acquiring The Right …

Cut

You want to know you have a good bit of Betsy on your hands. But how do you tell bad Betsy from good Betsy? This comes largely through the experience of having tried different cuts of meat and finding out what you like. Some people I know only do rib roasts and tenderloin. I think these are nice pieces for an occasion, and especially for making something more fancy like a Wellington. But the cut that I go to for year-round roasting is a good eye-of-round. It is ever so much more affordable and, if you do it right, makes you feel an unparalleled sense of accomplishment and resourcefulness .

As for where to go: If you want relative quality for the price, Morton’s definitely beats WSM. I would avoid WSM for roasts altogether. Morton’s doesn’t always have a roast on their shelf but they bring them in perhaps once a week or so. For something a little more upscale than Morton’s but pricier, Garden of Eden on 108/ Bway will do. If you want something that will certainly make your efforts worthwhile, then ring up Schatzie the Butcher (87th/ Ams). Schatzie will tell you what you need for the number of people you are having. He will pick up the phone shouting “Schatzie” and, after taking your order, “Schatzie got you! It’s a coming, it’s a coming!” The phone then goes down abruptly and you’ll be certain to doubt whether dear Schatzie “got you” seeing as there is no confirmation email/ call/ anything. I am happy to reassure you that Schatzie has never failed to deliver my hunk of meat on the promised day.

Color

Repeat after me: I want a nice pink center. When a hunk of meat rolls out of the oven and is lowered between an array of colorful sides, I find nothing more disappointing than slicing through and, behold — grey! Alas, the roast has been roasted all the way through and gone is the delight of tender, juicy mouthfuls. But you won’t have that effect past a certain point of roasting. What you’ll have is something tough and rubbery, perhaps even dry — at any rate, it does poor Betsy’s sacrifice little justice.

As a general principle, do not increase roast time just because you are “nervous” that it isn’t done. It is easier to put an underdone roast back in the oven than to remedy an overdone roast. How do you consistently roast to the right color? The first is to have plenty of experience. This isn’t very helpful since you either do or don’t. The second is to make very precise calculations. There are lots of charts that measure pound against temperature and time. Then you hover around the oven nervously while looking at your meat thermometer. I’ve never used a meat thermometer. I prefer the third option, which is to test a few recipes and stick to a foolproof one.

Alright, alright, I’ll just go ahead and tell you what it is that works every time. Put a three pound eye-of-round in the oven at 475 F for 21 minutes. Do not be tempted to increase the cooking time or you will be sorry. Turn the oven off, but leave the door closed for 2 1/2 hours. The gradual decrease in temperature leaves the meat beautifully tender with a very even, pink middle, like this:

 

Serve with plenty of sides and, most importantly, plenty of wine.