I’m not one for watching teevee, but lately, for a number of reasons, I’ve had too much time on my hands. As I was flipping through channels I didn’t even know I had, I came upon a what I assumed was a rerun of The French Chef, Julia Child’s archetypal 1960s cooking show. Turns out it was a re-rerun in the form of a new PBS cooking show, Dishing with Julia Child, a paean to the grande dame of TV chefs – and despite my reservations, it was every bit as entertaining and educational as its progenitor. It featured celebrity chefs José Andres and Eric Ripert doing play by play and color as they “watched” her program on a mockup of a retro TV screen. Not only is the concept too cute by half but it also solved the technical problem of the difference between 60s broadcast television’s 4:3 aspect ratio and today’s 16:9 frame.

In this episode, she was preparing the iconic French dish, sole meunière. Now, I seldom do any French cooking – it requires more patience than I can muster and more proper training than I possess – and when I do, I never post about it, even if I’ve snapped a pic of the aftermath. But I do make basa meunière from time to time since basa is inexpensive and the dish requires very little patience and even less proper training – dredge in seasoned flour, pan fry in brown butter, plate with capers, lemon and parsley, take photo, consume. It reminded me that I had a couple of photos hanging around from my Cooking in the Time of COVID series that I had never posted (I don’t really do French cooking, right?) so here are the consequences.

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I had been playing around with truffle fries as an accompaniment. A toss of steamed veggies on the side, because how much Fried can you eat? (Don’t answer that!)

Served with some incredible simply roasted honeynut squash. (I sang its praises in part of my Winter Squash Deep Dive series here.)
Finally, a use for the “French” tag in a post – marginally at least!

Chinese-Italian Inspiration

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Other than as a source for ideas, I’m not one to slavishly follow others’ recipes; my preference is to innovate rather than replicate. (Not to mention that in doing so, no one can complain that I didn’t “get it right”. 😉) I was once asked where I find inspiration for my own concoctions, so apropos of that question, here’s a recent story:

I had been chatting with a charming woman who maintains a patch in a local victory garden. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that she was half Chinese and half Italian. (Imagine being a kid growing up with two sets of holiday traditions – so jealous!) She offered me some Chinese long beans that she had grown which I eagerly accepted. I was pondering how to prepare them: I could adhere to some classic time-honored long bean technique but I felt inspired to do something more with them, perhaps to create a dish that might reflect the dual heritage of the person who had cultivated them.

So this was my process. Looking at the shape of the Chinese beans, long, thin, and cylindrical, it was a cinch to come up with an element from Italian cuisine that would match: a member of the spaghetti family was the obvious choice. For this application I chose bucatini (aka perciatelli) since when fully cooked it would be nearly as thick as a long bean.

Now for some vegetables: I decided that Chinese dried mushrooms (aka shiitake) and fresh Italian cremini would harmonize nicely so they became a significant component along with chopped onion and red bell pepper in the base because those are cross cultural, and garlic, of course. Lots of garlic. For a bit of protein, ground pork went into the mix since pork is common to both regions.

And a sauce to bring it all together: Was there one that made use of some ingredients associated with both cuisines? Sichuan Yu Xiang sauce would be perfect. (Yu Xiang means “fish-flavored” but don’t be misled by the phrase – it neither contains nor tastes like fish; rather this delicious blend refers to a combination of ingredients, a little sweet and sour, a little spicy and salty, often used in preparing fish.) It comprises an assortment of classic Chinese condiments including doubanjiang (chili bean paste), Zhenjiang black vinegar, Shaoxing cooking wine and soy sauce plus, the way I make it, some tomato based sauce, so that’s a loose nod to Italy.

IMHO, the dish totally worked.

That’s the cool thing about inspiration – you never know where it’s going to happen, but it always happens when you least expect it.
Only one question remains: Do you eat this with chopsticks or a fork?

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival – 2021

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A visit to any Chinatown bakery this time of year will reveal a spectacular assemblage of mooncakes (月餅, yue bing) in a seemingly infinite variety of shapes, sizes, ornamentation, and fillings, all begging to be enjoyed in observance of the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated this year on September 21. Here are two pandan mooncakes, one with preserved egg yolk and a mini version without, from Chinatown’s Fay Da Bakery.

Since 2021 is the Year of the Ox, known for his patience and resolution, I was determined to purchase (and eat my way through – no matter how long it might take me 😉) an assortment of these delicacies in order to compare them and ultimately share them, virtually, with you. For a deep dive into the holiday and these delicious treats, please check out my Chinese Mooncakes Demystified page detailing their similarities and differences in an attempt to shed some light (moonlight, of course) on their intricacies.

Note: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some businesses may be closed – temporarily, we hope – and prices may vary. The Mid-Autumn Festival, however, will be with us forever – as long as there are autumns to celebrate!

Chinese Fried Pancake – Preserved Egg Sausage

In my last post, I wrote about Chinese Fried Pancake at 136-55 Roosevelt Ave and their humongous Mixed Grain Fried Pancake. (Correct me if I’m wrong but I think they opened sometime around November in 2020 when I was laying low.) Their signage for Preserved Egg Sausage caught my eye.

I’ve had a lot of experience with – and am a fan of – Chinese preserved eggs (aka century eggs, hundred year old eggs, thousand year old eggs, millennium eggs – do I hear epoch eggs?). When eggs are preserved in this fashion, they develop an intense flavor and aroma, the yolk turns a grayish green color with a creamy consistency, and the white becomes a gelatinous translucent brown. But I had never seen them in a sausage format.

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They’re sold as a pair of links, 8 inches long and 1½ inches in diameter; for this photo, I left one whole and propped up a cross section of its twin for display. In terms of taste, I was surprised that it was devoid of any unpleasant sulphurous/ammonia overtones often associated with the original; in my opinion it was quite tasty and not completely out of bounds for the average Western palate.

The bluish grey body of the sausage has the texture of a regular hardboiled egg and is a little salty but not overly so; I’m honestly not certain what goes into the making of it. (Possibly regular egg white with something that alters the color?) Embedded within that are bits of century egg yolk that have the creamy, slightly textured quality of hardboiled egg yolk, and bits of amber century egg white.

Closeup of a slice in what passes for normal lighting in my apartment. You can see the century egg yolk near the top and the century egg white near the bottom.

Closeup of the same slice, rotated counterclockwise and backlit, because I love that color.

So aside from playing with it, I used it in the context of congee laced with chunks of lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and scallions.

You know me: always looking for something different. This counts. 😉

Chinese Fried Pancake – Mixed Grain Fried Pancake

Flashback to a couple of months ago when I set out to reconnoiter the changes in Flushing that had occurred during my pandemically enforced quarantine. The escalator was being refurbished that day, so I speedily clambered up the subway stairs with a plan to cover as much territory as possible and a list of new (to me) places to check out, keenly aware that I’d better keep moving, sharklike, if I wanted to fulfill my mission.

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But practically at the top of the staircase, I spotted Chinese Fried Pancake at 136-55 Roosevelt Ave – not on my list, but certainly enticing. Hurriedly, I ordered their signature Mixed Grain Fried Pancake; I requested the “regular” which contained egg, “crisp”, scallion, cilantro, lettuce, preserved mustard greens, and black sesame seeds. But in my haste to cleave to my schedule, I had completely missed the part of the menu listing the available add-ons including tofu skin, shredded potatoes, pork floss, nori, spicy gluten, New Orleans (really?) boneless chicken leg, Spam, Taiwanese sausage, bacon, ham sausage, and more which would have undoubtedly elevated the experience. I definitely need to go back and do some customization.

In any event, it was huge, almost unwieldy, and very filling – but certainly not the way I had intended to start a day of eating my way through Flushing’s Chinatown.

They offer quite a selection of other dishes as well like popcorn chicken, grilled squid, stinky tofu and Dongbei cold noodle to mention some of the more appealing options.

Unfurled, revealing inner workings – telltale post-bite scallopy fringe in evidence along bottom.

But there was also signage for something even more intriguing called Preserved Egg Sausage that I knew would be a prime candidate for some domestic examination when time wasn’t at a premium.

Stay tuned to see what happened next….

It Knows It When It Sees It

A long time ago, in a century far, far away (or so it seems), there was an enduring earworm of a hit song entitled “Shrimp Boats Is A-Comin'” popularized in 1951 by singer Jo Stafford. (If you’re under 60 years of age, you can hear it here.) So being of a certain age and a lover of wordplay, the original title for Monday’s post about shrimp balls was, of course, “Shrimp Balls Is A-Comin’.”

Quite by coincidence, a couple of days before it went up, my webhost had dispatched a routine missive to their clients indicating that they had upgraded some underlying code and suggesting that we have a look at our sites to ensure that all was well. A healthy round of clicking revealed no anomalies, so I thought nothing of it.

Subsequently, I published the shrimp balls piece, apparently without incident, but although it looked just fine online, none of my subscribers had received the customary notification that a new post had dropped; everything else about it, text, photos, internal links and the like, worked as anticipated. I tried a repost. Nothing. I assumed that it might have something to do with the under-the-hood tinkering (perhaps involving the outgoing email system?) that had recently taken place, so armed with a steaming mug of coffee and prepared to spend the day staring at my computer screen while listening to music on hold, I called my webhost.

I’ll spare you the details because I’m certain that you’ve all been victims of Customer Support Abuse: scripted questions like, “Are you sure your computer is plugged in?” “Is the caps lock key engaged?” “Have you tried wiping it down with a soft cloth?” and finally, “All right then, I’ll escalate you to Technical Support…” [of course, I had already pressed 3 when I called initially] “…and when [WHEN?] we get disconnected, call us back. Please hold.” 🎶🎶🎶….

Mercifully, I was connected to someone who knew the difference between a plug and a jack, and we unearthed the answer: their mail server’s oblivious algorithm had dutifully flagged the title of the post as porn and refused to distribute the message! So to verify, while Tech Support was standing by, I hastily substituted the rather insipid but assuredly safe title “Another Chinese Snack”, reposted it, and Bob’s your uncle, the announcements were dispatched.

Clearly, algorithms are not programmed to include a sense of humor.
What follows is the post “Shrimp Balls Is A-Comin'” as it originally appeared; only the name has been changed to – ostensibly – protect the innocent.

Although in retrospect, I think the backstory is more likely to grab you. 😉

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The Japanese inscription エビのボール reads ebi no bōru, shrimp balls, although it’s a Chinese product; the package shows a serving suggestion so don’t expect to find the sesame/cumin seeds or sprinkles of seasoning depicted in the photo. They bear some resemblance to the fish balls I wrote about in my post Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of…Fish? (a particularly popular post among spammers, BTW – IDKW 😉) but rather than being something fished out of the freezer case destined for a soup pot or the like, these are a packaged item destined for snackin’ right out of the bag.

Individually wrapped as so many of these snacks are.

The inner workings. They’re moist, about 1½ inches in diameter, and actually pretty tasty; seems like there’s something more shrimp-related in there beyond what I’m guessing is mostly surimi masquerading as a higher form of seafood – plus the tiniest bit of spice. They have enough flavor on their own that I wouldn’t try to repurpose them into some loftier culinary creation; they might be more at home toothpicked with others of their ilk on a party platter.


Every Day Host Gluten Strips

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Retrieved from another snack aisle in another Chinese supermarket, these were identified in English merely as Every Day Host Gluten Strips and something very approximately like Hand Ripped Lunch Strip Taste in Chinese, taken character by character. (Feel free to tag in, 朋友们.) About five inches long, the easily unzipped twin strips are a tad oily; they’re salty, sweet, and spicy – which comes as no surprise since the ingredients listed are wheat flour, soybean oil, salt, white sugar, chili and spices. As a matter of fact, the only surprise came from their unusual texture: chewy, puffy, airy, and a bit like biting into a sponge. They’re not bad exactly, just a little unusual.

Here’s the packaging (after I had removed most of the contents) in case you want to either try them or avoid them:

Sometimes, when I come across a product that is sort of okay but not so bad as to be trashworthy, I’ll try to invent a better use for it beyond its preordained destiny. For example, I had acquired some off-brand meat-stick Slim Jim clones. Again, not awful, but nothing to write home to Mom about. Turns out they made great stirring sticks for Bloody Marys – a triumph of snackish fulfillment.

No enlightened second life inspiration for these yet, but I’m open to suggestions!

Fat Cat Flatbread

Prowling around what remains of Flushing’s food court scene with an eye toward revitalizing my ethnojunket there, I visited Fat Cat Flatbread, stall #6 in the New York Food Court at 133-35 Roosevelt Ave.

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As you might infer, their sole menu item is freshly made flatbread, at once crispy at the edges and yielding within, perhaps a little like a thin pizza crust; it’s available in seven varieties: pork, black pepper beef, preserved vegetable with pork, BBQ chicken, salted egg yolk & pork floss, maple sugar (really?), and red bean. Since I’m a salted egg yolk fan, I opted for that one. It was tasty, if a little monotone, and certainly more of a snack than anything else.

I wish I had chosen a different filling that might have held the promise of a heartier treat, but I imagine this is something you want to consume hot and fresh and the thought of downing two of them on the spot was daunting. There’ll be a next time.

Freshly prepared – scored…

…and folded.

Ousha’s Produce Stand

Our destination was vague, “far-flung NYC” per the subject line of the email, so we set our sights on the outer reaches of Queens and, as the song goes, when we reached Jamaica we made a stop. Our peregrinations included Bangladeshi food in Jamaica Hills, and unexpectedly yummy baked goods in South Richmond Hill. Nearby, in Richmond Hill, we paid a visit to Ousha, a Guyanese vendor who sells tropical fruits and vegetables and is a regular at the corner of Liberty Ave and 114th St. There were two items in particular that piqued our interest:

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Black Pudding and White Pudding (I’m counting those as one item since they arrived in the same container). These spicy sausages with roots in the British Isles are a distinctly Guyanese variation; both are made with rice, onions, and herbs, but black pudding includes pig’s blood (don’t cringe: in Spain they relish morcilla; in France, boudin; in the Philippines, dinuguan; and plenty more worldwide) and white pudding swaps in coconut milk for the, um, fluid component. The less bloodthirsty among us preferred the white, which is why that recipe was created, or so they say.

Not spicy enough for ya? This is Ousha’s homemade Mango Achar, a pickled condiment known by several similar names and enjoyed throughout the Caribbean, as well as South and Southeast Asia. On a spice level scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means you can’t taste anything other than incendiary heat (and frankly, that’s too much for me, a confirmed pepperhead), this rendition was a 9.5 – maybe even a little higher. Fortunately, it will keep in my fridge for a while.

A very long while.


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Yes, you do want this.

It’s a cross section of one of Followsoshi’s unique Roasted Cold Noodles and it tastes just as delicious as it looks. Construction is similar to that of a Jian Bing (they offer those as well) but significantly, this delicacy starts with a pair of white, striated, prepared “noodles” instead of a pancake:

It’s griddled, topped with a multiplicity of fillings and folded into the beauty you see at the top.

The slideshow chronicles the ingredients and procedure that went into our Meat Lover Roasted Cold Noodles – two eggs, followed by black sesame seeds and cilantro, then onion on the grill; it’s flipped and sauced, topped with parmesan cheese, bacon, crab stick, and BBQ sausage, then adroitly folded and portioned out:

The finished product – highly recommended:

In addition to the half dozen or so predetermined styles, there are 13 extra toppings from which you can pick and choose along with nine kinds of Jian Bing with three “Batter Upgrades” (green spinach, purple rice and red beetroot) boasting 18 optional fillings of their own.

There’s also a section of the menu called Chinese Gourmet that lists patties, rolls (ever had a “Rolling Donkey” rice roll?), bao, and braised dishes, but I’m saving those – and the Jian Bing – for a future visit.

Followsoshi is located at 135-24 40th Rd in Flushing, Queens. Of course. 😉