Wu’s Wonton King – Part 4

Instagram Post 2/24/2020

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Last post (until I get back there 😉) from Wu’s Wonton King, the first-rate Cantonese restaurant at 165 East Broadway in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Here are two dumpling orders from the Dim Sum section of the menu. Pan Fried Shrimp with Green Chives, just what it sounds like and totally delicious…

…and Steamed Chaozhou dumplings, halved so you could see the filling (and yeah, so we could share). Peanuts provide the crunch in these classic pouches in addition to an ample complement of carrots, peas, shiitake mushrooms, ground pork, and dried shrimp. Love these.

Chinese Broccoli (gai lan), stripped of its leaves, included here to dispel the myth that I tend to overlook vegetables.

Eager to return to Wu’s Wonton King with another group – which will be very soon!

Wu’s Wonton King – Part 3

Instagram Post 2/23/2020

More from wonderful Wu’s Wonton King, the classic Cantonese eatery at 165 East Broadway in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

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You’ve probably gazed at the awesome roasted/BBQ meats (and sometimes cuttlefish if you’re lucky) hanging in the windows at Cantonese restaurants: roast pork, roast pig, soy sauce chicken, and so many more. The collective term for these favorites is siu mei (燒味), not to be confused with the popular dim sum dumpling, shu mai (燒賣). But if you’d like a change from roast duck, give this marinated braised duck, beautifully rare and perfectly succulent, a try.

Check out the framed posters on the wall and you’ll spot “Dried Squid Sautéed Fried with Silver Anchovy”; it was that photo that tempted us and it proved to be another outstanding choice. (It’s “Dried Squid Stir Fry”, #16 on the Seafood section of the menu, if you don’t see it on the wall.) Tender squid contrasted with the crispy little fish, but don’t envision European salted anchovies packed in oil like you might find on a pizza; these are half a world apart. Literally. I’ll be returning with a different group very soon, and this dish is at the top of our gotta-do-this-again list.

More from Wu’s coming up.

Wu’s Wonton King – Part 2

Instagram Post 2/22/2020

It seems to me that authentic Cantonese cuisine is often overlooked in favor of other, less subtle, regional Chinese fare. That may be because Chinese-American food, a poor excuse for gastronomy IMO but a stepping stone for the totally uninitiated I guess, has its roots in Guangdong.

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Our foray into the real deal at Wu’s Wonton King, 165 East Broadway in Manhattan’s Chinatown, was rewarded with this bowl of Pan Fried Noodles with Seafood. (Second photo shows the crispy noodles that are the raison d’être of this dish.) They say that timing is everything and that’s surely the case with this presentation. Mix well: if you start crunching before the sauce has a chance to permeate the noodles, you’re missing the point; wait too long and the rich seafood mélange will have saturated and drowned them into a submission of sogginess. Nope. There is a window of culinary opportunity in which the noodles still have crunch but have absorbed enough of the sauce to be flavorful and that’s what you’re going for.

This may very well be the best rendition of Cantonese pan fried noodles with you-name-it I’ve ever had. Stay tuned for more from Wu’s.

Wu’s Wonton King – Part 1

Instagram Post 2/21/2020

Our group recently visited Wu’s Wonton King at 165 East Broadway in Manhattan’s Chinatown and came away more than pleased. I was especially keen to try their take on a dish I’ve had elsewhere that features osmanthus clam/mussel. My “clam/mussel” equivocation stems from the fact that the seafood in question is actually neither. Rather, it is an internal component of the sea cucumber, an echinoderm that inhabits the ocean’s floor.

If you’re unenthusiastic when it comes to even reading about innards, skip to the next paragraph. Now. Sea cucumbers have a soft, sausage-shaped body with no solid appendages and don’t even have a proper brain, so one might reason that they wouldn’t be particularly adept at self-defense against predators – but for one saving grace. From Wikipedia: “Some species of coral-reef sea cucumbers…can defend themselves by expelling their sticky cuvierian tubules to entangle potential predators…in an autotomic process known as evisceration.” [I’ve heard the term “stomach eversion”. Simply put, they literally puke their guts out.] “Replacement tubules grow back in one and a half to five weeks, depending on the species.” The tubules look very much like squid tentacles which is how they appear on the plate. Here’s a photo in vivo.

That having been said, the name of this absolutely delicious dish is 脆奶拼雙蚌, #10 on the Seafood section of the menu; its English name is Sautéed Clam with Fried Milk (although the menu uses a different word for “fried”).

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As presented: there are king oyster mushrooms and sautéed asparagus beneath the Chinese chives and clams. It’s pricier than some other menu items, but I thought it was excellent.

Post-bite close-up of the crispy, sweet, creamy fried milk; these could be a snack by themselves. So good.

Close-up of a clam; its flavor and appearance are similar to that of a razor clam but perhaps a bit more slippery and chewy. Now here’s where I need some help from the cognoscenti among you. Is that red bit (which tasted completely different from the other part, brinier and spicier for sure) part of the clam, or something different? TIA for the info!

Much more to come from our outstanding lunch at Wu’s Wonton King.

Toros Restaurant

Instagram Post 2/18-20/2020

Home to a multiplicity of international restaurants, bakeries and markets, Paterson, NJ is a magnet for ethnic food lovers. Peruvian, Mexican and Dominican restaurants flourish if you know where to look, but on Saturday we revisited the Middle East strip and focused on Turkish cuisine for lunch. Here are a couple of starters from Toros Restaurant at 1083 Main St (just past Nablus if you saw my last post).

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Manti, considerably larger in most cuisines, are diminutive in Turkey – mini dumplings filled with ground lamb and topped with garlic sauce.

We ordered the Large Meze appetizer consisting of (menu’s spellings) lebni (yogurt, dill, walnuts); hummus; patlican soslu (eggplant and red peppers in tomato sauce); patlican salatasi (charcoal grilled eggplant salad); babaganus; and acili ezme (spicy vegetable salad). EVERYTHING was deeply redolent of garlic, of course.

Bread, obvs.

Arnavut Cigeri, tender, juicy (yes!) chunks of beef liver, floured and fried with delectable seasonings.

These next two are a bit of a mystery to me – not on the menu. One of our group approached the steam table area and chose them, so I didn’t catch the names. The check read “az yemek” for each of them; az means small, yemek means meal or dish, so I’ll go with a loose translation of “small plates”.

This is some kind of chicken and pasta thing…

…and this is some kind of greens and cheese thing. Your guess is as good as mine. (Probably better if you’re Turkish. 😉)

Izmir Kofte – minced beef and lamb blended with onions, garlic, herbs and spices, grilled, sauced, and potatoed.

These were (past tense by design) Sigara Boregi: sigara (cigar or cigarette shaped) boregi (think burek, etc.) referring to baked pastries made from phyllo dough, filled, in this case, with tangy feta cheese. (Yes, we started with more 😉.)

Nablus Pastry & Sweets – Paterson

Instagram Post 2/17/2020

I’ve written about Nablus Pastry & Sweets in Bay Ridge here and here, but having hit the trail to New Jersey this past weekend, a nod to their Paterson outpost is due. A mecca for Middle Eastern delights and more expansive than their Brooklyn location, we stopped in for only two of their numerous varieties of kanafeh and some ma’amoul cookies.

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Ma’amoul are melt-in-your-mouth cookies filled with dried fruit or nuts; dates, figs, walnuts and pistachios factor in frequently. Kanafeh, also spelled knafeh, kunafa, (there are many more), but always reliably كُنافة, is hypersweet and made with sugar syrup-drenched crisp shredded dough that conceals rich delights like clotted cream or cheese and is sometimes topped with chopped nuts – as if the lily needed gilding.

Highly recommended. Nablus Pastry & Sweets is located at 1050 Main St in Paterson NJ.

Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle

Instagram Post 2/16/2020

Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle, 83 Bayard St in Manhattan’s Chinatown, serves up a wide variety of agreeable Chinese rice rolls (cheung fan, amid alternate spellings) in a casual, no-frills atmosphere; you’ll find the usual beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, and veggie options among numerous tempting multicomponent combinations. Condiments are available tableside, but we had to request peanut sauce, so be forewarned.

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Our choices for the day included this crab & egg version, fully dressed,

roast duck (prior to condimentation, just for comparison),

and Tonii’s Special: pork, chicken, and dried shrimp, the best of the three.

Incidentally, way back in March 2016, I did a comparison of Chinatown sponge cakes here called “Sponge Information” and the winner was Kam Hing. Perhaps you’ve been enjoying these puffy paragons of perfection a few storefronts away but if you’ve noticed that their doors have been shuttered recently, not to worry: both business are owned by the same folks and Kam Hing’s peerless sponge cakes are available at Tonii’s.

BB.Q Chicken

Instagram Post 2/14/2020

KTown, Part Three.

BB.Q (aka Best of the Best Quality) Chicken is a bewildering South Korean franchise. It established a “Chicken University” (look out, McDonald’s) complete with auditoriums, seminar rooms, and training areas plus an R&D center staffed by Ph.D. level researchers, all dedicated to creating unexcelled fried chicken for their thousands of locations. They take particular pride in their use of costly 100% EVOO for frying because they believe it’s healthier and tastes better.

So why do I find it bewildering? Because for all their culinary and marketing bona fides, I found their chicken disappointing.

Upstairs at the 25 West 32nd St location in Manhattan’s Koreatown, the “Grab & Go” area is a model of efficiency. Mini buckets of a number of chicken varieties – many unusual – perch patiently in a warming cabinet; take a tray, load it up, bring it to the cashier, find a table, and chow down.

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This is boneless Galbi Chicken, “smoky, sweet and savory; marinated Korean Barbeque flavor” (unlike any galbi I’ve ever tasted BTW).

Boneless Surpfried Chicken, “a new kind of fried Chicken that never existed before! Crispy fried chicken with a hidden layer of caramelized onion sauce.”

Both were extremely dry, partially the result, I suspect, of sitting uncovered in the warming cabinet for an unspecified amount of time. Had they been covered, of course, they would have steamed and lost any crispness they may have started with. Further, it seemed like every unhappy bite was white meat, dry by definition.

All this is in stark contrast to my last post from Pelicana Chicken where there’s a sign informing customers to anticipate 10 minutes cooking time for boneless and 14 for drumsticks and wings.

Now, maybe I “did it wrong” and someone out there has had a better experience than I. Should I have ventured downstairs to the chimaek (fried chicken and beer) seating area, perhaps to consume equal quantities of chicken and draft beer or soju? Is the chicken prepared to order down there? Should I have chosen a variety that was less “creative”? Let me know. Seriously. I’ll go back for Round Two if you make a good case for it.

Pelicana Chicken

Instagram Post 2/11/2020

Part Two: More from Koreatown and Food Gallery 32 (11 West 32nd St).

Roosting on the third floor, there’s an outpost of Pelicana Chicken, a chain of Korean Fried Chicken restaurants along the East Coast. Available styles here are Boneless Chicken, Drumsticks, and Wings which can be ordered with any of ten different sauces, either in regular or crispy versions. Pelicana has a reputation for being one of the definitive KFC venues and I’d have to agree. (BTW, remember when KFC meant Kentucky Fried Chicken?)

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I actually thought the boneless version had the edge; although equally delicious, it was crisper than the wings (in both cases I ordered the “regular” to keep the playing field level). Since the pieces are far from uniform, there’s more opportunity for craggy crevices, hence crispy crunch.

But that’s not to say I didn’t like the wings; of course I did. When it comes to wings, size matters: too small and they’re not meaty enough, hence unfulfilling; too large and any subtle nuances of the coating get lost in the mass of meat, hence overpowering. These were juuust riiight. Goldilocks would have basked in the afterglow.

The chicken recipe itself isn’t spicy; the kick comes from the sauces, so order them on the side if you want to regulate the heat. That day’s sauces of choice were Pelicana Signature (spicy) – a must-do IMO – and Honey Garlic (the yellow one), also great. I didn’t do any beer that day, but “chimaek” (치맥) a portmanteau of “chikin” (Korean for fried chicken) and maekju (beer) is a thing at Pelicana and elsewhere. Next time – with friends.

Jian Bing Man

Instagram Post 2/10/2020

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Part One. Someone mentioned Korean food and my thoughts went straight to Northern Boulevard in Queens. But I realized I hadn’t visited Manhattan’s Koreatown in far too long and that includes the time since the renovation of Food Gallery 32 (11 West 32nd St) so a jaunt was long overdue.

One of the first floor vendors there wasn’t Korean at all (don’t worry, there’ll be Korean food in subsequent posts); Jian Bing (煎餅), literally fried pancake, are Chinese street food, griddled crepes flipped, filled, folded, and frequently found in Flushing’s Chinatown. The eponymous stall, Jian Bing Man, serves these along with a few noodle and rice dishes. It’s a familiar DIY format – [1] choose your type: signature (crispy bao cui, like deep fried wonton skins on steroids), you tiao (like crunchy fried savory crullers), or egg (neither crispy nor crunchy and therefore flaccid and pointless IMO since the first two incorporate egg anyway); [2] your sauce: spicy, hoisin (they call it soybean paste), or both; and [3] extra toppings (actually fillings, but why quibble?).

The 16 toppings included the usual suspects like pork floss and sausage in addition to the less common BBQ chicken and cheese. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to jian bing so my first mistake was to investigate what they did with BBQ pork (actually pork belly) and BBQ chicken. As you can see, there was an abundance of meat inside, but less would have been more; better yet, I should have cleaved to my time-honored favorites. My second mistake was to get it to go. It arrived tightly wrapped then boxed which had the effect of steaming any crispy crunchitude out of it and left me biting into a study in sogginess.

Don’t do what I did and you’ll probably end up with an okay jian bing. More KTown soon.