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Archive for the ‘Asian’ Category

Crusty French bread, spicy/salty pork meatballs and tangy, crisp grated carrot and diakon — the essential ingredients for an incredible bánh mì, or popular type of Vietnamese sandwich.  This recipe caught my attention back in January, but I waited until this summer to give it a try so I could take advantage of all that my local farmers’ market has to offer.   Since so much Vietnamese cooking features natural herbs and root vegetables, fresh produce is essential. (e.g. the ground pork in this case came from a small, family-owned farm in Virginia that showed me a photo of the pig before I bought it!)

The meatballs are oven-roasted and incredibly tasty, defined by savory garlic, spicy hot chili paste and a dash of salty fish sauce.  And as a cool and crunchy counterpoint, the grated carrot, diakon and cucumber are lightly pickled in rice vinegar, sesame oil and sugar. Top it all off with a handful of fresh cilantro sprigs.

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Fire up the wok! This is a fabulous meal inspired by a mix of Asian flavors, from fresh ginger, tangy soy and miso, to sweet baby corn and sesame-toasted almonds.  The shrimp are tossed with vibrant and crunchy vegetables in a savory garlic, red pepper, miso sauce over high heat until tender — then served over cilantro brown rice.  On the side, a fresh baby spinach salad dressed with zesty rice vinegar-soy is kicked up with crispy toasted ramen noodles, almonds and sesame seeds.

Stir fry sauce: 3 tablespoons of canola oil, a drizzle of aromatic sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of brown miso, 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 3 garlic cloves minced, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes to taste

Salad dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, cracked black pepper, dash of salt

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Pickles

If America is a melting pot, Momofuku is its kitchen.  This hot spot in New York’s Lower East Side (East 13th Street and 2nd Avenue) serves fusion cuisine with an Asian flair.  The menu, which features seasonal regional ingredients,  has categories like “raw bar” and “country hams” — stuff you’d never find at your average Chinese, Japanese or Korean restaurant.

Momofuku has an interesting assortment of dishes, representing the ethnic crossovers that characterize New York City; definitely no pure, “authentic” Asian cuisine here. The pickles plate, above, for example is a play on Japanese oshinko, using local vegetables like baby bok choy, tomatillos, potatoe slices, cucumber, and turnips. Korean kimchee is also on the side.

Momofuku

The restaurant itself is a sleek, hip hall of hardwood tables and communal seating that flow into an open kitchen in the rear. You can watch as the chefs meticulously prepare each dish. One I highly recommend: the steamed buns with pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers and scallion (below).  Unbelieveably good.

PorkBun

Other plates to try… believe it or not, the $8 “Bread & Butter” is worth it, featuring fresh, soft sea-salt butter from Vermont and whipped lardo (bacon fat) on the side for schmearing.  The plate of sliced Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham — from Madisonville, TN — is tasty and unique.  The Satur Farm’s Snap Peas with mint, egg and XO was a bit too salty, but a creative preparation with Korean inspiration. And, the Santa Barbara Uni are to die for!  Super fresh sea urchin topped with celery, nori and a lemon juice-based cool broth. Incredible.

MomofukuQuattro

By far my favorite dish was one of the specials: grilled yellowfin tuna collar. Moist, flavorful, tender with a soy-miso-scallion dipping sauce on the side.

Yellowfin-Collar

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koreanspread

If you’re in the mood for a culinary adventure, check out Kum Gang San, 49 West 32nd Street, in Manhattan.  One of the best parts of a Korean meal, in my opinion, are the traditional little side dishes — known as banchan. The small plates with assorted marinated vegetables, seaweed, and salted fish are tasty!   My Korean friends inform me that these are often a meal in themselves eaten over a bowl of white rice.

koreanpancake

If you’re new to Korean cuisine, definitely start with a pajeon, a classic scallion pancake.  It is made with flour batter, eggs, and scallions, served with a mixture of soy sauce & vinegar for dipping.

kimche

Pajeon is also sometimes done with kimchi instead of scallion and is also delicious. Kimchi is a trademark element of Korean cuisine and will definitely be among the plates on your table.  The fermented, spicy Napa cabbage has been marinated in ginger, garlic, scallion and chili pepper.

bimipop

Koreans are known for their barbecued beef.  But another popular dish is Bibimbap, Korean for “stirred/mixed rice.” And the stirring/mixing is definitely part of the fun here. A medley of vegetables — cucumber, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, sprouts, carrots, seaweed — arrive on top of a warm bowl of rice.  You toss them with an egg, barbecued beef, and chili paste. It’s quite the conglomeration of flavors.

koreansign

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Look for the chicken meatloaves on wood planks positioned around the charcoal fire. Also, you’ll see some of my favorites from the menu: the Japanese pickles; roasted chicken wings; toro and ama ebi sashimi; peppered, roasted berkshire pork; and the terriyaki chicken meatloaf with poached egg.

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aburiyarestaurant

As soon as you enter this cavernous Japanese restaurant on New York’s east side (23 East 45th St.), you feel the warmth of its signature robata grill. The heat draws you down a long, dark hallway of curtained booths and tables to the brightly-lit grill area in back.

Sit around the counter so you can watch the attentive chefs skewer assorted cuts of meat, fish and vegetables and roast them over the charcoal fire. Little ground chicken “meatloaves” are formed onto wooden planks and propped amid the embers — this is one of their specialties.

aburiyashrimp

The sashimi is consistently high quality and makes a great first course while your selections are grilling. The ama ebi (above) were super sweet and incredibly fresh.

aburiyaapps

The draft Sapporro is ice cold. Pairs well with a start of Japanese pickles, edamame, or seasoned, roasted brussel sprouts.

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chinesenewyear

Do Oxen moo?  If so, then I’d let out a long “mooooo” of satisfaction over this feast in celebration of the Year of the Ox! (I actually felt like an ox strung out on MSG after grazing here for hours, but I digress…) The food at Chatham Square Restaurant, 6 Chatham Square in NYC’s Chinatown, is solid Cantoneese cooking. Their raw materials were quality and fresh. The seafood dishes were particularly well-done — like the fried whole fish with ginger and scallion, honey glazed prawns and broccoli, and scallops with sugar snap peas. The pork fried rice, shown here, was underwhelming; but the orange-glazed fried pork cutlets were mighty tasty.   Oh, and notice all those bottles on the table?  The restaurant allows BYOB. Cheers!

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