Monthly Archives: August 2013

Homemade Twice Cooked Pork Belly

This is LAW’s favorite dish and definitely one of my favorite ones to make because it is very, very easy, and very, very tasty. Twice Cooked Pork Belly (回锅肉) is a classic Sichuan dish. Every household has its own version of it. Common recipes include scallions, napa cabbage, and bell peppers. Twice Cooked Pork Belly literally translates into return-to-wok-meat because the fundamental part of the recipe is to boil the pork belly first (some use just water, others use broths with ginger, cloves, star anise, etc.), freeze it, then slice it up and return to the wok for stir fry.

My version breaks this fundamental rule but I promise it’s still really good. It’s very quick to make and goes really well with a bowl of steaming rice (下饭). I only use 4 ingredients:  Continue reading

$2.33 for Dinner

chinatown groceriesHong Kong Supermarket
157 Hester St.
(between Mott St & Bowery)
New York, NY 10013

Every two weeks, LAW, H.W., and I bike down to Chinatown with empty backpacks to stock our fridge with two weeks worth of groceries. It has become a ritual. The smooth cruise down Avenue A to the hectic area around Mott Street transitions from certified East Village hipsters to peppered Chinese grandpas carrying bags of fresh fish. We load up our backpacks with as much food as we can carry and bike our way back home. This is where all my groceries come from. This is proof that you don’t have to pay a Whole Foods premium to eat well!

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Pig Feet in NYC! – at Hakata Tonton

Hakata Tonton
61 Grove St
(between S 7th Ave & Sheridan Sq)
New York, NY 10014

We celebrated T.C.’s birthday at this small Japanese restaurant in the West Village. It has a maximum capacity of about 25 people. The seats and tables are all wooden. There is a gigantic red lantern in the middle of the restaurant. People are engaged in animated conversations but the noise level is a consistent soft humming.

We shared the Seaweed Salad ($5) with yuzu ponzu dressing. Nothing special here. Just a nice, light salad to start the meal.

We then shared the Grilled Pork Tonsoku ($7) with scallion and ponzu sauce, which was like the Ratatouille moment when critic Ego, at the end of the film, has a bite of the ratatouille for the first time. He experiences this crazy flashback to his childhood when his mother made him the homiest, tastiest ratatouille. Pork tonsoku is pork feet, something my grandmother always prepared for my mom and something my mom always prepared for me. The Hakata Tonton version is delicious. It has a very rich, chewy texture (think tendon meets fat…) and the exterior is perfectly grilled so it is slightly charred and crisp. I am thinking about going back and just ordering one of these for myself with a bowl of rice.

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Location, location, location. It matters for restaurants too.

Vanessa’s Dumplings
220 E 14th St
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

The dumplings here are not good. Yet, I have them at least once every two weeks. Why? Because it’s the only place near me that specializes in dumplings and I ache for dumplings about once every two weeks.

I always get the basic: boiled cabbage and pork dumplings ($3.99 for eight). Cabbage and pork dumplings are classic. The cabbage adds moisture and sweetness to the meat. A quality dumpling would have thin, yet chewy skin, tender and flavorful, not-too-loose-nor-dense filling. As you can see here, Vanessa’s dumplings have thick skin, and despite the color of the meat, it actually is quite bland. Soy sauce and chili sauce is needed. In China, the classic way to eat dumplings is just to dip it in a little vinegar. The vinegar helps cut the flavor and fattiness from the dumpling itself.  Continue reading

Homemade Spicy Short Rib

Mama Shi bought me some short rib a while ago when she was visiting. I’ve never made short rib before. The recipe I decided on, a fall-off-the-bone slow-cooked short rib, required so many additional ingredients that I have just avoided it as much as I could. It has stayed in the freezer since. Meat can be such a headache to cook.  This past weekend, K.C. made us all some Korean bbq short rib with a very simple recipe and inspired me to finally take these ribs out. I reinterpreted K.C.’s delicious recipe to make a Sichuan version.


The night before cooking, I took out the ribs from the freezer and coated them with soy sauce, sugar, mirin (like rice wine but lower alcohol content and higher sugar content), sichuan chili pepper, scallions, green horn peppers, and garlic. Continue reading

Comfort Found in Meatballs: The Meatball Shop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeatball Shop
170 Bedford Ave
(between 8th St & 7th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211

I hope you’ve been here already by now. There really is no excuse. It’s cheap. It’s hip. It’s healthy and unhealthy as you want it to be. I’ve blogged about The Meatball Shop before, but my old camera didn’t do it justice. If you’re looking to spend less than $15 for delicious, unpretentious, hearty food, The Meatball Shop should be on the top of your list.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe menu is sort of confusing if it’s your first time. There are five types of meatballs (beef, spicy pork, chicken, veggie, and special-of-the-day), six sauces (tomato, spicy meat, mushroom, parm. cream, pesto, and special-of-the-day), and essentially four ways to eat them:

  1. Plain with sauce and bread (four meatballs per serving, $7)
  2. As sliders (one meatball per slider, $3)
  3. In a sandwich of some sort (two to three meatballs per serving, $9-$10)
  4. Over a bed of whatever vegetables the chef feels like giving you (three meatballs per serving $10)

There are also sides that you can pair your balls with, such as spaghetti, roasted greens, risotto, etc. These sides can go under your balls of next to your balls. You can mix and match as you like. That’s pretty much it. Continue reading

Yunnan Kitchen: decently tasty but also pretentious

Yunnan Kitchen
79 Clinton St
(between Rivington St & Delancey St)
New York, NY 10002

I’m not completely against non-traditional Chinese food. I love Baohaus, especially their fried chicken bao and fried fish coffin bao, which are both not traditional Chinese dishes. I also love Mission Chinese, a hip little modern Chinese place that even has a kale salad. That has got to be the least Chinese thing ever. But I still love it. ‘Cause they do it right. It’s hip in the right ways. They have crispy pig ears (totally Chinese) and use Old Bay seasoning (totally not Chinese). Danny Bowien experiments with all kinds of Eastern and Western flavors and brings them together in exciting, unpretentious ways.

Yunnan Kitchen, on the other hand, pretends to be traditional but also wants to be hip and pretentious. The space is occupied by mostly non-Asians (no offense) and the menu encourages sharing “delicious small plates.” Nuh uh. Chinese people don’t share small plates. We share big plates. Pet peeve of mine. Pictured above is the Cold Noodles ($12) with ground pork, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and peanuts. This is a pretty classic dish – spicy, sweet, and nutty – but $12 is ridiculous for a tiny bowl of limp noodles. Check out Xi’an for some serious noodle damage.


We also shared the Beef Tartare ($13) with chili oil, green cabbage, and rice cracker. I liked the rice cracker and green cabbage combo but also felt like the portions were way too small for a $13 dish. The beef was lightly flavored. Nothing too memorable.


These Stir Fried Mushrooms ($11) with sawtooth herb, ham, and peppers was probably my favorite dish from the night. There were a number of different kinds of mushrooms sautéed with a smoked ham and spicy green peppers (green long horns?). My only suggestion to Yunnan Kitchen is to serve it on a sizzling cast iron plate. It smells so good, it deserves to come out crackling.  Continue reading

ChikaLicious for Mille Feuille!


ChikaLicious Dessert Club (not to be confused with the  Dessert Bar across the street)
204 E 10th St
(between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

So, after my meal at Dieci, I decided we still needed to have dessert. It was LAW’s birthday after all. Have sweets for a sweet year? Birthday aside, I really just wanted to try ChikaLicious. Chikalicious Dessert Club is right down the street from Dieci. The Chikalicious Dessert Bar, on the other hand, is another establishment across the street from the Club. It’s a fancy, well-lit beacon that stands out against the dark, gloomy 10th street sidewalk. It serves a prix fixe with amuse, choice of dessert, and petits fours for $16. True dessert-lovers, definitely check it out. But we didn’t go there. The Bar looks a bit too serious for us non-dessert lovers. We went to the sister Cafe that is way more casual. No reservation needed!


For some reason, LAW always orders the apple crisp whenever it’s on the menu. Is it a guy thing? This is the cinnamon apple crisp with vanilla ice cream ($7). The apples were still somewhat crunchy, not fully softened and gooey, which made the dessert taste more real. The apples were tart, while the crumble top was quite sweet and very cinnamony. Vanilla ice cream was standard fare. Overall, a good, classic dessert that certainly satisfies a craving… but I probably won’t order it again.

THIS, on the other hand, I will order again, and again, and again. This is the mille feuille, one of the Dessert Cafe’s best sellers (according to the server). The crepe layers are delicate and not too sweet. The whipped cream is super duper creamy and spread thinly between each layer. I love that the ends of the crepe are not cut off so that they just fall off in a cascading pattern. This makes the ends have a bit more texture too. It’s pretty and tasty. Ugh, I could have this spongey dessert right now. I rarely crave dessert.

Bedtime instead.