Tag Archives: tofu

Seoul Garden: great for raw crab and naengmyun (cold noodles)

Seoul GardenSeoul Garden
34 W 32nd St (between Broadway and 5th Ave)
New York, NY 10001

I have to admit, I had been to Seoul Garden a number of times before, each time because I was too impatient/hungry/hangry to wait in line at another place. Seoul Garden was always THAT restaurant for me: good enough to eat at but not great enough to ever be a real choice. It always struck me as a restaurant of mediocrity, one that didn’t have more ambitious goals than providing solid, comfort Korean food (nothing wrong with that). So you can imagine my surprise when I got invited to dine with them recently… are they rebranding? New chef? New management? Someone is clearly trying! I grabbed LAW and we headed over to Ktown to check it out.

Turns out, I had been ordering incorrectly this whole time. I asked to have all the best items on the menu and was served dishes I had never ordered at Seoul Garden before. There were a few things that I had that night that were incredible and absolutely worth going back for.

First: the banchan. Banchan are small dishes that all Korean restaurants serve (complimentary!) as appetizers. It’s like getting bread before your meal except you’re getting all kinds of things like different kinds of kimchi, other veggies, squid, steamed egg, etc. Seoul Garden provided the usual with one particular amazing dish…

Seoul GardenLittle fish with fried sweet potato chips. The salty, chewy fish paired with the sweet, crisp sweet potato made for a mouthwatering combo. This was truly a great banchan that got my appetite going. I had never seen this before either. Plus points for creativity. The rest of the banchan below were more of the usual suspects:  Continue reading Seoul Garden: great for raw crab and naengmyun (cold noodles)

Hot Kitchen: Home Away From Home

Hot Kitchen
Hot Kitchen
104 2nd Ave (between 6th and 7th streets)
New York, NY 10003

Before Hot Kitchen opened, the only Sichuan food I ate was from my own kitchen and the occasional trip to a random Gourmet Sichuan-esque restaurant. Most of these restaurants had the basic necessities: the double cooked pork, the mapo tofu, the GBSJD (we actually call it that – the 干煸四季豆, or dry sautéed string beans), the fish fragrant eggplant (check out my recipe here!). All these basics were too sweet, too greasy, and not spicy enough, and not nearly  numbing enough. Hot Kitchen does all the basics a bit better, and has dishes beyond the basic Sichuan ones that I love. As a result, I go at least once or twice a month. The restaurant is always packed with sounds of home: loud chattering in Chinese and Qing Dao beers clinking.

Hot Kitchen
I always get the 川北凉粉 or Mung Bean Noodle with Spicy and Peppery Sauce ($6.50). This is a Shi’s family favorite. The sauce is a classic Sichuan sauce. It’s spicy, sweet, numbing, and crunch from all the crushed peanuts. The noodles are served cold (goes great with the spice) and are thick but light. You know you’ve got some good noodles when they are elastic and don’t break on contact. Too many Sichuan restaurants in NYC use day(s) old noodles that are refrigerated, which causes the noodles to break. Hot Kitchen doesn’t!

Hot Kitchen
麻婆豆腐 or Mapo Tofu ($13), always a must. Mapo Tofu sauce should NOT be brown. If you order this dish and get brown goopy sauce, you know your chef isn’t Sichuan. It should be bright red and way less viscous than goopiness. The tofu isn’t silken, but also isn’t that hard stuff you find at salad bars. It has enough density that it holds its own shape and doesn’t break. Hot Kitchen’s Mapo Tofu tastes pretty different from how my family makes it (we have more numbingness), but it’s still great. Super flavorful. Could just have this with a bowl of rice and be the happiest person ever. Continue reading Hot Kitchen: Home Away From Home

Joe’s Ginger = Joe’s Shanghai

Joe’s Ginger
25 Pell St
(between Doyers St & Mott St)
New York, NY 10013

If you live in NYC and like Chinese food at all, chances are you have heard of Joe’s Shanghai, a restaurant in Manhattan Chinatown that is known for its soup dumplings. Joe’s Shanghai has over 2,200 reviews on Yelp and a solid 4-star rating. Its sister restaurant, Joe’s Ginger, only has 247 reviews and a 3-star rating. This isn’t because the food is any worse. This is because the people who go to Joe’s Ginger aren’t the people active on social media. (Case in point. Joe’s Shanghai has a Facebook page and Joe’s Ginger doesn’t.)

Joe, presumably the owner, has smartly branded his soup dumplings across two very different consumer groups by offering the same product in two separate restaurants (that happen to be right next to each other). The tourists, the American NYC-ers, the review-chasers all know about Joe’s Shanghai. On any given weekend night, you’ll see a long line of J.Crew wearing hungry customers waiting outside of Joe’s Shanghai. Joe’s Ginger, on the other hand, almost never has a line and is usually just at capacity with Chinese diners.


This is changing as more people write blog reviews like this one. Here is a happy non-Chinese family slurping down soup dumplings at Joe’s Ginger on Friday night. Notice the tacky pinkish glow from the florescent lighting. Reminds me of all the cheap (and delicious) restaurants in China.


This is the classic Pork Soup Dumplings ($4.95 for 8). The ideal soup dumpling has thin, yet chewy skin. It should be just thick enough so it doesn’t break with the weight of the pork and soup. The soup should be fragrant, hot, and light. Joe’s does a decent job, probably one of the best soup dumplings in Manhattan, but is far from great compared to the ones in China. The skin is a bit thicker than ideal. The soup is also too heavy and greasy. Still tastes delicious enough that I keep coming back. Continue reading Joe’s Ginger = Joe’s Shanghai

EN Japanese Brasserie

EN Japanese BrasserieEN Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson St
(between Leroy St & St Lukes Pl)
New York, NY 10014

EN Japanese Brasserie is one of the first Japanese restaurants I had heard of when I moved to NYC. It is one of those places “everyone” has been to and deems to be a good place. I had never been because there have been so many cuter, smaller Japanese restaurants in NYC that always make the cut over EN. After a very long week at work, LAW and I finally made last minute reservations for a late dinner at EN. Our table wasn’t ready so I immediately got a drink to force myself to relax (is this how I know I’m getting old?). I had the Ginger Cocktail ($13), which was a mixture of homemade ginger ale, rice shochu “Shiro,” lime juice, and soda. The drink was very light, too light for my purposes, but pleasant. The homemade ginger ale was soothing and gentle. The lime juice added just a little acidity to the ginger and rice shochu. The drink was so light to begin with that they really needed to use one of those gigantic ice cubes because the mini crushed ice cubes they used diluted the drink too quickly.

EN Japanese BrasserieWe ordered the EN Kaiseki ($65), which is the smaller of the two prix fixe menus offered. Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner. The meal is meant to be balanced and seasonal.

The kaiseki starts with an O-Banzai, a chef’s selection of three small Kyoto-style appetizers. We had the Hijiki (hijiki seaweed and soy bean simmered in shoyu), Zenmai Piri-Kara (royal fern sprouts in a spicy shichimi togarashi) and Kinoko Kiriboshi Daikon Ohitashi (assorted Japanese mushrooms & sun dried daikon radish with yuzu). All three were chilled, delicious, and balanced. The hijiki seaweed was sweet and tasted slightly of miso. Unlike the typical green, flat, and crunchy seaweed salad you find, hijiki is cylindrical and chewy (super QQ!). Delicious. The zenmai piri-kara was my least favorite only because I tend to not like mushy things – the royal fern sprouts were quite mushy. My favorite was the kinoko kiriboshi daikon ohitashi. The assorted Japanese mushrooms were bulbous little buds and tremendously fragrant. I had never had sun dried daikon before. It tastes less bitter than fresh daikon. The yuzu was so light, slightly sweet, and slightly citrusy. I can imagine the sauce tasting great with a nice fillet of fish…

EN Japanese Brasserie
The next course was the Chef’s Sashimi Selection. Bear in mind that photos are only of one portion. We didn’t have to share (more for us!). The chef’s selection wasn’t exactly much of a selection because it included just the basics: salmon, tuna, and yellowtail. I love the basics so it wasn’t a problem. The sashimi was overall decent quality but since I have been going to Kura so often lately, very little can compare.

EN Japanese BrasserieSaikyo Miso Marinated Grilled Black Cod was next. It tasted similar to the Robataya one that I love but was a smaller fillet and less fatty. Flavor was perfect but was lacking the crispy fatty skin that I also love. Continue reading EN Japanese Brasserie

Homemade Stir-fried Japanese Tofu


I love Japanese Tofu (日本豆腐). Despite it’s name, it is actually a Chinese tofu made with eggs and soy milk. They are sold in tubes in Chinese supermarkets and are much more expensive than regular silken tofu – for good reason. The eggs make the tofu particularly smooth and silky and the extra protein makes it slightly more filling than traditional silken tofu. I also love the slightly eggy flavor. This was my first time making it and I’d like to say it was a success! Continue reading Homemade Stir-fried Japanese Tofu

Xi’an Famous Foods, one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the city.

Xi’an Famous Foods
81 St Marks Pl
(between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003

This, my friends, is my go-to weekday spot when I don’t feel like cooking and want something delicious and cheap.  Xi’an is a city in China in the Shaanxi province that is fairly centrally located. Its cuisine therefore is heavily influenced by all regions of China, especially Sichuan for its spiciness and numbing flavors.  As the first capital of China and the start of the Silk Road, Xi’an cuisine is also influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine.  Hence, you’ll see a lot of cumin-flavored meats… I always get three things at Xi’an: a noodle dish, a burger, and a tofu dish.

Pictured here is the Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles ($4.50).  This is a very traditional dish that originated in Xi’an.  The noodles are made from rice and are served cold with cucumber, bean sprouts, cilantro, and chewy tofu/bean curd pieces.  The sauce is garlicy, sweet, sour, spicy, and tingly all at the same time.  It honestly is an explosion of flavors and textures.  The noodles are very springy and chewy, which pair very well with the crisp cucumbers.  The cucumbers, bean sprouts, and cilantro add a bit of freshness to the spicy and oily sauce.  I always, ALWAYS get this in the summer because it is light and refreshing, especially compared to Xi’an Famous Food’s other noodles… I took my dad here when he came to visit and he thought that this was even better than what we get in Beijing.  He’s from Xi’an, so he would know.


The other noodles are all hand-pulled noodles.  There is quite a variety of flavors, my favorites being the Spicy Cumin Lamb, Spicy Hot Oil Seared, and the Pork “Zha Jiang” noodles.  These noodles are made with flour and are hand pulled to a tremendously chewy texture.  They are wide and flat, equivalent of a pappardelle pasta.  As you can see, the noodle dishes are saucy as hell.  You can generally adjust the level of spiciness though don’t go asking for zero spice because it just isn’t going to happen.  They pride themselves in serving authentic Chinese food and will only cater to your weak buds to a small extent. Honestly, if you can’t handle it, you should just force yourself to eat spice more often and you’ll soon appreciate it, I promise. Continue reading Xi’an Famous Foods, one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the city.

Cocoron: Kimchee Pork Dipping Soba

Cocoron
61 Delancey St
(between Eldridge St & Allen St)
New York, NY 10002

 

Best soba I have ever had.  Hands down.  My issue with soba has always been that the flavors were too bland.  Cocoron is a tiny tiny Japenese soba restaurant (literally only seats 12) that serves up anything but bland soba.  The dipping soba comes with a very al dente, cold tray of soba and a pot of broth that sits over a fire.  You dip the soba into the broth for each individual bite.  At the end of the meal, you get a little pot of soba water (nutritious water that was used to boil the soba) to mix with your leftover broth and you drink it as a soup. Continue reading Cocoron: Kimchee Pork Dipping Soba

Cold Tofu

This has become one of my favorite things to make as a part of dinner, especially after a weekend of eating out too much and having too much junk. It is simple, light, and refreshing. It’s essentially a tofu salad with scallions, sesame oil, salt, a little soy, vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. I always make this first and stick it in the fridge so it is nice and chilled when ready to be served.

Mapo Tofu

Getting better at making this classic Sichuan dish. Used peppercorn powder instead of actual peppercorns this time so prevented the little “accidents” where you bite into a bitter, sour, and numbing peppercorn. Great with a bowl hot hot steaming rice!