Archive for May, 2010

Indo-Chinese Battle: Chinese Mirch vs. Nanking

May 26, 2010

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When I think of Indianized Chinese in NYC, there are two places that come immediately to mind: Nanking and Chinese Mirch. But deciding where to go can be a bit of a battle.  Below, I’ve laid out the pros and cons of each restaurant for specific attributes (food, drink, ambience, etc) and picked a winner for each attribute. Hopefully this guide will make a breeze for you to decide what’s best for your next meal.

Chinese Mirch
120 Lexington Ave (between 28th and 29th)
212-532-3663

1830 Second Ave (between 94th and 95th)
212-828-6400

Nanking
1634 Broadway (between 50th and 51st)
212-586-3100

A Random Happy Friday Post

May 21, 2010

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So this has nothing to do with food, but I love this and I know you are all sitting at your desks wondering when the day will be over so you can finally enjoy that sunshine. To keep your mind occupied, check out this site. I’m not really the cheesy, romantic type, but I think this is just about the funniest, most creative and most romantic thing I’ve ever heard: My friend Bitsy was just proposed to by her fiancé, but she does not like diamonds. So instead of getting her a diamond engagement ring, her fiancé is making her a new ring everyday until they get married or she finds a ring she loves. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration on how to inject some creativity into your weekend romantic endeavors.

pipe-cleaner diamond

Chinese Mirch Coming to Beantown Burbs

May 21, 2010

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Tipped off by a commenter, I investigated Chinese Mirch’s website and they are indeed coming to Boston (well, Framingham) this summer. So only a few more weeks before the people of this city can taste what true Indian Chinese is supposed to be like. In the meantime, if you’re in NYC and not sure whether to hit up Nanking or Chinese Mirch, you’re in luck! I’ve put together a guide on how to choose between the two. Check back by Monday for the full story.

Mumbai Chopstix is a Tease

May 20, 2010

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I’ve got good news and bad news for Bostonians. The good news is that an Indo-Chinese restaurant, Mumbai Chopstix, has finally arrived. The bad news: the food is not really up to par and will leave you feeling teased rather than satisfied.

Steamed Vegetable Momohs

At Mumbai Chopstix, the execution of the food is poor and the service mediocre. I tried several of the dishes. Among the starters, I had the vegetable momohs, the “authentic” bhel, and the papaya and mango salad. The steamed vegetable momohs (dumplings) were terrible. The wrapping was undercooked so that the texture was doughy and tough. The immediate taste to overwhelm your palatte was that of raw dough…a flavor which permeates and persists in the mouth. The filling was tolerable but lacked any personality.  The “authentic” bhel was unimpressive as well. Though the presentation was beautiful – a tower of rice puffs capped with a puri (fried bread dough) holding sweet chutney, yogurt and sev (a fried snack shape like thin noodles) – the bhel was far from authentic and was actually a bit dry and dull in flavor. The papaya and mango salad succeeded more as a side salad than as an appetizer salad. It provided a much needed cooling respite from the overpowering spiciness of the entrées. It was crunchy and acidic and tasted almost like pickled vegetables. The few mangos in the salad gave the dish a much needed brightness and tang and in fact, I could have used a few more of those mangos in my salad.

Papaya and Mango Salad

As for the entrées, I sampled the vegetable Manchurian, the vegetable Hakka noodles, the chili garlic noodles, the lachew cauliflower and the chili paneer. The vegetable Manchurian was the absolute biggest disappointment on the menu. This dish is my favorite item when it comes to Indo-Chinese so my disappointment was magnified. Usually, the dumplings in this dish consist of steamed cabbage, carrots and onions that have been loosely bound together with flavoring agents, eggs or boiled rice and flour. They should be slightly crispy and golden brown on the outside but fluffy, light and slightly chewy on the inside. If I had to guess, I would say the Manchurian dumplings at Mumbai Chopstix were made out of frozen veggie burgers that they cut up and rolled into balls and then fried. They were extremely dense and tasted like soy and mushrooms: simply awful. The vegetable Hakka noodles and the chili garlic noodles fared much better. They were very similar to each other, but the Hakka noodles had a tomato-based chili sauce on them while the chili garlic noodles were coated in a black pepper sauce. Both of these noodle items were extremely spicy. The lachew cauliflower was one of the better items on the dish. It had the crispy texture on the outside that I was looking for. It was much less spicy than the other dishes, so probably more appealing to a wider audience. The chili paneer, however, was the highlight of the show. Again, it was quite spicy. But the paneer was cooked exactly how it should be – soft with a bit of resistance to the teeth. And it had a great brightness and acidity to the flavor that was lacking in most of the other dishes.

chili paneer, vegetable Hakka noodles, and chili garlic noodles

Aside from the food, the drinks were surprisingly good. I would especially recommend the lychee Bellini. The service on the other hand, was not so great. The waiter who served us mumbled and could not be understood by a single person at our table. He also seemed like he didn’t care all that much.

Overall, if you are having a tsunami craving for Indo-Chinese where you are considering going to NYC to get your fix, then you can stop in at Mumbai Chopstix and order the chili paneer and one the noodle dishes. If you are keen on any other item, I recommend skipping this place and planning your next trip to NYC.  Or better yet, have a party, invite your friends and cater it from Bombay Club, which will provide you with what you are looking for.

Mumbai Chopstix
254 Newbury Street (between Fairfield and Gloucester)
617-927-4444

Intro to Indo-Chinese

May 20, 2010

If you’re not familiar with Indo-Chinese, it’s basically the fundamentals of Chinese cooking, but heavier in spices and sauces. It also utilizes flavors found frequently in Indian cooking such as ginger, coriander, garlic, and cumin as well as items such as paneer and cauliflower. It is said to have developed by the Chinese immigrants who came to India and settled in Kolkata.  This fusion is the most prevalent of Chinese food found in India and can be found around the globe in restaurants that specialize in this type of cooking. It’s also one of my favorite types of food…perhaps because it is much more illusive in the West. My next few posts are all about this brilliant pairing of these cultures on the plate.

Lasting Impressions

May 13, 2010

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If you are cooking to impress, then dessert is your last chance to make a great impression. Nothing says elegance like French technique and no one can make French cooking as easy as Julia Child did. So from Julia Child via David Lebovitz comes this classic and easy recipe for chocolate mousse (be warned that it contains raw eggs). I cut the recipe in half since I was cooking for fewer people. Serves four to six people. Bon appétite!

3 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped*
3 oz. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened at room temperature
1/2 cup dark-brewed coffee
2 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tbsp. dark rum
1/2 tbsp. water
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

* I recommend using bittersweet chocolate if possible since it is less sweet. You don’t want the sweetness to be overwhelming. Use good quality dark chocolate in a bar. Chocolate chips are designed to resist melting, so I would avoid chips if possible.

1. Keep a large bowl two-third full of ice water standing by.

2. In a bowl set over a saucepan that is a third of the way filled with simmering water, melt the chocolate, butter and coffee together, whisking constantly until smooth. Set aside the chocolate aside.

3. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer with the 1/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer.)

3. Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick as shown in the photo below. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

via David Lebovitz

4. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until they hold their shape. Then beat in the tablespoon of sugar and the vanilla until they form thick, shiny stiff peaks.

5. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated. Don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

6. Divide the mousse into your serving dishes. This dishes you choose are an essential element to making this dessert truly elegant. I used non-stemmed martini glasses, but you can get creative. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Chef Profile: Bob Bouley

May 12, 2010

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Upon first glance, Chef Bouley does not look like someone you would picture when you think of a vegan. In fact, he looks more like your next-door, all-American, meat-and-potatoes family man. I guess because, well, that’s true – except for the meat part.  Aside from running a vegan restaurant, Bob, along with his wife and co-owner Lisa, is a parent and has the same responsibilities as any other parent, such as making school lunches (vegan, of course!). Bob didn’t start out as a vegan, however. Far from it, he began his career working in a diner in Danvers, MA around the age of thirteen. Without receiving any formal training, he worked his way up in several kitchens, including the ones at Paparazzi, The Colonnade Hotel, Whole Foods Market and a catering company. It was only when he met Lisa, who was already a vegan, did he begin to think about food as an ethical choice. She took him to the Boston Vegetarian Society’s Food Festival where he spent time looking around, visiting all the booths and talking to people. After that experience, he went vegan cold turkey (pardon the expression) and never looked back. Bouley says he doesn’t miss meat or dairy – instead he uses the techniques he’s learned over his career to replace animal products with tons of flavor. With his latest restaurant, The Pulse Cafe, Bob is cooking foods that are familiar and comforting in order to appeal to meat-eaters and recent vegan converts as well as those who have been vegan for a long time already. So, what are his favorite dishes from the menu? Though the menu is seasonal, right now he loves the quinoa salad with grill tofu cutlet, ranchero sauce and salsa. The BBQ seitan is also an evergreen favorite. So what else does Bob eat? Well, while he and his family don’t eat out too much, he is anxious to get to Prana Café. In the meantime, when Bob’s cooking at home, it usually comes down to Amy’s burritos. Though Bob claims that he’s “not a hard-core vegan,” he really enjoys his vegan lifestyle and creates comforting vegan dishes that can satisfy even a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy.

See Chef Bouley recall his favorite food memory in the video below and learn how even great chefs can make mistakes.

The Pulse Cafe
195 Elm St.
Somerville, MA
617-625-1730

Misleading Info

May 11, 2010

It turns out that Dos Toros in Union Square has been misleading vegetarians. According to DNAinfo, “vegetarians who thought they were safe ordering the ‘Basic (no meat)’ burrito are in for an unhappy surprise – since all the rice in the restaurant is made with chicken stock.” Though they don’t plan on changing their recipe, they plan to relabel their burrito as simply “Basic (rice and beans).”

In other news, after conducting some research, it turns out that the feta cheese currently served on some of the Crisp falafels are, in fact, made with animal rennet. While their mascarpone and goat cheese are made with microbial rennet, the jury is still out on the Parmesan. No word whether the “100% vegetarian” chain intends to source a new feta that is completely vegetarian.

Thomas Keller Speaks to Veggiewala!

May 10, 2010

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Thomas Keller might be the newest target of the vegan foie gras protest, but much like with Bill Telepan, the protestors might be going after the wrong guy. Sure, both Telepan’s and Keller’s restaurants serve foie gras, but Chef Keller is actually very friendly towards vegetarians and vegans. At his restaurants Per Se and The French Laundry, he accommodates the dietary requests of the diner “as any great restaurant should.” And he’s collaborated on the cookbook Great Chefs Cook Vegan by Linda Long. I got a chance to speak with him while he was in Boston for a signing for his new cookbook, Ad Hoc At Home. Check out the video below. And if you’re curious about his favorite Bay State eateries, here’s some insight… while coming up from Providence, he ate at Il Forno, but is also a big fan of Ken Oringer. If he gets a chance, he likes to stop over at Clio while he’s in town. He’s also looking forward to checking out Oringer’s latest project near Fenway: La Verdad Taqueria.

Thomas Keller Recipes

May 10, 2010

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I got to meet with Thomas Keller while he was in Boston for a signing of his new book, Ad Hoc At Home. He was kind enough to share one of his vegetarian recipes with Veggiewala: Celery Root with Melted Onions.

Excerpted from AD HOC AT HOME by Thomas Keller (Artisan Books).

Celery Root with Melted Onions

4 large celery root (about 4 pounds total)
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed, skin left on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Melted Onions (page 337) [found at the bottom]
1/2 cup Chicken Stock (page 339) or Vegetable Stock (page 341),
plus more if needed

This is kind of a play on potatoes Lyonnaise, a classic potato and onion dish. Here celery root replaces the potatoes and is sautéed in brown butter and combined with “melted” onions.

Cut off the top and bottom of each celery root (see Lightbulb Moment, page 142). Stand each one up on a cut side and cut off the skin in strips from top to bottom, working around the celery root. Quarter each one lengthwise and then, with a Japanese mandoline or knife, cut crosswise into thin slices.

Heat two large sauté pans over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to each pan, then pull the pans off the heat and let the butter brown. Add one-quarter of the celery root to each pan and cook over medium heat for 1 minute, without stirring. Add one-quarter of the thyme and 1 garlic clove to each pan and cook, stirring from time to time, until the celery root is tender throughout, 9 to 10 minutes total cooking time. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain the celery root on paper towels. Pour off  any excess fat from the pans (and remove any thyme); discard the garlic cloves. Repeat with the remaining celery root. Add the melted onions to one of the pans and cook to give them a little color, about 3 minutes. Drain the onions to remove excess fat, and return them to the pan. Add the celery root, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Increase the heat to high and swirl in 1/2 cup stock. Bring to a simmer, adding additional stock or water if needed to create a creamy dish. Transfer to a serving bowl.

SERVES 6

Melted Onions

8 cups sliced onions (about 3 large onions)
Kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 Sachet (page 342)
It’s difficult to overstate the power of this simple preparation.

Onions, aggressively flavored when raw, acquire a wonderful creamy sweetness when they’re cooked slowly, until they’re so tender they virtually melt into one another. They can be added to almost anything and make it better. Their sweetness will enhance soups and stews,[…]or at room temperature, they can top a[…]sandwich, be added to salads, or stirred into a sauce. Butter is added to these to make them very flavorful and creamy.

Put the onions in a large sauté pan, set over medium-low heat, sprinkle with 2 generous pinches of salt, and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes, until the onions have released much of their liquid. Stir in the butter, add the sachet, cover with a parchment lid (see page 120), and cook slowly over low to medium-low heat for another 30 to 35 minutes. The onions should look creamy at all times; if the butter separates, or the pan looks dry before the onions are done, add a bit of cold water and stir well to re-emulsify the butter. The onions should be meltingly tender but not falling apart or mushy. Season to taste with salt. Once cooled, the onions can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

MAKES 2 CUPS