Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review of Malaysian Night Street Food Festival

Imagine trying to pack a hundred street food vendors into your living room.  This is what it was like at the Malaysian night street food festival.  It promised to be set up like the nightly festivals in Kuala Lampur.  Unless the city is about 500 square feet, I am pretty sure this was not true to the original experience.  I was hoping to try some unique foods, such as Yuzu lemonade, but was told to come back in a half hour, as they ran out.  (Btw, yuzu is Japanese, thank you very much.)  In fact, every kiosk I went to said they were out of some particular food.  I did manage to eat some curried fish balls, but they were Chinese flavored,  not Malaysian. I even ordered my food in Chinese. The lines were so long, at some point, many of us were forced into the street--an inch away from oncoming traffic!  I nearly was clipped by an SUV waiting for bubble tea.  It was at that point that I left and walked across to the street to Le Pain Quotidien and had me a delicious bowl of vegan broccoli soup and fresh crusty bread.  This was followed by a stroll through Chelsea market where I sampled free Fat Witch brownie (a bit oily for me, but people seem to like it), creamy brie and chocolate gelatto.  No crowds and no fuss.  Since it was the end of the day, I even got two additional free loaves of rye bread with my purchase at Amy's Bread. 

Chinatown Part II: Touching the Heart of Harmony

The décor of restaurants serving dim sum (literally meaning “touch heart”) always have the same formula.  Large banquet-sized dining rooms, large round tables draped with white tablecloths, red, gold, or red and gold backed chairs, matching red back wall emblazoned with a golden dragon or a phoenix, or both.  Usually there are red lanterns hanging alongside outrageous chandeliers.   Chinese ladies wheel silver carts piled high with dumplings, rice noodle dishes and other dim sum delights.  While Grand Harmony on Mott St. had all these elements, what set it apart from other dim sum restaurants was their interactive mini kitchen.  A long table with two electric stoves set just at the entrance, one chef maintains two frying pans at once.  Various typical dim sum items sizzled continuously on the pans, including lo bok go (turnip cake), dumplings, rice noodle dishes and sticky water chestnut cake.  These could be cooked to order for me while I stood by and watched. 
Since I was also ordering for my parents, I got everything they had. As soon as one dish was served, I grabbed it and ran back to my table to serve it to my parents.  Then I ran back for more.  The fun part was that I got a little experience of what it was like to be a dim sum lady-minus the cart. Surprisingly, there were more vegetarian items available here than in any other dim sum restaurant I’ve been to, including a meat free version of a rice noodle dish called cherng fun (literally, long  [wide rice] noodles) that usually contains either meat or shrimp.  Dipped in hoisin sauce, it’s a light , yet filling dish.   Of course, I did have about three plates full.   Another vegetarian option was rice noodle covered cruller.  It’s a savory cruller wrapped with rice noodles, then cut into bit sized pieces.  It goes well with hoisin sauce or oyster sauce.  I also had the tastiest fish balls in all my experience of dim sum.  Ground white fish peppered with bits of scallion formed into balls and steamed.  Simple, fresh and delicious.  Grand Harmony has definitely touched my heart and become my favorite for their vegetarian friendly attitude and quality rice noodle dishes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chinatown Part I: Authentically Asian American

I was an hour early to meet my parents, so I decided to go to Fay Da Bakery in Chinatown. I purchased my food and took my book out. Reading an essay about improving health through nutrition, I ate the fluffiest sponge cake I’ve ever known and sipped a sugary boxed drink called Yeo’s White Gourd Drink. The drink box was gourd green and its claim was that it is “the Authentically Asian Drink." The sponge cake was equally authentic, as it was not too sweet, and delightfully airy and moist. Relishing the pillowy softness of this cake, I felt at peace this Sunday morning. I watched three old Chinese ladies sipping their teas with milk, eating fresh Chinese pastries-a warm taro bun, a lotus bean filled bun, and a curry puff, golden and flakey in their hands. Each bite was savored casually but purposefully, in between animated Cantonese discussion about whose arthritis pains were worse. I sipped my gourd drink thinking this was truly a Chinese American moment. Where else can I gulp gourd juice to Beyoncé’s “Baby Boy?” I know gourd juice doesn’t sound appetizing, but the drink actually had more of a sugar cane flavor. It’s not surprising, as it’s the second ingredient to water. However, it was the sponge cake that stole my tongue’s attention. It was not so much the flavor that made it spectacular. It was the texture. This cake was so light, so soft and cushiony, I wanted to buy a hundred of them and stuff them in my pillowcase. Temperpedic’s got nothing on this sponge cake. By the time I consumed the last crumb and made the slurping sound of a straw’s last air-filled sip, my parents had pulled up to the front. I got up and walked out of the café, looking back at the ladies still arguing. I chuckled to myself. This is Chinatown, I think,  and I’m happy to be here today. I threw my juice box and napkin in the trash, and headed out to greet my parents. I knew the flavors that awaited me next on Mott Street. It was high noon--time for dim sum with the folks.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Hi Everyone! 

Welcome to my new blog!  I'm so excited to finally get this set up.  This blog came into existence based on the suggestions of many people in my life after they noticed that ninety percent of my conversations are about food; and that the other ten percent is also about food, but just happens to be a conversation with myself written on a little white note pad.  I would like to thank you all for your encouragment and support.  Plus, now you won't have to listen to my half hour rant about why I can't find Maltese cuisine in the city.

Aside from that interesting topic (I was really hankering for pastizzi!), you'll read my amateur restaurant reviews, journalistic coverage of food events, posted recipes that I've probably stolen from someone's grandma, and get a deep (fried), dark look into an ethnic vegetarian's foodie mind.  Don't forget your flashlight and a fork.

Happy Eatin'