Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Party (1): Menu, Cheese Board & Sangria


I have a pretty serious Olympic obsession. You may have noticed recently when I discussed Greek meze and British afternoon tea. Everything comes back to the Olympics. For the past month and a half I have been planning an Olympic extravaganza for the opening ceremonies (which were last Friday). I invited some friends to come over and watch, sporting outfits representing a range of countries from the USA to Armenia, Portugal, and Japan.

I love this Olympic spirit!! They designed their own shirts :)

I wanted to create a meal that spanned the globe. It was really hard to narrow down countries (and trust me, I've saved some good ones for future Olympic parties), but I definitely had to represent a few. First of all, Greece was an obvious choice because they are responsible for the creation of the games.

French cheese forks... from PARIS!!

I also had to include the United Kingdom because they are hosting the games this year. The United States would also be represented because it's my home country. Here is the menu I came up with (with a little help from my friends who brought some of the drinks and food)...

Olympic Party 2012

Spanakopita (Greece)

Cottage Pies (United Kingdom)

Yakisoba (Japan)

Truffle Cheese (Italy)
Brie (France)
Emmenthaler (Switzerland)

Peach Melba Sangria (Spain)
Chocolate Wine (Holland)
Coto de Imaz Rioja Wine (Spain)
Kronenbourg 1669 Beer (France)
Corona Extra (Mexico)

Creating the menu was nearly as fun as setting up the event and then eating all the food. I started early in the week and prepared both the spanakopita and Har Gow and froze them. This helped save a lot of time on the day of the party (a good strategy for any get-together). Then on Friday morning I made the sangria, followed by the cottage pies and bread pudding. I also assembled the cheese board.

There really isn't a "recipe" for the cheese board I made, but I can tell you that it included 3 cheeses I got from Trader Joe's, all of which actually came from the native countries they were representing (not domestic versions of the cheese). I also included a small variety of crackers (also from Trader Joe's), a cute little beehive shaped dish of wildflower honey (from Whole Foods), and some grapes.

The most popular cheese was easily the Brie, which was nearly wiped out from the cheese platter by the end of the evening. I loved it spread across a cracker and topped with a drizzle of honey. That made this delicious buttery cheese even more outstanding. The next popular was the Italian truffle cheese. It had a lovely aromatic quality from the truffles. The least popular was the Emmenthaler. I personally love Emmenthaler, but the other two cheeses definitely overshadowed this old favorite :)

I will discuss each of the other dishes (along with sharing recipes) in upcoming posts, so please check back regularly. There is still time to throw an Olympic party of your own! The Red, White, and Blue Bread Pudding was featured recently on Mission: Food and was a hugely popular ending to the meal. I can't stress how much I love this recipe! Guests who had never tried bread pudding before went back for seconds. Now that's what I'm talking about :)

Minnie Mouse also got in on the Olympic celebration! Here we have Irish Minnie, Minnie Liberty, and French Minnie :)

Today I will share the shortest recipe of the bunch, since this post is already very long. Just because the recipe is incredibly easy and only includes 4 ingredients doesn't mean that it wasn't a standout favorite from the Olympic party. Because it was. It really really was. I was told by many of my guests that it was the best sangria they've ever had. Some of my guests have also been to or are from Spain. Just to keep it real. This sangria is soooooooo good.

The sweet and fruity Moscato wine is the perfect backdrop for this peachy sangria. The peach schnapps only elevates that fruity element, as do the diced peaches. Fresh raspberries not only tint the sangria a faint pink hue, but are the eternal match for the peaches. A traditional French dessert, peach melba, containing a peach and raspberry flavor combination, is the inspiration for this sangria. 

I decided to serve this in a punch bowl instead of a pitcher to make serving even easier. It was also really pretty this way. Please enjoy responsibly. It's pretty strong :)

Peach Melba Sangria
Makes about 3 1/2 quarts

1.5 liters (2 small bottles, or 1 large bottle) Moscato wine
750 milliliters (1 bottle) peach schnapps
4 peaches, diced
12 oz raspberries

In a large pitcher, mix together all the ingredients and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight to develop the flavors. Serve chilled.

Decked out for my party! My shoes are blue with red trim and my earrings are red, white and blue! Go Team USA!!! :-D

Check out all the Olympic Party posts here...

Part 1: Menu, Cheese Board, and Sangria
Part 2: Spanakopita
Part 3: Cottage Pies
Part 4: Har Gow Shrimp Dumplings
Part 5: Yakisoba

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tea & Sympathy: A British Tradition


I will continue with a bit of my Olympic obsession (IT STARTS TOMORROW!) by sharing a fun look at a traditionally British restaurant in the heart of New York City. Tea & Sympathy stands next door to its sister restaurant A Salt and Battery, a shop specializing in fish and chips and other British fare. It's a little bit of London in the Big Apple. With a very small dining room, waiting for a table at Tea & Sympathy during peak hours could be expected. I assure you it's worth it to spend an hour in the warm confines of this little nook on Greenwich Ave. Shelves of tea pots and photographs of British royalty adorn the walls. You're greeted with British accents. It's pretty legit.

Although I arrived here during early brunch hours on a weekend, the staff said it would be alright for me to order the afternoon tea for one, typically reserved for lunch hours. Although a tad pricier than similar alternatives, $35 will get you plenty of food to take home leftovers (I really suggest you extend your meal into two, the price seems more justified that way). Sadly, you can't share tea for one, although I believe you can make it tea for two at an additional cost. Let's take a look at what we're getting...

First of all, you get a pot of tea. They have quite a few varieties to choose from. I selected the Tea & Sympathy Rosie Lee, a cross between Earl Grey and English Breakfast with a floral touch. I thought it was excellent, a great accompaniment to my tiers of British decadence. I must note, however, that the tea leaves remain in the pot (you strain them as you pour) and by your final cup the tea is certainly oversteeped and bitter. Just beware.

A selection of tea sandwiches are the start of your experience. Arranged on the bottom tier were my choices of Black Forest ham with cream cheese (on a dense multigrain bread), Coronation (curry) chicken salad (on the same multigrain bread), and egg salad with watercress (on a fluffy and moist white bread). These crustless creations were the perfect compliment to my hot tea. Cream cheese is an unlikely (at least to me) choice to pair with ham, but its tanginess worked really well. The Coronation chicken was moist and very flavorful. An absolutely not boring choice. My egg salad with watercress, although classic, was the perfect last hurrah to my sandwich selection. The bread was so spongy and moist. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my choices (and took half of them home for later!).

The top tier offers a selection of sweets. Two meltingly tender cream scones were some of the best I've had. They were perfectly mild, not too sweet, just as a classic scone should be. Served with thick clotted cream and fruit preserves (both imported from jolly old England), these scones were seriously addictive. If you go to Tea & Sympathy but skip the afternoon tea service, at the very least treat yourself to some scones with your meal. They are sublime. Memorable. Fantastic.

Joining the scones, a generous slice of Victoria Sponge (or sponge cake filled with raspberry jam and cream). Their version replaced the typical whipped cream with buttercream, adding an element of richness to this classic British tea staple. The cupcake was none other than a sticky toffee pudding cupcake. This was a nice surprise as I initially thought it was chocolate (it was dark-colored) and then realized it was something far more British than a typical cupcake (which isn't British at all, really).

I had a fantastic time experiencing the afternoon tea at Tea & Sympathy. I must say, the quantity that you're served is enough for one giant person, or two regular people, but since you can't share, you must make do with a doggy bag :) No harm, no foul. The people next to me were enjoying some bangers and mash and I honestly couldn't help wishing I had a bite or two. I hope to return again and try more of the menu! I hope this look at a classic British eatery in NYC will inspire you not only to try it on a future trip to the Big Apple, but to check out the London Olympics these next couple weeks! I'm a big fan. Can you tell? GO USA!! :-D

Tea & Sympathy
108 Greenwich Ave
(between 12th St & Jane St)
 New York, NY 10011
(212) 807-8329

Monday, July 23, 2012

5 Star Makeover: Hummus Trio (Spicy, Tomato-Za'atar, and Black Bean)


Another month, another 5 Star Makeover. With brilliant timing, our hosts Natasha of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks have come up with the theme of Greek Meze. With the Olympics nearing at the end of the week, this Greek inspiration seems perfect! I was elated to start my Olympic celebration early by creating a hummus trio for the challenge.

Although seemingly simple, the threesome shine individually and together. I started out by making a spicy hummus featuring the traditional chickpea base. In addition to plenty of tahini, lemon juice, and garlic, I softened it up with a touch of plain yogurt as well as two different kinds of dried crushed chiles. The first was dried Aleppo chili, commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, about 10,000 on the Scoville heat scale with a similar flavor to an ancho chili. The crushed flakes of this variety of chiles yields a slightly less spicy kick than commercial crushed red pepper. The second was dried Urfa chili, a spicy, earthy and smoky pepper that is purplish in color when dried. It is also featured in Middle Eastern cooking.

I continued to explore more Middle Eastern flavors with my hummus-making by creating a tomato hummus (also chickpea based) with za'atar, a citrusy Middle Eastern spice blend containing dried za'atar herb, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. Not only did this yield a bright orange color, but the flavors were well balanced and slightly tart from the tomato, lemon juice, and za'atar combination. This was perhaps my favorite of the three.

Finally, I traded in the chickpeas for black beans and made a simple black bean hummus with a kick of ground cumin and coriander, giving it almost a Southwestern feel. The color of this hummus was also quite untraditional (a pale grayish purple), rounding out this trio for the Greek Meze challenge. What are your favorite flavors for hummus? Are you a traditionalist or do you like to think/eat outside the box?

Spicy Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

1 (15.5 oz can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 T. plain yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried Aleppo chili flakes
1/2 tsp. dried Urfa chili flakes
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Puree all ingredients (minus olive oil) in a food processor until smooth, seasoning with salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch or two of either variety chili flakes.

Tomato-Za'atar Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

1 (15.5 oz can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. za'atar
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Puree all ingredients (minus olive oil) in a food processor until smooth, seasoning with salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch or two of za'atar.

Black Bean Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

1 (15.5 oz can) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Puree all ingredients (minus olive oil) in a food processor until smooth, seasoning with salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch or two of ground cumin, or a few reserved black beans.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Red, White, and Blue Bread Pudding


I know what you're thinking. "Silly, Victoria. The Fourth of July was weeks ago!" Well, my little darlings, I can be patriotic any day of the week. And with the Olympics steadily approaching, I'm getting all my red, white, and blue ducks in order to celebrate big time and cheer on Team USA! Bread Pudding and the Olympics are two of my all-time favorite things, so why not use one to celebrate the other? It's a no brainer, folks. And psssst... I will also be hosting an Internationally inspired Olympic party and will have some really fun recipes to share from that as well, so stay tuned.

This particular bread pudding is really amazing. I know that it seems quite simple, just a trifecta of delicious berries, but I must say the flavors really sing! It reminded me a bit of French toast. I think the vanilla extract really highlights that comparison, and the sweet warm berries that burst and flavor this perennial favorite are akin to those one would find in a variety of breakfast treats, including but not limited to French toast and pancakes.

P.S. This bread pudding could also be used to cheer for other countries with the same colors in their flag, such as Great Britain, Australia, and France... but why would you want to?

For some personal reasons, the Bread Pudding of the Month Club was on a bit of a hiatus, but it's back and better than ever! I'm really looking forward to sharing more of the bread pudding love in the coming months. I really hope you guys are ready for an exciting ride! In honor of its return, I would love to know what is your favorite bread pudding you've ever had? It can be one you've made, one your grandmother used to make, one you've had in a restaurant that you can't stop thinking about, etc. Please share!! What is the best bread pudding you've ever had?? If you have pictures and/or recipes you can email them to me at missionfoodblog (at) gmail (dot) com. I will share them in a future post!!

Red, White, and Blue Bread Pudding
Serves 10 to 12

Unsalted butter, for greasing baking dish
10 cups stale* 1/2-inch bread cubes
8 oz fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 1 1/2 cups) 
4 oz fresh blueberries
4 oz fresh raspberries
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Place the oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Toss together the bread cubes and fresh berries and arrange the mixture in the baking dish. Set aside.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl with a whisk. Whisk in the sugar and then the milk and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread cubes in the baking dish, pressing down with the back of a spoon or your hands and making sure that all the bread gets submerged and starts soaking in the custard.

Soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake until the filling is set and the top is crusted and puffed, about 60 to 65 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

*If your bread isn't very stale, cut it into cubes and allow the bread cubes to dry out at room temperature all day or overnight. Alternatively, lightly toast them on a sheet pan in a 350 degree F oven until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Buddakan's Carrot Dumplings, My Way


I'm definitely one of those people who tries to recreate delicious things I try in restaurants. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to find a recipe to imitate, but other times I have to really just use my imagination. This was one of those times. You may recall the delicious birthday celebration I had this past spring at Buddakan in NYC. One of the dishes I really wanted to recreate were the carrot dumplings.

Not only do they feature a bright orange carrot-infused dumpling wrapper, and carrot in the filling (along with shiitake mushrooms and corn), but they were shaped like carrots!! With little scallion carrot tops to boot! Seriously, how cute... Almost too cute to eat. Almost.

I knew I could make carrot dumplings wrappers by replacing the boiling water with just-boiling carrot juice. That was the easy part. And making the filling was pretty straight-forward as well. Buddakan featured shiitake mushroom and carrot in their filling, but also included some sweet corn for color and flavor. I brought it all together with fragrant ginger, garlic, and a whole mess of delicious Asian embellishments (including 2 different kinds of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil).

Shaping them took a little brainstorming. I knew that if I cut circles I could shape them into cones and thus into carrot shapes, but I needed to figure out exactly what size to cut them to yield the correct size dumplings with the proper shape (not too wide).

After a little trial and error, I resulted in the perfect technique. The mass of dough would be divided into 8 circles which would each be cut into 4 wedges and formed into cones/"carrots." It was a bit time consuming (as making dumplings totally from scratch can be), but it was absolutely worth the effort to yield these fantastic Buddakan-like results!

P.S. I also plan on recreating Buddakan's scallion pancakes topped with braised short ribs and green apple. I'm thinking maybe this fall, when braising meat seems more weather appropriate. Stay tuned...

Carrot Dumplings
Makes 32
(Inspired by those at Buddakan, dough recipe from Asian Dumplings)

4 large dried shiitake mushrooms
2 T. light soy sauce
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. dark soy sauce (this has a higher viscosity and more intense flavor than traditional "light" soy sauce)
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 T. canola oil
2 T. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped carrots
3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 scallions thinly sliced

10 oz (2 cups) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup carrot juice (100%)

Scallions (as needed), green parts only, sliced into 1-inch pieces

Plan ahead and soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in cold water over night (you may need to weigh them down a bit as they have a tendency to float). Reserve the soaking liquid. You will use it twice more. Squeeze the mushrooms dry, discard the stems, and finely chop the caps. You should have about 3/4 cup.

Mix together 1/4 cup of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, light soy sauce, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, and salt in a small bowl. Set this flavoring sauce aside. In another small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of the mushroom soaking liquid with the cornstarch and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil. When the oil is hot add the ginger and garlic and saute for about 30 seconds until the aromas begin to release. Then add the mushrooms, carrots, and corn kernels and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the flavoring sauce and cook for another couple of minutes until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir the cornstarch mixture once more and add to the skillet, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions. Set mixture aside to cool. This filling can be made a couple days in advance and refrigerated until needed.

To make the dough for the wrappers, add the flour to a mixing bowl and form a well in the center. Bring the carrot juice just to a boil and then add to the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until mostly combined. With floured hands, begin to knead the mixture in the bowl until it comes together completely.

Remove the dough to a wooden board and continue to knead for another 2 minutes or until the mixture is soft and pliable, and if pressed lightly with a finger the dough bounces back.

Place the dough in a zip-top bag, press out excess air and seal. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or up to 2 hours. It will slightly steam in the bag and continue to soften and become more pliable. The dough can then be refrigerated, if needed, and then returned to room temperature before using.

To assemble the dumplings, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces (first cut in half and then cut each half in half and then in half again). Cover dough with a damp paper towel when not in use to prevent the dough from drying out. One at a time, roll each piece of dough into a circle, about 6 inches wide. Cut the circle into 4 equal wedges, like a pizza (a bench/dough scraper works well for this).

Take each wedge one at a time with with floured fingers/hands shape into a cone. Start at the corner and gently press the overlapping dough together to seal as you move up the length of the cone (with your index finger inside the cone and your thumb on the exterior, pressing together). Make 4 cones with the 4 wedges of your first dough circle.

Then, one at a time, use a small spoon to fill each cone with the vegetable filling. Use the end of the spoon's handle to carefully pack the filling into the cone. Fill the cone almost full, leaving a small bit of dough on the end to seal the "carrot" closed. Pinch the end together and smooth the dough against the seam to make it less unsightly. Use your fingers to gently smooth out the carrot shape and adjust the filling from the outside to make it sit nicely.

Place the "carrot" seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with a damp paper towel. Repeat with the remaining cones. Then repeat with each piece of dough to create 32 carrot-shaped dumplings. At this point the dumplings can be refrigerated (covered) until ready to cook, or they can be frozen on the sheet pan for about an hour until frozen solid, and then transferred to a freezer bag. If frozen, gently thaw dumplings before cooking.

When ready to steam dumplings, line bamboo steamer baskets with perforated rounds of parchment slightly smaller than the steamer baskets (I cut my own from parchment paper and then punched holes in them), or line with fresh cabbage, making sure to leave space around the edges for steam to come through. This will prevent dumplings from sticking to the steamer baskets. Arrange dumplings in the steamer baskets.

Meanwhile, add about 1 to 2 inches of water to a pot the same diameter as the steamer baskets (they should be able to sit snugly on top; alternatively you can steam in a wok if you have the proper set up, or place your steamer baskets directly into a very large pot deep enough to hold them, but prop them up with something so they are not submerged in the water). When the water is boiling, place the dumpling-filled steamer baskets on top (with the basket's cover) and steam for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the dumplings are slightly puffed and somewhat translucent.

Remove the steamer trays and cut a small hole into the top of each "carrot" using a paring knife. Stick a 1-inch piece of scallion into this hole to resemble a carrot top. Serve dumplings immediately while hot (they will actually start to stick to the parchment if they are allowed to cool on there too long).

*FYI, each dumping is only 43 calories with 1 gram of fat, 8 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of protein.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Healthy Eating: Cannellini-Veggie Burgers


I have a pretty big news flash to share with y'all. I'm making a bigger effort to cook healthier food. With that said, don't expect this to turn into a diet blog EVER, as I will still be sharing comfort foods and delicious baked yummies that I will simply never stop producing or eating (in moderation, always). I am trying to lead a healthier lifestyle and I'm hoping to have more healthy options on my blog in the future.

An example of this new angle for Mission: Food is this cannellini-veggie burger recipe. I'm a big fan of legumes in all shapes and sizes. Using canned beans is a convenient way to work beans into your diet even when you don't plan ahead to soak overnight and then cook for hours. Mashing them up with some fresh veggies (the zucchini and thyme were from my dad's garden) creates a really delicious and flavorful burger. This meat-lover didn't miss the meat at all! These babies were really flavorful and also very colorful with beautiful flecks of orange and green throughout.

I decided to be a little bad (because who am I kidding, really?) and topped with thin slices of a French Swiss-style cheese I got at Trader Joe's. I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, and I even went to Trader Joe's yesterday and didn't see it there so who knows. I also used Trader Joe's wheat hamburger buns, which were very tasty and a decent, not-too-big size for my burgers. I kept my toppings pretty simple, no ketchup or mustard or anything of the sort, as I really wanted to taste the burgers themselves. You can decorate your burgers however you'd like. It's a free country (or so they tell me).

Cannellini-Veggie Burgers
Serves 6

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 medium zucchini, grated
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15.5 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
1/3 cup + 1 T. dry bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 egg white, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 hamburger buns
Arugula (or other greens), for serving, as desired
Cheese, for serving, as desired
Condiments, for serving, as desired

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrot, zucchini, onion, and garlic and saute until softened, about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vegetable mixture to the mashed beans in a large mixing bowl. When the skillet cools, wipe it clean with a damp paper towel and set aside. You will be cooking the burgers in the same pan.

To the vegetable and bean mixture, add the bread crumbs, lemon juice, fresh thyme, coriander, and egg white. Season generously with salt and pepper (I used about 1 tablespoon salt and several grinds of black pepper) and mix until thoroughly combined. Shape into 6 patties and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few burgers at a time (they will be delicate; use a wide spatula to transport them) to the pan and cook on each side for about 5 or 6 minutes or until nicely browned. Add oil as necessary when flipping burgers and adding the next batch to the pan.

Serve the burgers hot on hamburger buns (or without if you're watching your carbs) with whatever embellishments and/or condiments you prefer. I used arugula and a Swiss-style cheese from Trader Joe's that I slightly melted as the burger finished cooking.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dim Sum at Jade Asian Restaurant (Flushing, Queens NY)

Steamed Char Siu Bao (BBQ Pork Bun)

Literally, dim sum means to "touch the heart" or "order to your heart's content." When someone suggests, "let's go to dim sum," I simply don't say no. It's always a yes answer. Always. Also, it is always synonymous with tea. A pot of tea usually hits your table even before you select your first tray of dim sum (and you know how much I love tea!). To really experience a traditional dim sum cart service, you need to absorb yourself into a Chinatown environment. Dim sum does have a growing popularity in Chinese restaurants outside of concentrated areas, but those usually offer an a la carte menu of dim sum options, as opposed to the cart service, and it should be noted that dim sum is not their specialty. Those restaurants generally have a smaller variety and usually only serve dim sum on the weekends. While a la carte dim sum menus are starting to trend, cart service is definitely more fun and offers a better variety.

That said, on this particular dim sum excursion I got to visit the Chinatown in Flushing, Queens for the first time. It has a large Chinese population, and unlike the Chinatown in Manhattan it is not completely overrun by tourists and street vendors. It is here in Flushing that I got to experience what just may be my most pleasurable dim sum experience. For a weekday dim sum visit, one might expect a smaller dim sum variety (along with thankfully a shorter wait time), but I can honestly say that we got to try everything we wanted during our meal at Jade Asian Restaurant. The dining room was also incredibly busy, a testament to its popularity even mid-week.

Inside Char Siu Sou (BBQ Pork Pastry)

I'd say the theme of our meal was shrimp. Many of our dishes contained shrimp. Even before I get into the specifics of each dish we tried, I must point out how impressed I was with the cleaning of the shrimp. In some dim sum restaurants, the shrimp is simply not deveined. I know that's gross to many of you, but it's pretty common and tolerated. With the sheer volume of dumplings being produced, deveining each and every shrimp is probably not a priority. In the case of my visit to Jade Asian Restaurant, with the exception of the whole fried shrimp which still had their heads and shells on, every other shrimp that graced our table was completely and properly deveined. And on top of that were super delicious. Definite two thumbs up for shrimp preparation!

Shrimp and Vegetable Dumplings

The first shrimp dumpling we tried was a shrimp and vegetable dumpling which was garnished with a green pea, corn kernal, and piece of carrot to illustrate the vegetables inside along with the shrimp. I thought this and every other filling was very generous with the shrimp quantity, and the flavors of the vegetables shown through very nicely. 

Shrimp and Chinese Chive Dumplings

We also tried a shrimp and Chinese chive dumpling which was also very generous when it came to the shrimp. The Chinese chives added a delicious mild onion flavor but in no way overpowered the plump and delicate shrimp. It was a perfect balance.

Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings)

Har Gow (or Ha Gow) is often considered to be the dumpling by which all Chinese dim sum masters are measured. If the Har Gow (shrimp dumpling) is good, then the rest of the dim sum will be good. I absolutely loved the Har Gow at Jade Asian. It contained about 3 whole medium-small shrimp, a bit of crunch from either bamboo shoots or water chestnuts (I can't confirm or deny which it was as they were finely chopped and I'm not an expert in either ingredient), and a touch of ginger. Although simple, the filling was generous, and the texture of the whole shrimp (as opposed to a puree) was excellent. I was happy to see that whole shrimp was included in all of the shrimp dumplings we tried. It definitely was a great texture to contrast the thin, soft, and slightly chewy dumpling wrapper.

Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls

We also enjoyed some shrimp rice noodle rolls, another dim sum favorite. Each was filled with a couple smallish whole shrimp and then topped with the sweet soy sauce mixture that is typical of this dish. Definitely no disappointment here either.

Deep Fried Whole Shrimp

The final shrimp dish we tried was the whole deep fried shrimp. These babies were head and shell on, adding an additional crunch to every bite. Some people may be less inclined to eat their shrimp in this fashion, completely ungutted and unshelled, but I was happy to take the plunge and try it. The shell was a tad off-putting at times, but the succulent and juicy shrimp beneath was worth every bite.

Siu Mai (Pork and Shrimp Open-Faced Dumplings)

Siu Mai is another dim sum staple that shares the popularity of Har Gow. They are open-faced dumplings usually containing either pork and shiitake mushrooms or pork and shrimp. Ours contained pork and shrimp (go figure), which is a combination I really love. The juiciness of the pork adds a really great element to these dumplings in conjunction with the slight crunch of the shrimp. I certainly love my Siu Mai!

Inside Steamed Char Siu Bao (BBQ Pork Bun)

I'm easily obsessed with anything containing Char Siu, or Chinese BBQ Pork. It's probably one of the most delicious things in the world in my opinion. I've made my own in my home kitchen and used it to make Baked Char Siu Buns, Char Siu Sou (Pastries), and Cantonese Spring Rolls. During this dim sum meal, we ordered not one but two trays of Steamed Char Siu Bao. They are my #1. Hands down. The fluffy soft bun is the perfect wrapper for the sweet and saucy pork filling. I could easily make an entire meal of these, and perhaps someday I will forgo all the others for a tummy full of these babies. They are spectacular. 

Char Siu Sou (BBQ Pork Pastry)

Riding the Char Siu train another stop, we also ordered these deliciously flaky Char Siu Sou or pastries. They utilize a traditional Chinese flaky dough which similar to croissants uses a layers of fat to create a flaky texture. In this case a water dough is layered with an oil dough to later encase more delicious Char Siu filling. A topping of sesame seeds and a slightly sweet glaze makes these an absolute treat. I simply couldn't get enough and would happily order another plate of these on my next visit!

Lo Mai Gai (Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf)

Our final selection was Lo Mai Gai, or sticky rice in lotus leaf wrappers. This dish usually contains a plethora of fillings in addition to the rice, often chicken, pork, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage. This version was no exception, and definitely gave us a great bang for the buck as far as fillings go. The rice was perhaps slightly dry, but I actually enjoyed the texture.

Inside Lo Mai Gai (Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf)

Overall, my visit to Jade Asian Restaurant was perhaps my favorite dim sum experience to date. The quality of the dishes was higher than some I've had before, the generosity of the fillings, the cleanliness of the shrimp, and of course the amazing company that shared these dishes all helped make this such a fantastic and memorable experience. I will definitely return to Jade Asian in the future whenever a dim sum craving hits. They simply do not disappoint. It is worth a long trip on the 7 train, I can assure you of that.

Jade Asian Restaurant
136-28 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 762-8821


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...