Eat a Duck in Singapore

I recently returned from a trip to Singapore, tagging along with my parents as they attended an aviation conference.  I’d researched the country ahead of my visit to gain at the very least, a basic understanding of the culture and history. It was a British trading post, separated from Malaysia making it it’s own city-state, and resulting in English becoming the official language.  There are four major cultures in Singapore: Malay, Japanese, Chinese and Indian.  As you’d imagine, as a result of this collision of culinary cultures, the food is remarkable.  I was told that Singapore is very much a city of commerce and cosmopolitan life, not the normal nitty-gritty, cheap and dirty Asian experience I have come to crave and love. In fact, Singapore has earned the nickname “Asia-Lite.”  Armed with this information, I sought out Anthony Bourdain per the advice of my dear Diana.  Surely he would find the food culture I was searching for, and boy, did he.

Maxwell Food Center spread

I was the first to touch down, arriving at 7 am. After a morning nap following my 20 hour trip, I set out in search of a meal.  Bourdain’s first stop was the Maxwell Food Centre, a bustling set of hawker stalls all under one roof. One of the famous dishes in Singapore is chicken rice, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Chicken on top of seasoned rice with various condiments. I chose the Hong Xiang chicken stall, which came highly recommended by Bourdain and did not disappoint. The chicken was beautifully moist laying on top of a bed of steaming rice.  The lady at the stall took out a spray bottle and sprayed my entire dish before handing it to me.  I don’t know what it was, but I assume it was a spray bottle of delish. Accompanying the chicken rice was an extremely thick hoisin sauce and chili sauce. It was heaven, a perfect glimpse into what Singaporean food would hold in store.

Our next adventure into Singaporean cuisine was recommended to us by our cab driver. We were headed to Long Beach restaurant on East Coast Park only knowing that we wanted the best chili crab Singapore had to offer.  Obviously picking up on our ineptitude, he recommended drunken prawns, boiled in a cognac stock, the fried rice and black pepper crab. Not all cab drivers are to be trusted, but in this case, our man knew his stuff.  The cognac stock was so smooth, and had us lapping it up long after the prawns had been devoured.

Long Beach spread

Chili crab was the star of this trip. Crab, steamed and smothered in a tomato, garlic, chili sauce. Equal parts sweet and savory, this sauce was everything you could ever want, worthy of being used on any food item throughout the day, we couldn’t get enough. The same driver recommended we order sweet buns with which to sop up the sauce after we were done with our crabs, like I said, he was a smart man. Next came black pepper crab. This is the same dish as chili crab but with a black pepper paste smeared liberally over the steaming crustaceans. This version was much spicier and in your face, and perfect counterpart to its sweet chili crab cousin. While you’re eating these two dishes, be prepared to get extremely dirty. Sauce all over your face, arms and hands, but gladly so.  It proves you’ve truly enjoyed your dish.

It seems inevitable that any tourist to Singapore will hang around Marina Bay for a little while. Within the Marina Bay Shoppes is a great food court featuring various cuisines from around the continent, but of course, I went for dim sum because, well, I am Jimmy’s sister. The siu mai and shrimp har gao were up to par. It was a perfect, close spot to beat the heat and grab some delicious food as well.

Iced coffee is definitely a must when exploring Singapore. It is HOT, crazy hot, and the combination of ice and caffeine kept me running. It’s available pretty much anywhere, but I preferred to grab it at the hawker centers.

Marina Bay dim sum

Since the shopping is near legendary in Singapore, my Mom and I hit up Robinson’s, the big department store, where we discovered delicious snacks like green tea kit kats and squid jerky.  On the basement level of Robinson’s we stumbled upon a gyoza restaurant called Gyoza-Ya. There was a hefty list of delicious things to try but we had to settle on a select few.  We started with chilled eggplant with miso paste. Give me anything with miso paste. The eggplant was delectable, tender, but almost too difficult to grab with chopsticks, as the thick, savory miso paste made for a slippery affair. Next was cucumber with miso paste. Those delicious Asian cucumbers. You can really tell the difference. The miso paste on this dish was presented in little pearls that broke apart in your mouth, spreading the heavenly miso all over your palate. I ordered what was described on the menu simply as “Ramen Egg.” I thought it was going to be some sort of egg drop ramen soup. I’m so glad I was wrong. The waiter sets down a chilled soft-boiled egg on a plate in front of me, and I look at Mom not knowing exactly what to do. What I can infer after taking a bite is, the egg was soft-boiled, and then marinated in some sort of ramen stock or soy sauce? I don’t know for sure but holy whoa it was delicious. The white of the egg flavored with sesame paired with a silky, runny yoke on the inside was perfection. I want it for breakfast daily. Of course we ended this lunch with both vegetable and pork gyoza. It was Gyoza-Ya after all.

Gyoza-Ya spread

Still, the chili crab lingered in our mouths and brains.  So this time, we sought out Jumbo Seafood restaurant, recommended by multiple former Singapore residents. We ordered all the usual suspects, chili crab, black pepper crab, fried rice, shrimp in miso paste (I can’t quit the miso paste) and steamed Snapper with cilantro.  The crabs here were much larger than at Long Beach, but I’m at a loss as to which restaurant prepared them better. I just want access to chili crab at all times.

Jumbo spread

Our flights were extremely late at night, so our last dinner was back at Maxwell Food Centre, since the parentals hadn’t been. This time I had ban mian, a soup with pork and rice noodles and of course, plenty of condiments with which to customize your dish. I washed it all down with starfruit juice, something I’d never seen before but had to try. Our meal was accompanied by three old dudes drinking beer with their portable radio blaring, chilling at the table next to us, like I assume they do every night. True, Singapore doesn’t have an abundance of cultural sites, but it definitely makes up for it in an abundance of delicious foods.

 

Blackbrick – Miami, FL

I think it’s high time we got back to our roots here at Eat a Duck. I mean it’s been what, TWO posts since we featured dim sum around here! Well not to worry, we’d never let the dumplings disappear for long, and neither will Richard Hales, chef and owner of Blackbrick, Miami’s sorely needed dim sum mecca. Chef Hales, best known for the popular Korean joint, Sakaya Kitchen and its mobile counterpart, Dim Ssam a GoGo, clearly saw the gap in Miami’s dining landscape. Until now, finding truly great dim sum was a chore at best, and nearly impossible at worst.

Sure, you’ve got Mr. Chow on Miami Beach, but who wants to drop $13 on a plate of siu mai? Alternatively you could make the trek out to Tropical dim sum on Sundays for one of the only dim sum cart services I’m aware of, but neither of these options are ideal. What Miami needed was a centrally located spot, within a few minutes drive and preferably near other like-minded restaurants for obvious food crawl possibilities! Chef Hales found the perfect spot, nestled right in between the design district and Wynwood, two of the hottest neighborhoods in town.

Blackbrick spread 1

At first glance, the large Target shopping center where Blackbrick is located may seem like another bland, prefabricated Florida “village”. Clearly though, someone did their homework. Instead of bringing in the typical corporate restaurants like Brio, P.F. Changs and Cheesecake Factory, they opted for independent, local talent. Granted, there’s still a Five Guys and a World of Beer, but for the most part, the dining options in Midtown are something to be excited about.

Blackbrick is one of the places warranting the most excitement, not only for the crew of Eat a Duck, but for food lovers around the country, even being nominated for Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America. The reason behind the buzz is no secret, as Blackbrick combines tradition and creativity seamlessly.

Blackbrick dim sum

Their dim sum selection, while not exhaustive, is of a quality you won’t find anywhere else. Each item is cooked to order, so while the wait may be more than some veteran dim sum-o-philes are used to, the resulting flavor makes it all worth it. The wrappers of the har gow and pork siu mai are perfectly cooked, tender and toothsome. The fillings are equally well executed. The shrimp and scallop dumplings are fresh, leaving none of the low-tide aftertaste some lesser establishments might offer.

A couple of instant favorites are the fried pork cheek dumplings (pictured in the first spread) with its succulent filling and drizzle of slightly sweet sauce, and the jade Peking duck dumpling, an idea which I’m upset I haven’t found until now. Both of these manage to find their way to my table during each visit. Do we have any bao fans? Blackbrick makes a mean steamed bbq pork char siu bao with that wonderfully sweet meat filling. A couple of these for breakfast would start any day off right.

Blackbrick spread 2

But Blackbrick isn’t simply a dumpling house. Looking for some comfort food, why not take a look at their selection of fantastic fried rice that will expand your opinion of what the dish can be. Not content to match your neighborhood Chinese take out joint, Chef Hales spikes his rice with things like rock shrimp, lobster tail and duck. Another exciting option pairs bacon with kim chi made by sister restaurant Sakaya Kitchen.

The Chinese brunch, once dominated by dim sum alone is now joined by a bevy of options including a breakfast fried rice of sausage, eggs and country potato, shrimp and grits made with cornmeal congee, bacon and a poached egg, and my personal favorite Chinese fried chicken and fortune cookie waffle with a scallion, ginger maple syrup. Don’t forget the salt and pepper tots! Here they’re prepared simply with peppers and onion, achieving a level of spice that gets your brow moist but keeps you coming back for more.

My favorite dish however, might be Blackbrick’s take on Dandan Mian, a Sichuan dish usually consisting of a spicy, chili oil tinged sauce, minced pork and scallions. Here it resembles a Chinese version of ragu alla bolognese. This is one of those dishes I could eat for the rest of my life and be a happy man. Chef Hales chose bucatini, a stout noodle that can stand up to the mountain of fiery pork and scallions.

Blackbrick spread

After a half-dozen visits to Blackbrick, it’s solidified itself in my pantheon of go-to Miami restaurants. Over the past few years, the food scene in there has grown by leaps and bounds, leaving behind the tired, stodgy cuisine of the late 1990s and early 2000’s in favor of a vibrant blend of traditional fare, executed well and bold new creations destined to become classics. Blackbrick is indicative of this trend and stands among the leaders of great dining establishments in South Florida.

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EAD Weekly Recap No. 2

Another week of eating has come and gone, and we’ve cobbled together the photos for you. It’s always a privilege to pony up to the Kappo bar and enjoy a feast of epic proportions. There you will find the highest quality sushi, executed with great imagination and precision at prices that would be 3x higher in any major city. If you’re a fan of pizza and dim sum we’ll likely have you covered every week, as both Eat a Duck majority contributors are big on the pizza and dim sum game. This week is no different as Jimmy hit up Yummy house for his fortnightly pilgrimage to the Sarasota dim sum haven, while Logan stumbled upon a legit pizzeria and spaghetteria called Tartini during a business trip to Orlando. Finally, we give you a glimpse of what we consume on a more regular basis at home. I love when my wife cooks. What she enjoys eating the most she cooks just as well, as you can see in this spicy yellow coconut curry stew and her fantastic salad of baby kale, roasted beet, soft boiled egg, avocado, radish, with a bacon drippings vinaigrette. Hope you all ate just as well!

ead-weekly-2

2013 Eat a Duck Food Crawl – Tampa Edition

Everyone has their own special way to wave goodbye to the past 12 months. Fireworks, champagne, kisses with strangers. Here at Eat a Duck, as you’d expect, our farewell involves food…and lots of it. Logan and I had been stewing over embarking on a food crawl for some time, and seeing 2013 out with a feasting trip seemed like a perfect fit. Todd from Tasting Tampa and his lady friend were kind enough to join us, rounding out a foursome with the ability and appetite to conquer the larder of any given municipality.

food-crawl1 copy

Naturally, as we were in Central Florida, we had a choice of Orlando or Tampa. We went with the latter and in our best Lemmy impression, we played it fast and loose, adding and substituting eateries on the fly, the final lineup is seen below.

2013 Food Crawl Lineup

Eight restaurants are no laughing matter. With this many places, one must pace themselves or run the risk of hitting a wall long before you reach the end, which in our case, would have been a tragedy. We made our rendezvous with Todd at our first stop, Yummy House. We had sampled the dinner menu on Christmas day, but today it was all about dim sum. Pork and ginger dumplings, pork siu mai, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, and fried calamari in their famous salt and pepper preparation. I’m cautiously confident in stating that this dim sum is the best in Central Florida. The only thing to keep it from knocking Ming’s off its throne is the lack variety on the menu.

Yummy House Spread

It took everything I had not to overdo it here as I was famished, but we had a long road ahead of us. So I laid my chopsticks down and hopped in the car for our second stop, Cigar City Brewery. Both Logan and I had decided not to spend any of our crawl money on alcohol, but the call of a hoppy IPA was too much for my colleague. For eats, we kept it light with a small bowl of duroc pork chicharrones with mojo salt and lime. It was a perfect intermission to get us ready for our stop number three…

CCB Chicharrones

Woodfired Pizza. As is usually the case in the Tampa area, Todd was received like a conquering king, this time by a wise looking pizzaiolo working a smoking wood oven. Introductions were made and we were granted a VH1 style story from the owner himself, Peter Taylor, of his decades long quest to make (not bake!) the perfect pizza. Needless to say, we were anxious to get a taste. Todd took the lead and ordered two “must have” pizzas, the Pistachio and the Dante. The former came with pistachios, fresh mozzarella, raw red onion, olive oil, pecorino romano, rosemary and organic herbs. This was by far the most aromatic pizza we had ever sampled. The pistachio and herb mixture made a sort of pesto that filled your nose with an earthy aroma. Subtle and creamy with a slightly sweet crust as a compliment. The Dante on the other hand was bold, with its sriracha spiked tomato sauce. Smooth ricotta managed to shine through the heat and served to balance the dish. Sliced meatballs and grated Dante cheese rounded it out. We unanimously agreed it was the best pizza we had all had in a while.

Woodfire Pizza Spread

After a bit of a drive, we landed at stop 4, Anise Global Gastrobar. Logan has sung the praises of this eclectic temple of food before, so I had taken this opportunity to try it for myself. Half a dozen oysters with hibiscus mignonette got us started. Crisp, clean and tender, they were a perfect appetizer for the stinky bunz that followed. The Eat a Duck boys covered four out of five of the bunz, Chinese BBQ pork, beer battered shrimp, red curried crispy chicken and braised pork belly. After a bit of each I was sold. They more than lived up to Logan’s praises. I was sad to leave without being able to sample more of the menu. The food crawl giveth and the food crawl taketh away, we had to continue!

Anise Spread

Not far from Anise, we arrived at our fifth stop, Pané Rustica. Lo and behold, Todd spotted a couple more friends and lovers of food. After little coaxing, we managed to detour them from their plans in favor of joining us on the rest of our crawl, but not before we each devoured a quarter of a two storey burger topped with ham and cheese.

Pané Rustica Burger

No building sized sandwich was going to slow us down. Élevage was our sixth stop, and I had high expectations following Logan’s recent post. We set up shop in the bar, just outside the main dining room. The menu in the bar was only a fraction of what Élevage has to offer, but in the name of efficiency we ordered the first three items the group agreed on. Deviled eggs with blackened blue crab, escargots parmesan and reuben beef tartare with comte, 1000 island, brussels kraut and rye bread. Surprisingly, these three items were underwhelming. The deviled eggs were a tasty but hardly eye-opening. Sadly the flavor of the escargots was lost beneath the layer of cheese and tomato sauce and the beef “tartare” was cooked all the way through. From what I read about this place in Logan’s post, Élevage is set to be a food destination for any serious eater in the country. However the lounge menu needs some work to say the least. The items sound amazing, but the execution leaves much to be desired. In any case, I’m in no way writing it off as every new venture needs time to work out the kinks. Onwards and upwards stop seven…

Élevage Spread

Sidebern’s. Anyone with an appreciation for food in Central Florida has been here, so we knew what was in store. We wasted no time and ordered up a pile of moules frites, duck rillettes, oysters, a stack of fresh ham with stone ground mustard and a couple of beautiful scallops with a striking herb pesto. Each item was executed to perfection. Fresh mussels bathed in a broth that could satisfy the strongest hunger all on its own. Moist duck settled in a layer of fat coated the tongue, only to be cut by the clean flavor of the oysters. This is what the folks running the Bern’s empire are truly capable of once they get in the zone.

Sideberns Spread

Seven restaurants down and we were still going strong, our stomachs hadn’t betrayed us yet as we steeled ourselves for the eighth and final stop, Rooster and the Till. In hindsight, the place that excited me most. The entire restaurant is the size of a large living room. The kitchen resides just behind the bar, so everything is on display. The chef and his minions, armed only with three hot plates and a meticulously prepared mise en place, were pumping out food to the crowded room at an impressive pace. Even more impressive is that the menu changes with the wind, so don’t expect to find everything we did on your own visit. We had to wait about 30 minutes, but once we took our places at the bar, we were rewarded with truly inspired food for Tampa, or anywhere for that matter. Lamb heart tartare with a golden duck yolk was outstanding. Raw littleneck clams with pickled radish and grapefruit was addictive. Pork belly with cornbread and pickled apple with peppercorn honey showcased genius flavor combinations. Cauliflower in brown butter with pickled raisins and braised turnip with white beans and pickled celery in a pork fat vinaigrette wowed even this staunch veggie hater. Dessert was a pear and cranberry parfait with granola and homemade whipped cream. Rooster and the Till has the hunger and passion of a newly formed band looking for a label. I hope they hold tight to that hunger in the years to come as I plan on becoming a regular so as not to miss a single dish.

Rooster & the Till Spread

The first ever Eat a Duck food crawl was more than successful, starting with an explosion of salt and pepper and ending with a lamb heart attack. This could very well turn into a tradition, so keep your eyes and ears open this year for more Eat a Duck crawls, we’d love to bring some of our readers along on our next adventure!

Tako Cheena – Orlando, FL

In this world of ours, there are many different kinds of eating establishments to fit various circumstances. After a night of heavy drinking and concert going, my food pyramid consists of  two things, tacos and Asian cuisine. I need one or the other, sometimes both.

Fortunately for my extra-specific alcohol cravings, a little place opened up not too long ago called Tako Cheena. I was driving down Mills Ave., on my way to one of the many fantastic restaurants in the area, when their catchphrase caught my eye so violently I may need retina re-attachment surgery,  “Dim Sum Good Takos”.

photo: www.amplifiedculture.com

The sign alone intrigued me, as I had no clue what was inside. I was hoping for dim sum, as I recall reading the sign incorrectly. As I was saying, I was on my way get food from another place, a banh mi from Yum-mi Sandwiches to be precise. Even though I already had my meal lined up, I couldn’t resist. So I walked in and took a look at the menu. I loved what I saw even though in my heart, I was disappointed there wasn’t any dim sum despite their slogan. What they did offer though, made up for this ten times over. A love affair blossomed that night, Tako Cheena and I have spent many nights together since.

This leads me to my latest visit, although every one has been worthy of written praise, I’ve always seemed to be lacking a camera to document the experience. Good thing I had James with me on this trip. He is like the food snob equivalent of a boy scout, always prepared.

This was his first time with Tako Cheena. I remembered my first time fondly as I watched him eat up the menu with his eyes. It’s extremely concise and leaves no room for fluff. The menu is considerably Eastern Asian. Most of continent is well represented with touches of Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian. The only thing missing was a Russian Borscht burrito. After our orders were placed, I sat back and took in the sounds of the space. The room of half drunk patrons who, like me, were loud and excited to jump in on the feast to soak up the alcohol pond in their tummies that had accumulated throughout the night. The smells were equally intoxicating as aromatic whiffs of smoke from the grill and char siu pork belly, flavored with five spice filled the air. Soon enough our food arrived.

Takos:

The very pork I spoke of earlier in all its glory filled a flour tortilla, topped with a chopped cabbage, green onion and cilantro slaw. That crunchy slaw paired off against the ultra rich and fatty pork was the only thing that kept me from entering a full-blown food trance.

The other Tako ordered was filled with panko-crusted cod and topped with the same slaw.  The fish was fried to golden perfection and was as crisp as snapping a fresh potato chip. It was an awesome take on the fish taco. The most astounding aspect was the sweet and spicy sauce that created a  lacquered sheen over the fried plank. We each had one so no sharing was in order. James was so overwhelmed that he had to get another, just to make sure it was as awesome as he first believed, it was.

Asian Dogs:

Early German immigrants were kind enough to share the frankfurter with us Yanks, and we have thoroughly embraced it as one of our American staples. What Tako Cheena does best, is presenting non-traditional flavors with a certain visual appeal that isn’t automatically dismissive. They take the concept of a hot dog, something we all know and love, and give you something completely different. The first trick is the dog. It’s actually a Chinese sausage that’s sweet, salty and packed with flavor. Then they use the garnish as the way to bring in some classic Asian flavors. The Japadog takes command with seaweed, cabbage, cucumber and a sweet sesame miso sauce. The Banh Mi dog on the other hand, gives a nod to the traditional Vietnamese classic using slivers of daikon, carrot and cucumber pickled in nuoc cham and rice vinegar. Then it’s finished with lemon mayo and chopped cilantro.

Finally we shared an order of Ginger Apple Empanadas. I think they’ve changed the recipe on this menu item a couple of times, trying to get it just right. It’s still on the menu as spring rolls, but the cashier informed me they were actually empanadas. It was a welcome change if you ask me, which you obviously didn’t. It took weeks to figure out that this dessert was really two pastries wrapped into one parcel.  You can have an empanada filled with warm spicy apple filling and stop there, that’d be your dessert and you’d walk away a happy man, but there’s more. To top things off, you have a key lime and sweetened condensed milk caramel to create a pseudo reversed key lime pie. You even could say you have a crust which was made up of the outer edge of the empanada shell.

Maybe I over-analyzed the genius of the chefs vision. Maybe we just aren’t as thoughtful. Either way, this dessert was like much of the food we had that evening. Complex, sophisticated, even modest if you will. At its core, showing respect to the flavors is what’s most important. If you ever find yourself in a stupor say, after a night out at the punk rock show,  there’s no better brain food to be found than at Tako Cheena.

♦ Logan C.

 

Tako Cheena by Pom Pom on Urbanspoon

Langoustine & Daikon Dumplings

All jokes aside, this recipe is strictly business. There’s nothing better than making something spectacular out of the empty abyss that is your fridge. It’s one of those nearly impossible tasks, like trying to understand the plot of LOST starting in Season 3 episode 6. I knew my protein would be a bag of frozen Langoustines I had procured from Trader Joes in Atlanta. I had been hoarding the little buggers for 2 months trying to think of something worthy to make with them.

I had previously planned on making Kimchi Dumplings, but that never happened. I had all the ingredients but never made the actual condiment. I even had an unopened package of pre-made wonton skins that were close to meeting their shelf life. Everything happens for a reason, so on to bigger and better things!

 

I opened the produce drawers and started selecting that would compliment each other well in dumpling form. Daikon Radish, a mix of Hedgehog and Shitake mushrooms, green onion, garlic, ginger, and cilantro would join my crustacean as the filling. According to my wife, the result was nothing short of magical. She is a dim sum and dumpling hound, so if she was loving them, I must have nailed the flavors. Subtle but distinctive with none of the components losing their luster. To make this even easier and possibly cheaper, you could sub out Langoustine in favor of Shrimp. You could also change the Shiitake out for Crimini or even white buttons. On the other hand, you could go Grape Ape crazy and sink my “Battleship,'” (In Theaters May 18) With Lobster and Matsutake. Either way, here’s how to recreate the magic.

To make about 20 Dumplings:

  • 1/2 Pound Langoustine
  • 6 oz Sautéed, then Diced Mushrooms (Shiitake Preferably)
  • 1/2 Cup extremely fine diced Daikon Radish
  • 1/4 Cup chopped Cilantro
  • 1/4 Cup thinly sliced Green Onion
  • 3 Minced Garlic cloves
  • 1/2 Tbsp Minced Ginger
  • 1 Tbsp Tamari or Soy Sauce. (Or more depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 Tsp Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Pepper
  • 1 Package square Wonton skins
  • Sesame oil for cooking

To make the filling:

First thaw out your shellfish (remove the shells and de-turd if necessary)

Pour a teaspoon of the sesame oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Place mushrooms in and cook until the water releases from them and then evaporates out of the pan. About 7 Minutes. Set aside and let cool.

There is no simpler way of telling you the next step than to just throw the finely diced Daikon, Cilantro, Green Onions, Garlic, Ginger, and thawed Langoustine into a medium bowl along with the Tamari, Salt and Pepper. Once the Mushrooms have cooled throw those in too! That’s it for the filling.

Next is the more time-consuming part. You can either assemble all the dumplings ahead of time or make them in batches as you go.

To assemble: take 1 wonton skin in hand and place a teaspoon of the filling directly in the middle. You’ll need a bowl of warm water to dip your finger in, to create a seal for your dumpling. Brush 2 sides of the edges of the wonton and then fold over to create a triangle shape. Then pinch the wonton all the way around the edges to completely lock in the filling. You can attempt to make the dumplings look pretty by crimping them in pattern for a more authentic look. It wont change the taste really, so don’t worry too much about it. If you want a more traditional looking piece of dim sum, then by all means do work!

To cook you can take a couple approaches. You could steam them in a basket the way siu mai is prepared, which is nice and would work well. It also requires zero oil if you are concerned with fat intake. I followed more of a potsticker method.

Pour 1/2 tsp of sesame oil in a non stick saute pan on medium-low heat. Place as many Dumplings as you can fit comfortably down in a non-stick pan and let brown on one side for about 1-2 minutes. Then take about a 1/8 cup warm water and pour in pan. Put a lid over it (preferably a glass lid so you can see your dumplings cooking) until the wonton is translucent. You want to make sure you have cooked the dough through before removing the lid. This should take about 5 minutes at the most. When the are done they will be very hot inside from the steam, so let them cool for a bit.

•PRO TIP• It’s best to make 1 test dumpling before cooking a whole batch. Doing so will help you determine if your flavors are on point.

I was really tired, so I didn’t make a dipping sauce myself. I just used a premade Trader Joes Gyoza Sauce. However, if you have the ingredients you can easily make a bath for you dumplings by combining Soy Sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar, a squeeze of Lemon, finely sliced chives or green onions, ginger powder and either sesame seeds or a few drops of sesame oil.

I promise you, you can do this! Once you master the art of Dumpling assembly, a whole world will be opened to you. If it were that difficult I wouldn’t bother sharing this accidental discovery with you lovely people.

Red Egg – New York City, NY

Restaurants that have built their reputation on serving traditional food at the highest level of quality are always a joy to visit. There’s nothing better than tasting the finest example of any given cultures cuisine, the way its creators intended. It takes courage then, to take that cuisine and start playing around with the tradition and methods proven over centuries. Well recently I visited the folks at Red Egg, and I can say that their courage has paid off.

Red Egg interiorphoto 1: www.restaurantsinyc.com • photo 2: www.redeggnyc.com

Red Egg, on the border of Soho and Chinatown is a shining example in the world of Chinese cuisine, specifically dim sum. Naturally, rumors of delectable dumplings is what drew me to them in the first place (though I heard of Peruvian influences, I didn’t see those sneak into the dim sum menu). Now, don’t misunderstand, Red Egg isn’t reinventing the wheel here, they’re not bastardizing dim sum the way many sushi restaurants do by adding sugary sauces to their maki rolls filled with strawberries, cream cheese and fried shrimp. They’re simply elevating it, coaxing even more delicious flavor from the same quality ingredients, the same dishes that we’ve all come to love. It’s the little things that make all the difference. You’ll see it right on the dim sum menu, this isn’t your daddy’s dim sum house, where women roam the aisles with steam carts full of dumplings that may have been made much earlier in the day. Dim sum, like sushi, is always better when eaten immediately after its made, the longer you wait, the more the flavor deteriorates. That’s why Red Egg wraps and steams/fries each set of dumplings to order, giving you your tiny purses of joy at their peak of freshness.

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical when I read this on their website. For years now, I’ve been a huge fan of the traditional cart service that you find in many dim sum houses in Hong Kong, London, New York and San Francisco. Cooked to order dim sum sounded promising, but it still felt like a break from tradition. I mean, there must be a good reason for steam carts as a delivery method! Maybe the dumplings are par-cooked in the kitchen and then finished in the steamer? I don’t know, all I do know, is that the dim sum being made at Red Egg is extraordinary. I’m saying this after hurriedly ordering take-out and rushing back to my office before it got cold. If their take-out impressed me that much, I have to imagine they’re even better eaten in-house.

I ordered three types, pork and cilantro, pork Siu Mai (I have to try this old favorite everywhere, it’s like a measuring stick), and “Red Eggs shrimp”, which, as I suspected turned out to be a great example of Har Gao. I have had all of these in some form or another at other restaurants over the years. These were excellent examples, surpassing many dim sum eateries in terms of freshness and flavor (perhaps all but Maison Kam Fung). The pork in the Siu Mai was juicy and almost sweet thanks to being paired with pieces of shrimp. There were even traces of chopped watercress for a little crunchy nuttiness. The fat from the pork infused the entire dumpling with a wonderfully buttery texture which lent the wrappers tenderness.

Pork & cilantro and Red Egg's Shrimp

Everything I ordered was delicious, my only regret was that I didn’t have the time to sit down and sample some of their larger plates, the Peking duck sliders caught my eye as well as the shredded duck mei fun (admittedly I am a tad bit obsessed with that bird). Another intriguing item is the Durian Puff. For those of you who don’t know, the Durian is a large, spiky fruit from Southeast Asia which some either love or hate based on its custard-like pulp and unique (to some, off-putting) odor. Nonetheless, I have wanted to try the Durian for some time, and sampling it in dim sum form seems like a fantastic opportunity. Alas that will have to wait until my next visit. As far as dim sum goes, Red Egg is absolutely worth the visit. As for the rest of the menu, I’ll get back to you when I have a chance to chow down on some chow fun.

Red Egg on Urbanspoon

La Maison Kam Fung – Montreal, QC

Dim sum has been something of a mainstay topic here at Eat a Duck. We’ve discussed Ming’s Bistro countless times, but Logan and I are always in search of the next big thing, not content to believe that we’ve found the best. This persistent searching brought the discovery of a wonderful dim sum house nestled deep in the bowels of a nondescript shopping center in downtown Montreal. La Maison Kam Fung, located at 1111 Saint Urbain Street, Montreal, QC, has captured the look, feel and most importantly, taste, of some of the best dim sum houses in Hong Kong. At least as closely as you can get on the opposite side of the planet.

Welcome sign to La Maison Kam Fung

If you happen to find yourself anywhere inside a 60 mile radius of Montreal, I suggest you take the day and visit this place. As you cross the threshold of the indoor Chinatown mall, you’re immediately greeted by a Chinese pastry shop on one side and a roast pork and duck joint on the other, you’re on the right track. After a short trip up the escalator, you begin to hear the muffled roar of hungry dim sum patrons and the circus hawker like voice over the P.A. announcing a newly vacant table. The turnaround at this place is staggering. You weave your way through the crowd of people until you arrive at the maitre’d podium, over her shoulder you can see the steaming carts of succulent dumplings zipping in and out of the crowded dining room. No words are exchanged except a short “15 minutes!”. She hands you a small piece of paper with a number, you promptly find your place among the masses and wait. Sure enough, after 15 minutes your number is called and you’re whisked away to your table, already cleaned, dressed with new linen, glassware, napkins and chopsticks.

The fun begins immediately. Most likely a cart will already be passing your table, offering two or three choices of steamed or fried deliciousness. The food is on the table and the cart is gone before you’ve taken your jacket off. Why can’t all restaurants have this kind of service?! As with any respectable dim sum establishment, the best time to visit is around 11:30-1:00 on Sunday. This is when you can be certain to find all your favorites and more at the peak of freshness. The insanely quick turnover means that nothing is sitting on racks in the back getting soggy and stale, they steam and fry and send the food out at a such a frenzied pace that the time between cooking and eating is a matter of seconds. The staples are always available, Siu Mai, Ha Gao, Char Siu Bao, Taro, Bok Choy with hoisin. If you don’t see the cart carrying what you’re looking for, just ask and they’ll either run in the back or find the cart that has it and bring it back to you. My favorite, Cheong Fun, has a cart all to itself, with three variations, pork, BBQ beef and shrimp.

La Maison Kam Fung dim sum 

The best part about Kam Fung is the unexpected dishes, the things you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Shrimp balls wrapped in bacon with a mayo dipping sauce, shrimp and green onion patties tucked between two rice noodles with a side of hoisin, Szechuan peel n’ eat shrimp and more. There are literally so many items it would take many trips to sample them all.

Fried crab balls and Szechuan shrimp

Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, London, all places with a fine track record of awesome dim sum. Well now we can add Montreal to the list, as La Maison Kam Fung is a must-visit eatery if you find yourself there. Just goes to show, when you think you’ve found “the best place ever”, make sure to keep searching, you’ll be glad you did.

Kam Fung on Urbanspoon

Mings Bistro: Restaurant or Sorcerer’s Den?

What do you do when you’re craving something you can’t have? For all you guys with their mind in the gutters, I’m talking about food of course. When you just can’t squeeze that extra $50 for a night free from the stove and the dishwasher, what do you do? What is the one dish that you just can’t cook as well as your favorite restaurant, no matter how hard you try? These are the kinds of things I think about constantly. When my mind wanders to the side of hunger and satiation, it consumes me like the third level of Inception. The only difference is my belly is my totem. Keep in mind the limits of this discussion don’t have to apply strictly to your favorites, but more on your own cooking limitations and the time it takes for preparation. For me the answer to these questions is this: The most logical conclusion as to why we all fail at some of the simplest of dishes is that, there must be some sort of spell or wizardry going on that only a few select beings know which allow them to make certain things taste so good, at least that’s how it seems to us normals.

My entries are as follows:

To make a long story short, I can’t make Peking duck. To explain why would take longer than your attention span will allow. It’s basically a 2-day process and I’m not really in the position to be able to spend that much time on a bird. That’s why I try and go to Ming’s Bistro (1212 Woodward St # 6 Orlando, FL) to get my fix. It’s some of the best duck I’ve ever had, but just speaking locally, it can’t be beat. Especially since I can’t do it any better myself.

When I crave sushi, I would not even fathom of making it at home. Here’s why:
1. I don’t trust any local fish market to have the same quality fish as any of the better sushi restaurants within a 50 mile radius.
2. If I could trust a fish monger, the cost of all the fish I’d want would be substantially higher than just buying pieces individually at a sushi bar.
3. If I could afford the fish and it was of excellent quality, I will never be able to make sushi rice anywhere near as good as the most untalented of sushi chefs.
4. I’ve tried all of the above and I stink at it. The best sushi in my area is at Shin Sushi 803 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL. When I can afford sushi I go there. I will not settle for mediocre and I will do without until I can go.

For the sweet tooth:
I don’t know what else could be in this thing called an Ooey Gooey Butter from a place called Fresco’s Bakery & Bistro (132 S. Kentucky Ave Lakeland, FL 33801) but in any case it can’t be more than 5 ingredients. Why I won’t ever try to make it.
1. Making a tray might add up to 5000 calories and a couple hundred grams of fat. Butter is in the name so do the math.
2. I would eat the whole sheet at once.
3. I bar will do the trick for at least a couple months.
4. They’re only $1.50. Why make a mess?

What are your thoughts on this matter? What foods befuddle you when you try to replicate them at home, and what do the restaurants got that we don’t got?! Audience participation is strongly encouraged and lavishly rewarded (just kidding about that last part, but we will leave you a witty reply!)

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Revelations a la Crumpton

This post isn’t necessarily strictly focusing on food. Sometimes I think it would be beneficial to produce something that strays from the nucleus of what we have got going on here. You see, it seems to me that thinking, and talking about food isn’t the healthiest thing for a person like me. I admit to having a food addiction. Thus, writing about food, restaurants, watching food TV, and recipes on a constant basis does not produce a good environment for my affliction. Especially at this moment where I find myself needing to return to the lifestyle I had produced for myself almost a year and a half ago. After preprocessing my bullet points, I feel this last paragraph to be almost a moot point.

Looking back, I wanted to share some the highlights of 2010, and in a round about way, much of this enjoyment is why I have reached the point I am at now. Please don’t follow my lead and think that you can eat whatever you want at any quantity you can fill your belly with, and not get fatter. No amount of exercise can help you when it comes to excess. Am I a glutton? Hard to say. I suppose I am in some sense of the word. Gluttony is open to discussion based on the interpreter. And to some I would fit that classification.
With that said, I still encourage you to enjoy your lives as I have enjoyed mine so far. Share your love of whatever you choose with those around you, and for goodness sake, cook some meals, and eat some good food as much as you can. Please don’t take my statements to be negative towards gastronomes and foodies. I have a deep love for food. Cooking is my passion. It’s one of the few things I can proudly say I’m good at. Expanding my food palate over the last 15 years has brought so much more appreciation of other cultures into my life. It’s all good. I just have to reel it in at times. A proverbial gut check. (and eat your ruffage)!
What follows isn’t so much a top 10 list as it is a sampling of the highlights of the year that was.

I ate at a lot of new restaurants in 2010. Most of them weren’t very memorable, and this coming from a guy who chronicles his meals through photos. My favorite new restaurants of 2010 are:

Central Florida:

Ciro’s Speakeasy, The Refinery, Dragonfly Izukaya, Bananas Diner, Datz, Ha Long Bay, Tia’s Taco Shack, Ba Le, Natalie’s, Ronin, Mazzaro’s, Taco Express, Taco Truck, Taqueria y Paleteria, Hollerbachs, Cafe 118º

Atlanta:

Flip Burger Boutique, Au Pied du Cochon, Antico, Bacchanalia, Abattior, Vortex Burger

New York:

DBGB, Chinatown Brasserie, Crumbs

That’s quite a bit of new places actually. Moving on.

Some of favorite things included: Finding new restaurants with Kristen that we both love. Seeing the surviving members of sublime perform in St Augustine. Teaching my little boy to kick the stuffing out of a soccer ball. Watching one of my favorite new bands Fun, perform at the House of Blues. Spending time as a family at Disney World and riding the people mover more than anyone has ever ridden it. Viewing great cinema: Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Black Swan, The Other Guys, Exit Through the Gift Shop, A Prophet, The Social Network, and of course Yogi Bear.

Super Bowl smorgasbords. All those meals cooked with Kristen, Jimmy, and Ashley. Pushing play on some of my paused friendships. The Aquabats!!! Pithiviers and mille feuilles. Seeing Christopher Walken in “A be-handing in Spokane”. Most of all, spending much needed quality time with my family. Lobsters. Having a wonderful wife who is also the best mother in the stratosphere. Hanging out with my dad and brother more than I had in the last 15 years. Watching my son grow in every aspect. From learning to count to 30 and his ABC’s, to just seeing his vocabulary expand from a few words to complete sentences at 2 years old!! Now to tackle his hatred of food in 2011. What did you do?