Hot and sour soup has long been one of my favourite comfort foods. This version is easy enough for a weeknight, packed with bright flavours, and short on exotic ingredients. I have an outsized collection of cookbooks. Personally, I blame my cookbook collection on my […]
The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen is as much family memoir as cookbook. This charming book is filled with family stories and treasured recipes. Its thorough introduction to the Cantonese kitchen is bound to be loved and appreciated by anyone with a passion for authentic Chinese […]
As the weather gets warmer, I find myself scrounging around for interesting salads. As much as we all love meats off the braai, they require some light, crunchy veg to balance it all out.
Since it looks as if we’re in for some lovely, warm spring weather — at last — I’ve decided to gather a few of my favorites here to facilitate your weekend meal planning. So, how do you decide which salad to prepare?
For me, it all comes down to availability, texture and flavor. Availability is most important, because there’s no point in preparing a tomato salad, for instance, with mealy, unripe tomatoes. Thus, I tend to procrastinate and make my final choice at the market.
The next consideration is texture. If you’re preparing sausages, you’re more likely to want a crunchy salad with radishes or cucumbers to complement them. If, on the other hand, you’re preparing grilled chicken with crispy skin, velvety aubergines might be the best choice.
Last, but not least, consider flavor. A balanced meal includes a variety of flavors — salty, spicy, smoky, sweet, and sour. So, your choice of meat seasonings will influence your salad choice.
Here are a few of my favorites to get you started.
Spicy Radish Salad
Radishes are the first sign of spring. The crispy crunchiness of these flavorful vegetables shines through in this simple recipe for spicy radish salad.
Quick Heirloom Tomato and Basil Salad
Don’t let the simplicity of this salad fool you. It is jam-packed with flavor. If you want to pump it up a little more, add 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes just before serving. This easy heirloom tomato and basil salad is sure to become a family favorite.
Regal Apple Slaw
This refreshing, crunchy salad is a study in color and contrasts. The tartness of the apples is a delightful foil for the sweet fennel. In addition, the tangy dressing pulls it all together. Regal Apple Slaw is my favorite accompaniment for rich sausages. It’s delicious with just about any cut of pork, because the tangy salad cuts the richness of the meat.
Chinese Eggplant Salad
This sweet and sour salad is deliciously complemented by the crunchy, nuttiness of toasted sesame seeds. I love the fact that it can easily be prepared in advance. Plus, this salad is child friendly. In my family, even avowed eggplant haters, enjoy Chinese Eggplant Salad. Moreover, the creamy texture is a welcome contrast to crispy foods, like chicken.
Steaming cucumbers may seem unusual. However, this dish has a surprisingly tasty flavor, as the mild bitterness of the cucumbers contrasts beautifully with the rich pork filling. Better yet, these cucumbers are quick and easy to prepare on busy weeknights. As the weather warms up, […]
This lovely cold dish is a study in contrasts. It is sweet and sour, with a divine, slippery texture, and a mild nuttiness from the toasted sesame seeds. This “salad” makes a lovely, light meal for two on a warm summer day. Alternately, it can […]
Jing Fong, which is currently NYC Chinatown’s largest restaurant, is renowned for the variety and authenticity of its dim sum.
Jing Fong opened in 1978 on Elizabeth Street in NYC’s nascent Chinatown. Unfortunately, due to the precarious economic climate in New York City during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the owners fell on hard times. As their debts mounted, Jing Fong’s owners decided to negotiate with one of their creditors, master plumber Shui Ling Lam. In exchange for debt forgiveness, he became the majority shareholder.
In the years since, Jing Fong has evolved and expanded tremendously. However, it has never lost sight of its original objective — sharing the authentic, traditional Chinese dim sum experience in a family atmosphere.
Today, Jing Fong boasts two New York locations — one on the Upper West Side, and the other at 20 Elizabeth Street in Chinatown. Its Elizabeth Street location is over 1,800 square meters (20,000 square feet) and seats 800 diners at full capacity.
Having seen Jing Fong’s signage at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, we looked in vain for an entrance on Bowery. However, as per the address, the entrance is actually at 20 Elizabeth Street.
Arriving, however, is definitely part of the experience. From the humble store fronts on Elizabeth Street, you step onto a seemingly endless escalator. As it carries you up, your surroundings become increasingly sumptuous. Stepping off the escalator upstairs, you find yourself in a massive, elegantly decorated space. Thus, begins the dining experience.
The Dim Sum
Unfortunately, we arrived at Jing Fong at 4 p.m. on a weekday, too late for dim sum from carts, which stop circulating at 3:30 p.m. Therefore, our experience was limited to a much briefer list of options. However, this in no way dimmed the pleasure of our visit.
We started our meal with an assortment of our favorite dim sum items: pan-fried turnip cake, siu mai, steamed pork buns, and pan-fried shrimp and chive dumplings. We were not disappointed in the least. Each of the items we selected was fresh, piping hot, and delicious.
The fact that none of our dim sum items was particularly unusual was helpful in terms of comparing with other restaurants I’ve eaten at over the years. Based on experience, I must say the siu mai were particularly good. Siu mai are always delicately seasoned and –in my experience — can be hit or miss. However, at Jing Fong, they were exquisite.
Our party also selected beef fried rice, Singapore noodles, and beef chow fun from the menu. Amongst these dishes, the fried rice was the standout. I found the chow fun a little disappointing. Our plate was missing the wok hei (breath of the wok) which is a critical flavor component, and the beef was unremarkable. I also found the Singapore noodles a little humdrum. They were alright, but did not match the quality of the dim sum.
The bottom line? Visit Jing Fong for its dim sum. These Cantonese classics are Jing Fong’s stock in trade, and they are superlative. Next time I’m in NYC, I will definitely visit Jing Fong again — before 3:30 p.m.!
Planning Your Visit
Jing Fong is a very busy restaurant during peak times. Despite that fact, reservations are not required — unless you are planning a banquet. If you would like to enjoy the full dim sum experience, plan to arrive before 3:30 p.m.
There is a very good wine menu available to accompany your meal. However, do not expect sommelier service. This is a Chinese dim sum restaurant, after all. The service is friendly and helpful, but definitely not Michelin quality.
Jing Fong’s atmosphere is elegant enough to accompany a banquet — and its fancy dress. However, fancy dress is not required.
20 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10013
Hours of Operation:
Mon – Fri 10:00 AM to 9:30PM
Sat – Sun 9:30AM to 9:30PM
This divine pork tenderloin is a hostess’ best friend. It is easy to make, flavorful, and improves with age. In addition, the tenderloin’s Asian flavors — marrying orange and hoisin — are almost universally loved. In my home town, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, cocktail parties […]
Stir fry is an easy weeknight dish which comes together almost as quickly as takeout. Better yet, this particular stir fry is filled with crunchy, nutritious green vegetables. So, it is packed with vitamins that are bound to help you stay fit and healthy.
On a cool day, I find the fragrance of five spice wafting through the house supremely comforting. It is a bit like an aromatic hug, which inevitably reminds me of my favorite Chinese meals. The aroma of five spice powder in my grinder is what inspired me to write this recipe.
This dish is not strictly Chinese. Nonetheless, I believe a Chinese cook would be pleased with it, because the recipe strikes all the right sensory notes.
Many people don’t realize that the Chinese are as finicky as the French when it comes to food. They are great gourmets and proper Chinese cooking is governed by a set of strict rules.
Following these rules ensures the diner sensory pleasures on all levels. When a good Chinese cook plans a dish, the visual interplay of shapes and colors is considered. All ingredients are cut into similar shapes and sizes. Texture and fragrance also play an important role. Certain foods, such as water chestnuts or tree ears, are added to a dish for texture alone.
In this recipe, I used pork tenderloin, because it is both lean and inexpensive. However, you could easily use another cut of pork for this recipe, as long as you trim off the fat.
Cutting the meat correctly is very important. This particular recipe calls for thin strips, measuring 1/2 cm wide, and 4 cm long. For optimal results, I suggest freezing the pork for about 10 minutes prior to cutting it.
In addition, do sharpen your knife. Nothing is more dangerous in any kitchen than a dull knife!
The beauty of many Chinese recipes is that they are templates. You can substitute other meats, as well as vegetables. For instance, chicken breast would be every bit as tasty as pork in this stir fry.
If you wish to vary the vegetables, I suggest sticking with the original color scheme (green). Here are a few vegetables I think would taste good. However, please feel free to experiment with your own ideas as well, always remembering to keep it seasonal.
- brussel sprouts
- green beans
This nutritious, green stir fry is perfect for busy weeknights. It comes together in under an hour and will fill your kitchen with the intoxicating aroma of five spice powder. Dark Soy Sauce: Chinese cooks usually use dark soy sauce for color, as well as depth of flavor. However, if you only have light soy sauce on hand, you can easily substitute. Black Vinegar: Black vinegar has a sweetish flavor which is prominent in hot and sour soup. Its flavor is unique. However, if you do not have any available where you live, you could use balsamic vinegar instead. Peanut Oil: Chinese cooks prefer peanut oil for its flavor. However, you can substitute canola oil in a pinch.
This nutritious, green stir fry is perfect for busy weeknights. It comes together in under an hour and will fill your kitchen with the intoxicating aroma of five spice powder.
Dark Soy Sauce: Chinese cooks usually use dark soy sauce for color, as well as depth of flavor. However, if you only have light soy sauce on hand, you can easily substitute.
Black Vinegar: Black vinegar has a sweetish flavor which is prominent in hot and sour soup. Its flavor is unique. However, if you do not have any available where you live, you could use balsamic vinegar instead.
Peanut Oil: Chinese cooks prefer peanut oil for its flavor. However, you can substitute canola oil in a pinch.
Five spice powder is China’s best-known and loved seasoning blend. Like most spice blends, the ingredients and proportions vary. However, the classic Chinese combination of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, and Szechuan pepper is most common. It’s also the version I remember from my aunt’s […]