Great list and mouth watering article here. I would only add one thing: SAUSAGES. You can't walk through any street in Taiwan without encountering the smell of frying xiang chang, or sweet sausages. No comparison with the dried vac-packed links you buy at Asia Mart; these are juicy, fatty, sweet-salty perfection. They come in a bewildering variety of shapes and types - my favorite are the little meatball-sized ones that are shallow-fried in a continually stirred wok - but they're all good. Eaten with thin-sliced raw garlic cloves, they're heaven from a street stand.
Beautiful article, well written article. Horrible drink. Remember that scene in Orwell's "1984", when Winston gets a glass of foul Victory Gin with his disgusting cafeteria lunch? Baijiu is what I imagine Victory Gin to taste like. Just a horrific liquor that serves to numb the pain of existence.
Er Gou Tou Baijiu (red star brand) is the only drink that's ever given me a 48-hour hangover. The shakes and sweats were so bad, I thought I'd contracted malaria. I am content to leave baijiu culture in China.
Do you find the deep fry in a fryer or wok superior to shallow frying in a cast iron pan?
To all you sardine lovers, what do you think of the Season brand you find at Costco? I like those a lot but I haven't tried that many other brands.
Another great China article Kenji. But, I would also refrain from judging egg roll lady. When I lived in Beijing I missed two foods to the point of obsession: Taco Bell and Chinese American. I would have killed to find a steam table buffet with beef and broccoli, General Tsos chicken and crab Rangoon. So I get where that lady is coming from, sometimes you just want what you want.
When I make gumbo I deshell my shrimp and simmer the shells in chicken stock to get that shrimp flavor into the broth. Could you do that with the empty clam shells?, or is there not much flavor to be had?
"Any dumpling experts out there know what these are called?"
BTW those are simply called bao zi.
Kenji, Kenji this is a beautiful piece. I spent 3 years in Beijing and you are so right about the dumplings. Eating a $1.50 plate of steamed dumplings with black vinegar while sitting on a plastic stool in a dirty alleyway was a revelation, because a dumpling shop that would be "Best in City" in Chicago, LA, NY, etc is just the cheapo corner lunch counter in Beijing. The bar is just set so high there... when you have whole streets full of dumpling sellers all making the same thing, you gotta bring your A game just to compete. Same deal with hand-pulled noodles; the texture of la mian from some of those cheap Muslim-owned noodle shops rival the best hand-made Italian pasta I've ever had. And then there's the whole plethora of fried breadstuffs, not just the jian bing but did you also try the pork-and-onion-stuffed fried rou bing? God Damn I'm having a nostalgia attack here, I need to get back. Thanks for the memories Kenji.
Oh man I lived in Beijing for 3 years and I really miss the street food there. dan bing, ma la tang, jiaozi, and of course yang rou chuar. This recipe looks great, thanks for sharing it. To be even more authentic, these should be grilled over a welded half-pipe full of coals, using meat of questionable provenance, and eaten after too many shots of baijiu (Hint, one is too many)
As a life long Chinaman I can say definitively: Ketchup definitely belongs in fried rice, and so do chopped-up hot dogs.
^ and BTW, I think the Chicago anti-ketchup thing is more myth than reality. It seems to be a thing mostly concocted by the food media. A handful of the famous stands are anti-ketchup but most stands I've been to will put it on if you want, or offer it on the side. No one really cares that much.
Again, I'm glad to see Serious Eats make its return to Chicago, you guys have been missed. Very interesting article, especially the cost breakdowns. I can’t help but think that the startup costs would be a lot more manageable if this city had reasonable street vending laws. The most iconic and natural way to eat a hot dog is to buy it from a cart and eat it on a street corner, but we can’t do that here (barring some rare locations). It's a shame that the city government has its head up its ass when it comes to creating a lively street food culture.
Serious Eats has come back to Chicago! Thanks for this great article on a place that's not trying too hard to be trendy, but has stood the test of time.
Really interesting article Jennifer. I love reading about historic times and especially learning about the kinds of foods they ate back then. Are you planning to make this a series? I would love it if you tackled Royal Navy rations of the age of sail, or medieval field cooking.
Hi Daniel, thanks for the reply. I did make sure to remove the packaging coating before seasoning my Debuyer. I seasoned the bare metal in the oven by wiping a thin coat of vegetable oil onto the pan and then roasting it upside down in a 550F oven until it stopped smoking and turned glossy black. I had to repeat this 3-4 times with the steel pan before it got there. With my flea market cast iron pan I only had to do this once to get that glossy black sheen.
I hear you about the ease of re-seasoning and use in a restaurant kitchen but I've never been able to season anything well on a stovetop at home. I always end up with burnt spots and sticky spots, which may be due to an uneven burner. Quite possibly the method works well on a powerful restaurant burner.
In the end my DeBuyer is not a bad pan, just kind of mediocre and redundant in my kitchen when there's cast iron around.
Sometimes I think Serious Eats writers are mind readers. How did you guys know I've had chicken and biscuits on the brain this week? Thanks for another entry in the excellent southern food origin series.
Daniel, normally I find myself agreeing with your articles, but not this time. I have a DeBuyer carbon steel skillet and I feel it's quite inferior to my cast iron. For starters, to season the steel pan I had to smoke off multiple coats of oil in a hot oven, and even then the finish is fragile. The iron only took one coat and one heating cycle to form a bulletproof seasoning. Second, even after seasoning the steel is noticeably stickier. My iron skillet handles fried eggs and pot stickers no problem, but I wouldn’t dare try them in the steel pan. I would say the only advantage to the steel is that it heats faster.
Finally, maybe it's just me but tossing food in a straight-sided pan is MUCH easier than doing it in a sloped pan. Sloped sides launch the food straight out, while straight sides bounce it up and back toward you.
Never tried these, are they similar to Chinese mung bean starch noodles?
I've been eating Luo Bo Gao my whole life, but until this moment I didn't know it could be eaten unfried. Thinking back it was always pan fried in our house, even when freshly made.
The sentiment of the post is admirable, but no depressed single person is actually gonna go to this much trouble on vday. A true anti-valentines meal is a HUNGRY MAN frozen dinner (a.k.a LONELY MAN), a bottle of Jim Beam and a revolver with one bullet in it.
I haven’t had shi zi tou for years, not since I was a little kid. Thanks for this inspiration to try and make them again. As I recall my mom used to simmer them in a ceramic pot of some kind, and the meatballs were not browned. I'll try it this way first though.
Great article Shao Z. Hot pot is a Christmas dinner tradition for our family. We go with a simple chicken stock for the base. Dipping sauces are usually sa cha and sesame paste-based.
Sinosoul lettuce absolutely belongs in hot pot. Use a more robust variety like romaine. Taro is disgusting and it makes the soup all mealy, leave it out.
I really enjoyed this article but I take issue with this point: "smoke particles adhere better to dry skin than wet". I realize this is conventional smoking knowledge but I don't think it's actually true. A wet surface should grab particles out of the air more readily than a dry one.
I find that French hot dog very interesting. When I was in Paris, there was a ubiquitous style of hot dog that was basically like a mild knockwurst served on a cheap baguette with mild cheese. These identical looking dogs were served at every little storefront and were OK at best. That's what I think of as a "Paris-style dog". Ed's picture looks a lot better than any hot dog I tried over there.
Good read, but I'll suggest that for these comparison-type articles, you guys bring back the old practice of reporting on every single place, instead of just the good ones. I understand not wanting to jeopardize relationships with businesses, but reading the negative reviews was more than half the fun of the old comparisons.
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