I enjoyed the pictures and description of Inner Mongolia in the spring time. I was there once, in the fall when everything was brown and dead. Sort of surreal to stand on a ridgeline and see nothing but brown dirt, grey rocks and dim skies out to the horizon. It's what I imagine being on Mars might be like. It's nice to see that area can be beautiful as well.
Good article, but I think the beef shank is actually an excellent braising cut. I think the way the tendons melt away with long cooking keeps it succulent despite the relative leanness. I usually cube it for chili, and of course it's the cut to use for the classic Chinese/Taiwanese beef noodle soup. If the bone is an issue, try looking for it in Asian groceries, where it is often cut lengthwise and deboned instead of crosswise as in the pic above.
A couple cans of sardines on crackers is a great lunch. But you gotta shop around to find the good ones. There are some sardine brands that are just terrible. My favorites are the Season band from Costco, and the Italian brand Cento.
We just did an early Friendsgiving dinner before everyone leaves the city for real Thanksgiving. Thanks to Kenji and the Food Lab for many helpful tips that made it into this dinner. I jointed out a turkey and cooked the dark and white meat separately: the breast was stuffed with sage butter under the skin and very slowly oven roasted to 140F. The legs/thighs were sugar cured and hickory smoked on the Weber.
We also had pork loin roast: I unzipped a pork loin with a sharp knife so that it went from a cylinder to a flat sheet of meat. Then seasoned the inside with fennel, red chile, parsley, garlic and fish sauce. Rolled back up, and smoked alongside the turkey legs. It was a big hit, very fun to make and I'll definitely do it again.
The potato par-cook tip is a good one, I use that for quick hash browns. Shred, rinse, microwave, toss dry, and griddle. Doing hash browns the right way takes preplanning - cook potatoes the previous night, chill then shred - but the microwave shortcut is almost as good.
The microwave is also good for steaming buns. If burgers and dogs are coming off the grill and you don't have space on the grate to toast them, just stick the buns in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds inside the bag, it makes them tender and stretchy. Same trick works for corn tortillas too, just sprinkle a little water in the bag before heating.
Kenji, this post inspired me to finally make General Tso's at home after thinking about it for years. I followed the recipe almost exactly and the results were very good, thanks for this article. I did make a different batter though, since I didn't have all your ingredients on hand. I used a simple rice flour double dip: marinated chicken into the rice flour, then a quick dip back into the marinade, then back into the rice flour for the final coat. This produced a craggly coating which was still crisp some hours after saucing. Generally I like using rice flour in frying batters because it's less heavy than wheat flours, but I'll try your method later and do a comparison. Thanks again
Whisk together 1 part fish sauce, 1 part lime juice. Add chopped cilantro, red chile, minced garlic, salt and sugar to taste. This makes an awesome dressing that I try to always keep on hand in the fridge. perfect with a fried egg over steamed rice.
Hi Daniel, really good, easy to follow article. Quick tip: I've found that a plain old vegetable peeler is very good at taking off fish scales, compared to using a kitchen knife.
I own a Weber I own a Weber Smoky mountain cooker, as does a good friend of mine. We regularly have each other for cookouts so there is a little friendly competition/cooperation that helps to up each others’ game. So I have some familiarity with traditionally smoked meats, is what I’m saying. A couple months ago we tried sous-vide “BBQ” spare ribs with liquid smoke a couple months ago – vac sealed with liquid smoke, finished in the oven and then blowtorched for a final sear – and were not impressed by the results. The biggest problem was texture. Traditionally BBQed ribs have a wide range of interesting textures, crisp bark contrasting with juicy innards, the end ribs being having more chew while the middle ribs are more tender. The uniform sous-vide texture, while tender, was too homogenous to be interesting. You also don’t get the craggly, smoky bark from an oven cook that a true smoke session can give you. I always finish the ribs over direct charcoal heat when painting on the last layer of sauce. It’s just not the same with a torch or broiler.
I have no problem with sous vide for other rib preps. In fact I did some garlic-herb-mustard sous vide ribs that got a great reception at a dinner party. I just wouldn’t use the technique to make fake BBQ.
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.
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