I was already half in love with Stella Parks from her excellent baking articles, and then she drops that Dragon Age bomb... marry me please.
As for myself, I wish that Asian nightclub from Inception was a real place. The one with all the wooden staircases and hanging lanterns. Actually it wouldn't surprise me if there was a place like that on top of a skyscraper in Shanghai.
I agree that finding your own discoveries is the best way but not all places are set up for that kind of exploration. If you can stroll down the sidewalk and walk past 20 restaurants, cafes and food stands in 10 minutes, then sure explore away. Find the spot that's crowded with locals and order by pointing at other tables. But if it's a city that requires driving to get around - like most US cities - then you've gotta rely on maps and social media. Or else you just waste too much time and stomach space during your trip.
Thanks for the article. I agree with IlTavoloBambini above though, discarding that nicely seasoned skin is a huge waste. Much better to open up your vents at the end of the smoke and crisp up that skin with some direct heat, then chop it into the final product when you mix in the sauce. That way you get something similar to the crispy bark that develops on pulled pork. Also for this type of recipe I would personally stick with legs/thighs rather than whole birds: more moisture and pull-able texture.
I seem to dimly remember a childhood time when the Whopper regularly went on sale for 99 cents. Because of this my parents would get them for us when they didn't feel like cooking. That was the start of my love for the Whopper. That vaguely kerosene-like char taste, the ketchup and greasy mayo mixing together, the inevitible onion breath afterwards, all combined to produce a combination that I still crave to this day.
When I make a burger on the backyard grill, I still dress it up whopper-style.
Great post, I love the classic form of the Chicago hot dog stand: lighted sign with garish red and yellow artwork, faded menu board, pile of once-cooked fries ready to go in for second dip, colorful condiments all lined up in their trays. Not to mention the owners of these places, true old-school Chicagoans who are experts at both giving and taking shit from the customers. Murphy's on Belmont is a great one, so are Bob O's on Irving Park and Jeff's Red Hots on Cicero. In the burbs Frannie's in Schiller Park is my favorite. Long live the Chicago hot dog stand.
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.
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