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Asia’s Culinary Secrets NYC Asian Restaurant Month

Your guide to the restaurants and the deals

Ancient Wisdom Traditional Chinese theory on how food connects us to the universe

20+ Best Asian Recipes

From Retro Curry to Thai Summer Rolls & more

Soba vs. Ramen

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Why soba is poised to become the top noodle Presented By: CHINESE










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From the Editor M A G A Z I N E

Publisher: Editor-in-Chief:

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Charlotte Cuthbertson

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Seth Holehouse

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Fortunately for us, the wonder and depth of Asian cuisine is a phenomenon that keeps on growing in New York City. I can still transport myself back to the curries I had in Thailand in 1998, the pakora in Nepal, and the thalis and chai in India. The memories awaken all my senses. And much like the experience of food in all Asian cultures, it goes deeper than taste. Food and health are often considered inextricably related—but beyond sustaining our bodies, food is a spiritual experience that connects us to the universe. And it is fascinating. In Chinese culture, the five tastes correspond to the five elements, which form the basis of our world (water, wood, fire, earth, and metal). In turn, the five organs, five emotions, five senses, and five colors are all interrelated. In the West, we are told carrots are good for our eyes because they contain beta carotene. In Chinese tradition, a carrot when sliced, looks like an eye and is considered to be strengthening for the eyes. A bitter green like kale will nourish the heart because of its bitter taste, nourish the liver because of its green color, and nourish the kidney because of its rich minerals. It brings a whole new

dimension to food that derives from ancient wisdom. India is a nation of deeply spiritual people. Food features in the ritual space in a way that is so ingrained it is unquestioned: the way that women who get married put turmeric on their bodies, or how a bride throws rice back at her house. There is meaning behind all these gestures. Japan’s tea ceremonies can last six hours and are highly nuanced. Guests arrive at a house and approach each item in the tea room to show their appreciation. The hostess then cleans each item in front of her guests, uses a proper fire to boil spring water, then ceremoniously hands a specially selected tea bowl to her guests. I tried to view my cheeseburger on the same physical, emotional, and spiritual plane, but must admit, I fell quite short. I hope this magazine will compel you to look at food differently, as it did for me. New York’s Asian restaurants are bringing Asia closer to home. Discover the gems we have here in the city, and don’t miss the food festival in Times Square, June 25–26.

Charlotte Cuthbertson

Taste Asia and Asian Restaurant Month are a collaboration between Epoch Times and NTD Television. 229 W. 28th St., New York, N.Y. 10001 212-239-2808

On the Cover Dumplings from Uncle Ted's in Manhattan. Photo by Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times



Beyond Food

The 5 Elements & the 5 Tastes...12


Japan’s Comfort Food ...18 Soba Up! ...24 Q&A With Akiko Katayama ...28


Magical Thailand...32


Faith, Ritual, and Food in India...46 Floyd Cardoz’s Tips for Using Spices...55


China’s 5 Regional Cuisines...59 Noodles Without Borders...64 Origins of Tea...68

SOBA UP! Watching Shuichi Kotani making soba noodles is like observing an athlete in his prime. Page 24


Finding My Korean Mother...73 Korea’s Obsession With Kimchi...76


At Malaysia’s Table...79 Bring On the Funk...86



Asian Restaurant Month Guide...89 Neighborhood Listings...114






• Starter • Side • Entree • Dessert • Drink

Japan • Yoshoku Steak...21 • Retro Curry...22


• Summer Rolls...36 • Grilled Chicken...38 • Green Papaya Salad...40 • Coconut Custard...42 • Sweet Banana...43


• Beet and Yogurt Soup...50 • Lotus Root Silky Kofta...51 • Roasted Coconut and Sorrel Leaves...52 • Apple Saffron Cake...53 • Green Mango and Mint Cooler...54 PAGE 62


• Pork and Cabbage Dumplings...62 • Twice Cooked Pork...66 • Steamed Beef with Flavored Broken Rice...67






• Char Kway Teow Noodles...81 • Beef Rendang...82 • Chicken Satay...83 • Malaysian Chili Sesame Prawns...84

Presented By:



Asian Restaurant Month features some of the city’s top Asian restaurants and will be supported by a multi-day festival in Times Square, the Taste Asia dining magazine, and an online dining hub. Cross new Asian food frontiers by visiting participating restaurants for special deals and superb food. Visit for more details. Reserve a table on

Visit for more details ors Spons



Beyond Food Connecting on an energetic level he Chinese have long understood the principle of “form follows function.” If you’ve ever eaten authentic Chinese cuisine, you probably weren’t thinking about your health when you tasted the layered, full, refreshing, and exquisitely complex flavors. Whether it’s the delicate flavor of steamed fish on a bed of scallion and ginger, or the potent taste of whole duck marinated in local herbs and slowly cooked for hours—the creation of the exquisite flavors in traditional Chinese cuisine requires a complex process akin to alchemy. And like the ancient alchemists, who sought the elixir of eternal life, Chinese chefs seek to produce meals

that create vitality and aid longevity. “The Chinese culinary system is designed to nourish the body,” said chef Luo Zizhao, executive chef at Radiance, an upscale Cantonese restaurant in Midtown East. “Good food is not about the pursuit of good taste; good health is much more important,” Luo said. Although flavor is not the most vital goal, it is a very important element in Chinese cuisine. Flavor is the vehicle that carries nutrition to different parts of the body. “The taste of the different foods actually has a special energetic affinity with different organ systems,” said Dr. Jingduan Yang, a board-certified psychiatrist and expert on classic forms of Chinese medicine. DAI BING/EPOCH TIMES





A chef competes in the 2012 International Chinese Culinary Competition in Times Square.




“They tend to bring the energy and nutrition as we call it, or essence, into that particular organ system.” The basis of Chinese philosophy is Yin and Yang and the five elements. In culinary science, the five elements correspond to the five tastes.


According to traditional Chinese medicine, nutrition is not solely a chemical equation, but also the result of an energetic transformation. It’s like gas and electricity in a car, Dr. Yang explained. It needs the gas that you can see and smell, but without an electrical current, the car won’t move. Likewise, without energy (qi), the human body won’t digest any physical material (essence). “So their relationship is like yin and yang, they depend on each other and they generate each other. You need qi to metabolize food to

So their relationship is like yin and yang, they depend on each other and they generate each other. DR. JINGDUAN YANG provide essence, and you need essence to produce the qi,” Dr. Yang said. Traditional Chinese medicine also relates the five tastes to the five major organs. The organs are also related to the five colors, the five tones of the pentatonic scale, and the five body energies—hot, cold,




Wood Fire Earth Metal Water

Sour Bitter Sweet Spicy Salty

dr y, damp, and windy. Craving a certain taste can mean the organ associated with that taste needs energy. A strong desire for sugar indicates that the energy of spleen and stomach is weak. However, eating excessive amounts associated with one taste can damage the organ system associated with that taste. Strong, frequent cravings indicate a need for herbal and acupuncture treatments. Using the principles of the five elements, Dr. Yang uses the example of sugar cravings. To ease cravings eat yellow foods—like sweet potatoes and squash—because yellow is the color associated with the spleen–stomach system and sweet taste. Like the herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, all foods, including vegetables, fruits, and even grains and meat, are understood to affect the five body energies, giving way to heat or cold, moisture or dryness. n




Spring Liver Green Anger


The circular arrows indicate a generative relationship, whereas the straight arrows depict a destructive one.





Winter Kidney Black Fear

Summer Heart Red Joy



Fall Lung White Grief

Late Summer Spleen Yellow Compassion



Understanding the Chinese 5 Elements


ncient Chinese scientists recognized that all matter is made up of the five elements. The Theory of Five Elements provides the foundational lens through which to view the human body, physical phenomena, and the universe at large.

Circular arrows on the diagram indicate the generative relationships between the elements: Wood grows to produce fire; when fire burns it produces earth; earth can be transformed to produce metal; and when metal melts it produces water.

The straight arrows indicate the destructive cycle of the elements: Wood destroys earth (imagine tree roots breaking through concrete); earth destroys water (think of how when dirt mixes with water it stops the water from flowing); water destroys fire; fire destroys metal; and metal destroys wood (imagine an axe chopping down a tree).




The Energetics of Food for Health and Healing


Mastering food selection in today’s fast-paced world is a challenge. We therefore need to keep balance in mind. We can achieve this by eating in moderation and being aware of the taste and variety of our food. Taste is very important, because taste sends nutrition via the meridians (energetic pathways) to all parts of our body. When we eat a meal with balanced tastes, we feel satisfied, and the energy from it enhances our health, productivity, and enjoyment of life. Here is a look at how different tastes and cooking methods balance the body.


Spicy foods nourish the lungs and large intestines. Onions, garlic, ginger, daikon, peppers, and cayenne are spicy foods. Cooking methods for pungent foods include pressure-cooking and kinpira—a Japanese preparation similar to braising, where you cut root vegetables into thin matchsticks, sauté, and then add water to finish cooking them. Cooking methods that allow spicy foods to retain their spicy flavor include lightly steaming, sautéing, and lightly boiling for a few minutes.


Sweet foods nourish the spleen and stomach. They include grains, millet, squashes, onions, honey, molasses, barley malt, and sweet fruits such as bananas, blueberries, oranges, figs, and dates Steaming, boiling, and nishimi—a Japanese macrobiotic style of cooking done over a low heat for an hour— are good ways to cook sweet foods when one desires to have the sweet taste predominate in addition to nourishing the spleen and stomach.


Bitter foods nourish the heart and small intestine. Foods like kale, lettuce, dandelion, broccoli, arugula, endive, and collard greens are bitter foods. Good preparation methods for bitter foods include eating them raw, pressing, stir-frying, and blanching.


Salty foods nourish the kidneys and bladder. Salty foods include fish, miso, eggs, burdock root, and sea vegetables like wakame, arame, hiziki, kombu, and kelp. Since salty foods are often considered to be healthier when eaten in moderation, it is recommended to use small amounts of salt, miso, and soy sauce when cooking. Salt alkalizes the food it is cooked with, which is another benefit of cooking and eating lightly salted foods.


Sour foods nourish the liver and gallbladder. These foods include tomatoes, barley, vinegar, chicken, turkey, green apples, lemons, and grapefruit. A good method of preparing sour foods is pickling, as pickles are beneficial for the digestion. Steaming and lightly sautéing are other good ways to prepare sour foods.


Susan Krieger, L.Ac., M.S., is board certified in acupuncture and acupressure with over 30 years experience. She has a clinic in New York City’s Upper East Side.

The color and signature of foods indicate their energetic properties. Signature is the synergy between the appearance of a plant and the part of the body or organ it nourishes. For example, a carrot when sliced, looks like an eye and is considered to be strengthening for the eyes. A fresh lotus root appears to resemble a lung and is considered to be strengthening for the lungs. A bitter green like kale will nourish the heart because of its bitter

taste, nourish the liver because of its green color, and nourish the kidney, especially the bones, because of its rich minerals. Red foods like apples and red peppers nourish the heart and small intestine. Apples also nourish the spleen because of their sweet taste, and nourish the kidneys when baked and lightly salted. White foods like white onions, tofu, and radishes nourish the lungs and large intestine, and radishes also nourish the liver because of their sharp taste.



Vegetable tempura, from "Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond."





Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat have written a number of books about Japanese cooking, including “Japanese Soul Cooking.”


Comfort Food JAPAN'S


Once Japan‘s gates were forced open, new eating habits took root, and none other than the Emperor of Japan set the precedent—he ate meat in public in 1872. Ono and Salat explain that the Westerners' "strapping physiques" were credited to eating meat and dairy, and Japanese people were urged to follow suit. Ono, who grew up in Tokyo, said as a child he thought these dishes were originally Japanese. "But they‘re not—they transformed Western-style food into [the] Japanese way." His favorite dish is curry, and there are hundreds of variations in Japan, found everywhere from cafeterias to home kitchens. We‘re not talking about the green curry leaves used in Indian cooking, but rather the British-style curry powder. Considered a European food, it was adopted by the Japanese navy from the English. Ono and Salat describe curry as "the ultimately customizable dish." Hokkaido makes a squid ink curry, and Hiroshima an oyster version. Invariably, it‘s thick enough to eat with rice, much like a stew, and contains carrots, onions, and potatoes, and sometimes fruits like apples to add sweetness. Influences did not only come from


onkatsu, ramen, Japanese-style curry—these classics of Japanese comfort food would not exist if American warships hadn‘t docked in the port of Yokohama in 1853. For two hundred years prior to 1853, Japan was deeply isolated, closed off to foreign powers. But the arrival of the Americans set in motion its transformation into a modern nation and radically changed the way it cooked and ate. New York-based chefs Tadashi Ono of Maison O. and Harris Salat, who runs the restaurant Ganso in Brooklyn, initially set out to write a cookbook about Japanese street cooking. In the process they found that many of today‘s dishes emerged in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century. In their introduction to "Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond," Ono and Salat explain that for a thousand years before the American warships arrived, meat was not part of the diet; forbidden for religious reasons. Fish, tofu, and vegetables formed the basis of meals.



the West. China chimed in to result in ramen and gyoza, among others. Korea contributed to Japanese-style bulgogi, which is stir-fried rather than grilled. Some dishes, like tonkatsu (pork cutlets), started out as restaurant fare, and then made their way into home kitchens. Many of the innovative restaurants that originally put their inventive spin on foreign dishes are still around. "Those places can endure for centuries, decades," Salat said. Many diners think of sushi when they first

think of Japanese cuisine, but Salat said: "In Japan, it‘s pretty down to earth. In terms of the eating, it‘s not terribly expensive or super rarefied. In a lot of places, [like] the train station, you can get a bowl of ramen, you don‘t even have a chair. [You‘re] at the counter, get a bowl of ramen, chow down, and go on your way. "[There‘s] this soba joint where you can just go in the morning, you can get a bowl of soba, and they have this thing called kara-age—like tempura fritter—just onions or

sometimes vegetables. They throw it on top, and chop it up. It's really delicious. It‘s about as elemental as it gets." Salat added: "One thing that impressed me about Japan is that there is an inherent or intrinsic understanding of the food culture among pretty much everybody, young and old. You can ask the garbage collector what vegetables are in season now and he or she would be able to tell you in a way that in America, we don't have kind of cultural knowledge about food." n

Kamo nanban soba, soba in hot broth served with slices of duck breast.

Soba can be eaten either chilled with a dipping sauce, or with hot broth poured over it.



The emperor of Japan ate meat publicly in 1872, condoning its consumption.



This is a Western-style hunk of prime beef, but with a Japanese flair. The steak is topped with onions that have been reduced and caramelized with Japanese seasonings and cut with rice vinegar. So incredibly mouthwatering! We adapted this steak from the original recipe of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, one of Tokyo’s oldest and classiest hotels. In 1936, a Russian opera star named Feodor Chaliapin was a guest there, and requested a tender steak. The chef complied, with this dish. The bass virtuoso was delighted, and so apparently, was the hotel, which promptly put it on the menu. Eat this steak with a knife and fork; serve with rice and steamed or sautéed vegetables on the side. Besides sirloin, you can use rib eye, tenderloin, or filet mignon.

INGREDIENTS 4 sirloin steaks (about 2 pounds total) Salt Ground black pepper 3 tablespoons butter 1 medium Spanish onion (about 12 ounces), peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1/4 cup mirin 1/4 cup soy sauce 1 teaspoon rice vinegar 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 2 teaspoons chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS To tenderize the steaks, lay them flat on a cutting board. Tap the steaks with the back edge of a kitchen knife (the edge opposite the blade) to dig notches into the meat. Turn the knife so the flat side is facing the fillets. Pound the meat with the knife’s flat side about 6 to 8 times on each side of the steak to flatten the meat. Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent and caramelized and have developed their sweetness. Increase


the heat to medium. Add the mirin and soy sauce and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, to cook down the liquid. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds more. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and started to brown, cook the steaks in batches. Lay the steaks in the skillet, and cook for about 4 minutes, turning once (for medium rare). Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and allow them

to rest for 1 minute before serving. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 seconds, so the onions absorb the steaks juices remaining in the skillet. Top the steaks with the onion mixture, garnish with the parsley, and serve immediately. Recipe from "Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. (Ten Speed Press, 2013)



You can riff on this basic recipe in endless ways.

RECIPE RETRO CURRY Serves 4, with leftovers Let’s dial it back to where it all began: old-school Japanese curry. Sweet-savory, fragrant, rich—and irresistible—this dish calls for the classic Japanese curry ingredients, that is, root vegetables, apple, and beef. And you thicken it using an old-fashioned roux, a French-style thickening agent for sauces made by cooking together butter and flour (a testament to this particular curry’s Western roots). We use S&B curry powder, a Japanese brand founded in the 1920s and

INGREDIENTS widely available in Asian markets here, but you can also substitute with Madras curry (usually sold in cans in supermarkets) or any curry powder you like. You can riff on this basic recipe in endless ways. Use chicken, pork, or seafood instead of beef. Add other vegetables: celery, eggplant, green pepper, daikon, broccoli, spinach, or tomato wedges (add the tomato 10 minutes before finishing so it doesn’t break down). Use honey or even mango to sweeten the curry. Or throw the onions in at the beginning, with the beef, and totally brown them, which will both help thicken the dish and add more intensely caramel flavors. Experiment and have fun.

1 pound stew beef (or any cut of beef you desire), cut into bitesize cubes 2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 6 tablespoons butter 1 pound medium onions (about 3), peeled and coarsely chopped 8 ounces carrots (about 2 medium carrots), cut rangiri style 1 tablespoon grated ginger (about 1/3 ounce) 1 teaspoon grated garlic (about

2 cloves, peeled and grated) 1 large apple (about 8 ounces), peeled and grated 5 cups beef stock 3 tablespoons flour 2 tablespoons curry powder 2 tablespoons garam masala, an aromatic Indian spice mixture (or substitute with curry powder) 3/4 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces Steamed rice, for serving


JAPANESE Recipe from "Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. (Ten Speed Press, 2013) TEN SPEED PRESS

DIRECTIONS Season the beef with 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until the meat browns (to lock in the flavor). Add the onion, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the carrots, ginger, and


garlic, and cook and stir for 2 more minutes. Add the apple, stock, and remaining 1 teaspoon of the salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. While the ingredients are simmering, prepare the roux. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. The flour will first bind to the butter, then the mixture will break apart, and look like large blonde crumbs. At this point, add the curry powder and garam masala and stir for 2 more minutes, until the roux releases a heady, toasted

curry fragrance. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside. Once the ingredients have simmered for 1 hour, add the potatoes. (Add 1/2 cup of water at this point if the curry seems too dry; it should have the consistency of gravy.) Scoop a ladleful of liquid from the pot and add it to the roux, mixing together to create a paste. Add the roux paste to the large pot and mix well. Simmer for 20 more minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Mix frequently, scraping the curry from the bottom of the pot, being careful not to burn. When the curry is ready, serve with steamed white rice.


Rangiri is a handy Japanese cutting technique to create uniform pieces from unevenly sized roots like carrots, lotus, or burdock. This method also creates a lot of surface area on cut pieces, so they cook faster and absorb flavors better. The key to this technique is rolling the ingredient while you cut. Here’s how you do it: Cut a root on an angle, roll a quarter turn, cut on an angle. Repeat until you’ve cut up the entire root.





atching Shuichi Kotani in action is like observing an athlete in his prime. His movements are precise, meticulously timed, and perfectly in tune with the dough he transforms. Kotani brings the same discipline to soba noodle making as he did to kendo, free climbing, boxing, and track—including the 100-meter sprint at Japan’s Youth Olympics. He remarks on the parallels between his soba making present and athletic past: “High concentration. In 10 seconds—shift up to top gear, shift down.”

Too much force—and things fall apart. In making soba, as in boxing, he has to gauge action and reaction, and make split-second strategic decisions. Kotani pauses. “Everything was for soba. I think so.” The nature of soba dough, made mostly with buckwheat, is extremely finicky. He has to evaluate not only how the dough feels, but also temperature and humidity, and even the traffic of diners into the restaurant, bringing minute changes to the air with each opening and closing of the door.

Kotani is master of noodles and a member of the Japanese Culinary Academy. He is often called in to consult for new ramen restaurants, and he supplies restaurants with soba noodles. “Ramen is very easy, but soba is my baby,” he said. In the past, he’s made soba noodles for chef Joël Robuchon and taught a crowd of 1,000 at the Culinary Institute of America. Kotani is a man driven by a mission to bring soba noodles to the world. His dreams are big: a buckwheat farm, alongside a stone mill and a noodle factory, right here in the United States.



Ramen is very easy, but soba is my baby. SHUICHI KOTANI


Consider the noodle du jour, ramen. After World War II in Japan, the impoverished nation turned to ramen. Compared to soba, it’s cheap to make, easy to produce, and incredibly popular. But from a health perspective, it’s dangerous, Kotani said. “Like McDonald’s.” He likes ramen himself, but rarely eats it. He points at the pale, yellow color of ramen noodles. “Not eggs,” he said. He preps the ingredients: a bowl full of wheat flour, water, and a heaping teaspoon of a specific type of salt—a

fine powder that is way saltier than table salt, so salty it has a tinge of bitterness. The salt, he points out as he starts mixing, is what gives the ramen dough its yellow color. Factor in the salt and fat of the ramen soup, and it becomes fit for an occasional dish rather than daily fare. A friend of his who works at a ramen shop sought him out for his soba noodles. He was suffering from weakness in his limbs and blurred vision. “What are you eating?” asked Kotani. “Ramen,” his friend answered—every day. Kotani replaced his friend’s daily ramen diet

Made of buckwheat, soba noodles contain a variety of B vitamins and loads of the antioxidant rutin. SAMIRA BOUAOU/EPOCH TIMES


Kotani uses buckwheat that’s stone-milled in Japan, where the technology allows for a fine texture, and for the moisture and nutrients to be preserved.

1. SIFT Sifting the flour, a mix of 80 percent buckwheat flour and 20 percent wheat flour.

2. MIX With quick, light movements, Kotani incorporates water into the flour.

3. SHAPE The dough is shaped into a ball.

with soba noodles. After three days, his symptoms disappeared. “Ramen is an easy way to make money—everybody knows,” Kotani said. Startup costs are low, noodles are cheap, and you don’t need a highly trained chef to make them. He said ramen joints have quickly expanded. Not only that—copycat outfits are less scrupulous about quality.


Among the Japanese, soba’s health benefits are no secret. In Tokyo, where Kotani learned to make soba when he was 19, some eat it three times a day. Soba’s health benef its are wide-ranging, from lowering blood pressure to preventing diabetes. High in protein, and full of vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6, soba is also abundant in the antioxidant rutin, which slows aging and contains cancer-preventing properties. It’s known to help the liver detox, which is why the Japanese will have soba noodles with their drinks. There’s no tastier way to get back up on your feet again. Kotani mentioned the Yi tribe in China, who enjoy legendary good health and whose staple diet consists of buckwheat mush.


4. ROLL The dough is rolled out to a thickness of about 1/16 of an inch.

5. CUT Finally, Kotani cuts the soba noodles, slicing through about 12 layers of the folded dough.

Being gluten-free, buckwheat is not easy to turn into noodles. When I pick up one of the strands that Kotani has cut, it breaks apart instantly. It was finally the Japanese who perfected soba noodles. Although Kotani does and can make soba noodles out of 100 percent buckwheat, the flour he uses most commonly, a mix of 80 percent buckwheat and 20 percent wheat, gives a texture that is much more satisfying.

In stores, dry soba noodles have a content of about 30 percent buckwheat flour, he said, and 50 percent in a few cases.


Soba is most commonly eaten chilled, served with a dipping sauce. It takes 20 seconds to cook Kotani’s soba noodles. When they arrive at the table, it’s clear we have to stop our conversation and dig in. They’re best eaten in a minute or two, before they start drying out. The combination of soba noodles dipped in a sauce of soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, bonito, scallion, and wasabi, is refreshing and delicious. After finishing the noodles, a server pours the hot water that was used for boiling


the soba into the cup that contained the dipping sauce—there’s no nutrient to be lost. Soba is also eaten with hot broth poured over it.



Shuichi Kotani makes soba noodles by hand for Daruma-ya in Tribeca and Dassara in Brooklyn. He also consults for Jin Ramen in Harlem, Nikai in Midtown, as well as chefs Candice Kumai and Takashi Yagihashi. He also offers soba-making classes. n


For Kotani, making soba requires 100 percent focus, 100 percent heart. On this particular day, he felt he was about at about 80 percent—"lots of meetings," he sighs. When he’s not fully engaged, he not only feels it, he said he can taste the difference in his noodles. I can’t tell. But what I do know is

Ramen is an easy way to make money— everybody knows.

that among the many meals I’ve had out, none has made me feel as good when I leave. If that was Kotani at 80 percent, I can’t wait to see him at 100 percent.

After the soba noodles are eaten, the hot water used to cook them is added to the dipping sauce, making for a pleasing, hot broth.

A dash of wasabi and thinly sliced scallions.

6. EAT Among the Japanese, soba’s health benefits are no secret. In Tokyo, some eat it three times a day.





Japanese Food Scene in


kiko Katayama is a food journalist based in New York City and a frequent judge on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” She has worked as an advisor to the Japanese government to connect the U.S. and Japanese food markets and consults for private companies in the food and beverage industry. Here, we ask Katayama about Japanese food in New York City and which trends to keep an eye on.

I t s p o p u l a r i t y s h ow s h ow open-minded and curious New Yorkers are about Japanese food.

Q. What do you think of the ramen trend?

A. Exciting! Until recently, New York-

ers used to think Japanese cuisine meant sushi, but they have started to see that sushi is just a part of it. Ramen is a great example. I hope

Q. What‘s your take on the state of Japanese cuisine in NYC?

A. It is wonderful! There are nearly

1,500 Japanese restaurants in NYC, and Japanese cuisine seems very popular. “Zagat New York City 2014” says it has the highest average score (23.87) followed by the French (22.08) among the 2,084 restaurants in the guide. Also, 18 percent of the 3 and the 4 star restaurants in “The New York Times Restaurant Review” are Japanese.

I truly respect the creative mind of American chefs that can give the traditional food a new perspective. AKIKO KATAYAMA

they will soon discover more and more diverse types of Japanese food. I am also impressed that many American chefs are inspired by ramen. Harris Salat, the owner of Ganso in Brooklyn, which offers great ramen, once said, “Ramen seems to be a simple food, but the Japanese brought it to the level of art.” And Chef Bryce Shuman at Betony in Midtown created a pasta dish with soup that is similar to ramen soup with lots of umami flavor. I truly respect the creative mind of American chefs that can give the traditional food a new perspective.

Q. Who should we keep our eyes on in NYC?

A. There are many unique concepts

and talented chefs here, both traditional and innovative, so it is hard to specify. But I would say restaurants that focus on a specific category, e.g. Takashi in the West Village, where they serve only sustainably raised grilled beef.


Q. What are the main differenc-

es between traditional Japanese food and what we get in restaurants in New York City?

A. I think there are two right now.


One is creativity. Chefs here enjoy the freedom of crossing the traditional border more often than in Japan, just as Nobu Matsuhisa did at Nobu—sushi with Latin flavor would have never been invented in Japan in the 1980s. More recently, Yuji Haraguchi of Yuji Ramen/ Okonomi came up with pasta– style mazemen, which has more variation of the toppings than the Japanese version. The other is the use of local ingredients. Even at traditional restaurants, e.g. Sushi Nakazawa, chefs are trying to discover the flavor of local fish instead of shipping everything from Japan.

Q. What are your top three favorite Japanese restaurants in NYC?

A. It is a tough question! I like Soto for sushi and creative plates. Sugiyama is a warm and delicious mom-and-pop kaiseki spot. I recently had a great dinner at Ootoya where I found many dishes that my mother would cook at home.

Q. What is big in Japan, but not big here yet? The Japanese “yoshoku” (western-influenced dishes). In the 19th century, European cuisine was introduced to Japan, and the Japanese adapted it to the local tastes. They gradually evolved it into simple home cooking such as “omurice” (omelette rice) and “Hamburg” (similar to Salisbury steak). They are the ultimate comfort food to me. n


Akiko Katayama



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1. Heat oven to 450°F. In small bowl, mix together chili powder, Adobo, cumin, dark brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Stir olive oil into Adobo mixture until completely saturated. 2. Using paper towels, pat pork loin dry. Rub pork all over with Adobo mixture. Transfer pork to foil-lined roasting pan. Cook until pork is dark golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 145°F when inserted into center of loin, about 35 minutes. 3. Transfer pork to platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Let rest 10-15 minutes before slicing. Serve with accumulated juices.

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Food is ubiquitous in Thailand, starting with the early morning markets at 5 a.m.




Magical Thailand ombining an eye for the visual with an adventurous spirit, photographer and author Jean-Pierre Gabriel scoured the length of Thailand for three years. He unearthed a trove of cooks willing to share their culinary secrets and authentic recipes for dishes both iconic and unusual. In the pages that follow, Gabriel shares the journey that created his new book “Thailand: The Cookbook,” and offers several mouthwatering recipes.

Q. What inspired you to undertake “Thailand: The Cookbook”?

A. I have never encountered a cuisine as fasci-

nating as Thai. It seduces through its flavors— which come both from certain ingredients and legendary recipes—and the great sense of freshness it imprints on one’s memory. From the start our project was fascinating. Our goal was to travel through most of the country, from the north to the south and to seek out diversity wherever it was. That’s what we did. I like to understand history, development. I like to collect information to the last detail. There were mysteries in history that I tried to understand—without always succeeding.

For example, how and when chilies arrived in Thailand and the trajectory they followed. Was it the Spanish or the Portuguese who brought them over? It’s also astonishing that the central plains and Bangkok have, to this day, kept recipes based on egg yolks—typical of convent cooking in Portugal. The Portuguese were present in the court of Ayutthaya from the 17th century. I like to meet people, which helps put things in context. Since I am also a photographer, I have a thirst for images, even those I don’t photograph and simply keep in my memory.



Our goal was to travel through most of the country, from the north to the south and to seek out diversity wherever it was. That’s what we did. JEAN-PIERRE GABRIEL


Q. What surprised you in the course of putting this book together?

A. There were many things. In part, the human

aspect. It seems like stating the obvious, but we need to eat to live. Different societies have different relationships to food. In Thailand today, you’ll find an immense variety of food-related behavior. Next to a 7-Eleven, where you’ll find industrial food, you’ll find a young woman who, in less than 1 square foot, prepares papaya salad in her mortar made of terra cotta. In certain markets, I think in the northeast and

the north, you find totally local things, whether insects, water buffalo skin, or tree barks with medicinal properties. And especially what you’ll find nowhere else—one of the roots used in Thai cuisine, black krachai, only grows in certain provinces in the north.

Q. More than 300 cooks contributed recipes to

your book. How did you find them? What are some of the memories you have from meeting them?

A. Even though one gets used to the concept of street food while traveling, this phenome-




“Thailand: The Cookbook,” Jean-Pierre Gabriel, $49.95, Phaidon 2014,


na, pushed to an extreme in Bangkok, remains surprising. There are hundreds of thousands of cooks in Thailand whose activities repeat day after day, focused on the preparation of one or several dishes that they’re going to sell. What surprised me most was the freshness, and most of the time, the flavor of their dishes. I admire their courage. They cook to earn their livelihood. Some get up during the night, to get ready for the first morning market, which generally starts around 5 a.m. Our main collection is based on the incredible network of field staff from the Ministry of Agriculture. We interviewed them to learn about the local specialties. The cooks in this list could be classified into three main categories. First, there are the communities of women (and sometimes men), who produce agricultural products, whether dried bananas, roselle juice, or mango paste. Secondly, there are the people

I adore scenes of rural life: the fieldwork with water buffalos, the drying of rice on country paths. JEAN-PIERRE GABRIEL who sell on the street or in the markets one or several dishes that they execute to perfection. We spent a whole morning in central Thailand with an elderly lady, Duangduan Jamesiri, who possesses incredible expertise with desserts based on egg yolks. And, third, depending on the place, we stopped in small local restaurants where we knew they were cooking original recipes—not transformed by development. One of my most touching memories took place in Chomporn Province, in the south. We arrived in the extraordinary garden of Srisamorn Kongpem. With his wife, both almost octogenarians, he tended a parcel of native forest, preciously preserved in the middle of immense palm plantations. Beneath the canopy of trees with their gigantic trunks, which included a four-year-old durian tree as well as a mangosteen trees dating back three centuries, the couple had planted some nutmeg trees. These had grown magnificently and their fruit, with its four concentric layers, was fascinating. At the center of the fruit was the nutmeg itself, covered by a fine, but very tough casing. This was contained in a blood red, translucent, net-like sack known as mace, a spice in its own right. The whole thing was surrounded by a final

layer, which was the color and texture of apricot flesh. As we were leaving this magical place, Srisamorn encouraged us to try a little creation that was unfamiliar to everyone—the flesh of this fruit was divided into strips and then candied (crystallized) with sugar. The flavor was intense—the nutmeg somehow infused with subtle hints of, among other things, ginger. It was a pure taste sensation. I’ll add that we paid each of the cooks that collaborated with us and we tasted all of the dishes.

Q. What culinary similarities did you

find between the different regions of Thailand?

A. I think the similarities derive in par-

ticular from the culinary techniques. Throughout the country, the same cooking methods are used: tom yam (soups), steaming, and the wok. Not to forget the mortar, an indispensable instrument for preparing spice pastes and other sauces. The way of cooking with the wok is one of the secrets of the flavors in Thai cooking: First, you heat up the most aromatic notes, the staple notes: garlic, shallots, and curry paste. When their aromas are released, you add the vegetables, meat, or fish, and finish at the last minute with the freshness of herbs: mint, cilantro, basil, and scallions. As far as ingredients, it’s clear that chilies are omnipresent. Surprisingly, certain ingredients typical of coastal areas, like shrimp paste (kapi), are used in the central plains. But, flavors are clearly different from one region to the other. In the north, for example, dill is used, which is totally nonexistent in the south.

Q. There are recipes for crickets, ants,

and silkworm pupae. How widely are insects used in Thai cooking and how do you like them?


A. According to studies I consulted,


200 species of insects are eaten in Thailand, traditionally in the regions of the north and northeast. Among the most popular are the bamboo caterpillars, house crickets, giant water bugs, and grasshoppers—not to forget weaver ants and silkworm pupae. Although the majority of the types of insects, including larvae, are foraged in nature, there’s now recourse to farming: crickets in the northeast and palm weevils in the south. During the fifth trip, I asked Khun Tip, who assisted and guided me through all of my trips, to find me authentic recipes from the north and the northeast. We arrived in a rural community, and the ladies had prepared dishes with different types of insects. The next day, at dawn, going to the market, I again saw all those insects and larvae being sold. They’re totally part of everyday life in some regions. As for the silkworm pupae, I had the chance to taste them while visiting a great silk-weaving master. I wasn’t really impressed by their flavor. On the other hand, fried crickets, in particular with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, have a real delicateness, with a fresh beer for example. You can detect the taste of shrimp bisque.


Photographer and author Jean-Pierre Gabriel.


Q. You’re a visual artist. What kind of scenes caught your attention?

A. Above all, I adore scenes of rural

life: the fieldwork with water buffalos, the drying of rice on country paths. The landscapes in the north are magical, notably in the tea gardens in the morning, before the mist lifts. Coming back from Ayutthaya, we saw a small group picnicking next to a submerged rice field. One of the men threw a net from time to time. That gesture was ancestral as much as magical. I tried to capture the elegant pattern of the movement and of the net. n

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According to studies I consulted, 200 species of insects are eaten in Thailand, traditionally in the regions of the north and northeast.


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Origin: South Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 5 minutes Makes: 15 rolls



1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat, add the jicama and oyster sauce, and sauté for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside. To make the sauce, pound all the ingredients together in a mortar with a pestle until smooth. Heat the sauce in a wok over medium heat, bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened. Lay a spring roll wrapper out on a wok surface so that the one of the corners faces you. Put a little of the lettuce, bean sprouts, pork skin, fried shallots, and jicama in he center of the wrapper and add a little sauce. Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up and over the filling. Fold the left and right corners in to create a package. Roll the package up toward the top corner and brush a little water on the top edges of the wrapper to stick the package together. Repeat until you have used up the filling. Cut the rolls in half and serve with the remaining sauce.

1 cup shredded jicama 2 tablespoons oyster sauce


20 spring roll wrapper sheets 2 cups shredded lettuce 2 cups boiled bean sprouts 1 cup crispy pork rind, coarsely chopped 2 tablespoons fried shallots 20 cooked shrimp 3½ ounces roasted pork, sliced

For the Sauce 1 cup Tamarind puree 5 dried chiles, soaked 3 shallots 1 tablespoon soy sauce ½ cup jiggery, palm sugar, or soft light brown sugar 7 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon fermented soybeans

TAMARIND PUREE Origin: Central Preparation time: 15 minutes Makes: 2½ cups

INGREDIENTS Scant 2 cups sour tamarind pods, peeled and seeded

DIRECTIONS Mix 2 cups warm water with the tamarind pods in a large bowl, then knead together by hand. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth (muslin) into a large bowl. Use immediately. Alternatively, transfer to a sterilized jar, leaving a half-inch head space, let cool, cover and seal. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.



INGREDIENTS 1 cup soybeans Banana leaves for wrapping

DIRECTIONS Rinse the soybeans several times with cold water to clean. Soak overnight in a bowl of water, then drain. Bring a pan of water to a boil over medium heat, add the soybeans, reduce the heat, and simmer for 4-6 hours until soft. Remove from the heat and drain. Divide the soybeans into 8-10 portions and put each portion in the center of a banana leaf. Cover the soybeans with the sides of the leaf, fold over the ends, and secure with string. Place a weight on top of the packages, such as a piece of hard wood, and let ferment at room temperature for 2-3 days. The fermented beans are then ready to use. To make dried soybean sheets, remove the soybeans from the banana leaves and shape into balls. Flatten into thin circles and sun-dry for 2-3 days.

Recipes from

Thailand: The Cookbook PHAIDON

by Jean-Pierre Gabriel (Phaidon, $49.95, May 2014)


Origin: North Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus soaking and fermenting time Cooking time: 4-6 hours Makes: 8-10 small packages



RECIPE GRILLED CHICKEN Origin: Northeast Preparation time: 2 hours, plus marinating and standing time Cooking time: 40 minutes Serves: 2

INGREDIENTS 6 cloves garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 tablespoon jiggery, palm sugar, or soft light brown sugar 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 chicken, butterflied Glutinous rice to serve (see right)

DIRECTIONS Put the garlic, salt, black pepper, sugar, and soy sauce in a large bowl and mix well until thoroughly combined. Add the chicken and massage with the seasoning mixture. Cover with plastic wrap (clingfilm) and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or for at least 30 minutes.


Recipes from

Thailand: The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel (Phaidon, $49.95, May 2014)


INGREDIENTS 1½ cups uncooked glutinous (sticky) rice

DIRECTIONS Soak the rice in a large bowl of cold water overnight or for at least 3 hours. Wash and drain. Wrap the rice in cheesecloth (muslin) and steam for 3035 minutes, stirring the rice every 10 minutes until cooked through. The rice will look transparent when cooked. Keep covered until ready to serve.


Bring the chicken to room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Before you begin cooking, check that your charcoal is glowing white hot, or your gas grill (barbecue) is preheated to 300°F/150°C. Grill the chicken over low-medium heat for about 20 minutes on each side until cooked.

Alternatively, use a conventional indoor broiler (grill) preheated to low-medium. Put the broiler (grill) rack about 4 inches away from the heat source, then place the chicken on the rack with a tray underneath, and broil (grill) for about 20 minutes on each side until cooked. Serve with rice. THINKSTOCK


Origin: North Preparation time: 5 minutes, plus soaking time Cooking time: 30-35 minutes Serves: 4




RECIPE GREEN PAPAYA SALAD Origin: Northeast Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 5 minutes Serves: 2

INGREDIENTS 3 bird’s eye chiles

1 yard-long bean, cut into 1½-inch lengths 2 tomatoes, cut into small pieces 1 tablespoon jaggery, palm sugar, or soft light brown sugar 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts 1 tablespoon dried shrimp 1 tablespoon lime juice 2 limes, cut into wedges 1 tablespoon fish sauce 2/3 cup julienned green papaya Grilled chicken

DIRECTIONS Pound the chiles and garlic together in a mortar with a pestle, then add the beans and lightly crush. Add the tomato, sugar, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp, lime juice, lime wedges, and fish sauce to the mortar and gently mix together unto the sugar has dissolves. Add the papaya and mix together. Serve either on its own or with grilled chicken.

Recipe from

Thailand: The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel (Phaidon, $49.95, May 2014)



5 cloves garlic

RECIPE COCONUT CUSTARD WITH FRIED SHALLOTS Origin: Central Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes Serves: 5

INGREDIENTS 8½ cups coconut milk Scant 1 cup rice flour


6 2/3 jiggery, palm sugar, or soft light brown butter 13 duck eggs or 15 hen eggs, beaten 5 tablespoons Fried Shallots

DIRECTIONS Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 12-inch/30-cm square baking pan. Mix the coconut milk, flour sugar, and eggs together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into a pan and cook over medium heat for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with the fried shallots cut into squares, and serve.

FRIED SHALLOTS Origin: Central Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 11 minutes Serves: 5 tablespoons

INGREDIENTS 1½ cups vegetable oil 5 shallots, peeled and finely sliced lengthwise

DIRECTIONS Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat, add the shallots, and stir-fry for 10-11 minutes until the shallots start to brown. Remove from the heat and use as an ingredient or a garnish.





Origin: Central Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes Serves: 5

INGREDIENTS 1¼ cups shredded coconut ½ teaspoon salt 10 ripe small bananas, peeled and mashed 1 cup rice flour 1 cup jiggery, palm sugar, or soft light brown sugar 1 cup coconut milk

DIRECTIONS Mix the shredded coconut and salt together in a small bowl. Reserve half for garnish. Put the bananas, rice flour, sugar, the mixed shredded coconut and salt, and the coconut milk into a large bowl and mix well. Pour into small talal cups or heatproof cups or bowls and sprinkle with the reserved shredded coconut. Steam in steamer for 30 minutes, then serve.

Recipes from

Thailand: The Cookbook

by Jean-Pierre Gabriel (Phaidon, $49.95, May 2014)




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Faith, Ritual, & Food IN INDIA

n the paradox that is life, sometimes the further you get from home, the closer you feel to it. “I always say I fell in love with India when I came to America,” said Vikas Khanna, executive chef of Michelin-starred Junoon. “For every immigrant who comes to America, there’s a thread, an umbilical cord. That is the cord which connects us back home.” Khanna is from Amritsar, north India, the home of the Sikh Golden Temple—a complex of gold and marble, its reflection shimmering on the water. The temple has a langar, or community kitchen, possibly the largest the world, which feeds an average of 75,000 people a day, and almost twice that on festival days. Anyone—from devotee to tour-

ist—can eat a vegetarian meal there for free, sitting side by side regardless of economic class or caste. The kitchen goes through enormous proportions of food every day: 22,000 pounds of wheat, 1,300 gallons of milk, 1,100 pounds of ghee, for example. Khanna is not Sikh but the langar was part of his everyday life growing up. When he was young, he would go there with his grandmother to roll bread and share a meal. “The meaning of langar changes every day as you grow older,” he said. “Initially because your elders go, you go. When you get a little older, you’re young, you go there to date, literally. You are finding beautiful girls.” At 30, Khanna immigrated to the United States. He arrived in New York City during the winter, Vikas Khanna shares a moment with children while cooking in the community kitchen at the Golden Temple, in Amritsar, India.

The Golden Temple’s community kitchen in Amritsar feeds up to 75,000 a day, and twice that on special occasions.







Split chickpea chaat, featured in Khanna's James Beard Award-nominated "Return to the Rivers."

cold and broke. But he chanced upon an echo of the langar back home that gave him a sense of instant connection: the soup kitchen at the New York Rescue Mission. It was his first Christmas in America. His experience of the langar stayed with him, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, when Sikhs in Queens and elsewhere in the United States became victims of hate crimes. He was at a loss. “These are the people who have taught me who I am,” he said. He would stand with a poster by the World Trade Center site, during his afternoon break, to try to explain who Sikhs are. As time went by, his idea grew into a documentary series, “Holy VIKAS KHANNA Kitchens,” where he explores the relationship between food and religion across different faiths. The first documentary is about langars, in Amritsar and abroad. When he returned to Amritsar, he found new meanings, even in the way food was being served. To be served, one can’t reach up for bread with one hand for example, but rather must hold both hands,

It’s crucial not to lose the roots ... They’re an invisible part of a tree, life only comes from roots.

waiting to be served. “The person who serves you has to bend down, too. So the giver and receiver show a form of humility,” he said. Khanna said he was afflicted with “Oprah syndrome of asking people questions.” Someone then caught his attention. “There was an elderly woman who had a very distinct face, so tender, such tender eyes—the beauty is extreme—so forgiving.” He said to her, “I’ve seen you as a child here—what inspires you to come here from morning to night?” “She said, ‘You’re too young,’ and she walks away. I go back to her, I’m acting cute, I’m trying to break the ice with her. She’s so quiet, and so gentle, and I’m so bad, I felt. So I asked her, ‘What inspires you?’ She holds my hand and says, ‘You know, I lost my son during the 1971 war [between India and Pakistan]. I sacrificed my son, so I come here to feed him.’ She said, ‘You know I lost him about 30–35 years ago. I just come here because if I feed somebody’s son, I’m feeding my own son wherever he’ll be … I come here, morning to night, and I’ll cook for him ‘til the day I die.’ She then asked Khanna how old he was. “I said I was born during the 1971 war. She said, ‘See, you’re my son.’ No pain, no regrets, no playing a game with God, why was I given more sorrow than anyone, no questions.”

Vikas Khanna cooking at Junoon in the Flatiron District.


With Khanna’s recent cookbook, “Return to the Rivers,” behind him (it was nominated this year for a James Beard Award), he is working on another, about the festivals of India. Food features in the ritual space in a way that is so ingrained it is unquestioned: the way that women who get married put turmeric on their bodies, or how a bride throws rice back at her house (or banquet hall, as the case may be). And yet there’s meaning behind all these gestures. Khanna feels the changes both in India and throughout the Indian diaspora. “We are changing, evolving. At the same time, we’re leaving something behind … It’s crucial not to lose the roots. Roots should not go away, roots define us. They’re an invisible part of a tree, life only comes from roots. The smallest and the simplest things which give us center—it’s fantastic.” There’s a festival called rakhi, where sisters tie a thread around their brothers’ wrist, as well as put vermilion, saffron, and rice on their brother’s foreheads. “My sister’s younger than me and she was my protector also,” he said. He would bow before her, and her promise to him was that she would protect him forever. “It didn’t make sense to me for years.” But he thinks back at how that ritual provided him a lifeline over the years. “When I was falling apart, I was weak or lost. Like, OK, wow I have a thread, it will keep me going.” n




A symbol of beauty and purity since ancient times, most parts of the lotus flower are edible—the flowers, seeds, leaves and the rhizome. The lotus root which has a beautiful lace like design with tiny holes; valued in the culinary world for its mild flavor and crunchy texture. Even in this kofta, lotus root adds a rich meaty texture and taste, added in a creamy sauce flavored with cardamom, cinnamon and fennel.



A great comforting winter soup when there is a surplus of root vegetables. The potatoes add a very nice creamy texture and thickness to this soup while the earthy flavor and a vibrant ruby red color comes from beets. Garnished with yogurt swirls adds to the presentation of this soup. Serves 6.

INGREDIENTS 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large potato, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

4 cups vegetable stock

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

Salt to taste

1 pound beets, peeled and chopped

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup low fat yogurt, whisked until smooth

1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup pea shoot leaves

DIRECTIONS Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet on medium high heat. Add the cumin, coriander, beets, onions, pepper, and potato, into a large saucepan and cook until very fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring it to boil.

Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently transfer the mixture to a blender or a food processor and blend to a purĂŠe in batches. Pour the soup into bowls and garnish each with swirl of yogurt and chives. BLOOMSBURY INDIA


1 pound tender lotus root, washed and peeled

Cut a 3 inch piece of lotus root into roundels, about 1/8 inch thick, and finely grate the remaining lotus root. In a mixing bowl combine the gram flour, grated lotus root, salt, chilies, ginger, 1 tablespoon cilantro and knead to a smooth mixture. Add a little water if required. Make into small 10 to 12 round balls. Heat the oil to 350째F and deepfry the balls in batches until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain excess oil on a kitchen towel. In the same oil fry the lotus root roundels until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain the excess oil on the kitchen towel, reserve for garnish. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Remove from heat and add chili

1/4 cup gram flour Salt to taste 2 green chilies such as Serrano or Thai, finely chopped 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, chopped 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves Vegetable oil for frying, plus 2 tablespoons 1 tablespoon chili powder 2 red onions, finely sliced 2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed One 1 inch cinnamon stick 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 cup heavy cream

Recipes from "Hymns From the Soil: A Vegetarian Saga" by Vikas Khanna. (Bloomsbury India, 2014)


powder. Reserve for garnish. In a medium pot boil the onions, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seeds with 3 cups water on high heat until the water reduces to half and the mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat and let it cool at room temperature. Transfer to a blender and process to a smooth paste. Transfer to a saucepan and bring it to a boil on medium heat. Add the cream and season with salt and gently simmer. Transfer the sauce to a serving dish and arrange the lotus balls over it. Drizzle with chili oil and serve garnished with lotus root chips and cilantro.



RECIPE ROASTED COCONUT AND SORREL LEAVES Serves 4 Bright fresh green sorrel leaves add a nice tart lemony flavor. Sorrel’s flavor is highlighted with the sweet, sour tangy kokum. It has the texture of spinach when cooked; add towards the end of the cooking process to minimize loss of flavor. Roasting Coconut makes it nuttier and richer tasting, which adds more depth to this dish.


2 teaspoons coriander seeds 5 dried red chilies 1 teaspoon peppercorns 4 tablespoons clarified butter 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut 1 red onion, thinly sliced 1 teaspoon mustard seeds 8 to 10 curry leaves 1 teaspoon turmeric

Recipes from "Hymns From the Soil: A Vegetarian Saga" by Vikas Khanna. (Bloomsbury India, 2014)

6 to 8 dried kokum, soaked in 1/2 cup hot water 1 cup coconut milk 2 pound fresh sorrel leaves, washed and dried




Dry roast the coriander, chilies and peppercorns in a heavy bottom small skillet on medium heat stirring continuously to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat and let it cool at room temperature. Finely grind it in a coffee or spice grinder and reserve. Heat the 2 tablespoons clarified butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat and fry the coconut and onion until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a blender and combine with 1/4 cup water and grind to a coarse paste. Heat the remaining clarified butter on medium heat in a saucepan. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, and fry for a minute. Add the coconut-onion paste and the spice blend with turmeric and stir well to mix all the flavors. Add the kokum with liquid, coconut milk, and salt and continue to cook until the flavors are well combined, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the sorrel leaves and cook for 2 minutes until wilted. Serve hot with boiled rice.


Serves 4 to 6


A super moist and gooey cake made with sweet crisp apples. The warm earthiness of saffron is a great versatile spice that works well with both savory dishes and in desserts and is the color and flavor highlight in this buttery glaze.

INGREDIENTS 1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Zest of 1 orange

3 large Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

DIRECTIONS In a coffee or spice grinder pulse the saffron and 1/4 cup sugar until well combined. Using an electric mixer combine the butter and saffron-sugar mixture until the mixture becomes frothy and smooth. Heat the mixture in a medium heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Cook, stirring until the sugar begins to caramelize, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples and let it cook on low heat until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and gently mix. Remove from heat. Preheat the oven to 350째F. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, bakBLOOMSBURY INDIA

ing soda, sugar and orange zest. Add the oil, yogurt, vinegar, and mix well using a hand blender, making sure there are no lumps in the batter. Pour the batter in a 9 inch greased baking pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto a serving plate. Arrange the apples on the cake spooning all the juices in pan over the cake. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Recipe from "Hymns From the Soil: A Vegetarian Saga" by Vikas Khanna. (Bloomsbury India, 2014)


RECIPE GREEN MANGO AND MINT COOLER As the days become longer, and we enter the summer, for me the greatest joy is entering the season of green mangoes. Abundance of green mangoes are used in a variety of recipes, such as curries, pickles and also cooling drinks like these.


Moisten the rim with lime and coat with a sugar and mint mix.

INGREDIENTS 1 medium green mango 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted 1 teaspoon black salt 3 tablespoons honey, or to taste 1 teaspoon chaat masala 3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves 2 lime wedges

DIRECTIONS Bring 3 cups of water to a boil on high heat. Add the mango and reduce the heat to low and simmer until mango is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove mango from water and set aside to cool. Then peel using a sharp knife and remove all the flesh using a spoon. Reserve the pulp. Place the mango pulp, cumin seeds, black salt, honey, and chaat masala powder into a blender and process until smooth. Add 3 cups of water to the mango mixture, cover and refrigerate until chilled. Spread the sugar and mint leaves on a plate. Moisten the rim of a glass with a lime wedge. Turn the glass up side down and dip it in the mixture of sugar and mint to evenly cover the rim. Gently pour the mango drink into the glasses over ice and serve.



Tips for

loyd Cardoz’s advice for using spices comes down to this: “Utilize them in everyday food. Don’t be afraid of excitement.“ The chef, formerly of North End Grill and Tabla, has a practiced hand and an instinctive feel for which spices to use and how much. Go too heavy on fenugreek or turmeric, and the dish will be irretrievably ruined. Others, like cumin or coriander, are versatile and good for vegetables, lamb, beef, fish curries, and even salads. Spices needn’t be the predominant note either, but can be used to enhance other flavors or to balance out a dish. Cardoz himself is partial to black pepper, ginger, and coriander seed. “These are so easy to use. So you can use coriander seeds as a crust, you can use it in a curry sauce, you can toast it and sprinkle it over something. Having the ability to do multiple things is nice,“ he said. While growing up, his father would sprinkle black pepper on watermelon, which later inspired some of his own creations, one of which was a pineapple with


Using Spices Spices can enhance or balance out a dish.



Grind spices as you go, when you need them.


Black pepper, freshly ground, has versatile uses, as do coriander seed and cumin.




black pepper. "That’s what I think good and interesting food is—the contrast between flavors. It’s not contrast like absolutely bitter and absolutely spicy. It’s sweet and spicy at the same time with neither overpowering the other," he said.

ginger tea when you have a sore throat. Ginger soothes. Or fennel water. It tastes nice and it’s palatable, but it also helps settle your stomach." Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, which are better known in the United States for their use in desserts,


Chef Floyd Cardoz

That’s what I think good and interesting food is—the contrast between flavors. CHEF FLOYD CARDOZ

SPICE TIPS Once spices are ground, they will lose their potency quickly. Cardoz found that ground cardamom, for example, has a half-life of 14 days. "So every 14 days, the aroma and oils disappear," he explained. These oils are precisely what give the spices their flavor as well as their health properties. Here are his tips to keep your spices fresh:

are found in a savory context in India. They’re also heat-generating and tend to be used in the colder months in India.

1. Buy little and buy often.


light and heat. "Most people have spice racks above their stove, which is the worst place because of the heat."

Next time you’re making steak and potatoes, think of the possibilities. Think of spices. What would Cardoz himself do? "I’d make a spice crust. Black pepper, mustard seeds, maybe a little bit of allspice. Grind it up, coat the steak, and that’s it. You don’t need any butter, you don’t need any cream … The spice will make it taste better. And if you’re making potatoes, you can put a little cumin in the pan before you cook them."

2. Grind them whenever you can to use them. You can use a small coffee grinder.

3. Keep the spices in an airtight jar away from

To release their flavors, you can toast them, heat them in oil, or boil them in water. A caveat about the last method: most spices do not work well with water. "Turmeric and chili pepper are the only ones to give up their flavor to water. I'd say ginger, too, but when you sweat it out, it mellows it out. It melds in better."

Q. What are your favorite spices to work with? A. It depends what I'm cooking. I love black

pepper, I love ginger, I love coriander seed. These are so easy to use, and you can use them in multiple dishes, to make things taste nice and quickly, and with multiple cooking techniques, too … You can use coriander seeds as a crust, you can it as a curry, as a sauce, toasted and sprinkled on something.


Cardoz grew up in India, where the spices in his family were freshly ground every day, with mortars and pestles made of volcanic rocks. One kind was a flat stone bed, with a cylindrical stone used for grinding. "The stone is so heavy, you just have to move it and the stone does the work for you," he said. Another kind was a pestle and a round mortar, as wide as a coffee table. The size of these mortars and pestles was not small by any means, partly because larger ones made the grinding work easier; and it is particularly telling of how much spice each family would use every day. Although some say spices were used to preserve food, in reality, Cardoz said, spices were used because of their healthful properties. Different spices may be used in different seasons. Chili peppers and black peppers, for example, are not heat-generating spices, but rather cooling spices. "How can something that’s hot make you feel cool? What it does is it forces your body to perspire, which helps bring the temperature down," Cardoz said. "My mom always says, drink






Regional Cuisines

he Chinese have traditionally believed that all laws governing mankind are an expression of the Tao. Lao Zi, the founder of Taoist philosophy said, “Man follows the earth. The earth follows the heavens. The heavens follow the Tao. The Tao follows nature.” Tao literally means “(right) way.” Throughout our lives, we exchange matter through what we eat. Ancient Chinese people long held a profound appreciation for the Tao of eating, emphasizing "Tao follows nature" and incorporating principles of proper human conduct in their diet. Lao Zi once said, “Governing a big country is like cooking a small dish,” illustrating that the highest principles of every action or thought corresponds to the Tao. Wang Xiaoyu, resident chef for the renowned food connoisseur

OF CHINA Yuan Mei of the Qing Dynasty, said, “It is hard to know oneself, but harder yet to know true taste.” True taste includes the concept of harmony, which is an important standard in Chinese traditional culinary arts. This balancing and apportioning principle can be subdivided into complementary meats and vegetables, appropriate collocation of cold and hot dishes, and different combinations of foods from different seasons. China’s long history of culinary arts developed several distinct regional styles that have been passed down through generations of master chefs. The most influential cuisines come from Sichuan, Shandong, Huaiyang, Canton, and the Northeast. They represent the best of traditional Chinese culinary artistry—complete with color, aroma, flavor, and cut.







Fiery hot peppers make this region famous.

Sichuan cuisine has very strong local characteristics, mainly comprised of food from Chongqing, Chengdu, and the northern and southern Chuan region. Sichuan cuisine uses close to 40 different techniques in its preparation including: braising, basting, dry-steaming, oil dripping, and different kinds of frying—stir-fry, pan-fry, deep-fry, quick fry, dry stir-fry, soft-fry, etc. Flavor is the foundation of Sichuan cuisine and particular attention goes into balancing the five basic flavors—spicy, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. The secret of the famous hot Sichuan cuisine lies in the skillful use of chili peppers for its vibrant red color and subtle spicy fragrance.

China's Cuisines


China’s vast landscapes, storied history, and deep knowledge of harmony in food have led to five distinct regional cuisines




Huaiyang Sichuan





Creativity and fresh flavors mark this region.

Huaiyang is famed for pure taste and original flavor.

This region is known for its salty, savory flavor.

Cantonese cuisine originates from Guangdong Province and is made up of cuisines from three principal areas: Guangzhou, Chaozhou, and Dongjiang. Cantonese cuisine is known for its wide use of ingredients and creativity. Guangzhou (also called Canton) has been a major port city in south China since the Han Dynasty (206 BC–265 AD). It is situated in the subtropics, bordering on the South China Sea. Rainfall is abundant and the area is rich in produce and fresh seafood year round. Cantonese chefs are known for their creativity while imitating other cuisine styles. Its chefs are skilled at making adjustments according to seasonal and climatic changes. Summer and fall dishes are lighter, while winter and spring dishes are rich and more flavorful. Cantonese cuisine pays a lot of attention to texture and flavor and overall has a lighter taste than other Chinese cuisines.

Huaiyang cuisine derives from the native cooking styles of the region surrounding the lower reaches of the Huai and Yangtze rivers and the cities of Yangzhou and Huai'an in Jiangsu Province. The area is known for its year-round fresh produce. Huaiyang cuisine originated from old Yangzhou, the second largest city in China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). The style of cooking is known for its meticulous preparation process and fine balance between rich flavor and pure taste. Preserving original flavors is important and the style specializes in braising, stewing, roasting, and boiling.

Shandong cuisine, also called Lu cuisine, is the oldest and most influential of Chinese cuisines. Shandong is situated on the Shandong Peninsula, with a long coastline next to the Yellow and the Bo seas and rich inland plains. It has four very distinctive seasons. Seafood, freshwater produce, grains, poultry, fruits and vegetables, wild birds, and animals are abundant in the province. It is known for its salty, savory flavor as well as its tender and crispy texture. Shandong chefs are well-rounded in their skills and famous for their Bao and Ta methods of cooking. Bao is a quick stir-fry on high heat; the nutrients are well preserved and the food is light. With the Ta method, the main ingredients are spiced and starched, then Ta-fried and simmered in soup or sauce.


Sumptuous casseroles, roasts, and stir-fries define the northeast. The cuisine of the northeastern region refers to the food of Jilin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang Provinces. It originated from the Jin Dynasty during the early 12th century. Northeastern cuisine uses the native crops of its mountainous land to its advantage and is famed for its wild game dishes. Due to the cold weather in the region, people are accustomed to eating very hot food, therefore dishes such as casseroles, hot pots, and roasts were developed. Other techniques make use of quick stir-fry over high heat, stirfry over low heat, stewing, barbecuing, and glazing. Its dishes are tender but not rare, well-done but not tough. It is rich in flavors and its dishes are substantial and sumptuous.

TIMES SQUARE FOOD FESTIVAL Watch chefs vie for a world title in Times Square as they create dishes from China’s five regions on June 25–26. Visit

Steamed grouper, a Cantonese specialty. EDWARD DAI/EPOCH TIMES





Dumplings are especially popular during the Chinese New Year.


RECIPE PORK AND CABBAGE DUMPLINGS The combination of pork and cabbage is classic. Make sure to salt the cabbage and squeeze out the excess water so the dumplings don't get soggy.

INGREDIENTS 1 1/3 pounds ground pork

5 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 Chinese cabbage shredded

1 1/2 dumpling wrapper packs

1/2 cup chopped scallion

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger


2 tablespoons fresh grated garlic

1/2 cup water

1 egg white


wrapper, and brush water on the edge of the upper half of the wrap. Fold the wrapper in half and close the top opening with your thumb and index finger. Place dumplings on a plate covered with a light layer of flour. Store the dumplings in the fridge until you want to cook them.

When you're ready to cook them, put the dumplings in boiling water and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add two cups of cold water to the pot and heat until the water boils again. Repeat the previous step two more times. Serve hot.

DIRECTIONS Add 1 tablespoon salt to the shredded cabbage. Wait to squeeze out the excess water, then drain thoroughly. Mix all the ingredients (except for water, flour, and dumpling wrappers) together with the cabbage. Stir until the mixture becomes a bit sticky. Put a dumpling wrapper on your palm. Place some filling on the middle of the



New Tang Dynasty Television The world’s most trusted TV network on China 589







Noodles without


Borders hrough war and peace, migration and trade, nations have adopted and traded culinary techniques and foods from each other. In ancient times, China was much like Rome, exacting tributes from countries both near and far to its borders, including for some time, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, and Indonesia. In exchange, China recognized their sovereignty and sent goods in return. “Any place that touches China has felt its influence,“ said Willa Zhen, a food anthropology scholar at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. The Chinese influence on Korea is clear, for example. “You don‘t have a record, but we can see that they‘re cousins by looking at the technique,“ she said. “Korea borrowed a lot from northern Chinese cuisine, from Shandong cuisine, it‘s also reminiscent of southern Beijing.“ A noodle dish, zhajiangmian, made of minced pork and scallions, was adopted wholesale and is called "jajangmyeon" in

Korean, pronounced the exact same way. And the hugely popular ramen was actually an import from China. When an influx of laborers came into Yokohama from China in the 1800s, Chinese restaurateurs looked for inexpensive food they could serve them, according to Marc Matsumoto, a private chef, writer, and amateur food historian. “They were trying to sell soba noodles. But traditional Japanese soba is served with a dashi broth, it‘s very light, there‘s not a lot of oil in it. It didn‘t mesh with the laborers‘ palate,“ he said. Some genius realized if they used chicken broth, a richer broth, it would sell better, and be more adapted to the Chinese palate.“ If you ask someone of an older generation, he added, he or she would remember ramen‘s old name, Chuka soba, or in other words, Chinese soba.


“For the Chinese, it‘s never just about food, and it‘s never just about medicine. They‘re one and the same,“ said Zhen.

INDIA Said to have been developed by the Chinese community in Calcutta, Indian-Chinese dishes like Manchurian chicken or chicken chili are ubiquitous.

MALAYSIA Malaysian cuisine has a variety of influences, due to having been an important location for trading. Indian, Chinese, as well as Portuguese and Indonesian influences can all be tasted.

In ancient times, China was much like Rome, exacting tributes from countries both near and far.


JAPAN “Chuka ryori” is Japanese-style Chinese food. Think ramen (a theory has it that it was adapted from the Chinese “lamian“), dim sum (with tea and snacks rather than full menus), and “kara-age” (literally: Chinese fry)

KOREA Preservation techniques were passed from China to Korea. The word “kimchi” derives from two Chinese words, steeped vegetables.

PHILIPPINES Chinese merchants were a regular presence from Fujian Province, and so “pansit,” a dish of stir-fried noodles was born. Another dish derived from Chinese influence is “lumpia,” which are similar to egg rolls.

VIETNAM Food anthropology scholar Willa Zhen said a Vietnamese expression goes, “A good wife should know how to cook Vietnamese cuisine first, then French cuisine and Chinese cuisine.“

SOUTHEAST ASIA Tools such as woks and bamboo steamers gave rise to stir-fries and steamed dishes. “Khao man gai,” or chicken with rice in Thailand, originates from Hainanese chicken with rice.

She explained that especially as one gets toward the southern end of China, food and medicine go hand in hand. “The soup becomes a source for having medicine. So if you‘re dehydrated it‘s not just the water in the soup, it‘s the nutrients.“ In Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia, Chinese traditional medicine was adopted and adapted locally. Zhen said, “For example in Japan, if you go see the doctor—depending

on who you see of course—you get one prescription for Western biomedicine that comes in pills or tablets, and another where you might get a prescription for Chinese herbs to supplement that, or you might be given a prescription to make this type of dish or eat this type of food to restore your nutrients.“ At the same time, the health aspect is married to culinary imperatives of color, texture, and flavor. It‘s far from the idea that

may exist closer to home, that nutritious or healthy food has to taste horrible, she added. Of course, Chinese cuisine was influenced by its neighbors, but it also benefited from lands afar, especially crops from the New World. Who can imagine Sichuan cuisine without the fiery red peppers? “We‘re talking chili peppers, potatoes—all New World crops. If we‘re looking at northern Chi-

nese cuisine—corn,“ Zhen said. “These came into China around the 1600s.“ Even that homey dish of stir-fried eggs and tomatoes would not have existed but for the arrival of tomatoes. And as history would have it, with Chinese migration spanning the globe, there are of course plenty of Chinese settlements in the New World, from Peru to Cuba to the United States, giving rise to specialties adapted to the local palate.


Through trade and commerce, “zhajiangmian,” a noodle dish of minced pork and scallions, was carried over to Korea, where it‘s named “jajangmyeon.”



Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes Passive time: 240 minutes serves: 2

Huí Guō Ròu, which literally means “meat returned to pot,” is a dish with Sichuan roots. The pork belly is boiled once to tenderize it before being thinly sliced and stir-fried with garlic scapes and sweet bean paste.


INGREDIENTS 11 ounces pork belly 1 tablespoon Tianmianjiang (sweet wheaten bean paste) 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine 1 teaspoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar - granulated 1 teaspoon vegetable oil 1/2 inch ginger - fresh peeled and thinly julienned 2 teaspoons doubanjiang (chili bean paste) 2.5 ounces garlic scapes trimmed and chopped into 2 in. pieces 1 bunch scallions trimmed and chopped into 2 in. pieces

DIRECTIONS Put the pork belly in a pot that it barely fits in. Add cold water until the pork is completely submerged. Remove the pork, then bring the pot of water to a boil. Add the pork, cover and simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the pork from the liquid, wrap it in foil and then place it in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. This solidifies the fat making it easy to slice. You can skim the liquid and use it as

a soup base for another dish, or just pour it out. Once the pork is chilled use a sharp knife to slice it into 1/8" (3mm) thick slices. In a small bowl, combine the Tianmianjiang, Shaoxing, soy sauce, and sugar. Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat until very hot. Add the oil, then add the sliced pork belly. Stir-fry until the pork has started to

crisp around the edges. Drain off the excess oil and then push the pork to the edges of the pan. Add the ginger and doubanjiang. Fry until the chili sauce is fragrant (10-15 seconds). Add the garlic sprouts and stir-fry with the pork until the garlic sprouts are cooked through. Add the bowl of sauce along with the scallions and stir-fry until all the liquid has evaporated.

Marc Matsumoto is a private chef, food writer, and culinary consultant who grew up between the United States, Japan, and Australia. He created NoRecipes. com to teach basic cooking techniques and inspire people to follow their own culinary adventures.






Serves 4 to 6

STEAMED BEEF WITH FLAVORED BROKEN RICE Steamed beef with flavored broken rice (Fenzheng beef) is a famous dish from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. The beef is tender, fragrant, and has a distinctive flavor.

INGREDIENTS 1 pound beef

5 tablespoons broken rice

2 ounces cilantro

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon rice wine

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon garlic puree

1 1/2 tablespoon soya sauce

1 full tablespoon chili bean paste

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorn

2/3 pounds sweet potato (optional)

5 teaspoons pepper and green onion puree (chopped green onion parts only with Sichuan peppercorn)


After being boiled and sliced, the pork belly is stir-fried over high-heat, crisping up the edges.

Trim the beef and cut into 2-inch long, 1 1/4-inch wide slices. Place beef into a bowl and add minced chili bean paste, soy sauce, vegetable oil, rice wine, ginger, the pepper-green onion puree, and broken rice. Mix well. Divide into 10 portions and put into small bamboo steamer. Steam at a high temperature. For tender beef, steam for about 20 minutes; for tougher beef steam for about 40 minutes. Remove bamboo steamer from the pot.

When serving, place the bamboo steamer on a plate, and season the beef with chili powder, Sichuan pepper powder, chopped green onion, garlic, and cilantro. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve. Tip: (Optional) Add peeled, chunk-sized sweet potatoes and place them on top of the beef so they steam together. If you prefer a stronger flavor, add black bean sauce, and optionally, garlic puree. The same method can be used to cook other meats such as pork ribs, pork, and chicken.

Origins of Tea



HEALTH BENEFITS Tea was found to act as an antidote against the poisonous effects of about 70 herbs.




Many books have been written on tea, the most famous being Lu Yu’s "Tea Classic," written some time between 760 to 762 during the Tang Dynasty. The comprehensive "Tea Classic" covers topics from the production of brick tea (loose leaf tea became popular later in the Ming Dynasty), the 28 items used in the brewing and drinking of tea, to tea usage in cooking.


ccording to legend, the discovery of tea dates back to 2,700 B.C. by mythical emperor Shennong, the father of medicine and agriculture. The name Shennong literally means “divine farmer.” Shennong personally tasted hundreds of herbs to evaluate their medicinal properties. The legend says he possessed the supernormal power of being able to see through his own body as if it were transparent, and thus witness the effects of the herbs. His list of medicinal herbs, “The Divine Farmer’s HerbRoot Classic,” is considered the first Chinese medical book. One day, Shennong tasted tea. Not only was the tea refreshing, but it also acted as an antidote against the poisonous effects of about 70 herbs. Since then, tea has become China's national beverage. Today, it is the second most consumed drink in the world, next to water.




Most Popular Types of



here are several kinds of tea, including white, green, oolong, and black. The more popular ones are green, oolong, and black teas. Traditionally, Chinese tea is processed to keep leaves complete. If the leaves are broken, it's not considered a good tea. You can brew the same tea many times, and each time the taste will be slightly different. The sophisticated process of brewing tea makes it possible to appreciate tea layer by layer.

Oolong is partly fermented. It originates from the high mountains in Fujian Province in the south of China. Most of the Taiwanese tea on the market right now is oolong. Oolong tea is produced through a unique process that includes withering under direct sunlight and oxidation before curling and twisting. The degree of oxidation

can range from 8 percent to 85 percent, depending on the variety and production style. Oolong can be enjoyed yearround. A typical way to brew oolong tea is to use a very small tea pot and small tea cups to deliberately slow the process of brewing, and thus enjoy the different tastes.


Black tea (red tea as Chinese call it) is traditionally fermented tea. It can be stronger in flavor but the process of fermenting makes the tea milder. It is usually drunk in winter. While green tea usually loses its flavor within a year, black tea can last a few years. That's why black tea is popular in trade with distant regions.


You can brew the same tea many times and each time the taste is a bit different.


White tea is mostly from China’s Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces. It is made of tea plant buds with fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds. The process is a lot simpler than other kinds of tea in order to preserve its fine flavor. It usually only has two steps—withering and drying. It is the most gentle and cooling type of tea.



Green tea needs to be used fresh, usually within three months. A week before the Qingming Festival (April 5), people start to pick tea. In early spring the tea is gentle, and by late spring and early summer it becomes bit stronger and slightly tougher. In general, green tea is for spring and summer, as it is a very refreshing drink. Contrary to popular belief, green tea often can contain more caffeine than black tea. It only tastes lighter.


Pu’er tea is a form of black tea that ages well. Some pu’er tea has aged for a few hundred years. People appreciate its aging process much the same way as they appreciate vintage wine. Pu’er tea is often made into compressed bricks of black tea. In ancient times, this kind of tea was transported on horseback to Mongolia, Tibet, and Siberia—which could take more than half a year. In recent years, Pu’er has become very popular for its health benefits and effectiveness in weight loss.




In traditional preparation, kimchi is buried underground in jars for months at a time.



Korean Mother FINDING MY

here are cooking secrets that can only be learned at your mother’s knee, among pots and pans and kitchen messes. But not everyone gets to learn those. As a child, whenever Lisa Gross showed interest in helping in the kitchen, her Korean grandmother, who lived with her family, would say: “Don’t worry about cooking. You should go and study, that’s more important.” Her own mother had been in the same situation. After college, Gross found herself yearning to cook Korean food—dishes that her grandmother used to make: for example, kimchi, japchae, and doenjang guk (a Korean version of miso soup). By that time, her grandmother had passed away, and so she turned to cookbook recipes. But nothing tasted quite the same as her grandmother’s dishes. “It was good, but it always seemed like something was missing, some ingredient or step or technique or trick, those are the kinds of things you have to learn from a person, that you can’t learn from a recipe,” she said.


She found herself thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Korean grandmother that I could learn from, learn her recipes, cook with her in her own kitchen. And then I started to have this fantasy, wouldn’t it be amazing if there were ‘grandmothers’ from all over the world who I could learn their family recipes from, and cook in their kitchens.” That was the beginning of The League of Kitchens, which now offers cooking workshops with immigrants in the intimate setting of their own homes. And that means going where the instructors are, from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, for Lebanese cooking to Bayside, Queens, for Korean cooking. It’s a culinary experience as well as a cultural one. At instructor Sunny Kim’s house, earthen jars of homemade soy sauce sit on the front porch, while in the backyard, crocks of kimchi are buried in the ground, amid the garden, where about 20 types of vegetables and various fruit trees like plum, apple, and cherry grow. For Koreans, the connection


Learning the secrets of Korean cooking



between food and health is paramount, said Gross. “My mom is always calling up, ‘Lisa, I read in a Korean newspaper that carrots are really good for you. Bruce Lee ate a lot of carrots, so I’m going to try to eat more carrots.’” At Kim’s house, I’m offered ginseng tea on arrival, along with a delicious, healthy snack made of grains of her own making. For japchae, a dish of sweet potato noodles with vegetables and eggs, restaurants ordinarily use four or five vegetables. Sunny’s version has about 10 vegetables, each cooked separately to maintain color and taste. “One thing I learned from all our instructors is that for so many of these cuisines, to really cook them properly and to their fullest expression, they are time-consuming and labor-intensive. So you know at a restaurant, they’re not going to cook all the different vegetables for japchae separately, they’re not going to put in 10 items that increase the cost. They’re going to do five and cook them in the same pan because most people can’t tell the difference, and it’s a lot quicker and cheaper for them,” said Gross. Traditionally, Kim said, the Korean diet is seasonal and consists of 80 percent vegetables. Whenever she prepares a meal there are no less than three types of vegetables on the table, varying in color, texture, and taste. Kim encouraged us students to try our hand at making vegetable pajeons. Hers are beautiful, with alternating strips of red and yellow bell peppers, green scallions, held together by a touch of egg. We each approached flipping the pancakes like novices who learn to flip crepes—not so much making them airborne as using a spatula and a hand to turn them over. I’m a complete wimp when it comes to handling hot foods with my bare hands, but got over it. This is where the group started bonding too,

Cooking instructor Sunny Kim.


After the cooking, the feasting begins.

The workshops are intimate, with no more than six students.


caught in the anxiety to see if each of our pancakes will hold together and survive the flip. There’s no substitute for hands-on learning—and being corrected along the way. For these five and a half hours, Kim has effectively become the Korean mother that neither of the five of us ever had, dispensing culinary and health advice, and telling tales of Korean foragers caught in the act in state parks. In the end, the feast is delicious. After five hours, we’ve eaten and drunk our way not only through ginseng tea; Korean sweets; dumplings; pajeons, served with vinegar and Kim’s homemade soy sauce (from a recipe she’s perfected over three years); and chapjae, but also watercress namul, chwi namul (mountain vegetables), her homemade white kimchi, and clementines. Maybe just as nourishing as the food is the newfound fellowship, between people who made and broke bread together.

Kim, who also juggles a full-time job as executive director of the Korean American Community Center of New York, was compelled to share her knowledge. “Sharing and serving my community is very important to me. Some Korean women don’t like to give their recipes to others. I believe that God blessed me and that if I don’t share what I have, my shoulders will have a burden,” she said. n


The League of Kitchens offers cooking workshops throughout New York City. They include a welcoming snack or lunch, hands-on cooking instruction, a final meal, and a booklet of recipes. Prices range from $100–$195. Workshops are currently offered in Afghan, Bengali, Korean, Greek, Indian, and Lebanese cooking, with plans for expansion. For more information, see:

League of Kitchens founder Lisa Gross.




By Nicky Kim

I have a love–hate relationship with kimchi (pronounced gimchi). When I was growing up, my family barely touched it, as my dad was never a big fan of vegetables. So I never got to see much of it and never liked eating it. That all changed when I moved to Singapore. Eating Chinese food somehow made me miss kimchi. Perhaps the taste and smell made me homesick. I started to regret not paying more attention on the occasions my mum made it for us. Eventually I learnt how to make it, but using the cabbage available in Singapore didn’t produce the same quality kimchi as in Korea. The Napa cabbages were soft and watery and missing the crunchiness. For those who never heard of or tasted Kimchi: It’s Korea’s national

About the Author Nicky Kim taught Korean cooking in Singapore for four years before relocating to Bangkok at the end of 2012. She teaches Korean cooking in private classes and at corporate events. She blogs at



Freshly made kimchi from Prime & Beyond in Manhattan.

made a small amount and used perhaps 10 cabbages in total. It was a little embarrassing when my teacher did a survey at school back in Korea and we were the family with the least amount of kimchi. As kimchi ferments over time, it becomes too sour and is not really edible as a side dish. However, it can still be used for cooking in many different ways. Kimchi fried rice, kimchi pancakes, kimchi soup, kimchi noodles, and so on. My favorite is barbecuing kimchi with meat—the combination elicits a unique flavor. I have been making kimchi with organic Napa cabbage in Bangkok and after many attempts it’s finally starting to taste just like what I used to eat in Korea. My latest experiment is green papaya kimchi (som tam kimchi) to utilize the abundance of this common vegetable in Thailand. n

In modern times, Korean homes have a special dedicated refrigerator for kimchi.


food. We will eat it at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Back in the old days, we used to place Kimchi in clay pots and bury them underground in winter to slow the fermentation process. Now in modern times, every Korean house has a dedicated kimchi refrigerator with special temperature control. My parents even have one in Sydney. There are at least nine different types of kimchi made from Napa cabbage. There are seven different types of kimchi made with radish and fourteen different types of kimchi made with a variety of other vegetables. Every Korean household makes an annual family event out of preparing kimchi just before the winter starts. Some families use up to 300 cabbages. My family only


When you taste the food of Malaysia it’s as if you have taken a journey through Asia.






A Gathering of Cultures hristina Arokiasamy grew up the daughter of two doctors in Malaysia. Her father was a naturopathic doctor, and her mother was known as “Doctor Masala,” a spice merchant who would hand prescriptions of spices along with her wares. Arokiasamy, a chef, an author, and also Malaysia’s food ambassador to the United States, recalled, “She never just dished out the spices. [She’d say] ‘You’ve got to have this because ginger is good for you, it’s got antioxidants, it’s going to help you with cholesterol.’ I think she read a lot of my father’s naturopathic books.” The rubs and spices, from a culinary standpoint, were literally transformative and essential in turning out dishes like chicken tikka masala, chicken tandoori, and countless others. The food memories that stick with Arokiasamy are visual as well as olfactory: the mounds of yellow

Christina Arokiasamy, Malaysia’s food ambassador to the U.S.




and red spices. She remembers the smells of drying spices permeating the air, especially the triad of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise, a combination often used together. Arokiasamy calls them “three big partners that always come to assist, revitalize, and ignite meat dishes.” She’s often asked: What is Malaysian food? Her answer is that Malaysia is all of Asia on a plate. There, cultures mingled throughout history. “It began many centuries, many hundreds of years ago during the 15th and 14th centuries, history tells us,” Arokiasamy said. “Before the Portuguese came and conquered this area, the Chinese ships, the Arab ships, the Indian ships, the Javanese ships, all came to converge. They bartered, and these people made Malaya at that time their home … So when you taste the food of Malaysia it’s as if you have taken a journey through


It’s fun. We love to cook and we love to eat especially. It’s vibrant that way. CHRISTINA AROKIASAMY Asia.” Each culture brought their respective contributions to kitchen and table: the Chinese their sauces, the Indians their spices, and the Malays their aromatics. “It’s the whole of Asia coming together sharing, making one dish. That’s high artistry,” she said. In a dish of Malaysian chili sesame prawns, for example, sesame oil and soy sauce are mixed with

curry leaves and aromatics like garlic. Like the dishes, the patchwork of gardens and single dwellings in Malaysia reflect the same kind of mingling. “It’s such a give and take among the neighbors,” Arokiasamy said. For example, “A Chinese family will never plant curry leaf. They will plant maybe lemongrass, they’ll never plant curry leaf because they know they can just come across your garden and pluck it. “With that knowledge, people grow enough to share,” she added. “We normally say, ‘Hello Auntie, can we have lemongrass?’ ‘Go ahead, help yourself,’ but we already have the basket ready in our hands,” she laughed. “We love sugar cane and we know only the Chinese have pandan and sugar cane in the garden, and you know what—so why bother planting it? Just go over and bring some back. “It’s fun. We love to cook and we love to eat especially. It’s vibrant that way.” n



RECIPE CHAR KWAY TEOW NOODLES INGREDIENTS 1 pound fresh rice noodles (kway teow) 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil 4 garlic cloves, minced 2 large shallots, sliced 1 fresh red jalapeno chili, sliced 8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup soy sauce 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce 1/2 teaspoon pure chili powder 2 large eggs, beaten 1 cup bean sprouts 1/2 cup chives, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

DIRECTIONS Gently separate the rice noodle into individual strands as they are quite sticky. Set aside. Heat a wok or a large deep skillet over medium heat for 40 seconds. Add the oil around the perimeter of the wok so that it coats the sides and bottom. When the surface shimmers slightly, add the garlic, shallots, and chilies and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the noodles, soy sauce, sweet soy

sauce, and chili powder. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the beaten eggs and cook, stirring until the eggs are fully cooked, about 2 minutes. The noodles will no longer appear wet from the eggs when cooked. Add the bean sprouts and chives and cook, stirring for 3 minutes until the vegetables are slightly wilted. Taste and adjust the flavors with soy sauce for desired saltiness. Remove from the heat. Serve immediately.





1 cup coconut grated coconut or desiccated coconut flakes


1/4 cup coconut milk


Salt to taste

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil


1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

6 whole shallots, peeled and quartered

2 star anise

4 fresh red chilies, chopped

2–3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2 inch-cubes across the grain

4 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer layer peeled and chopped from the base or 5 tablespoons frozen

1/4 cup tamarind water 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 1 tablespoon chili or cayenne powder

3-inch piece galangal (lengkuas), chopped

1 teaspoon cumin powder

2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

DIRECTIONS First prepare the spice paste by placing shallots, chilies, lemongrass, galangal, ginger and garlic in the food processor together with Âź cup of water and blend the spices to a smooth paste. If you need to add more water to facilitate the blending of the paste, do this in small increments while the motor is running. Process to a fine paste and set aside. Place a large Dutch oven pot or large pot over medium heat. Add the oil, and when the oil is hot add cinnamon and star anise and stand back and fry for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the meat, spice paste and mix well to coat in the

fragrant oil. Add the tamarind water, turmeric powder, chili or cayenne powder, cumin powder and sugar, mix well to incorporate the ingredients. Cover and cook on medium low heat until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally about 1 hour 30 minutes. While the meat is cooking, prepare the kerisik or grated coconut by heating a wok or frying pan over medium high heat. Add the dried grated coconut and dry fry stirring constantly until the coconut is brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside in a bowl. Uncover the pot, add the grated fried co-

conut, coconut milk and salt and allow to simmer uncovered on low for 30 minutes until the liquids have evaporated. Taste, add more salt if needed. Remove serve hot or warm on a serving plate with steamed rice.


For quick and easy preparation you may use store-bought desiccated coconut flakes. Place the coconut flakes in the blender and process to a paste. Traditionally kerisik is obtained by pounding the roasted coconut flakes in a mortar and pestle until smooth to release the oil from the coconut.


Recipes courtesy of Malaysia Kitchen USA.


RECIPE GRILLED SKEWERED CHICKEN SATAY INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 inch fresh galangal, chopped 2 stalks of fresh lemongrass, thinly sliced 6 shallots, peeled and sliced 4 fresh red bird’s-eye chilies 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

3–4 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 pound boneless/skinless chicken thigh or breast meat, sliced into strips Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes 2 tablespoons oil mixed with 2 tablespoon water for basting


DIRECTIONS Combine galangal, lemongrass, shallots, chilies turmeric, coriander, sugar and salt in a food processor and blend until fine. Add a little water to facilitate the blending to a smooth paste. Combine the blended paste with chicken, Mix well to combine and marinate for 12 hours or preferably overnight in the refrigerator. Thread pieces of meat onto each bamboo skewer ensuing the tip of the skewer is not exposed. For convenience, satay can be made up to

this stage several hours ahead of cooking time—well covered with a foil wrap and refrigerated. Just before serving, grill satay over charcoal fire, basting lightly with oil and water mixture to keep them moist. Turn frequently to prevent the meat from burning. Meat should be slightly charred on the outside and cooked inside. Serve hot with peanut sauce, cubed cucumbers, sliced red onion and compressed rice cakes (Nona Ketupat).

Recipe courtesy of Malaysia Kitchen USA.






1/4 cup Lingham’s chili sauce

and shelled

1/4 cup tomato ketchup

1/2 cup low-sodium quality chicken broth

1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon sesame oil 5 tablespoons peanut or canola oil 4 fresh garlic cloves, minced 3–8 red chili, finely chopped 1 pound tiger prawns, cleaned

1 tablespoon cornstarch or rice starch mixed with 3 tablespoons water 1 egg, lightly beaten 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Make the sauce by combining chili sauce, tomato sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and keep aside. Place wok over medium heat for 30 seconds, pour hot oil around the perimeter of the wok. Add garlic and chilies and stir-fry until the garlic is golden in color. Add in the chili sauce mixture into the wok and mix well. Allow the sauce to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.

Put in tiger prawns into the wok, and stir-fry on high heat, pressing the prawns against the hot wok. Pour in the chicken broth, mix well and cook for 2 minutes over high heat. Add the cornstarch mixture and lightly beaten egg. Stir-fry for another 1 minute until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.



A colorful array of dishes at chef Soulayphet Schwader’s Khe-Yo in Tribeca. Schwader nicknames the traditional Laotian fermented fish paste padek the “funk.”



he Swedes have their surstromming— fermented herring. The English created Worcestershire sauce—with fermented anchovies going into Lea & Perrins’s formula as far back as 1835. And as old as antiquity itself, the Romans enjoyed garum, a fermented fish sauce made from fish macerated in salt and cured in the sun. “Every culture has this sort of fermented fish sauce,” said Soulayphet Schwader, executive chef of Khe-Yo in Tribeca. For Laotians, it’s padek, which Schwader laces into his papaya salad and other dishes, giving them a distinctive roundedness and depth. Padek is not fermented fish alone, but rather a funky, salty, pungent sauce, enriched with aromatics and thickened with toasted rice, which is redolent of kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. The “funk,” as he calls it, is a powerful thing. “The first time I made this, everyone cleared out of the kitchen.” When we arrive at Khe-Yo, he tells us, “It really permeates your clothes. Once the heat starts going, it gets potent.” With so much buildup, I start to get nervous about the unearthly stench that will be clinging to me as I ride the subway and get back to the newsroom. I imagine my colleagues complaining, unable to focus on work, their olfactory faculties offended. When I was young, my parents told me an infamous story of how someone on the Paris subway broke and spilled a bottle of fish sauce. The French, you would think, would have had their noses conditioned by aging bleu cheeses and Camemberts, but apparently they couldn’t



Sticky rice is traditionally eaten in Laos.

PADEK A fermented fish paste from Laos, padek is used in dishes like smashed long beans salad at Khe-Yo in Tribeca.

Berkshire spare ribs and smashed long beans salad at Khe-Yo.



MAKING THE FUNK 1. AROMATICS Schwader uses aromatics such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chilies, and onions.


take it either. Most of the passengers had no idea what the culprit was, but my parents, who are Cambodian, knew, and felt the embarrassment of the whole of southeast Asia, on behalf of that one unlucky shopper. But back to the kitchen at Khe-Yo. The bottles of fish sauce are tightly wrapped in plastic and it’s my job to open them up. Schwader insists on using the 3 Crabs brand, which he finds cleaner than others. He can’t find it in New York City and for a while had his brother ship him bottles from Kansas, where he lives, before he located an online source. It is incredibly stinky; the kind of stuff was maybe made to repel armies. Visitors drop by to chat, but stand to the side. Occasionally from the corner of my eye, I catch a sleeve going up to shield a nose. Schwader brings the whole mixture—fish sauce, lemongrass, chilies, onions, and kaffir lime leaves—to a boil and when I take a whiff a little later, it is less pungent than the fish sauce on its own. It is intense, but notes

of the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves come through, mellowing the padek, and giving it complexity. The cook next to us, who has been standing near the boiling pot all this time, says: “I’m not going to lie. It started to touch me a little bit.” When the padek cools down, Schwader pours it into containers, each containing a whole sardine for yet more depth. He doesn’t end up eating those sardines, but aficionados would readily use them smashed in papaya salad or long beans salad, or even dip sticky rice into a sauce made with that longaged fish. Every family has its own version, some funkier and some milder. His is about medium in funkiness. In Laos, padek is fermented outside. “They’ll put it in the pot, cure the fish, and the juices start running out. Here no one does that. The next best thing is buying the bottle and creating your own version of it.” In Kansas, where he spent much of his youth, Laotian households would have plastic jars “wrapped 10 times in plastic bags,” he said, with padek fermenting for about

two or three weeks, “and then they just keep adding to it.”


At Khe-Yo, padek adds that complex, nuanced je ne sais quoi to the papaya salad, the smashed long beans salad that goes with the lemongrass ribs, and the smashed cucumber salad that accompanies a crispy poussin. But it is, of course, just one of the many flavors Schwader uses as he plays with the balance of herbs, aromatics, and other ingredients. Recently he spent 18 days with his mother in southeast Asia. When they got to Laos, they found the food was best at little stalls “like mom-andpop joints, daughter–mother just cooking a big pot of soup.” Elsewhere flavors were watered down, or unbalanced, or there would be one note just coming through, as in the case of duck larb for example. Finally, his mother, herself a seasoned cook who makes huge batches of padek for her local temple, told him: “You know what, Phet? I’m spoiled now. I like your flavors better at the restaurant.” n

Schwader pours some mighty potent-smelling fish sauce.


Schwader said the first time he made this sauce, everyone cleared out of the kitchen.

3. SIMMER The mixture of aromatics and fish sauce then needs to simmer.

4. COOL The padek then needs to be cooled.

5. STRAIN The aromatics need to be removed.

6. SCOOP Putting the padek into jars.

7. FINAL TOUCH One salted sardine is added to each jar, imparting more depth. PHOTOS BY EDWARD DAI/EPOCH TIMES


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Asian Restaurant Month MAY 16– JUNE 30






Chef Toshio Suzuki on the Art and Science of Sushi Silver-haired chef Toshio Suzuki, 67, is part of an elite group of sushi masters. He knows intimately the art and science of preparing fish at its purest, from traditions passed down over the last 300 years. A master sushi chef is a scientist, artist, psychologist, host, and performer all in one. If you have the good fortune to be sitting at the sushi counter, you’ll be in Suzuki’s care for as long as you are there. He’ll wield the tools of his trade (knives descended from samurai swords, and at times a torch), and tend to your appetite, health, and overall well-being. Suzuki is only one of a handful of master sushi chefs in the city who prepares sushi in the traditional Edo-period style. You’re not going to find spicy mayo or the fusion du jour here. Suzuki’s sushi is the real deal: fish expertly prepared so its pure flavor comes through clean, underlined by a smooth, meltin-your mouth texture. The slight sweetness of the striped bass, the smokiness of the mackerel—these fish are enhanced ever so minimally, with specially customized vinegars, a brush of soy sauce and wasabi, and paired with sushi rice. The point is to enhance and preserve the umami flavor. “The act of umami can only be accom-


108 W. 44th St. 212-302-0707

HOURS Lunch: Monday–Friday: noon–2:45 p.m. Dinner: Monday–Friday: 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. Saturday: 5 p.m.–10 p.m.

plished by minimal human additives releasing the natural flavors within each individual ingredient and harmonizing perfectly when it touches your tongue,” Suzuki wrote on his website. “We are in an age where the more we see generalization and exaggeration, the more we give birth to connoisseurs who seek the originals … and we believe that is our purpose; to satisfy the connoisseurs.” Sitting down with Suzuki at his restaurant Sushi Zen, just west of Bryant Park, is an instructive, serene affair. Suzuki has been around long enough to see the evolution of attitudes toward sushi in New York City.

Toshio Suzuki, owner and chef of Sushi Zen.

When his restaurant first opened in 1983, diners didn’t know what to make of sushi, much less how to eat it. To adapt to local tastes and thus stay in business, Sushi Zen served Americanized rolls. It wasn’t until 2000, and at a new location, that Suzuki reverted to his traditionalist roots. His style goes back to the modern Edo period in 18th-century Japan, when sushi as we know now came into being. His expertise is such that chefs from the city’s best restaurants have sought out his knowledge through his seminars, including Daniel Boulud, Michael Anthony, Michael Romano, Ben Pollinger, and Seamus Mullen, among others.


Traditionally, at sushi restaurants, when you want the full sushi dining experience, you put yourself in the hands of the sushi chef, down to the ordering. Sushi at the counter is first-class dining. Suzuki takes care of you wholly. He is responsible for your care, feeding, health, and all-around happiness. He reads your mood, asks you how you’re feeling. If a diner is feeling run down, for example, Suzuki will prepare his fish with properties that will



be energy-giving. (The color red, he says, is good in this case: tuna, for example). For that, he draws from his extensive Japanese culinary knowledge, and theories based on Buddhism. Suzuki was going to become a monk before he entered the sushi world. Conversations with him can range from small talk to the culinary techniques in front of you, to life’s profound questions. It depends on your mood. The C-shaped sushi counter is like a stage. All the more so because the refrigerated glass cases that normally display the fish aren’t there. They’re built right into the counter, facing the chef, so there’s really nothing between you and the chef; you can watch his every move. And he is a performer on stage; it’s not an easy job. Placed in the spotlight, even seasoned chefs can experience stage fright, because most of them work in the kitchen, away from the public eye. It’s all the more amazing to watch Suzuki and his sushi chefs, and their deft, authoritative handling of the fish.

The beautifully presented omakase.


Across the counter, Suzuki hands me a small knob. It’s an $80 knob. It’s fresh wasabi, and it’s grated fresh against a sharkskin grater. That’s one sign of a serious sushi restaurant. This wasabi is worlds away from the wasabi powder that’s made into a paste. The taste is bold and sharp but absolutely none of that stinging, burning feeling in the nose. The sushi chefs actually apply a thin sprinkling of wasabi right under the sashimi, in between the sashimi and the rice, and for most fish, will brush the perfect amount of soy sauce on the sashimi for you, ahead of

time. (That doesn’t go for octopus, or roe; the latter is marinated in soy sauce.) It’s the norm to eat sushi with your hands. Chopsticks are too imprecise of an instrument, even for Japanese. You pick up the sushi and if you want to add some soy sauce, you just dab the fish side lightly in a little bit of the soy sauce. Whatever you do, make sure the rice doesn’t get in the soy sauce. It will soak it right up and overpower the taste of the fish. (And probably, your sushi chef will inwardly cringe.) Suzuki also formulates his own rice vinegar. He found that the standard kind didn’t go with all the different types of fish, so he created his own. There’s a short window of time to eat sushi, ideally: less than a minute. Right when the chef prepares your sushi at the counter for you is the perfect time: the rice is still warm, and the fish isn’t yet drooping on the sushi rice. When you opt for omakase, he’ll make sure to wait till you’ve finished a piece before preparing your next one.

Bamboo lattices arch over the dining room. SAMIRA BOUAOU/EPOCH TIMES


In Japan, seasons change exactly every three months, said Suzuki, much like clockwork. The diversity of climates, seasons, and landscapes also give rise to a diversity of natural ingredients and an appreciation of the seasons and their bounty. During the seasonal cycle, minerals are washed down from the mountains into the bay, making for an especially rich feeding environment for fish. “Our area has so many different kinds of shellfish and fish,” said Suzuki. At Sushi Zen, the decor reflects the presence of natural materials. Bamboo lattices arch over the high-ceilinged dining area. As you enter, you can’t miss the centerpiece: a huge clay plate made by artist Jeff Shapiro, who was commissioned to make several of the other decorative plates there. They have a rawness to them, exuding a primal power associated with nature. One of the meanings of Zen is simply “a plate.” But it also means “well-composed meal.” On his website, Suzuki explains how the left half of the character represents the human body, and the right means “good,” meaning overall good for the body.





Japanese Chocolate at Its Finest Royce’ is the Rolex of Japanese chocolate. The company’s international success can be attributed to its high quality and attention to detail, a trait of Japanese culture that certainly finds credence in brands like Royce’. The chocolate is made on the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido, where the region’s pure air and lush meadows produce Japan’s most sought-after dairy— an ingredient Royce’ gets fresh from its source. High-grade cacao is the other essential ingredient that makes Royce’ chocolate so exquisite. Creamy, with the right amount of sweetness and a long-lasting flavor, this is a chocolate brand for both the connoisseur and chocolate lovers. Founded by Yasuhiro Yamazaki in 1983 in Sapporo, Japan, Royce’ has become an international sensation, with locations in Australia, Russia, Dubai, all over Asia, and now the United States. In the last two years, Royce’ has expanded from one storefront in New York City to three—a testament to the quality and creativity the company brings to its craft. Walk into a Royce’ store and you’ll be faced with a range of mouthwatering options—from chocolate-coated almonds, to wafers, to glazed potato chips, and truffle-like chocolate bars. Most famous is the Nama chocolate—a chocolate that is so smooth and rich it feels more like soft caramel than chocolate. Nama means “fresh” or “raw” in Japanese, a name you will understand when it hits your taste buds. The most popular Nama flavor at the New

Nama chocolate with champagne.

Clockwise from top left: Maccha wafers. Almond maccha chocolate. Petite truffle praline.



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York store is the green tea. It has a taste so pure you can discern the full-bodied flavor of the maccha (aka “matcha”) in every bite. Second to the green tea Nama is the chocolate covered potato chip, which combines the crunchiness of the chip with the sweetness and density of the chocolate. The green tea wafers take a page from the book of both creations, combining the light and crunchy wafer with a decadent coating of green tea chocolate that is sure to delight tea enthusiasts and chocolate lovers alike.

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A "Box of Dreams" includes nine miniature bowls in a lacquer box containing sushi rice and raw or cooked delicacies.


Classic Style, Fresh Fare Hatsuhana can be compared to a painter like Rembrandt, who stayed true to the classical style. While the sushi haven has expanded its menu over the years, its unswerving dedication to traditional Japanese cuisine has earned it the respect of sushi lovers near and far. “It is simple and it's difficult. It depends on the methods that you use,” said owner Keito Sato. Sushi made correctly is what Sato calls a "200 percent cuisine"—100 percent rice and 100 percent fish. If either is not prepared well, a sushi connoisseur will know. Sato carries on from his father, a young

sushi chef who emigrated from Japan in 1976, and began the quest for perfect sushi rice. The fish is scrupulously sourced, harvested sustainably, and not treated with any chemicals. The name Hatsuhana means the very first flower that opens in spring—and it reflects the freshness and simple beauty of the restaurant's interior as well as its light food. But what really makes Hatsuhana so refreshing is its service. "Customers don't just want to fill their stomachs with food, they want an experience," Sato said.

HATSUHANA 17 E. 48th St.

(between Madison & Fifth avenues) New York 212-355-3345

HOURS Lunch Monday–Friday: noon–2:45 p.m. Dinner Monday–Friday: 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. Saturday: 5 p.m.–10 p.m.





Citrus and Spice and Everything Nice You can sing all the praises you want about V{iV}, a Thai gem in Hell’s Kitchen, because it is just that. You can savor the authenticity of its northern Thai dishes and its colorful, inviting presentation. You can immerse yourself in the sleek venue: the dimly lit dining room, dark wood floors, mirrors, and the blue light accents. But when it’s all said and done, V{iV}’s difference boils down to just one thing. Heart. “If you make it from your heart, the food is always good,” said chef and partner Thongphoon Pandher. Thongphoon’s great pride and joy is to pour her heart into her cooking, which she learned from her mother in northern Thailand. Lovers of Thai food should rejoice. With northern Thai food taking its place as an it-thing in the pantheon of hot regional cuisines, V{iV} brings flair in serving the aromatic and herbal flavors the region is

becoming known for.


Besides the more standard dishes like pad Thai, V{iV} has a selection of northern Thai dishes that no other Thai restaurant on Hell’s Kitchen Ninth Avenue (with its plethora of Thai restaurants) offers, according to Verasak Sangsiri, one of the partners behind the restaurant. On the food side, Thongphoon (Thais are known formally by their given names) hails from the city of Chiang Mai. Her demeanor is graceful and she looks a youthful early 40s. I’m shocked to hear she’s in her late 50s. She has nary a wrinkle on her face. It’s a testament to her good genes, but it could be her cooking has something to do with it. Northern Thai cuisine does not use frying; instead it favors steaming, braising, and grilling. The regional cooking of the north, which developed in an ever-so-slightly

Kanom Jeen Num Ngeaw, a spicy curry noodle dish in a clear light broth, with cubes of pig blood.


(between 48th and 49th streets) 212-581-5999

HOURS Sunday–Thursday noon–11 p.m. Friday & Saturday noon–midnight

MURRAY HILL LOCATION 138 E. 34th St. 212-213-3317

HOURS Sunday–Thursday: noon–10 p.m. Friday & Saturday: noon–11 p.m. cooler climate, favors an abundance of herbs, and also spices, influenced by its neighbor Burma, and also China. Coconut milk is also rarely used (there



Unlike restaurants where some flavors in different dishes are reminiscent of each other, either faintly or obviously so, the northern Thai dishes I tried at V{iV} were radically different from each other. Among the appetizers, the Chiang Mai Sausage ($9), made of pork, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, cilantro, and garlic, is a find, all the more because it is homemade here where it is often store-bought elsewhere. It’s worth the trip alone. Served on a small bed of rice noodles, along with fresh ginger, its peanut flavor ends on a spicy note. The kaffir lime adds a wonderful dimension. Anyone who has smelled kaffir lime leaves knows there is no close substitute for it. The regular lime is but a pale shadow. Kaffir lime leaves, upon the slightest crush of the leaf, yield a heady citrusy fragrance that’s also redolent of the scent of its flow-


are no coconut trees in northern Thailand), except for dishes with influence from the south of Thailand. Palm sugar, rather than refined white sugar, is used to sweeten dishes. Thongphoon recalls making sausage by hand when she was growing up, a process often mechanized these days. It was quite a chore to clean out the intestine to use as sausage casings, and use pineapple leaves to stuff them by hand. But, she said, the taste was incomparable. Verasak, who trained in pastry at the Culinary Institute of America, and who often runs the front of the house, proves to be a humorous, even mischievous, foil to Thongphoon’s serenity. He points out how other kitchens are often hectic. But not here—there’s no chef screaming in the kitchen.

Chef and partner Thongphoon Pandher.

er. In other words, it really takes you someor curry noodles. This particular rendition where else. My so-self-professed “flexitarhas a broth that is a light orange creamy ian” dinner companion and photographer tint, and wonderfully complex. It’s a good of these dishes conveniently shelved study in contrasts, from the super tenher vegetarian leanings to partake der chicken thighs and shrimp, TASTE ASIA of the slices of sausage. to egg noodles to the crunchy SPECIAL The Mieng Pla ($15), accordfried noodles that absorb the 15% off during Asian ing to Verasak, “is a little bit broth. The pickled, pungent Restaurant Month of work, but it’s so good.” mustard greens add yet anAnd so it is. You get a platother layer of flavor ($12.95). Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this ter with grilled tilapia fillet with This was my dinner companspecial offer lettuce in which to wrap a piece ion’s favorite dish. of it, along with some rice noodles, Pla Abb ($20) comes with its own herbs (basil, sawtooth herbs), cucumber, ingenious cookware and plates all in one, and the highlight for me, a highly addica banana leaf. The spicy filling consists of tive sauce, Num Pieng Pla, made with fish fish—in this case, tilapia—mixed with chili sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, garlic, chili, paste and lemongrass, and other spices. cilantro, and peanuts. The package is grilled, so the contents As we sampled our way around dishes inside are steamed. that night, we would often make use of At places like V{iV}, you feel like you’ve that sauce, even if it didn’t necessarily go splurged on a whole range of flavors, your with it on the menu. That’s the Thai way. palate and nose satisfied by explorations Hung Lay ($18), a dish influenced by Burinto notes of herbal and citrus and spicy ma, stands out for its tender pork belly and and sweet and pungent, and after eating, dark sweet broth. Dark soy sauce, ginger, you can feel light enough to still have the curry powder, palm sugar, turmeric, and night ahead of you. tamarind all make for a sweet, aromatic, V{iV}, whose name represents the Roand slightly sour broth. Verasak said the man numerals for five and four, adding Thai version is sweeter than the Burmese up to the nine in Ninth Avenue, is quieter one. It is very rich (and fatty), so it’s another during the week, but pulses with energy on reason to go family style. Friday and Saturday evenings, when a live The one northern Thai dish on the menu DJ comes in. There is a second location that does have coconut milk is Khao Soi, in Murray Hill.

The dark, sleek interior at V{iV}. SAMIRA BOUAOU/EPOCH TIMES




Cornish hen (above). The interior includes a pool of floating candles. (below).


60 Thompson St.


Innovation and Elegance Kittichai, on the ground floor of Soho's Thompson Hotel, is named after world famous Thai chef Chalerm “Ian” Kittichai. Kittichai was busy hosting a cooking show in Thailand in 2004 when he agreed to uproot and relocate to New York to help open his namesake restaurant. Renowned for his innovative dishes and elegant presentation, the restaurant matches his legacy for cutting-edge Thai food that is as adventurous as it is tasty. One of the Best New American Restaurants, according to Travel and Leisure, Kittichai was called the “Best Thai cooking I've ever had,” in a review by the New York Observer.

New York 212-219-2000

HOURS Dinner Sunday–Wednesday: 6 p.m.–10 p.m. Thursday–Saturday: 6 p.m.–11 p.m. Brunch Saturday and Sunday: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Breakfast Daily: 7 a.m.–11 a.m. Chef Kittichai refused to put pad Thai on perience special. the menu, adamant that Thai food is so The atmosphere in the restaurant is no much more than the staple most people less exotic than the food, with beautiful revert to when thinking of Thai. Thai art on the walls, intricate woodwork, Kittichai wanted to bring his customers and hanging silk skeins that give it the colsomething memorable, something novel or and richness that is so distinctly Thai. while still retaining its distinctly Thai flavors. The tables are composed around a pool of The restaurant serves high-end Thai food floating candles and hanging orchids that and, 10 years later remains itself a give the restaurant a feeling of being popular destination. on the coast. TASTE ASIA Communal eating may be “If people can forget about SPECIAL a bit of a surprise for some their day and put it behind 3-course prix fixe who are used to individual them, then we are sucdinner - $35 servings, but the intimacy cessful,” said Robert D’ArMention Asian Restaurant and authenticity it brings to cangelo, Kittichai’s general Month to redeem this special offer the meal is what makes the exmanager.



Crispy Thai noodles.

Songkran restaurant, named after the Thai New Year, recreates the excitement and good food that is shared during New Year’s in Thailand. Brightly decorated with ample light and folk music playing softly, this little Thai restaurant is as hip as its chic, younger clientele (the Fashion Institute is down the block). As Kit Chayapunta, the general manager explains, Thai food is not just about the flavor, it is about the whole aesthetic of food. “Thai food is more like the five senses altogether. You have to smell, you have to taste, and actually the presentation has to go along with it,” she said. Each dish has a complexity of color and

flavor that touches on the extremes of SONGKRAN spicy, salty, sour, and sweet. Different 330 Eighth Ave., dishes bring out different combinations of (btw. 26th & 27th streets) these flavors but unlike what most people New York think, spicy is far from the only flavor that 212-239-8792 Thai cooking uses. Yes, the kitchen can make your meal “Thai spicy” but it can also tone it down for the people who are HOURS totally averse to spice. Monday–Friday: 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. The style of food at Songkran echoes Saturday & Sunday: noon–11 p.m. what you would find in Thailand today, and while most of the dishes TASTE ASIA come from the central region, SPECIAL the restaurant has introduced ple relate to the culture more A prix fixe dinner set lesser-known dishes from the through food so we try to for 2 people at $29 north. bring out the culture through Each week they try to bring our dishes.” Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this in new dishes—not only to The warm and solicitous special offer keep the menu fresh, but to service at Songkran is anheighten awareness of what Thai other element of Thai culture culture is. that shines through at this restaurant. “The restaurant is just the first stage “We try to make the customers feel at of our business,” Chayapunta said. “The home, like this is their friends’ house,” main aim is to expand the culture. Peosaid Chayapunta.

Fish green curry.

Spring rolls.


Enticing All the Senses



Awahdi Murgh. Baked chicken breast, mushrooms, spinach, cheese, nutmeg, garam masala, and yogurt sauce.



Quality Cuisine in a Palatial Setting Tamarind Tribeca combines a truly glamhealth, variety, and creativity. orous atmosphere with Tamarind’s sig“My motto is always ‘home cooking,’” nature dedication to fine Indian cuisine. said Walia, a native of Chandigarh in With chefs from all over India, you will Punjab, a province in northern Infind regional dishes from the four dia. With no allegiance to any TASTE ASIA corners of India’s vast culinary regional cuisine in particular, SPECIAL landscape plus pioneered he makes sure someone from 3-course prix fixe dishes that are found only any region of India can find lunch - $25 at Tamarind. a native dish on his menu. Mention Asian Restaurant “Indian restaurants were His food is highly regarded Month to redeem this special offer not very well known for seaamong Indians and New Yorkfood,” said owner Avtar Walia. ers alike. Walia owns three Tam“We brought seafood to such a level arind restaurants in New York City. that Americans and overseas people who The Tribeca location is set in a spalove seafood come here.” cious, windowed 11,000-square-foot exWalia ensures the food from his kitchpanse with multiple levels of seating.The ens is the freshest, with an emphasis on feeling of so much room and light gives the illusion you are anywhere but crowded Manhattan. The restaurant’s private dining room and many alcoves gives it a feeling of intimacy while fitting up to 175 people with ease. The teak walls and fresh flowers give it a tropical feel, while the silk chairs and silver-plated silverware and dishes makes you feel like you could be sitting in a palace. “Do whatever you want but I want

TAMARIND TRIBECA 99 Hudson St. New York 212-775-9000

HOURS Lunch: Daily: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner: Sunday–Thursday: 5:30 p.m.–11:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 5:30 p.m.–12 a.m.

the most beautiful place on the face of the earth,” Walia told his architect, Wid Chapman. “Now, the first thing people say when they walk in here is, ‘Wow, we are in a palace.’” A section of the kitchen has been fitted with a large glass window so guests can watch the creative process of the chefs who make Tamarind Tribeca’s award-winning dishes. In keeping with the restaurant’s impressive design is its exhaustive list of wines, with bottles ranging from $40 to $5,000. Housed in an air-conditioned glass case in the wall of the restaurant, the wine cellar looks more like a display of antique art than a storage container for bottles. Celebrities, politicians, and people from all over the world have been drawn to Tamarind Tribeca because of its dedication to excellent service, good food, and beautiful atmosphere.




A Tasty Take on Traditional Indian In Indian culture, the masalawala, or spice merchants, are the purveyors of flavor. Their brightly colored stalls are found in markets all over India. The MasalaWala on the Lower East Side mimics that wild Indian spice market feel, with wooden shelves wrapping around the interior, street art on the naked brick walls, and dangling ceiling lights that reflect the vibrancy and chaos of India's all-night street markets. The food is traditional Indian with a twist. Menu items like Street-Side Bites, Kati Rolls, Masala Chai, and all kinds of chaats encourage guests to get out of their comfort zone and try something definitely Indian but certainly new.

specializing in Lower East Side restaurants. The MasalaWala is a good place for any179 Essex St thing from a casual dinner to a family outNew York ing, friendly business meeting, or a date. 212-358-9300 Complimentary Wi-Fi further invites guests to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere while being productive. (Tip to workers: the chai HOURS here has been awarded the Best Chai in Lunch: the City by Tasting Table, and it comes in Daily: noon–midnight two flavors.) The owner, Roni Mazumdar, has TASTE ASIA a tech background that influencSPECIAL You'll also find signature Ines how the place runs—iPads 4 course prix fixe dian curries for the days that are used for everything from lunch - $24 call for classic comfort—but kitchen management to ringthe emphasis at The Masalaing up the bill. Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this Wala is on creativity rather than In addition to making an effort special offer standard Indian fare. to use green business practices, The motto here is “taste above the restaurant donates to a numall.” They make it a point to use fresh, ber of charities that promote social welhealthy, authentic ingredients—what they fare. From helping children in developing call “The MasalaWala difference.” countries to battered women in the United “It's some of the healthiest tasting Indian States, The MasalaWala’s philosophy is: food I've had. And the menu is full of vegeone world, one mission, making a differtarian options,” wrote KikaEats, a food blog ence one business at a time.


Dahi puri.


A Kolkata Gobi Manchurian dish.





Inventive and Exotic Pippali is named after the Indian long pepper that has a distinctive and unusual flavor—spicy hot, tangy, and sweet at the same time. These characteristics describe both the black peppercorn from Southern India and the latest project for chef Peter Beck and restaurateur Pradeep Shinde. The co-owners of the Curry Hill restaurant put an inventive spin on the regional cuisines of India, making the exotic TASTE ASIA approachable in both presentaSPECIAL tion and price. Free non-alcoholic beverage during lunch, A former chef at Benares and 15% off dinner Tamarind, Beck was named Mention Asian Restaurant one of the Top Chefs of 2002 Month to redeem this special offer by the James Beard Foundation. The wide-ranging menu features

Adraki chaampen.

authentic Indian cuisine that would typically be served in India only in high-end restaurants and expensive hotels. Pippali opened in September 2013 after the interior of the former Chennai Garden space was revamped, creating a warm and inviting dining room, with earthy tones and a bar area punctuated with comfortable, bright orange seats. Both groups and couples are well accommodated here but make sure to reserve a table.



129 E. 27th St. (btw. Park & Lexington) 212-689-1999

HOURS Sunday–Thursday: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5 p.m.–11 p.m..


100 Second Ave. (near East 6th St.) New York


A North Indian Go-To Good news for Banjara fans—the Indian restaurant previously at 97 First Ave.—it has returned as Haveli, with the same great menu and just an avenue over. Haveli, a word derived from Arabic TASTE ASIA meaning “residential mansion,” SPECIAL opened in 2013. The descrip3 courses + 1 drink tion aptly fits the location, which dinner only - $23.95 boasts two levels of seating and Mention Asian Restaurant can hold about 50 percent more Month to redeem this special offer diners than the Banjara location.


HOURS Monday–Thursday: 3 p.m.–12 a.m. Friday–Sunday: 12 p.m.–12 a.m. Awadhi rogan josh.

This East Village restaurant has become known for its family-friendly atmosphere, tasty food, and excellent service. Its most popular dishes are the Tikka Masala and the dumpakht with chicken, lamb, or vegetables, but regulars will tell you it’s hard to go wrong whatever you order. The menu has a wide selection of dishes, mostly from northern India, with an emphasis on freshness, flexibility, and a creative use of spices.

The vibe of the restaurant is comfortable yet romantic, with fresh flowers, rose-hued lights, and traditional Indian textiles on the walls. Soft Indian music plays in the background, uninterrupted by the movements of the waiters who are respectfully quiet as they move about. Zagat has given Haveli-Banjara an award of excellence five times over the last 15 years for its consistently good food, service, and atmosphere.






An Indian Festival in Times Square

Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this special offer


The word “utsav” has origins in Sanskrit and means ”festival” in Hindi. A land of many religions and cultures, India has an abundance of festivals—each producing an explosion of color, sound, and smell through its rituals and feasting. At Utsav you will get a contemporary dining experience that does not compromise the traditional flavors of authentic Indian cuisine. The menu is a blend of sophisticated flavors from the Konkan coastline to the temperate flavors of Kashmir, delicately spiced seafood of Bengal, to the richly flavored curries of Punjab. The cuisine reflects the influence of the Mughal Empire, the British Raj, and beyond—all influences in Indian cuisine today.

3-course prix fixe dinner - $35

Nalli ka salan.

Utsav occupies two stories in the heart of Times Square. On the lower level is a cozy bar with outdoor dining available in summer. The upstairs main dining room is elegant and spacious, overlooking an open air plaza through floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The flooring is a warm cherry wood and the ceiling is adorned with silk drapes. The main dining room can accommodate up to 200 guests.


1185 Avenue of the Americas (enter on 46th St.) New York 212-575-2525

HOURS Lunch: Daily: noon–3 p.m. Dinner: Friday & Saturday: 5:30–11 pm



An Indian Comfort Food Destination Saffron Garden on the Upper East Side offers a wide variety of Indian comfort food in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. The menu features regional dishes such as northern India's classic Rogan Josh to the southern favorite Goan salmon curry. A wide range of vegetarian options (all $11.99) are offered, as well as lamb, beef, chicken, and seafood entrees ($14.99). Ask about the Tandoori or clay oven grill main

the popular and relatively expensive spice that is made from the stigma of the purple flower called crocus sativus in Latin. Thought to originate in Persia, saffron has long been used as a dye for TASTE ASIA clothes, an ingredient in medicSPECIAL inal remedies, and of course a Free appetizer with lunch & dinner spice for foods. Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this special offer

Tandoori chicken. Chicken marinated in yogurt and flavored with fresh ground spices.

course ($11.99–$24.99) and the fresh Indian breads baked in the tandoor oven. Saffron iced tea and mango lassi complete the Indian experience, and if you still have room for dessert you can choose between rice pudding, Rasmalai (sweetened milk balls in cream), Gulab Jamun (fried cheese ball in honey syrup), and the coconut samosa drizzled with saffron sauce. The name Saffron Garden comes from

SAFFRON GARDEN Saffron Garden 304 E. 78th St. 212-737-9520

HOURS Daily: 1 pm–midnight




A New Era of Chinese Forget the dragon and the phoenix, the red lanterns, and the aquarium, the surliness, and the styrofoam containers of syrupy glop. Uncle Ted’s is ushering Chinese restaurants into a new era—at least I can only hope others will follow suit. For too long, a cuisine that is millennia-old has mostly been in the realm of cheap food, inexpensive ingredients, represented by mediocrity at best in either food, service, or both. Uncle Ted’s, which opened last June, endeavors to differentiate itself from your run-of-the-mill Chinese eatery and it manages to do that, while keeping its prices moderate. The cuisine is surprising, partly because you expect one thing and get another; but also, because the simplicity of the ingredients yields such delicious results. Owner Ted Chang (the Ted behind the name) believes in cooking simply but correctly. “We try to do simple dishes in a traditional, right way. You have to cook the right way, not like most takeout factories. The ingredients have to be fresh.”


Take the shrimp and mixed vegetables

Tofu bites.

UNCLE TED’S 163 Bleecker St. 212-777-1395

HOURS Sunday–Thursday: 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Friday–Saturday: 11:30 a.m.–midnight Lunch specials $8, daily 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

dish ($16). The curly, pink shrimp are plump and juicy, and the mushrooms tender, the carrots sweet with a pleasant crunchiness, and the asparagus—well the asparagus gave me a je-ne-sais-quoi moment, because I realized that I had only had them steamed, never sauteed in a wok. And it was a revelation: green, sweet, crunchy. Each of the ingredients tasted like a better, marvelous version of itself. All together they made the dish eminently satisfying. The modern twist on these dishes, most of which are recognizable Chinese restaurant dishes, lies in the lighter hand, healthier take, and beautiful plating—but without sacrificing traditional technique, or authentic ingredients and flavors. The executive chef, Zhou Guang Zan, previously opened two locations of China White, one in Purchase, N.Y., the other in Greenwich, Conn., for the cb5 restaurant group, after a three-year stint at TAO, where he was the wok sous-chef. He’s 38, but has been cooking since the age of 15, inspired by his chef father. A pursuit of perfection animates him when he talks about his cooking; he is punctilious about technique. With the shrimp and vegetables dish, he

said one key is to season well. The other is to have the wok very, very hot when the ingredients go in. And finally, he said, a well-executed dish should exude inviting aromas. Zhou said he keeps the number of ingredients limited on purpose, “just everything at its best.” Uncle Ted’s Fried Rice ($11), as simple as they come, is nevertheless super tasty. The rice is cooked with a purée of scallions, giving it a lovely green hue and lending a spicy kick that hits you gently in the back of the throat, and topped with an egg and delicate, thin flakes of fried shallots. I’ve never seen this anywhere else.


Zhou is an expert on dumplings, and was



Pan-fried dumplings.

making a version of pork and bok choi filling when I was there. He dabs the tops with hoisin sauce and minced scallion, and serves them beautifully plated with a light soy sauce. They are, without question, expertly homemade, and thin-skinned, which is more difficult to handle. Here too he pays attention to make sure their aroma comes through. “We eat with our eyes first, and nose, and then it goes into your mouth,” he said. He pan-fries the dumplings and gives the flat bottom a golden crispiness; and the result, bursting in my mouth, was enough to make me want to try every last dumpling on the menu, from the watercress to the braised duck dumpling (5 for $5). Dim sum can be ordered all day long here, made by two in-house dim sum

cooks, a sign of seriously good dim sum. Manager Calvin Cheng swears by these with beer for Sunday football, which customers can watch at the bar. Zhou also served another of his special creations. Soup spoons were lined up with delicate, refreshing pieces of tofu, topped with a thin slice of water chestnut, and topped with ginger, garlic, parsley, scallion, green onion, fish sauce (tofu bites, $7). It’s not as fiery as the Sichuan restaurants in town that I’ve been to—in fact, nothing here is extremely spicy. That may have to do with the clientele, who tend to skew toward a healthier, lighter fare; and the Cantonese inflections—well-seasoned, but with a focus on the fresh, primary ingredients. Other unusual, creative twists on vege-

tables: okra and eggplant in garlic sauce ($11), cauliflower in chili sauce ($10), Brussels sprouts in teriyaki sauce ($11). The highest priced items are a steamed Chilean sea bass, Cantonese-style, or the lobster with ginger and scallion (each $25). Uncle Ted’s is in a college neighborhood, which helps to keep prices down. In general, main dishes hover around $11–$16.


I think Uncle Ted is a winning combination rarely seen elsewhere. “That’s what my vision is. I want to step up from the traditional Chinese takeout, traditional Chinese restaurant," said Chang. "To me it needs a step up. Otherwise people can go to Chinatown, why do they come here?”





in a dark brown sauce that is salty, sweet, spicy, and full of subtle flavors. Potatoes accompany the dish, along with the obligatory cilantro. The famous noodles can be added for $1.25. The restaurant currently seats 14 and there are days the line goes out the door. Interestingly, most of the customer’s at Spicy Village are Westerners.

Perfecting the Homestyle Taste Spicy Big Tray Chicken.

Two years ago, a couple from Fujian Province in southern China opened Spicy Village Restaurant in Chinatown, selling food from China’s eastern Henan Province. With no experience in Henan cuisine and no time to learn, chef Ren Fu Li sent his wife to Flushing to learn the art of Henan noodle making. After 15 days she returned and taught her husband—and they began a long tradition of perfecting their technique that continues to this day. At first, locals from Henan were curious and skeptical of these Fujianese who were attempting to make their famed noodles


and lamb soup. After two years of continual improvement, the restaurant went from almost being shut down to now serving the best Henan food in Chinatown, a claim my friend from Henan corroborates. In addition to the famous homemade noodles, which take almost 24 hours to bring to perfection, the fried pork and beef pancakes—which create an irresistible aroma of baking bread in the restaurant—are extremely popular. Most in demand is the No. 7 Big Tray of Chicken. Whatever the name lacks in imagination it makes up for in taste; submerged


68 Forsyth St. (near Hester Street) New York 212-625-8299

HOURS Monday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–11 p.m.


New York City, and chef Geng Side takes pride in making it taste authentic while not going overboard on the fat. Chef Geng, a native of Yunnan, is confident he is making the real deal. His Yunnan customers tell him the food is better than what you can find in Yunnan Province today. The majority of his customers are Chinese, a good sign for any ethnic restaurant.

It’s Worth Crossing the Bridge For Rice noodle with lamb stew.

Yunnan cuisine, similar to its famous Sichuan neighbor, is known for its liberal use of Sichuan peppercorn, fresh produce, and the regional bounty—mushrooms. Its most famous dish is called Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles, a noodle soup with a thick, fatty broth often mixed with meat and vegetables. The story behind the name varies depending on who tells it, but the widely ac-

cepted version goes as follows: A woman crossed a bridge everyday to bring noodle soup to her husband. By the time she got there, the soup would be cold. She experimented and discovered that by adding extra fat on top, she could keep the soup warm. Thus, the name and the reason for the layer of fat. Yun Nan Flavour Garden is one of the few places you can find this regional delight in

YUN NAN FLAVOUR GARDEN 5121 Eighth Ave. Brooklyn 718-633-3090

HOURS Daily: 10:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.



The Secret of Clay Pot Rice A-Wah restaurant, famous for its Bao Zai Fan (roughly translated as “clay pot rice”) has recently expanded to another location on Bowery Street in Chinatown. Almost twice the size of the first restaurant, owner Wang Jian Hua says service is picking up as people realize they don’t have to cram into his tiny space on Catherine Street to get the same great food. Although Wang is from Shanghai, his restaurant serves primarily Cantonese fare. Bo Zai Fan is a Cantonese comfort food that consists of different combinations of rice cooked in a clay pot with meat and/ or vegetables.

House special bao zai fan with Chinese sausage and minced pork.

The art of cooking rice takes years to perfect, said Wang. The rice is soaked and then cooked in a mix of duck, ham, chicken, and pork bone stock that takes at least three hours to prepare. It is then cooked just enough so the rice is well cooked, but not gooey, and topped with any number of vegetable and meat combinations. The clay pot is served hot, and for those who like their rice a bit crunchy, or even cooked to a brown crisp, this is crunchy rice heaven. Just wait a little while before eating and make sure to scrape from the sides when you do.


5 Catherine St. New York 212-925-8308

HOURS Daily: 11:00 am-9:30 pm 48B Bowery St. New York, NY 10013 212-285-8658

HOURS Daily: 10:30 am-10:00 pm



Go for the Hometown Taste Grand Sichuan restaurant seeks to bring authentic Sichuan cuisine to New York—its Chinese name even translates to “hometown taste.” Sichuan is almost synonymous with “spicy,” but in fact, not all Sichuan dishes are. Even the ones that contain a lot of peppers are not as spicy if you know which peppers are meant to be eaten and which are meant just for flavor (ask the waiter if you are not sure). There are options for spice-phobics and the waiters can help here, even if your spice tolerance is zilch.

Asparagus with pork belly in bamboo.

Sichuan cuisine isn’t just famous for its hot food, but the complexity of the spices that are layered to give a multidimensional experience. Chef Benjie Ma said he can tell a knockoff Sichuan restaurant by how it use spices. The good ones reveal a host of subtle flavors, both spicy and non, and the bad ones just use a ton of the same spice. The head chef of the St. Mark’s Place location—the newest of Manhattan’s three Grand Sichuans—spent 30 years cooking in China’s southern Sichuan Province before he came to the United States.

GRAND SICHUAN 19–23 St Marks Pl. 212-529-4800 1049 Second Ave. (between 55th & 56th streets) 212-355-5855 172 Eighth Ave. (between 18th & 19th streets) 212-243-1688





Acclaimed Lamb Dishes in Flushing

Zhou’s Yummy is a newcomer, having just opened nine months ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s unknown. The restaurant is named after the owner, Mr. Zhou, who for nine years sold lamb kebabs from a street cart across from the Queens Library in Flushing. When he decided to move his famous kebabs to a brick-and-mortar location, he made sure his reputation followed him by naming it after himself. And it did—90 percent of his customers are returning. While there are plenty of other types

Sheep neck casserole.

ZHOU’S YUMMY RESTAURANT 41–14 Union St. Flushing of dishes on his menu, none has earned him acclaim like his lamb specialities. The restaurant specializes in lamb soup, lamb kebab, lamb chops, and lamb in pita. Zhou makes a point to buy fresh lamb rather than frozen, a detail he said makes all the difference. He said customers order his lamb ke-



Bringing People Together Congee Village has prospered since 1997, and while it has been recognized for its congee (a porridge-like rice dish), it also serves more than 200 other, mostly Cantonese, dishes. On the menu you will find soups, vegetables, pasta, rice, dim sum, casserole, seafood, and nearly 30 different congee-based dishes. The most popular dish among Western

Pan Fried Bean Curd with Soy Sauce

diners is the House Special Chicken, but overall the Chilled Dungeness Crab (chao style) takes the cake for most ordered. The décor at both of the Congee locations resemble southern Chinese aesthetic. The bamboo railings and dark intricate woodwork are authentic, as are the large, scenic paintings that cover the walls. The floor plan is spacious with seating to accommodate over 200, and private

babs en masse to take home and freeze. He happily obliges. Zhou studied under a master chef in central China from 1995 to 1998 and learnt how to cook lamb. He has since been perfecting his technique by reading cookbooks and experimenting. The lamb soup stands apart in that it takes a laborious 13 hours from start to finish. He cooks it on low heat long enough that the marrow comes out of the bones, giving it that creamy white color and rich flavor that makes it so popular.

rooms for large parties are equipped with sound systems, TVs, and karaoke for the full Chinese experience. This is a great place to eat out in large numbers, but make sure to put in a reservation well ahead of time as the restaurant fills up easily on busy nights.

CONGEE VILLAGE RESTAURANT 100 Allen St. 212-941-1818


10:30 a.m.–12:30 a.m.

CONGEE BOWERY 207 Bowery 212-766-2828


11 a.m.–12 a.m.




Shanghai Family Dumpling is exactly what it sounds like—a place where you can eat real Shanghai dumplings at such a good price, you can take your whole family. The quality is well above and beyond what you would expect to find in a food court, and the variety offered is hard to beat. The soup dumpling, the most popular item on the menu, is a bit of a red herring as the soup is actually inside the dumpling. The insides are a mix of tender meat and/ or vegetables, and flavorful broth which creates an interesting combination of textures and flavors. First-timers beware: eat

Soup dumplings.

SHANGHAI FAMILY DUMPLING 6301 Eighth Ave. Brooklyn 718-745-2620

HOURS Daily 7 a.m.–7p.m.

over a bowl to avoid the broth gushing out onto your lap! The six major kinds are pork, mushroom and vegetable, chicken, shrimp with vegetables, crab meat, and crab with pork. The



Experience China’s Diversity If you want to experience the diversity of China’s cuisine at its finest, Mr. K’s will save you a trip to the mainland. With light and delicate flavors from Beijing in the north to the sizzling and exotic spices from Sichuan to the south, there is something to be found for every palate at Mr. K's. Chinese cooking is not just about the taste, it is a part of a lifestyle based on the ancient principles of yin and yang.

most popular flavors include crab, which is brought in fresh daily. Chef and owner Wei Dong Yie said he tries to keep abreast of the latest trends in Shanghai dumplings, but prefers the style from about 30 years ago—savory. The younger generation likes dumplings sweet, or, as in the most recent trend, spicy, but he has chosen the more traditional and thus labor-intensive approach. “The traditional is that you have to use the live crab meat. For the pork skin, to take off all the oil is traditional. It tastes totally different,” said Wei.


570 Lexington Ave. No. 1 (between Fifth and Sixth avenues) New York 212-583-1668

HOURS Peppered prawns.

Texture, flavor, color, and temperature are harmonized in Chinese cuisine to make every meal a healing pastime as well as a gastronomical delight. Seasonal foods are used when possible to ensure the freshness and authenticity. Dining at Mr. K’s feels like eating in an imperial palace—a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. And the service is equally impressive. If you feel like you are dining among the

Monday–Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays & Sunday noon to 11 p.m.

rich and famous at Mr. K’s, you probably are. Celebrities like Kevin Costner, Tom TASTE ASIA Cruise, and Robert SPECIAL De Niro are returnLunch prix fixe, $25/ person. Dinner prix fixe, ing customers and $35/person have their own set Mention Asian Restaurant of chopsticks disMonth to redeem this special offer played.


Savory Dumplings Done Right




Grilled Porterhouse steak with side vegetables.


A Steakhouse That Evokes Euphoria You know how it is in this city. You reluctantly tell your friends about a great find, and the next thing you know, your secret destination is mobbed by the masses. So sometimes the true gems pass under the radar, jealously guarded like dragon’s loot. I dined at one of the latter recently. It is inconspicuous, located at basement level on a block where there are no other places to dine. It’s Prime & Beyond, in the East Village. Prime & Beyond is fairly small, has a casual-elegant, hip feel, with white painted brick walls, and an open kitchen out back where you can sidle up to the counter and watch flames engulf your steak. It’s not your typical steakhouse in many ways: no through-the-roof testosterone levels, no dark wood or leather, no armies of waitstaff, and no carb-loading. There’s a

PRIME & BEYOND 90 E. 10th St.


HOURS Monday–Thursday 5 p.m.–11 p.m. Friday & Saturday 5 p.m.–midnight Sunday 5 p.m.–10 p.m..

minimalism here that’s refreshing. The steaks, dry aged to a whopping 50 days, are out of this world. As I was about to find out, dry aging for that long produces flavors that are positively euphoric. The owner, Kevin Lee, goes above and beyond in pursuit of superlative steaks— he insists on handpicking the cuts him-

self from the lockers of Master Purveyors, once or twice a week, the same hallowed place that supplies Peter Luger. “I don’t get it delivered. I go hunt my own beef,” said Lee. The beef is USDA-certified prime, a category that only applies to about 3 percent of all U.S. beef, and goes to only fine, high-end restaurants, hotels, and grocers. Where Lee goes the extra step, is with the dry-aging process, where enzymes working their magic to break down connective tissues, thus making the meat more tender, where moisture in the meat evaporates, making for concentrated and magnified beefy flavor. The standard for dry aging these days seems to be 21 to 28 days. But that’s just when things start to get interesting. Rare are the restaurants in the city aging




Porterhouse, T-bone, New York strip, bone-in rib-eye, filet mignon for two, all come dry-aged. And then there the wet aged options: filet mignon, New York strip, and rib-eye. Looking at the rows of dry aged beef though, you can especially pick out the rich marbling in between the layers of reds and browns—although the muscle meat shrinks down, the amount of fat remains the same through the aging process. The fat flavor, though, does change over time, morphing something like the essence of butter. For the rest of us, who enjoy steaks in all their glorious, well-marbled meatiness, Prime & Beyond offers a piece of steak heaven. Recalling the memory of the steaks, my dining companion got a faraway, glazed look in his eyes. “It was a spiritual experience,” he said, adding that of all the dry aged steaks he’d ever had, the Porterhouse he had at Prime & Beyond—thick, with those delectable bits of charred fat and beef on the outside, meltingly tender, and exuding flavors of butter (a “butter steak,” he called it) blew him away. On his steak scale, Prime & Beyond scored a 10 out of 10, unseating his previous “best,” a well-known steakhouse, relegating it to a 7 out 10 spot. Likewise, another dining companion im-


their beef beyond a month, and the reason is simple: Time is money and space is at a premium. Lee said over the 50 days of aging, the beef shrinks down 25 to 30 percent. “Even though I make a lot of loss, customers will enjoy the flavor and tenderness,” he said. Lee showed me the aging room downstairs—cuts of beef neatly lined up on racks, at different stages of aging. Scanning prices on the menu (dry aged T bone, $50), I ask him why he doesn’t charge more for that length of dry aging. It turns out that Prime & Beyond’s pedigree, originally a butcher shop in Fort Lee, helps. As the butcher shop still functions, run by his butcher brother Q, not much goes to waste, which helps keep prices down. At the end of the day, though, Lee wants everyone to enjoy prime steaks. “I’m trying to bring the finest piece to everyone with a reasonable price.”

Glorious strips of thick-cut bacon.

mediately switched allegiances. Instead of his usual Midtown haunts, he’ll be heading to Prime & Beyond for his black-and-blue steak. There’s no steak sauce on the tables, intentionally, “You won’t want any,” Lee had said earlier. He was right.

beauty. The delicate shavings of scallions are intended as a garnish to the steak, and they act as a wonderful foil, with an anchovy sauce and other ingredients to which Lee’s mom holds the secret recipe—not so boldly tangy as kimchi but with enough personality of their own to cut through the fattiness of the steaks. SIDES AND EXTRAS The salad is an example of another unThe steaks here are a good deal, considusual aspect of Prime & Beyond, the Koering not only the minimum 50 days of dry rean dishes influenced by Lee’s heritage, aging, but a number of side dishes are and prepared by his mother back at the included in the price of a steak. Fort Lee location. Most other steakhouses You can also order freshly TASTE ASIA serve sides a la carte. made kimchi ($8), bulgogi Don’t look for creamed ($10/$22), kalbi short ribs $60 dry-aged steak spinach because it ain’t ($10/$22), and burg3-course dinner prix fixe here. Neither is mac ‘n’ er rice ($17), a fresh $50 wet-aged steak cheese. ground patty served 3-course dinner prix fixe The side veggies, with egg over rice. Mention Asian Restaurant which vary from week If you’re a fan of bacon Month to redeem this to week, were grilled to it’s more than worth getspecial offer perfection. When I visited, it ting the thick bacon strips was asparagus spears, zucchi($10), which gives you someni, broccoli, sweet red peppers, and thing wonderful to chew on while you grilled potatoes. A small bowl of simple wait for your steak—not just the tease of but delicious salad, with slivers of sweet the crunch but also plenty of toothsome red peppers and red onions and cherry meat. The bacon comes with some spice tomatoes in a tangy dressing with sweet pairings to try, such as ground Japanese notes, was also offered earlier on, to tease sancho pepper, which provides a nice the palate. kick. The highlight, though, is the scallion salFinally, the desserts would make an asad offered with all steaks; it’s a thing of siduous pastry lover travel for them alone.





The addictive fried chicken comes in mild or spicy, and with either soy garlic, soy ginger, or Hell's sauce.


Korean Fried Chicken Hits the Spot There’s a new bird in town. If you’re a fan of fried chicken and haven’t tried Korean fried chicken, you’re in for a completely different experience from Southern fried chicken. If watching sports while munching chicken wings and sipping microbrewed beer takes your fancy, Hell's Chicken is a great option. It’s a good spot for chatting with friends over authentic Korean food. Fried chicken is a relative newcomer to Korean cuisine, introduced after the Korean War and becoming popular in the 1960s. While fried chicken can be found in other Korean joints around town, the sauces at Hell's Chicken are much lighter, with no

The bibimbap, served here with beef.

ma's home cooking. By opening in Hell’s Kitchen, owner 641 Tenth Ave. Sung Jin Min hopes to introduce Western(between 45th & 46th streets) ers to Korean cuisine, which has become 212-757-1120 more and more popular in the United States over the last few years. And part of that introduction is education. HOURS For example, served in a hot stone bowl, Monday–Saturday: 11:30 a.m.–1 a.m. the bibimbap comes with raw eggs and Sunday: 11:30 a.m.–midnight meat on a bed of vegetables and cooked rice. MSG, artificial sweeteners, or preserva“There are a good number of people tives. Gluten-free chicken can be made that know they have to mix everything up upon request and gluten-free sauces are to eat it, but there are also a good number on the horizon. The chicken is brought in of people who don’t know what to do and daily, as is the rest of the food at Hell's are just staring at the bowl ‘Why is it raw? Chicken, and everything is prepared to How can I eat it?” said Sung. order. Hell’s Chicken has its home in a sleek, The primary draw is the succulent fried industrial setting, with a stainless bar; chicken, which comes in three flavors: cork walls; mirrors that open up the soy garlic, soy ginger, and Hell’s. narrow space; and flat-screen TVs All come in either mild or spicy broadcasting the latest sports TASTE ASIA versions. games. The latter are placed SPECIAL Besides chicken, classic so as not to be obtrusive, a 4pc wing + small side + select beer or 6pc wings + Korean dishes such as bibonus if you prefer dinner select beer for $10 bimbap and kimchi jjigae conversation. The playlist is Mention Asian Restaurant are hot items on this Amerieclectic. Month to redeem this special offer can-Korean menu. With roughly 20 types of South Korean chef Beakchul beer, traditional Korean alcoholic Shin descends from a family of trabeverages, and a list of both red and ditional Korean chefs, and Koreans say white wines, the bar has a good selection his dishes bring back memories of Grandfor any palate or price range.





A Tranquil Refuge It takes a good restaurant for New Yorkers to want to stand in line. Especially in Koreatown, which is chock-full of restaurants and eateries. Miss Korea is exceptional—on bustling 32nd Street it stands out among the masses and diners are happy to line up, especially on the weekends. It’s a testament to how it distinguishes itself. For one, the service is friendly and efficient. The design, with a nod to nature as inspiration, makes for a pleasant, inviting retreat from the bustle of Midtown. The cooking, also inspired by nature’s seasonality, takes a healthier approach than most. For owner Sophia Lee, who was an elementary school teacher for 27 years before opening three successful restaurants in Manhattan and New Jersey, restaurants have always been a place for nourishment and relaxation. They were her refuge when she faced difficulties—surely enough good food, hospitality, and beautiful surroundings never failed to turn her mood around. These very elements make up the essence of miss Korea.


Looking back at my first introduction to Korean food, I remember it was delicious, but definitely more than my day’s share of sodium and sugar. Miss Korea has a much more restrained


The delicate marbling can be seen throughout the boneless short ribs.


10 West 32nd St. 212-594-4963

flavor profile. It’s out of consideration to diners’ health, and it makes it easier to appreciate the wide range of flavors in the dishes. The banchan alone, with its multiple palate-whetting small dishes (nine for lunch, eight for dinner) take you on a journey between the astonishing sweetness of different greens and the earthiness and tanginess that can only be coaxed out through an alchemy of fermentation. To create the menu, Sophia Lee called on the services of Sun Kyu Lee who is a

renowned food consultant in South Korea. I opted for a five-course dinner menu served on the second floor (available for $49.95, $59.95, or $69.95 for dinner; lunch for $24.95). There are more affordable options as well, including lunch specials, ranging from $8.95 for kimchi jjigae, a spicy kimchi stew with pork, tofu, and vegetables, to $16.95 for barbecued galbisal, marinated boneless short ribs. Miss Korea’s signature dish is the clay pot galbi, marinated for 48 hours in onggi, Korean ethnic earthenware. In ancient times, these were believed to be breathing vessels, and indeed magnification reveals pores small enough to let air circulate. According to the website, the two-day process allows for better texture and flavor. While the marinated beef doesn’t need anything but a dab of soybean sauce (also lighter in comparison to most places), some rice, and the whole carried through on a fresh lettuce leaf, unmarinated beef can be painted with a bit of a simple sauce of sesame salt and oil. After barbecue dishes, mul naengmyeon, a cold buckwheat noodle soup is perfect. With delicate thin slices of cucumber and Asian pear, it is surprisingly refreshing—a fitting ending to a couple of hours spent in this peaceful refuge.


miss Korea's private rooms on the second floor. Sliding walls accommodate different-sized parties.





MotherDaughter Duo Demystify Korean Cuisine Dak Gui. Barbecued chicken (thin breast slices) in sesame marinade, spicy or not.

At the age of 19, Jenny Kwak was attending Parsons School of Design and missing her mother’s Korean home cooking. She thought a cozy little Korean restaurant would do well in the East Village since at the time, there were none. She finally convinced her mother, Myung Ja Kwak, and around 1990 they TASTE ASIA opened Dok Suni’s—which in SPECIAL Korean means “strong women.” $39 prix fixe lunch or Mrs. Kwak, a homegrown dinner, choice of cocktail, appetizer, entree, & dessert chef of 30 years and a master at making kimchi, cooks Korean Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this food as though cooking for her special offer

own children. And the flavors caught the attention of New Yorkers from all over the city. New Yorkers would wait hours at a nearby bar for a table to become available. It was the first of the hip, little, Korean downtown places. Positive reviews helped grow its popularity further and demystify Korean cuisine. In 2000, Myung Ja Kwak and Jenny opened Do Hwa, which translates to “Dao flower.” Dok’s Suni’s has since been sold and the mother–daughter team is enjoying scaling back to one restaurant.



A Korean Pioneer Seoul Garden is one of the original restaurants of Koreatown, only two others existed when it first opened its doors in 2000. Owner Ms. Koo, a Seoul native, created a menu similar to what you would find in Korea today, and while it has changed TASTE ASIA slightly over the years, it retains the SPECIAL Korean home style of cooking. 10% off for lunch, Korean barbecue is communal 15% off for dinner and hands-on. The waiter brings Mention Asian Restaurant all the raw ingredients and diners Month to redeem this use the grill in the center of the special offer

DO HWA RESTAURANT 55 Carmine St. (at Bedford) New York 212-414-1224


Lunch Monday–Friday: 12 p.m.–4 p.m. Dinner Sunday–Tuesday: 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Wednesday–Thursday: 5 p.m.–11 p.m. Friday–Saturday: 5 p.m.–11:30 p.m.

liquor soju. Seoul Garden is on the second floor, so look for the sign on the street and once you enter the lobby walk straight ahead up the stairs. It is often busy, so be sure to make a reservation if you are coming with a big group, especially on weekends.

Barbecued Seng Galbi.

table to cook them to perfection. Besides the meat, tofu and vegetables can be grilled, and a bowl of rice is served to complete the meal. The small side dishes with a variety of prepared vegetables (yes, kimchi is one of them) are meant to be eaten with the meal, so don't be fooled by the fact that they come out early. To complete the Korean experience, the beverage list offers a good selection of Korean drinks—most notably the distilled Korean

SEOUL GARDEN 34 W. 32nd St. 2nd Floor New York 212-736-9002

HOURS Weekdays: 11 a.m.–midnight Weekend: 11 a.m.–2 a.m.





Asian Fusion


15 E. 17th St. For a true a mix of pan-Asian cuisine, pop into Laut. From edamame (Japanese) to Hainanese chicken (Chinese) to pad Thai (Thai) and roti (Malaysian), you can save having to decide which cuisine you want until you place your order. The wait to get a table here can be long, but the food is well worth it. Laut was the first Malaysian restaurant in the city to receive a Michelin star. A year after it opened, the New York Times called it “some of the best Malaysian food in Manhattan.” Laut in Bahasa Melayu, the Malay language, means “sea,” a metaphor for the conduit that brought all these culinary influences to Malaysia. First influenced by Indian culture in the third century, the European powers of Portugal, the Netherlands, and Britain started influencing the region from the 1500s as they vied for control over Malay-

(btw. 5th & Broadway) 212-206-8989


Monday–Friday: 11:30 a.m.–3:15 p.m. Dinner


Monday–Thursday: 5 p.m.–9:45 p.m.


Friday: 5 p.m.–10:15 p.m.

3-course lunch or dinner prix fixe - $30

Saturday: 1 p.m.–10:15 p.m. Sunday: 1 p.m.–9:45 p.m.

Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this special offer sian resources. Chinese, Japanese, and Thai, among others, also immigrated to Malaysia, and at one point Malays were almost a minority in their own country. These diverse cultural influences are reflected in Malaysian cuisine today, and it’s that fusion that Laut’s menu specializes in.

Basil with chicken.



Sri Lankan Buffet Hard to Beat For those unfamiliar with Sri Lankan food, the ingredients bear a similarity to those used in India, particularly in Kerala, south India—cumin, coriander, coconut, and tamarind—but the preparation and flavors are distinct. For one, it’s lighter. When you find out how little oil is used, it’s no surprise. The most popular item on Banana Leaf’s menu is the lampri, a hefty meal wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf. It’s said to have been influenced by the Dutch, and its mild, subtle flavor makes that theory quite plausible. A few other delicious starch-based dishes


Sri Lankan

A combination spread including hoppers, roti, chicken biryani, chicken lampri, and string hoppers.

BANANA LEAF 227 W. 28th St.

(btw. 7th & 8th avenues) 212-494-0000

HOURS Monday–Thursday: 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Friday–Sunday: 12 p.m.–10:30 p.m. are hoppers, traditionally eaten for breakfast. Delicate and bowl-shaped, they are made by pouring a batter of rice flour and

coconut milk into a deep round pan with no oil. There’s a version with an egg cooked into the base that can be ordered on request. At Banana Leaf, many of the dishes feature ground coconut or coconut milk, freshly made in-house from whole coconuts. If you’re feeling adventurous, do TASTE ASIA as the Sri Lankans do back home SPECIAL and try eating with your hands. Appetizer, drink, It does taste better that way. entree, and dessert for $24.95 The buffet is very good value ($7.99 for takeout; $9.99 for Mention Asian Restaurant Month to redeem this dine-in). special offer


ASIAN RESTAURANT MONTH Asian Restaurant Month is featuring some of the city’s top Asian restaurants. New Yorkers are encouraged to dine at participating restaurants to access special deals and superb food. Visit for more details. Reserve a table on Asian Restaurant Month runs until June 30, 2014, and will be supported by a multi-day festival in Times Square and an online dining hub. New restaurants are being added every day—keep an eye on for a full listing.




|| Saffron Garden

304 E. 78th St. (btw. 1st & 2nd avenues) 212-737-9520

|| Lilli and Loo

792 Lexington Ave. (btw. 61st & 62nd streets) 212-421-7800


|| Sushi Zen

108 W. 44th St. (btw. 6th & 7th avenues) 212-302-0707

|| Bann

350 W. 50th St (btw. 8th & 9th avenues) 212-582-4446


|| Utsav

|| V{iv} Thai

1185 Avenue of the Americas (at 46th St.) 212-575-2525

|| Hell’s Chicken

|| Broadway Thai

717 Ninth Ave. (btw. 48th & 49th streets) 212-581-5999

641 Tenth Ave. (btw. 45th & 46th streets) 212-757-1120

241 W. 51st St. (btw. 8th & Broadway) 212-226-4565




|| Hatsuhana

17 E. 48th St. (btw. 5th & Madison avenues) 212-355-3345

|| Songkran

|| Grand Sichuan

330 8th Ave. (btw. 26th & 27th streets) 212-239-8792

1049 2nd Avenue (btw. 55th & 56th streets) 212-355-5855

|| Pippali



|| V{iv} Thai

38 E. 34th St. (btw. Lexington & 3rd avenues) 212-213-3317

129 E. 27th St. (btw. Park & Lexington avenues) 212-689-1999

|| Ajisen Ramen

136 W. 28th St. (btw. 7th & 8th avenunes) 646-638-0888

|| miss Korea

10 W. 32nd St. 212-683-0135

|| Laut

|| Mr. K’s

570 Lexington Ave. (at 51st St.) 212-583-1668

|| Seoul Garden

34 W. 32nd St., 2nd Floor (btw. 5th & 6th avenues) 212736-9002

5 E. 17th St. (btw. 5th & Broadway) 212-206-8989


|| Grand Sichuan

172 8th Ave. (btw. 18th & 19th streets) 212-243-1688



|| ROYCE’ Chocolate 509 Madison Ave. (at 53rd St.) 646-590-0650

|| Junoon

27 W. 24th St. (btw. 6th & Broadway) 212-490-2100


|| Banana Leaf

227 W. 28th St. (btw. 7th & 8th avenues) 212-494-0000

|| Prime & Beyond

90 E. 10th St. 212-505-0033



|| Kung Fu Tea

|| Grand Sichuan 19-23 St. Marks Pl. 212-529-4800

|| Spicy Village

68 Forsyth St. 212-625-8299

55 Carmine St. 212-414-1224



|| Tamarind

|| Yun Nan Flavour Garden

99 Hudson St. 212-775-9000

|| Haveli

100 2nd Ave. (btwn 5th & 6th streets) 212-982-0533

|| Congee Village Restaurant

|| Do Hwa

234 Canal St. 212-334-3536

5121 Eighth Avenue (52nd Street) Sunset Park, Brooklyn 718-633-3090


100 Allen St. 212-941-1818


|| Kittichai

60 Thompson St. 212-219-2000

|| Shanghai Family Dumpling 6301 8th Ave. 718-745-2620


|| The MasalaWala 179 Essex St. 212-358-9300

|| A Wah

5 Catherine St. 212-925-8308

|| Rouge et Blanc

48 Macdougal St. 212-260-5757

|| Zhou’s Yummy 41-14 Union St.


A feast for the soul... Experience the magnificence of ancient Chinese instruments leading a grand Western orchestra through melodies rooted in 5,000 years of divinely inspired culture. Plus, enjoy celebrated Western classics from Berlioz and Dvořák. Discover an enchanting new sound. Discover Shen Yun.

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Saturday, October 11 | 1pm & 7pm Listen to samples of Shen Yun music at:

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