Tag Archives: blood

A Visit to the Dumpling House – Part II of the Dumpling Cafe

Not sure what the heck is going on? Head over here for part 1!

Despite the plethora of appetizers we’d ordered, we still had plenty of room for entrees. I think is one of the most magical things about these adventures – so many people are eating that you can really go to town on the ordering and neither be too full nor overladen with leftovers.

Our entrees were actually a bit less exciting than the appetizers, although a few daring choices were made.

Diced Chicken with Peking Sauce

This was not one of them, though it was delicious. The menu called it Diced Chicken w. Peking Sauce. Peking sauce is often an alternate name for hoisin, although confusingly it can also refer to a similar sauce called tian mian jiang, which is an amazing name for just about anything. Either way the chicken fit the profile – somewhat sweet, somewhat salty, the tiniest bit of chili. Very enjoyable and way less gloppy-sweet than your typical suburban “General Gau’s” chicken. It was good, just not terribly adventurous. I suspect we were all recovering from duck tongues and Weird Uncle Meatball.

Razor Clam Meets Pork with Chives
More intriguing was the “House Special Razor Clam Meet (sic) & Pork w/Chives in Hot Sauce.” Razor clams are not commercially fished, so someone is digging those suckers right out of the beach! The little bits of pork held most of the spicy flavor (unless you ate those little atomic death chilis they put into these dishes, which I did not), and the chives were abundant in a way you don’t normally see herbs used – tasty and interesting. I might have to try it at home! There were also pieces of secret squid tucked away in the mix – they were perfectly cooked, not at all rubbery and a nice addition to the dish.

Sauteed Blood with Leeks
This was the Sauteed Blood with Leeks. It was my choice, mostly because I am less excited about Intestine and Pork Blood Hot Pot, which was the other option up for discussion, and I am sad to say that I made the wrong choice. The dish wasn’t bad, it was just surprisingly boring for sauteed pork blood. We were able to easily remedy it with sauces from other dishes, but perhaps I judged the intestines too harshly – no one has ever accused a mustard hot pot of being dull. I guess I will just need to go back!

Twice Cooked Pork
This little beauty, on the hand, was not boring. In fact, it had the best sauce for doctoring the blood, along with anything else one saw fit to put it on. It’s Twice Cooked Pork, a name that doesn’t really reveal too much about how awesome this dish is. Luckily Jake pulled out his fancy-phone, did some research, and wisely recommended that we give this dish a whirl.
Holy cow. If you’re too lazy to click the link, basically the dish is pork belly boiled with ginger and salt, then fried and served with cabbage or leeks. This rendition also had a spicy-sweet chili sauce that was unbelievable on pretty much everything, including (especially?) sauteed pork blood.

All in all, Dumpling Cafe lived up to and even surpassed our expectations, even with their curious definition of meat balls. I can’t wait to go back! Armed with what we know now, I believe the team could put together a meal of truly epic proportions. And about 90 orders of soup dumplings.

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So Fresh and So Clean

I think that most of you have been reading this blog long enough to know by now that, when possible, I like to use fresh, local ingredients in my cooking. You also probably know that I try hard to be up for anything, whether it’s eating bugs, taking on strange stink-fruit, or just traveling all the way to Quincy(!) for a meal. Recently both Mr. Menace and I were involved in meal that truly capitalized on both of these traits!

You see, Mr. Menace’s family have a boat, which they utilize off of Cape Cod throughout the summer. They are also very kind and generous and invite us to take part in the use of said boat. (Thank you, Sheila and Rich, for all that you share with us!) Do not misunderstand, however; this boat is not a party boat. It is not used to take leisurely sunset cruises around the harbor. This is a serious boat, a working boat, and the work that it does is fishing! Mr. Menace’s mum is perhaps the best fisherwoman I have ever heard of, and her prey is the striped bass.

Now, each summer we head down to join his family on the Cape, and to frolic in the sun, and each summer there is a trip out on the boat to try to catch some bass. Unfortunately, while I love time with family and being on the Cape, I’m not really a big fan of the fishing – I tend to get a bit queasy as the boat goes in and out of the harbor, and pale redhead that I am, sitting in the sun for several hours is a terrible idea. Yet I like the idea of being involved in this process in some way, of contributing to the hunt. So it was decided that this year, while I would not board the boat, if Mr. Menace caught anything, I would learn to clean it! This was something I was excited for – I always loved the dissection labs in school. (Yes, I was a weird kid.)

So off they went for a trip to see what could be caught, while I went for a ten-mile run (because I know how to have a good time on vacation!). By the time I’d gotten home, showered, and dozed off in the hammock, the gang had returned, bearing these:
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(The one on top is sad to be dead.)

Both were caught by Mr. Menace!

The gents showed me what to do on the smaller fish, and then I got the chance to have the big one to myself.
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(See what I mean about me and the sun? NO GOOD.)

I cut behind the head, and sliced up the belly, being careful not to puncture any organs.
Then down the back:
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Then gently sliding the knife through to get at the good stuff!
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Off with the skin:
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Finally a lovely fillet!
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Rather proud of my work and Mr. Menace’s fishing skills, we decided to have folks over for a proper fry-up with our fish. This is the Mister’s favorite way to eat bass – it’s quite simple, although you have to be ready to deal with large quantities of hot oil. This is best done in a FryDaddy, if you have one. If not, be very, very careful and use the deepest pan that you own. First, make sure your fish is super clean:
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Next, dredge your fish in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. We used panko because it gives you the lightest, crunchiest coating.
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Drop the pieces in the FryDaddy! Do this in batches lest the oil bubble up and coat your entire kitchen in terrifying molten grease.
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Don’t those look fantastic? And they were, crisp and light! I made up a quick batch of tartar sauce to eat them with, but they were pretty great as is, too. They’re sitting in that picture on top of squash that our friends The Goog and Elise brought from their garden, which I roasted along with my favorite brussels sprouts in order to temper the number of fried things we were eating. The squash continued the local theme nicely, and was very tasty.
While we had the fryer going, Mr. Menace whipped up some french fries and his patented onion rings:
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I can’t even really begin to tell you how he gets them so beautifully golden and crisp – it’s really just egg, flour, and possibly magic. They are best eaten ridiculously hot, straight out of the fryer.

All in all, it was a lovely meal, made all the more delicious for being the product of our own work! Do any of you hunt or fish? If so, what do you like to make from your efforts?

Fruit Devil or Fruit King?

In many ways, this post has been a long time in the making. On my original list of adventures, it was mentioned. It came up again when I tried mangosteen. Reaching further back, I remember reading about a fruit so pungent, so terrible, that was banned on public transit, yet its devotees consider it the food of the gods all the way back in 2002 (in Lynda Barry’s amazing book, One Hundred Demons. Lynda’s grandma describes it as something that “smells so badly, but tastes so goodly.”). I was intrigued by the possibility of a food whose scent belies its flavor. I’m talking, of course, about the one and only King of Fruits – the durian.

For the uninitiated among you, this is a fruit with a serious reputation. Native to Southeast Asia, it resembles some sort of primitive sea creature that has washed up on shore – about as big as a basketball, yellowy-brown, and covered in thorns:
Fruit or Sea Creature?
(Those thorns actually come into play, later)

They typically weigh 2-7 pounds, and some of the trees are so tall that they can only be collected after falling to the ground (and believe me, you do not want to be standing under it when that happens). In all respects, this is a formidable looking fruit. However, the terrifying power of the durian is not in its looks. It’s in the smell.

Reports of its odor vary, from turpentine to onions to almonds to excrement. TV personality Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods loathes the thing – it is one of the few foods he’s spit out on his show. Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand, loves it – though he describes the after-effect as having breath that smells “as if you were French-kissing your dead grandmother.” This was the fruit that just this past Sunday I purchased at my local Asian market and to which I subjected my friends.

To be fair, they volunteered! We gathered in the backyard for the tasting, along with several other goodies that I will discuss in upcoming posts. Still, the king was the focal point of our afternoon, and we got right now to business. I printed some helpful instructions on how to open the beast, since the spiky horror looked like it was going to be challenging, and convinced Mr. Menace to do the honors. The knife went in with surprising ease – it turns out that beneath all of the spines, the hull was more pliable than it appeared. The flesh within was revealed, and we all recoiled instinctively, prepared for the stench.
The Innards

Tentatively, we sniffed the air. There was a faint odor of…nothing. No terrible smell. What were all of these people going on about? We got a bit closer…maybe a the barest hint of turpentine, maybe a touch of overripe fruit, but hardly anything to get worked up about. Mr. Menace turned back to his work at the grill and I set about freeing the pods from the shell.

Here at last there was a tiny bit of drama, because while it still didn’t smell all that much, the devil fruit DID manage to fight back a bit – those spines are really sharp! While prying out the pods I noticed a red smear on my finger, and was temporarily puzzled, thinking about what was at all red inside the durian. It turns out that it was nothing inside the durian – it’s red inside of ME. The sucker bit me! My fingers are now covered in this little pinpricks:
Durian Wound

Despite this I soldiered on and finally released all of the pods:
Pods

They were extremely soft and custardy. My dining companions compared them to runny eggs, pudding, or alien young. The spent husks looked vile, coated as they were in fruit slime:
The Aftermath

Finally, after all this ballyhoo we put the fruit in our mouths. The taste was extremely sweet, practically a sugar overload. Some folks compared it to honeydew melon. There was a sort of pineapple tinge, and at certain points a definite almond flavor. Nothing too offensive until it was finished, when there was indeed a faint aftertaste of onions. This was unevenly distributed throughout the fruit, however. No one hated it! Even our friend Gary, a notoriously picky eater, gave it the thumbs up!

Mmmm

In the final estimate of whether I’m in the Bourdain or Zimmern camp, love it or loathe it, I have to come squarely in the middle. Ultimately it wasn’t the faint hint of onions that bothered me; it was the texture. The durian is soft, vaguely gelatinous, dare I say it? SQUISHY. While I’ve come a long way in my fear of slimy foods, I’m not sure I could just snack on this – I could see enjoying it cooked into something, but not so much au naturel.

In the end, after all the hype, there was a slight feeling of anticlimax. Some quick research suggests that we were eating Thai durian, which is known for its sweetness and relatively mild odor. I guess we’ll need a trip to Malaysia to experience the fruit king in all of his stinky glory. In the words of Levar Burton, however, you don’t have to take my word for it! Two of my esteemed guests have already given their thoughts:
Elise’s Blog
Dan’s Blog

Thanks to all of my fellow food adventurers for making this a party! Special thanks to Mr. Menace, who encouraged me to do a bit more than “go to a field, eat fruit.” I’ll be posting about some of our other snacks later this week.

Look out, also, for a very special post – Adventures in Food’s first ever guest blog! Good friend “Easy Bake” and her beau, “Lt. Funyuns” went on an amazing, food-filled trip and EB has graciously blogged the tale. I guarantee that once you read it, you’ll be hungry.

You Say Goodbye, I Say Halo-Halo!

Promptly after this Saturday’s 17 mile run I showered and hustled off for a date with some of my favorite adventurous foodies – Jess, Elise, Dan, and Valerie! All four of these folks have been on hand for several adventures, including chowing down on such delicacies as grasshopper and pig’s feet, so I knew I could count on them for the first true adventure of 2010 – Filipino food at JnJ Turo Turo!

The adventure begins with getting there, because JnJ is out in Quincy, the farthest reaches of the Red Line. Luckily, Valerie generously provided the use of her car, and after a bit of trouble with the GPS we were well under way.

JnJ is tiny – just two six-tops and three tall bar tables that are meant for two, but around which four people could squeeze, if they were determined. Luckily we were able to snag one of the six-tops fairly quickly. The restaurant is family-run and very informal; orders are made by going up to the register and finding out what’s available. The young man behind the counter was great – he asked if we’d ever had Filipino food before, then helpfully told us what was in every dish without trying to discourage us if it had something in it that was not to traditional American tastes. We ordered nearly everything on the menu between the five of us, deciding to eat family style.

Before I go into what we had, a few notes on the cuisine of the Philippines. As the restaurant itself says, Filipino food is truly fusion – the influences range from its own Malayo-Polynesian origins to Spanish, Chinese, Thai, and American. What’s amazing is how well everything works together – unlike many fusion cuisines where the parts still feel disparate (ooh, the coconut milk is Thai, the spices are Spanish) everything here melded into a unique cuisine.

Everything came largely at the same time, so here’s the breakdown by what’s roughly appetizer-like, what seemed to be an entree, and our final and delicious dessert. Warning: large amounts of pork product ahead!
First up are the barbecue pork sticks. These were what satay wishes it could be – sweet, a little smoky, and amazingly tender:
BBQ Pork Sticks

The liempo, or grilled pork belly, was also barbecued, but not as smoky. I could have happily eaten this little bits of fatty goodness all day long.
Liempo - Grilled Pork Belly

In another take on pork belly, the lechong kawali is fried and served with banana ketchup. This is like the plumpest, meatiest pork rind you’ve had in your life, and the sweet ketchup only makes it better.
Lechong Kawali - Fried Pork Belly

The Lumpiang Shanghai is similar to the spring rolls it’s based off of – thin dough wrapped around meat and vegetables. The main difference was in the thickness of the meat – it was almost as if it were filled with pork meatballs – and the chili dipping sauce they came with.
Lumpiang Shanghai

For main dishes, we were all excited to try the Sisig, a mixture of finely diced pork, pig ears, and liver, seasoned with hot pepper, ginger, and lemon and topped with something amazingly crispy that I could only guess was chopped peanuts. The textural contrasts were fun – soft liver, chewier ear and tender pork bound together with the slight sourness of the lemon.
Sisig

We did order the pinakbet, a lovely vegetable stew filled with okra, eggplant, squash, and string beans, so do not be concerned that this was an all-meat meal. Alas, I somehow neglected to take a picture of it. Be assured that the vegetables were cooked to perfection.

That said, we ate more meat still! The Bicol Express was another pork dish, a stew of coconut milk, shrimp paste, and green beans. The pork was extremely tender and the combination of coconut and the fishiness of the shrimp paste was unlike anything I’d ever had before – I’m so used to Thai coconut curries that the shrimp was pleasantly surprising.
Bicol Express

The shrimp paste came into play again in the kare kare, a stew of beef (ha, NOT pork!), beef tripe, and bok choy in an incredibly thick peanut sauce, with the shrimp paste on the side to stir in as you please. While I’m normally not a fan of tripe – I find it slightly chewy and pointless – in the peanut sauce it was just exceptionally tender, a good counterpoint to the beef. To be honest, though, I think you could have coated my shoe with that peanut sauce and I would have told you it was amazing.
Kare Kare

My favorite entree of the evening, however, was the item I came to Quincy specifically to try – the dinuguan. This another stew, filled with bits of pork – traditionally snout, ears, and other entrails, served in a savory sauce of garlic, chili, vinegar and blood. I know that the more squeamish of you are probably a bit skeptical of my enjoyment, but seriously, this stuff is amazing. The meat is really secondary to that sauce – salty and garlicky, with the vinegar providing enough acid to cut through the richness of the blood. The big bowl of steamed rice they provided us was a perfect bed for it.
Dinuguan

After all of that, you’d think we’d be finished, but dessert was calling our names. Specifically, we were determined to try the halo-halo, a mixture (halo means mix in Tagalog) of crushed ice, milk, sweet beans and fruit. I’d had it once before, but JnJ adds a secret ingredient that blows the other kinds I’d had out of the water – purple taro ice cream.
Halo Halo
In addition to how visually stunning that purple is, the ice cream oddly reduces the sweetness a bit – the other ingredients have a syrupy quality that can be overwhelming, and the creaminess of the ice cream tones it down appealingly.

All in all this was a tremendous experience – the family who runs the restaurant was incredibly friendly and helpful, and the prices are very reasonable. It’s well worth the trip out to the ends of the earth – a good thing, as it’s the only Filipino restaurant in the Boston area! After we all went on an Asian market adventure, but that’s a story for another time. In the meantime, be sure to check out Elise’s blog for her take on our trip!