Monday, November 9, 2009

Fire Power

When it starts to get chilly out we pull out the woks along with the socks......couldn't resist, (we have a restaurant here called wok and roll......need I say more) Wok cooking brings a lot excitement to the kitchen; there's fire and steam and loud sizzling, heat is the key to good stir fries, we have two woks, one strictly for stir fries and one for more soupy dishes, I seasoned my woks with Chinese chives following the instructions from our favorite Chinese cookbook - The Breath of a Wok, written by Grace Young. I feel vey connected to my woks after preparing them for cooking using this ancient secret recipe, the subtitle of the book is 'unlocking the spirit of Chinese wok cooking through recipes and lore' and the book is so much more than a cookbook, Grace Young will take you on a captivating journey, I had the privilege of meeting her in New York, she is an expert and passionate guide.

Chinatown is one of my favorite spots to hit when I am in the city, I load up on bok choy and choy sum and the delicate Shanghai bok choy, and if I am lucky pea shoots ( dou miao ) from my secret stall. The curly tendrils are delicious stir fried with ginger and garlic, but they have such a fresh pea like flavor that I also like to serve them as a salad, just slightly wilted. They are considered a delicacy in Chinese cooking, and are often not listed on the English menus in Chinatown, you have to ask if they have 'dough meow'.

The dish in the pic is an adaptation (honestly there is something wrong when a person can't follow the recipe exactly!) of Mary Chau's Shanghai-style Snow Cabbage and Edamame, (from Breath of a Wok) my version was heavy on the five spice tofu. If you know someone who likes to cook Chinese food this would be a fabulous Christmas gift, I would have been over the moon if I had been given this book, (or anything by Madhur Jaffrey, hint, hint).

There are so many great restaurants to chose from in the bustling, strangely exotic and sometimes smelly corner of downtown, I have a feeling we might be hearing about Cobocan soon, I really hope not. One place I haven't tried but will next time I am city bound is Amazing 66 which I read about on serious eats. When I lived in  London we used to go to Wong Kei (we called it the wonkey, I'm ashamed to admit) for the best wonton noodle soup, the waiters were so exceptionally rude it was part of the experience of dining there.

A great place in Nolita with wok action is - Lovely Day - on Elizabeth Street, serving very fresh and flavorful food, AND it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It's fun to sit in the red booths listening to the clatter and chatter and the occasional fiery burst from the kitchen. Ironically Lovely Day has been closed for over a year due to a fire in an apartment in the building, the regulars have been bereft without their 'Lovely' (including the NZ'er) but it's now open again, and they can take their places at the bar once more and enjoy the tasty delights. 

And another thing....if you're looking for good provisions and a one stop shop go to Dynasty Supermarket (I had a friend living on the Bowery, she called it Dienasty) I love this place, I get my black and white sesame seeds for my bread, and udon noodles (that are made in Australia..huh?) and a whole bunch of other weird and wonderful stuff that I bring home to my Montauk kitchen.

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