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Archive for the ‘Chinese Food’ Category

Xiao long bao/XLB (soup dumplings) have been around forever, but for some reason, their recent popularity has skyrocketed like the number of twitter followers Caitlyn Jenner racked after her first tweet.  The one thing that makes soup dumplings stand apart is the pork soup inside each dumpling from the rendered fat in the meat filling. If you ask your average/mainstream foodie where to get decent XLB in the Seattle area, the go-to response will be, Din Tai Fung – an international restaurant chain originating from Taiwan. I tend to shy away from mainstream spots and espeically places that have a ‘bougie reputation. To no fault of their own, DTF has unfortunately garnered a reputation of being both. Enter Dough Zone, a local restaurant specializing in all things dough and all things dumplings. With two locations in Bellevue, WA, we went to the original location on NE 8th St.  It’s a moderately sized restaurant with booths and tables on the dining floor and a fairly clean ambiance.  Arriving on a Sunday around 11am, I was anticipating a wait, but we were seated within 5-minutes. After looking over the menu, our server came by a few minutes later and took our order.

neccessities

neccessities

The Food:

chinese donut $1.75 each

chinese donut/you tiao $1.75 each

The Chinese donut or you tiao, is a staple in Tawainese breakfast/brunch. It’s commonly eaten between shao bing, a Chinese sesame flat bread. Overall, it was ok. The initial bite was warm and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Unfortunately, as it cooled the outside became harder and tough. We ordered the donut mainly as a toddler-friendly dish for Rylie, but Cherry and I ended up eating most of it.

 pig ears $3.75

pig ears $3.75

rylie approves

rylie approves

Braised pig ears are another very common side dish in Chinese meals and trust me when I’ve said I’ve had my fare share. The pig ears at Dough Zone were topped with a sweeter sauce than what I’m custom to (at home they drizzle it with sesame oil) and I would have liked them braised longer to bring out more of the anise/soy flavors.  They did get Rylie’s stamp of approval though, as she ate a majority of the plate herself!

spicy beef pancake roll $4.75

spicy beef pancake roll $4.75

I was pretty happy to see beef pancake rolls on the menu; even more so to see it offered spicy! The first time I’ve had a beef roll was in Vancouver at Peaceful Restaurant, which set the bar high. It looked nice when served, but my overall impression of the roll was mediocre. The green onion pancake was on the doughier side and the “spicy” element was a bit of chili oil inside. Like the pig ears,  I would have like to taste more flavors from the braising liquid (soy/anise.) The additional green onion added inside did add a bright pop.

 

 pork dumplings $4.25

pork dumplings $4.25

 These handmade dumplings were the highlight of my meal. The first thing I noticed was how good the dumpling wrapper was. Like Goldilocks eating baby bear’s porridge, it was just right. The pork had a rich flavor with the chives providing a pleasant accent. I can’t say these are the best dumplings I’ve personally had, but they’re definitely good enough for me to come back.

xiao long bao $9.5

xiao long bao $9.5

The featured item of our meal were the xiao long bao, or as they name it here, Juicy pork buns. Despite popular belief, I don’t think there’s a “right” way to eat a XLB, so I tried a variety of methods. The focal point of any XLB is always the soup, and the pork soup here carried a sweet and creamy flavor. Alone, the XLB were just ok. I felt the sweetness of the juice overpowered the meat filling. When combined with the vinegar/soy/ginger sauce, the tastiness took a a big jump up. I really enjoyed the bright flavors of the ginger when combined with the sour and salty flavors of the vinegar and soy. As a whole, all of the flavors came together quite nicely when eaten together.

My Conclusion: I had a very enjoyable meal at Dough Zone. The service was prompt and the servers were all very polite. Although there were a few dishes that could be improved upon, the ones that were delicious exceeded my expectations. Their menu is also quite expansive, ranging from a huge variety of different dumplings, to a ton of different noodle, congee and soup dishes. The prices are also very reasonable .  

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I was pleasantly surprised when I recently discovered that Seattle has a food cart offering jian bing. Social media is seriously one hell of a global phenomenon! Despite not having the most engaging or even updated website, I was able to confirm via Twitter, that Bing of Fire would be stationed at Westlake Park for lunch on this particular Friday. For anyone too lazy to click the hyperlink posted earlier, jian bing is a Chinese savory crepe that pretty much blows all savory crepes out the water.  You won’t find any deli meat, mayo, cheese or any of that junk like I’ve seen at the local mall crepe station. These come filled with green onions, cilantro, Chinese pickles, egg, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and crispy fried wonton crackers… and that’s just the base ingredients. There are a few more free ingredients you can add as well other ingredients that will cost you a little extra including roast duck, pork belly and bbq pork.

 cart in westlake park

cart in westlake park

layin the foundation

layin the foundation

methodically done

methodically done

The Food:

jian bing w/bbq pork $8

jian bing w/bbq pork $8

Coming from a Chinese background, I will say that this jian bing is on point. First off, I was hit with all the flavors that satisfy; the bright kick from the green onions and cilantro, the sour from the pickles, the sweet from the hoisin and the spice from the chili garlic sauce. Texturally, I was really pleased with how the bing and the egg held everything together with the crispy wonton crackers providing a crackling crunch to eat bite.  The jian bing start off at $7 for just the basic ingredients, but I chose to add bbq for an extra dollar. The bbq  pork was decent but not the best I’ve had,  and would have liked just a touch more of it. Nevertheless, the portion size was an adequate lunch meal, even for me.

 

 

My Conclusion:

I’m really pleased with Bing of Fire’s representation of a common street food found in China. With the rise in food truck/cart popularity, it’s refreshing see one that isn’t selling tacos, bbq, or gyros. And while their menu really only consists of one thing, they do it right and they do it well. I look forward to trying their other variations.

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Hey everyone! As you can obviously tell (and what I try not to let happen), my activity on this blog has taken quite a big dip this past year. Priorities in life take a change in the world of parenthood. Nevertheless, Cherry and I planned this past weekend to get out and try new spots. So let’s get to it!

Peaceful Restaurant

We spent Saturday north of Washington State’s U.S. border in Canada. After seeing Peaceful Restaurant featured on DDD, it quickly topped my “must eat list” for Vancouver. We visited their W. Broadway and Cambie location around 3pm and it was extremely busy. Despite being small and narrow, Peaceful Restaurant was bustling and full of life. Regrettably we only ordered a couple of dishes, but that only means we’ll be back!

 

peacefulrest.entrance

entrance off w. broadway

peacefulrest.kitchen

the heart of this establishment

peacefulrest.narrow

narrow quarters

The Food:

 

peacefulrest.beefroll

peaceful beef roll $7.95 ca

This was the first time I’ve had a Chinese beef roll and it was wonderful. It consists of braised beef shank wrapped in a green onion pancake with hoisin sauce. This type of beef happens to be one of Cherry’s favorite, and for good reason. It’s braised in a mix of soy sauce, star anise, and five spice until tender and packed full of flavor. The green onion pancakes are savory and crispy to provide a nice bite. The hoisin sauce adds a terrific sweetness to balance everything out.

 

peacefulrest.zhajiang 1

peacefulrest.zhajiang 2

beijing zha jiang mian $7.95 ca

If you’ve been following my blog or even glanced at my “who the heck!?” page, you probably have read that zha jiang mian is my favorite noodle dish. Peaceful Restaurant does a decent job with their take on this very popular Chinese noodle dish. The menu reads as “savoury dark pork sauce,’ which is really a black bean sauce/paste. Pork combined with the sauce is placed on top of the noodles alongside shredded cucumbers, bean sprouts and carrots. The sauce was on the bland side and needed more salt. The veggies added a bright note and also gave each bite some nice texture. The star of all noodle dishes here  is their hand pulled noodles, which have a fantastic textu that you can never get with boxed noodles.

 

Nosh

On Sunday, we went to the Fremont Farmers Market with one thing in mind, fish and chips! After getting many good recommendations and even a personal invitation from the owner himself, Nosh was the obvious choice. Walking up towards the truck, the verbal invitations from owner Harvey Wolff could be clearly heard from down the street. His method of attracting customers was quite simple, offer a “money back guarantee if his fish and chips aren’t the best you’ve had!” The British accent didn’t hurt either.

nosh_bone harvey

follow the crowd

nosh_bone menu

zagat don’t lie

The Food:

nosh_bone marrow

roasted bone marrow $7

This was the first time I’ve had bone marrow and I now understand why I’ve always heard it to be delicious. The marrow itself is salty and quite flavorful. It is also very gelatinous so if you’re an unfortunate individual that has trouble with those kind of textures, I’m sorry for you. What set this dish over the top was the salad and crostini served with it. The salad consisted of shaved red onion, carrots, celery leaf, capers and parsley.  The crostini was toasted and salted. The rich savory marrow, the bright and pickled salad and the crunch of the salted crostini came together as one of the best bites I’ve ever had.

nosh_fish

british fish ‘n chips $10

Now for the Pièce de résistance. Does Zagat’s assessment hold true? In short, yes.  I’ve had my fair share of fish and chips in and around the Northwest and also in my travels around the country, and I can confidently say that these are the top. First off, you get an entire filet! Not only is the cod daily fresh, it is also sustainably caught. The batter is well seasoned and the fish is perfectly fried. The batter provided a nice crunch yet was incredibly light as well. The fries were awesome – thick cut, and ideally cooked and seasoned. The minty mushy peas were also a first for me, and I dug ’em! With all the deep fried deliciousness going on, the peas balanced everything out with a nice bright and minty freshness. As Harvey would say, “If you’re ready for grown up food, come to Nosh!”

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Cherry and I were in the mood for some noodles and turned to the ever prevalent tool that is, social media. On this particular day, the spot that had the most positive reviews in our area was, Fu Man Dumpling House. Located on Greenwood Ave N between 143rd and 144th, the dumpling house sits between a beer/wine supply store and a marijuana dispensary – ingenious location if you ask me. When we entered, we were immediately greeted and seated. Our server then came by with menus and tea. The interior  of this very small restaurant, was decorated in your standard Chinese-American theme: faded Chinese art and fortunes, Seahawks banners, lanterns, and you can’t forget the Christmas lights above the front door.

 

fuman_outside wm

entrance from greenwood ave n.

fuman_inside

dining floor

fuman_xiaocai

xiao cai (aka chinese pickled veggies)

 

The Food:

 

fuman_everythingnoodle

a little bit of everything noodles $8.75

 When this dish came out, it looked exactly how it read – a bunch of various ingredients atop a bowl of noodles. My initial thought was, “That’s some bland looking soup!” There’s more color in vegetable broth. I scooped a small portion into the small bowl each of us had and took a sip of the soup and my taste buds agreed with what my eyes presumed – flavorless. Then I took a bite of the other ingredients (veggies, meat and egg) which concurred with all of the above. I believe they literally steamed the veggies and shrimp without any seasoning and scrambled some eggs, then dumped everything atop some flavorless broth and noodles.

 

fuman_housespecialnoodle

house special shredded pork noodle $9.25

 The soup in the broth had a darker color which I hoped would bring something to the flavor party. It did, but just a little. I could taste a meaty undertone and ginger was very prevalent as part of the base. But the flavor levels still can’t compete with say, a Taiwanese beef noodle soup or even phở. The veggies in this dish worked fine but I would have liked for the pork to be more flavorful. In both dishes, the noodles were fine, holding a nice balance between a firm and soft texture – but by the end, they were closer to the soft/mushy side.

fuman_dumplings

steamed pork dumplings 12 for $8.35

 The one saving grace of this entire meal was the homemade dumplings. If you grow up in an Asian family, the best dumplings you will ever have, are usually homemade by your grandma, aunts, or mother. Much to my surprise, these were pretty fantastic. As soon as I bit in, I could taste the flavors of pork, ginger, garlic and seasonings. The wrapper had a nice thickness that maintained integrity even during tug-of-war with your chopsticks, dumpling and gravity. For me, dipping dumplings in a chili paste/soy sauce mixture is like combining peanut butter and jelly. However much to my chagrin, I knew from my experiences earlier, that their chili paste lacked any pep. I still doused chili paste atop each dumpling but I found they didn’t need it. I finished the rest without anything and was pleasantly satisfied. My da gu (oldest aunt on my dad’s side and considered best cook of our family) even concurred that these dumplings are delicious!

 

My conclusion:

All I can say is, a little salt never hurt nobody… For making and serving such great dumplings, I’m baffled as to why their noodles were so lackluster. I would definitely come back again… but only for the dumplings. Maybe other people know something I don’t, because as soon as we were leaving, the small restaurant quickly filled and became a packed house.

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Last night I was craving some Chinese beef noodle soup and since we were already in the International District, I turned to my trusty and increasingly prevalent tool, social media!  Smart phones and social media are such a double-sided sword these days in that they’re extremely useful to look up information at a moment’s notice, but at the same time they turn individuals into zombies! “…must….check…status…updates…!” Anyways, to make a long story short, I searched “beef noodle” in my “foodie” app got a ton of nearby restaurants. Mike’s Noodle House stood out with the highest numbers of reviews and overall high rating. It’s located on Maynard Ave S. between Jackson and King. Stepping inside, I immediately noticed two things: it’s very small and very clean. I did a rough count and estimate the max capacity to be about 34, but all the furnishings looked fairly new and well maintained. We were quickly seated next to the door and given our menus.

mikesnoodle.entrance

entrance off maynard ave s

mikesnoodle.kitchen

nothin’ to hide here!

The Food:

mikesnoodle.donut

chinese “donut” $1.7

These aren’t the Americanized Chinese donuts you find at buffets, that are drowned in sugar, these are actually you tiaowhich translated literally means “oil sticks.” They’re traditionally eaten at breakfast with congee, soymilk and/or between “shao bing.” They weren’t as crispy as I’d like, and carried a more salty flavor with an subtly sweet aftertaste.

mikesnoodle.chinesebroccoli

chinese broccoli with oyster sauce $4.5

In an effort to maintain a balanced meal, we ordered the Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. They were prepared excellently with a rich green color and a nice crunch. Many times, these can be overcooked which makes them softer with a less appealing bite. The bitterness was cooked down nicely and the oyster sauce countered with a strong savory sweet flavor.

mikesnoodle.brisketsoup

brisket noodle soup $6.1

When it comes to beef noodle soup, there are two traditional variations; clear broth and dark broth. I myself prefer the dark broth, also called, hong shao niu rou mian, or as I call it, 紅燒牛肉麵. The dark color comes from the use of soy sauce. For me, the most important aspect of a good noodle soup is the broth and the broth at Mike’s is, dare i say, almost as good as 我媽媽的 (momma’s)! It was extremely rich and flavorful with deep flavors of the soy, star anise, and spices. I put a dollop chili paste to appease my spicy-tooth. The brisket was almost fall-apart on its own tender and also carried awesome flavor from the many hours of braising. Everything about the broth and beef was an A…. the only thing I would I preferred differently were the noodles. I prefer the fresh hand pulled Chinese rice noodles which tend to be fatter, as opposed to the skinny egg noodles they serve here.  They were also under cooked requiring some diligence to cut between your tongue and teeth – unless you’re eating naengmyeon breaking noodles shouldn’t require extra efforts.

mikesnoodle.theend

i had stop when i hit plastic…

My Conclusion:

I love noodles. My mom loves noodles too, and growing up in a Chinese home, you could say she passed it down to me… I guess I “got it from my 媽媽!” I may even consider myself a noodle snob! That being said, Mike’s Noodle House definitely brings their A-game with what they serve. But, the true test is what my mom thinks when I bring her here next time… stay tuned!

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Making its debut last night, Kraken Congee is the newest addition to Seattle’s pop-up scene – started by a trio of local chefs; Tyler Robinson and Garrett Doherty of The Ruins, and Irbille Donia of Ray’s. According to an article by the Seattle Met,  the three of them met at culinary school and since then have come together to create this new venture.

kraken.welcome

the kraken welcomes you

kraken.essentials

the essentials

The Food:

kraken.beeftongue

 steamed bun, beef tongue, apple fennel kimchee $8

The bun was soft and the beef tongue was clean and tender. The apple kimchee was bright with nice crunch, but I would have liked it to have had  much bolder spice and pickled flavors.

kraken.squidink

 squid ink congee, pork stuffed squid tubes, ginger, thai chilis, fried shallots, roasted peanut, cilantro $ 15

If it weren’t for the cilantro sprinkled atop, this bowl of congee looked visually… meh. Unfortunately, there isn’t any color in a cooked squid tube and the squid link ladled around, looked like a pen broke in someone‘s pant pocket. The pork stuff squid was cooked well and provided the majority of the “heft” to this bowl. The thai chilis brought a satisfying heat to my lips and the roasted peanuts provided a subtle crunch to each bite. The ginger also provided an additional layer of flavor to the bowl. Lost in the mix, were the shallots

kraken.dunkconfit

xo congee, five spice duck confit, cracklings, bok choy, egg yolk $15

This bowl looked very appealing – more so than the squid ink congee. The bok coy was rich and green  while the bright egg yolk sat wide-eyed, asking to be opened like a gift on Christmas morning. The duck confit was seasoned well (though I’m not sure I got a full duck leg… more like ½ a leg)and the egg yolk provided a creamy richness to the bowl. The cracklings were savory and worked well with the other ingredients. I did have the unappetizing pleasure of biting into a piece of star anise that wasn’t removed… which has a flavor of black licorice.

kraken.chefs

the chefs

My Conclusion:

In terms of turnout, this pop-up was a success – it was a packed house when we entered and people were still coming in as we left. I think these three are onto something great! I also really like the idea of shining light on an Asian staple that is, congee. Growing up in a Chinese household, congee was a regular for me. I especially love the plethora ingredients and side dishes you can add to each bowl. When it comes down to it, congee is just porridge of rice and water. The things you add in it or on top of it are what give it flavor and appeal – so I have a tough time wrapping my head around are the steep prices. I place congee in the same category as pho (minus the hours spent making the broth.) They’re both satisfying on a cold day, provide big flavors, perfect for the morning after a night on the town, and cheap! … Well sorta… A $15 bowl of congee is like a $20 bowl of pho.

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Located on Capitol Hill, Chino’s is a refreshing spot that fits nicely in a very eccentric and diverse area of Seattle. Self advertised as an Urban Tiki House & Taiwanese Cantina, Chino’s serves both Taiwanese & Mexican comfort foods and offers a huge drink list specializing in Tiki drinks. One could easily miss this place due to the window signs being obscured by trees and the sign in front being small. The first thing I noticed was the large mural painted on the front wall – there is no mistaking the Mexican and “L.A.” influenced décor throughout. A decent sized bar with a few tables and stools are the second thing that greets you, followed by an open kitchen and open dining floor that fills the rest of the restaurant.

beacon of color

 

The Food:

 

 

lonchera tacos: pork, cilantro, onion & salsa $2 each (happy hour special)

 The tacos were tasty and the pork had good savory flavors of the seasonings and onions it was cooked in. The elements that really make these tacos are the fresh onions and cilantro. These two simple ingredients really brighten up each bite and add great contrast to the flavors of the meat.

 

 

gua bao platter:  pork belly buns, with pickled mustard greens, cilantro & crushed sweet peanuts $9

 If you haven’t tried the gua bao from Chino’s then you haven’t lived! The braised pork belly was full of rich savory flavors and the greens countered wonderfully with a bright pickled crunch. Cilantro always adds a nice element and dept of flavor and the sweet peanuts acted like the cherry atop of beautiful sundae! Cherry initially mistook the peanuts for brown sugar because of how fine they were ground! The bowl that held this sundae together was the bun – which also had a perfect balance of being able to hold all the ingredients together without losing integrity but soft enough to really help meld all the great flavors and textures together.

 

zha jiang mein: spicy “Chinese spaghetti” – minced pork, hot bean paste, sweet bean sauce, over noodles $11

 Growing up, I always had the spoiled privilege to have my Nai Nai’s (grandma’s) homemade zha jiang mein. Pretty much every week when I visited, as soon as I’d step in the house she’d have a huge plate for me fresh off the stove! Needless to say my Nai Nai’s zhai jiang mein was the best in the entire World! Having experienced the best, I can honestly say Chino’s did a might fine job with their version. The hot bean paste and sweet bean sauce combine nicely to provide a very rich, savory and almost smoky flavor that left me wanting another bowl. The pork had good flavor and the julienned cucumbers added a nice visual touch to the bowl and provided a subtle crunch of freshness. One also major plus here is their use of fresh noodles – unlike dried/boxed noodles, fresh noodles are wonderful in soaking up the flavors of the sauce.

 rice bowl of the day: pork spare ribs over rice, pickled vegetables, braised egg $12

 Cherry opted for the rice bowl and she initially asked for chicken, but our server (who happened to also be the owner) suggested the special of the day – pork spare ribs. The plate had a generous serving of ribs over a bed of rice and also a nice side of pickled cauliflower, cucumber and jalapenos. One thing I especially enjoyed with this dish was the addition of a halved lu dan (roasted egg.) Lu dan is a common food in Chinese culture typically served as an appetizer with roasted beef shank and pig ears. The pork had a nice smokey flavor and was falling of the bone tender. I have never had pickled cauliflower, but after trying it here, I can say I enjoyed it very much. The pickled veggies were excellent in adding a bright note to the overall dish and lu dan served here also had deep flavors of soy sauce and spices.

viking fog cutter: cruzan light rum, voyager gin, hennessy, orgeat, orange, lemon, sound spirits aquavit float $11

 I decided to partake in one of their specialty Tiki drinks and asked the owner if there was one that he liked over the rest. He suggested the Viking Fog Cutter which he stated was a lighter drink with citrus accents and fairly strong. Sounded like something down my alley so I ordered it. He was very meticulous in preparing the drink – carefully measuring each ingredient and making sure everything was perfect. The verdict… everything was exactly that! The drink had nice bright flavors with a subtle hint of sours that I enjoyed. It was deceptively strong – not a overpowering flavor of the alcohol but after one drink, I was definitely feeling good.

My Conclusion:

 To me, Chino’s has a winning recipe: clean, delicious comfort foods influenced by Taiwanese & Mexican cultures, strong drinks, very friendly staff and reasonable prices. If it weren’t for the brightly painted sandwich board sign out front, one could easily walk past this urban oasis that is, Chino’s.

 

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