Saturday, February 29, 2020

Elk Salami

I have a friend who got both an elk tag and an antelope tag in the Nevada hunting lottery and was able to get one of each in northeastern Nevada. He was kind enough to send me some of the meat of each. 
Elk at Hardware Ranch in northern Utah. 
The first meat item I'm going to share is elk salami. In an on-line article on making elk salami, that particular recipe calls for four pounds of elk roast and one pound of fatty pork shoulder. The reason is that elk has so little fat that it needs some added in. 
This salami was quite strong - I liked it a lot. It is obvious that it had some other strong ingredients in it. It was not extremely hard, but it wasn't soft either. 

Friday, February 28, 2020

Wontons with Hot Sauce - White Bear, Flushing, NY

This is my second repeat post in a row. I did a retrospective post on White Bear and after our recent visit to New York decided it, too, was worth another post. 

Joe DiStefano's article "The Absolute Best Chinese Restaurants in Flushing" on listed White Bear as no. 7 and said the following: "There are 34 items on the menu...You, along with everybody else, are there for only one item though: wontons with hot sauce. Hesitate for a moment and the proprietess will put you in your place with a curt, 'No. 6, sit down.' The thin-skinned white morsels, known as hong you wonton, filled with pork and topped with scorched chile oil and crunchy bits of pickled vegetables are simply amazing." 

I found White Bear listed quite a bit in searches on restaurants in Flushing, including a Google search "best chinese restaurant flushing" where White Bear was listed as one of four with a photo of the wontons, at least on my computer. 

In a comment on my last post, Judy said, "I'd love to go back." Well we did. The no. 7 train to Main Street in Flushing was shut down several stops short for maintenance and we were taking a bus shuttle into downtown. Judy noticed White Bear from the bus and said, want to try it again. I said, "sure," and we hopped off the bus and went in. I was wrong in my last post, it is item no. 6. 

This page from an article hangs on the wall: "We like to imagine that, once upon a time, some uninitiated guy came upon White Bear by accident and the wontons blew his goddamn mind. This dingy little place on the main strip is that good." 
The wontons are good. Very soft and moist. I particularly loved the hot oil and the ground up chilies on top. I would have liked more of the oil and chilies. 

However, I'm not ready to crown them as the jewel of Chinatown Flushing. There are some lamb dishes that push them down the pecking order. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Reuben with Pastrami - Katz's Deli, NYC

I just did a retroactive post on Katz's Delicatessen a few weeks ago, but since then I've been to New York again and made another visit to Katz's and have to share some more. 

Katz's reuben on rye with pastrami rates right up there as one of the most amazing sandwiches I've ever had. It costs $25.00 and is loaded and a load. Look at the photo below. The bread teeters on top of a ridiculously massive amount of meat, cheese and sauce. We shared a sandwich and it was plenty.
We went on a cold Saturday morning and could scarcely get in the door. All of the tables were full and 7 or 8 order stations were stacked three and four deep with customers ordering sandwiches and other items (when we left, the line was out the door and down the street). 

Judy found and saved a seat at a table and I waited about 20 minutes in line to order. I was amazed as I watched the men behind the counter pull out roast after roast and slice them into chunks and deposit the meat on sandwiches. They put a plate on the counter and the guy in front of me deposited a large tip in a glass bottle on the counter and was rewarded with several chunks of pastrami on his plate which he picked up with his fingers and slipped into his mouth. I wasn't sure if I had to make a tip to get the pastrami deposit, but I did not want to leave it to chance, so I conspicuously added some dollar bills into the jar and I did get my reward. 

I also noticed a sign I'd not seen the previous time: "Where Harry met Sally...Hope you have what she had!...Enjoy!" I immediately recalled the scene. Here it is on Youtube. I'm glad I saw the movie before going to Katz's. If not I'd have thought Sally was enjoying the Reuben sandwich!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Java Indonesian Restaurant - South Slope, Brooklyn, NY

We are going to Indonesia later this year and I thought it would be fun to have some Indonesian food in NYC. I googled the best Indonesian restaurants in NYC and Java Indonesian Restaurant came in at no. 2 on Yelp and showed up on some other searches. It is located in the South Slope of Brooklyn, quite a bit south of Manhattan, just north of Sunset Park and just east of Upper Bay. Our host was from Yogya on the island of Java and these were dishes from that region. 

We had just finished a Saturday matinee showing of Hamilton in the Theater District and caught a long Lyft ride to Brooklyn where we met Andrew. We ordered the 15 course dinner for three which gave us a good variety of food. 
Judy and I each ordered garuda, a mix of pineapple, mango and orange juices and coconut creme. It was good and I went through mine pretty quickly. 
It was a cold, wet evening, and one complaint about the restaurant is that it is drafty and the cold infiltrated the place. We kept our jackets on and were still a little cold. So our first course of warm soup was welcome. I believe it was mie bakso, egg noodle soup with bean curd, celery, scallions and tofu. It was perfect for a cold evening. 
Our next course was bakwan, corn fritters cooked pancake style. It was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. Simple, nice texture with a sweetish taste. Love it. 
Next was acar salad, pickled vegetables with cucumber, carrot and onion in sweet turmeric vinegar. Kind of bland, but okay. 
From here, my identification gets a little dicey. I believe the next dish may have been sayur santen, lightly battered broccoli and cauliflower cooked in spiced coconut milk and topped with bean curd. From here on out, only a few dishes really stood out. Nothing was horrible, but only a few dishes were quite good. 
I believe the next dish was kare ayam, curry chicken with potatoes in hot spices simmered in coconut milk. 
I believe the next dish was daging sayur, thin sliced beef wtih mixed vegetables, carrot and onions in garlic soy sauce.
Then sate bali, grilled marinated beef on bamboo skewers in soy peanut sauce. 
The next dish was one that was very good. I believe it was crispy fried codfish fillet smothered in Balinese red pepper sauce. I'm not sure I even realized it was fish, but it had a wonderful soft texture and a nice spicy flavor. 
The next dish is a pure guess. I think it may have been mie goreng, vegetarian Indonesian-style stir-fried yellow noodles with scrambled eggs. 
Then the next may have been sayur tumis, sauteed vegetables with tofu and tempe stirred in sweet soy sauce.
Next was sate madura, grilled chicken on bamboo skewers in soy peanut sauce. 
Finally, the other real good dish, was lamb. I believe it was kambing goreng, sliced lamb boiled slowly and topped with soy sauce, mushrooms and tomatoes. 
Our dessert was green coconut flan cooked in pandan syrup topped with caramel syrup. I liked it better than Mexican flan. This was sweeter and a little lighter. 
Overall, the meal was okay. The service was a little slow and we had a big wait between some dishes. There was nothing that grabbed me to really want to come back again. But it was a nice variation of food and one of the few Indonesian meals I've ever had. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

First Lamb Shabu - Flushing, NY

Instant-boiled mutton is a Chinese hot pot dish dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. During a battle, Kublai Khan had a craving for stewed mutton. The enemy's troops were approaching, so a chef quickly cut off thin mutton slices and put them in boiling water which were removed as soon as the lamb changed color and put them into a bowl with salt. After the battle, Kublai Khan requested the dish again and gave it its name. 

Today, a hot-pot of boiling water is put in the middle of a table with the tail of a lamb, tofu, Chinese cabbage, bean sprouts and vermicelli to prepare the soup base. Paper-thin lamb slices are prepared and put into the boiling hot-pot using chop sticks. The lamb is removed as soon as it changes color. Each person has a small bowl to hold sauce for the cooked lamb which is dipped into it, usually a mixture of sesame sauce, chili oil and leeks. 

Shabu-shabu, with origins traced to instant boiled mutton, was introduced in Japan in the 20th century. It is a hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, duck, lobster or crab) and vegetables (Chinese cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves, seaweed, onions, carrots and mushrooms) boiled in water. The raw meat is dipped into the hotpot for just a few seconds. The cooked meat and vegetables are dipped in ponzu or goma (sesame seed) sauce and served with rice. Once all of the meat and vegetables are eaten, the remaining broth is combined with the remaining rice for a soup that is eaten last. 

When we visited First Lamb Shabu in Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, New York, we knew none of the above. We were there because of an article by Joe DiStefano called "The Absolute Best Chinese Restaurants in Flushing," published at Speaking of First Lamb Shabu, DiStefano said that the "specialty of the house is rich lamb soup replete with ribs and spine." Without that article, I would never have walked in the place. The outside of the building looked like it was boarded up (which turned out to be the next door tenant) and I thought it was closed. 
But we checked the door, and it opened, and we found a long thin walk-way with booths on the right side. 

Our Chinese server spoke little English and the whole concept of what we were trying to do was unclear to me. Because of what I'd read, I insisted that we get lamb spine and lamb ribs and she guided us to the thinly sliced lamb and to the vegetables in the menu. 
I'm not sure what the dark vegetable is, and after reading about shabu-shabu, I'm wondering if it was a gelatin to melt into the soup. 
These are the thin lamb slices we should have retrieved and eaten shortly after inserting them in the broth. 

She brought the pot with the soup broth, a mound of lamb backbone and lamb ribs already in it, and then started up the stove inset into the table and it started to boil relatively quickly. 
My favorite part of the meal was the lamb backbone before the pot got too hot. The fatty meat just fell off the bones. 
The darker meat is the from the backbone. The lighter, redder meat, is rib meat. 
Here is the pot with some vegetables and the backbone meat is falling off the bones. 
I should have tried the lamb ribs then too, but did not realize they were in the bottom of the pot and waited too long and had to fish the rib meat out sans the ribs after it had already over-cooked. 
This lamby broth has rib meat (darker red) and the over-cooked thin lamb (the white lumps). 
More meat has cooked off of these bones and there are some vegetables on top. 
A bowl of lamb bones, fished from the boiling broth. 
I put the thin lamb meat in and also let it way over-cook and ate it after it turned into a mass. 

The vegetables were put in and cooked for awhile and then eaten by themselves, instead of put in the pot initially and allowed to stay there and flavor the broth.  

After awhile, the meat was all too over-cooked. It was still good, just not what it could have been. However, the soup was amazing. Lamby beyond belief. If we lived nearby, I would have taken the broth home to eat later. 

I have been thinking about going back and what I would do differently. I have thought I would get double the backbone, which I enjoyed so much, get mushrooms and let it boil in the broth, do away with the thin slices of lamb which got so over-cooked and fish the lamb ribs out much earlier. 

Then I read about instant-boiled mutton and shabu-shabu and realized we'd approached it all wrong. Now I am extra desirous to return and get two orders of backbone, one primarily as the base for the soup, and one for early eating, and add mushrooms and vegetables for the broth. We probably should try the thin-sliced lamb as well, but just barely cooked. However, the backbone meat is so nice that I don't think the thinly sliced lamb will measure up to it. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Dumpling Galaxy - Flushing, Queens, NY

We visited New York in February 2020 and knew we were going to go to Chinatown in Flushing again to get some Chinese food. So I found "The Absolute Best Chinese Restaurants in Flushing" by Joe DiStefano from August 29, 2018 on Grubstreet and made notes about some restaurants I wanted to try. At the top of the list was Dumpling Galaxy which he rated as the clear number one. He recommended some specific foods and we ordered every one of them, but the platter of fried hot peppers that I'd forgotten to put into my notes. 

Dumpling Galaxy is located inside a mall, up some stairs and to the back. We got there early, about 11:30 a.m. and were the first people in the restaurant. We were ushered into a small booth and made our order.

The first item we got at our table was duck meat and mushroom dumplings (6 total). The concept sounded wonderful, but reality was different. They were good, but would not bring me back. Neither the duck or mushroom stood out. 

Next was beef curry dumplings (6 total). I would never have ordered it without the recommendation. This dumpling would not bring me back either, but the taste was very distinctive, definitely had a curry taste, and was good. 

The next item, which was by far the best we had, was lamb soup dumpling, also an item I would not have ordered on my own, and the first soup dumpling I've had, at least that I can recall. It was incredible. Not really understanding the concept of a soup dumpling, I opened it up for a photo and watched the soup spill out onto the plate. Then I ate the dumpling and tilted the plate to get the lamb soup into my mouth and was over come by a strong lamby flavor, nirvana. I love lamb and this was potent, strong lamb. This dumpling will bring me back (when we visited Flushing a couple of days later, I was tempted to go back for an order of these dumplings, but was too full). 

Next was braised pork, described as "red cooked pork belly that falls apart at the mere sight of a chopstick." The fatty pieces were quite good and juicy. The just-meat pieces were quite dry. I would consider ordering it again, but it  would not bring me back just to eat it. 

The garlic spare ribs were actually pretty awful. They were overly crispy, over-cooked and hard to eat. I felt like a dog gnawing on a bone.

The last recommended item was crisp pan-fried sole. The presentation was fabulous. Two flat breaded soles lined up on a plate with reddish peanuts and chilies. The crispy, bony fringes were okay and the surprisingly meaty white-meat center was quite good. It deserved to be recognized. 

Finally, Judy wanted some Chinese pancake. It was okay. It was a little stiff for my taste, but she enjoyed it. 
I likely will go back for the lamb soup dumplings and would like to sample some more things from the menu, but Dumpling Galaxy is not at the top of my list for Flushing Chinese food.