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Because I've written pretty extensively about Chinese food and teach dumpling classes every month at the Brooklyn Brainery, I often get asked where are the best places to get dumplings around New York (other than home or in class.) 

So a few months ago, I created the NY Dumpling Project, where you can follow along for recommendations for dumplings around New York. And not just Chinese dumplings, but also Korean, Russian, Polish, Italian, and Uzbek dumplings...with many more nationalities to come! The beauty of dumplings is that many countries around the world have their own versions, and these little nuggets of fillings wrapped in dough are pure comfort food with characteristics unique to their places of origin.

But of course, China is where dumplings originated, about a millennium ago. Periodically on this blog, I'll round up some favorites from the NY Dumpling Project. Today we'll start with the best Chinese dumplings in Brooklyn. (It's my borough, and when weekend train schedules go bonkers, which is every weekend, these dumplings shops are where I turn to the most.)

1. Wontons in Chili Oil (Sichuan Wontons) at Han Dynasty (City Point Shopping Center, 1 Dekalb Ave, Downtown Brooklyn) - Han Dynasty, a Sichuan mini-chain from Philly, used to have just one New York outpost, in the East Village. Lines were super long, even just to get take-out. Then the Dumpling Gods shone down on us and Han Dynasty opened a location in the basement of Dekalb Market in downtown Brooklyn. The Wontons in Chili Oil are a must-order. Be aware that all of the dishes at Han Dynasty, including the wontons, differ in spiciness levels depending on who's cooking in the kitchen that day. But whether your wontons come flaming hot or just mildly spiced, rest assured you'll want to just slurp up this addictive sauce. 

2. Pork and sweet corn dumplings at Kathy's Dumplings (7924 3rd Ave, Bay Ridge) - Kathy's Dumplings is such a little gem in Bay Ridge. My favorites here are the pork and sweet corn dumplings, wrapped in violet cabbage juice wrappers. The dumplings are wrapped and steamed to order, which means you'll wait a bit longer for dumplings here than at other shops around the city, but the difference in flavors is noticeable. Definitely also explore the other menu options, including the salads, pancakes, and bubble teas. 

3. Any of the soup dumplings at Yaso Tangbao (148 Lawrence St, Downtown Brooklyn, or 253 36th St., Industry City ) - This fast-casual spot specializes in soup dumplings that are much better than any of the restaurants that drawn long lines in Manhattan's Chinatown. The classic pork soup dumplings are my favorites, though the new chicken soup dumplings with activated charcoal wrappers are pretty swell too (and no, they don't turn your mouth black.) There are two locations, one in downtown Brooklyn and another in Industry City.

4. Pan-Fried Juicy Pork Dumplings at East Wind Snack Shop (471 16th St, Windsor Terrace) - There *is* truth in advertising. These little morsels are so juicy that you'll feel like you're eating pan-fried soup dumplings. Chef Chris Cheung is a New York native who opened this little shop on the Park Slope / Windsor Terrace border after working at Nobu and Vong. The cozy vibe and inventive snacks menu remind me very much of Hong Kong eateries. And Cantonese snack fans rejoice: this is one of the few places outside Chinatown to get fresh Hong Kong egg waffles

5. Hot Oil Wontons at Dumplings & Things (375 5th Ave., Park Slope) - Also Sichuan wontons, these are not as spicy as #1 from Han Dynasty, but still very tasty. In warm weather, get a container to go and eat your wontons outside at the picnic area at Old Stone House or in Prospect Park. 

6. (No photo yet) All the dim sum dumplings from Pacificana (813 55th St. Sunset Park) - This is by far my favorite dim sum restaurant in New York, and the har gow and shu mai and other dim sum favorites don't disappoint. And there's actually ample space here for dim sum carts. Plan to arrive before 11am on weekends to avoid a long wait. 

Do you have any favorite Chinese dumplings in Brooklyn (or elsewhere in New York) to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

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Continuing with my May and June of cooking with watercress, I've come up with a lot of ways to use the nutritious leafy green. Stir-fries. Salads. Dumplings. Pasta. Tartines. And now, a riff on Chinese scallion pancakes.

Sure, you've had scallion pancakes before in restaurants and possibly from street vendors if you've been to China. But have you ever made them at home? Whenever I teach cooking classes on making scallion pancakes, students are always very surprised by how easy it is. The dough that I make is a simplified version of the one my dad taught me (which involves putting your hands in practically boiling water...Eek.) Sure, the boiled water dough makes the final pancake a smidgen flakier, but the simplified is so easy you'll want to make Chinese pancakes again and again.

So what's the secret to getting flaky layers? It's all in the folding. It might be helpful to watch this video first that I made a few years ago for the folding portion, and then proceed to the directions. What you do need to end up with is a very thin pancake that can pan-fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

I used shallots for a change but you can always stick with scallions; both are in the onion family. And for this recipe I used baby watercress from B&W Quality Growers, but you can also substitute regular watercress.  In order to make the watercress a bit more wilted, you just have to sauté a small bunch for 30 to 60 seconds, then cool.

Adding watercress gives this appetizer more nutrition than the traditional scallion pancake. If your kids are picky eaters who otherwise love carby snacks (and pretty much every kids LOVES scallion pancakes), this is an easy way of sneaking some vegetables into their meals. 

Give this a try and let me know in the comments how it goes!

Savory Watercress and Shallot Pancakes

Serves 4

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • 8 ounces baby watercress
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if necessary
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 large shallot or two medium shallots, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the watercress and sauté until wilted, about 30 to 60 seconds. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Oil a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. (For steps 3 through 10 you can refer to this video in my scallion pancakes post if you need a visual reference. It helps a lot!) In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour and water until a smooth dough forms. If the dough seems sticky, as it tends to do in humid weather, add a little more flour (starting with 1 tablespoon and up to 1/4 cup total, if needed) and mix again until the dough is no longer sticky.
  4. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough in the greased mixing bowl and turn until it is lightly covered with oil all around. Cover the dough with a barely damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Flour your work surface again and roll out the rested dough. Divide the dough in half, then roll each half into a 1-inch-thick cylinder. With a pastry scraper or butter knife, slice the dough into 2-inch-long segments. Dust your rolling pin with flour and roll out each segment into a 5-inch circle.
  6. Lightly brush the top of each circle with peanut oil, about 2 tablespoons total for all the pancakes. Sprinkle with the watercress, shallots, and salt.
  7. Roll up each circle into another cylinder, making sure the scallions stay in place.
  8. Coil the dough so that it resembles a snail.
  9. With a rolling pin, flatten again into disks about 1/4 inch thick. The pancakes will get a little oily from the watercress and shallots popping through the dough. Place the rolled-out pancakes on a plate and repeat with the remaining dough. If you stack the pancakes, put a piece of parchment paper between each layer to prevent sticking. (Whatever you don’t cooking immediately can be frozen for future use.)
  10. Heat a nonstick flat-bottomed skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Working in batches, pan-fry the pancakes until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. If the sides or middle puff up during the cooking, press them down with a spatula to ensure even cooking. (You may also need another tablespoon of oil between the batches.) Transfer the pancakes to a plate, cut into wedges, and serve, either alone or with chili sauce or soy sauce on the side.
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I've been on a risotto kick lately. Which is rare, because for years I didn't really cook it at home. Pasta meals for me were usually cooked last minute,  a quick fix if I'm hungry and short on time and fresh ingredients. But lately I've learned to appreciate the slow art of risotto-making. The layering of ingredients. The alternating cycle of adding wine, adding stock, and stirring. It makes for a very meditative experience.

As part of a partnership with B&W Quality Growers, which grows watercress in eight states in the southern and mid-Atlantic regions, I've been using a lot of watercress in my cooking lately. Because watercress cooks very quickly, and has a subtle flavor, it's a great addition to a simple risotto with shiitakes, Parmesan, and fresh herbs. Also, since the leafy green is loaded with vitamins K, C, and A, I don't feel the need to add a side of broccoli, brussels sprouts, or carrots to the mix (though you could if you wanted to, of course!)

Many times home cooks substitute dry thyme and oregano for fresh herbs out of convenience, but I would really advise you to find fresh herbs for this one. Dry herbs would still work, but the risotto would have a much drier, woodier taste compared with using fresh thyme and oregano. For this recipe I used baby watercress, which takes maybe 5 to 10 seconds of stirring to wilt; if you use regular stemmed watercress, just chop it smaller and stir for a tiny bit longer for the same texture. 

 

Shiitake and Watercress Risotto

Serves 4

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 8 ounces baby watercress
  • 8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 springs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook gently until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat with the oil until the grains begin to crackle. Stir in enough stock to just cover the rice. While the stock is bubbling, continue to stir the rice often, until the stock is just about absorbed. Add 1 cup of the white wine and more stock to cover the rice and continue stirring. When the white and stock are absorbed, add the remaining 1 cup of white wine and the remaining stock. Continue to cook until the rice is tender all the way through. 
  2. Meanwhile, in another skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes until softened. Sprinkle over with the salt. Add the thyme and oregano and cook for another 2 minutes until the mushrooms are slightly crisp around the edges. 
  3. When the rice is tender and the liquid is almost all absorbed, add the parmesan and watercress and stir until the cheese is melted and the watercress is wilted. Divide the risotto into individual bowls or plates and top with the mushrooms and herbs. Serve immediately. 
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Appetite for China by Diana Kuan - 1y ago

I've been on a risotto kick lately. Which is rare, because for years I didn't really cook it at home. Pasta meals for me were usually cooked last minute,  a quick fix if I'm hungry and short on time and fresh ingredients. But lately I've learned to appreciate the slow art of risotto-making. The layering of ingredients. The alternating cycle of adding wine, adding stock, and stirring. It makes for a very meditative experience.

As part of a partnership with B&W Quality Growers, which grows watercress in eight states in the southern and mid-Atlantic regions, I've been using a lot of watercress in my cooking lately. Because it cooks very quickly, and has a subtle flavor, it's a great addition to a simple risotto with shiitakes, Parmesan, and fresh herbs. Also, because watercress is loaded with vitamins K, C, and A, I don't feel the need to add a side of broccoli, brussels sprouts, or carrots to the mix (though you could if you wanted to, of course!)

Although many times home cooks substitute dry thyme and oregano for fresh herbs out of convenience, I would really advise you to find fresh herbs for this one. Dry herbs would still work, but would have a much drier, woodier taste compared with using fresh thyme and oregano. I used baby watercress for this risotto and it takes maybe 5 to 10 seconds of stirring to wilt; if you use regular stemmed watercress you may have to chop it smaller and stir for a bit longer for the same texture. 

 

Shiitake and Watercress Risotto

Serves 4

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 8 ounces baby watercress
  • 8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 springs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook gently until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat with the oil until the grains begin to crackle. Stir in enough stock to just cover the rice. While the stock is bubbling, continue to stir the rice often, until the stock is just about absorbed. Add 1 cup of the white wine and more stock to cover the rice and continue stirring. When the white and stock are absorbed, add the remaining 1 cup of white wine and the remaining stock. Continue to cook until the rice is tender all the way through. 
  2. Meanwhile, in another skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes until softened. Sprinkle over with the salt. Add the thyme and oregano and cook for another 2 minutes until the mushrooms are slightly crisp around the edges. 
  3. When the rice is tender and the liquid is almost all absorbed, add the parmesan and watercress and stir until the cheese is melted and the watercress is wilted. Divide the risotto into individual bowls or plates and top with the mushrooms and herbs. Serve immediately. 
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Whenever I go home to Boston or visit relatives in Hong Kong, I'm reminded on how much watercress features into Chinese cuisine. Whether we're eating out or dining in, it was common to have a plate full of stir-fried watercress. Sometimes it would be simply dressed with a little garlic, rice wine, and soy sauce. Other times it would be stir-fried with pork or chicken. But in the US, watercress lacks the popularity of kale, spinach, arugula, and just about any other leafy green, even though it packs so many nutrients in such a tiny package.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a dinner at Chef's Club in Soho that aimed to showcase the versatility of watercress. There was a lot of info about watercress highlighted, such as the fact red watercress is spicier than regular, and that the growing process results in negative water consumption (it only grows in flowing water), making it incredibly environmentally friendly.  

The highlight of the evening was that everything in the East-meets-West meal was prepared by Ming Tsai in an open kitchen. Having grown up in Boston and seen the local legend cooking on PBS and the Food Network, it was pretty exciting to meet him and see him work his magic close up. And yes, he is as charismatic in person as he is on TV. 

The dinner started off with a vodka cocktail flavored with watercress, ginger, and a wee bit of sambal; nothing was overpowering and you definitely taste the refreshing, slightly bitter flavor of the watercress.  There were also watercress scallion pancakes (a nice take on traditional Chinese pancakes), a creamless watercress soup with honey-apple salsa, and a "crazy chicken" and sambal stir-fry on top of a bed of watercress and fried vermicelli noodles. The highlights of the evening for me, though, were the spicy pineapple pork belly stir-fried with watercress fried rice and incredibly buttery and slightly minty sous vide salmon with watercress. 

I later told my mom about the meal and she said, "Of course. There's a ton of ways to cook with watercress. I have no idea why Americans don't really cook with it." 

It's easy to grow, easy to cook with, and a nutritional powerhouse. But does it have the potential to be the next kale? In the coming weeks I'll be experimenting with watercress recipes that go beyond just using it in a salad, so stay tuned!

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This week I'm very excited to share a recipe from my friend Chitra Agrawal's new cookbook Vibrant India, which came out a few weeks ago from Ten Speed.

I first met Chitra about 5 or 6 years ago at a potluck and we quickly became close friends through a mutual love of cooking. We banded together a few years ago and started Tangra, a Chinese-Indian vegetarian supper club using local, seasonal produce, our version of Chinese-Indian fusion in which each dish had both a Chinese element and Indian element. It was during those days of wild experimentation and creating menus for our 7-course dinners that I first learned from her how to temper spices and how to put together simple South Indian dishes, which is much lesser known in the US than North Indian food.

South Indian cooking is the subject of Vibrant India, and the book is full of salads, rice and lentil dishes, and other light but incredibly flavorful vegetarian fare. To make the green bean and coconut stir-fry, I took a quick trip to the Patel Brothers in Sunset Park to pick up a few provisions I didn't have on hand or needed more of, such as sambar powder, fresh curry leaves, and frozen grated coconut (though you can also use fresh or dry coconut too.)

One ingredient that may be difficult to find is asafetida (hing), a pungent and earthy powder from the sap of a plant similar to fennel and is used to aid digestion. I love the smell of asafetida, which has the aroma of fried onion and garlic when added to oil, though some people may find it very funky at first. If you can't find it, you can just substitute a bit of minced garlic, onion, or leeks.  This stir-fry came out great, very light, lemony, and fragrant with coconut and spices. I'm definitely looking forward to trying it with fiddlehead ferns once they're at the farmers markets, like Chitra suggests. 

Oh, and I'm also doing a giveaway for a copy of Vibrant India!  Leave a comment below from now until Wednesday, May 26th about what produce you love to cook with in the springtime. On May 27th I'll choose a name at random and contact the winner.

_______________________________________

Green Bean and Coconut Stir-fry

Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened grated coconut (fresh, frozen, or dried)
  • 1 tablespoon mild-flavored cooking oil such as vegetable, canola, or grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 pinch asafetida (hing), or substitute 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 2 tablespoons minced onion or leek 
  • 4 or 5 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 dried red chili, cut in half
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sambar powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. In a small bowl, thaw the frozen coconut or add a bit of hot water to dried coconut to plump it up.
  2. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add one black mustard seed. Once the seed sizzle and pops, add the remaining black mustard seeds and the asafetida. You may need to have a lid handy to cover the pan in case the mustards seeds pop. When the popping subsides, reduce the heat to medium-low. Rub the curry leaves with your fingers to release the natural oils, then add them to the pan along with the dried red chili. Cover the pan for a few seconds in case the curry leaves cause the oil to splatter. Remove the lid and stir everything for a few seconds. 
  3. Add the green beans, turmeric, and salt to the pan and stir-fry for a minute over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low again, add a couple tablespoons of water, and cook the beans for 2 minutes. Stir in the sambar powder and stir. Add the coconut and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the beans are tender and cooked through. Stir in the lemon juice, transfer to a plate, and serve. 

Adapted from Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal

 

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