Excellent Pork Chop House: Taiwanese Comfort Food

There are some people whose food instincts and advice I greatly respect. One of them is the voracious (and all-around awesome) Ed Lin, author of New York Chinatown thrillers “One Red Bastard,” “Snakes Can’t Run” and more.

So when Ed recently posted a photo of a bowl of noodles at his favorite Taiwanese place in New York, I immediately sat up. I trust Ed on all matters gastronomic — especially Taiwanese, a cuisine he knows inside and out.

Which is how a few days later, sous chef and I found ourselves wending down a narrow curvy lane in Chinatown, eyes peeled for one “Excellent Pork Chop House” …

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Egg-Drop Broccoli in Ginger-Miso Gravy: A Giant’s Feast

Anyone who has eaten with me understands that I generally view vegetables the same way one would dentist appointments or exercise — they’re a necessary evil.

This has long held true, and is something that has exasperated my mother since I was a child. Back then, once it was clear that threats and bribery had absolutely no power in persuading me to eat any greens, my mother wisely appealed to a different side of me: The one that (perhaps not so) secretly enjoys the idea of a good conquest.

Think of broccoli as a little tree, she said.

And so, at the dinner table, I began to imagine myself as a giant, ripping out whole trees from the ground and snarfing down clumps of leaves, then branches, before finally devouring their trunks. Destruction, obliteration — all adrenaline-pumping stuff that finally got me to clean those plates of greens.

Perhaps this could have been seen as an early sign that I might grow up to be a serial killer but, no matter. I was eating vegetables. And that was good.

I was thinking of this story when my Let’s Lunch crew decided on doing “a dish that made me eat vegetables” for this month’s virtual lunch date toasting Joe Yonan’s new cookbook “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook,” which hit bookstores this week. Congrats, Joe!

What should I cook up? Why, broccoli, of course …

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Char Siu (Roast Pork) & Broccoli Stir-Fry: Lazy Chinese

A Singaporean auntie laughed when I once mentioned my late grandmother’s “gambling rice,” a one-dish meal she concocted that was easy to make — and for busy gamblers to eat — in the little gambling den she ran.

“Gambling rice?” my auntie said. “We called it ‘landuo fan!”

Lazy rice — a name that’s stuck with me ever since.

I’ve been all about lazy food in my kitchen recently — with a book deadline looming, food has become immaterial. (During a recent month of writing at The Studios of Key West in Florida, strong Cuban coffee was my main sustenance some days.)

So recently in Brooklyn, cooking has become all about looking in the fridge and throwing dishes together. Some of these winged-it meals, however, have turned out so much tastier than expected that I’ve started recording the haphazard madness that led to their being.

One of the favorites so far? Chinese roast pork with broccoli in an easy home-made char siu gravy. It’s so easy that dinner took a little over 10 minutes to make. Want the recipe? Just click on through …

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Barley Water: Daffodils, Spring & An Ode to Mary

Cancer has been on my mind a fair bit recently — not too many mornings ago, I awoke to the worst news. A dear friend and longtime mentor had passed away. Another victim of breast cancer.

The world knows Mary Corey as many things — the first female editor of the Baltimore Sun, an elegant writer and intrepid reporter who covered breaking national news and fashion’s frothy runway shows with equal aplomb, a graceful leader of a major regional newsroom at a time of great tumult in journalism.

But I simply know Mary as just about the best boss anyone could have asked for — and an intensely big-hearted friend.

Mary was my editor in my years as a young features reporter — she pushed me to think big and nudged the (then) very-reluctant me into covering fashion, sparking a career path that I’m on to this day. It would be an understatement to say that I would not be the writer I am today without Mary.

By all accounts, even as cancer overtook her life, Mary remained as sunny as ever, still thinking of others above herself. That was just the way she was — big sister to everyone, no matter the circumstance.

So when my Let’s Lunch international lunch club — inspired by cancer survivor Karen at GeoFooding — decided to post a dish today inspired by spring, life and daffodils to promote cancer awareness, I jumped right in.

Mary, this one’s for you …

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L’Amant: A French-Colonial Homage

The perfect boîte can be an elusive thing.

For me, it has to have several components — a seductive yet comfortable setting, cocktails that are as delicious as they are inventive, and a menu that goes far beyond basic nuts and cheeses, filled instead with snacky dishes that actually excite.

Recently, I found a new little place in New York‘s West Village that checks all those boxes: L’Amant, a French-Vietnamese bistro that opened early September …

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Chai Poh Scramble: Easter, Singapore-Style

Breakfast in this household includes many of your standard brunchy dishes — eggs and bacon, egg-soaked casseroles, eggs a dozen ways and more.

What’s less typical is when I wake up craving Chinese porridge — and the eggy accoutrements that go with a hot bowl of the stuff that I get at my mother’s kitchen table in Singapore. The eggs she serves with porridge are large bowls of beaten eggs, steamed with minced pork and white pepper. Or, savory scrambles packed with ketchup, shallots and sometimes shrimp.

Of the egg dishes I love in Singapore — one remained untested in my own Brooklyn kitchen: Chai poh omelet, a scramble peppered with deliciously salty chunks of preserved radish.

The reason was simple — I’d simply never bought chai poh before. But when my chef friend Simpson recently gave me an extra packet he had in his larder, I decided to give it a shot. After all, Easter was around the corner and my Let’s Lunch bunch had decided to share egg dishes for April …

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Sweet Tomato-Egg Stir-Fry: Just Like Mom Made

On a spring afternoon 16 years ago, my dear friend Kelly invited me into her kitchen.

This might not seem particularly noteworthy, given all you read about fearless kitchen action on this blog — except that at the time, I was a tepid (and rather terrified) culinary novice whose oeuvre basically spanned charred fried rice and idiot-proof instant noodles. As interns at the Oregonian, however, we didn’t have much money to eat out at the time, so Kelly invited me over one day to sample a stir-fry that her mom always made in their Indiana home. At Kelly’s small stove in Portland, I watched intently as she heated up oil, stir-fried tomatoes with some sugar, poured in some beaten eggs and in a matter of minutes, the dish was done.

I’ve thought about that meal often — not just because the dish itself was delicious. The diced tomatoes, softened and watery from sloshing about the wok, mingled with hearty eggs and laced with sweetness, made for a combination that was heavenly scooped over hot rice.

Mainly, however, I remember how simple Kelly made it look — and how adult it seemed to be cooking an actual meal that didn’t involve ramen powder packets or crusty burned bits. I remember that I wanted to be Kelly.

Although we stayed in sporadic touch over the years, I never thought to bring up this meal to Kelly — until we caught up at my “A Tiger in the Kitchen” reading at Powell’s in Beaverton, Ore., last month. Over spicy Korean hand-pulled noodles and dumplings after, I finally asked. “Do you remember that tomato and egg dish you made?”

And oh yes, of course she did.

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Braised Brisket: Seder a La Singapore

Sometimes, one just needs a good muse to get the juices flowing.

In my case, that would be a certain brisket I spied recently once the cut of meat began flooding butchers with Passover on the horizon. Now this was a beautiful five-pounder with an impressive girth, hearty red hue and slick coating of fat. Thoughts of what I might do to it washed over me instantly — something conventional, perhaps? Or a return to the trusty sweet and sour brisket recipe I’ve hauled out time and again? And then I thought of my Auntie Alice’s Singapore-style braised duck recipe and how unforgettable that soy sauce gravy inflected with ginger, garlic and five spice powder is.

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken often of how one shouldn’t be intimidated by Southeast Asian recipes — yes, it’s a less usual form of cooking than you would see in most American kitchens. The ingredient lists can be long and the sometimes numerous steps can be mind-boggling. But if you love the flavors, try to understand and dissect them, I’ve been saying in book appearances and interviews — and then adapt those techniques and spice strategies to everyday dishes in your own kitchen.

Faced with my brisket, I thought perhaps I should heed my own advice. My auntie’s braising strategy works wonderfully on duck — so why not beef? Armed with a bagful of garlic, ginger and an onion, I was ready to give it a shot …

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The Fat Radish: Modern British (Sans Modern)


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Step into The Fat Radish, a new restaurant in New York's Chinatown, and you may feel as if you've left Manhattan firmly outside the door.

British accents envelop you the moment you enter the sliver of a bar area; the menu is packed with a tantalizing looking blue cheese pork pie and the burger comes with "chips" not fries — thank you very much.

Chef Ben Towill (of the Australian Kingswood in the West Village) describes his new endeavor as "modern British" and its studied shabby chic decor certainly telegraphs as much. The walls are exposed brick, coated with a thin veneer of white, a motley collection of stiff backless stools or benches are your chairs of the evening, homey pots of rosemary and thyme line a divider in this former Chinese sausage factory — which bears the Chinese graffiti marking it as such. (Although, it's unclear as to why workers in a sausage factory would have needed the Chinese characters branded on a wall to remind them of where they were.)

Even the name conjures up thoughts of a certain U.K. restaurant that continues to captivate: Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck.

It's lovely to see so much thought and care go into weaving the story, the ambience of a new restaurant. Now, if only this much attention had been paid to the food…

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Jeffrey’s Grocery: A Restaurant Owner’s Take On Takeout


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Late at night in New York's West Village and we find ourselves perched on high stools at Jeffrey's Grocery — the slender bar counter is packed with the young and in the know, this being only the restaurant cum market's second night of existence, after all. And the thick hum of chatter all around almost lulls you into a stupor.  

Quickly, wine is ordered to stave off the yawns. Gabriel Stulman, the owner of the place, saunters over, looking pleased with the crowd, happy to chat about his new endeavor, which he has called “our best vision of a fifties mom-and-pop local grocery.”

Stulman first rose to New York culinary fame in 2005 as a partner in West Village favorites The Little Owl and Market Table. (He's since divested himself of his share in those restaurants.) Since then, he's opened Joseph Leonard, an American place named for both his grandfathers, and is expanding his footprint further in the Village. (Jeffrey's Grocery, named for his father, is the first of two restaurants he's opening in the West Village this fall. The other, Fedora, is slated to debut as a "1930s-style supper club.")

With a produce refrigerator that is the first thing you see as you walk through the door and shelves packed with cereal, pickles and Sriracha sauce, the place does feel like a decades-old grocery store — sans mustiness, plus a bar counter. The menu has lengthy lists of cheeses and meats and a decent raw bar selection; sandwiches are fairly basic — well, if you consider lobster rolls and braised brisket sandwiches basic.

What's popular on the menu at Jeffrey's Grocery so far? It's too early to tell. "We've only been open … 48 hours?" Stulman says.

What he does go on to tell us is where he eats when he's not at one of his restaurants …

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