two hands, warm coffee

I always get an Americano. Anytime I go to a new restaurant or new coffee shop, I always look over the menu and mull over the options. But at this point in my life, I know what I like, and at New York prices, I’m not going to risk my limited funds on something not good. So yes, more often than not, I’m sticking with the good ol’ standbys. In coffee terms, that means an Americano (black) or a simple drip coffee (black).

Since I am in New York, where culinary options (and options in general) reign supreme, I will sometimes order outside my comfort zone, but generally only if it’s a specialty of the establishment or comes with a good recommendation from a friend or someone who knows my tastes. I’m just not one to experiment with my food. And after all, how can I properly compare two restaurants if I’m not getting a burger at both? It’d be unfair to compare a rib-eye steak with a salad (especially since I don’t like salad).

Two Hands Café
164 Mott Street
(between Broome and Grand Streets)
NoLiTa, New York, NY

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yum yum chinatown dim sum

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I love dim sum. Absolutely adore dim sum. But strangely enough, in the two and a half years I spent in China, I only had dim sum once. As much as I love dim sum, it’s not something you can really eat on your own and dim sum options in Shanghai aren’t as plentiful as one might expect. My sister was in town last weekend so I took her to Jing Fong in Chinatown, which is my favorite best dim sum place in New York. It’s been around for a while and is fairly well-known, but it’s fairly big so the wait isn’t as horrendous as the crowd outside would suggest.

Most people probably refer to it as the restaurant with the escalator. If you’re walking along Elizabeth Street, you’ll probably see a crowd of people waiting outside, and inside there’s a little podium with a guy giving out numbers and waiting times and two big escalators connecting to the actual restaurant area above. Once you ascend (after a 35-minute wait for us, on a Saturday around noon), you get seated at a table (a shared table if you’re a small party) in this giant space that looks like it was decorated by the same person that decorates all Chinese restaurants in the US, and it’s time to order! Ah, the thrill of having to hunt down or beckon for your food, one eye on your plate and the other on the carts circulating between the tables!

Since it had been such a while since I last had dim sum and I do love my dim sum and I had been craving dim sum, I admittedly went a wee bit crazy with the ordering. It’s just so easy! You see food, you point at food, you get food. All my favorite foods! Foods that I only know the Chinese names of! 咸水角 (xián shuǐ jiǎo), 虾饺 (xiā jiǎo), 芋头角 (yùtóu jiǎo), oh my! And since my sister hadn’t had snails in a long time, we ordered a plate of those. Yum. The bill ended up being about $50, which is more than usual due to my gluttony, the snails (not a standard dim sum dish), and the extra food we ended up taking home. But oh, so worth it.

Jing Fong Restaurant
20 Elizabeth Street
(between Canal and Bayard Streets)
Chinatown, New York, NY

museum of china in america

The Museum of China in America (MOCA) is located in the Chinatown section of downtown Manhattan. Yay Chinatown! One of my favorite places in this city! It’s located at 215 Centre, which isn’t really the heart of Chinatown, because the heart of Chinatown is already occupied by grocery stores and restaurants.

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Inside, the main exhibit is kind of a homey feeling history gallery, which is separated into small rooms. The lighting is pretty dim and I guess they were going for the ‘experience’ setup as opposed to the ‘gallery’ setup. A lot of the content I was unfamiliar with since I only know my family’s particular history, so I found it quite educating. I especially enjoyed watching the oral history videos.

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Next to the main permanent exhibit was a temporary gallery space. The exhibit up right now (until February 24) is actually two linked exhibits, “Marvels and Monsters” and “Alt.Comics,” which are both about Asian-Americans and comics. I actually found it really interesting and I liked the exhibition design, which incorporated aspects of comic book design. This space was much more of a typical ‘gallery’ feel – nicely lit, white walls. My only quibble is with the installation of the exhibit because some of the wall text was peeling and overall it just lacked some finesse.

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It’s a pretty small museum but it’s a good one to visit if you have any interest at all in the Chinese-American experience. MOCA has free admission on Fridays, which is great because even though it was a nice visit, I don’t think I would’ve been willing to pay full admission price considering how small the place is. In April they’re going to have an exhibit about fashion which looks to be interesting. But definitely try and go while the comics exhibit is still up!

making pork meatballs

I’ve never pretended to be a good cook, and I’m not much for experimenting. But I had some ground pork in my freezer that I wanted to use, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. To be honest, I’m not sure why I even bought it. I was in Chinatown and the meat is just so much cheaper down there than up here, I felt compelled to buy some. Yeah … I impulse-bought pork.

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Anyway, I made pork meatballs out of it. It was actually kind of fun to make them. I wasn’t really sure what went into meatballs, but how hard could they be? They’re basically just balls of meat, right? Well, a quick search of AllRecipes led me to a myriad of different recipes, so I decided to just wing it. When I made bread the last time (it was a rosemary-potato bread), I turned part of the loaf into breadcrumbs. I mixed some of those breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Then I was going to add an egg … but I forgot. I squished all of that with the ground pork and formed meatballs. Yay!

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Then I wasn’t sure whether to fry or bake them. Online it seemed like either way would work, so I decided to just fry them in some olive oil because I didn’t want to turn on the oven just for a few meatballs. They fried up pretty nice, but it probably would’ve been better if I’d made them smaller. I cooked up some penne, simmered up some marinara (with the meatballs), and voila. The meatballs were a bit dry, probably since I didn’t add any egg and I cooked them too long because I was worried about them still being pink inside. Anyhow, it was a learning experience.

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[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]

cherry red

Well, what do you know? It’s 2012 already. I’m back in the city and goodness gracious yep, everything is smaller and more expensive than in Texas. Today I went down to Chinatown for some grocery shopping and I bought some cherries from a vendor on the street. Two pounds for three dollars. I’m generally not a big fan of fruit, but I like me some cherries every now and then. Plus, it was two pounds for three dollars. That’s less than I paid for the subway trips.

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I’ve never liked the color red and I always wondered why the bright red hue is sometimes referred to as cherry red. Because in my mind, the color of a cherry has always been the color of a Bing cherry – a nice darkish red. Anyway, they’re pretty yummy. Some are kind of soft and some are kind of hard (I didn’t get to pick them, they just got thrown into a bag by the vendor) but they’re quite sweet. Still not a big fan of fruit, but I suppose one cannot survive on carbs and candy alone.

cha shao bao #2

Back when I was in Shanghai, I used to eat cha shao bao like mad (as referenced here) because they were yummy, cheap, and omnipresent. The other day I went to Flushing in Queens, New York, which is essentially like Chinatown. I had dim sum with my grandmother and took some cha shao bao home. Oh yum. Missed that stuff. Not cheap like the Chinese convenience stores, but definitely better quality.

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I’m in the middle of finals, so I’m supposed to be hardcore paper writing. Ugh. I also have a long list of stuff on my to-do list, but since it’s been rainy and icky out … I’ve been lazy and have just been hanging out at home. Whups. I will be a better student … tomorrow … I promise.

chinese day in chinatown

Today is October 1st, which in China is National Day, or Guo Qing Jie (国庆节). It’s a pretty major holiday over there because it celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China and you get a few days of vacation. Since I’m in New York, I thought I’d be a good little Chinese girl and head down to Chinatown, where I quickly realized that many of the people in Chinatown were probably not the kind of people who would be celebrating the founding of the PRC. I felt like an outsider speaking Mandarin because virtually everyone was speaking Cantonese.

I did see a lion dance on Bayard Street, and I’m not sure if it was done for the National Day or not. Anyway, it was kind of fun. I walked around a bit and picked up some frozen dumplings and good instant noodles (as opposed to Maruchan Ramen)! I also picked up some tofu skin rolls for dinner, which were pretty good, but wow there was a lot of oil in those things. They were the veggie kind with vermicelli, carrots, mushrooms, et cetera wrapped in tofu skins and then fried. Yum.

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