I love Vietnamese food, but there can be a lot of pitfalls for vegetarians. Even innocuous-sounding dishes may have a healthy sprinkle of fish sauce in them. At Bricolage in Park Slope, though, Chef Lien Lin has a number of great (fish sauce-free) vegetarian options like banh xeo (a crepe made with rice flour) and a veggie banh mi. Even better is the dish she made for us in the newest episode of Lost Vegetarian: banh canh noodles with tofu. The dish, which is meant to be eaten at room temperature, features a great mix of textures and flavors. The noodles, made with a mix of tapioca and rice flours, are dense and chewy, while the vegetables are crisp and light. The coconut-based sauce adds just the right amount of seasoning, offset by the bright acidity of the pickles.
Camera – Donny Tsang (http://www.donnytsang.com/)
Camera – Scott Lindrup (http://www.scottlindrup.com/)
Music – Bayard Russell (https://bayardrussell.wordpress.com/)
Bricolage — 162 5th Ave
I first came across nutrela, a dried soy product, while I was traveling in Nepal, and that’s where chef Tenzing Tsering came across it as well. Pre-cooked Nutrela has, I think, something of an image problem. In fact I think it looks a little like dry dog food. But when cooked properly, as Tsering does here, it’s delicious and quite beautiful. Despite the simplicity of the finished dish here it was amazingly rich, and my favorite of all of the many dishes that Tsering cooked for us that day. And he cooked us a lot of food. This project has introduced me to many wonderful and generous chefs, but I have to say that Tsering may be one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. He genuinely cares about people and sees feeding people as an act of community service. When the food is as good and as fresh as his, it’s hard to argue with.
In addition to my usual collaborators — Donny Tsang and Scott Lindrup with cameras, and Bayard Russell providing music — I want to thank Jeff Orlick for recommending Chef Tsering and Punda Tibetan Restaurant to me.
Punda Tibetan Restaurant — 3935 47th Ave, Sunnyside
Oh, hello there. It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog, I know. It’s been since August, you say? Seems like time has been going by very quickly. In truth I’ve been very busy at work, and I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. Lucky for me I recently took a few trips to the Chinese food courts in Flushing, where I got some really amazing food. Here’s the best of what I had during my recent trips. At the Golden Shopping Mall, a warren of narrow stalls with almost no English menus, I got the bowl of food you see above from what I think is the Chengdu Heaven stall. I got two different dishes — cold strips of cooked potato, seasoned with vinegar and chilies, and a seaweed salad dressed with vinegar and sesame oil.
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As a vegetarian, I’ve never really felt the urge to dine at any of the Momofuku restaurants. When he first started out David Chang made it pretty clear he didn’t care much about vegetarians, though over the past few years that’s started to change. Then I read this article on Eater about a new vegetarian ramen they’ve been serving at Momofuku Noodle Bar with Hozon broth. Hozon is a local company, also owned by Momofuku’s David Chang, that’s been making fermented products similar to miso, and at the Noodle Bar they’ve made it into a ramen broth. It’s not as good as the broth at Chuko, but it’s a great bowl of noodles. The broth is salty and rich, and is studded with fried chickpeas, crispy crackers, and sauteed kale for texture. Better still were the noodles; so firm they almost snapped between my teeth, and with an almost buttery aftertaste. I’m glad I finally gave Momofuku Noodle Bar a chance, as I can now cross that one off my list of NYC restaurant experiences.
Momofuku Noodle Bar — 171 1st Ave, NYC
The idea of gluten free has been around for a long time now but I’m still quite not 100% sure what gluten free really means. Is it just no flour? What else has gluten in it? So when an invite to attend dinner at Wild, a gluten free restaurant in Williamsburg, I decided to go. I was curious about gluten free and was hoping to learn something.
We were treated to two gluten free pizzas, the Wild Mushroom Truffle pizza with ricotta and arugula and the Wild White pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, truffle oil and cracked pepper. There were also the house salad with beets, tomatoes, artichokes, and goat cheese, pan seared salmon, wild chicken parm, gluten free penne pomodoro, and couple bites of desserts.
I love that there is a gluten free centric restaurant for people that are allergic to gluten, a place to dine out. But this place isn’t for me. I felt bad as I was eating the pizza because the entire time I was thinking about the slice of non-gluten free pizza I was going to eat when I get home. Am I bad? The flavors were there on the topping, I especially liked the white pie but I just love a good pizza crust way too much to give it up. There were hits and misses for the rest of the menu. The penne was over cooked but nice sauce and the chicken parm was pretty good.
Overall it was a fun night and I got to try some gluten free stuff but I just don’t think I’ll give up gluten anytime soon.
Wild, 340 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg Brooklyn
Few weeks ago, I was invited to an interesting event. The Tastemaker dinner, hosted by Chopped’s Ted Allen, took place at Pok Pok NY in Brooklyn. When I got the invite, I wasn’t too sure what it was about especially when the event was from Pepcid (yes the heartburn medicine) and Eater. Thai food doesn’t make me think heartburn and was Andy Ricker suppose to cook the whole dinner from a mystery basket?
I’ve never been to Pok Pok NY and have heard so many great things about it, I decided to check out this event. The night started off with cocktails, signing waiver forms and getting your table number. The bar, the tables and even the restrooms had bottles of Pepcid lying around. Finally, Ted Allen gave a quick speech and afterwards we all sat down at our tables. Dinner was served family style and we all enjoyed yam samun phrai (a herbal salad), Ike’s Vietnamese fish sauce wings, sai ua samun phrai (Thai sausage with chicharron and curry), phak buung fai daeng (stir fried bok choy with chillies), plaa neung bui (whole steamed striped bass with preserved plums), kai yaang tua (whole roasted chicken), and sangkhaya fak thong (sticky rice with pumpkin and palm sugar custard).
Thank you to Eater, Pepcid, Ted Allen and the Pok Pok NY crew for a great night and good food. Everyone was super nice and always great to meet other food people. I can’t say that the meal was amazing like how other people had talked about it but it was definitely good. While everyone was crazy over the chicken wings (I thought they were too salty), I was all over the stir fried bok choy and the salad. Crunchy, light, refreshing, and went so well with the sticky rice. The other dishes were pretty good. I mean, I’m pretty familiar with the flavors so the dishes were good but nothing truly jumped out at me as WOW. I did surprised myself by eating the dessert. If you don’t know, I hate Asian desserts but I didn’t want to offend anyone so I gave it a try and….it wasn’t too bad. The custard was darn tasty.
Thank you to Hunter Public Relations for the invite. I’ve always wanted to try Pok Pok NY and I finally did. Definitely good to have them in the neighborhood.
Pok Pok NY 117 Columbia St, Brooklyn
Last season when their 5 year permit was set to expire, the future for the Red Hook Food Vendors was up in the air. I couldn’t imagine a summer without eating at the ball fields. Though lucky for us, it was announced early April that they were able to get a new permit that will last for 6 years.
To celebrate their return and also what I like to consider the beginning of summer, a group of us ventured out to enjoy tacos, tamales, pupusas and horchata. The Red Hook Food Vendors is one of my favorite things to do. Besides the fact that I can walk to the ball fields, I can also get some really REALLY damn good food and not have to spend my whole paycheck. Above: for $9 I got a loroco flower with cheese and a chorizo with cheese pupusas plus a big pile of chicharron from the El Olomega truck.
Red Hook Food Vendors, corner of Bay and Clinton St. Red Hook, Brooklyn