Din Tai Fung Was a Special Treat in Seattle

din-tai-fung

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Seattle was dinner at the famous Din Tai Fung dumpling restaurant. I have had dinner at this world famous restaurant in Shanghai and was delighted to learn that they were also in Seattle.  With its signature xiao long bao (soup dumplings) Din Tai Fung is ranked as one of the world’s Top 10 Best Restaurants by The New York Times.  The Shanghai Soup Dumplings are wonderful.  There are 10 of these tiny dumplings in each order and they come in the traditional bamboo steamers.  We ordered several steamers and they went fast.  They are not the cheapest dumplings around but the experience is well worth the money.

Everything about Din Tai Fung is unique, which is probably why this Taiwanese-based dumpling chain is so highly praised. You cannot make a reservation but they have set up a phone-based text message notification system that makes getting in easier.  While you are waiting you can watch the showmanship of Din Tai Fung’s chefs within the open concept kitchen.  Creating these miniature dumplings is not easy but these chefs, wearing their Din Tai Fung uniforms, make them with obvious precision and skill.  It is fun to watch. I really like the way the Din Tai Fung restaurants are decorated.  It is a very modern setting decked out in earthy tones and illuminated by lighting that creates a truly enjoyable dining experience.

Photo by Sarah Ackerman – http://tinyurl.com/h9g4g67

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Cook Chinese Shumai on a Steam Grill

Shumai

I guess I am pretty lucky because I live fairly close to a Chinese community where I can enjoy dim sum quite often. No matter what we order during the meal there is always room on the table for some Chinese shumai, those small steamed pork and shrimp dumplings.  You don’t, however, have to go out to a restaurant to enjoy shumai because they are one of the easiest Chinese meat dumplings to make at home.  They are normally prepared in a bamboo steamer but they are even more delicious when prepared on a steam grill.

If you want to make shumai from scratch there are many recipes on the Internet. If you live near a Chinese food store, however, there are also many excellent brands of frozen shumai available in these stores.  Simply arrange the shumai on cabbage or lettuce in the steam grill, add some water and steam on low-medium heat for 7 minutes.  You will love the taste.  From preparing shumai to steaming and grilling meat, fish and vegetables there are so many things you can do with a steam grill. To learn more about cooking on a steam grill go to www.zodiacals.com and click on the Asian Steam Grill collection.

Photo by Jeremy Keith – http://tinyurl.com/gwx8l2k

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Indoor Grilling Asian Steamed Vegetables on a Steam Grill

Steam Grill Vegeies

One of the secrets of a long healthy life in many Asian countries is a diet which includes a lot of vegetables. It is not enough, however, just to eat vegetables.  You should cook them in a way to take maximum advantage of their nutritional value.  Grilling is one way to cook delicious vegetables but this has a couple of serious drawbacks.  First grilling can strip off some of the nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the vegetables. Second, indoor grilling tends to fill the kitchen with smoke.  Steaming is one of the best ways to cook vegetables because it preserves the nutrients to ensure they get to your body. Steaming, however, has to be done just right to make sure the vegetables are not overcooked or undercooked.

Now thanks to the steam grill you can have the best of both worlds. The UchiCook Asian steam grill from Japan, for example, steams and grills vegetables simultaneously.  By adding water to the ridge surrounding the grill this device keeps the vegetables enveloped in steam while simultaneously grilling.  This makes then so flavorful you and your family will want to keep munching on these vegetables which are a good source of nutrients. Cooking vegetables in a steam grill does not require the use of oil.  This means you can enjoy low or non-fat vegetables.  This can help lower the high cholesterol and high blood pressure levels that are associated with heart diseases. To learn more about the UchiCook Asian steam grill go to www.zodiacals.com and click on the Asian Steam Grill collection.  The grill is on sale this week with a $15 discount.

Photo by UchiCook 

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Zongzi Is A Special Food for The Dragon Boat Festival

Zongzi

Many Chinese families are eating Zongzi (Sticky Rice Dumplings) this week in honor of the Dragon Boat Festival which in China is celebrated from June 9 to June 11 this year. This festival is of great significance because has been held annually for more than 2,000 years.  Zongzi is a special food related to this festival.  The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan who was exiled by the King and then wrote many poems to show his love for his country.  After finishing his last masterpiece he drowned himself in the river rather than see his country occupied by the State of Qin.  On hearing of his death many people threw Zongzi into the river to keep the fish from destroying his body.

Zongzi is made with sticky rice typically wrapped in bamboo leaves. It has different shapes and fillings depending on the customs of different parts of China.  In the North, for example, people tend to flavor the fillings with jujube whereas in the South the filling is sweetened with bean paste, fresh meat or egg yolk.  These tasty rice dumplings are cooked by steaming or boiling.  Although Zongzi was originally a seasonal food often reserved for the Dragon Boat Festival it is now available year round in most major cities with a significant Chinese population.

Photo by Tolbxela – http://tinyurl.com/gpry4tt 

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Beef Chow Fun Noodles – A Hard To Find Delight

Beef Chow Fun

Although beef chow fun is a favorite among many Chinese food lovers, it is not widely available. In most cases you will have to prepare it at home if you have a craving for this wonderful dish.  Yesterday, however, to my delight I finally found a restaurant in Connecticut that serves beef chow fun noodles.  The restaurant, Kampei II in the Newfield Shopping Center in Stamford, has a chef that really knows how to prepare this Cantonese dish.  You may also be able to find beef chow fun in a Cantonese restaurant near you if you look for one that serves dim sum.  Basically beef chow fun is made from stir-frying beef, wide rice noodles, scallions, ginger, bean sprouts and dark soy.

The key to making beef chow fun is a cooking technique that uses very high heat to create a wok sear to create its own unique flavor. This is not always easy to do in the average home range but it is possible. The other key to making great beef chow fun is tossing the food in the wok without using a spatula. Make sure you use a wok with a wooden handle. You want a continuous movement of the noodles in the hot wok without using a spatula because this keeps the rice noodles whole. Make sure you get fresh rice noodles at your local Asian market. I found a good recipe for beef chow fun on the website The Woks of Life. See: http://tinyurl.com/nts6jfe

Photo by Penny – http://tinyurl.com/zb6k3sd

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Chinese Takeout Box is Actually American

Chinese Takeout Box

If I were to show most people in the United States a little white box with origami folds and a small wire handle they would instantly say it is a Chinese takeout box. It is the icon of the Chinese takeout industry in America.  Interestingly I have never seen a box like this during my travels in China.  Although the Chinese takeout box has come to represent the idea of Asian cuisine in Western society, this packaging is not generally used for food containment in Chinese culture.

You may be surprised to learn that the white box that comes when you order Chinese food for takeout is actually an American invention. The design of the Chinese takeout box was influenced by Japanese origami folds.  It was, however, designed in 1894 in Chicago by Frederick Weeks Wilcox, an American inventor.  He called the original invention the “paper pail” a leak proof container folded from a single piece of paper with a wire handle.  The paper pail and the rising Chinese food industry in the early 20th century were made for each other and the little white box has generally been associated with Chinese food ever since.

Photo by Steven Depolo – http://tinyurl.com/hpeq2kl 

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