Results tagged Chinese from David Lebovitz

Shang Palace

bbq pork at Shang Palace in Paris

Quite a while back, I worked at an Asian restaurant in San Francisco. The food was amazing. Fresh shrimp were cooked up, chopped, then smeared on bread, then deep-fried for shrimp toast. All the dumplings had freshly cooked ingredients in them – no canned peas or frozen shrimp. And each one was hand-rolled. All the meats were well-sourced and cooked daily, then shredded for fillings and claypot dishes. And the seafood was sparkling fresh.

The restaurant hobbled along for a few years then, sadly, closed. There were number of factors, but the one that I heard from most people is that they balked at paying regular restaurant prices for Chinese food.

For some reason, people think that Asian food needs to be cheap. (Last time I was in New York City, I went to a place that is famous for serving dumplings that could be had five for $1. It was recommended by a lot of people and they were so awful I threw them away, mainly because I was concerned about the meat – or whatever was inside – that I was eating.) I don’t know why people will easily pay $20 for roast duck at a regular restaurant but scoff if it’s more than $8 at an “ethnic” restaurant, especially if the ingredients are sourced with the same care at both.

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Sydney Dining

Sydney Opera House

If I ever get back to Sydney, I may never leave. And not just because it takes the better part of a full day to get there, or to recover from the jet-lag, which Australians know about all-too-well…since for them to go anywhere, it’s a considerable journey as well. But what I found interesting was whenever I told any locals how great their city was, they’d say, “Yeah, it’s pretty great.” Most of the time when you talk to people who live somewhere, they’ll invariably have something to grouse about.

I liked walking around the small, but urban center of the city, with its tall buildings, shopping centers, and compact Chinatown. And I enjoyed putting on my walking shoes (and socks) wandering the various neighborhoods, which are eminently walkable and you can chance upon little cafés brewing up excellent coffee, sleek design shops, and ethnic restaurants with food that will blow your support hose off.

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Kylie Kwong at Billy Kwong

lunch with Kylie Kwong

I crave Asian flavors, which became apparent on a couple of occasions this month. For one thing, it seems that I want to add chiles and fresh ginger to everything. Here is Sydney, Australia, where so much of the food feels Asian-influenced – clean flavors, fresh ingredients often cooked quickly over high heat (cooks using fiery woks always seem to be “attacking” the food, simultaneously pulling out and searing flavors), and served with immediacy – I mentioned to a dining companion that I loved everything I’ve eaten here. And what was particularly delightful was that my favorite flavors were used liberally in the food, including fresh ginger, which was so Asian. He looked at me, and said “Really? I think of fresh ginger as an Australian thing.” But when I said that I always saw fresh ginger piled high in Chinese markets, he said, “You know, it’s abundant in regular markets here in Australia as well.”

Being from California, Asian food is my “comfort” food and I never realized how much I depend on a bowl of spicy bibimbap for lunch in the winter or a light plate of cold buckwheat noodles with nori and ginger dressing in the summer. I like any and all Asian food, no matter what time of the year it is or where I am.

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Cole Slaw with Wasabi Dressing

cole slaw with wasabi dressing

One of the great things about France is that people spend a lot of time talking to each other. True, it’s not so great when you’re behind someone in line and they’re carrying on a conversation with the sales clerk at the bakery as if they have all the time on the planet, when you’re hopping up and down behind them (and there are people doing the same thing behind you) because you just want to get your baguette for dinner. But if you take the time, it’s nice the enjoy the jovial nature of the French and slow down for a bit. As someone who is normally hyperactive, it’s a lesson in patience that I’ve had to learn, which I practice on a daily basis.

cole slaw with wasabi dressing cabbage

Many visitors forget that and don’t always have great experiences because they’re in a hurry to do so much on their trip, or try to tick off the restaurants written up in the travel section of newspapers or magazines from back home. I always tell people to take a day off, and stroll a market or just sit in cafés for a while. Or find a restaurant off-the-beaten path for dinner, taking the métro into one of the outer neighborhoods.

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Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce

cooking noodles

Contrary to popular belief, people who work in restaurants preparing food rarely have time to eat. And even though the line cooks could sit down after they were done feeding everyone their first and main courses, that was the the most hectic time for us pastry folks since all the dessert orders would come tumbling in.

Bakers are known for eating things like butter sandwiches just because bread and butter are readily available and you don’t need to sit down to eat it or ask the line cooks if they had time to made you something more nutritious. When I left the restaurant business, I made one promise to myself: I would never again eat standing up or just mindlessly jam food in my craw. So when people ask why so many pastry chefs and professional bakers aren’t enormous—well, that’s why.

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The Hottest Restaurant in Paris

deux fois plus de piment

A lot of us étrangers (and there are some pretty étrange étrangers here..) bemoan the lack of heat and spiciness in the ethnic fare served up, because a good number of the locals have a hard time dealing with the heavily-spiced dishes that our all-American constitutions have no trouble handling. We, The People, have cast-iron stomachs and have become a nation of full-tilt eaters, relishing and exalting things that we can take to the extreme.

One thing I miss sérieusement is la cuisine mexicain, which is so foreign that it isn’t even in my dictionnaire Française. I know, I know. I live in Paris, and can understand perfectly why Mexican cuisine isn’t well-represented here*. (Hint: For the same reason North African cuisine isn’t quite so available back in the states.)

But I met my match at Deux Fois Plus de Piment (Two Times More Pepper). We were walking by recently, looking for a place for dinner, when I noticed this joint that just looked right.

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Pine Nut Syndrome

pine nuts

I noticed something weird this week: just about everything I ate tasted odd. No matter what it was, from bland rice cakes to strong, dark coffee, a few minutes after I ate or drank it, there was an odd, bitter flavor lingering in my mouth.

Being me, naturally, I assumed the worst: That they were going to have to remove my mouth, or something.

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Jook

blogjook

French supermarkets are funny places. In my book, I touched upon that touchy subject, as well as a few others. But let’s not get into that here; let’s just say that they’re not the best places to buy fresh produce. Which may explain the mystery of the liberal use of canned corn around here.

When I came back from a recent trip, on a late weekend afternoon, I had no choice but to go to my local supermarket to feed myself. I didn’t want to buy much, preferring to wait until I could go to my market the next day, but it was necessary to go and get a few provisions. In the produce aisle, I bypassed the sad bunches of wilted cilantro, I didn’t stop to pick up any yellowed, spring onions shipped from another hemisphere where it’s definitely not spring, nor was I particularly interested in Chinese apples.

But eventually I found what I wanted and headed to the checkout.

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