Sometimes I wish I could know when I'm going to die. It's just that kind of day.
lil' dumps and other Chinese things
Upon JJ's recommendation, Lee Anne and I trekked to Shanghai Tide for a late lunch/early dinner on Tuesday afternoon. This was following a session of ice skating at Rockefeller Center, after which I can say that I don't particularly enjoy strapping thin metal blades onto the soles of my feet on which I slowly glide over the ice with the grace of a bloated whale...who can't skate. I was also unaware, due to being holed up in my "warm as a malfunctioning sauna that is even warmer than a normal sauna should be" apartment, that the weather had dropped maybe 50 degrees in one day (which would explained why the heat was turned on at full blast, 24/7, resulting in slowly steamed Robyn), meaning that I hadn't dressed up as warmly as I should have.
How do you brighten your mood in this kind of situation? With LITTLE DUMPS.
These little dumps are steamed, thin-skinned blobs filled with fat-tastic burning hot soup and balls of ground pork. Thumbs up.
These little dumps are endearingly spherical, pan-fried, thick, chewy skinned globules filled with the same tasty balls of ground pork. More thumbs up.
These steamed little dumps are not very cute, but their chopped cabbage bellies make them vegetarian friendly. I LIKE EM. More thumbs in the upward position.
The check also gets a thumbs up. They have some kind of dumpling special that makes them...pretty damn cheap. For $12.50 we consumed 24 handmade dumplings. Oh baby, how full I was. "Haul me out on a pallet truck" full. A full sized pallet truck, not one of those hand held thingies.
Eating with Lee Anne was particularly memorable because she's one of the friendliest people in the world and became chummy with the friendly Chinese waiters, asking where they were from and whatnot. In case you don't already know, I cannot understand nor speak Mandarin despite being brought up by two natives from Taiwan and briefly living in Taiwan between 1996 and 1998 (during which I went to an international school, so don't look at me like that). Although Lee Anne attributes her comparative ease with learning Chinese to having spent a year in Taiwanese public school when she was little, I know her brain is about five times larger than her skull (nature somehow packed it in) and she would've learned it eventually anyway. She's too passionate and dedicated of a person to somehow not learn it. She also spent the previous school year abroad in China talking to...Chinese people.
If I could, I'd eat with her at every Chinese restaurant possible. And non-Chinese, of course, because I like spending time with her. However, the way life likes to work out for me is to give me really good "I love to eat" friends who don't live anywhere near me. It's a hell of a lot better than nothing, but my 10 years of making friends from afar has shown me that in a non-Internet world I would have almost no friends. Maybe I'm not supposed to have friends. That would explain it.
But I actually do have some friends in my hometown, or at least one. On Sunday for lunch I met up with Aliza, one friend whom I've gone to school with since 8th grade who lives about a 3 minute drive away from my house (no one walks in NJ, foo'). She's kind of like Lee Anne in that she's insanely smart (majoring in Arabic...alrighty), has a Robyn-compatible sense of humor, and likes to eat. I suppose that description could apply to many people (except for the "majoring in Arabic" part, for which she spent a year in Cairo for), but Aliza is unique. Truuust meee. She's also looked the same since 8th grade, which may or may not be scary. I'll just say she's "youthful".
We went to Ridgewood, the closest culinary haven, for dim sum, a perfect thing to eat on a Sunday afternoon. Despite being in an area where few Chinese people live, Dim Sum Dynasty does good business. And makes tasty food. Mmm hm.
We started off with these fried taro cake things, which most resemble hash browns if they were made of shredded taro instead of potato and had bits of shrimp hidden in the center. SURPRISE: YOU'VE GOT PRAWNS! It was my first time eating these fried taro pancake things, but I must get them again because they made my taste buds tingle with glee and...you know, they were delicious. Yes, that's what I meant to say.
The spring rolls were standard. Filled with your regular gloopy vegetable matter. Know what I mean? Maybe not? Okay. Let's move onto something more exciting.
I think I impulsively plucked these fried crab meat-stuffed wontons off the dim sum cart (actually, everything was impulsive). Very crispy, not oily, well filled with meat stuffs but not too heavy.
I don't know the exact name for these dumplings, but they're stuffed with chives and shrimp and are adorably ploppy, which to me make them more desirable for eating. Although har gow are one of the most typical dim sum dishes, the magic is a bit lost on me since I don't love shrimp. I find the combination of shrimp and chives in the nearly transluscent dumpling skin more enjoyable.
Turnip cakes are one of my most favorite Chinese foods. I have no idea why. I also have no good description for you aside from that they taste like...turnip cakes. They're generally servced with oyster sauce, but I like them plain in their chewy, slighty crunchy, miniscule shrimp-speckled glory.
Another one of my favorite Chinese foods is sticky rice steamed in a lotus leaf. If, like Aliza you've never had dim sum or sticky rice before, you have to unwrap the leaf before you eat it. (Hey, she didn't know! I'm being helpful.) In the middle of the bundle of sticky joy there were chunks of sweet pork sausage. The best kind of sausage. So good and full of fatty flavor that you can taste the days being shaved off your life expectancy with every bite. This is another one of those foods that I don't know how to describe—all I can do is endorse it after having eaten it for at least 15 years. It's a good thing no one is paying me to write about food because...well, they wouldn't. "This tastes good; trust me!" ain't really an eye opener.
But you should trust me. Yeah.
Indian food and stuff
Although I like Indian food, I rarely eat it. Because...I have no idea why. I could say the same about Vietnamese food and Korean food. There are loads of choices in NYC for all these cuisines, yet I rarely try them. What the hell do I eat on a regular basis anyway? (Baked goods.)
Now that I live a short walk from Curry Hill I have no excuse to not live on/breathe in Indian food every day. But I'm not, because I like oxygen. Instead I will aim to try the best places, so get those recommendations rolling if you have any up your sleeve...stomach...intestinal tract...etc.
Nathan and I randomly went to Curry Leaf for dinner on Wednesday night to try something out in my neighborhood. If you peek through a crack in their review-plastered windows, you will see...mostly darkness. They like the dim lighting or have an aversion towards too many lumens, hence my flash-tastic photos. The pot of fluffy, aromatic long-grain rice wasn't ginormous, but we couldn't finish it out of lack of stomach space. I guess it's denser than it looks. I hate it when I can't eat lots of rice; it's so damn tasty. [sigh]
I ordered Malabar Fish Curry, "made with Freshly Ground Coconut and Array of Masterfully Blended Spices". I really wish I knew what those mastefully blended spices were since there was no way in hell I could've identified them, but I guess they were blended masterfully enough for me to enjoy the blend of masterfullness. I don't know what I'm talking about. Oh god. The fish may have been salmon, but I actually don't remember. "Generic Fish." Whatever it was, I liked it. The little metal bowl didn't look like a hell of a lot, but it was surprisingly filling. Like that rice bowl. Deceptively small looking. I'm not writing completely sentences am I? Oh my god, what is going on with my brain...
I totally did not need this manhole sized onion kulacha, "Fluffy White Bread Topped with Onions", but I don't know how to resist bread. Moderation, where are you? [pokes it] The slightly charred bread was indeed fluffy, elastic, chewy, oniony, everything you'd want in an onion bread if you ever thought "Gee, what do I want from this onion bread?" because I know that's what keeps you up late at night in a violent bed sheet-tossing state of contemplative turmoil. That's you. Not me. Nor I. Or that dude. [points]
We topped off our bulging Indian food-filled bellies with personal buckets of not very chocolatey hot chocolate at Push Cafe. It's a nice place to hang out and chat in some comfy seating ("ambiance" is listed as one of their offerings on their awning), but don't get the hot chocolate because if anything, it will make you crave chocolate even if you didn't have a craving to begin with. On the upside, it won't make you sick like City Bakery's hot chocolate. But I think that's part of the charm. Nausea.
the next day
My stomach wasn't feeling it the next day but since I already made plans to eat out I figured I just wouldn't eat much until dinner. Which wouldn't be until 8:30 PM. Um.
For an afternoon activity I visited Corinne, who said she wanted to give me a copy of the latest book that she contributed to, Curry Cuisine. We also chatted about life and whatnot, which in the process became a "let's give Robyn some advice for the future" session. While completely appreciated, the advice also freaked me out a bit. Or a lot. The takeaway message was that 1) it seems like I can do something related to food and writing/publishing, 2) I should get "my foot in the door" by the time I'm 24, giving me about 3 years to figure out whatever the hell it is that I want to do and 3) I'm doomed. The last point is mainly my belief. ...I am doomed. To me, the door to whatever I want to do in life is 12 feet tall, made of lead and covered with long, painful spikes. For killing. No wait, for torturous injury; killing would be too easy.
I'm so not optimistic.
To ease the doom and pack on another layer of fat, I got a pain au chocolat ($2) at nearby French patisserie Ceci-Cela. It tasted like something straight out of Paris; flaky, crispy, buttery, with perfectly separated layers. I could go there every day. Maybe I will.
Since I was far from starving, I went with a small order of boiled pierogies (four pieces instead of the regular seven), one each of their four varieties: cheese, potato, meat (pork, I'm guessing), and sauerkraut with mushrooms. Pierogies are like Chinese dumplings to me (which are like any other dough-stuffed-with-stuff from one of a gazillion cuisines) except heavier, dough-wise and with denser filling. Four is a good number.
...Not that that's all I ate. I also got an apple blintz (aka a half order of the usual two blintz platter) since I love sweet, fried things. Not all blintzes I've seen are deep fried to crispy golden perfection, but those are my favorite kinds so I'm sticking to them. Think of a rolled up crepe filled with chopped apples...but awesomer because it's deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Who wouldn't love that? CRAZY PEOPLE.
Everyone enjoyed their food. Diana was really into her tomato soup, almost alarmingly so (she doesn't usually like everything the way I do...because my tastebuds don't give a crap) and Alice ate every one of her three human baby-sized potato pancakes (three being the small order, so whatever you do don't get the five-piece order) and her blueberry blintz. Even though Diana's sandwich took so long to make that we speculated how they were killing the chicken as Alice and I poked at our dishes, we didn't care very much since it did eventually come, Diana enjoyed it enough to eat the whole thing and the waiters were sweet.
At Diana's and Alice's suggestion we hung out some more at a nearby Starbucks (because no matter where you are in NYC there is probably a Starbucks within breathing distance) where I ate this "larger than it looked" rainbow cookie. The whole thing. Damn cookies, why are they so tasty? I prematurely ended the night due to lethargy and poop headedness, which has since cleared up...by 10%.
I have the sleepies.
...I start school on Tuesday. Crap.
THEY ARE EVERYWHERE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD