Monday, September 27, 2010

小杨生煎 - Yang's Fried Dumplings (Shanghai, China)

When you see a long line outside, you know something good is happening (outside of a restaurant at least). If there's one thing you HAVE to have in Shanghai before you leave is the shengjian bao at Yang's Fried Dumplling. At 5 pieces for less than $1, there's nothing better than this place, period!

As you're standing in line the kitchen is filled with workers that start building these little things from the ground up. From making the skins to the finished product, everybody in here plays a role in making shengjian bao. The reason for the blurriness is due to the grease splatter that coats the entire windows of the kitchen.

The shengjian bao are pretty much made in 3 stages. They start cooking from the furthest one down and move their way up to the front where they're finished and served at the window. Even though the line looked long, it moves quickly cause these things just keep popping out like it doesn't end.

Shengjian Bao
To kind of understand what shengjian bao is, think xiao long bao, cept pan fried instead of steamed. When you bite into these you don't want to take a big bite cause you'll most definitely scorch your tongue and whatever the hot soup inside touches. As with xiao long bao, you bite a small hole and drink the juice inside before you dig into the rest of the dumpling. It's filled with a pork mixture that's extra juicy and tender and you won't even need any other sauces except maybe vinegar to cut the greasiness or some chili sauce to spice it up.

Verdict? I could eat this again and again without getting tired of it. It's cheap, quick, and super delicious. Like I said before, this is one place you don't want to pass up if you're ever in Shanghai so if you only get to eat at one place in Shanghai, it should be here.

Yang's Fried Dumplings
Huangpu District,No. 720 Nanjing East Road, a store of food
黄浦区 南京东路720号食品一店内

List of Locations - The list of locations for all their stores is provided in the link to the left. Choose the one closest to you, but be prepared to wait at whichever one you go to.

Ning Bo Dumplings (Shanghai)

Ning Bo Dumplings, known for their tangyuan (literally translated to soup balls) among other small dim sum like dishes, is located in the Chenghuang Temple or Yu Gardens area. This area is a bustling area with tons of tourists and locals alike.

Sesame Tangyuan
Tangyuan, which are basically made from gelatinous rice flour, can be filled or not filled at all. They usually have a sweet filling that can be anything from peanuts and sesame to red bean and more. In this particular case, I got the traditional sesame tangyuan. After they're made, they're boiled and then served in the same water they're cooked in.

Dim Sum Dishes
In additional to the tangyuan they're known for, right when you walk in the door there's also many dim sum offerings on your right. I was too full to try these but they sure did look delicious. Seats are hard to get and people usually order without even having a place to sit.

Verdict? The tangyuan was delicious, but according to my friend that lives in Shanghai, the dim sum dishes here are sub par to dim sum that you can find at other places. So if you're ever wanting to try out tangyuan, this would definitely be the place to try.

Ning Bo Dumplings
Yu Gardens Zigzag Bridge, 112 Yuyuan Road (near Jiujiaochang Road)  

It's only the first floor of that building so don't walk up the other floors thinking it's extra sitting space.

Jade Garden (Shanghai)

Located on the 3rd floor of an office building that has a Porsche dealership on the first floor at the intersection of Nanjing West Road and Xinchang Road, Jade Garden is a great place for dim sum or just a regular meal. Set in an elegant ambiance, this place makes for a great family restaurant or a quick lunch meeting. On this particular day, we went for the dim sum items and one item off the menu.

Poached Chinese Broccoli
This item was labeled wrong as Poached Kale on the menu. If you take the most tender Chinese broccoli stems, slice them into pieces, poach them to perfection, and then drizzle a light soy sauce mixture over it, you end up with this dish. The veggies were crisp and not overcooked at all. It may seem like a really simple dish, but there's no dim sum place in the US that has this dish that can compare.

Noodles with Scallions and Small Shrimp
These noodles may not look like much, but it was packed with great flavor and was pretty refreshing. The noodles are eaten cooled after being mixed together in a house soy sauce along with fried scallions and dried shrimp.

White Fish Conjee
This was labeled as Sawness Sliced Seever Conjee (which makes completely no sense to me).For those that aren't familiar with conjee, it's basically a rice porridge. It has chunks of white fish in a lightly salted conjee and topped with rice crackers and cilantro.

Xiaolong Bao
I know I've posted about these steamed dumplings in my Jeng Ji post, but they're just so much better in the motherland. They're juicier and always made by hand. There are many restaurants that are known just for serving these in Shanghai so if I go to eat at one of these restaurants I'll definitely give you more insight into them.

Three Cup Crispy Shrimp
Based off the popular three cup chicken dish, this item was off the regular menu. Some believed these dishes were called "three cup" because the sauces used to create the flavors originally were a cup of soy sauce, a cup of rice wine, and a cup of sesame oil, but others say that the original three ingredients were soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. No need to worry though because nowadays all the ingredients are used proportionally as needed.  The protein simmers in this three cup mixture and toward the end of the cooking process, fresh ginger and basil are thrown in to give it an extra burst of flavor. The shrimp were crisp enough to just throw the whole thing in your mouth and paired well with rice.

Vegetarian Egg Rolls
The only thing that remotely resembles an egg roll in this dish is the look. The outside is actually tofu skins with sesame seeds instead of the usual wonton skins you find on egg rolls. Inside, there's a combination of carrots, 3 types of mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. When eaten together, the taste even puts a pork egg roll to shame.

Steamed Ribs in Black Bean Sauce
If you've ever ordered this in the US, it's basically the same thing but better. The black bean sauce used to steam these ribs are infused with star anise and chili peppers which give it a very unique and awesome taste. The meat comes right off the bone and is very tender.

BBQ Pork Stuffed Pastry
The traditional sweet barbequed Cantonese style pork is wrapped in these flaky pastry skins and baked till golden brown. The rich buttery flakiness combined with the savory sweet taste of the pork inside makes for a great meal finisher.

Verdict? I would definitely go back to this place again. With 3 people our meal ended up to be about 200RMB or about $30. You may say that's cheap for high quality dim sum at a nice restaurant, but anything that's close to US price in China is considered expensive. They have a lot more dim sum options to try and of course the regular menu you can order from so I'm sure there's something for everyone here.

Jade Garden

3F, No.288 West Nanjing Road, Shanghai
phone: 021-336 3777
hours: 11am-10pm
They may have other locations so refer to the website for the one closest to you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ajisen Noodles (Shanghai)

I arrived in Shanghai hungry and this restaurant conveniently located across the street from where I was staying. With 103 locations and more coming in Shanghai and 443 locations spread throughout the rest of China, Ajisen Ramen is a continuously growing Japanese fast food joint offering lots of Japanese noodle and dish choices. They have an extensive choice of noodles, rice, and appetizers that offer different tastings of Japan.

White Peach Calpis
Calpis, which is a Japanese un-carbonated soft drink, tastes just like a light milky yogurt. It's also sold in the US at pretty much any Asian supermarket so if you're curious you should try it. In this particular case, my Calpis was infused with a white peach flavor which made it a really refreshing drink.

Beef Wrapped Enoki Mushrooms
I started off the meal with this appetizer. Enoki mushrooms are long, thin, white mushrooms that are typically found growing in clusters on certain trees. They're chewy/crisp in texture and are often found in Asian cooking. In this particular case, the mushrooms are wrapped with thin slices of beef and then grilled to perfection. On top they drizzle a Japanese ponzu sauce which heightens the taste tremendously.

Prawn Noodles
Suggested to me by the server, this signature dish was what I ordered. The prawns (more like regular shrimp) and slices of pork were a bit overdone for my taste, but it was still pretty tasty. It could have been that I was starving when I arrived in Shanghai, but this bowl of noodles was satisfying. The broth was pretty thick so I didn't end up finishing it since it would be too much.

Okinawa Style Seafood Noodles
My mom ordered the seafood noodles that had squid, shrimp, seaweed and corn. This was similar to the dish I ordered except that the broth was lighter and more infused with a seafood flavor.

Verdict? For a quick bite of Japanese noodles and dishes, I would definitely hit this place up again. They have a huge variety of meals and dishes on their menu so it'll be a while before you run out of something new to try. Each dish was flavorful (not sure how authentically Japanese it was though) and the service was quick.

Ajisen Noodles
Locations are all over China with a majority of them in Shanghai. Refer to the website for the location closest to you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

鮮芋仙 - Meet Fresh (Taiwan)

Started by two siblings, the eldest sister and brother of the Fu family, Meet Fresh was established and opened to introduce old-time dessert flavors into the modern world. Similar to a modern shaved ice place in Taiwan, the desserts served here contain many similar ingredients you'll find at the shop such as grass jelly, pearls, QQ (chewy) goods in the flavors of taro and sweet potato, fresh taro, peanuts, red beans, etc. except that the ingredients they use are freshly made and without preservatives.

Soft Soy Pudding and Peanuts
This dessert contains soft soy pudding which has a texture very close to soft tofu. This is made in large pots in huge chunks. When ordered, they use a tool that resembles a fusion of a ladle and spatula to cut out pieces of the large chunk into smaller pieces. This is put in a bowl along with cooked peanuts and then topped immersed in a cold soup consisting of mainly water, ice, ginger juice, and sugar.

Hot Taro Dessert
My mom ordered the option that was hot instead of cold. They have a few hot dessert options that warms a body up during the cooler months in the winter. This dessert starts off with a sweet, hot taro soup base and then fresh taro, QQ taro and sweet potato chunks (the yellow and light purplish things), red beans, and tapioca pearls are added.

Black Sugar Ice with Grass Jelly
This is basically a traditional shaved ice dessert with a twist. Instead of just using a block of ice, they combine black sugar with water first to make a semi-sweet ice mixture and then use that to make shaved ice. There's a layer of this sweet icy mix on the bottom and then fresh grass jelly (gelatin-like texture with an Asian herb taste) on top. QQ taro and sweet potato chunks are added to it and you can top if off with optional cream.

Verdict? This shaved ice store along with any other shaved ice stall you find in Taiwan is sure to be a great solution to cooling yourself down on a hot day or warming yourself up on a cold day. For about $1.75 a bowl, you cant go wrong with anything you decide to try.

鮮芋仙 - Meet Fresh
They have locations all over Taiwan so check the website for location and phone information.

Friday, September 24, 2010

定食8 - Ding Shi 8 (Taiwan)

At first glance it may seem like 2 separate restaurants but they're actually owned by the same company. In this particular case I'm at the Taoyuan City Carrefour (Taiwan's Walmart equivalent). This is on the same floor level as the other food vendors and close to the McDonald's.

Outside of the restaurant they have their display of meal options, with 2 that aren't shown. Each meal is 200NT (roughly USD$6). They have everything from a sashimi bowl to tempura shrimp.

Ding Shi 8 pretty much means 8 set meals. As you can see from the menu, the meals are numbered and there's appetizers on the left you can also order. We got the sashimi sampler for an appetizer and then ordered the Cheese Stuffed Tonkatsu, Eel, and Mackerel combos.

Sashimi Sampler
The food came pretty fast starting with this sampler. My mom said that they have some thing where they're suppose to serve the food within 10 minutes or it's free type of deal? I'm not sure. Anyways, this sampler had salmon, scallop, red clam, squid, salmon roe, shrimp, and white tuna. A plate like this in a nice sushi restaurant in the US would probably be $15-20? Here, not even $5. 

BBQ Eel Combo
Each meal comes with other little goodies such as a seaweed salad, steamed seafood egg tofu, miso soup, milk pudding dessert, and fruit. The eel was grilled, topped with sesame seeds, and served with shredded egg on a layer of rice. For those of you that haven't had eel before, the meat is kind of like a hybrid between flaky fish and tender chicken.

Grilled Mackerel Combo
Every combo's side things were the same so you can refer back to the one above to see what was included. This mackerel was perfectly grilled and not overdone to where it would be dry. Since mackerel is higher in oil content than most other fish, squeezing the lime juice over it cuts out some of the greasiness in the taste, nonetheless, it's delicious.

Cheese Stuffed Tonkatsu
Tonkatsu is basically a Japanese style breaded and fried pork cutlet, in this case, it was a stuffed one. When it first came out it just looked like a regular tonkatsu, but when you slice it open, the cheese comes oozing out. It was a unique idea and the cheese wasn't too overwhelming. Just think chicken cordon blue without the ham and the meat is pork instead of chicken. Yum.

Miso Soup
With every meal comes miso soup, but at this area you can get unlimited soup and rice. Those black containers on the left contain stuff like seaweed, green onions, and other stuff that you can deck out your miso soup with.

Verdict? If after I go back to the states and someone asks me what the top 10 places I ate at were, I'm not sure if this place would make the list. Like I said before, this is in a food court area so this place would be like a Sbarro in the food court at the mall. I have to give this place some credit though because I think out of all the places in this food court, this one was the best choice.

定食8 - Ding Shi 8

桃園市經國路369號2樓 (369 State Road, Taoyuan City, 2nd Floor) *
phone: (03) 346-1878

*They have locations all over Taiwan so check the website for the one closest where you are.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Addison Oktoberfest 2010 (Addison, TX)

So Oktoberfest, what is it? It's a 16-18 day festival held in Munich (which a few of my friends are at right now) that ends the first weekend in October. It's a huge party at which you eat tons of Bavarian goods and drink mugs of German beer.

As for Oktoberfest in Addison, this party only lasts for 4 days. Even with the party cut short, Addison Oktoberfest 2010 was named one of the top 10 Oktoberfests in the United States by USA Today. The Addison Oktoberfest is sponsored by Spaten, which was one of the 6 original breweries in Munich that could serve at Oktoberfest. When you walk past the entrance, almost every other tent you see has a large sign saying "COLD BEER". I'll be honest, the only things I came to this Oktoberfest for were food and beer.

Spaten Dark Brew
At each beer tent, Spaten beer and German wine were served. Spaten offered 3 different brews, a dark, light, and wheat as they called it. My friend and I started off with the dark brew and man was it refreshing on this 98 degree sunny day. The wheat brew they had was a little lighter and very comparable to Blue Moon with that slight hint of citrus.

Bratwurst Burger
When I first read bratwurst burger, I was thinking a butterflied bratwurst smothered with sauerkraut and stuck between two buns. When I got it, I was surprised to see bratwurst in a patty form. This was definitely not the bratwurst I was used to seeing on 6th Street in Austin, TX. Nevertheless, this thing was delicious. It was just the bratwurst I was used to molded into different mediums.

Schnitzel Burger
For those of you wondering what schnitzel is, it's basically a thin piece of meat (usually veal or pork) that's thinned out with the use of a mallet or rolling pin. After this is done, it's coated in breadcrumbs and fried. I do wish the schnitzel that were in these burgers were of a larger size because they were pretty delicious. It was juicy, tender, and perfectly fried.

Roasted Pork on Potato Pancake
I'd have to say this was one of my favorite things I ate there. It was basically fresh roasted pork with caramelized onions on a potato pancake. You could tell the pancake was straight up made from potatoes and not some random pancake mix with potato chunks in it. They topped this off with some wild flower honey mustard sauce which wrapped up this dish nicely.

How did I know the roasted pork in the dish above was fresh? Cause I found it! Mmm.. succulent, juicy roasted pig.

German Skillet Potatoes
These "skillet" potatoes apparently create quite the commotion each year at the Addison Oktoberfest. Why did I put skillet in quotes? Because it was more like the largest wok you had ever seen. They basically threw in loads of red potatoes and onions along with sausage and different seasonings to create this flavorful bowl of potatoes. When I went to get myself a bowl of these, there was virtually no wait, but 10 minutes later when I walked by, a never-ending line had formed.
Chicken Bratwurst
This was basically the bratwurst we're used to seeing except with chicken. This link of brat had chicken with specs of red bell peppers and peppers to give it a little kick. Topped with sauerkraut, as usual, and served with some dijon mustard. Yum.

Cheese Strudel
I ended my feast with this, a cheese strudel. They had all sorts of flavors such as apple, cherry, and other fruit fillings but I opted for the cheese one since the lady behind the counter suggested it over the rest. This strudel was fresh, hot, and delicious! The outside was nice, warm, and flaky while the cheese stuffing was hot, not too overpowering, and too cheesy.

All in all it was a great day full of food and fun that was worth all the walking and sweating, and as my good friend Bob would say, cheers!

Addison Oktoberfest
Check out the website above for more info. The dates for the Oktoberfests for the next 2 years are already posted.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Best Buffet (Plano, TX)

So I've been reading recent reviews on this place and seeing things like "lobsters were overcooked", "all you get are lobster head/claws with no tail", and "the hostess was rude and impatient". I must have been real lucky last night when I went then because the lobsters (whole ones) and snow crabs were fresh, the wait staff was friendly (although they could have been quicker on their feet), and I had an overall great experience. I had been here previously so even with reviews like that, I never had that bad of an excuse to not go.

There are also reviews saying this place is really run down and needs a renovation, but I suppose that would be the case if you were comparing this to a buffet inside the Bellagio or a restaurant in the Four Seasons. Honestly, the environment was great, and there was plenty of food offered that was on par if not better than some of the other buffets I've eaten at.

Steamed Lobster
Of course the first thing I go for when I get there is the steamed lobster. As you can see, it's a whole lobster, not just the head and claws. The lobster was steamed perfectly and was tender and juicy. The only bad thing was once they start getting busy and the lobsters come out, they're gone within the minute so you need to keep a constant watch. With the prices of lobster in today's market, eating 2 of these should get you your money's worth for the buffet.

Sushi Bar
Aside from the seafood and and regular buffet items, there's a sushi bar with sushi and sashimi options along with some other Japanese goods such seaweed salad. On this place, starting from the escolar (white fish) pieces and going left, I have escolar, jellyfish salad, sushi rolls, and octopus sashimi. I have to say the jellyfish salad and escolar were my favorites on this place.

Clams, Whelk, and Scallops
After my plate from the sushi bar I went back for more seafood. I got a plate of clams stir-fried in black bean sauce, boiled whelks, and scallops with zucchini. The clams were good and plentiful, although I feel like it could have used a little bit more sauce. The whelks were amazingly fresh and not gritty. If you don't know what whelks are, they're basically snails from the sea, with a chewy texture. The scallops were large, good, and not overcooked.

Buffet Plate
Next I decided to get some stuff from the regular buffet area to kind of let you guys know what else was there. On this plate starting from the bottom and going left is peppercorn frog legs, fried squid, butterflied mayo shrimp bake, stir-fry blue crab, and mayo shrimp (the walnut shrimp that you find in Chinese restaurants without the walnuts). Just to give you an idea, all the things you've seen in all these pictures so far make up probably 15-20% of all the food choices they have so there's definitely more.
Taro Tapioca Dessert
The last thing I had after my plate of fruit was this dessert. It's one of my favorite Asian desserts ever. It's basically clear tapioca and taro cooked in coconut milk. It's something you should definitely try whether you're at a restaurant, in Asia, or at this buffet (assuming they have it).

Verdict? I hadn't been here in a long time but since a family friend wanted to go here, that's what brought me back. Maybe I went on a really good night or maybe their food has gotten better, but I had no complaints except for slightly slower service and that shouldn't be anything that would completely ruin my review. This was just a small snippet of everything they had to offer at their buffet. There's also a Mongolian grill area that was not mentioned so they definitely have a lot to offer. If you can't decide on a buffet to try in Dallas, this is definitely one you should hit up.

Best Buffet