Tag Archives: Food

BAM! Surprises Hit You Hard

If you’re aching for a taste of delicious Chinese cuisine and you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? I am hoping that in engineering this question oh-so-subtly (and ingeniously), that you will arrive at the answer I am searching for. But if you still don’t know, here’s a REALLY BIG hint: remember that REALLY BIG landmass in Asia that’s in the shape of a rooster that all of you guys probably came across in your Social Studies class back in middle school? Yea, jog those memories of yours. I’m talking about China.

So what’s in China that you couldn’t find here? I’m sure all of you are thinking along the same lines as I am– the quasi-Communism that exists there and the daily propaganda that the Chinese government regularly feeds to their people, right?

Wait a second, hold up, OOPS. I’m talking about food.

Chinese takeout is something that just doesn’t have a smidgen of authenticity to it. Sesame chicken? General Tso’s chicken? Really? Really? Now, mind you, don’t think I’m hating on Chinese takeout because I’m really not. I’m not a hater– My dad works at Yee Garden, a takeout restaurant in Middle Village, so I firmly support the rights of Chinese takeout restaurants to exist.

In China, I thought I was in food heaven. It had everything I liked, from savory wontons in soup to my favorite noodles, zhajiang mian, to mouthwatering dishes with eggplant or stinky tofu, two things I absolutely abhorred before going to Nanjing.

So imagine my disappointment when I was studying abroad at Nanjing University for three-and-a-half months last fall and was desperately missing my mother’s delicious vegetarian baozi when I discovered that they didn’t have the kind my mom made. I’m not talking about any old vegetarian baozi, I’m talking about the kind that has glass noodles, small squares of tofu, slivers of carrots, and pieces of wood ear inside them. They are irresistible and apparently, hard to find in China. I mean, who knew right?

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a vegetarian, but my mother, being the health nut that she is, habitually cooks more greens than hearty strips of pork and savory slices of beef. Salt, sugar, and especially soy sauce, are never used in excess and sometimes, they’re even left out. I’m pretty used to it though and now, I think I love it.

Before we go on, let me make this clear. You can put just about anything in the fillings of baozi— there really isn’t anything, any combination of ingredients, that is wrong. It’s all based on your judgment, so if you think that combo A is probably better tasting together than combo B, than stick with combo A.

Because there is no right or wrong, though, it has made my life extremely difficult, or at least my pursuit of it. That perfect baozi seemed lost and hidden in the vastness of China. I mean, what’s the likelihood that people would put the exact same fillings in baozi anyway? Highly unlikely, no doubt about it.

Vegetarian baozi from Mama Su's

So when my boyfriend told me that I could find them at Mama Su’s Grill & Steam in Bayside, New York, I couldn’t believe my ears. Here in New York City of all places? I sighed. This was a scam, it just had to be. They were bewitched by these fakes, these poor imitations of the baozi my mom likes to make. Who else could recreate home, besides my mom?

Even despite all my negative sentiments, I still  wanted to try it. I just had to. I couldn’t very well not eat it, and lose an opportunity to say: “The ones from home are better.” So when two buns arrived in front of us, one for my boyfriend and the other for me, I was prepared to be disappointed. And suddenly, BAM. It hit me just like that. This was definitely a taste of home. I was shocked. Who knew that the vegetarian baozi that I had been searching for endlessly in China would be found right here in New York. Now that’s really surprising.

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Oishii Desu Yo!

If any of you are wondering what that title of the post means, it is Japanese for “it is delicious!” and that is exactly how I feel about Japanese cuisine. Sadly though, when people think of Japanese food, the first thought that comes to mind is sushi, seaweed, rice balls (onigiri) or Ramen noodles. But Japan has a much wider range of tasty food than just those few items and I was able to learn that a few years ago.

During the summer of my junior year of high school, I stayed in Osaka, Japan for six weeks and fell in love with a variety Japanese food. One of my favorite dishes is Gyuudon, which is a beef bowl with rice and caramelized onions.


Yes, the strips of beef look like a squishy mess, but trust me when it hits your mouth, it is a sweet delight.

Another dish I liked was Hot Pot (Shabu Shabu), which is a Japanese variation of a Chinese meal. Consisting of a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetables that are dipped into a hot pot of boiling water and different sauces, Hot Pot results in a broth which is eaten with rice and noodles. Eating this with a group of people is a funny experience, especially when fighting over the last piece of anything on the table.

I also tried chicken Karaage, which is covered in wheat flour or potato starch and fried in a light oil. It is much better than any of the fried chicken that I’ve tried here. My friend Chantal, who went with me to Japan and is picky eater, practically survived on this and gyuudon.

When I returned home, I immediately began looking for convenient places where I could find the dishes in America.

I have not been to many Japanese restaurants in America, but the one that I go to regularly is Yoshinoya, a Japanese restaurant chain that fortunately opened on 42nd Street around the same time I returned home. The cooks make a gyuudon that is just as good as the one I had in Japan.

Now, I am hungry, so I will stop here. But, since this post is about Japan and in light of recent tragic events there, I encourage everyone to send any support you can to the country during this time.

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