Chinatown in NYC – revisted

Posted May 26th, 2011 in Cooking classes, Meatless, Recipes, Restaurant review by Rebecca Lane

View of NYCs Chinatown

Why are you sighing you ask? I just wrote this – and hit Publish – and it disappeared!

Dragonfruit in Chinatown

Where do unpublished blog posts go I wonder? Does anyone ever see them again? Who knew that if you leave your laptop overnight and DON’T actually post your post something happens and it becomes unpublishable. Deeply saddening!

Luckily, Chinatown was not a sad place. Look at the beautiful colours and textures to the left. This is a common sight in NYCs Chinese section – and further along you find vendors selling wonderful vibrant vegetables and fruit (who can resist a pink and green dragon fruit?), origami sculptures, bonsai, and brightly coloured toys. It is one of the oldest ethnic Chinese areas outside of Asia.

Marinated Frogs Legs

Our five hour tour started with a visit to an underground shopping mall where you could purchase any body part of an animal you can imagine. The Chinese use every part of the animal for cooking and eating – from marinated frogs legs, chicken feet, black chickens (apparently their feathers are white and fluffy, but their skin is definitely black) and all internal organs, you can purchase them here.

Dried starfish and sea cucumbers

From here we found several dried goods stores where we found all kinds of things I wouldn’t even have thought could be dried – like sea cucumbers and starfish. These coconut curls though would be beautiful on a chocolate, coconut cake I’m thinking. Maybe I should come up with a recipe. No doubt the Chinatown here in TO will be able to provide the curls.

Coconut Curls

That’s one of the things I realized. We have a thriving Chinatown here in Toronto, and I never visit it. I got so many ideas for foods that I would love to try and experiment with from NYC and could probably have had the same, or a similar experience at home. So often, we get in a plane to experience something that’s in our own backyards. But it takes a plane ride for us to see it!

Vegetarian Dim Sum

The group experienced Vegetarian Dim Sum together. I’m not certain that I would do it again. I’ve had Dim Sum before and have a texture problem with the custard like quality of the food. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE custard – but not when it’s made with rice flour and warm and gelatinous and a little greasy.

After spending the morning and the early afternoon experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Chinatown, we walked across Canal Street to Little Italy. It may only be one street long, but there’s lots of Italian flavour let me tell you – and amazing that it’s just across the street from Chinatown!

Cannoli - first taste

Sherri tried her first Cannoli and we found a little Italian restaurant that served delicious pizza – fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. Ohhh – it was so good. It could have been made more delicious by the margaritas that were served along with the pizza? And the umbrella protecting us from the rain? And the good-looking Italian men in the restaurant? Nah – it was tasty. Sometimes the really simple recipes are the best. Once recipes get too complex, the flavour gets lost.

Here is where we started walking – after we found a restroom, which is not an easy task in Little Italy! We walked to Soho in search of a store selling Doc Marten’s for Sherri – at Spring and Green. Next time I come to NYC, I’m starting my shopping here. It’s so pretty with lots of tiny little one-of-a-kind boutiques that I would love to have browsed through. Unfortunately we had dinner reservations so had to keep moving.

Those reservations were being held at Blossom of NYC. Weary and wet again – we picked a rainy weekend to discover the joys of New York – I had a delicious mixed field greens salad with a sweet potato filled ravioli topped with pine nuts. This meal was made even better by its proximity to Cocoa V where we went for dessert – lots of decadent chocolate. Who could ask for more? Oh yes – it was close to our hotel!

Our last day was Sunday – so we needed a great Sunday brunch spot and found that Sarabeth‘s at Central Park South is THE place to be in New York City for brunch. After a decidedly fluffy breakfast of eggs and scones – and delicious jam I might add – we went for a walk through Central Park and along 5th Avenue. Before we knew it, it was time to fly home to beautiful TO.

Until we return NYC and Natural Gourmet Institute.

Here’s the recipe for the Homemade Ricotta we stuffed the Ravioli with –

Homemade Ricotta (makes 1 quart)

1 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream (not ultra pasteurized)
2 tsps salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

In a large pot (one gallon large), heat the milk and cream to 100°F. Add the salt and continue heating, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until an instant read thermometer reads 185°F.

Add the lemon juice and gently stir. The lemon juice causes the milk to separate. Reduce heat to really low and cook until curds form (about 1 minute). Do not let mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Line a sieve in a bowl with damp cheesecloth and gently ladle curds into the cloth, letting it drain for an hour. The longer it sits, the harder it becomes. Transfer to container and refrigerate. Will keep for up to 5 days.