There is no place too remote for me to travel to make and eat dumplings. And indeed, every culture has a dumpling. In Mongolia where I traveled this past July with my best friend Laurie and four other female chefs, the dumplings are called buuz (pr:booze). They are made with chopped mutton or yak meat mixed with a little onion and wrapped with a simple dough made from wheat flour and cold water. Every child, male and female grows up folding these dumplings in endless shapes. Around the new year when it is traditional to eat buuz, each Mongolian will make upwards of 1500 dumplings in a few hours of a day, and perhaps will consume as many in that week. In a speed wrapping challenge, any of our Mongolian guides (and perhaps any Mongolian), would easily leave me in the dust, which is basically what is happening in this picture here. Will buuz be coming to a Rickshaw near you? No worries, we won’t be importing yak meat anytime soon. But anyone for some lamb dumplings?
Archive for July, 2009
So let’s be straightforward here, once again you rocked the house and owned the night. Congratulations, as of this evening you have won $20,000 for your charity, Share and the respect of an amazing group of your peers and competitors.
Quickfire Mis En Place Challenge
You must have known that you were going to do well on this challenge as you are one of the few chefs of your caliber that works the line still at his/her restaurant.
Out of the four mis en place events (shucking oysters, cutting onions, cutting chickens and whisking eggs) which one did you want?
Anita Lo (AL): I knew I could do the chickens well and the others were fine but I kenw the one I didn’t want to do was to shuck oysters.
How did you feel when you were doing the chickens?
AL: I felt fast
You looked fast!
Signature Dish Swap
When you were thinking of your signature dish, how did you choose what you made?
AL: I guess my signature dish at Annisa is the Foie Gras Soup Dumpling but there were constraints such as time and execution that led me to choose a great dish that was really popular at Annisa a while back which was the Scallop, pureed potato with Chinese mustard greens and bacon.
When they told you that you guys had to reinterpret another chef’s signature dish, what were you thinking?
AL: I was thinking I didn’t want to reinterpret Rick’s because his style was so different than all of the other chefs. That being said I think that Hubert picked mine because we cook so similarly and I was glad to do his as well.
Hubert did (from left to right) a lobster and truffle cappuccino which was in essence a soup and a corn Madeleine. Tell me about how you went about reinventing his dish.
AL: If you looked at Hubert’s dish, he started off with a classical hot soup on the left so I decided to do a cold corn chawanmushi soup finished with a truffle foam and soft whipped cream. In the middle of his plate he did some herbs and I decided to do a palate cleanser of a champagne gelee (which was a nod to his French heritage but then I topped it with corn shoots (to continue the corn theme) as well as Japanese shiso leaf. Finally he did a French Madeline but out of a very American ingredient corn and I decided to do a very American biscuit but flavor it with an Asian touch, hoisin. The sandwich ended up being a truffle corn biscuit with lobster knuckle meat.
I think we can all see why you won, it was so thoughtful and looked delicious. Gael Greene called it “intellectual, sensuous and dazzling,” Jay Rayner also said that he “was not worthy” and that it was “genius.” I don’t think you could have done better.
Sooooo, we are really good at replying to customer comments whether you guys leave notes on the Comment Cards at Rickshaw or when you guys email us as well but the one thing we have been really bad at is responding to the haikus we have gotten. Call it selfish but we have been enjoying them internally and it is now time to bring the poetic genius of our customers to you. If you do want to submit a dumpling inspired haiku to us, you can do so from our website by leaving an email. Make sure you vote for your favorite haiku below. The winning haiku will get a dumpling party for ten people!
Bite. tender dough. crunch.
Luscious chocolate oozes,
by Susan Arak
whether steamed or fried,
the dumplings whisper to me:
“WE ARE NOT WONTONS!”
by Sid Grant
Steamed or fried: purses
Overstuffed with such soft love.
Rickshaw Dumplings: wow.
by Jess Allen
Chop sticks, buns and fun
Fried or steamed pockets of dough
When we first opened Rickshaw Anita created just one salad: the Citrus Ginger Dressing Salad with Asian greens, crunchy jicama and fried shallots. Shortly after we opened she created six unique salads that were paired with each type of dumpling to mirror the six noodle soups. Those salads are still here but we have brought back the original Rickshaw Salad and people are pretty psyched about it!
The dressing is made with the zest and juice of three citrus’ (limes, oranges, and lemons) and freshly crushed ginger. We pair this salad with dumplings when customers order the Rickshaw Regular. Come check out the old school salad. It is a tasty crunchy salad party in every bite.
Ok, guys. Here is the first of hopefully many post-game wrap-ups with our Chef Anita Lo. To see the official interview click here.
First off, congratulations. I thought you rocked! It was so fun to see you up there. Everyone at Rickshaw is super proud! How was it to watch the episode?
Anita Lo (AL): A little painful but bearable.
One Handed Egg
How do you cut the egg shell?
Al: I used an egg cutter and I knew I was going to have to get help.
All of the other chef’s seemed great. How did you decide who was going to help you get those eggs opened?
AL: I went to whomever was available. Besh (John Besh) helped me the most
Can you tell me the egg dish that you made again?
AL: Soft Scrambled Egg with Shiitake, Oyster Sauce and Truffle Oil
Any moments of clarity where you thought, “this isn’t going to work” or “this is going to be awesome?”
AL: There was a moment that they showed where the egg was cracking and I thought oh crap this isn’t going to work……
Creating Magic Dinner for Doogie Howser, MD. Could it get anymore LA?
AL: No, the whole thing was pretty magical and sometimes surreal.
How did it feel when you were hanging at Whole Foods and the boys said that you were the one to beat?
AL: That was uncomfortable…
What did you think of Max Maven:
AL: I thought he was fabulous. So fun. His outfit was cool!
You drew “Illusion.” What were your immediate thoughts?
AL: I thought, I need to make something that didn’t look like what it was. I wanted to do something cold because it was easier, and I initially was thinking a tidal pool, where the goldfish were made out of meat and then dismissed that as impossible
We are all glad you didn’t do the meat goldfish.
AL: Then I thought of making meat look like scallop. I wanted to engage all the senses and create an experience akin to being by the ocean so I wanted things like sand crackling at the edge of a tide. I was excited by the rice krispie possibility of creating sound. At the end it didn’t really work out that way and have the sound I had imagined.
Were you happy with the end dish though?
AL: When I was plating near the end it was not working at all There was cereal everywhere and it was so messy and so upsetting.
But that turned out to be not a big deal?
AL: The overall effect worked and the element that I was the most stressed about (the sand and sound element) ended up passing muster
You seemed to take a very intellectual approach as one of the judges said to that dish. Is this a typical approach for you to creating a new dish?
AL: Sometimes it is about flavor and that is the guide and sometimes it is about doing something interesting and and something that makes sense together and has a story behind it like the seascape. Personally, I really particularly enjoy the approach and path I took for that challenge.
Have there been times when some element of a dish you were not satisfied with turned out a moot point with your guests?
AL: Oh, yeah that happens all the time but the beauty of restaurant is that you can correct those things with each day with each customer’s experience. On Top Chef you get one chance!
What was your favorite part about the Magic Castle:
AL: It was so cool, it was such a spectacle, everywhere you looked it was kitschy interesting….
Anything you saw there made you wish you had it at your house?
AL: ABSULOUTELY NOT!
When you saw each chef’s plating at the Magic Castle (I know you didn’t taste) which did you think was the one to beat?
AL: I thought they were all good. John Besh was closest in style to mine so maybe I thought that was the one to beat
Were you surprised by any of the judges comments?
AL: I was surprised by James Oseland from Saveur’s comment that the dish was bit under-seasoned.
I am surprised too, because I know how much we both love salt. Congratulations and I cant wait to see next week!
Check out the Charity that Anita chose to compete for here.
Tonight is Anita’s chance to rock it big on Top Chef Master Series. Before we give you some insight into what is in Anita Lo’s fridge and what she eats when she reads, this is what they say about tonight’s episode which airs at 10pm EST on Bravo:
“Top Chef Masters” brings together distinguished chefs Anita Lo (Annisa), Douglas Rodriguez (Alma de Cuba), John Besh (Restaurant August) and Mark Peel (Campanile). The Masters find their hands tied in the quickfire challenge as they must cook an egg with one hand tied behind their back (All Stars Challenge, season three of “Top Chef”), and then must create culinary magic to awe their high-profile guests which include Neil Patrick Harris. One chef moves on to the Champions Round.”
I caught up with Anita when she was at Rickshaw last week and asked her in between tasting dumplings the following questions, check out her answers:
I wish “____” was in season all year ‘round.
Chef Anita Lo (AL): Corn
Most underrated vegetable:
AL: Okra or cabbage
I hate it when people don’t like to eat:
AL: Innards: mostly people are afraid of them because of a cultural bias, but innards are delicious when prepared well, and eating the whole animal is important to the sustainability of our food sources.
Cheese is best when you:
AL: Stop worrying about calories and enjoy it in copious quantities melted, or at the perfect (room) temperature with a plain, crusty baguette
Seemingly scary but surprisingly delicious:
AL: Deep fried crickets and live, still-moving octopus
Great food happens when:
AL: A detailed individual who passionately loves to eat, steps up to the stove
Great service happens when:
AL: A great company cares about its employees and gives them the tools to put the customer first, and to recognize each customers individual needs
Mythbuster: Top misconception about Asian Food:
AL: It has to be dirt cheap. Great, seasonal, natural and local ingredients made by employees paid a fair wage in a clean, prime location costs money. That being said, I still think Rickshaw is a great deal for what you get.
What is in your fridge right now?
AL: Vegetables from my garden, lots of wine, a tin of duck fat from the ’80’s, and more condiments than you can imagine.
What are you reading right now?
AL: “The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolano and Adam Perry Lang’s “Serious Barbeque”
What do you like to snack on when you read?
AL: I habitually snack on black currant candies as I read.
Check back after the show airs for a post-show debrief with Anita on Wednesday evening.
Holy Smoke: It’s back. The drink that sweats for you. Pure, fresh-squeezed Watermelon juice. We are now serving it up at the store as well as the truck. Sip it!
Hey Guys: As many of you may know mobile vending has been getting a lot of attention lately. That being said, we are very committed to the safety of all New Yorkers, the cleanliness of the neighborhoods we park in and also the enjoyment of our customers. To that end, there are a few things that you yourself as a self-identified street eater could help all of us vendors out with and thanks for your support!
- Put it in its Place. Trash: Please be mindful of any trash that may come as a result of eating at our truck (or any truck). If you do eat on the street, please throw away the refuse in a trash can or we would be happy to take it on the truck. Our Dumpling Truckers are committed to doing a trash sweep upon arrival at a location as well as a trash sweep at the end of the shift. If you see any refuse around our truck that we do not notice, please tell us and we will be happy to come out and sweep it up to our best ability!
- These Streets are Busy! Forming a line: Please be aware of foot traffic patterns when you are getting in line. We find the best way to get in line without blocking your fellow New Yorkers is to line up close to the Truck along the curb. If we see a “bad” line forming we may just scold you back into place! I know sometimes it is just too much and you can’t wait and you need to eat your dumplings right there! Please take a look around and make sure you are not in a major causeway when before you dig in. Thanks!
- No Ring Ring Ring Cell Phones: Please refrain from using your cell phones when up at the window. For the benefit of other people behind you please have your order ready to rumble and for the benefit of your Dumpling Truckers please place your order without being on the cell to ensure that we hear your order properly.