Don’t Mind if Mandu

I’ve been on a delightful Korean cooking binge for over a year now, thanks to internet culinary ambassador Maangchi, whose YouTube contributions have taught me quite a bit about the basics.

I wholeheartedly agree with Anthony Bourdain on the premise that fine cooking is not about exotic pricey ingredients and exquisite preparation and presentation, but more about using the cheaper and less desirable ingredients you have at hand and creating something truly soul satisfying. The best food often comes from cultures of hardship and having to make do: Peasant food.

A lot of Korean staples have this peasant pedigree.

A particular favorite of mine are mandu: Korean dumplings. Having made my own at home with good results I recently tried a restaurant version for the first time at Mandoo Bar on 32nd Street in Koreatown.

Mandu ladies!

Professional mandu ladies!

When I walked past and saw women expertly crafting mandu I couldn’t resist popping in for a sample. I didn’t regret it:

Goon Mandu - lightly fried

Goon Mandu – pork and vegetable dumplings, lightly fried.

Like Japanese gyoza or Chinese jiaozi, mandu can be either boiled or fried. These fried pork mandu were delicious: crunchy and delicately chewy with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce. Cruets of hot sauce, soy sauce and vinegar on each table allow you to mix the dipping sauce to your taste.

Peasant soul food at its finest.

In Praise of the Simple Roast Chicken Sandwich

Winner, winner: chicken dinner

I’ve always preferred cold leftover turkey sandwiches to the classic American Thanksgiving dinner. I found myself turkeyless today.

So I roasted a chicken. Simple, but flat out magical. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to not feel completely comfortable roasting a chicken.

Thomas Keller (head chef of The French Laundry and Per Se and arguably the best cook on the planet) has a great take on the basic roast chicken in the brief video below from Anthony Bourdain’s brilliant No Reservations series. I’ve done this recipe over a dozen times and now swear by it.

He cooks the bird a little hotter than most at 425°–450° so cooking times are around 15 minutes per pound rather than the usual 20 minute/lb rule of thumb for a 350° oven.

I strongly recommend whipping up some homemade mayonnaise for your sammiches. Martha Stewart has a good basic recipe. It takes all of five minutes and is far superior to store-bought. Cleanup is a snap if you use a hand blender.

Bon appétit!

“Zotz Irene?”

Devastating economic impact from Irene? Bullshit.

WalMarts sell out. Supermarkets sell out. Bodegas sell out. Liquor stores get New Year’s business. Consumption of paid video, plywood, duct tape, flashlights, batteries, sardines, bottled water, crackers and generators, etc? Friggin astronomical.

Lotta bluffin; not much puffin.

We don’t manufacture shit anymore on the Eastern Seabord except hype. We’re a service economy. Period.

Lost business? Bullshit. Most “mission critical” corporate drones have worked remotely, as appropriate, for years–Especially in hypercapitalist, Blackberry-heavy New York state.

No lost orders. Financial markets opened for business Monday. Most folks just worked from home, as they usually do in similar weather circumstance. And legions of cops, firefighters and EMS folks got major overtime pay for cruising empty streets in the surprisingly gentle but persistent rain Sunday. Ka-ching.

Any established business worth its hype has videoconference capability, or their technically capable folks use Skype. No need for air travel except for introductory face-to-face meetings at senior old fart levels, which are inevitably just postponed–not canceled.

Our Dear Wise Father, Bloomberg, advised that NYC public sector folks will be charged a vacation day if they didn’t come into work on Monday. And this edict delivered with extremely fucking dodgy transit service. He basically asked people to walk from the outer boroughs. Kim Jong Il got nothin’ on DWF Bloomy.

North Korean cabinet members have paintings of themselves as centaurs hanging in the secret Kimchi Klubhouse.

Sure, lots of homes got damaged. But lines at Home Depot will be longer than the Trans-Siberian Railway next weekend. As Gawker advises, just make sure you get there before the lesbians grab all the 2x4s.

Those veins are a junky's dream.

"Line forms at the rear, pallly."

Financial news folks repeatedly wailed about the devastating economic impact for retailers of “losing” the traditional last shopping weekend for parents whose children will be starting school.

Bullshit. Folks will just buy the school gear later this week; the bucks just may not hit the books for August financial close. A lot of parents and kids buy online, well in advance.

The damage to infrastructure was expected, but a 100-year flood is just what state DOTs needed to light a fire under their asses to fix what were already known to be substandard roads and bridges, and perhaps seek innovative financing measures (e.g., appropriately tweaked public-private partnership “PPP” concessions) to finally do now what can no longer be postponed. There is no public funding left to repair and create the long-neglected infrastructure essential to the US economy.

Spain has nice bridges. Trains and roads too.


We need to use the European/Australian/Canadian PPP model to do infrastructure. It works! The US can actually can actually learn from other countries.

The loss of life was unfortunate, but with few and ironic exceptions, most people who died likely got Darwined.

Irene was a nice kick in the ass for the East Coast economy, encouraging vital spending when the government has been proscribed (by obdurate and self-serving populist dullards)  from pulling additional tools from the essential Keynesian economic stimulus trick bag during a serious recession.

The hurricane season is young. Let’s hope for similar overhyped East Coast meteorological bullshit.

Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.

I spent a number of days doing jury duty downtown last week. The lowlight on Friday was being selected as part of the jury pool for the murder trial of one Robert Camarano, a dopey junkie scumbag wannabe-wiseguy representing himself in court just to thumb his nose at the justice system one last time before vanishing into an obscure life sentence upstate.

Camarano is accused of stabbing his 60-year-old girlfriend to death in her apartment at 8th Avenue and 15th Street in June, 2008. After hearing him in court during the jury selection process, it became clear to me he was guilty as fuck. I knew I couldn’t give the guy a fair shake, and said so frankly. The judge excused me from the jury. Camarano is dumber than a sack of hammers but has the certain low animal cunning common to all heroin addicts of insufficient means. As Tom Waits said in 9th and Hennepin:

I’ve seen it all, seen it all, through the yellow windows of the evening train.

On lunch break Friday I ambled the scant 50 yards behind the Criminal Courts building to Baxter Street, the western edge of Chinatown. Some of the best Vietnamese joints in the city are near there. One of my my current favorites is the oddly named New Pho Pasteur, which was once recommended to me by a Brit character I met over pints, who sells saffron and other pricy, spicy exotica to top City restaurants.

Saffron Pete was spot-on in recommending the curried mussel hot pot and thin sliced pork chops. They were the best Vietnamese sit-down food I’ve had in NYC.

But tiny Pho Pasteur was packed as usual for Friday lunch so I grabbed an outdoor table at the Malaysian joint across the street. After an excellent roti canai and a middling beef rendang I grabbed an iced kopi, to go, and headed for Columbus Park, just 100 yards south.

Remember uncle, no gambling.

Columbus Park, the only park in Chinatown, is an important cultural center. At the crack of dawn you’ll see scores of folks doing tai chi exercises, some bizarre to Western eyes, just as you would in cities across China. And on pleasant days, Chinese chess (xangqi) is a huge draw for older, mostly retired, Cantonese speaking folks, and the younger, often unemployed, mostly Mandarin and Hokkien speaking newcomers. As seen in the above photo, xangqi attracts hordes of rapt onlookers. These are real players.

This park, and most of the adjacent court buildings, were built directly over the notoriously lawless and squalid Five Points slums, recently re-glamourized by Scorcese’s Gangs of New York.

Five Points has sometimes given me the creeps — but always excellent food.