Feeding the Dragon: Yunnan Potato Balls with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Editor’s Note: A Chinese teacher/translator and writer living in Washington, D.C., Jody Melto of Curlicue Chronicles joins us for a tasty trek through China…

At first glance, I didn’t want to like Feeding the Dragon, the recently published travelogue/cookbook on China. First of all, there are the names of the co-authors, sister and brother duo Mary Kate and Nate Tate. But that’s not their fault.

However, young Mary Kate Tate asking in the introduction, “How can we record each person’s story, taste every dish? Have we bitten off more than we can chew?” is quite their fault. It reeks of a Julie & Julia attempt. I bet The Two Tates have talked about just playing themselves when the cookbook is optioned. Now I’m just being snarky. I did that with Julie & Julia, come to think about it.

At least my snark has backstory. I spent the first part of my 20s living in a small Chinese town as a student on scholarship, working as a teacher, model and even as an actress in some really bad television shows and one martial arts film to earn enough money to travel over 250 hard-seat hours by train throughout China. No credit card. No cell phone. No parents footing the bill. Pretty hardcore travel. Who can blame me for being snarky when it comes to a couple young hipsters who claim to have roughed it through China on a quest to “taste every dish?”

Just when I’m feeling quite smug, Mary Kate & Nate Tate (I just love saying that) do something that impresses the hell out of me — they admit to eating dog. They weren’t ballsy enough to include a recipe calling for dog meat. But I give credit when it’s due. And that took balls. I’ve killed the mood at more than one dinner party after raving about doggie dumplings. (Dog people can be so freakin’ sensitive.)

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Top 10 Jersey Shore Foods


Like it or not, MTV’s new reality train wreck Jersey Shore has vaulted that curious species, the self-identified “Guido” into the public consciousness, much to the dismay of New Jerseyans, Italian-Americans and anyone with an IQ above 78. I know…you thought these Guidos and “Guidettes” were just another figment of the New Jersey imagination like the Jersey Devil and affordable real estate.  As much as I would like to pretend idiots like this don’t exist, I’m afraid that anyone who has spent significant time in the Garden State — including natives like gansie and myself —  has some across an example of the species, typically traveling in a pack. And now they are beamed right to your home by the magic of television. Consider it payback for the state providing you with a setting for the best show of the past ten years, The Sopranos.  Gotta pay the piper sooner or later.

This joyous television experience got us thinking, though:  Man does not live on soy protein, Axe Body Spray and Miller Lite alone.  The Jersey shore offers a cornucopia of wonderful, horrible and wonderfully-horrible food products that will hopefully all make cameos during the season.  Let this handy list of the Top 10 Jersey Shore Foods be your guide to understanding the culinary choices available to the cast.

10. Mack & Manco Pizza


Pizza is a staple of Jersey boardwalk fare, and Ocean City’s Mack & Manco is the best on the promenade.  This is a decidedly NYC-style pie — the big floppy kind that you can fold in half and chow down on while you walk. Unlike the trash that drifts down to Jersey to participate on the show, this is one NYC import we can all enjoy.  (Photo: Infinite Jeff)

9. Dippin’ Dots


The future of ice cream!  Or so they’ve been telling us for the past twenty five years.  At what point will the future actually get here so I can throw out my Ben & Jerry’s?  These ice-cold globules used to be a “special occasion” item that you would see for sale at the shore.  These days, I can buy them from a machine at the mall.  Kinda takes the charm out of it. (Photo: newwavegurly)

8. Salt Water Taffy


All the nutritional value of a conversation with Mike “The Situation,” these chewy treats are the bane of brace-wearing children everywhere.  Each box always includes some bullshit story about how the taffy was invented when candy fell into seawater, but you’re mostly just interested in getting the good flavors and shafting your siblings with the banana and licorice. Corn syrup + artificial flavoring = awesome. (Photo: Live?Laugh?Love)

7. Boardwalk Fries


These things are so good that they made a mediocre fast food franchise out of them!  The signs that say the fries are cooked in “100% peanut oil” were tantalizingly exotic to a third grader in the 1980s (yeah, my horizons have expanded since then), and the fact that they sliced the potatoes on premises made it even more fun.  The medium-cut sticks are great for the most part  — the fries that you get from the center of the potatoes are long and perfectly cooked — but the unfortunate slices that are nicked off the edges invariably lead to a pile of deep-fried potato skins in the bottom of your paper cup.  Bummer. (Photo: roboppy)

6. Binge Drinking


Sure, it’s not technically a food item, but it does account for approximately 56% of the total calories consumed at the Jersey shore.  In fact, I think that national Beer Pong Championships are held in Wildwood Crest. (Photo: C o l i n)

Next: Top 5 Jersey Shore Foods

Avocado Oil is a Scam


I don’t give a shit. I fucking love chips. I could not live without potato chips. When I lived in Barcelona for a month I ate Ruffle brand chips and gelato for breakfast everyday on my way to Barceloneta, the closest beach. Everyday. I was in Spain. I could have eaten anything and I carried around a bag of Ruffles with me everywhere I went.

I still can’t eat a sandwich without a side of chips. Slices of apple won’t help. Maybe a pickle, but I’d rather eat a pickle and chips. Actually, I don’t even like sandwiches that much, but we can talk about that later.

When I’m hungover there’s no cure like chips and a Coke. I can only sub chips’ grease with fries, but if I’m at home without a fryer, chips are the only thing that truly makes me feel better. Yes, even over eggs.

My only problem — the chip addiction not being the problem — is I only like plain chips. I love ruffled/ridged chips, but that’s the only texture I can handle. I hate kettle. I hate pretty much all flavors. I hate BBQ and any other chip that would leave weird orangeness on my fingertips (and I hated this as a kid too). At parties I can snack on some other flavors, but only out of desperation. Salt and pepper is okay, as is sour cream and onion and shockingly, salt and vinegar. But that’s about it. It’s weird that I love chips so much, love so very much, but only in a very limited way.

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The Ultimate NYC Hot Dog Crawl

Wherever you live, you’re surely familiar with the lure of The New York Hot Dog. And if you consume any kind of food media, you’re also probably aware that there’s no longer any reason to limit your NYC hot dog intake to those slimy wieners sold from carts in Central Park – or even to the recession special at Gray’s Papaya. Hot dogs are this year’s comfort food gone gourmet, and every hot NYC chef seems to be adding the once humble frankfurter to their repertoire, usually topping it with something new and more outrageous than the last guy.

Over at Oyster Local this week, I took a look at four of the best new high-end hot-dog shops in Greenwich Village, which inspired me to dig a little deeper and come up with this list of NYC’s best new gourmet hot dogs (along with a few classic stops) for the ultimate, 20-link New York Hot Dog Crawl. No, I have not actually completed this crawl, at least not all in one day, but if anyone’s up for the challenge I think I have a few free Sundays coming up. Let’s all just make sure our health insurance is up-to-date first.

1. Nathan’s Famous


Duh! The basic classic, just for starters. 1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn (Photo: Meg Zimbeck)

2. Willie’s Dawgs


Park Slope gets a little crazy with Niman Ranch beef dogs (or tofu ones — this is Park Slope, after all) stuffed in challah or rye rolls and finished with some inspired toppings like baked beans and salsa.  351 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn (Photo: Stumptown Panda)

3. Bark Hot Dogs


Gourmet hot dogs get the brownstone Brooklyn treatment, sourced from locally-raised meats, doused in a classed-up cheese sauce, served in an eco-friendly environ, and paired with Six Point ales. 474 Bergen St., Brooklyn (Photo: Cherrypatter)

4. Smoke Joint


Fort Greene’s favorite BBQ spot brings the hot meat-on-meat action by topping a Black Angus dog with pulled pork, beef or chicken (and some homemade coleslaw). I know you can’t see much of the dog, but trust me, it’s worth the mouth-work to get there.  87 S. Eliott Place, Brooklyn (Photo: Senorjerome)

5. Asia Dog


New York’s hippest hot doggery is, of course, not one restaurant but a rotating curated party for those in the know. These bahn mi dogs are found at Williamsburg’s Trophy Bar, but only on Tuesday nights. They also pop up elsewhere in Brooklyn and LES throughout the week.  351 Broadway, Brooklyn, On Tuesdays. (Photo: LadyDucayne)

6. San Antonio Bakery 2


Slip into Queens for the Chilean take on hot dogs: slathered with avocado puree, mayo, onions, tomato, and just a little bit of hot salsa, on a crusty homemade bun.  3620 Astoria Blvd., Queens (Photo: Pabo76)

7. Frankie’s Franks


Like the marathon, we’ll dip into the Bronx for a moment just to say we did. At FF’s, you get two fried hot dogs stuffed in one roll, topped with onions, peppers, AND potatoes. They actually call this a Jersey-style dog; I’m not sure if that’s authentic Jerz, but that’s a whole ‘nother post!)  2330 Arthur Ave., The Bronx (Photo: Kay::Snyder)

8. Fatty Crab


Hotshot chef Zak Pelaccio makes the case for the $13 hot dog: homemade pork sausage topped with pickled chilies, cucumber, radish and cilantro, then laced with a spicy Asian aioli and stuffed in a toasted potato bun.  2170 Broadway (Photo: Scaredy_kat)

9. Brooklyn Diner


When size matters, it’s hard to beat the foot-plus-long frank served at this midtown Manhattan (confusingly, not Brooklyn) institution. The 15-inch dawg comes on a comically small but beautifully buttery bun, along with onion rings, relish, mustard and kraut.  212 W. 57th St. (Photo: Jeffery and Rachel Vanneste)

Continue Reading: the next ten hot dogs

November Madness: Jalen Rose’s Fab Five Food Finds


Woo-hoo for November 9th! In case you don’t know, this week marks the tip-off of Endless Simmer’s favorite sport, drunk college food-off, er…NCAA college basketball season!

To make the occasion, we asked Jalen Rose, member of the University of Michigan’s legendary Fab Five team, to put on his restaurant critic hat and share a few of his favorite food finds from around the nation. The 13-year NBA veteran is now an ESPN/ABC studio analyst, and in his free time he can be found blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and YouTube-ing. Take it away, Jalen!

I wouldn’t consider myself a food critic, but during my years as a professional basketball player, I was lucky to travel the country and eat in many fine establishments. Below is a list of my Fab Five Foods and where you can find them. All of these dishes are original — I haven’t found another restaurant that prepares these items in the same way. If you get a chance to check them out, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

1. Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse (Chicago, IL) – Double Baked Potato… so good its bang is worth every buck – this is one big spud!

2. Philippe (Upper East Side New York, NY) – Maine Lobster Satay… lobster is my favorite dish and this is my favorite lobster on a stick… not only is the satay great, the peanut sauce is so good that you can almost drink it by itself!

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Maybe Sandra Lee Has a Point


It was one of those weekends where I somehow managed to spend more money in two and a half days than I had all week. Sunday night must be a make-at-home meal.

Of course I refused to leave the apartment for additional ingredients so I performed a mental scan of the kitchen. Two things popped out: broccoli and cheddar cheese. I really didn’t feel like messing with a broccoli and cheese soup. Not that it’d be particularly hard, but I had a feeling I would be scouring the internet for recipes and then melding 20 different variations into one fat crock of soup that would take me two hours to make.

Instead, I decided to chop up a bunch of random vegetables, some summer veggies that were a day away from the trash and some winter veggies that could hold up in the fridge for another week. I’m not sure what defines a casserole.

Actually, can something be a casserole without the help of a Campbell’s soup product?

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Finding a Happy Home for Hash Browns


It’s one of my favorite times of year—there are a shit ton of tomatoes everywhere. The tomato soup I made last week left an awesome taste in my mouth and I couldn’t wait to create that on a bigger scale.  More tomatoes. More garlic. More wine.

This time around I again roasted the tomatoes, but I also sauteed an onion while the tomatoes were in the oven. Oh, and before I roasted the tomatoes I strained the juice and reserved that for later in the process. So onion, roasted tomato, garlic, juice of tomatoes, red wine vinegar (no wine opened) and then some fresh sage.

Ah. Fresh sage. I was at my uncle’s house this past weekend and holy lord he has a serious garden. I lugged back 3 or 4 bags worth of rosemary, sage, basil and this herb that smells so strongly of lemon (lemon balm?).

Actually, here’s my uncle with a tomato. He also grows raspberries, blueberries, hot peppers, mustard greens, purple beans, okra and lots of other goodies. One day I’ll have a backyard… (or maybe I can stay in the city and take advantage of a rooftop!)


Anyway, the soup was crazy chunky and I just wasn’t perfectly pleased. Then my sister grabbed leftovers from lunch: hash browns from the diner. She conducted a search for a snack while I thought up dinner, but concluded cold, old hash browns were not the snacking answer. They were however, the answer to dinner.

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