Saturday, March 28, 2009

Joe's Shanghai

Joe's Shanghai in NYC is no Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant in Hong Kong, but I'll settle for less here in the States. You simply just can't get the same yummy soup dumplings (小籠包) here compared to Nanxiang, which I wrote about months ago from my HK trip. That place is seriously authentic and good. The original location is in Shanghai, and they (luckily for me) expanded to HK. Even Tony Bourdain was blown away by the one in Shanghai.

Where do I start about Joe's? It's the most packed place packed that most tables are shared by total strangers. All the tourists in the world follow their travel guidebooks and crowd it up for lunch and dinner. Soup dumplings are such a novelty to them compared to the usual American Chinese food. I especially love non-locals looking around to see what the locals are having and pointing to their servers that's what they want.

Okay, down to the serious business - Joe's soup dumplings. There are two types of soup dumplings offered there - pork, and pork & crab. I find most pork dumplings too porky, and I love seafood, so I prefer the pork & crab variety.

Yes, they are flavorful, and they come piping hot. That's why I like them. But there's one big reason why I like, not love, Joe's - I saw crab, but I didn't taste it at all (but I did at Nanxiang!).

Joe's broth inside the dumplings was very sticky...gelatinous. This wasn't what I had in Hong Kong. I'm not saying Joe's is better or worse based on the gelatinous quality. I simply appreciate it - if a broth is made with bones, it is more intense and has a gelatinous quality. There's this other restaurant I'm looking to try out - Shanghai Cuisine. According to Ming Tsai, they have the best soup noodles in Chinatown. We'll see about that.

Oh, when you're at Joe's, try out their Shanghai Fried Flat Noodle. Trust me, it's good!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wedding Wednesdays: "Chinese" Things You Won't See at Our Wedding

Other than having beef with what's labeled Asian, I also have beef with what most Americans think is traditionally Chinese. I've seen a lot of weddings where couples do Chinese themed weddings using what most people outside of Asia would consider Chinese, but the traditional Chinese in me just won't do it. If I were an American Chinese, I may, but I have to stay true to my heritage and honor it. Besides, if my relatives from Hong Kong come to my wedding, they probably won't understand the meaning behind these so-called Chinese elements.

So, here's what you WON"T find at our wedding:

"Chinese" Takeout Containers - Yes, believe it, they're not authentically Chinese. I didn't grow up seeing these in Hong Kong. I don't care how cute manufacturers make them look these days for parties. I won't do it.

Above image from The Knot

Fortune Cookie - Although they are served in Chinese restaurants throughout the U.S., they're not traditionally Chinese. From what I understand, the cookies were first made by a Chinese immigrant in California, but they didn't originate from China nor Hong Kong. What we eat at the end of a meal is usually fresh fruits, not fortune cookies.

Above image from The Knot

Don't look for the above when you're in China or HK, and certainly don't look for them at our wedding. On a related note, if you're in China or HK, don't ask for General Tso's Chicken either. They won't understand you even if you translated that into Chinese.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Birthday to THE Martha...Fung Blog!

It was exactly a year ago that I launched this blog under the influence of my sister & brother in law (and wine). A year later, I'm still single (just check my tax forms). Nope, that's not what I wanted to say....Let me re-do that. A year later, I'm still planning the wedding, still eating, cooking, and most of all, blogging!

I hope I'm doing a good job so far in sharing with you my adventures of being the Asian Martha Stewart. If not, let me know. And if you do enjoy my blog, let me know too!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring is Coming!

I was at Central Park last weekend and guess what I spotted?

Spring MUST be coming! My sister confirmed this too - she said she saw the beginnings of our hard work last year!

Here're some other shots I took from Central Park. My fiance and I were doing some research for our engagement photoshoot. I've been to the park many times...we've had picnics there and rollerbladed there, but I've never really explored it. Did you know there is a castle in the park? Now I do!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wedding Wednesdays: Wedding of the Most Beautiful Asian Celebrity

This is pretty old news by now, but I couldn't NOT blog about this wedding. Michelle Reis, the most beautiful celebrity in Hong Kong (in my opinion), got married late last year to a tycoon named Julian Hui on a private mansion near a beach in HK.

The bride wore as many as five gowns that day, two of which were a white wedding gown by Bellantuono from Italy and a stunning red number by Valentino. I would imagine that she sported different makeup and hair styles per dress change. And did I mention that she also wore an 8 carat diamond ring?

From what I can tell, it was a modern reception. The bride carried a monocromatic white bouquet of roses and lily of the valley, and the groom wore a matching boutonniere made of a single white rose. The flower arrangements were modern, displayed in vases by their own type and colors, which ranged from white, purple to green.

Although it was an expensive wedding (reported to be HK $100 million, which is roughly equivalent to US $13 million), there was no pouf or a tremendously long train in sight - the bride's attire was elegant and timeless. This is just my type of wedding.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stock of "Pineapple" Bun is Up Up Up!

A delicious "Pineapple" Bun (rough translation from Chinese 菠蘿包 "bo lo bau") is now as much as $1.00 in NY!!! Boo! I remember when you can get one for around $0.70 two years ago.

Price aside, these buns are Chinese breads with a sweet crunchy topping of sugar and egg. Despite its name, there's no pineapple involved. What attracted me to these when I was younger was their topping - if done right, they may fall off in little sheets when you bite into was fun to just pick them up and enjoy these little sweet treats.

Pineapple Buns are popular breakfast items, and also good for a satisfying afternoon snack. Like many things, these are best when they're just out of the oven so you can enjoy the warm, soft and airy inside. Most likely in the early morning you can get it fresh.

There are many varieties of Pineapple Buns other than the original (plain) ones. There are ones filled with red bean paste, butter or coconut. There were different ones I saw in Hong Kong - these Japanese style of the Pineapple Bun called "Hokkaido Bun." I had even gotten their green tea variety too! The design on the green tea one below is more representative of the appearance of a pineapple (hence its name).

You can't get the green tea variety in the U.S., but if you'd like to try one, I would suggest the original version (my fav).

I've tried them all in Chinatown - Fay Da Bakery, Tai Pan, Golden Carriage, and Manna House Bakery.

  • Fay Da's Pineapple Buns are too sweet, don't have the golden brown color that they should have, and their topping ain't right - it's too crumbly. Plus, they bake the buns along with other buns, so you don't get the pure taste of the pineapple bun itself...I've tasted scallions or onions on occasions.

  • Golden Carriage's are forgettable. I thought because their Egg Custard Tarts are good, their Pineapple Bun may not be all that bad. I'll just stick to their Egg Custard Tarts.

  • Tai Pan and Manna House Bakery are the ones to try, although I do prefer the latter over the former. Their Pineapple Buns have the golden brown color, which adds a lot of character and taste to the bun, and their topping is just right. The reason I prefer Manna House's Pineapple Buns more is because Tai Pan's topping is a tad too thick. There are more than a handful of locations between these two bakeries, so don't settle for the inferior ones!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wedding Wednesdays: J.Crew Love

My J.Crew catalogue arrived a couple of weeks ago. I've always liked their sections on weddings, but this was the first time I felt excitement over their dresses.

Above, image from J.Crew

I was excited because they were very close to my wedding colors! And I especially liked how these dresses looked. When I showed them to my sister, she said it wasn't her style. Thank god I didn't dictate the one bridesmaid dress my lovely ladies will all have to wear!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Snack Serves a Real Meal

Don't be fooled by its name - Snack is not a place for snacks, but meals. It's a nice cozy restaurant in NYC serving Greek fare. I've heard about this place years ago, but had never gone to check it out. We went there for lunch at the suggestion of my fiance, and it was satisfying.

Although the restaurant was small (pretty much elbow to elbow), the service was pleasant and attentive. My server commented on how excellent their spinach pie was when I ordered felt good to have positive confirmation. The pie came with a side - I was feeling adventurous, so I picked Taramosalata (carp roe dip).

The dip was much too salty, but I enjoyed my warm spinach pie very much. It was basically spinach wrapped by phyllo dough. The flakiness of the phyllo was crunchy and light, but also rich at the same time because of the butter used to adhere the flaky layers together. The filling had a nice mix of flavorful spinach, onions and spices.

My fiance had their lamb sandwich and said it was the best lamb sandwich (or even sandwich alone) he's ever had. What a compliment!

Overall, the food's good (you can see and taste the quality), the portions are well-sized and the service was pleasant. I left feeling good...not overly stuffed, mad at the waiter or feeling ripped off. I would go back to Snack anytime.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Secret Ingredient: Chili

My fiance recently brought home Chili flavored Dark Chocolate. Yup, you heard me...chili.

You don't taste the chili at first when you bite into it; the heat hits you after the chocolate has melted in your mouth. It was nice and not overpowering.

Out of curiosity (and attempting to create a similar version of hot chocolate as Jacque Torres' lovely spicy concoction), I put in little squares (a tiny square and a half to be precise) of the chili chocolate into a cup of our hot chocolate. It wasn't fact, it was really good! It not only added subtle heat, but also rich milkiness. Trust me, try it some time!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The First of "Wedding Wednesdays!"

The clock has been clicking faster! This is getting VERY scary...we have less than 4 months left to plan the wedding.

I've been randomly posting wedding related material, but I figured I should start making this a routine. It will probably help me fit wedding planning into my schedule without distracting me when I should be studying. So, I'll be starting a series of wedding related posts called "Wedding Wednesdays" regularly every Wednesday until the big day...they'll be partly updates on the planning, ideas and inspirations.

On the updates front, we have all the major stuff out of the way, like booking all the vendors. But if I had learned anything from work, it's the last push that's always the hardest because it's time to get serious - crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's. We still have logistics to plan, paper and little stuff to make, etc. The little stuff include the DIY projects.

Well, remember those silhouettes I made a while back? I figured out a fun way to display them for the wedding! My proudest achievement with them is that I didn't buy any material to make this project. Here's a sneak peek at the incomplete product. I'm not going to tell you what they are or what they will be doing's gonna be a surprise.

At first, I was thinking of buying some styrofoam blocks to make the project, but I felt it was a waste to buy material to make something that will be of no use after the wedding. I love mother earth, so I recycled what I already had that were on their way out anyway. Now my conscience is clear!

I showed this DIY project to my fiance, to which he said "my friends are gonna laugh at me!"

"Just thank god that you're not having a pink wedding, and I'm not making you wear a pink tie!" I said.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Public is right up there on my list next to Five Points for brunch in NYC. I love this place not only for its simple decor (my favorite room has skylight windows), but also for its consistently good food (and good bloody mary).

The restaurant has a library theme going on. There's a library catalogue storage system, which houses their menus, and menus are presented on clip boards. I've seen photos online of a couple taking advantage of this by hosting a library/school-themed wedding reception at the restaurant (*hint hint to my cool cousin who lives pretty much around the corner to Public*). Had I known they do weddings there, I would have soooo book my wedding at Public!

For brunch, all tables are given complimentary mini scones. You can munch on them while going over their menu, which has a good variety of dishes from the sweet to the savory. You can order a set brunch, which includes a cocktail, tea/coffee and a main dish, or you can just order one main dish. The price of their set brunch has gone up a few dollars, but if you're going all out, ordering that can save you about $2.

Over the many times I've visited the restaurant for brunch, I pretty much order Tea-Smoked Salmon Benedict almost every single time. I've tried other dishes such as the Banana Stuffed French Toast, but I'm addicted to the Tea-Smoked Salmon. It's served with spinach, poached eggs on perfectly toasted sourdough with yuzu hollandaise.

My addiction is probably because the dish is original - it's not the usual smoked salmon that most restaurants serve when it comes to Smoked Salmon Benedict, it is salmon that's been tea smoked and served in meaty chunks; on top of that, it's not served on your usual English Muffin. I love it when I break the poached egg, the combination of the yolk and hollandaise soak into crunchy exterior (but soft interior) of the sourdough.

Enough about their Tea Smoked Salmon. The last time we paid Public a visit, my fiance had their Fry-up, which is just your basic eggs and toast breakfast, and as requested, with a side of bacon. It was very nicely done, but he was disappointed because they had sold out on their Venison Burger (it must be THAT good!)

The cherry on top of all this is that the restaurant serves loose tea in tea pots. This place is just my cup of tea!