Tagged: chinatown

No soup dumplings for you, come back one hour

I’m becoming my father.  No big surprise really, but I knew that the transformation was almost complete when I stood in line to get in to a restaurant simply because there was a line.  Gourmet Dumpling House was hopping and there was a cold crowd out front.

I got on the list.  I persevered.  I watched as people went in, came out, conferred, and went elsewhere.  I even sent a group over to Peach Farm for crab.  I pondered if it was fair to check in on Foursquare if I hadn’t really gained access to the place.  Finally, I got in and I went right for the soup dumplings.

How do they get the soup in there?  How do you get it out without burning yourself?  Fascinating questions but don’t bother me while I’m enjoying my soup dumplings.  I guess dad had a point.

Boston Street Lab!

I was searching for the location of a company on Google Maps and happened to notice a link in the sidebar for a map called Boston Street Lab: Underutilized Space.  That’s just my kind of thing, so naturally, I clicked on it.

Hudson Street Lot

It turns out that there’s an outfit called Boston Street Lab, which bills itself as “…a nonprofit producer of temporary programs and installations in downtown Boston.”  They produced this map to call attention to spaces in the Chinatown/South Station area that might be ripe for such installations, and it also reminded me of the temporary presence of the Hudson Street Gallery.

Ends and beginnings at Hudson Street Gallery

The Hudson Street Gallery‘s inaugural show has officially come to an end.  I helped take the show down yesterday.  When and what will be the next HSG show?  I can’t say just yet, but we’re still interested in hearing from artists and others who want to help advance the Chinatown art scene.

Photographers Lee Cullivan, Jason Liu and Brian Matiash helped repaint the gallery walls while talking shop and tech.  Check out their work and friend them up on Facebook.  They’re good people.  Hire them to shoot your wedding or your dog.  I even bartered for two of Cullivan’s chinatown prints.

Despite spending break time juggling DSLRs, iphones and some seriously fancy lenses over vietnamese coffee, one of those talented photographers left this peculiar portrait (of me) on my Ricoh GR Digital’s memory card.

Super big turnip cake, size never seen

It’s like I’d spent my life enjoying potato skins and suddenly got offered a whole stuffed baked potato.

If you know what I mean.

As you may know, I like fried turnip cake.  I liked it in Hong KongI liked it in San FranciscoI liked it in London.  I like it here in Boston.  I have not yet liked it in a boat or with a goat, but given the chance, I probably would.

I visited a new-to-me dim sum spot in Boston’s chinatown, Hei La Moon, at the lucky address of 88 Beach Street (note that google maps puts it on the wrong side of Albany street) and I discovered a new form of  turnip cake, confusingly with the same Chinese name as the other kinds: lobag gow.

This variation seems to be steamed, not fried, and it’s served in a pool of soy sauce, not the hoisin I’m accustomed to.  And it’s served in a cube, about the size of three or four of the usual type slabs stacked up.  There’s a bit more bacon or sausage on top than usual, and a festive sprig of green, too.  The scalloped lacquer dish is a nice touch.

It wasn’t brought around on the carts, but rather served from a tray carried around by one of the hostesses.  I don’t know if it was a special, an experiment, an accident, or what.  But I will be back to look for it again some time soon.

There's a reason they don't call it Tofu Pasteur

After hearing several students at Grub Street read their work (tip: check out the essay class) I went off with A for some grub of the other kind.  We ended up at Chinatown’s Pho Pasteur.

We started off with the classic fresh rolls, mostly lettuce and tofu in a rice noodle skin, but served with that chunky peanut sauce that makes everything better.

For mains, A ordered Phở, or at least a vegetarian version thereof, and I picked item 103 – sauteed tofu, pineapple, tomatoes, and rice – off the menu more or less at random because for some reason I didn’t want soup.  As Kenny Bania has noted, soup’s not a meal.

Newsflash folks, the place isn’t called “Tofu Pasteur” and that’s for a reason.  The tofu was ok, but in large not quite silken chunks with not that much flavor.  The tomatoes were stewed within an inch of their lives, and the onions were sweet and still a little crunchy.  The pineapple chunks were probably canned.  I’m not sure why I expected them not to be.  (Whole Foods has whole pineapple on sale for a few bucks each!)  The whole thing was tossed with a sweet sauce that I think was a colloidal mixture of corn syrup and indifference.  The rice, dry and packed into a low cylinder.

If you go to Pho Pasteur, here’s what you should get.  Phở, Phở, or if you really want to branch out, Phở.  Phởcus.  Does’ that look good?  It is.

To be fair, I’ve also had good pad thai there, and the vietnamese coffee with chicory is not to be missed, especially iced on a hot summer day when you want to stay awake all night.

Along the Greenway

Yesterday was the official grand opening of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the strip of urban parks that has replaced the elevated route 93 and changed the face of Boston.  I might quibble with the execution or the cost, but I can’t say enough good things about the whole idea of creating this green space in the most built-up part of the city.

The Greenway echoes the Emerald Necklace and provides about ten times the park area of nearby Post Office Square.  The project isn’t done – there are plans for two museums and an Armenian Heritage Park – and it’s not clear that it ever will be, but it’s done enough, and it got a pretty good crowd yesterday.

I was helping out at the Hudson Street Gallery most of the afternoon, so I wasn’t able to see the whole thing, but there were a few performance stages and at least one farmers market, outside of South Station, where I saw my old friends When Pigs Fly Bakery and Shy Brothers Cheese, among others. Closer to the gallery was the Chinatown park, where there were cultural performances all day, including lion dances, noodle-making, several kinds of martial arts, and Cantonese opera.  Click on the maplet at right – to which I’ve added the location of the Hudson Street Gallery near the bottom – for more information about the Greenway and more comprehensive maps.

Further along the Greenway, near the Aquarium, was a fountain of sorts.  It’s a spiral-patterned circle of stone and brick, with water jets that fire in patterns, creating mini-geysers in various patterns.  And inviting passers-by to tempt fate by first running through, and then, oddly, just standing still in the middle.

There’s lots more to explore in the Greenway, but I have to leave you with a final cartographic note.  The grand opening events included some kind of text-message scavenger hunt, and the map for that event included one unusual feature: the thick black line represents the approximate coastline of Boston in 1775, which is itself already much extended from the land profile at the time of European arrival.

Click on the map for more information on the game and the full-size PDF map.  And be sure to enjoy your local urban greenspace, wherever you are.

Pig cake from Hing Shing

This weekend I was hanging out at the Hudson Street Gallery in chinatown and popped in to Hing Shing Pastry for a snack.  They were out of their delicious peanut butter buns, but they did have this peculiarly detailed pig-shaped item in an equally pig-shaped plastic container.

At $2.50, it was more expensive than anything I’ve ever bought at Hing Shing short of their moon cakes, so I figured there must be something exotic in there.  Preliminary unboxing revealed that the pig is sitting on top of a plastic tray with a packet of silica gel beneath to keep it fresh.

The detail, from the beady eyes to the pinhole nostrils was quite impressive.  It was hard to cut into it, but nobody was willing to take a bite sight unseen.  The filling appeared to be lotus seed paste, like that found in the traditional moon cakes.

Flavor and texture were maybe not for everyone.  If you like mooncake, you’ll like pig cake.  If not, maybe you should try something else.  For another view of Hing Shing Pastry, check out this photo by Lee Cullivan, also on view – and for sale – at Hudson Street Gallery.

How to make an art gallery in just three weeks

A few weeks ago, I got a call from C, asking me some odd questions about framing and insurance.  It turns out he’s setting up a (temporary?) gallery in some vacant space in a building his family owns in Chinatown.  I’ve blogged once or twice about the Hudson Street Gallery, which had a stealth opening a week or two ago, but finding this clip on flickr reminded me how quickly it all came together.

Well, not quite that quickly, but the fact remains that the official grand opening is this Saturday, September 6, from 12 to 5.  A full-fledged photography gallery with four contemporary shooters and an exhibit of Chinatown historical material.  Check it out at www.hudsonstreetgallery – thanks to Lee for the clip.

Dim Sunday in Chinatown with art

Intrepid museum buddy L (who has a shiny new Marketing Analytics blog!) joined me for brunch today in Chinatown and then we popped in at the new Hudson Street Gallery. We visited local favorite China Pearl, arriving just before the 11:00 rush to the among the first seated upstairs. We had a sampling of usual favorites, notably shrimp and vegetable dumplings, and a couple of not so usual dishes, such as the crab claw:

How do you eat these, asked L. To be honest, I’ve never been really sure of the “correct” method, but I do it by holding them by the claw and eating the fried noodle-encrusted crabmeat like a seafood popsicle. I consider myself pretty handy with chopsticks, but the crab claw is beyond my capabilities.

Almost sated, we were looking around for one last morsel when I spied across the room a cart with one of my favorite dim sum items, but one whose name I did not know. It’s a dish of shanghai-style fried breat wrapped with rice noodles and sprinkled with green onions and soy sauce.

The limeduck crack research team has since determined that the name of this dish is Jia Luong or perhaps Zha Liang. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious. It’s a combination of very different textures and flavors, but the net effect is wonderful. After brunch, we picked up some Vietnamese iced coffee (chicory coffee with condensed milk!) and headed over to the Hudson Street Gallery.

I blogged about the Hudson Street Gallery last weekend at the August Moon Festival. Today it was much quieter so we were able to spend some more time with the work. HSG is gearing up for its actual grand opening on September 6 during the Asian Community Development Corporation’s Hudson Street Stories project. It’s an interesting story very similar to the better-known bulldozing of the West End to make way for Government Center. I hope you can all check it out sometime.

Keen on Peach Farm

After an evening of lengthy and expensive marketing research, there’s really only one place to go: Chinatown. I dragged about half a gaggle of co-workers and some hangers-on to one of my favorite seafood joints, Peach Farm.

This is not the sort of place that has a website, so I’ll just give the address: 4 Tyler Street, although you can find countless reviews online. It’s a half flight of stairs down and past some dingy-looking tanks of fish and crabs. This is one of those places whose Zagat rating for food is about four times its decor rating. The service rating is somewhere up the middle, and that corresponds to my experience. Our table was equipped with a lazy susan and a teapot with the lid attached by a length of plastic cable.

On this occasion they were on top of their game. We ordered scallion pancake and potstickers to warm up and because were were starving. But Peach Farm really shines when you start ordering seafood. We chose the steamed bass from the tank and the salty fried softshell crab. To balance out, we added beef lo mein (they were out of the usual fave dry-fried beef chow fun) and peapod stems with garlic sauce.

They brought over the plastic bucket and showed me a couple of striped bass squirming around in it. They were on the small side so we had both. If you go to Peach Farm and order fish from the tank – and you really must – they will do the classic Chinese thing and let you approve the live fish before cooking them. If you don’t like the look of them, this is your last chance to send them back for an exchange.

Cooked, the fish were served in a soy-ginger sauce with plenty of ginger, and not much else. The flavor of the fish itself was subtle but delicious. Serving it off the bones without flipping it (that’s bad luck) is a trick worth learning. I’m still working on it, but nobody choked.

The soft shell crab arrived in a heap of golden fried morsels with some chiles and scallions scattered about. Hot and fresh, with equal measure of salt and spice, the sweet crab meat was about as good as I’ve ever had, and soft shell crab is wonderfully simple to eat compared to all the cracking and prying involved with tougher exoskeletons.

I usually go for the dry-fried beef chow fun even at this basement of seafood miracles. It’s just that good. But they were out so I switched the order to lo mein just in case one of the guests wasn’t up for the seafood. You never know, sometimes it happens.

Last to arrive were the peapod stems in garlic sauce. A welcome and delicious bunch of roughage, peapod stems have a cut grass kind of smell and a nice taste to match. The garlic sauce was light but assertive. An excellent break from the greasy crab and noodles.

If you find yourself in or near Chinatown – perhaps visiting the Hudson Street Gallery – in need of fresh seafood and a relaxed good time, Peach Farm is an excellent choice. These four dishes are a good place to start, but there’s a lot more to explore there.