Grand Sichuan International

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Chelsea is awash with less than spectacular hole-in-the-wall Chinese take-out places.  You know the ones… basically just a store front with a counter.  Normally the food is laced with a generous cocktail of MSG.  The orange beef is spotted with soggy rinds, the egg rolls drip with grease.  In the back of the restaurant the fried chicken bubbles oil over the ancient frialator and gigantic bottles of hot sauce on the counter stand at the ready to cover the taste of failure.

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Good news friends, this is definitely not the case at Grand Sichuan!  Located at 229 Ninth Avenue, this old time Chinese restaurant does Sichuan cuisine the right way, and that means spicy!  Check out the red chilies swimming in the brown sauce above… woweee!   This dish was the super-tender braised beef filets in chili sauce.  It was a seriously spicy Sichuan style sauce, but it still retained a magnificently delicious flavor.  Fight through the heat because the reward of the taste is worth the pain.  Also gaze upon the rather large garlic deposit on top in the 2nd picture…  It’s tasty, but I recommend avoiding if you want to kiss your date later in the evening.  Another winner from their lunch menu is the double-cooked pork.  Only 6 bucks with soup or an egg roll!

Grand Sichuan, you can be my Chinese food go-to spot whenever I’m in the hood.  Proof.

Ramen Quest

This week, I am heading over to Sunrise Mart in the East village, (a purveyor and importer of Japanese groceries, rare fruits, exotic delicacies, and apparently makers of really tasty rice balls) to do some shopping. 

After reading Shigeto Kamada’s bio on Minca’s website, I realized that it’s one thing to get ramen out at these trendy new places, but as the old proverb goes, “teach a man to fish and then he feeds the whole village fish broth udon…” or something like that.  Anyway I’m going to attempt to educate myself in the ways of the RAMEN.   As I gear up for my own ramen Quest, I look to the movie Tampopo for inspiration:

Will I master the way of the noodle? Stay tuned…

Mustard Eggs

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I’m a huge proponent of pickled eggs, and it looks like the Amish just upped the ante.

Like every good child of the early 90s, I first learned all about dive bars from Moe’s on The Simpsons.   Homer, Barney and the rest of the guff-talking-work-slackers would always be chomping on pickled eggs in between frosty mugs of Duff.  In one memorable scene, Homer actually drinks the brine from an empty jar of pickled eggs.  Moe made it seem like these are a required item in any real dive bar, but damned if I’ve ever seen them offered anywhere in NYC.  (These particular jars are from the from the Reading Terminal Market located in lovely downtown Philadelphia.)  If only Moe’s was my local watering hole and not just located in Springfield…  Proof.

Old Bay Seasoning

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Crabs are a real tradition in Maryland.  I just want to know why this tradition is so married to the Old Bay seasoning?  Do I really need to have this stuff covering my crabs from claw to fin?

In most crab restaurants there really isn’t a choice.  Your dozen or so crustaceans are coming to your brown paper-covered table ensconced in this ancient barnacle dust.

According to their website, Old Bay seasoning has been around since 1939.  Around that time blue claw crabs were so abundant that they were regularly offered for free at local Chesapeake Bay area bars.  To encourage the imbibing of ales, wines, and spirits a salty and spicy seasoning was added (the same idea as bar nibbles like pretzels, beer-nuts, etc.).  The flavor took off, and Old Bay became the standard seasoning for your typical crab-gorge session.

Dusted

Dusted

I can see the saltiness and the zestiness definitely encouraging drinking.  One of the best things to have alongside your crabs is a frosty glass of beer.  That formula seems to work.  What kills me however is the need for such a powerful flavoring overwhelming the fragile and already deliciously sweet and salty crab meat.  I personally think it’s overkill.  While I also enjoy having a hint of this flavor with my crabs, I often shudder in horror as I witness other patrons in local Chesapeake Bay-Area crab emporiums dunk their delicately steamed crab meat in drawn butter than douse it in Old Bay seasoning as if to completely take away any hope of flavor of the crab.  It is as if the crab meat is made out of something horrendous that needs to be hidden and stifled like a three day old sea bass taco.

State of Maryland, I implore you!  Stop over-doing it with the Old Bay Seasoning!  You have a tremendous natural resource in that bay of yours, don’t muffle or hide its delicious flavor with 70 year old sea brine and red pepper seasoning.  Potato chips are one thing, but please stop burying my crab legs in this dust as if it were a fire to be smothered.  Be a friend to the crab-people that dwell in our waters.  Use a little lemon instead!  Proof-out.