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Whatever happened to just fish, rice, and seaweed?
#14 Haru Sushi, New York, NY: Broadway Roll
At face value, the Broadway Roll at Haru Sushi in New York City doesn’t seem too crazy. Tuna, cucumber, and avocado are pretty standard, right? Maybe, but this roll is topped with gold leaf and caviar! Ridiculously fancy! You can eat your golden sushi roll in the lights of Times Square, safe in the knowledge that your sushi is the fanciest of them all.
#13 Aloha Cafe, Los Angeles, Calif: Spam Musubi
Spam Musubi is a beloved snack and lunch in Hawaii, made by placing a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with a strip of dried seaweed. Whether it’s sushi or not is a contentious issue, but since it mimics the shape and some of the ingredients, we count it. Also, it sounds amazing. You can find it in L.A. at the Aloha Cafe if you can’t make it out to the islands, and you can also make it yourself.
#12 Jogasaki Sushi Burrito, Los Angeles, Calif: Sushi Burrito 1A
You might not think that Mexican and Japanese really go together that well, but once you try a sushi burrito from the Jogasaki food truck in California, you might be singing a different tune. Most of their dishes are available in burrito form, and are essentially an uncut sushi roll wrapped up in a soy wrapper or a tortilla. They have a lot of basics flavors but the one that stood out was the Jogasaki 1A, filled with crab meat, spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, and BBQ eel wrapped with soy paper. Burritos + sushi = ridiculous awesomeness.
#11 Sakura Japanese Restaurant, Memphis, Tenn: Alfredo Roll
One of the fascinating things about sushi in the US is how chefs have made many of the rolls reflective of the food culture of the area. One great example is crawfish sushi, using the small freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters found mainly in the South. You can find crawfish sushi in several southern sushi joints, such as the Alfredo Roll at Sakura Japanese Restaurant in Memphis. The roll consists of crawfish, fried white fish, fish eggs, and chives.
#10 Tex Wasabi’s, Santa Rosa, Calif.: Jackass Roll
Any restaurant run by Guy Fieri is bound to be ridiculously over the top. The Jackass Roll at his restaurant Tex Wasabi’s in Santa Rosa is perfect example of Fieri’s love of barbeque, pork products, and over the top recipes. It’s made of barbecued pork, rice paper, sushi rice, avocado, natural cut fries, and garlic chili mayo sauce. So if you’ve ever wanted your barbecue in sushi form, mystery solved. This is where you go.
#9 Pubbelly, Miami, Fla.: Porkbelly and Clams
Pubbelly’s Porkbelly and Clams roll sounds like a crazy “everything but the kitchen sink” situation. The Miami restaurant combines barbecued pork belly with kimchi coleslaw and fried clams into one delicious roll. We’ve never seen a combo quite like this! Pork with seafood is never a bad idea. Also kimchi is amazing, end of story.
#8 Blue C Sushi, Multiple Locations: Loaded Baked Potato Roll
What summer picnic would be complete without some potato salad? If you’re feeling creative and are near a Blue C Sushi on the West Coast, maybe you can try out their Loaded Baked Potato Roll instead! Using gunkan, also known as Battleship maki because of the shape, Blue C fills the seaweed wrapper with Japanese potato salad and tops it with bacon, cheddar, sour cream, chives, bonito, and caviar. SOLD.
#7 NeMesis Urban Bistro, Miami, Fla: Tuscan Sushi
Yelp/ Jason G
NeMesis took some creative license with their Tuscan Sushi. While there is no rice or nori, prosciutto acts as the wrapper and is stuffed with mascarpone and gorgonzola dolce cheese and then topped with figs. These little sushi-shaped bites, which live under the “Sexy Nibble” category, are apparently one of the most popular dishes on the menu.
#6 Blue C Sushi, Multiple Locations: Tuna BLT Roll
Blue C Sushi has a lot of great sushi selections with neat ingredients, which is why they made our list twice! The second raved-about selection that’s totally nontraditional is their Tuna BLT Roll. Basically, it’s like a BLT but with tuna and in a sushi roll. How could you miss? This roll scoots by on the “sushi belt” that travels around the restaurant and is often the first to go, so grab it fast if you see it!
#5 Taka Taka Mexican Sushi, New York, NY: Towi Roll
One thing is clear: The combination of Mexican and Japanese cuisine is a hit, and Taka Taka Mexican Sushi in New York City is proof. The restaurant offers a full menu of fusion dishes, but the one most likely to knock your socks off is the Towi Roll, which contains thinly-sliced jalapeño rolled over grilled jack cheese with tempura shrimp, avocado, and chipotle sauce. Basically sounds like sushi jalapeño poppers, which sounds like the best late night snack EVER.
#4 The Cowfish, Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina: The Nature Boy's WOOOOO–shi BuffalOOOOO–shi Roll
We love bison. We love sushi. Why not have both? The Nature Boy's WOOOOO–shi BuffalOOOOO–shi Roll from The Cowfish in North Carolina not only is fun to say, it’s a crazy combination of sautéed chipotle bison, fried green tomato, grilled onions, feta cheese, and tempura flakes. Topped with fresh green tomato, chipotle aioli, diced tomato, red onion, and jalapeño peppers, this fusion of flavors is a seriously spicy and delicious departure from your standard sushi roll.
#3 How Do You Roll, Austin, Texas: Spicy Insectopia Roll
So you might be in the mood for some lean protein but you don’t want fish. Maybe you should check out the other other other white meat: bugs! How Do You Roll in Austin, Texas came up with the Spicy Insectopia Roll, which is filled with crickets dressed in sesame oil and teriyaki, cucumber and jalapeño, and topped with marinated mealworms and tempura flakes. This sounds more like a collection of garden pests and less like lunch, but apparently bugs are super healthy for you: mealworms are 50 percent protein and contain as many omega-3 fatty acids as fish.
#2 The Kitano, New York, NY: Fugu
One of the most famously ridiculous sushi ingredients is blowfish, otherwise known as fugu. The organs of the blowfish contain tetrodotoxin, a poison which is reportedly 1,000 times more deadly than cyanide. If the fish is not properly sliced, the poison can cause breathing trouble, dizziness, paralysis, and death, and most people who eat it report some numbness and tingling in the mouth. If you still really want to try it out, The Kitano in New York City offers the very rare fish on a seasonal basis.
#1 Hamasaku, Los Angeles, Calif: Shirako (Cod Sperm)
The absolute weirdest sushi out there has to be shirako. Also called “cod milt” in the U.S. (so as not to frighten diners), shirako is cod sperm. It is most usually served “gunkan-style” or plain, and is described as “custard–like.” When you think about it, caviar is the female fish version of this, so it makes sense to use the male fish parts too. Right? Maybe. Hamasaku in Los Angeles serves shirako seasonally, so if you’re interested, get in there around February to get your sperm sushi fix.
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The Most Ridiculous Deep Fried Foods From America's State Fairs
With State Fairs only a few short months away, Kitchenette figured it was high time we delved into America's gastronomic Houses of Horror. Since nowhere is our collective cultural disregard for the laws of physics and good taste made clear more than with deep fried foods, it's only appropriate that we begin there.
In researching this, some potential entries we rejected outright ("deep fried eggs on a stick" are just re-branded Scotch Eggs, dammit), some we had to cut for space issues (seriously, we could do three of these goddamn things just on fried foods alone), and some gave us complicated feelings, torn between desire and revulsion. More than anything, we were staggered at the level of misplaced creativity that goes into State Fair food. If we were ¼ as concerned with space travel as we are with finding new ways to fry things that shouldn't be possible to fry, weɽ have colonized Alpha Centauri by now.
We begin with the one everyone's heard of by now, because if I didn't do it, Iɽ have 30 comments asking me where it was:
Fried Butter (Iowa)
Butter, the tabletop staple, has now entered the fair circuit . The on-a-stick version from the Iowa State Fair is dipped in a cinnamon batter, fried and topped with glaze. When you bite into it you will find the butter has melted and you are left largely with a buttery cinnamon shell. The Texas version is similar, but they use small portions rolled up into balls.
It's not really a state fair until someone fries fat wrapped in a batter of fat and carbs. That's the dream here, folks, because THIS IS AMERICA, DAMMIT.
Honestly, though, the problem with fried butter at this point is that it just feels so. done. I mean, sure, you're literally eating an entire stick of butter, ho-hum, but this is a list where an enterprising culinary mad scientist figured out how to fry beer and another one threw Reese's cups and bacon at a stick, coated it with banana bread, and tossed the whole concoction at a vat of boiling oil. By comparison, deep fried butter just seems so disappointingly pedestrian.
Fried Pig Ears (Minnesota)
Minnesota State Fair regular Charlie Torgerson, who owns five franchises of Famous Dave's BBQ, got famous for his chocolate-covered bacon, which he followed up with peach-glazed pigs' cheeks. This year, Torgerson is frying up pigs' ears , cut to look like curly fries, with a chipotle glaze. "He's done everything but the squeal," fair official Dennis Larson, who oversees new food, told the local press. "He's running out of organs."
There is no possible scenario in which the phrase "he's running out of organs" is a positive thing to hear. Either someone is doing something horrible to a poor, defenseless kitchen, or it's a medical emergency, or Jeffrey Dahmer's freezer is being exhumed. Christ, I know pig is delicious, but there are limits.
Fried Beer (Texas)
If you have a smidgen of common sense, the first question that should pop in your head is "How can you deep fry a liquid?" The second…"Is beer amazing or what?" This winner of the 2010 Most Creative Award at the State Fair of Texas is basically a deep-fried ravioli made from a salty, pretzel-like dough filled with beer . The awesomeness comes from the fact that since the ravioli is only submerged in oil for about 20 seconds, it's still alcoholic so you have to be of drinking age to even buy it.
Oh my God, look at those fucking things. They look like disease-flavored ravioli. I know you love to fry shit, Texas, but Ebola Squares may have been a step too far. It's the physical embodiment of the morning after a frat party. There's also a How-To Guide With Pictures , in case you own both a deep fryer and a burning desire to ruin everything that was once good in the universe.
Fried Kool Aid (California)
The county fair circuit must be getting desperate for new fried foods. After all, fried beer, deep-fried Twinkies, and fried lemonade have been clogging fair-goers' arteries for years. But now, deep-fried Kool-Aid balls make all previous fried creations seems like pure child's play, not so much because the recipe is anything special but because it just sounds so gross.
Creator Charlie Boghosian explains that the Kool-Aid balls are "kind of like donut holes" with a batter made from flour, water and Kool-Aid. His inspiration was fairly straightforward Boghosian loved drinking Kool-Aid when growing up so he thought, "why not fry it and see what happens."
On a side note, has anyone else ever been bothered by the fact that the Kool Aid man is essentially asking us all to drink of his blood? I can't figure out whether that makes him a vampire or Jesus. Or vampire Jesus.
Fried Ice Cream Cheeseburger (Florida)
This bad boy starts with a regular burger. No worries there. But nestled under the toasted bun and perched atop the pickle, lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese toppings is a slab of ice cream coated in cinnamon and cornflakes that has taken a dip in the deep fryer for 10 to 15 seconds.
Well, now you're just being silly. I mean, look at that thing. That's joke food. That might be good for about five seconds. and then the ice cream melts and turns the bun into a soggy, creamy sponge. Ever tried to eat a burger that's been dunked in a bucket of milk? Of course you haven't, because that's fucking disgusting. No one wants to eat that, so why the hell would anyone want to eat this?
Fried Salsa (Texas)
Deep Fried Texas Salsa features a medley of jalapeños, roasted garlic, onion, tomato and pepper rolled together, dipped in masa and covered in crunchy tortilla chips before it's dropped into the deep fryer . It's served with queso.
Five out of the eight ingredients in this are vegetables, which actually makes this the single healthiest entry on the entire list. Granted, that's like being the nicest person on Fox News, but still. These deserve a new sort of award at the Texas State Fair: "Least Likely to Kill You On Sight."
Fried Bubblegum (Texas)
Fried Bubblegum showcases bubblegum-flavored marshmallows dipped in batter, fried and decorated with icing and powdered sugar .
Where. where do I even start with this? It's like Dominique Ansel dropped some acid, went to the circus, spent 12 hours staring at gum on his shoe, then went into the kitchen to recreate the experience in neon pink marshmallow. Also, this thing is topped with Chiclets, just in case, y'know, you can't taste all that artificial bubblegum flavoring that's been injected into the marshmallows, because that would be a real shame.
This stuff was so vile that one food reviewer at the time actually added directions to the Sensodyne station to her post, just so that people knew where to go when they inevitably needed their tongues scraped and mouths washed out . This concoction somehow won the 2011 Texas State Fair "Most Creative" award, and I honestly cannot tell if they meant it ironically or not. It's creative in that they somehow found a way to make marshmallows even more gross, so they may be on to something.
Fried Jelly Beans (Massachusetts)
The Big E (a nickname for the Massachusetts State Fair) doesn't force a choice between candy and funnel cake. These jelly beans are dipped in batter before being deep-fried .
I really didn't think anyone could find a way to make Jelly Beans more disgusting, but Massachusetts has journeyed into a new frontier of methods for giving yourself third degree burns. In what way are these not edible napalm capsules? I can't see how this food ends in anything other than tragedy, for just so many reasons.
Fat Elvis on a Stick (Wisconsin)
Take peanut butter, chocolate and bacon, combine them with banana batter and you have a deep fried concoction known as the Fat Elvis On-a-Stick . This treat is savory, sweet and extra crispy.
Hold on, my body just tried to do about four different things at once. I gagged a little, then I started salivating, and now I have a boner. They just took four things I love and deep-fried them. My reality is shattered. I have stared into the abyss, and we are it. What is this fragile existence? WHAT IS MY LIFE? I AM A UNIVERSE OF INFINITE ENERGY FILLED WITH NAUGHT BUT LIGHT AND BACON GREASE. I AM ONE WITH THE GODS. I AM RA.
Fried Alligator on a Stick (Illinois)
This favorite at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield is deep-fried and skewered, teriyaki style . Fans say alligator tastes like pork and is similar to veal in texture.
Honestly, the more surprising aspect of this entry is not that it's here (we've got fried bubblegum, for fuck's sake), but that it's from Illinois. Isn't the point of a state fair to showcase local products and produce and state pride or some shit? Are there a lot of alligator farms in Illinois? Do alligators vacation there? What do their windbreakers look like?
Look, Illinois, just please don't start importing everything else from the Sunshine State. One Florida is more than enough.
Deep Fried White Castle Burgers (California)
The Orange County Fair is so dedicated to frying that a vendor called Heart Attack Café chose Deep Fried Butter Stand as its new name after being pressured with legal action by Arizona's Heart Attack Grill. Even more stupendous: Chicken Charlie's fried White Castle cheeseburgers (bun and all) at the 2011 fair .
Just in case you were wondering how rich, white, privileged, and uncreative Orange County is, they have something shipped in from the East Coast just to deep-fry it. Fuck all of California's readily available fresh fruits, vegetables, and cows. So local, so bourgeois — and nothing says, "I have $10K burning a hole in my wallet" like importing a food just so you can ruin it.
You can't even Midwest correctly, Orange County. God, you're terrible.
Oregon State Fair in 2011 was home to a flattened, deep-fried dough delicacy that just looks like it tried to cross the road at the wrong time, complete with oozing fruity sauces and syrups.
When we started our research, we were sure that we wouldn't be able to find two things: fried soup. and roadkill. Actually, we didn't even think about the latter, because seriously, who the fuck associates roadkill with good eats?!
Sadly*, this is not real roadkill. Instead, it's an adorable fried dough man that has been smashed, fried, stitched back together, and covered in a variety of sauces to emulate bodily fluids, fatal injuries and presumably look about as appetizing as a cracked three week-old biohazard container. What serial killer looked at a funnel cake and thought, "this is good, but you know what it needs? Something to remind me of that time I hit a raccoon with my 4x4"? If you can look at roadkill and think "that looks delicious!" I'm pretty sure you're the real-life version of a Deliverance character.
Fried Picnic on a Stick (Texas)
If you ever have a picnic consisting entirely of fried chicken, tater tots, and pickles, feel free to invite me along. I'll bring the fryer so we can recreate the fried picnic on a stick , in which the three ingredients are alternated on a skewer, breaded and gently steamed with broccoli (phrase struck through on Serious Eats) deep-fried. A great contrast of flavors, to be sure, but, beware: the tater tots spilled everywhere on the first bite.
Only in Texas would there be a person who devised a way to make a Franken-picnic. All of these things are fantastic separately, but when you ram them together, it sounds like you went dumpster diving blindfolded and then threw it in oil just to see what would happen.
. oh, who the fuck am I kidding? I want this in my facehole RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.
Deep Fried Sugar Cubes (Texas)
Yep, just like it sounds. Simple and sweet! Sugar cubes double-dipped in batter: chocolate, vanilla, or both. Deep-fried, then drizzled with chocolate, caramel or fruit sauces.
We've finally done it, humanity — we've found a way to craft edible Diabetes. Good show.
Fried Scorpion (Arizona)
Don't worry, it's dead: battered, fried, and served plain or dipped in chocolate, fried scorpions have southwesterners getting their ultimate revenge on the desert menace with an adaptation of a Chinese delicacy. Other backyard creatures-turned-snack options include crickets, grasshoppers, and lizards.
It says something about this entry that "deep-fried grasshoppers" is by FAR the least-weird thing on that list. You know, prior to researching this post, I said "I'm pretty sure I'll want to eat everything I talk about," and that was true — right up until I ran into the image pictured at the top of this article.
Scorpions?! Are you fucking kidding me?! No. Just. no. Stop. You have to draw the line somewhere, and if your line isn't drawn at arachnids, please tell me that when I first meet you so I can immediately run away screaming. If there's a list of creatures humanity is supposed to never eat, it probably looks something like this:
- Scorpions again.
- Seriously, scorpions. Don't fucking eat scorpions.
You just didn't listen, did you, Arizona? I'm trying to figure out where this ranks among your worst decisions. It's no repeatedly electing this shithead , or trying to pass this , or ACTUALLY passing this , but. wow, you guys make a LOT of horrifying decisions. I mean, goddamn.
The Meat Industry Is Trying to Make 'Beefshi' Happen
I’m going to be quite honest with you: When I first heard about this, I thought it was a ridiculous concept with a ridiculous name. But then I opened my jaded-by-marketing, pessimistic eyes and realized something: This could be really, really good.
I mean, why not? I like sushi and I like beef. The word shi” is kind of stupid, but still, I’m here for this mashup 100 percent.
WATCH: How to Roll Sushi
Beefshi is part of NAMI’s tireless campaign to promote March as National Deli Meat Month, which sounds fake, but OK.
"Beefshi embodies America&aposs love for beef and sushi," Eric Mittenthal, vice president of public affairs at The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said in a press release. "Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not mean raw seafood. The term refers to the vinegared rice that can be paired with many ingredients including fish, vegetables or meat. The various fillings that can be used in today&aposs sushi are limitless. Therefore, consumers can use their favorite ingredients–including deli meats—to design their favorite sushi/Beefshi."
NAMI worked with a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef to develop eight new Beefshi recipes. Among them are:
Sushi in America
America is becoming a nation of sushi connoisseurs, able to discuss the difference between o-toro and chu-toro. Senior Editor Ray Isle looks at the stats, the buzzwords, the masters and mavericks, and the do's and don'ts.
America has become a sushi nation.
Sushi is passed by waiters at bar mitzvahs, served in college food halls, sold in plastic trays at convenience stores. There&aposs four-star sushi and nightclub sushi, sushi shower curtains and sushi refrigerator magnets.
Sushi is a relatively recent arrival in the U.S., making its first small inroads a decade or so after World War II. A sashimi dinner in the 1950s at Miyako in San Diego, if you knew to go there, would run you $1.25. By the mid-1970s the chef at Tokyo Kaikan restaurant in Los Angeles had invented the California roll.
The number of sushi bars in the U.S. quintupled between 1988 and 1998, and has kept on growing. Since the turn of the millennium, sushi has thrived at the heights of American cuisine, with classicist sushi chefs shipping in rare fish from Japan and avant-garde chefs bending tradition daily. And, in what is perhaps the ultimate compliment, American-style sushi has emigrated back to Japan—though Americans might feel strange ordering a Nixon roll in Tokyo.
Sushi rice should be Japanese short-grain white rice seasoned with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Wasabi comes from a plant related to the mustard family a master sushi chef will grate it himself. Gari is ginger pickled in rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Japanese soy sauce, or shoyu, is made from wheat and soybeans fermented with koji, the same mold used in fermenting sake.
Highest reported price ever paid for a tuna: $83,500, in 1992
Number of individual servings produced by the highest-priced tuna ever sold: 2,400
Length of longest sushi roll ever made, in feet: 4,381
Number of seconds it takes a bluefin tuna to accelerate from 0 to 50 mph: about 3
Number of seconds it takes a Porsche 911 GT3 to go from 0 to 50 mph: about 3
Number of seconds it takes an auctioneer at Tokyo&aposs Tsukiji market to sell a tuna: about 3
Value of seafood moved through Tsukiji each day: $2.7 million
Weight of a toro (fatty tuna) hand roll at Manhattan&aposs Monster Sushi, in ounces: 5.1
Pounds of tuna sold at Manhattan&aposs Monster Sushi (on 23rd Street) in 2004: 14,600
Number of sushi restaurants in Lexington, Kentucky: 1
Number of sushi restaurants in greater Los Angeles: 276
Number of rice balls a Tomoe MSR-3000 sushi machine makes in one hour: 3,000
Number of sushi pieces Masa Takayama of Manhattan&aposs Masa makes in one hour: about 200
Price of a 12-piece sushi dinner at Randalls supermarket in Houston: $4.69
Price of an omakase dinner for one person at Los Angeles&aposs Urasawa: $250
—Researched by Jen Murphy
Nori Seaweed, harvested primarily off the coast of Japan, that is dried, roasted and pressed into sheets.
Awase-zu The seasoning added to cooked short-grain sushi rice is made from rice vinegar, sugar and salt.
Sashimi Sliced raw fish without rice sashimi should be eaten with chopsticks rather than fingers.
Nigiri sushi A bite-size mound of vinegared rice with a similar-size piece of fish, shellfish or other topping.
Maki sushi Rolled sushi basically, a sheet of nori wrapped around rice and raw fish (or other fillings).
Temaki sushi Known as a hand roll the nori wrapper is rolled around various fillings into a cone shape.
Chirashi sushi Literally, "scattered sushi" raw fish and vegetables served over rice, most often in a bowl.
Omakase The root word means "to trust"—the chef serves you whatever he or she likes. No menus.
These five chefs belong with Masa Takayama, of New York City&aposs Masa, in the pantheon of America&aposs top sushi classicists.
Los Angeles HIROYUKI URASAWA OF URASAWA After Masa left for New York, his student Urasawa opened his own place in Beverly Hills. Seasonal rarities are standard here𠅏rom October to March, look for fugu (blowfish).
MORIHIRO ONODERA OF MORI SUSHI Mori, a perfectionist among perfectionists, hulls his own rice every day his choice of fish is equally exacting, featuring rarities like sweet, rich buri (wild yellowtail).
New York City TOSHIHIRO UEZU OF KURUMAZUSHI Uezu was head chef at one of Manhattan&aposs first sushi bars, Takezushi, then opened Kurumazushi in 1977. Try his shiro-ebi—tiny white shrimp imported from Japan&aposs Toyama prefecture.
Seattle YUTAKA SAITO OF SAITO&aposS JAPANESE CAFÉ & BAR Visiting Japanese baseball players swear by Saito&aposs specialties, such as fresh ankimo (monkfish liver).
Washington, DC TAKASHI OKAMURA OF MAKOTO The focus is the dishes of Japanese kaiseki, but Okamura&aposs sushi is just as exquisite.
Sushi chefs in the U.S. have long pushed boundaries, most recently borrowing ideas from an eclectic range of cuisines. Along with Masatoshi "Gari" Sugio of Sushi of Gari in New York City, here are some of our favorite iconoclasts.
New York & Los Angeles NOBU MATSUHISA OF NOBU & MATSUHISA Nobu opened L.A.&aposs Matsuhisa in 1987, shocking the country with his deft mingling of Japanese, Peruvian and European ingredients. His influence now extends far beyond the dozen or so restaurants that carry his name.
Brookline, MA TING YEN OF OISHII SUSHI Yen creates graceful, French-inflected sushi𠅏or instance, his Kinzan Sake tops salmon tartare with truffle shavings, golden caviar and a sprinkling of gold leaf.
Atlanta SOTOHIRO KOSUGI OF SOTO JAPANESE RESTAURANT Kosugi might wrap sea urchin with a thin slice of sashimi squid, then nori, to mimic the appearance of a real sea urchin.
Philadelphia MASAHARU MORIMOTO OF MORIMOTO This Iron Chef defies expectations—he might serve blanched lobster in a komatsuna leaf—in a wild room filled with glowing, color-changing booths.
Chicago TOYOJI HEMMI OF TSUKI In this cool industrial space, Hemmi bends the rules with creations such as spicy tuna maki with pine nuts, pistachios and rosemary, topped with ginger paste.
The Supreme Sushi Experience
Dinner at Masa, the Manhattan restaurant owned by chef Masa Takayama, is a singular experience. In a templelike room with only 26 seats, Masa might fashion 25 courses over three hours, from lobster and foie gras shabu-shabu to classical sushi. The cost is over $350 per person, but the fish is the finest anywhere.
At Sushi of Gari and its new offshoot, Gari, in Manhattan, chef Masatoshi "Gari" Sugio, opposite, specializes in innovative flavorings that never overshadow the taste of the fish. Among his 130 radical inventions: tai salad (Japanese red snapper with microgreens, pine nuts and a lotus-root chip) saut foie gras with balsamic mousse bluefin toro with ponzu mousse marinated tuna with pine nuts on fried nori marinated tuna with tofu sauce squid with shiso flowers.
Even if You Think Discussing Aliens Is Ridiculous, Just Hear Me Out
The most curious subplot in the news right now is the admission, at the most senior levels of the United States government, that the military services have collected visuals, data and testimonials recording flying objects they cannot explain that they are investigating these phenomena seriously and that they will, in the coming months, report at least some of their findings to the public. It feels, at times, like the beginning of a film where everyone is going about their lives, even as the earthshaking events unfurl on a silenced television in the background.
A number of stories in The New York Times over the past few years have confirmed the existence of a military program on “Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification” and revealed videos in which trained pilots marvel over unidentified craft apparently defying the limits of known technology.
On April 30, The New Yorker published a revelatory article by Gideon Lewis-Kraus tracking the rise of congressional, military and media interest in U.F.O.s. Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader from Nevada, emerges as the key actor. In the middle of his decades-long career in government, he pushed to fund these investigations, and since retiring he’s been relentless in voicing his conviction that the military has information on U.F.O.s that the public deserves to know. He told Lewis-Kraus that he believed there was crash debris held by Lockheed Martin, but when he asked the Pentagon to see it, he was refused access. “I tried to get, as I recall, a classified approval by the Pentagon to have me go look at the stuff,” he said. “They would not approve that.”
Language inserted into the 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act gave the government 180 days to gather and analyze the data it has collected, and to release a report on the findings. On Fox News, John Ratcliffe, the former director of national intelligence, was given the opportunity to play down the report, which began under his tenure, and he declined. “When we talk about sightings,” he said, “we are talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain, movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for, or traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom.” Nor are these just eyewitness accounts, made by fallible human observers. “Usually, we have multiple sensors that are picking up these things,” he said.
Perhaps Ratcliffe, a former member of Congress whose sole stint in intelligence came at the tail end of the Trump administration, is simply hyping his work. But that doesn’t explain why a former C.I.A. director, John Brennan, said in an interview with the economist Tyler Cowen that “some of the phenomena we’re going to be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don’t yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.” Well then.
To state the obvious: All this is a little weird. None of it is proof of extraterrestrial visitation, of course. And I am not just offering a pro forma disclaimer to cover my firm belief in aliens. I really don’t know what’s behind these videos and reports, and I relish that. In this case, that is my bias: I enjoy the spaciousness of mystery. Evidence that there is intelligent extraterrestrial life, and it has been here, would upend how humanity understands itself and our place in the cosmos. Even if you think all discussion of aliens is ridiculous, it’s fun to let the mind roam over the implications.
The way I’ve framed the thought experiment in recent conversations is this: Imagine, tomorrow, an alien craft crashed down in Oregon. There are no life-forms in it. It’s effectively a drone. But it’s undeniably extraterrestrial in origin. So we are faced with the knowledge that we’re not alone, that we are perhaps being watched, and we have no way to make contact. How does that change human culture and society?
One immediate effect, I suspect, would be a collapse in public trust. Decades of U.F.O. reports and conspiracies would take on a different cast. Governments would be seen as having withheld a profound truth from the public, whether or not they actually did. We already live in an age of conspiracy theories. Now the guardrails would truly shatter, because if U.F.O.s were real, despite decades of dismissals, who would remain trusted to say anything else was false? Certainly not the academics who’d laughed them off as nonsense, or the governments who would now be seen as liars.
“I’ve always resisted the conspiracy narrative around U.F.O.s,” Alexander Wendt, a professor of international security at Ohio State University who has written about U.F.O.s, told me. “I assume the governments have no clue what any of this is and they’re covering up their ignorance, if anything. That’s why you have all the secrecy, but people may think they were being lied to all along.”
The question, then, would be who could impose meaning on such an event. “Instead of a land grab, it would be a narrative grab,” Diana Pasulka, author of “American Cosmic: U.F.O.s, Religion, Technology,” told me. There would be enormous power — and money — in shaping the story humanity told itself. If we were to believe that the contact was threatening, military budgets would swell all over the world. A more pacific interpretation might orient humanity toward space travel or at least interstellar communication. Pasulka says she believes this narrative grab is happening even now, with the military establishment positioning itself as the arbiter of information over any U.F.O. events.
One lesson of the pandemic is that humanity’s desire for normalcy is an underrated force, and there is no single mistake as common to political analysis as the constant belief that this or that event will finally change everything. If so many can deny or downplay a disease that’s killed millions, dismissing some unusual debris would be trivial. “An awful lot of people would basically shrug and it’d be in the news for three days,” Adrian Tchaikovsky, the science fiction writer, told me. “You can’t just say, ‘Still no understanding of alien thing!’ every day. An awful lot of people would be very keen on continuing with their lives and routines no matter what.”
There is a thick literature on how evidence of alien life would shake the world’s religions, but I think Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, is quite likely right when he suggests that many people would simply say, “of course.” The materialist worldview that positions humanity as an island of intelligence in a potentially empty cosmos — my worldview, in other words — is the aberration. Most people believe, and have always believed, that we share both the Earth and the cosmos with other beings — gods, spirits, angels, ghosts, ancestors. The norm throughout human history has been a crowded universe where other intelligences are interested in our comings and goings, and even shape them. The whole of human civilization is testament to the fact that we can believe we are not alone and still obsess over earthly concerns.
This has even been true with aliens. The science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson reminded me that in the early 1900s it was widely but mistakenly believed that we had visual evidence of canals on Mars. “The scientific community seemed to have validated that finding, even though it was mainly Percival Lowell, but it’s hard to recapture now how general the assumption was,” he wrote in an email. “There being no chance of passage across space, it was assumed to be a philosophical point only, of interest but not world-changing for anyone.”
What might be more world-changing is the way nation-states fall to fighting over the debris, or even just the interpretation of the debris. There’s a long science fiction literature in which the prospect or reality of alien attack unites the human race — Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” and the movie “Independence Day,” to name a couple. But a more ambiguous contact might lead to more fractious results. “The scenario you outline would be politicized immediately on the international stage the Russians and Chinese would never believe us and frankly large numbers of Americans would be much more likely to believe that Russia or China was behind it,” Anne-Marie Slaughter, the chief executive of New America and a former director of policy planning at the State Department, told me. And that’s to say nothing of the tensions over who actually owned, and thus could research and profit from, the technologies embedded in the debris.
Slaughter went on to make a point about the difficulty of uniting humanity that I’d been contemplating as well. “After all, we are facing the destruction of the planet as we know it and have inhabited it for millennia over a couple of decades, and that does not even unify Americans, much less people around the globe.” If the real threat of climate change hasn’t unified countries and focused our technological and political efforts behind a common purpose, why should the more uncertain threat of aliens?
And yet, I’d like to believe it could be different. Steven Dick, the former chief historian for NASA, has argued that indirect contact with aliens — a radio signal, for instance — would be more like past scientific revolutions than past civilizational collisions. The correct analogy, he suggests, would be the realization that we share our world with bacteria, or that the Earth orbits the sun, or that life is shaped by natural selection. These upheavals in our understanding of the universe we inhabit changed the course of human science and culture, and perhaps this would, too. “There are times in science when just knowing that a thing is possible motivates an effort to get there,” Jacob Foster, a sociologist at U.C.L.A., told me. The knowledge that there were other space-faring societies might make us more desperate to join them or communicate with them.
There’s a school of thought that says interplanetary ambitions are ridiculous when we have so many terrestrial crises. I disagree. I believe our unsolved problems reflect a lack of unifying goals more than a surfeit of them. America made it to the moon in the same decade it created Medicare and Medicaid and passed the Civil Rights Act, and I don’t believe that to be coincidence.
A more cohesive understanding of ourselves as a species, and our planet as one ecosystem among others, might lead us to take more care with what we already have, and the sentient life we already know. The loveliest sentiment I came across while doing this (admittedly odd) reporting was from Agnes Callard, a philosopher at the University of Chicago. “You also asked how we should react,” she said over email. “I guess my preferred reaction would be for the knowledge that someone was watching to inspire us to be the best examples of intelligent life that we could be.”
I recognize this is a treacly place to end up: evidence of extraterrestrial life, or even surveillance, reminding us of what we should already know. But that doesn’t make it less true. Callard’s words brought to mind one of my favorite science fiction stories, “The Great Silence,” by the writer Ted Chiang (whom I interviewed here, in a conversation that explores this fable). In it, he imagines a parrot talking to the humans managing the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, for more than 50 years the largest single dish radio telescope on earth. There we are, creating technological marvels to find life in the stars, while we heedlessly drive wild parrots, among so many others species, toward extinction here at home.
“We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them,” the parrot muses. “Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?”
The 25 Most-Over-the-Top Bloody Marys in America
The streamlined initial recipe of vodka and tomato juice now serves as a mere jumping-off point for everything under the sun in these 25 totally off-the-wall Bloody Marys.
Photo By: Rockit Ranch Productions
The Barn Yard Bloody Mary at Farmer's Table, La Mesa, California
While largely an ode to refined, farm-to-table cuisine, this Cali eatery has tongue-in-cheek fun with its theme during brunch, when five wacky Bloody Marys are on offer. The Peter Rabbit (cheese-stuffed mushroom caps and assorted veggies) and the Butcher's Block (sage-fennel sausage and braised short ribs) set the stage in a comparatively sedate way, but the showstopper is the $45 Barn Yard, a cornucopia of bacon-wrapped shrimp, fresh mozzarella, seasonal vegetables and a whole roasted chicken, meant to satisfy four thirsty (and famished) farmhands.
The Sumo Mary at Sunda, Chicago
You'll need a pretty strong constitution to wrestle with the 32-ouncer at Chicago's Southeast Asia-referencing Sunda. It tips the scales with half a grilled cheese sandwich, braised pork belly, Chinese broccoli, pickled daikon, shishito peppers and roasted potatoes, a crab sushi roll, the Filipino spring roll known as lumpia and a saucy duck bao. Talk about a knockout.
Mama Betty's Bloody Mary at The Bellwether, Studio City, California
Sharing is encouraged during The Bellwether's convivial brunch hours &mdash except, that is, when it comes to cocktails. That means you're fully within your rights if you bogart your Bloody Mary, appetizingly assembled from house-infused habanero vodka, house mix, bacon salt, pepperoncini, cornichons and an adorable mini BLT.
The Brunch for Two at Party Fowl, Nashville, Tennessee
This Nashville funhouse certainly isn't guilty of false advertising when it comes to its infamous Brunch for Two. There's no reason to bother with anything else on the menu, considering this goblet-proportioned offering provides patrons with more calories than they can possibly need in a day, presented on sticks precariously stacked with fried okra, a halved avocado, Scotch eggs, olives and two split hot Cornish game hens.
The Big Fix at Flipside, Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville strikes again, thanks to Flipside, which makes a play for Party Fowl's Bloody Mary crown with The Big Fix. A dill pickle and bacon share real estate in a frosted mug with a skewer brandishing fried chicken cutlet wedges and Tater Tots, and a massive snow-crab claw is draped dramatically over the side.
The BBQ Bloody Mary at That Boy Good BBQ, Oceanside, California
That Boy Good treats its Bloodys in much the same way it approaches its low-and-slow-smoked meats. The chef whips up his own Mary mix (flavored with a dash of BBQ sauce, of course) and uses his all-purpose rub to rim the glass. Jalapeno-infused vodka joins the party, as do celery, olives, limes, pickled veggies and the coup de grâce, a hulking smoked rib.
The Motherlode Mary at Black Iron Kitchen & Bar, Telluride, Colorado
You may want to postpone hitting the slopes after you've gotten a load of the Mary at this apres-ski lounge at the Madeline Hotel. Not only is there a fair amount of vegetation involved (cherry peppers, pickled okra, haricots verts and baby corn), but it packs a protein punch, too, thanks to multiple rashers of crisped bacon and a brawny lamb slider.
The Bloody Best at The Nook, Atlanta
We've got Georgia on our minds, thanks to the awe-inspiring Bloody Best at The Nook. A 32-ounce tumbler barely contains the lava-red drink soused with black pepper vodka, to say nothing of the skewers strung with steak, Tater Tots, pepperoncini, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, beef straws and a slice of buttered toast.
The Chubby Mary at The Cove, Leland, Michigan
Seafood (in the form of oysters, shrimp and lobster) is a pretty standard addition to Bloody Marys. Yet The Cove, situated in Leland's Fishtown neighborhood, serves a Bloody that's, well, a fish out of water in a rather delectable way: A whole smoked chub rises from its brackish, horseradish- and vodka-spiked depths.
The Pizza Bloody Mary at Homeslice, Chicago
While we don't necessarily think of pizza parlors as standard brunch destinations, this quirky Chicago pie slinger is actually a brilliant option for anyone whose go-to fast breaker is a leftover, refrigerated slice. And truly, there's no better hangover cure than a spicy, tomato-rich Bloody, crowned with a chilled triangle of Hawaiian-style 'za &mdash although the accompanying Miller High Life pony might just jump-start a new buzz.
The Bloody Mary Bar at Andiron Steak and Sea, Las Vegas
Not only is Andiron's Bloody Mary bar DIY, but it's bottomless as well, meaning you can spend the better part of the day composing bespoke cocktails from bottles of original, spicy, roasted tomatillo or briny, clam-permeated juice, plus 12 salts, 21 hot sauces, and myriad bowls overflowing with Marcona almond- or blue cheese-stuffed olives, beef jerky, bacon, poached shrimp and Slim Jims. And it's up to you how heavy a hand you use with the vodka or tequila. Hey, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
The Shellfish Bloody at Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille, Pittsburgh
This seafood haven carries its under-the-sea motif straight through to brunch, gamely loading pint glass-proportioned Bloodys with everything from spice-rubbed prawns to whole, flash-fried soft-shell crabs in season, adorably adorned with two pimento-stuffed olives for eyes.
The F*%# Brunch Bloody Mary at Anvil Pub, Dallas
Anvil Pub may thumb its nose at brunch with its colorfully named cocktail, but it's only served to bolster the weekend crowds at this Deep Ellum haunt. One of four flagrantly insane tipples (the others are a breakfast sandwich-mounted mimosa, a chimichanga-capped sangria and a cinnamon roll-cloistered screwdriver), the Bloody comes reinforced with revolving toppings such as a bacon cheeseburger, beef jerky, Brussels sprouts, shrimp, asparagus, crawfish and a half-pint of PBR.
The Bloody Buck at Buck's Naked BBQ, Maine
Dry-rubbed, hardwood-infused meat finds its way into most everything at this duo of Maine-based BBQ joints. And that very much extends to the drinks menu, where margaritas, dark and stormys and, yes, piquant Bloody Marys come opulently accessorized with slow-smoked baby back ribs.
The Build Your Own Bloody at The Wayfarer, New York
The most-jaw-dropping aspect of The Wayfarer's Bloody Mary is how utterly customizable it is. In fact, it's possible to come up with well over 1,000 variations by mixing and matching ingredients from the stupendously stocked bar. Start with a base of traditional mix, tomato water or kale-enriched green juice, pick your poison from a selection of house-infused cucumber or black pepper vodka, individualize your rim with poppy and sesame seeds, smoked paprika or celery salt, and go nuts with garnishes such as shrimp, roasted tomatoes, cheddar cheese, pepperoncini and pork rinds.
The Hail Mary at Star Bar, Austin
Taking the "everything's bigger in Texas" motto to heart, Star Bar proudly proffers this veritable kitchen sink of a drink &mdash if you can even call it that. You'll need to plow your way through a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, cheddar smoked cocktail sausages, cubes of cheddar and pepper Jack cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, pickled okra, dill pickles and gherkins, cherry tomatoes and celery, as well as powdered mini doughnuts and a full-sized honey bun, before you get to anything that can be consumed with a straw.
The Chicken Fried Bloody Beast at Sobelman's Pub & Grill, Milwaukee
Family-owned Sobelman's rules Milwaukee's Bloody Mary scene and regularly nabs national press for its 40-ounce behemoths. And while that amounts to a pretty stiff pour of Tito's, the alcohol is effectively counteracted by a serious serving of food that's more full-on brunch than mere garnish. Celery stalks and skewered vegetables are overshadowed by bacon-wrapped jalapeno cheese balls, cheeseburger sliders and (this is the "Chicken Fried" part) a whole four-pound bird, procured from Ray's Butcher Shoppe in Greenfield.
The Bloody Homer at Icehouse, Minneapolis
This may be Minneapolis, not Springfield, but we have no doubt that Homer Simpson would make Icehouse his home away from Moe's &mdash especially since his eponymous cocktail comes in a Duff-emblazoned glass, thoroughly swine-ified with both candied bacon strips and a mini, "bacon-bedazzled" doughnut. Mmmm . bacon-bedazzled doughnut .
The Bloody Mary at The French, Naples, Florida
What's in a name? Not a whole lot when it comes to The French's far-from-basic Bloody that brings a taste of France to Florida, by way of fresh-pressed tomato juice embellished with cornichons, pickled onions, salami, spicy boiled shrimp, steak tartare on a toast point and a tiny French flag.
The Bloody Best Bloody Mary at Chef Point, Watauga, Texas
Unsurprisingly, you could easily fill a list of over-the-top Bloody Marys exclusively with entries from Texas. Watauga joins the fray with this leviathan cocktail from Chef Point, based on a double order of spicy Bloody Mary plus 16 ounces of domestic beer. If that sounds like a lot of alcohol, know that it's hardly a match for the sheer amount of booze-absorbing food that umbrellas it: a portion of "Better Than Sex" fried chicken, a cheeseburger, waffle fries, bacon, a blistered jalapeno pepper, asparagus spears, assorted pickled things and a pair of poached shrimp.
The Lobster Bloody Mary at Brant Point Grill, Nantucket, Massachusetts
Bloodys brimming with hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, mac and cheese, brownies and whole fried chickens not your style? Elegant imbibers will appreciate this crustacean concoction courtesy of the Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant Hotel. It features housemade tomato juice mix, locally distilled vodka, a spicy bacon salt rim, and a quarter-pound of lobster.
The Bakon Bloody Mary Masterpiece at Sam's Tavern, Seattle
Since it's off-menu, we're letting you in on one of Seattle's best (but not all that well-kept) secrets: Sam's is home to one of the best darn Bloodys in town. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's spiked with locally made, bacon-infused vodka. But as usual in the world of out-of-bounds Bloody Marys, it's the accoutrements &mdash celery, cheese cubes, tomatoes, olives, onions, cocktail weenies and a cheeseburger slider with the works &mdash that send this drink into the brunchtime-tipple stratosphere.
The Meaty Man at The Attic, Long Beach, California
You may not expect to find something so unapologetically meat-centric in sunny SoCal, yet the folks at The Attic seem wholly unconcerned with beach-physique maintenance &mdash at least when it comes to their Bloody Mary. It's enriched with a triad of indulgent proteins: a short-rib slider perched on a house-baked bun, a rasher of thick-cut fried bacon and a Slim Jim-stuffed olive.
The Southwestern Bloody Mary at Kachina, Denver
So special it's available only on Sundays, Kachina's Southwest-inspired Bloody Mary bar is truly beautiful to behold. Sure, you'll find the usual suspects like celery and bacon, but you can really go for broke with more novel add-ins such as prosciutto, Manchego, chorizo-stuffed olives, pickled cactus, shrimp escabeche and blue corn waffles.
The Checkmate at Score on Davie, Vancouver, British Columbia
Oh, Canada! You may want to consider taking a day trip across the border for brunch, in pursuit of Score on Davie's totally off-the-wall Bloody. Boozy tomato juice is merely the base (and practically beside the point) in this eminently edible cocktail that's chock-full of roasted chicken and chicken wings, a Sriracha-glazed pulled pork slider, a hot dog topped with pulled pork mac and cheese, a full-size burger, a batch of onion rings . and, oh, a brownie for dessert.
8 Asian Foods That Have Been Completely Americanized
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Being an international student in America has really opened my eyes to the food world. One of the first things I noticed when I came to America is the difference between real Asian food, and what Americans think is Asian food.
When you think of Asian entree, you might think of lo mein, fortune cookies, orange chicken, etc. Although these cuisines are delicious and cheap, they have been Americanized and have lost their real features that has taken away their cultural aspects. Let’s take a look at the discrepancies that are in “American Asian food.”
GIF courtesy of of reactiongifs.com
1. Spring Rolls
Spring rolls are also known as egg rolls by Americans, which is strange because they don’t even have any egg in them. The ingredients are completely different than traditional spring rolls. Most American Chinese restaurants assemble spring rolls to look like burritos and they often have very hard and chewy surfaces. Traditional spring rolls should have crisp surfaces and steamed vegetables inside.
Traditional Japanese sushi never uses fruit, beef, chicken, avocado or cream cheese as ingredients. The main ingredients in authentic sushi from Japan includes raw fish, such as salmon and tuna, and cucumbers. Tempura-fried sushi is also an American invention. Don’t even get me started on sushi burritos.
3. Orange Chicken
Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
As an Asian student, I had never heard of orange chicken in my home country until I saw the dish on a Chinese restaurant’s menu in America. Another point to add is that Chinese restaurants often give you the option of either white rice or brown rice — traditionally, an entree such as a chicken or beef will almost always be served with white rice (Jasmine rice is perfect).
4. Pad Thai
A traditional Pad Thai dish in Thailand consists of shrimp, flat rice noodles (not Ramen), fish sauce, and veggies. However, when you research Pad Thai recipes, it’s plain to see that there are a ton of different variations that Americans take on this delicious entree. Most recipes substitute chicken for shrimp, which takes away the most important part of the dish.
5. Fortune Cookie
Photo courtesy of wonderopolis.org
Technically, fortune cookies are not Asian food. They are created by Americans. The good thing about fortune cookies is that each cookie has a piece of paper inside, which has a written Chinese word and good fortune. This enables costumers to learn some Chinese and compare fortunes and Chinese words with the family and friends that they are dining with.
6. Crab Rangoon
Photo courtesy of amazingappetizerrecipes.com
Like fortune cookies, the crab rangoon was born in America and adopted by American-Asian restaurants. American crab rangoon is originated from a wonton, which is a dumpling-like Chinese cuisine. Traditional wontons are stuffed with pork and encased in a flour wrapper. They are fried and turn out white and smooth, instead of golden and crunchy like American rangoon.
Photo by Megan Prendergast
You might be surprised that I put stir-fry on the list, but I could list a billion reasons as to why this dish isn’t very authentic. Many stir-fry recipes list ingredients that are not in a true Asian stir-fry.
Traditional stir-fry consists of ingredients such as meats such as beef, chicken or pork bok chow, which is a Chinese cabbage vegetables such as broccoli, green cabbage, bell pepper, and onion and chopped garlic and ginger, both of which should NOT be in powder form.
What about rice? Typically, rice is not mixed into stir-fry. Some personal flair that one might add to their stir-fry could be egg for some extra protein or teriyaki sauce and chili paste for some bonus flavor.
8. Asian Lettuce Wrap
Photo by Angela Pizzimenti
Don’t let the “Asian” in the name fool you — lettuce wraps are just another American invention. Chances are, you have probably seen Asian tuna wrap or Asian chicken wrap on a menu of an American restaurant at some time or another. The point is, this is the American food industry’s way of pulling us in. Because what does a wrap remind you of? A burrito. And Americans love burritos.
The fact is, most of the ingredients in Asian lettuce wraps are completely Americanized, right down to the lettuce. Asian lettuce is commonly fresh-picked and stir-fried. The other typical ingredients of an Asian (American) lettuce wraps are chestnuts, peanuts, and ground beef. While this is a delightfully yummy combination of foods, you will never find this kind of dish in Asia.
Did you know?
GIF courtesy of gravesdiggers.tumblr.com
In most traditional Chinese cuisine, people usually use peanut oil instead of olive oil or vegetable oil. The peanut oil has more fat so it makes the food taste like heaven.
What Is Shiso and How Do I Use It?
This aromatic, heart-shaped leaf can be so much more than a decorative garnish for sushi.
Shiso, the aromatic heart-shaped leaf with a saw-toothed edge, is probably most familiar to Americans as a sushi garnish. But this relative of mint and basil, available at farmers’ markets and Asian groceries, is employed in a number of Asian cuisines for more than its attractive appearance. Botanically known as Perilla frutescens var. crispa, it is often tucked into Vietnamese summer rolls or shredded and added to cold noodle salads.
The two common varieties of shiso are green and reddish-purple in color. We found the former to have a minty, bitter, lemony flavor with a faintly sweet finish. The latter variety is milder in flavor, though some tasters found it extremely bitter (the purple color is due to a compound called anthocyanin to which some people are more sensitive than others it is thought to be the cause of the leaf’s bitter taste). Both the red and green leaves are slightly astringent.
In addition to its traditional uses, we liked shiso tossed into salads as we would herbs such as mint or basil. However, larger leaves can be tough, so make sure to tear or shred them first. Shiso can also be used in cooked applications, such as fried rice or ramen, or fried whole and used as a garnish. Even a small amount of heat will cause the leaves to brown slightly, but their flavor will be preserved as long as you add them toward the end of cooking.
You Will Love Brussels Sprouts
I’m the proud mother of three boys, 11-year-old twins and a 9-year-old, who enjoy eating everything. Even outrageous foods I will never dare to try, like eel sushi, frog legs, and chicken drumsticks.
More than anything else, I appreciate their appetite for veggies, cooked and raw. I kvelled to them, “Isn’t it wonderful that you can enjoy all the vegetables in the world?”
“We hate brussels sprouts,” they said.
They hated brussels sprouts before they even tried them. Ever since they heard somewhere they were supposed to hate them.
Despite its faithful appearance on holidays, the brussels sprout is the American vegetable villain. This role used to be played by spinach, until Popeye rescued it in the 1930s. Next came broccoli, reviled by the first President Bush, who famously said: “I’m president of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” A 2008 survey by Heinz shows that brussels sprouts now take the most-hated prize for Americans in general, with eggplant faring slightly worse among kids. Brussels sprouts seem to be universally loathed, practically: They make it to the top five in surveys of the most-hated vegetables around the world. From Just Disgusting, by Andy Griffiths, a book that was read to one of my sons in school recently:
It’s true that brussels sprouts can taste bitter if they’re not picked at the right time. The best-tasting sprouts are young and small, and preferably harvested after a few frosts. These are not the sprouts that show up in most supermarkets. The frozen ones tend to be bitter, too. I grew up in Israel, where until recently frozen sprouts were the only kind available, and I understand the rejection. There’s also the strong odor sprouts give off when they’re cooked for too long.
You could replace the brussels sprouts with broccoli, kale, or chard and get most of the same benefits, including antioxidants and glucosinolate, which helps fight cancer. But I wanted to convince my family that sprouts didn’t deserve their bad reputation.
It was a test, of myself and them: If I found the right recipe, could I persuade my kids to eat something they were sure they didn’t like? When someone pushes away a bowl of plain steamed spinach, it’s not because they dislike spinach, but simply because they don’t like this boring steamed spinach. This is obvious but a mistake that gets made again and again.
Personally, I prefer my brussels sprouts the simplest way, roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt, until they have dark spots on the outer leaves. This does not work for my kids. It’s a recipe for advanced brussels-sprouts eaters—the flavor intensifies and it’s still a little bitter, an acquired taste for children.
In general, if you want to add a new ingredient to your diet, the best way is to incorporate it into your main dish or salad. I’ve done this in the past with pomegranate seeds, for example—I added them to tabbouleh, instead of tomatoes, and seasoned the salad with pomegranate syrup. Now I looked for a recipe in which the brussels sprouts were not the only main ingredient, so the dish would not be too intimidating.
Some of the recipes I found online sounded delicious, like brussels-sprout gratin, but included either cream or plenty of butter, which I didn’t want to use. Some would be perfect at a later stage, like the Sole With Lemon-Shallot Brussels Sprouts recipe from Epicurious.com, but wouldn’t work for my kids’ grand re-introduction.
For a second, I considered a recipe from the school of the sneaky, deceptive mom cooks—Missy Chase Lapine and Jessica Seinfeld. In their books, you can find recipes that secretly add veggies to innocent dishes, like spinach brownies and avocado chocolate fondue. How about a brussels-sprout cheesecake? This is all supposed to be in the name of feeding your children well, but I figured that cheating my kids on a daily basis was not a good idea. (When the Seinfeld kids find out, will they ask Jerry: “Did you know this all along, Daddy? And the whole country, too?”)
I decided to improvise and tried a split pea and brussels sprout soup with a couple of sausages—a whole meal. Initially, I made it chunky, but by the time it was fully cooked, the soup looked so awful that I pureed it until it was completely smooth. In fact, it was creamy and just delicious. The soup carried no trace of that slight sprout bitterness.
I called everyone to the table and announced the dinner menu. The kids were not happy but agreed to try it. To my pleasure, the twins emptied their bowls and admitted it was yummy. I must also confess, though, that their stubborn younger brother ate only half his soup, then pushed his bowl away and said: “How come you make us eat brussels sprouts? You know we all HATE it!” So, two out of three. I’ll take it.