Posts Tagged ‘Chinatown’
I was first introduced to hot pot a few years back by my roommate Nick. For the uninitiated, hot pot, does, as the name suggests, involve a hot pot. On the table, you have a pot of broth or oil (or both) simmering away into which you dip all manner of raw veggies, meats, and seafood. As the dipped food cooks, it absorbs the flavor of the broth. Personally, I can’t get enough of anything cooked in the spicy broth that imparts a slow satisfying burn. Not only is hot pot delicious, but it’s fun–a great time for everyone seated around the table. True interactive eating. So when a group of co-workers decided to it was time to head down to Chinatown for some of this stuff I had to say yes.
Our dining location was XO Taste. What I first noticed about the place was it’s size. The dining room is spacious and well lit, the tables far enough apart that you don’t feel on top of your neighbor. The hot pot was in an all-you-can style, including non-alcoholic beverages, appetizers, the hot pot (of course), and desert for just $27.
We were fortunate to have Sarina, and her impeccable Chinese language skills, to guide us through the ordering and describe items as they came out. The first wave of food, served as the pots worked their way up to a simmer, were fried dumplings and a scallop dish. The dumpling were good, better than the standard affair–more crispy with big pieces of ingredients inside. The scallop came in a way I’ve never encountered before: on the half-shell with a layer of mayo and covering of melted cheese. XO tasty, I would say, and incredibly rich.
The food rolled out in waves of beef, pork, veggies, and fish. One of my favorite items were what Sarina called omega balls. Similar to dumplings, the casing is made from fish skin, these balls pack a strong fishy flavor. We ate and ate until we could eat no more. We were, tragically, beyond satiated before we got into the real seafood portion of the buffet. And then came desert. Bowls of ice cream (green tea, red bean, and vanilla were passed around), a Chinese custard (picture a gelatinous falan), a hot red bean dish, and a peanut sesame past dumpling (a fantastically savory dessert).
I have to admit that Little Lamb Hot Pot in the Flushings Chinatown still leads as my belly’s number one love for hot pot. In fairness to XO Taste, I didn’t get really try their seafood. Even with seafood aside, Little Lamb seemed to have a wider array of vegetables and proteins, in addition to having a sauce bar where you came invent concoctions in which to dunk your freshly cooked treats. But, all-in-all, XO is good, cheap, fun, and conveniently located. I see return trips to XO in my future.
Yesterday I made the trek down to Chinatown. But this time was different; I wasn’t on my usual hunt for cheap-yet-delicious dumplings or pastries. I was on the hunt for dragon fruit. I had seen dragon fruit on my many other trips to Chinatown over this summer and decided to finally try some.
Dragon fruit is a strange but beautiful-looking fruit grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, and Israel. The plant is a type of cactus, and the fruit comes in 3 colors: 2 have pink skin, but with different-colored flesh (one white, one red), while the other is yellow color with white flesh.
I’ve could only find the pink skinned fruits but wanted to try both colors of flesh. I correctly guessed that the slightly differently shades of pink skin and prices indicated the difference in flesh color. The white-fleshed fruit has a slightly lighter skin and is a little cheaper.
The white dragon fruit had a very light and subtle flavor. The fruit had almost no sweetness with a dominant grassy flavor. If the fresh grass flavor were any stronger it might be unpleasant, but, as it was, it was kind of refreshing on a hot day. Besides that, I really enjoyed the texture. The small black seeds throughout were like the seeds in a kiwi and gave it a pleasant crunchiness.
The flesh color of the “red”-fleshed fruit is actually an amazingly bright purple with magenta juice (that stained my fingers pink all day!). The flavor is subtle, but is a little sweeter and with a fainter grass flavors than the white- fleshed fruit. The texture also is different from the white: it seems a little softer and the seeds don’t provide the same satisfying crunch.
Dragon Fruit Sorbet
After sampling both fruits I decided that it was time to try out a sorbet. The bright colors and the subtle sweet flavors of the red fleshed fruit just screamed for it.
2 red-fleshed dragon fruits
3/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
Cut the dragon fruit in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon.
Place the pulp of the dragon fruit in the food processor along with the water, lemon juice, and sugar. Pulse until smooth. Pour into the ice cream maker and churn until frozen. Freeze the sorbet until ready to serve.
For added flair you can use the halves of the dragon fruit skins as bowls when serving; if you do, freeze them first.
The sorbet turned out great. As expected, the color was amazing - though somehow a deeper purple than the flesh itself. The flavor was fresh, a little sweeter than the fruit alone, and the grassy taste was gone. The texture also became more like that of the plain white fruit with a pleasant crunch from the seeds.
As with watermelon sorbet, I think that the blended mixture has a good chance as a cocktail. Here I would recommend Hendricks gin and maybe a flamed lemon peel. The freshness of the Hendricks would complement the freshness of the dragon fruit nicely.