This is what happened when a craving that doesn't often strike me, struck. Usually when I crave Middle Eastern food, it comes in the form of intense yearning for falafel or hummus. But, on this particular day, I needed to find an extremely meaty meal of kebab over rice and a quick search of the nearby Sunnyvale area brought Kabul, an highly-rated Afghan restaurant, to light.
Shanghai Bun is not a place that I can judge fairly. It's only about an eight minute drive from the house I grew up in and was a quintessential part of my culinary obsession's growth during my high school years. The small shop's name is a cue to their most popular dish – a dish that goes by many names. This dish was at the time completely foreign and unfamiliar to me, but quickly became the focus of my ever-growing need to find the best version around. Before my friend introduced me to Shanghai Bun, I had never before had the pleasure of trying freshly steamed Xiao Long Bao (aka soup dumplings, steamed pork buns, tiny steamed buns, Shanghai dumplings, juicy buns, and more). But, all it took was one time – my soup dumpling addiction was triggered and I never looked back.
If you've got a car and are willing to drive to strange strip malls in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of interesting Asian foods to find. It's always hard to know if a dingy shop is one of the good ones or the bad ones until you try it for yourself, so as I approached Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, I prepared myself for the whichever side of the coin it was going to land.
So, I'm back on my quest to find all of the comfort foods I used to rely on in NYC in the Bay Area. This journey's mission: Soup Dumplings aka Xiao Long Bao and Hand-Pulled Noodles. I'd heard great things about the cheap, authentic, Bourdain-approved Chinese food at King of Noodles in the Inner Sunset so one hungover Sunday morning when that particular craving struck, I hoped in my car and headed over to check it out.
Transport yourself to Hong Kong. And you don't even need to leave the cushy confines of Palo Alto, California. Just a block off the main drag on University Avenue, there's a massive dim sum parlor that would be all too easy to miss while walking by. Despite its enormous front signage, there's nothing about its appearance that would actually draw a pedestrian inside to experience an authentic Hongkongese dim sum meal.
*Editor's Note 7/17/14: I have recently returned to Himalayan Kitchen and the entire restaurant and shopping center has been remodeled and is much nicer now. The food is just as good as ever, maybe even better. Way off the beaten path, in a seriously run-down shopping center in Mountain View, California you’ll find a sketchy looking restaurant called Himalayan Kitchen. Had I not read good things about this place online before driving over, I might have been turned off by the truthfully off-putting appearance, but I followed my instincts and continued on with my hungover Himalayan quest.
This vacation couldn't have come at a better time. As the entire country fell into a below-zero deep freeze, I was headed for some sun and heat in Turks & Caicos with my girlfriend Amy and her family.
Day 1:We were staying at the beautiful Grace Bay Club, right on the incredible beach in Providenciales, Turk & Caicos. Upon arrival, we immediately hit the gym to preempt the impending bodily destruction. I had two missions on this trip. 1) To return with the tan of a golden god. 2) To eat as much conch – the local shellfish specialty – in as many ways as humanly possible.
On these stingingly cold winter days we've been experiencing, there's nothing better than a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup. So if you want the best, you should head over to Lam Zhou in the lower east reaches of Chinatown. There's not a lot going on in this remote corner beside Lam Zhou, though one could argue that Lam Zhou itself isn't a whole lot.
To find the very best dumplings, you are gonna have to hop the 7 or LIRR out to Flushing, Queens to New York's biggest Chinatown. Situated a block from Main Street is a diminutive, slightly dingy shop called White Bear. I know it doesn't look like much, but just trust me on this one.