There has been a lot of crappy weather lately. When you work outside, you just need to treat yourself to a warm meal once in a while. We were working only a few blocks from a restaurant that my boss, Steve, likes to eat at. I’ve only eaten at Ray J’s a couple of times, but I’ve never had anything but great wings there. Yup, you read that right. I’ve never gotten past one item on the menu. The first time I ate there, Steve recommended the wings and I haven’t looked back.
Ray J’s is your typical sports bar with plenty of seating for diners. What sets them apart is their food (this is largely based on other people’s reaction). In fact, Steve and I had a whole conversation about that (before construction, he managed a couple of restaurants). The conversation started when I was commenting on the fact that they had a decent selection of wine and the special of the day was a baked brie. Steve pointed out that these bars aren’t stupid and that by accommodating the wives (I know, stereotypes, but it’s based on statistics), they could increase their revenue.
Anyway, back to the wings. I honestly have never seen chicken wings this big. The first time I saw them, I was convinced that they were turkey wings that tasted like chicken. I usually get the full order of wings (3 pounds!!!) and plan on having whatever is left for a snack later. Okay, really it’s another meal. I’ve had the Buffalo wings before and they are good, but it tastes just like Buffalo wings like everywhere else. The ones that I had this time was the Asian Sesame wings which has a soy chili sauce and garnished with chopped scallions. I liked the idea of this sauce and generally liked the taste of it, but it had an overpowering sweetness to it. The flavor reminded me of a really good teriyaki sauce, but way too heavy on the sugar. What I really like are the wings themselves. Other than their freakish huge size, they are deep fried which gives the skin an amazing crunchiness that the sauce clings to and the sauce can’t penetrate. Normally that would be a flaw in a dish, but since there is practically no distance between the skin and bone on wings (even ones this huge) you get a nice mouthful of sauce, skin, and meat in each bite.
I should qualify that a little bit. This is our new favorite local Chinese restaurant, i.e. one that’ll deliver to our place if we so desire. I probably need to clarify that even more. I’m talking about Americanized Chinese restaurants and cuisine. Granted, this is what you find by default, but with a little effort, you can find places that serve authentic Chinese fare. But that’s neither here nor there at the moment.
New Fresh Wok is located on Larpenteur Ave, just off of Snelling in St. Paul. They opened up sometime last fall and it took us a bit of time before we actually went and ate there, even though it’s less than two miles from our apartment. The reason for the delay is that we were hitting a long string of mediocre Chinese restaurants in the area and we were not all that excited about trying another place just to be let down. The other restaurants weren’t bad, but Lindz and I are used to being spoiled. When we were living in Decorah, IA, we would frequent two really kicking Chinese places in town (yup, two great Chinese restaurants in a town with a population of just over 8000). Of course, there is our hands down favorite Chinese place of all time, China Star, in Rochester (located a disturbingly convenient half mile from our future home and 2.5 miles from Lindz’s folks place). That’s enough of the past.
This post/review is a compilation of a couple of visits, both eating in and getting take-out.
First up, we have the Thai Styled Mango Chicken. This was an okay dish. It had an adequate level of heat to it, but for some reason the flavor was two dimensional. The veggies were good but the chicken was mushy. It reminded me of the chicken breasts that I accidentally bought one time that were injected with a saline solution to make them more tender. It worked, but it felt like I was eating a sponge that kinda sorta tasted like chicken. Even though the flavors weren’t there, I do really like the concept of this dish.
One of Lindz’s requirements for a good Chinese place is good Crab Rangoons. But since they are hard to find, she is willing to settle for Cream Cheese Wontons. This is one of those tricky things to cook, with it comprising of only a few ingredients, you have to nail it every time. New Fresh Wok passes with flying colors.
Outside of Decorah, I haven’t been able to find a place that does a Mongolian Beef to my liking. Much to my surprise and even more to my delight, New Fresh Wok offers up a really good version. I like Mongolian Beef best with just beef, onions, and sauce. They throw in a few more veggies than I would prefer, but it doesn’t detract from the dish. It’s a nice dish with a salty, earthy base highlighted with onions, garlic, ginger, and, of course, the beef.
My true test of a Chinese restaurant is a dish that is not even Chinese. I am obviously talking about General Tso’s Chicken. This is a dish that needs a teeth shattering batter, tender chicken, and a sauce that will make you thankful for the rice because it cuts the heat. New Fresh Wok delivers on all of these accounts. This is the fundamental reason why New Fresh Wok surged to the top of our favorites list.
OK, I didn’t have the Orange Chicken, but Sheryl really seemed to like it. Even though she thought it was light on the veggies.
Naturally, we had to try out a selection from their sushi bar. And, naturally, we went with the Dragon Roll that has eel and cucumber in the center and topped off with avocado and roe. Not the greatest roll I’ve ever eaten, but for the price, it was worth it. Hmm, apparently somewhere along the way I’ve become a total sushi snob.
What would a Chinese meal be without some tea? New Fresh Wok served the standard Chinese restaurant tea. I’m not a huge tea drinker, so that’s all the info you’ll get out of me. But I really like the tea pot.
If you find yourself in the Roseville area and are hankering for some good Chinese, drop in at New Fresh Wok. You won’t be disappointed.
This recipe is mind-blowing amazing! I found it over at the Not Without Butter blog. It is called Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. If you like Asian cuisine, you’ll love this dish.
I tried it out on some chicken feet that I had in the freezer. Yes, I had chicken feet around but no wings. That’s how I roll. And before you ask, yes, they are edible, and yes, they are quite good. I do suggest that you peel off the skin, cut off the last knuckle, i.e. the claw, and give them a good wash. Or if you’re lucky, your little sis will do all of this for you.
I’ll play nice and give you the original recipe.
- 1 1/2 pounds Chicken Wings, tips removed, drummies and flats separated
- 3 Tbs plus 2 tsp Fish Sauce
- 3 Tbs plus 2 tsp Sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
- 1 Tbs minced Garlic
- 1 Tbs minced Ginger
- 1 Tbs Veggie Oil
- 1 Tbs Lime Juice
- 2 Thai Birdeye Chilis, finely minced – I used dried chili peppers
- Cilantro leave for garnish (optional)
Mix 2 tsp fish sauce, 2 tsp sugar, and the black pepper together and coat the chicken with it. Let it marinate for a half hour.
In a steamer, bring some water up to a boil and put the chicken in the basket. Steam it for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. While the chicken is steaming preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Over medium heat, saute the garlic and ginger in the oil until they are crispy and golden. Once that is done, strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and save the garlic and ginger in another bowl.
When the chicken is done, remove from the steamer and pat dry with some paper towels. Brush the flavored oil all over the chicken and place them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake the chicken in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Flip everything over and bake for another 20 minutes.
Once the chicken is done baking, drain them on a paper towel if necessary, and place in a large bowl. Make the sauce by combining the remaining fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Mix together until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and chilies. Pour over the chicken and toss to evenly coat. Pile it onto a plate and garnish with the cilantro and serve.
I went into this recipe with the knowledge that if I left the feet in the oven as long as you’re suppose to leave the wings, I’d end up with a desiccated mummy of a chicken foot. Even though I drastically cut the time in the oven (7 minutes per side), the feet still ended up being over cooked. I’m thinking of a couple of ways to get the crispy skin and not have them turn into leather. One plan is to skip the steaming and just roast them, and the other is to steam them and just throw them under the broiler for a couple of minutes per side. A benefit of the roasting that I wasn’t expecting was that the gelatinous nature of the feet was significantly muted. I don’t mind that texture/stickiness, but it can get to be a bit much after a few feet.
All that aside, the flavor was wonderfully amazing. The sauce had a nice punch to it which was rounded out by the freshness of the citrus, garlic, and ginger. The fish sauce added a nice background note of earthiness that I associate with Asian cuisine. All in all a very simple and very solid sauce. I can’t wait to try this recipe on some wings!
I’ll leave with one of Mom’s favorite sayings: “If you don’t like what I’ve made, go make your own supper!”
The one non-seafood meal (other than lunch / snacks) that I planned for the trip was one that had caught my eye about a week before we took off East. I had a hard time believing that I could be led astray with chicken, sage, and prosciutto. Not surprisingly, I found the recipe in my copy of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook. Yup. Love that cookbook.
- 1/2 C unbleached AP Flour
- Ground Black Pepper
- 8 thin-cut, boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (about 2 lbs), trimmed of ragged edges
- 1 Tbs minced fresh Sage leaves, plus 8 large leaves
- 8 thin slices of Prosciutto, cut into 5″ to 6″ long pieces to match chicken (about 3 oz)
- 4 Tbs Olive Oil
- 1 1/4 C White Wine
- 2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 4 Tbs Unsalted Butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
- 1 Tbs minced fresh Parsley Leaves
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 200 degrees. Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in a shallow dish.
Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels.
Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess. Lay the cutlets flat and sprinkle evenly with the minced sage. Place one slice of prosciutto on top of each cutlet, pressing lightly to adhere and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the sage leaves to the skillet and cook until the leaves begin to change color and are fragrant, about 15 to 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Add half of the cutlets to the pan, prosciutto-side down, and cook until light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a wire rack (set on a rimmed baking sheet) and keep it warm in the oven. Repeat with the two remaining tablespoons of oil and cutlets. Transfer these to the oven as well to keep warm while preparing the sauce.
Pour off the excess fat from the skillet and stir in the white wine, scraping up the fond. Simmer until it reduces to about 1/3 cup, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Off heat, stir in the parsley and season with the salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a platter. Spoon the sauce over the cutlets before serving.
The one glaring mistake that I made was using too much sage. While in the process of making it, I knew I was using far more than the recipe called for, but I went ahead with it because I bought a package of fresh sage specifically for it. The other option was to throw it away. I should have went with my first instinct and follow the recipe. Other than that, I think it turned out really well. With the cost of ingredients, I’m not going to be making this all the time, but I would like to make it again in the near future. Using the proper amount of sage, of course.
This is from the last time that Lindz and I went to Pizza Lucé. One of their specials of the month was a Thai Chicken pizza. Being the lover of Asian food that I am, it was an easy choice.
This is a great combination. I really wish they would put it on the regular menu. It was a nice balance of what you would expect from something labeled “Thai.” Crunchy peanuts with some heat from peppers (I know jalapenos are not the usual choice, but they worked) and some herby basil to round things out.
So my friend Ringer and I had a guy’s night when Lindz was out of town a while back. I know what you’re thinking, “You’ve mentioned her before and unless something drastic changed, she’s still a girl.” And you’re right, she is a girl, but over the years she has proved that she has more testosterone than many males that I know. Heck, she even went to my bachelor party. So by definition, she is “one of the guys,” and therefore guy’s night is a legitimate option. Anyway, we both love to try new foods and the best we could come up that night was a Brazilian rotisserie called Rodizio Grill. We both decided to get the “Full Rodizio” which included the all you can eat salad bar and the gauchos (I know it’s a poor use of the term, but that is what they were called) with their spits of meat. I’m not going to go into a full blown review like I did before because it was, well, a pain in the nether regions to write up. I’m just going to give some brief impressions / highlights of the place.
We started off with a round of the salad bar, and I have to say, for the $20 price tag for that option, it is a bargain. There was at least two dozen options of green salad, pasta salad, collard greens, cheeses, cous-cous, mozzarella salad, yucca salad, coleslaw, and bread. I know I’m forgetting a bunch of stuff as well as low-balling the number of dishes. Two of my favorites were the collard greens and coleslaw. Not that I’ve had a lot of collard greens in the past, but these were best that I’ve ever tried, and Ringer, who’s had more than I have, also really liked them. The base of the coleslaw was nothing special, it was just your basic creamy-style slaw, but they threw in shaved coconut and chunks of pineapple which pushed it into its own little realm of mouth magic. The enthusiasm with this dish didn’t carry over to Ringer. Oh, well, more for me. We both decided that it would be well worth the trip again just for the salad bar.
The gaucho’s with their meat was an interesting experience. We got a little hourglass shaped wooden marker with one half painted red and the other half painted green. It’s a really simple system. Green up, the gauchos will check if you want some of what they were offering. Red up, they will skip your table. On its side equaled “Check, please!” You should check out their menu because it is quite extensive. But here are some of highlights that we tried. The Bife Com Alho (Beef-e Com Al-yo) is beef that is slathered garlic paste. I mean slathered. Even after it was cooked, you could see the layer of garlic that is still on it. If you are a fan of garlic, this is definitely the dish for you. My personal favorite of the tasty beef options. The pork options were all very good, but nothing outstanding. Without a doubt, my favorite chicken dish was the hearts served with a slice of lime. They are called Coracao (Cor-da-sone). The gaucho was quite kind enough to give me 3/4’s of a skewer. He even mentioned that some people asked for entire skewers just for themselves. The Abacaxi (Ah-bakah-shee), grilled pineapple, was to die for. I’ve always been a fan of grilled pineapple and this was exquisitely done.
The best part of all of this is that it is that you can eat as much of whatever you want. So my suggestion is to try a little bit of everything that sounds good and then get a lot more of whatever tickles your fancy. A quick side-note is that they claim over 90% of their menu is gluten-free, and from what I saw that is completely true.
I would like to give a special shout-out to the gauchos and the floor manager who were extremely helpful in getting us what we wanted and making sure we were able to try everything that we wanted. They definitely added to the experience.
The short answer is “I dunno.” This is because the origin of the actual dish is lost in the murkiness of the 20th Century. Assuming, like most claims that it is directly connected with General Zuo Zongtang (anglicized as Tso Tsung-t’ang) is pretty much a falsehood. No one (at least according to a quick Google search) in China makes this dish. Some come kind of close, but they do not have a sweet aspect to them. I think it is telling that in General Tso’s hometown of Xiangyin, in the Hunan Provence, they are unfamiliar with the dish. What does have the ring of truth to it is the origin story with Chef Peng Jia. He was a chef that fled to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war. In 1973 he moved to New York and opened a Hunan cuisine restaurant there. He started off cooking traditional recipes and then began modifying them to suit the tastes of everyone who was not familiar with the flavor profile. Which at the time was pretty much everyone since his was one of the first Hunan restaurants in the country. There is even a claim that Henry Kissinger was a fan of this dish and had it regularly when he was in New York. The long answer summarized is that it is an Americanized version of a Hunan dish which is, at best, named after a Qing dynasty general and civil servant.
Since the time of is mysterious origins it has become a staple of Hunan-style Chinese restaurants everywhere. It is a dish that is so popular and simple enough that I use it to judge the quality of whatever Chinese restaurant that I’m in. (I do the same thing with Reubens). I finally took the time to scour through the internet and find a recipe that sounded like it had potential. Being an Americanized dish, my Chinese cookbook resources were never any help. I finally found one that sounded good and only called for ingredients that I had on hand. (Seriously, how many people have potato flour in their cupboards?).
This recipe is from Siam Oriental Restaurant (that’s all the info the generic site gave me). My notes on the ingredients are in parentheses.
- 1/2 C Cornstarch
- 1/4 C Water
- 1 1/2 tsp Garlic, minced (I used 3 1/2 tsp)
- 1 1/2 tsp Ginger, minced (I used a thumb-sized piece)
- 3/4 C Sugar
- 1/2 C Soy Sauce
- 1/4 C White Vinegar
- 1/4 C White Wine
- 1 1/2 C Chicken Broth, hot
- 3 lbs Chicken, deboned and cut into large chunks (can use either light or dark meat)
- 1/4 C Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Pepper
- 1 Egg
- 1 C Cornstarch
- Veggie Oil for deep-frying
- 2 C Green Onions (1 bunch ~ 1/2 C)
- 16 small dried Hot Peppers (I used 6 and very coarsely chopped them)
Mix the half cup of cornstarch with the water. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, half cup of soy sauce, vinegar, wine, and chicken broth. Stir until the sugar dissolves and refrigerate until needed. Next, in a separate bowl mix the chicken, quarter cup of soy sauce, and pepper. Stir in the egg. Add the cup of cornstarch and mix until the pieces are coated evenly. Add a cup of veggie oil to help separate the pieces. Deep fry the chicken in batches at 350 F degrees until crispy. Drain on some paper towels. Place a small amount of oil in a large skillet and heat until the pan is hot. Add the onions and peppers and stir-fry briefly. Stir the sauce and add to the skillet. Place the chicken in the sauce and cook until the sauce thickens. Serve with rice.
I had clumping issues when I mixed the cornstarch in with the chicken. A better option may be to spread out the chicken on a baking sheet and dust it that way or just to simply grab each piece separately and bread it by itself. On the whole, a decent recipe, but I think the next time I do this I’ll follow one of the other recipes that I found. It just seemed like the flavor could have some more depth to it.
An interesting side note is the cornstarch and water slurry that is made in the first step is a non-Newtonian fluid. More specifically, it is one type of non-Newtonian fluid called a dilatant. Normal fluids have a constant coefficient of viscosity (or a constant rate at how the liquid wants to flow). For example, water has a low viscosity which means it wants to flow easily while honey has a high viscosity and is very sluggish while moving. In a dilatant the more stress you put on it, the more viscous it becomes. So in plain english this means that the cornstarch slurry will flow on its own if not agitated. But if you try and stir it vigorously, it becomes “thicker” and harder to stir. Another way of looking at it is that it starts to act more like a solid instead of a liquid. For a very cool demonstration I defer to Adam and Jamie of MythBusters fame: