Category Archives: United States

The Danger in the Layover

I went for dim sum this morning. Something I LOVE to do – with or without dim sum buddies. Newspaper, a local tradition, or book in hand I mix it up; local, touristy, high-end, cheapest one Michelin star.

Tim Ho Wan in IFC is one of my favorites. A limited menu of twenty-seven tender flavorful dim sum. The best of which is the Baked Bun with BBQ Pork with a type of sweet streusel-like topping. This crumbly cover is also found on the delicious pineapple bun popular in Hong Kong and Macau. Similar to the Mexican Concha – they were likely all brought by and borrowed from the Portuguese or Spanish.

What’s the point of all this, and what does it have to do with danger or layovers?

I met a lovely young woman today. We were a few seats apart on a tightly shared table of twelve strangers. Japanese, Koreans, ABC – American born Chinese, Mainland Chinese, and me and her. She was speaking to another American, he was polite, offered her more tea, they exchanged views of the food, and discussed travel plans. This location of Tim Ho Wan is one floor above the airport express train station.

What did she think? ” Well, if this is what Hong Kong has to offer, I prefer the dim sum in New York.” She is here on a layover and will depart Hong Kong tomorrow.

Which leads me to: the danger in the layover.

We don’t know what we don’t know. Exposure to a place, its culture, and cuisine for a day or even a week doesn’t give us the depth of knowledge we need to assess, or even access it.

Hong Kong has restaurants you can’t see, you can’t know. They are hidden high in skyscrapers, down alleys and basements, in central, in every district, and on all the islands. They represent every region of China, and Asia, many times over. There are clubs, societies, private kitchens, pop-ups, and salons. And if it must be said – so much is lost to non-Cantonese speakers and non-locals.

Angela Chin, graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef at the American Club Hong Kong, a NYC native, and Cantonese speaker, has lived in Hong Kong for eight years. She says Hong Kong dim sum is more creative than her native New York, and is always changing.

I’m still learning, living, and loving the dim sum, and all the local cuisine – don’t get me started on the BBQ. New York can’t compete – sorry.

Let’s see what I can grab on my next layover in New York…


Love Nick’s Roast Beef Beverly, Mass




River Shack NOLA

River Shack

The charming River Shack on River Road, along the Mississippi.

The levee is in the background.

This is Americana.

Fried Pickles

Fried Pickles

Dill pickle chips, dipped in seasoned buttermilk, dredged in a cornmeal and all-purpose flour mixture and deep-fried.

Great with tabasco mayonnaise dip.

Mythical Mallomars


Mallomars only available in winter?

It’s true!

I was walking through Robert Fresh Market on Claybone,

looking for the 100 calorie pack microwave popcorn–

yeah, air popped is best.

One lonely box of Mallomars on the top shelf,

leaning over the edge,

just for me.

Dad’s favorite cookie, a NY/NJ staple, now made in Canada.

No Whippet’s are not the same.

They lack the sharp bite of the Mallomar’s chocolate.

The snap and crack of that delicious coat can’t be matched.

Mallomars may be made in a factory,

but they live up to the myth,

if only once a year.


Cooking Matters + Habitat for Humanity NOLA

Cooking Matters  Habitat

First Saturday!

Popover Morning

Popover morning

Sriracha is Everywhere

Sriracha is Everywhere

Sriracha, the spicy Vietnamese hot chili sauce, seems to be everywhere these days. Since the 1980’s it’s had a place alongside Tabasco, and other hot sauces, in Vietnamese restaurants, Pizza joints, noodle shops and private homes.



Now, it’s in the news. National media outlets picked up the story of Sriracha’s neighbors in Rosemead, California protesting the stinging smells of sauce making and received a temporary injunction against production of the successful sauce causing Sriracha hording nationwide. A Texas politico has proposed Tran move his business to tax-free tolerant Texas tout de suite. There is also a friendly public debate on YouTube, between Chef Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods and Chef David Chang, Owner of Momofuku Restaurant Group, over Sriracha’s superiority, or not, to competing chili sauces, including Crystal Hot Sauce.

andrew z

Though made in America, Sriracha, and its bouncy plastic bottle with a proud rooster and cheerful green cap is a favorite accompaniment for any cook or heat-loving eater who comes across it. Much like beloved American ketchup, it’s densely red, zesty, and has notes of sour, sweet and spice. The bright white lettering, in English, Vietnamese and Chinese characters makes us feel instantly exotic, while we are just grabbing a familiar condiment in its global guise.

Sriracha’s ingredients have a lot in common with traditional Louisiana hot sauces; chilies, in this case red jalapenos, and vinegar, with the addition of garlic – no water is added to Sriracha; which makes for its thicker and more fibrous consistency. Sriracha will form a kiss-like drop when squeezed onto a spoon full of noodles, or on top of Pho, the popularized Vietnamese soup.

Here in New Orleans, Sriracha is fairly universal and a cultural marker of the cosmopolitan nature of the city and the Vietnamese contribution to the food and restaurant scene. Vietnamese ingredients and dishes became popular following the fall of Vietnam and the influx of Vietnamese refugees into the United States. Huy Fong Foods, the maker of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, was opened by David Tran 1980 in Los Angeles after his arrival from his native Vietnam.

Sriracha was initially only for Vietnamese foods, like Pho, Banh Xeo; the Vietnamese savory crepe, or  fresh spring rolls; soft and cool with filling that peeks through translucent rice paper. Today, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce can be spotted all over New Orleans and the Vietnamese connection with the city and the cuisine can’t be denied.

I was first introduced to Sriracha sauce in the early eighties while working at a resort in Tucson. The Banquet Chef was Vietnamese-Chinese with classical French training. He horded Sriracha and would apply it to each third of a chicken wing or drumette, all the while licking his slippery lips and fingers.

Sriracha is found is pizza places, like Pizza Delicious in the Bywater, the stand-up sauce doesn’t soak and turn your slice soggy and can be squeezed strategically onto a single bite. Domenica, doesn’t stock Sriracha, but the hostess sweetly said “y’all can bring your own sauce to the restaurant, that’d be o.k.”

District Donuts Slider Brew also makes a hot little Sriracha Mint Mayonnaise. One recent morning it was used as a dip for a spicy sausage filled Kolache, by an equally hot guy in a black and red checked hunter’s cap. District’s homemade Kolache are a riff on the stuffed pastry popularized in Texas by way of the Czech and Slovakian Republics.

The sweetest Sriracha taste of all was the Maple-Sriracha glazed donut at District Donut Slider Brew. The glossy delicate pink Sriracha sheen coats a soft yeast raised donut with the pull a-part quality of brioche. Another great local touch is the topping of candied fresh thyme leaves, very NOLA. The fallen bits of sugar sparkle on the donut and help quell the spicy smack of Sriracha.

sriracha donut

David Weiss says “People tend to accumulate hot sauce.” The Weiss Guys Bakery owner-baker and supplier of great buns and breads to Company Burger, District, and the Royal Orleans, has a bottle of Sriracha in his fridge, along with quite a few other brands of hot and chili sauces.

Sriracha is a go-to hot sauce, even in Louisiana, arguably the commercial hot sauce capital of the United States. In the U.S., as in Asia, we use multiple hot and chili sauces. Diners have their favorites, or use the sauces for different applications or in complementary combination to one another. Now, we couldn’t live without Sriracha, there is no substitute.

Foreign and Domestic Austin


Catfish Po’Boy & Cole Slaw Wayfare New Orleans

Catfish PoBoy

Blueberry Pancakes, Hillel’s Kitchen, Tulane University

Hillel Blueberry Panckaes

Today I ordered blueberry pancakes at Hillel.
Three tablespoons of butter and half a cup of real maple syrup later, I justified my consumption by pulling out only the bits with the blueberries
– they were some big bits!

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