Monday, April 26, 2010

Jackfruit, Durian, Taro and Okra Chips

I've been searching for jackfruit products in NYC after trying it fresh in Thailand. Yesterday I stumbled upon Danielle Sweet Jackfruit Chips by New England Herbal Foods. I found these at a random deli in Williamsburg, but they're also available at Whole Foods.

Jackfruit is the largest fruit that grows on trees. The fruit is about the size of a watermelon and is covered in hard cone-like points. Some describe the smell of the unopened fruit as rotten onion, but not as strong as that of durian.

It is worth noting that jackfruit and durian look similar with their green hard pointy shells and people often confuse the two. Unlike durian (soft wet texture with sweaty sock/rotten onion smell), the flesh inside jackfruit has a much more appealing bubble-gum taste and rubbery texture.

Danielle Sweet Jackfruit Chips (9/10) have a mix of banana and pineapple flavor; they are crunchy, naturally sweet and totally addictive. Plus, you don't need to feel guilty eating them since Danielle's vacuum frying approach using no ingredients other than the fruit or vegetable and non-hydrogenated palm oil makes these healthier than most other chip snacks.

To our pleasant surprise, this line of chips includes other Weird Food Club-worthy flavors: durian, okra, whose texture reminds me of snot, and wild taro, a root vegetable that is toxic raw. I might stop by a Whole Foods to check out these other flavors as well. See list of all flavors here. Continue...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I guess we won't be eating monkey any time soon...

Researchers found a strain of a virus related to HIV in the flesh of primates illegally imported into New York City for human consumption.

Apparently, there's a whole underground market for bushmeat in the US. Bushmeat is a general term that used to refer to terrestrial wild animals (think "game") but now usually means endangered species hunted unsustainably, especially in Central and West Africa. Meat from some of these animals (monkey, cane rat, Malayan fruit bat) is considered a delicacy by West African communities and are consumed cured or smoked. The meat is smuggled into the US via parcels and personal suitcases, sometimes uncooked (blood and all).

Due to the virus, I'll pass on monkey meat at this point, but I wouldn't mind trying cane rat and/or the fruit bat. Those don't sound like endangered animals to me - any NYC-based West Africans want to volunteer to cook me one?

Read more about this here. Continue...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dim Sum at Jing Fong

Last Saturday we ate to our heart's desire at Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth Street, 2nd fl), a dim sum house. Dim Sum is an ideal way to sample a large number of small dishes in one sitting, and it works out even better in large groups of friends. It is recommended to arrive at Jing Fong before noon, and Saturdays tend to be less crowded than Sundays. We arrived a few minutes after 12, and the place was already packed. We got a table at the elevated portion of the gigantic over-decorated ball room, and felt like we were part of a wedding party.

Duck feet: 3/10
My most anticipated dish was the chicken feet, however, duck feet looked much more interesting. While chicken feet were covered in sweet and sour sauce, duck feet were steamed and doused in soy sauce. Becauase of this, duck feet looked much like they should naturally, with webbing between toes and all! Despite WFC member Josh's pleads that duck feet were terrible compared to the chicken feet, I had to get them anyway.

The duck feet didn't taste bad per se, but neither did they taste good. There wasn't much to eat on them and the skin was a bit tough. We only got them so we could pose with them for photos - they are very photogenic. (I can't say the same about myself though)

Tripe: 4/10
I loved the look of this tripe dish, because you could see the honeycomb texture of the reticulum (the second chamber of a cow's stomach). The dish came with a stew of cabbage and cassava. The peculiar cow smell of the tripe was too overbearing for me so I didn't eat much of this dish, but WFC member Anastassia loved it!

Sesame seed balls with durian paste: 4/10
These looked promising until you bit into them and tasted the durian. I've had fresh durian before and it actually was significantly less horrid than I had anticipated, having heard that the smell of durian was so offensive that it was illegal to eat it in public places in Southeast Asia.

The durian paste in the sesame seed balls had a sweet rotten onion taste, but it developed only a few seconds after you bit into it. To Josh, the durian paste literally tasted like garbage. Food critic Richard Sterling's description of durian is much more colorful: "its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock." This sounds a little bit like my description of huitlacoche. To me, durian seemed better tasting than huitlacoche, especially concealed in sweet dough and covered in sesame seeds.

Our Dim Sum experience was not all bad. We also had some palatable food, my favorite of which were pork (7/10), fried tofu (6/10), and pastry dough with honey(7/10). The best part, of course, was snatching up dishes we liked from the moving carts and the buffet, and the bill at the end (~$13 per person)! Continue...