August 6, 2009 Updates: Chengdu 1, Green Door Cafe

August 5, 2009

Chengdu 1 Collage (August 2009) by you.

Chengdu 1 in Cedar Grove continues to dish out wonderful spicy Sichuan treats.

Green Door Cafe, Tenafly NJ by you.

Green Door Cafe, still fresh from its glowing review by in the Bergen Record by Bill Pitcher, is  banging out fantastic organic and sustainable dining.

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OTB Economic Stimulus Dinner I: Chengdu 1

April 26, 2009

I’m happy to report that our first OTB Economic Stimulus dinner was a fantastic success. On April 25, 2009, 14 foodies converged on Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar Grove, New Jersey for a night of major league, mouth numbing and mucus membrane burning Sichuan goodness.

Related OTB Post: NJ Dining – Chengdu 1

Chengdu 1
89 Pompton Ave (Pilgrim Shopping Plaza)
Cedar Grove NJ, 973-239-7726

Web Site: http://www.chengdu1nj.com/

OTB Stimulus Dinner I Collage by you.

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NJ Dining: Chengdu 1 (UPDATED October 2009)

April 4, 2009

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Chengdu 1
89 Pompton Ave (Pilgrim Shopping Plaza)
Cedar Grove NJ, 973-239-7726

I think that by now people realize that I love really spicy food. One of my favorite spicy cuisines is true Sichuan-syle Chinese food, which is characterized by its use of red fire oil (vegetable oil that is infused with red chile pepper essence) and the face-numbing Sichuan Peppercorn, also known as hua jiao (meaning flower pepper, as it resembles a tiny flower) or fagara.

While there are many restaurants in the greater New York metropolitan area with “Szechuan” in the name, the sad reality is that there are very, very few restaurants serving actual regional Sichuan cuisine, New York City included. There are  a few such restaurants  remaining in Manhattan, most notably being the midtown and uptown branches of Wu Liang Ye. Spicy and Tasty in Flushing, Queens is another good example. The much-loved Grand Sichuan International Midtown closed in April of ’07 but some of its sister (and inferior) branches remain.

So when it came to my attention (by way of an excellent post by Melissa Rayworth on the Montclair food blog Barista) that we in fact had the genuine article right here in Northern New Jersey, I knew we had to go.

Chengdu 1 is right down the road from Montclair State University on Pompton Ave, in the Pilgrim Shopping Plaza next to Clearview Cinema

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Re-engineering the Classics: Charlie Deal’s Kung Pao Chicken

May 3, 2008

I’ve been wanting to do a post series on re-doing classic dishes in a healthier way for some time now. To start it off, I thought nothing would be better than giving props to someone who I thought that nicely re-engineered one of my favorite Sichuan Chinese dishes, Kung Pao Chicken.

Charlie Deal’s Jujube Restauant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is known for its inventive Asian Fusion cuisine. The dish which struck me the most there was his Kung Pao, which is radically different and much more healthier than the one that is made in most Chinese restaurants, which typically has a great deal of oil and not really that much vegetable content in it, if at all. Most versions as served in the United States at Chinese-American restaurants just consist of Chicken, Peanuts, Hot Peppers, and maybe some chopped up celery as an accent flavor. In my opinion, the definitive version of the dish is published in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land Of Plenty, which is one of the best and most authentic Sichuan cookbooks there is.

Here’s one of my favorite traditional versions, from Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar Grove, NJ:

IMG_7890

As you can see, it’s in a brown sauce, thickened with cornstarch, with basically no vegetable content in it other than water chestnuts and maybe some onion. It’s tasty, but not optimized for my current diet. It’s also heavily dependent on sopping the sauce up with rice, which leads to more carbyness ingestion.

Here’s another variation that I had at a Korean-Chinese place that I really enjoyed. Again tasty, but healthy, no.

Here’s another really good version of the classic at Mary Chung’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There’s no veggies in this at all. I can’t believe I used to eat like this all the time.

Here’s Charlie Deal’s version at Jujube Restaurant. The difference is dramatic — the vegetable to protein ratio is much higher, and he is using a lighter sauce, which is essentially just soy, Chinese Black Rice Vinegar (which gives the dish its amazing tang and brightness) and seasoned with Sichuan Peppercorns, a small amount of sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and dried Sichuan hot peppers. Another thing I like about this dish is that during dinnertime he does it in a completely vegetarian version using Soy chicken, which cuts down on the fat tremendously.

I loved this dish so much that I ate it on two of the three visits that I made to the restaurant so far. I also was determined to try to replicate it at home and make it part of our usual Asian stir fry night repertoire.

To make my version of this dish, you will need the following

8 oz “Soy Chicken” or Firm Tofu (that has had the water pressed out of it)
12 ounces Chicken Breast, cut up into small pieces (or omit to have completely vegetarian)
1 Bunch Scallions, chopped, whites and greens separated
1 large thumb Ginger, minced
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 small Napa Cabbage
1lb of Baby or Shanghai Bokchoys or one big regular Bokchoy, chopped, hard and leafy parts separated
8oz of Mungbean Sprouts
8oz of Snow Pea Pods
1 oz peanuts
1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 Tbsp Sichuan Peppercorns
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
10-15 Dried Sichuan Red Chiles or any other small dried red chile
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Chinese Black Rice Vinegar (Chinkiang grade preferable)
White Pepper to taste

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