Inside the Fridges of New York

This is the beginning of a new Micropolis project, exploring the city through the contents of its refrigerators. Consider this a kind of urban anthropology — we’ll be taking you inside some celebrity fridges as well as others across the city. [Reporter: Bifen Xu / Photographer: Roy Beeson]

Name: Shinobu Mochizuki
Age: 43
Lives in: Williamsburg 
Job: Owns Fragile Equipment, a photo equipment business

  1. Sake from my hometown Shizuoka, a prefecture outside of Tokyo. I brought it back from a trip home.  
  2. Handmade jams made by my girlfriend, locally harvested blueberry in PA, great for breakfast with yogurt.  
  3. Pickled ginger made by my mom. I think she pickles with rice vinegar and refined sugar.  She makes it every few months.  I go to Japan once a year to visit my family and if not they send me a lot of food in the mail.
  4. I have a jar of bonito flakes dipped in soy sauce. It’s been in my fridge for 17 years, since I came to the US. I use this is for making rice balls, but it’s never been changed or cleaned. I think it still has some essence of 1995. This is an important condiment to me.  But I like to keep it. It never goes bad. It’s like a gem. It is impossible to go bad. You put the sauce in the middle of the rice ball and then wrap seaweed around it.
  5. I don’t cook often but I like simple things like grilled or steamed root vegetable. Slow cooked miso soup, Japanese curry and mahboh tofu.
  6. Miso paste made by my father. He makes it twice a year, he has his own farm and he uses his own soybeans. He uses a culture called a koji and he mixes it together with the soybeans. I have had this miso for a year. 
  7. I freeze fruit just before it gets bad. Frozen apple is great to eat when it starts melting. Most fruit gets sweeter when you freeze it, like ice wine in Germany.
  8. [in the door, not seen] My homemade Kombucha. Once I prepare the jar, I leave it in room temperature for 4-5 days, and put it in the fridge for further fermentation.
New York Legislature Votes to Ban Trade of Shark Fins
I’ve never had shark fin soup, but there are apparently 66 restaurants in New York City that carry it on their menus, according to the Animal Welfare Institute. 
That’s likely to change, now that New York legislators voted to ban the trade of shark fins. If Gov. Cuomo signs the bill into law, New York would become the 8th state to ban the delicacy. 
The fins of as many as 73 million sharks are used to make shark fin soup each year, according to the Humane Society. By one estimate, there are 90 percent fewer sharks worldwide than there were 50 years ago.
Due to its huge Chinese population New York is one of the largest markets for shark fins outside of Asia and the largest port of entry for shark fins on the East Coast.
"Every banquet hall that caters to Chinese-style weddings serve shark fin," said Patrick Kwan, Director of Grassroots Organizing at the Humane Society. And he added, "just because shark fin is not on the menu, doesn’t mean it’s not available."
California also banned shark fins, despite a lawsuit by Asian groups claiming it was discriminatory.
Shark fin photo by chooyutshing

New York Legislature Votes to Ban Trade of Shark Fins

I’ve never had shark fin soup, but there are apparently 66 restaurants in New York City that carry it on their menus, according to the Animal Welfare Institute. 

That’s likely to change, now that New York legislators voted to ban the trade of shark fins. If Gov. Cuomo signs the bill into law, New York would become the 8th state to ban the delicacy. 

The fins of as many as 73 million sharks are used to make shark fin soup each year, according to the Humane Society. By one estimate, there are 90 percent fewer sharks worldwide than there were 50 years ago.

Due to its huge Chinese population New York is one of the largest markets for shark fins outside of Asia and the largest port of entry for shark fins on the East Coast.

"Every banquet hall that caters to Chinese-style weddings serve shark fin," said Patrick Kwan, Director of Grassroots Organizing at the Humane Society. And he added, "just because shark fin is not on the menu, doesn’t mean it’s not available."

California also banned shark fins, despite a lawsuit by Asian groups claiming it was discriminatory.

Shark fin photo by chooyutshing

wandrlust
wandrlust:

latimes:

Delis in crisis: Traditional Jewish delicatessens, once a mainstay in urban areas, are in a tailspin, facing a decline in customers and a changing culinary climate. In New York, where thousands of delis thrived following World War II, now just a few dozen remain. And the delis in the Big Apple aren’t alone in their struggles:

Demographic shifts in Los Angeles in the last few decades — along with the arrival of brands such as Langer’s in MacArthur Park, Canter’s on Fairfax and the Brent’s chain — sparked hope of a Jewish deli revival in the Southland.
Lately, however, the region has suffered the same troubles bedeviling delis in the east.

Read more on the decline of the Jewish deli, just know that the read is best accompanied by pastrami on rye.

Get your asses to Langer’s.

Sad but true. And consider this: a good sandwich at the 2nd Avenue Deli can easily set you back $22. Seriously meshuggah.

wandrlust:

latimes:

Delis in crisis: Traditional Jewish delicatessens, once a mainstay in urban areas, are in a tailspin, facing a decline in customers and a changing culinary climate. In New York, where thousands of delis thrived following World War II, now just a few dozen remain. And the delis in the Big Apple aren’t alone in their struggles:

Demographic shifts in Los Angeles in the last few decades — along with the arrival of brands such as Langer’s in MacArthur Park, Canter’s on Fairfax and the Brent’s chain — sparked hope of a Jewish deli revival in the Southland.

Lately, however, the region has suffered the same troubles bedeviling delis in the east.

Read more on the decline of the Jewish deli, just know that the read is best accompanied by pastrami on rye.

Get your asses to Langer’s.

Sad but true. And consider this: a good sandwich at the 2nd Avenue Deli can easily set you back $22. Seriously meshuggah.

Why, in this era of foodie hordes, Instagramming their way across the five boroughs, do some Chinese restaurants in New York City still have double menus?

It’s always mystified me that a business would only list some of its dishes in English and keep others — presumably the best/strangest/most authentic ones — on a separate, Mandarin menu.

So I set out to understand why.

I visited Main St. Imperial, in Flushing, with Andrew Coe, the author of “Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States.” The storefront restaurant, far from the culinary heart of Flushing, is “the best Taiwanese restaurant in New York,” according to Coe.

Among the several dishes we devoured was a smoky, spectacular pile of minced pork, liberally garnished with chives, red chilies and fermented black beans. The dish is one of the restaurant’s most popular, but it’s not on the English-language menu.

Why not?

Could be the name of the dish: “Chives with Fly Heads.”

The fly heads simply refer to those delicious black beans, but perhaps some Asian restaurateurs think that metaphor would soar over the heads of non-Asian diners. Strangely, a slew of “Putz”-based dishes remain on the menu.

For someone like Joe DiStefano, one of the city’s most famous epicures (he hates the term “foodie”), the double menu is a gastronomic hindrance. On his new site, Chopsticks and Marrow, he and readers have discussed the strangest things they’ve ever eaten, from live baby octopus to wittchety grubs.

The mood in this sector of the universe, he says, is intensely competitive: “Have you eaten eyeballs? Have you eaten duck testacles? I have!”

In that context, he argues, a double menu “creates sort of a mediated or watered-down experience for the non-Chinese diner.”

While most of the experts I spoke to say the double menu is disappearing, it still exists on Mott Street, in Manhattan Chinatown. That’s where I met Wendy Chan, author of “New Asian Cuisine” and a consultant to various Asian governments aiming to make their cuisines more popular in America.

"They don’t want their waiters to be spending time chit-chatting with you, to explore option 1, 2, 3, the difference between A, B and C," said Chan of restaurant owners. "They’d rather have you say, ‘Okay, this is what you want, this is what we give you. Hurry up and leave.’"

There’s also the matter of clashing tastes. People raised in Asia, she said, are more likely to eat dark meat than other Americans, or eat a whole fish, with the tail intact and those dead, beady eyes staring at you.

Still, Joe DiStefano figured this was the only international cuisine in New York where a second menu exists. After all, Indian restaurants don’t have a different menu for their Indian customers. But an email from Madeline Leung at RestaurantBaby.com helped reframe the issue. She wrote, somewhat cryptically, “Race and history matter,” and this sentence, “There was a time in America, when it was commonly believed that Chinese people eat rats and dogs.”

That took me back, to the 1984 movie, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” when our hero is served what many American viewers must have presumed was a classic Indian dessert: Chilled monkey brain.

Because there’s nothing better than a food scene, set in an exotic country, to show just how freakish or backward another culture is. It hits us at a primal level, whether it’s Indian food or Chinese. The rumors that Madeline alluded to, about eating rats and dogs, are old (and with dogs, bears some truth), but there are multiple discussion threads on Yahoo.com, right now, of people wondering whether Chinese people eat babies.

Thus, the creation of Chinese-American cuisine — along with the double menu — wasn’t just a culinary development, or a money-making proposition. It was also a kind of political act, one that presented a ‘moderate’ face to outsiders in places like New York, which had enough Chinese immigrants to justify a Chinese-language menu, along with an English menu.

What’s funny is that for some people, like Madeleine Leung, whose parents operated a Chinese restaurant in Detroit, the self-consciousness they developed over decades dies hard.

"One telling thing is that whenever we have friends over," she said, laughing, "we order pizza."

To hear my WNYC radio story, go here.

feetin2worlds

“But you’re one of the most well-known places in New York for dumplings,” I said.
There was a brief silence on the other line, then an incredulous laugh, or a choking sound not unlike a hoarse sob.
“I had no idea,” he almost lamented.
“You don’t know about your reputation online? I asked.
“How can I? I don’t have time to look at the computer. I get home so late, and I wake up so early, I barely have time to sleep. I only sleep five to six hours a day.”
(via The Story Behind Great Taste’s ‘Five Dumplings for a Dollar’ Deal | Feet in 2 Worlds)

I found this really powerful. The city’s food scene: as tantalizing as it is brutal.

“But you’re one of the most well-known places in New York for dumplings,” I said.

There was a brief silence on the other line, then an incredulous laugh, or a choking sound not unlike a hoarse sob.

“I had no idea,” he almost lamented.

“You don’t know about your reputation online? I asked.

“How can I? I don’t have time to look at the computer. I get home so late, and I wake up so early, I barely have time to sleep. I only sleep five to six hours a day.”

(via The Story Behind Great Taste’s ‘Five Dumplings for a Dollar’ Deal | Feet in 2 Worlds)

I found this really powerful. The city’s food scene: as tantalizing as it is brutal.

Dinner with Rougi and Cisse, in the Bronx.

My long, desperate search for a homemade African meal is over. As part of my ongoing “Dinner With” series, I finally scored an invitation to a West African household, just off Gun Hill Road, run by Rougiatou “Rougi” Tounkara and her husband, Cisse.

Before immigrating, Rougi and Cisse lived the kind of lives that remind you just how ferocious racial bigotry is in some parts of the world. Even for Africans living in Africa.

When he moved from the Ivory Coast to Tunisia, Cisse said he was spat on, by children, and had stones thrown at him, “because I’m a black man.”

"They come close to you," said Rougi. "They scream on you, they’ll call you monkey. They call you dogs, they call you cats. But we never care."

But of course they did. Rougi was never allowed to go to school growing up, but she’s making sure her kids get the best education possible, and they’re blissfully unexposed to the sort of name-calling Rougi and Cisse once took for granted.

So they’re happy. The funny thing is, they’re both unemployed at this point, getting by on whatever Rougi earns from sewing while Cisse looks for an IT job.

Cisse moved here just a couple months ago, so they’re in something of a honeymoon period. I wonder how long that’ll last. But Rougi’s hopeful.

"America is the best for me. I always say that, everywhere and every time. They help me a lot. To have all this opportunity."

On the menu: acheke (a grain, like couscous, but made of cassava — it’s smoky and delicious), baked chicken (spiced with onion, garlic, and MAGGI cubes) and fried plantains. There was also a sauce, Sauce Tomate (ie., tomato sauce) that apparently included molten lava it was so hot.

Many thanks to my warm and gracious hosts.