One of my recent Chinatown tour groups drove up from Tiverton, Rhode Island and ignoring the light rain, delightfully embraced their introduction to Chinese food and culture. Joe Gaedtke shot these photos of our group. His wife Marilyn - the organizer for the group - said:
Our group tour with you on Friday was a tremendous success. So often, many of us drive, or walk through Chinatown in Boston, but we have never experienced it the way we did with you. You have opened our eyes to the real Chinatown. A modern day community, surviving in a bustling city, but it still has it’s arms wrapped around an ancient past. Many thanks from all of us.
With the Harvest Moon being celebrated on September 30, this group saw Chinatown at its bustling, filled-to-the-rafters-with-moon-cakes best! Read this interesting LA Times piece on the "greening" of Moon cakes in China.
It was a fun day of exploration and new tastes, including dim sum. I came away energized as always. We have the best tour guests! If you'd like to join me on a future tour, look for Boston Food Tours booking here. If you want to see what past guests have to say about the experience read reviews.
One Special Ingredient - Chinese Black Vinegar
One of the special products we talk about on the tour is Black Vinegar. My favorite brand is Gold Plum (beware of the knock-off "Red Plum" that looks very similar but is of lesser quality.) Fermented from Black Rice (aka Forbidden Rice) this special vinegar is deep and flavorful. It's aged in wood just as Balsamic is but it's less sweet.
This is the vinegar that many recipes will call for and can be used in some of your favorite recipes and dipping sauces.
Here's an Epicurious.com salad dressing, which I modified slightly from the original, substituting Chinkiang vinegar for balsamic
Chinese Black Vinegar Salad Dressing
- 1/2 cup neutral oil, such as canola or a good not-too fruity EVOO
- 1/4 cup Chinkiang black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 large-ish cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons peeled and minced ginger (here's a cool, easy way to peel ginger root)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (I like Kadoya)
- sprinkle of toasted ground sesame seeds or gomashio and five spice powder, to taste
Buzz this all in a blender with a TBSP or two of water to emulsify. You'll have a thin, fawn-colored salad dressing that will make the most reluctant salad-eaters happy. Drizzled over poached chicken shredded over greens, or used as a dipping sauce for salad wrapped in a rice paper wrapper, this is a winner. As a dipping sauce, I'll often add a bit of Sriracha and some chopped peanuts.
Enjoy, and do come join us for dim sum and a taste of history.