Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fun Playing With Ramps and Asian Goodies

This last weekend yielded a lot of great foods to play with. Spring has finally sprung, and we made tracks for the North Union Farmers' Market at Shaker Square. We acquired two lovely bunches of ramps, with the roots still intact. We set aside one bunch to plant, and the second to eat. We also got some lovely lettuces and eggs.

Since the season is still early, we allocated more time to the market than we needed to shop it and meet our friends for lunch at Wonton Gourmet. So, we headed to Asiatown, and did some produce shopping at Tink Holl Market

There were about a dozen different varieties of mint, as pictured above. Also, lots of Asian vegetables and not-so-Asian vegetables, and fruits. A cornucopia of goodness!

I'd never seen fresh galanga stem before.

We bought some of this intense, giant-sized cilantro, and it played nicely in the dinner we cooked Saturday  night. But I'm jumping ahead . . . .

The freshest, most exquisite water chestnuts I've ever worked with or tasted. Simply amazing. Go get some!

Not one bit of yellow, or mush - not a speck of rot or imperfection. I don't know where or how Tink Holl got these - but I want more! And the ginger - simply exquisite in texture and freshness.

But again, I digress - we had a fabulous lunch at Wonton Gourmet before we dug into the spoils of our shopping trip! (To read about Wonton Gourmet - including prior Wonton Gourmet posts - Wonton Gourmet (3211 Payne Avenue, 216-875-7000, no website), each of the last 8 words, and a couple of the upcoming words, has a link to a different FPWF WG post.) Our crew of 6 was joined at the last minute by the Whittakers and lovely Isabel, who happened fortuitously on Wonton Gourmet before all of our party had arrived. 

After starting with the requisite Turnip Cake, Chive Pot Stickers and Donut Wrapped with Rice Roll, we enjoyed these new or revisited Wonton Gourmet selections: 

Ningko (Rice Cakes) with Chinese Sausage

We've had this before, but not lately - house made, toothy rice cakes tossed with lap cheong (Chinese sausage) and a type of Chinese bacon, veggies and a light sauce - heavenly!

Salt Crusted Calamari

Lovely squid is breaded and expertly fried. Haven't had this in a long time - but this was dynamite - especially with bits of the fiery hot peppers scattered on the plate.

Braised Brisket over Noodles

The word "brisket" means a very different thing to a nice Jewish girl and an old country Chinese. "Brisket" refers to a beef cut also known as "tendon" - loaded with connective tissue and braised to tenderness. I was intrigued to try this new dish on the wall-menu.

This dish was the perfect counterpoint to the spicy Sichuan Fish (shown here). Loaded with not-quite-sweet but intense anise flavor, and the crunch and chew of the noodles - there were almost no leftovers. Though a few chunks of the intensely fatty meat were too much for even this group of power eaters.

Garlic-Sauteed Pea Leaves

Our hardy group of 8 adults and one wonderfully adventurous one-year-old managed to consume a delightful feast - which I might note worked out to about $13/per person. Wonton Gourmet is an affordable gastronomic adventure not to be missed!

Anyway, since we lunched at Wonton earlier than we usually do, we actually found ourselves hungry at dinner-time. And so, we dug into the goodies we'd acquired at the farmers' market and Tink Holl.

The centerpiece for the meal was the package of thick, round rice noodles called "banh bot loc". A little internet research revealed names such as "silver thread noodles" and even "mouse tail" noodles to describe this delicacy. In my mind's eye - I was seeing a fried noodle dish served sometimes at Dim Sum, which could incorporate our ramps, and our protein of choice.

So sorry - I completely forgot to introduce you to our protein of the week. Please, put your hands together for another amazing ham from our Breychak  Farms Berkshire Hog half:


Bob roasted this lovely on Friday.

For Saturday's dinner, chunks of ham married with the rice noodles, water chestnuts, scallions from the fridge (which needed to be finished before we could dig into the ramps), gorgeous ginger from Tink Holl, garden garlic, oyster sauce, mushroom soy, light soy, a touch of sugar, Chinese Flowering Chives, from Tink Holl, and a sprinkle of the cilantro-on-steroids from Tink Holl:

Rice Noodles After A Short Soak in Hot Water

The combination of tastes, textures and flavors was simply marvelous!

Sunday night - I was craving Italian flavors. I knew that we'd just acquired all of these fabulous Asian ingredients - but the ramps just seemed to cry out for this treatment:

Ramps, Ham, Frozen Garden Peas, EVOO, Cheese, Linguine


More marvels!

Finally, Monday night. Despite Spring asthma that is bedeviling my health - I put together this lovely repast (with help from my sous chef Bob):

Yi Mein (Medium-Wide Chinese Egg Noodles)

This particular variety has been among my favorites for Asian noodles for years! Wish I could get some without artificial colors or preservatives - but can't help loving them!

Ramps Sauteeing

Plum Creek Egg Yolk for Finishing 

Pasta Carbonara

Inspired by Chef Dominic Cerino's Blue Egg Carbonara - Yi  Mein noodles were cooked and tossed with sauteed ramps, sauteed ham, EVOO, a mixture of egg and white wine, evoo, salt and pepper, cracked black pepper, grated Parmesan, chopped parsley, and a raw Plum Creek Farms egg yolk. OMG - we almost inhaled the whole thing!

Tis the season to visit the early farmers' markets and to play with the goodness to be found there! I can't wait to combine the seasonal goodness with the other toys we picked up at Tink Holl - including Asian eggplant and fresh snowpeas (they actually snap - try that with your supermarket snow peas).  Stay tuned for more fun playing with these lovely foods!


  1. Nancy, I think that herb with the jagged edges is actually "culantro" not cilantro. The two are related though not exactly the same. Your description of cilantro on steroids is a good one as the flavor of culantro is more intense than that of cilantro.

    One of the places in the Detroit area that I used to frequent for Pho included this herb on the plate of accompaniments for the soup.

  2. Nancy your photos are outrageously wonderful. Never knew much about water chestnuts--thanks for the info. I also shop at the Park to Shop Asian market on 30th. Lots of treasures there too.

  3. @Diane - re-viewing my photo of the description sign - you are right; the herb is definitely culantro.