Category Archives: Asian

Broccoli Rabe or Broccolini®: Is There a Difference? Yes!

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I have seen a new bait and switch tactic going on in food circles these days.  When I order broccoli rabe at some restaurants, I’m not getting the familiar leafy vegetable of my upbringing, but a stalky substitute called broccolini.  In some magazines, I’ve seen articles on recipes for broccoli rabe with pictures of broccolini. Is there a difference between broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, and broccolini?  Yes!

Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is in the same family as other well-known vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. It most resembles turnip greens or mustard greens that are popular in the southern United States. In fact, turnips are in the same species as broccoli rabe, Brassica rapa.  Broccoli rabe, like turnip and mustard greens, has a bitter flavor that dissipates when prepared properly.

We know broccoli rabe, or rapini, by its Italian name, as it is most associated with Italian cuisine, particularly southern Italian cuisine, although other cultures prepare it and it now grows all over the world.

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The most common way to prepare it is simply blanching it, then sauteeing it in olive oil, and serving it dressed with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. In the southeastern heel of Italy, Puglia, there is a popular pasta dish called orecchiette with broccoli rabe or rapini.

Italian immigrants of 100 years ago had grown broccoli rabe in their gardens, and the Andy Boy company in California is credited with commercially bringing broccoli rabe, or rapini, to the United States.  Their website lists all the attributes of rapini and has a plethora of recipes.   In the first decade of the 1900s, Sicilian immigrant Andrea D’Arrigo came to the United States, learned English, and earned engineering degrees.  His brother, Stefano, joined him and founded Andy Boy produce company.  In 1926, they invented a way to ship produce across the country in refrigerated cars.  The first vegetable shipped across country was broccoli, grown here from seeds they brought over from Italy.

broccolini

Broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and gai lan, a vegetable popular in Chinese cuisine, also known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale.  It was developed by a Japanese seed company, Sakata Seed Inc., that was looking for ways to extend the growing season of broccoli.  After seven years, it was developed and brought to the U.S. market in 1993.  Sakata trademarked the name Asparation because its stalks resembled asparagus.  Mann Packing Co. in California is the grower who trademarked the name broccolini.  (The COO’s wife, Debbi Nucci, came up with the name.) Mann’s website has product information and recipes for broccolini.  Mann’s was founded in 1939 by H.W. “Cy” Mann, a Stanford graduate, and became known for its broccoli.

Both rapini and broccolini end in -ini, which is an Italian suffix meaning “little,” and are often used interchangeably in recipes and restaurants. But they are different. Broccoli rabe is more leafy while broccolini has longer stalks with more broccoli heads. They also differ in taste with broccolini being more mild, and broccoli rabe being more earthy.  They are both nutritionally sound. From a culinary standpoint, they can be used interchangeably in recipes.  But from a traditional standpoint, broccoli rabe is the vegetable eaten for years in Italy and brought to the United States by Italian immigrants.  If a restaurant purports to sell broccoli rabe, it shouldn’t be switching it with broccolini, and vice versa. It comes down to personal preference whether or not one chooses broccolini or rapini, but it should be a choice, not the result of a convenient switcheroo.

–Dina Di Maio

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

If you want to get a taste of old New York, you have to go to Doyers Street.  It is the cutest little street in Chinatown.  Its curved, narrow shape gives you a good idea of what New York was like back in the day.  It’s also where you can find Nom Wah Tea Parlor.

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The restaurant opened in 1920 with its original location being next door to its current one.  It’s a no-frills place to get dim sum.  On my visit, I got a fried tofu skin roll with mixed vegetables.  This was fried to perfection, crispy and delicious.

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Also got yummy vegetarian dumplings.

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And Shanghai soup dumplings.  They were good but not as good as the gold standard, Joe’s Shanghai.

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Finally, got the rice roll with the fried dough.  This sounded good in theory, but it was a bit too carb-heavy for me.

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How to Get Free Onigiri at Wasabi Sushi & Bento

From February 18 through 28, the NYC location of Wasabi Sushi & Bento is celebrating its first birthday by giving away free onigiri to any customer who tags a photo @Wasabi_NYC!  Just show your post at checkout. 

Crock-pot Coconut Curry Chicken

Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY in celebration of my 1000th post!

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I made this crock-pot coconut curry chicken from Practical Stewardship.  I especially liked this dish because it had turmeric.  I’m using a lot of turmeric now because it is good for you.  This dish was delicious and tasted just like something I’d get from an Indian restaurant.  I have a crock-pot, but I don’t know why I never use it.  I didn’t saute the onion–just chopped it and added it to the crock-pot.  I only used one clove of garlic (I’m not a fan of garlicky things).  I didn’t use the red bell pepper at all (I don’t like them).  And I used dry ginger.  Also didn’t chop the chicken.  I ate this sans rice because I prefer a low-carb meal.  I was very happy with the results, and I will be adding this to my rotation.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!  I’m celebrating with some moon cakes.  I got these at an Asian market.

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They came in a nice tin with a pretty gift bag.

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Aren’t they lovely?

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One has salted yolk and one doesn’t.  I like the salted yolk one best.  It was a bit salty with a peanutty taste (from the peanut oil).

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Last year, I tasted one a friend had gotten from a bakery.  Of course it was better–much more pronounced peanut flavor, flakier crust and very delicious.

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Ramen Dinner

Guess what I had for dinner last night?

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Homemade with marinated eggs.  Yum!

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Japanese Fast Food Coming to Times Square

Wasabi, a London-based Japanese fast food chain, will open its first U.S. location in Times Square at Seventh Avenue and West 40th Street on Monday, February 24, 2014.

From the English site, Wasabi looks like a fun place to get Japanese favorites like sushi, bento boxes and noodle soups.  Everything is made in-house every day.  They use sustainably sourced yellowfin tuna and salmon.  There are at least 50 types of sushi to choose from in the form of hosomaki(thin rolls), futomaki (fat rolls), nigiri (thinly sliced fish over rice), gunkan (torpedo-shaped pieces), hand-rolls and onigiri (triangles of rice wrapped around a choice of savory filling).  Also, the sushi is individually wrapped.

Not sure what fast-food ramen would be like (isn’t that an oxymoron?), but Wasabi has ramen as well as soumen, made with super-thin rice noodles, and tanmen, made with thick rice noodles.