I reviewed T Roots back in September 2020 and gave them a poor rating. But they had just opened and it was full on pandemic times and that could knock anyone off their game. So I gave them another try and the dumplings were much better than last time. The menu has the expected hits of Taiwanese cuisine – oyster omelet, scallion pancakes wrapped around beef, congee and stewed pork over rice – and several Japanese dishes – various types of curry rice and Omurice. T Roots supposedly has a strong pedigree, the owner previously ran Taiwanese restaurants in NYC before moving to Western MA.
The first time I tried T Roots the soup dumplings were completely overcooked and disintegrated but this time they came out close to perfectly cooked with the wrappers maintaining their integrity and the soup held inside the dumpling. The soup dumpling’s flavor was good, probably the best I have had in the Pioneer valley, but the soup needed to be richer and fattier. The sauce for the dumplings was served in a thimble sized container which was too small to dip the dumplings in. I had to dribble the sauce over the dumplings as I ate each one.
I also re-tried the spicy wontons, which last time came still cold and dressed in a soy based sauce with not heat or spice at all. This time they were served hot and doused in a mild chili oil that provided a modicum of spicy. They also had a really tasty dipping sauce that also had a little spice to it. The wontons themselves had ample crinkled wonton surface area to carry the sauce and were well seasoned. These wontons were good, but not up to the standard of the Wontons in Red Oil at Panda Garden in Williamsburg.
T Roots is located in Northampton MA at the corner of Main Street and Masonic St. around the corner from the excellent Packard’s Pub.
Janik’s has been serving up classic Polish dishes since 2015. You can get Borsch, Lecho, Bigos, Golabki, Zapiekanka, Kielbasa and Pierogi, all made from old fashioned recipes that have been in the family for generations. They also serve classic breakfast cafe/dinner food and Panini and they sell traditional Polish ceramics like tea cups and bowls. Fully cooked cold or frozen to-go pierogi are also available to be pan-fried at home. Under COVID spacing requirements they have table seating for about a dozen people.
TheDumplings: The Pierogis come boiled or boiled and then fried, in orders of 6, 9 or 12, with sour cream added for $1, bacon bits added for $1 or loaded with sour cream, bacon bits, and caramelized onions for $2. It is not listed on the menu, but you can also get a side of blue cheese dressing. The choices of filling are: Traditional Farmer’s Cheese & Potato; Sauerkraut & Mushroom; Sauerkraut & Kielbasa; Veggie with Spinach, Red Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions and Cabbage; Spinach & Cheese; Buffalo Chicken; and Fruit which are made as ordered. On the breakfast menu they have breakfast pierogi which are described as 3 pierogi drowned in eggs & bacon on a pan, served with rye bread.
I got an order of six Pierogi, three of the traditional and three of sauerkraut and mushroom. The Pierogis were fat and well stuffed with filling and came smothered in butter and sweet sautéed onions. I also got the bacon bits and the side of blue cheese. After I took the pictures below I poured the blue cheese dressing on top of everything. The dish was delicious, but to be honest a little too rich and I probably did not need the blue cheese on top of the butter. The slight sourness of the excellent sauerkraut pierogi cut the richness and was a welcome contrast to the dairy topping I had created. The traditional pierogi was well seasoned but I found the farmer’s cheese to be a little bland, I would have preferred a sharper cheese. Next time I am going to get the 9 pierogi order, hold the blue cheese.
The Location:Janik’s Pierogi Cafe is in the heart of Westfield, MA on Main Street about a block from Elm Street. It is about a 5 minute drive from the Mass Turnpike (Exit 41) and well worth getting off the highway and visiting for lunch or dinner.
I recently received bottles of Korean three- and five-year aged soy sauce from Gotham Grove and immediately cracked open the five-year bottle. The company’s web-page describes the five-year aged soy sauce as having a Stiltonesque smell, a deep and complex flavor with a hint of sweetness and less saltiness than regular soy sauce. Most of this description is correct, but I would describe the sauce as having a strong Stilton or blue-cheese smell with a lot of umami flavor. For my palate it tasted saltier than the regular store bought soy sauce and does have a thicker, velvetier texture than store bought sauces. I used a table spoon to make a dumpling dipping sauce and it was excellent, I was sipping the dipping sauce from a spoon.
The back-story on this sauce is that it is made using a 600-year old recipe at a family owned business, Artisan Fermentary, in Cheongju South Korea, led by a matriarch named Jonghee Kim. The soy sauce is made simply from soybeans, sea salt and water and fermented for 5-years in traditional Korean earthenware urns. I tried to find out more about Jonghee Kim and Artisan Fermentary, but the only mentions of her or the business on the English speaking web are on Grove Garden and another similar importer’s website.
The Korean food show Delicious Rendezvous has become our pandemic lock-down viewing obsession. Of all the cooking shows I have watched, this series has yielded the most dishes that are now in my regular cooking repertoire. A recent recipe we keep making is the rolled spinach dish called “Baek Jong-won’s spinach recipe with love“. The most recent available episodes on the Viki streaming service focus on finding new markets and recipes for pork hind leg and included a master class on dumpling making. The host, Baek Jong-won, made boiled pork mandoo and pork gyoza and showed his technique for making the pork filling extra juicy and for folding and pinching the gyoza. The video clip is here on the Delicious Rendezvous home page.
Philadelphia’s Bao Nine is a newish venture from the team who developed the Sweet Charlie’s rolled ice cream chain. Bao Nine sells Taipei street-food style Gua Bao, which are flat steamed buns wrapped around a filling which is traditionally pork belly. In Taiwan Gua Bao are sometimes referred to as Chinese hamburgers and were introduced into Taiwan by Fuzhounese immigrants and these buns were largely popularized in the U.S. by David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants, although in cities with Chinatowns they were well known before Momofuku hit the scene. Bao Nine also sells pick and mix rice bowls with choices for protein of crispy chicken, roasted chicken, grilled shrimp, short ribs, or Beyond meat balls – I wish Beyond was a option for the Bao filling. They also serve charred brussels sprouts with gochujang sauce and crispy rice, which sounded good.
A filling lunch worth of bao.
The Dumplings: As the name suggests Bao Nine serves nine varieties of bao, six of them are filled with beef or chicken which I don’t eat, so I skipped them. Of the other three one is filled with tempura shrimp, spicy aioli, pickled slaw, and jalapeno, which didn’t excite me. So I tried the “pork belly” and the falafel filled buns. I thought the steamed buns were excellent, slightly sweet and very light and fluffy in texture. I was less impressed with the fillings, I put the quotes around pork belly because it did not appear to be pork belly but rather a slow cooked pork shoulder. The other fillings were green chili sauce, radish, and pickles; but the green chili sauce lacked any real heat and the pickles seemed to be kosher dill pickles, which struck a wrong note with me. The falafel bao had a traditional filling of a single falafel ball with tahini labneh, pickled chili and onion. My go-to falafel is from Mamoun’s in Greenwich Village and so maybe I am biased or a traditionalist, but I didn’t think the sweetness of the Bao went well with the falafel fillings. The falafel bao is vegan. For me, three bao made a filling lunch.
Location: Bao Nine is in the Rittenhouse square neighborhood of Philly, it is on 19th street about a block north of Chestnut street.
I have finally found success in my quest to create dim-sum style fluffy steamed buns. The guys behind the counter at Tran’s World Market clued me in that their mother uses Vinh Thuan’s Bot Banh Bao Dumpling Flour to make her show stopping pork buns. This flower is definitely the secret weapon, it makes beautifully fluffy steamed bao.
I filled the bao with an Impossible Meat based version of the Korean Burger in Robin Ha’s “Cook Korean: A comic book with recipes“. This is a really good cookbook that I enjoyed reading as a manga and I have made a bunch of the recipes, which all out great. For the bao filling I made golf-ball sized “meat” balls that I pan fried, let cool and then wrapped in dough made from Bot Banh Bao flour. For the dough I just followed the recipe and bao making instructions on the back of the package. Here is the recipe that I adapted from Robin Ha.
1 package of Impossible Ground Meat
1/2 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sweet vermouth
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
3/4 ounce Just Egg
1 teaspoon ground Korean chili flakes
Very finely chop the onion and garlic. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and then form 4-5 meat balls. Pan fry the meat balls so they are browned on the outside and just cooked through. Let the meat balls cool to room temperature. Follow the instructions on the Bot Banh Bao flour to make the dough and make the bao stuffed with the meat ball. Place three bao in a regular bamboo steamer that fits in a wok. When these bao steam they will plump up a lot and nearly double in size.
The bao can be refrigerated or frozen and then heated up in a micro-wave. They are even better when you additionally pan fry the bottom of the buns.
I don’t know how other Word Press bloggers feel about the new Gutenberg Block Editor, but I am hating it. Sure it gives us greater ability to insert lots of widgets and social media links, but the interface is un-intuitive and requires too many clicks to achieve anything. Plus the new “blocks” format makes it difficult to control layouts and the look of a post. With the Gutenberg interface it is taking me 2 to 3 times as long to create a post as it does with the Classic editor. Thankfully the Classic interface is still currently available, although it is not immediately obvious how to access the interface. I am hoping they do not retire the Classic editor and force us to use Gutenberg.
During the pandemic social distancing I have been trying to make the buns for Chinese steamed fluffy pork buns served at Dim Sum houses. I have made some breads and buns that I have enjoyed, but the recipes I have been using have not produced the right fluffy bread texture. Some more reading online revealed that these buns are traditionally made with a special low gluten flour that you can generally only find at Asian markets. However, there is recipe in Saveur that claims that this low gluten flour can be mimicked by adding Corn Starch to the flour.
I made two bun filling: sauteed oyster mushrooms finished with a balsamic glaze; and a mix of tofu, chives and napa kimchi. Both of the bun styles were delicious, and the texture of the sauteed oyster mushrooms convinced me that I could use them to make a vegan Chinese style BBQ pork filling (Char Sui). The bread bun was a lot fluffier than my prior attempts and tasted great, but they still did not achieve the fluffiness of the buns served at dim sum joints.
Bun Dough Ingredients:
1⁄2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour (12 oz.)
3⁄4 cup cornstarch (4 oz.)
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast and 1 cup lukewarm water. Set aside until small bubbles begin to form, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture and butter to the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms, about 6 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes). Let rest at least 10 minutes.