Celebrating NYC’s Asian Communities
A review of a cookbook celebrating Asian Communities
Made Here, published by the New York City nonprofit Send Chinatown Love, is a book filled to the brim with mouth-watering recipes and photos, but one where the stories are really the point.
I could always lose myself in thumbing through a good cookbook, looking for inspiration and enjoying the stories along the way. Sometimes I just pretend it’s about the inspiration because it’s hard to explain why I’m reading a cookbook instead of a novel. Made Here is a book I was happy to curl up with and read from cover to cover.
Each recipe in the book is from a restaurant and accompanied by the story of the people who are the driving force behind it. In between are articles that provide fascinating insights into the history and demographics of the various Chinatowns in New York City, from Manhattan to Flushing, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. The business profiles give a glimpse of the diversity of the community, which extends far beyond the concentrations in those neighborhoods, all over Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.
There are treatises on Thai food, street Food, Asian pantry ingredients, and something I’ve always wondered about: how Asian produce in New York City is sourced and delivered. A guide to markets throughout the ever-changing landscape of the city is especially helpful.
After all this background reading, it turns out I did find inspiration after all. I started with a recipe for Marbled Tea Eggs from Grand Tea & Imports. They were surprisingly easy to make, delicious, and strikingly pretty. I saved the marinade for a second batch, which made it even easier to have a tasty snack on hand for guests.
I felt some waves of nostalgia tugging at my NYC roots while reading about the last of the Chino-Latino places on the Upper West Side, and was compelled to try the Fried Pork Chops from La Dinastia. They were good, but overshadowed by the Lap Cheong Fried Rice from Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodle that I served with it. I was happy to finally start learning what to do with the Chinese sausage that always piques my curiosity when I see it in the Asian markets.
I even got a little ambitious and tried making the Pork & Kimchi Dumplings from Northern Wang Mandoo. The filling was delicious and made for very tasty meatballs after I accidentally glued all but the first dozen of my freshly rolled wrappers together in a sticky mess. There will be more practice or store-bought wrappers next time for this dumpling novice. I generally prefer recipes that are developed with home cooks in mind to those adapted from the restaurant kitchen, as they are likely to include details that someone trying a technique for the first time might not know. On the other hand, I’d be hard pressed to find another book that captured my interest more, or provided more motivation to get me cooking and learning. For that alone it’s well worth the shelf space.
I no longer live in New York, but am only a two hour bus or train ride away. This book has me plotting out excursions to explore neighborhoods less familiar to me, and places that have sprung up since I’ve left. In the meantime, I have a good book to accompany me on my armchair travels.