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Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)
Mar 12th, 2015 by

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

This side dish is a definite keeper. I made it up yesterday, while trying to come up with a good green side dish to go with baked stuffed shrimp.

At first I was thinking of an arugula salad, but didn’t feel like driving three or four miles to a farm stand where I can get it at a good price: less than $2 for a good-size bag. And I wasn’t going to spend $6 or $7 for arugula at the Stop & Shop, just a few blocks from my home. So, I set my sites on the Asian supermarket, which is about a 1/4 mile from my house.

Super 88 doesn’t sell arugula, but they have an amazing selection of bok choy. And it’s cheap.

I thought about stir-frying it with some scallions and then a crazy idea hit me on how to offset the subtle bitterness of the greens with something sweet. Raisins! And just to keep things real, I decided to finish it off with a vinaigrette, a balsamic vinegar being a perfect match to bring out the flavor of the raisins.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Bok Choy. I used about 15 pieces of the baby bok choy and it was enough for three people. Washed and chopped into 2-inch pieces.
  • Scallions, about 6. Cut off with about 2-inches of green showing and then sliced into small wheels.
  • Peanut oil, about 1 tablespoon.
  • Garlic, one clove, crushed.
  • Raisins, about 1/2 cup. I used regular raisins, but I think golden raisins may work even better.
  • A balsamic vinaigrette, about 2 tablespoons. You could also use Italian dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Procedure:

Heat the peanut oil in a wok, spreading it around to coat the sides.

Add the scallions and cook until translucent.

Add the garlic and the bok choy and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute or two.

Add the raisins. Stir everything occasionally and cook until greens are wilted but the white parts of the bok choy remain crisp.

Add the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Put lid on wok and cook on low heat for a minute. Then turn heat off.

Serve with your favorite protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, even eggs).

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

City Rebounds With Some Asian Flair
Feb 22nd, 2015 by

Douglas Tran (top) opened All Seasons Table in Malden in 2007. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)

Douglas Tran (top) opened All Seasons Table in Malden in 2007. (Pat Greenhouse Photo/Globe Staff)

By Mark Micheli
(This story ran in the Feb. 22, 2015 edition of the Boston Sunday Globe.)

MALDEN — It took Maria Tran 11 tries before she successfully left Vietnam in 1984.

“It was not a trip. It was an escape,” said the owner of Maria’s Beauty Salon in Malden Square, who was one of the 2 million boat people who fled between 1975 and 1995 after the fall of Saigon.

Ten times she was caught and 10 times she was put in jail, from the time she was 14 until she was 18. Finally, she and her younger brother made it onto a fishing boat with 75 others and traveled for two weeks — with little food — to a US refugee camp in Malaysia.

Eventually she ended up in Malden, where she opened her hair salon 17 years ago. At the time, there were few other Asian-owned businesses in Malden Square. Today, they are in the majority.

Malden has a large Asian population, estimated at more than 23 percent of the nearly 60,000 residents. In a stretch of Pleasant Street in Malden Square — from the MBTA station to Main Street — there are 19 Asian-owned businesses, four of which opened in the past 14 months. Another four are scheduled to open this year.

They are filling up storefronts in Malden Square, bringing the vacancy rate to nearly zero, and playing a major role in the city’s downtown revitalization efforts. Those plans include tearing down City Hall to reopen Pleasant Street and replacing it with apartment buildings that include street-level commercial space.

Two large storefronts that have been empty for several years also are under construction and will open as Asian-owned businesses this year.

A 9,000-square-foot space at 21 Pleasant St. — which has been empty since Family Dollar moved out in 2008 — is being renovated into an upscale Asian seafood restaurant called Ming. Nearby at 46 Pleasant St., the five-floor, 28,000 square-foot former Bank of America branch that closed in 2012 is being gutted to house Bling, a 100-seat hot pot restaurant with 25 private entertainment rooms for karaoke, sports-TV parties, and business meetings.

“We looked at Boston, Cambridge, and Malden,” said Yuan Huang, 40, co-owner and managing partner of Bling, who was born in Beijing and came to the United States when he was 13.

Huang said he is one of seven partners who have invested more than $2 million to renovate the former bank building. Some of that money, he said, came from investors in China under a US government program that will help them gain citizenship for investing more than $500,000 in a business that will help stimulate the economy.

Huang said that the convenience of Malden was one of the major attractions, with the Orange Line, commuter rail, bus service, and parking garages all in the city center. Another attraction was the city’s large population of Chinese and college students, two demographics Bling is targeting.

Huang co-owns a real estate company that specializes in residential leasing in Greater Boston, including downtown Malden.

“We have cooperation with all of the Chinese student associations in the city in all the major colleges, and we have an exclusive relationship with them,” he said.

One of the oldest Asian businesses in the square is India Bazaar at 430 Main St. The large Indian grocery store opened in a smaller space about a block away in 1999 to serve the growing Indian population, said Varun Punj, 25. He took ownership of the store about six months ago, when his father died.

Varun Punj owns Indian Bazaar, a food store, one of the oldest Asian businesses in the city. (Wendy Maeda Photo/Globe Staff)

Varun Punj owns Indian Bazaar, a food store, one of the oldest Asian businesses in the city. (Wendy Maeda Photo/Globe Staff)

He said his father and uncle opened the store because there was a need to serve the Indian population here.

“There was only one store in the Greater Boston area, somewhere in Somerville,” said Punj, who moved from India to Malden when he was 6. “I remember as a kid, we used to go down there and it was quite a trip for us, especially not having a car.”

Now, there are two smaller Indian grocery stores and two large Asian supermarkets in Malden. But Punj, who graduated with a degree in business from Suffolk University last year, said he is not worried about competition. He said he will modernize the store and will also follow the business lessons he learned from his father.

“The foundation was already built,” he said. “I’m just continuing his legacy.”

Douglas Tran opened All Seasons Table — an Asian fusion restaurant with live jazz on the weekends — at 64 Pleasant St. in 2007. Business was so good, he expanded into an adjacent vacant storefront three years later to accommodate private functions and overflow crowds that still line up on the weekends.

Many believe his success was the turning point that encouraged more Asian restaurateurs to come to Malden.

Three Asian restaurants opened after All Seasons Table, and another three are scheduled to open this year, all within a few blocks of Tran’s restaurant. Still, Tran said he is not worried about the extra competition.

“Competition will make you better, smarter,” said Tran, 46, who came to the United States from Saigon — formerly the capital of South Vietnam — when he was 11. “It will make you work harder.”

Tran is opening another restaurant in Malden, at 2 Florence St. across from the MBTA station, where the Italian restaurant Artichokes once thrived before moving to Wakefield in 2009. Tran’s B&B Café will feature “new American cuisine.”

“We want to tap into what Malden doesn’t have now,” said Jackie Bouley, a manager at All Seasons Table who is a partner with Tran and All Seasons bar manager Andre Barbosa in the new venture. The restaurant is expected to open in late spring.

Steve Liu, 30, who last May opened Wow Barbecue — about a 10-minute walk from Malden Square on Salem Street — agrees competition is good but for a different reason.

“Malden has become a dining destination, especially for Chinese,” said Liu, who was born in Beijing, has a master’s in business from Babson College, and did a business analysis of the barbecue market in China before opening his restaurant a short walk from his home. “Having more [Chinese restaurants] will attract more Chinese to live here, and that will require even more restaurants.”

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson said his office helped steer business to Malden by streamlining the permitting process. The city also has targeted the Asian community by participating in cultural events in Boston’s Chinatown, as well as by hiring a liaison who speaks Chinese to work in the city’s strategy and business development office.

Still, the mayor admits he is concerned about there being too many Asian restaurants downtown.

“We’ve tried to encourage some of the newer [restaurants] to come up with a niche,” Christenson said. “We want them all to succeed, but realistically I think some duplication will cause that not to be.”

Kevin Duffy, the city’s strategy and business development officer, pointed out that although there are several Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, there are also immigrants from many other countries who offer other kinds of food. Those restaurants serve Indian, Ethiopian, Cuban, Korean, Mexican, Italian, Haitian, Mediterranean, American, and Brazilian cuisine. Malden Square also has an Irish pub.

“If you come here and open up an ethnic food place, you can’t fake it,” Duffy said. “Someone will call you out on it because they know what it’s supposed to taste like.”

Best Super Bowl Appetizer: AI (Asian-Italian) Chicken Wings
Feb 4th, 2010 by

If you like your chicken wings on the sweet side, you can add a little brown sugar too.

If you like your chicken wings on the sweet side, you can add a little brown sugar too.

This is the killer app for Super Bowl Sunday.

I’m not sure how or when it happened but the most popular appetizer for Super Bowl Sunday is chicken wings. Hot and spicy, barbecue, or sweet with honey mustard are the usual favorites. But here’s something different and guaranteed to be addictive.

There are many similarities between Asian cooking and Italian cooking and this recipe, which is based on a recipe my mother used, blends the two cultures’ spices perfectly. I’ve doctored it up a bit over the years. They’re easy to make and this recipe can be expanded to feed any size crowd. (Note: I eyeball everything, so don’t worry about exact measurements.)

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • Chicken Wings (About 20)
  • Soy Sauce (Buy a premium brand, such as Kikkoman; About a cup. Don’t spare the soy sauce.)
  • Garlic (About 5-6 cloves, sliced thin)
  • Ginger (If fresh, about 1 inch, peeled and sliced thin; If ground powder, about 3-4 tbsp.)
  • Dried Basil (About 1 tbsp.)
  • Dried Oregano (About 1 tbsp.)
  • Tabasco Sauce (About 5 drops; you can add more or less according to how hot you like it. I find, 5 drops to be on the mild side.)
  • Sesame Seed Oil (About 1 tsp.; This is the killer ingredient and you don’t need much to add much flavor.)
  • Black Pepper (1/4 tsp.)
  • Olive oil (just enough to grease a cookie sheet)

What I did:

Put wings in a bowl you can seal tight.

Add all ingredients in order that they appear above. Make sure to sprinkle the soy sauce over all of the wings.

Put cover on bowl and shake it good for 30 seconds or so.

Let it rest in the refrigerator. Overnight is best to let the marinade seep in. However, I’ve made them without resting them at all. Simply by shaking the bowl and then putting them in the oven and they’ve come out good and tasty. Shake it a few times during the resting time.

Give it one last shake before spreading wings onto a cookie sheet, greased with a little olive oil. (You may want to line cookie sheet with aluminum foil greased with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.)

Cook in a 350 degree oven for about one hour (turn over after 30 minutes, cook another 30 minutes, and then serve).

These can be made ahead of time, as they’re good hot or cold.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

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