Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu sauce

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu Sauce

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu Sauce

It’s a new year and for a lot of people that means a clean, healthy beginning, because of this I wanted to feature a dish that is simple, fresh, healthy, and most importantly, delicious. This sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad is all of these things and appetizing to boot.

My mind always drifts to Japanese cuisine when I think of using fresh ingredients in a pure and simple way. Jiro Ono, renowned sushi chef and owner of the three-star Michelin restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, says in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, “Ultimate simplicity equals purity,” and I believe this can be seen throughout Japanese cuisine.

I kept this idea of “simplicity equals purity” when creating this dish. The sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad showcases the natural flavors of the ingredients, resulting in a refreshing salad. Sliced cucumbers comprise the base of the salad, which is topped with seaweed salad, flying fish roe (tobiko) and tuna and salmon sashimi cubes. The salad is finished with ponzu–a citrusy, tangy-sweet sauce.

Cutting a Cucumber with a Paderno Spiralizer

I used a spiral vegetable slicer to cut the cucumbers (my new Christmas kitchen gadget), but you can also julienne or slice the cucumbers by hand.

Fresh Salmon and Tuna with Shun Knife

 Fresh Salmon and Tuna with Shun Knife

It’s important when buying the ingredients for the dish to make sure they are fresh; this is especially true for the fish and seafood because they will be consumed raw. If you’re in Chicago, the Mitsuwa Marketplace has a wide assortment of fresh seafood. Otherwise, tell your fishmonger that you are looking to buy fish to consume raw and ask for their recommendation. For more advice about buying raw fish, read this article here.

I chose to top my salad with tuna and salmon sashimi, but you can use whatever fish or seafood combination you desire. You can also use imitation crab, if you prefer a cooked option.

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi Salad with Choya Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi Salad with Choya Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

This sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad goes great with Choya Japanese plum wine—a slightly sweet, but not overpowering wine made with ume fruit.

Sashimi, Cucumber, and Seaweed Salad with Ponzu Sauce and Green Tea

I hope you enjoy this healthy and flavorful salad as much as I do! If you experiment with different seafood or ingredient combinations, feel free to send pictures or let me know in the comments.

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Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu sauce

Serves 4
Region Japanese
By author Rosanna
Try this simple, fresh, healthy, and most importantly, delicious sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad with ponzu sauce. It's refreshing and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 large English cucumber (peeled)
  • 6 Ounces fresh fish (I used tuna and salmon sashimi)
  • 3 Ounces seaweed salad
  • 1 Ounce flying fish roe (tobiko)
  • 1 cup ponzu

Note

* It’s important when buying the ingredients for the dish to make sure they are fresh; this is especially true for the fish and seafood because they will be consumed raw. Tell your fishmonger that you are looking to buy fish to consume raw and ask for their recommendation.

* I chose to top my salad with tuna and salmon sashimi, but you can use whatever fish or seafood combination you desire. You can also use imitation crab, if you prefer a cooked option.

Directions

Step 1
Slice or julienne the cucumber into thin pieces. Divide evenly into 4 serving dishes. Top each bowl with seaweed salad, flying fish roe, and fish. Add 1/4 cup ponzu to each plate. Serve.

A Danish Christmas Eve

Roast Pork with Crackling and Brown Potatoes

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg) and Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

This year Corey and I experienced a traditional Danish Christmas Eve. It was a special occasion, full of merriment and cheer, and we enjoyed hearing about Danish myths and traditions and participating in the festivities.

Nisse Folklore

Nisse in Barn with Animals and Gifts

Nisse in Barn with Animals and Gifts

One noticeable decorative difference was the numerous Nisse—gnome-like spirits who dwell in barns, helping the farm on which they live. But they can be mischievous too: if they feel mistreated or don’t get what they want, they may cause trouble.

Nissen and the Christmas Pudding

Nissen and the Christmas Pudding (Risengrød)

The poster above depicts a scene from nisse folklore. On Christmas Eve, a bowl of risengrød (rice pudding with milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon) is left out to appease the nisse, much as Americans leave out Christmas cookies for Santa. However, if this offering is not made or if the butter is forgotten, the nisse make their displeasure known (in one tale, a nissen kills a cow as retribution).

Risengrød remains an important Danish dish and is typically eaten on Christmas Eve. It’s one of the few peasant traditions kept alive and celebrated today.

Modern-Day Nisse

Modern-Day Nisse

Nisse imagery has changed over the years, as a result both of commercialization and changing mythology. Nisse have now begun to resemble Santa Claus, and stories tell of them coming through the front door on Christmas Eve, delivering presents to children.

The Food and the Feasting

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the delicious food! Whatever the country or culture, holiday meals are usually some of the best of the year, and this Danish Christmas Eve celebration was no exception!

Table Setting with Danish Flags and Advent Candle

Table Setting with Danish Flags and Advent Candle

Our Beautiful Table with a 5 Tiered Candle Holder

Our Beautiful Table with a 5 Tiered Candle Holder

Danish Christmas Eve Menu

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg)

Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage (Rødkål)

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Waldorf Salad (nontraditional)

Rice Pudding with Almonds (Risalamande) and Cherry Sauce (Kirsebærsauce)

Marzipan “Pig”

Roast Pork with Crackling and Brown Potatoes

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg) and Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

A traditional Danish Christmas Eve dinner features roast pork with crackling, brown potatoes, red cabbage, and rice pudding with almonds and a cherry sauce. The brown potatoes are boiled and then sautéed with melted butter and sugar, which results in sweet, caramelized potatoes that pair perfectly with the roast pork. The pork skin is crispy and full of flavor; the meat is delicious and moist.

A message on how to prepare roast pork with crackling from our gracious host Ken:

Ken“I order a fresh [uncooked] ham with the skin left on.  I score the skin so that it forms crisp rectangles as the roasting proceeds and rub on some salt. There are a number of recipes online for roasting a fresh ham.  I just put the ham into the oven at 325F or so and roast it for about 25 minutes per pound.  Eventually, I stick a thermometer into the roast to see how it’s coming along.  I shoot for a temperature of 160F.  To have the roast ready about a half hour before I plan to serve it, I increase or decrease the temperature to speed up or slow down the roasting as necessary.  It was done too early this year, so I kept it warm in a 200F oven.  My experience over the years is that it takes a long time to do a ten-to-fifteen pound roast, but that it always turns out okay no matter what I’ve done.”

Mashed Potatoes, Waldorf Salad, and Red Cabbage

Mashed Potatoes, Waldorf Salad, and Red Cabbage

One of my favorite dishes was the red cabbage—it was sweet, tangy, and utterly irresistible!

Rice Pudding with Almonds and Cherry Sauce

Rice Pudding with Almonds and Cherry Sauce

Den Gamle Fabrik Cherry Sauce

Den Gamle Fabrik Cherry Sauce

This is an excellent kind of cherry sauce to use when making your own Danish Christmas pudding. You can find it for sale here.

Danish Christmas Pudding (Risalamande                  

This is always a fun and eagerly awaited part of the meal. This dessert—which is delicious in its own right—also features a game. After chopped almonds and cream are added to the rice pudding (risengrød), 1 whole almond is placed into the pot, then mixed well and served, topped with cherry sauce (Kirsebærsauce). Whoever finds the whole almond in their bowl wins a marzipan pig (see below)! This is a type of soft candy that you can buy in blocks, then sculpt into whatever shape you wish. Though one person wins the marzipan pig, it is shared with all—the winner, however, gets first “cut.”

Handcrafted Marzipan Pig

Handcrafted Marzipan Pig

The Christmas Tree Decorated with Danish Flags and Real Candles

The Christmas Tree Decorated with Danish Flags and Real Candles

In a throwback to pre-electric times, traditional Danish Christmas trees are adorned with real candles, which are lit after the Christmas Eve dinner (if you decide to observe this tradition, be very careful affixing and lighting them and never leave the tree unattended while they are burning). This ceremony sometimes involves singing and dancing around the tree as well. Finally, everyone exchanges presents.

Corey and I were so happy to be included in this wonderful Danish Christmas Eve celebration, and we look forward to it in years to come!

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Flavorful Journeys Best of 2014 – By Popularity

I love New Year’s Day.  It’s a chance to reflect on the past year and celebrate experiences to come. In that spirit, here are the 10 most popular posts on Flavorful Journeys from 2014:

Homemade Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

1. Homemade Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

You can’t go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs, especially when everything—from the pasta to the sauce—is made from scratch! This dish takes some time to make, but it’s totally worth it!

Chocolate Truffle Tart Slice

2. Chocolate Truffle Tart

This chocolate truffle tart was my first recipe post of 2014. I wanted to bake something that would set the mood for the year, and this indulgent treat proved the perfect choice!

white truffle oil mac n cheese

3. White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food, but when you add truffle oil, cream, and Parmesan and fontina cheese, you get a memorable epicurean experience.  Sprinkled fresh rosemary makes the luxuriant flavors pop! If you try one new mac and cheese in 2015, make it my truffle mac and cheese.

Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup

4. Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup

This spicy pork and green mustard soup holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it a delicious mainstay for surviving the cold Chicago winter, but this post made it onto Bon Appétit’s website! Check out the article here.

Butterfly Cupcake

5. Butterfly Cupcakes

A friend and I had lots of fun making these gorgeous butterfly cupcakes. My favorite parts are the chocolate wings and antenna. Some cupcake decorations sacrifice tastes for looks, but not these cupcakes!

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

6. Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Halloween is when my morbid side comes out—I love creating creepy treats. Sugar glass dipped in vivid “blood” accents these glass cupcakes, which combine my favorite dessert flavors (chocolate and raspberry). These might reappear (minus the glass) come Valentine’s Day.

Crock Pot Cuban Black Beans and Rice

7. Crock Pot Cuban Black Beans and Rice

This Cuban black beans and rice recipe is a household favorite! It’s fast, easy, and so tasty. Plus, it’s a crock pot meal, so you can make it in the morning and have dinner waiting after work!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

8. Mother’s Day Brunch Menu Bon Appétit 2014

This Mother’s Day brunch features strawberry-rhubarb salad with mint and hazelnuts, smoked trout salad, a lox platter with capers, radish, cucumber, and red onion slices, and bagels with horseradish-dill schmear. You’re sure to please by making this for your mother (or anyone, for that matter).

DrunkSkull Bloody Mary

9. DrunkSkull Bloody Mary + A Giveaway

I wasn’t a huge fan of bloody marys until I read A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst, by Hosho McCreesh. It’s an example of a unique genre called “drunk poetry,” and it mentioned bloody marys so often that I had to have one—the author was kind enough to share this recipe. These bloody marys are spicy and refreshing, just as they should be.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

10. Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

I went on a Korean kick this year, and I’m glad that my readers enjoyed it as much as I did! This kimchi fried rice makes a great weeknight dinner.

 

Thanks for following my cooking adventures this year; I hope you’re looking forward to what 2015 will bring as much as I am! Happy New Year!

If you have a favorite that didn’t make the list, comment about it below.

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Boiled Peanuts | A Classic Southern Snack

Green Peanuts used to Make Boiled Peanuts

Green Peanuts Used to Make Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts remind me of my childhood and are forever linked in my mind with the beach. One of my favorite childhood treats was riding with my father to Pensacola Beach in “Old Blue”—a Chevy pickup—while listening to rock ‘n’ roll and eating boiled peanuts from a roadside stand. They were always sold piping hot, but that never stopped us from scarfing them down.

I think that there’s something inherently satisfying about boiled peanuts. Maybe it’s their association with my childhood. Maybe they remind me of the South. But it’s probably due in large part to their delicious taste! They’re salty, juicy, tender, and delicious. What’s not to love?

Boiled peanuts are definitely regional, much like sweet tea, so if you’re not from the South, you might be wondering what a boiled peanut is. It’s a raw peanut that has been cooked in brine for several hours until soft and tender. They’re eaten as a snack and are oftentimes sold along rural highways and at events. My family always serves them at our annual reunion.

Eating boiled peanuts with my grandfather

Eating Boiled Peanuts with My Grandfather at the Beach

To understand how to make boiled peanuts, you must first understand the different types of peanuts.

Peanut Breakdown:

  • Roasted peanuts – Raw peanuts that have been baked in the oven until dry and crunchy. These are the peanuts that most people are probably familiar with. Roasted peanuts are often served as a snack, with or without the shell. They can also be made into peanut butter. Roasted peanuts CANNOT, however, be used to make boiled peanuts.
  • Green raw peanuts – Freshly harvested peanuts that contain 35 to 50 percent moisture content. Green peanuts are perishable and must be refrigerated upon receipt. Like most fresh produce, you want to use them fairly quickly for optimal flavor and freshness. These are the best type of peanuts to use for making boiled peanuts. However, they are usually only available between August and October.
  • Dry raw peanuts – Peanuts that have been dried to a 10 percent moisture content to facilitate storage and shipping. These can also be used to make boiled peanuts, but they take longer to cook because they aren’t as moist.

Where to Buy Peanuts for Boiling

When living in North Florida, Corey and I used to buy green peanuts from the grocery store in the fall (you could also look at farmers’ markets). Every fall, we’d eagerly wait the arrival of fresh green peanuts. Fall doesn’t officially begin for us until we’ve made a pot of boiled peanuts.

Hardy's Boiling Peanuts Half Bushel

Hardy Farms Boiling Peanuts, Half Bushel

Now that we live in Chicago, we’ve started ordering green peanuts online from Hardy Farms—a peanut farm in Georgia. We typically order a half bushel of green jumbo peanuts ($28.00 + $10.39 shipping; note that this is quite a large quantity of peanuts—they also offer smaller sizes). It’s a happy day when the delivery man shows up with our bag of peanuts.

Hardy's Green Peanuts Recipe

Hardy’s Boiled Peanuts Recipe (Though I Have My Own – See Below)

If it’s no longer peanut season (August – October), you will need to buy dry raw peanuts. You can buy them at some grocery stores or online here.

Lastly, if you want to eat boiled peanuts but don’t want to cook them yourself, you can buy them in cans at grocery stores, at roadside stands in certain parts of the country, or online. Note: I haven’t tried the canned variety, so I’m not sure how they compare to the real McCoy. If you have, let me know in the comments.

How to Make Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts are easy to make and only require 3 ingredients: green or raw peanuts, water, and salt. Since water plays such a prominent role in making boiled peanuts, I recommend using filtered water for a better taste.

  1. Sort through the peanuts and remove any with cracked shells, discoloration, or molding. Rinse the remaining peanuts thoroughly to remove any dirt.
  2. Place the peanuts in a large stockpot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the peanuts by at least 2 inches (the peanuts will float; you can press down on them gently to judge the water level). Allow the peanuts to soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Add salt to the pot; the amount to add varies according to individual taste. I typically use about 1 cup of salt for every gallon of water. When the peanuts are almost finished, taste one and see if you need to add more salt. Do not do this when you first start cooking the boiled peanuts, as it takes time for the salt water to saturate the peanuts.
  4. Boil the peanuts, covered, adding more water as needed. Again, how long you boil them depends on personal preference and the type of peanut used (as well as the size – jumbo or regular). For green peanuts, you can start tasting for doneness after 2 hours, though I like to boil them for at least 4 or 5. For dry raw peanuts, the cook time is much longer. I would begin tasting for doneness after 8 hours. Once the desired level of tenderness is reached, turn off the heat.
  5. You can then drain the peanuts and eat them or store them in the fridge or freezer (boiled peanuts freeze well). You can also allow the boiled peanuts to continue soaking in the brine to increase the flavor (and saltiness).

Now that you know about boiled peanuts, it’s time to get boiling and enjoy this classic Southern snack! Boiled peanuts pair well with sweet tea or a cold Coke. Enjoy!

I used this source when researching peanut types: Green Peanuts versus Dried Peanuts

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Pepero South Korean Snack – Pepero Day

Pepero South Korean Snack

Pepero—a popular South Korean Snack manufactured by Lotte Confectionary

I thought it would be fun to do a snack series on Flavorful Journeys, where I feature different snacks from around the world and discuss their history and cultural significance. After all, who doesn’t like snacks, right? In today’s busy world, we don’t always have time to sit down and eat three meals a day; sometimes snacks play a critical role in tiding us over until our next meal and getting us through a long, hectic day.

This past week, I visited the Korean spa and stopped by H-Mart (a large Asian grocery store specializing in Korean food) on the way home. I didn’t have any set ingredients to buy; instead I just wondered the aisles picking up some of my usual items and any foods that sounded interesting: Japanese seaweed salad, Korean stir-fried black beans, shrimp crackers, Calpico (a Japanese non-carbonated soft drink), a couple different varieties of ramen noodles, kimchi, Korean bbq, and a box of Peperos.

Little did I know that I was choosing a snack that has its own holiday in South Korea and coincidently enough I was buying it on the actual day of the holiday, November 11th or 11/11 (I’ll discuss this holiday more, right after I describe peperos).

Nude Pepero South Korean Snack

Nude Pepero (two sticks are broken in half to show the interior)

What are Peperos?

Peperos are long thin cookie-like sticks that are covered in chocolate or in this case filled with chocolate. There are many different varieties of Peperos including:

  • regular (chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • nude (chocolate-filled Pepero)
  • almond and chocolate (chocolate-covered Pepero with almond pieces)
  • peanut and chocolate (chocolate-covered Pepero with roasted peanuts)
  • white cookie (white chocolate-covered Pepero with cookie pieces)
  • strawberry (strawberry-flavored–chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • melon (melon-flavored–chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • and more

Peperos remind me of Pepperidge Farms’ chocolate Pirouettes, except Peperos are much thinner and the exterior shill is harder and denser, more like a cookie than a wafer. The filling is similar, chocolate, creamy, and smooth.

So What is Pepero Day All About?

Pepero Day is a holiday similar to Valentine’s Day where friends, co-workers, and significant others give each other Pepero sticks. Kyeong-Jin  in the video below provides insight into Pepero Day:

Pepero Day has also influenced Korean pop culture, inspired a Pepero kissing game, and in a very popular holiday among the youth. Check out this cute video of the Pepero Song by Megan Lee–a Korean-American artist and singer. It’s a sweet, romantic song about Pepero Day.

Are you curious about how the Pepero kissing game works?

Two people play the game; they each put one end of the Pepero in their mouths and then slowly bite their way towards the center. The goal is to get as close to the other persons lips without their lips actually touching. The couple with the shortest remaining piece of Pepero wins (if playing against other teams) or the individual who doesn’t break the kiss first wins. Sometimes this game results in a kiss, accidently or purposely, hence the name Pepero kissing game.

Here’s a video of Exo—a South Korean-Chinese K-Pop Band—playing the Pepero kissing game at the China Love Big Concert.

Okay, you can see that learning about Peperos and Pepero Day made me go on a bit of a YouTube watching frenzy! I hope  you enjoyed these videos.

Where to buy  Peperos:

If you’re in the Chicago area, you can buy them at H-Mart in Niles. If you’re not in Chicago, you can purchase Peperos at H-Mart online or on Amazon.

Corey and I shared a packet of Peperos and I sure wished I’d bought more than one packet! They were gone wicked fast. Next time, I’ll know to buy more.

I hope you enjoyed this post on the popular South Korean snack Pepero! If you have tried Pepero before, let me know which flavor is your favorite!

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Urban Farm Fermentory, Portland, Maine

Urban Farm Fermentory TaproomUrban Farm Fermentory Taproom

While traveling in Portland, Maine, with Corey and his family, I visited Urban Farm Fermentory, which is a brewery that specializes in kombucha and cider. You may be wondering what kombucha is exactly. If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known either.

Sign in Office of Urban Fermentory Farm Describing the Kombucha ProcessUrban Farm Fermentory’s Description of the Kombucha Process

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). Once the kombucha has finished fermenting, this SCOBY is removed, then the kombucha is strained—though some is sold unfiltered—and bottled. Kombucha can be flavored when bottled by adding chopped fruit, fruit juice, flowers, herbs, or a combination thereof.

The next step after bottling is carbonation. This can be achieved through a second fermentation process, which occurs when bottles of kombucha are left at room temperature for 1 to 3 days.  Once the desired carbonation level is reached, the kombucha is strained, rebottled, and refrigerated. Cooling slows down the rate of fermentation. Kombucha can also be carbonated through forced carbonation.

Kombucha is slightly alcoholic, usually containing 0.5 to 3 percent alcohol, which in 2010 induced government regulation and caused Whole Foods to pull kombucha from their shelves due to the lack of proper labeling.

So now that you know the basics of kombucha, let’s get back to Urban Farm Fermentory.

Kombucha and Cider Offerings at Urban Farm Fermentory Taproom Kombucha and Cider Offerings at Urban Farm Fermentory Taproom

We visited Urban Farm Fermentory with a Groupon that included a cider and kombucha tasting, a brewery tour, and a 32-ounce growler of your pick. I highly recommend getting this Groupon if it’s still available, as it allows you to explore many different kombucha flavors and gives you a look into the kombucha-making process.

Urban Farm Fermentory tries to source all its ingredients locally. This not only makes their kombucha very fresh but also means that their flavors and offerings vary seasonally.

Urban Farm Fermentory Kombucha Flavors on Tap:

  • Original
  • Cucumber
  • Rose Petal
  • Cascade & Amarillo Hopped
  • Honey Chamomile
  • Sweet Basil
  • Blueberry
  • Ginger

Urban Farm Fermentory Cider Flavors:

  • Pink Peppercorn and Basil
  • Dry Cidah
  • Sour Cidah (dry cidah and aged kombucha blend)
  • Cyser Apple Honey Wine (mead)
  • Cascade Hops

The cucumber kombucha was my favorite. It was cool and refreshing, slightly tart and bubbly. It was like drinking from a garden in summertime. I also really enjoyed the honey chamomile kombucha—deliciously smooth, sweet, and calming, with very little tartness. The ginger kombucha was also very tasty. It was an interesting take on ginger tea; similar to ginger beer (not ginger ale), but not as sweet and carbonated.

The bartender let us to taste our favorite flavors again and make our own blends. Ginger and blueberry went together nicely, as did sweet basil and cucumber.

Urban Farm Fermentory’s kombucha contains 1.5% alcohol (though their ciders are much stronger). I like that they don’t sacrifice quality to meet government regulations but choose instead to have their product labeled as alcohol. A quote from their website: “Our potent, probiotic Kombucha (fermented tea), with its 1.5% ABV and tart, acidic bite, is one of the few true examples of the form left after the infamous kombucha crackdown of 2010.”

Kombucha is a refreshing, ostensibly healthy drink. Some people drink it as a hangover cure, while others tout its health benefits. If you want to learn more about kombucha, check out this article.

Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery Tour

The tour guide was friendly and casual. He showed us some of the equipment and fielded our questions. The brewery isn’t very big (10,000 ft2), so it was a short (but interesting) tour.

Cider Press at Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery Tour Cider Press at Urban Farm Fermentory Brewery

Syphon Filler Machine for bottling Kombucha and Cider Syphon Filler Machine for Bottling Kombucha and Cider

Urban Farm Fermentory KegsUrban Farm Fermentory Kegs

We weren’t allowed to photograph the kombucha tanks due to proprietary knowledge. So if you want to see that, you’ll just have to visit!

Urban Farm Fermentory ArtworkStaff Murals at Urban Farm Fermentory

There are also a number of wall murals (reminiscent of street art) in Urban Farm Fermentory. Our tour guide said that the young people who work here want to make the space visually exciting and fun. Almost every room in the brewery has one or more murals, most of which were created by the employees or their friends.

Info about Visiting Urban Farm Fermentory:

Address:
200 Anderson St
Portland, ME 04101

Phone: (207) 773-8331

Hours: 12 PM – 7 PM, Tuesday – Saturday

Website: http://www.urbanfarmfermentory.com/

Cost:

Prices at Urban Farm FermentoryPrices at Urban Farm Fermentory

Note: Unfortunately, Urban Farm Fermentory doesn’t currently ship its kombucha or cider to individuals outside of Maine (though they do have distributorships in various northeastern cities).

If you’re curious about kombucha and happen to be in or near Portland, Maine, check out Urban Farm Fermentory. It’s a great introduction to kombucha and they’re always brewing up delicious new flavors.

If you’ve made SCOBY or kombucha before, please share your experience. Also, if you’re looking for other things to do in Maine, Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier is worth a visit!

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Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love its spookiness, as this allows me to embrace morbid concepts in fun ways. For example, these chocolate raspberry cupcakes play on hyelophobia, or fear of glass. The sugar glass–its jagged edges covered in red food coloring–looks very much like broken shards of glass smeared with blood. The buttercream icing with red swirls further plays on this theme.

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Glass Cupcakes Topped with Buttercream Red Swirl

These chocolate-raspberry glass cupcakes are as tasty as they are ghastly. The chocolate cupcake base is filled with homemade raspberry curd. Rich, decadent chocolate goes well with the sweetly tart raspberry curd. I chose raspberry curd because I think raspberry and chocolate are the best dessert combination ever, but also because it goes well with the “glass” and “blood” cupcake theme. When you bite into this cupcake, you see red raspberry filling–it’s a nice gory touch. But you could also try lemon curd or another fruit-flavored curd.

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcake

Chocolate-Raspberry, Curd-Filled Glass Cupcakes

If you don’t have time to make these cupcakes from scratch, you can always buy cupcakes and just make the sugar glass; they will still look absolutely wicked. The sugar glass is made by boiling sugar and water until it reaches the “soft-crack stage” (270° F). You really need a candy thermometer for this to work, preferably a digital one. As soon as 270° F is reached, pour the sugar syrup onto a lightly greased cookie pan. Shake the pan from side to side to spread out the syrup. Then allow the sugar glass to harden–which will take 30 minutes to 1 hour–before breaking it into shards.

Glass Shards

Freshly Broken Shards of Sugar Glass

Chocolate Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

You can enhance the goriness by covering the sugar glass’s edges with Wilton’s no-taste red icing color using a toothpick. I also spread the icing color in vertical lines in a pastry bag before filling the bag with the buttercream icing. This is what gives the buttercream icing its red swirl.

If you’re looking for another creepy Halloween desert, check out these blood-splattered cookies. Also, if you have any Halloween recipes or craft ideas, please share–I’m always looking for new ideas.

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Raspberry Curd

Serves About 3 cups
Meal type Condiment
Website adapted from Java Cupcake
A sweetly-tart raspberry curd made with real raspberries. Perfect with scones or as a filling in cupcakes. This raspberry curd recipe is easy and delicious

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 Cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 6 egg yolks (lightly beaten)
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Note

Do not let the curd rise above 170°F as this could cause the eggs to scramble.

Directions

Step 1
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar, raspberries, egg yolks, and salt. Heat until the sugar has dissolved and the raspberries have broken down. Stirring constantly.
Step 2
Cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. The curd is done when a candy thermometer registers 170°F.
Step 3
Stir in the lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Try to press out as much of the juice as you can from the pulp and seeds.
Step 4
Cover the curd and place in the refrigerator. Allow to chill for at least 4 hours before using. The refrigerated curd will keep 2-4 weeks.

Chocolate Raspberry Curd Filled Cupcakes

Serves 24 cupcakes
Meal type Dessert
Website slightly adapted from Java Cupcake
These chocolate cupcakes are filled with homemade raspberry curd. The rich, decadent chocolate goes well with the sweetly-tart raspberry curd.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 2/3 cups sour cream
  • Raspberry curd homemade or store bought (see recipe on blog)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper cases.
Step 2
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add the heavy cream, brewed coffee and vanilla extract. Heat until just barely simmering. Remove from heat and allow to cool as you prep the other ingredients.
Step 3
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Step 4
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream and eggs.
Step 5
Slowly pour the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the sour cream and egg mixture; whisk until smooth. NOTE: Make sure to slowly add the chocolate mixture to the sour cream and egg mixture to prevent the eggs from cooking. Do not add it all at once.
Step 6
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour in three parts, whisking after each addition until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated. Whisk batter until smooth, about 20 strokes.
Step 7
Fill the cupcake cases three-quarters full. Bake 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning them out on to a wire rack.
Step 8
Core the center of each cupcake using a paring knife or an apple corer. Using a spoon, fill each cupcake with raspberry curd.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing with Red Swirls

Serves yields icing for 2 dozen cupcakes
Website Adapted from Java Cupcake
This vanilla buttercream icing with red swirls is perfect for festive occasions, such as Valentine's Day and Halloween. The icing is smooth and creamy.

Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 4 Tablespoons cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 2 Pounds powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Optional

  • Wilton no-taste red icing (for red swirls)
  • cupcakes

Directions

Icing
Step 1
Using a stand mixer or electric beater, beat butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Add 1/4-1/2 cup cream and beat on high for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Mix in the pinch of salt.
Assembly
Step 2
Using a toothpick, add the Wilton no-taste red icing color in vertical stripes up the insides of a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip. Add the buttercream to a pastry bag. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake.

Sugar Glass

Serves Makes enough for 2 dozen cupcakes
Meal type Dessert
Website adapted from Juniper Cakery
Sugar glass is a cool decorative technique. The sugar glass is made by boiling sugar and water until it reaches the soft-crack stage (270° F).

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • candy thermometer
  • small saucepan
  • cake release spray
  • rimmed cookie tray or baking sheet

Directions

Step 1
In a saucepan add the sugar and water together and set on the highest heat.
Step 2
Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet by spritzing lightly with cake release.
Step 3
Stir the sugar mixture occasionally and leave to bubble until the sugar mixture reduces and reaches around 132 degrees C or 270 degrees F. You should start to smell a faint burnt caramel scent. The mix may also begin to turn a slight champagne gold color.
Step 4
Remove the pan from the heat. Quickly pour your sugar mixture onto the rimmed cookie sheet. Quickly spread the mixture to the edges by tilting the sheet. Don’t worry if the mixture doesn’t reach the edges; sometimes the cake release spray will stop it from spreading too much. Leave to cool and harden (this takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour).
Step 5
Don’t leave your ‘glass’ for too long, however. Sugar glass is hygroscopic, which means that it quite readily absorbs moisture from it’s surrounding atmosphere. As soon as the mix has cooled and hardened, quickly smash it in the required jagged shards before it loses that lovely brittle and hard quality!
Cupcake Assembly
Step 6
Place a glass shard or shards on top of the red swirl buttercream icing for each cupcake.

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier in Kittery Point, Maine

I love traveling and exploring different parts of the world, learning about cultures and experiencing the uniqueness and beauty of a given place. Traveling expands your mind and changes your worldview. Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I’ve been lucky to have many occasions to travel of late. My mother-in-law got married this past weekend, so Corey and I flew to Maine to witness and celebrate this momentous occasion. After the ceremony, we all went to Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier—a popular local seafood restaurant that’s known for serving fresh boiled lobster.

Man Holding Lobster from the Live Lobster Tanks at Chauncey Creek

Man Holding Lobster from the Live Lobster Tanks at Chauncey Creek

Close-Up of the Live Lobsters

Close-Up of the Live Lobsters

Maine has a maritime culture, with much of its economy based on the lobster industry. This restaurant embraces that culture with a nautical theme. Brightly colored picnic tables overlook Chauncey Creek, and fishing nets and buoys hang from the ceiling. There‘s even a dock in front of the restaurant for those arriving via boat (which one couple did while we were there). A sign made from an old wooden board humorously reinforces the lobster culture:

Sign at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Sign at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Steamed Mussels at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Steamed Mussels at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Boiled Lobster with Melted Butter at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Boiled Lobster with Melted Butter at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

A Close-Up of the Beautifully Cooked Lobster

A Close-Up of the Beautifully Cooked Lobster

Lobster Beware!

Lobster Beware!

The simple menu centers on fresh seafood. We ordered steamed mussels, coconut shrimp with fries, corn on the cob, and four two-pound lobsters. You have to get the boiled lobster—order from inside a small shack, where they have live lobster tanks. Select the lobster size you want, and they’ll bring it to you freshly boiled. They also provide lobster bibs, napkins, crackers, moist towelettes, and silverware. Note that it’s a casual BYOB joint, not a typical full-service restaurant. You can bring tablecloths, glasses, beer or wine, or anything else that you want.  They deliver the food to your table, and you get to work removing the steaming hot lobster meat.

The Seating Area at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

The Seating Area at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

The View from Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

The View from Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier

Info about visiting Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier:

Address:
16 Chauncey Creek Road
Kittery Point, ME 03905

Phone: 207-439-1030

Chauncey Creek is open seasonally from Mother’s Day through Columbus Day.
Mother’s Day through Labor Day – Open every day 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Closed the Tuesday after Labor Day
Post-Labor Day through Columbus Day – Open Tuesday through Sunday
11:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Casual attire, BYOB establishment. They do not split checks (so if you’re going in a large group, plan accordingly). Lobster prices vary seasonally; expect to pay an upcharge compared to grocery stores in Maine (we paid ~$15/lb, compared to ~$6/lb in stores). The view, fun atmosphere, and convenience make the extra cost worth it.

Chauncey Creek is a fun place to eat that features an unpretentious atmosphere and lobster fresh from the sea. If you want to experience Maine local color and some seriously delicious seafood, try Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier. You won’t be disappointed!

If you’re craving lobster and can’t get to Maine in the near future, here’s a French recipe for Lobster Thermidor—a very different cooking style from the lobster at Chauncey Creek, but good nonetheless.  Also, because the cooked lobster meat is combined with cheese, wine, and breadcrumbs, the lobsters need not be straight from the sea.

If you have any lobster recipes or restaurant recommendations, let me know in the comments.

If you want to read a fictional book about the lobster community in Maine, I highly recommend The Ghost Trap by K. Stephens. I really like that the book shows us a side of Maine rarely seen. It’s about a community of lobstermen who risk their lives and souls everyday on the formidable sea. It shows the struggle, fear, and stress of relying on the bounties of the sea for survival, but more importantly it explores the nature of man and the psychological cloaks and motivations one uses to get by. It’s a tragic story of love and loyalty, humor and sadness, and friends and family.

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Canal House Lentils, Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms, and Kale with Sesame Oil

Canal House Lentils, Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms, and Kale with Sesame Oil

Canal House Lentils, Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms, and Kale with Sesame Oil

Corey wanted us to try incorporating three days of vegetarian meals into our weekly diet in an effort to eat healthier and be more environmentally conscious (fruits and vegetables produce more calories per unit of energy expended in the production thereof). This hasn’t been nearly as challenging as I expected. There are so many flavorful vegetarian dishes out there, and I’m enjoying experimenting with new recipes and styles of cooking!

One of our favorite vegetarian meals—Canal House lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale with sesame oil—was in the January 2014 issue of Bon Appétit (the same issue that featured this wonderfully spicy pork and mustard green soup). Most cooking magazines’ January releases feature healthy, low-calorie food to cater to those making diet-related New Year’s resolutions.

I often look at these issues askance. This isn’t because I dislike healthy cooking, but rather because I believe that taste should come first, and all too often it seems that these recipes sacrifice flavor for health. However, Bon Appétit got it right with this issue: the dishes pack in the flavor while remaining healthy and nutritious.

Canal House Lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale

Canal House lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale with sesame oil is an Asian-fusion meal drawing inspiration from Japanese breakfasts, which tend to be savory and satisfying. I typically cook this meal for dinner, but I do sometimes eat the leftovers for breakfast; it’s so tasty, why not?

The lentils’ flavor comes from sautéed garlic and leek, tomato paste, and soy sauce. The tomato paste adds richness to the dish, while the soy sauce adds saltiness to the earthy lentils. The teriyaki mushrooms are made with shiitakes—my favorite kind of mushroom. They’re gently cooked over medium heat until tender, then tossed in teriyaki sauce. This results in deliciously sweet and savory mushrooms.

The kale is very simple to prepare. Just combine olive oil and sesame oil in a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Then add the prepared kale; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 7-10 minutes. The kale will be tender but will still retain some of its lovely texture. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, with tons of vitamins and minerals, so it’s a great green to cook with. I can’t get enough of kale these days! You can also put it in soups, make it into chips, or simply sauté it.

All the components of this meal complement each other very nicely: the soft, sweet mushrooms with the earthy lentils and the slightly bitter kale with sesame oil. I usually serve this meal with a side of white rice (feel free to substitute brown or yellow rice if preferred) so that it will offer complete protein. Canal House lentils, teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, and kale with sesame oil is easy to prepare, healthy, and most importantly, tasty!

If you’re looking for other yummy but healthy vegetarian options, check out this Korean mixed rice bowl with bean sprouts or this kimchi fried rice.

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Canal House Lentils

From magazine Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
Canal House lentils are flavored with garlic and leek, tomato paste, and soy sauce. The finished dish is rich, savory, salty, and earthy.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Medium leek (white and pale green parts only, finely chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup lentils (preferably French)
  • 2 Tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional

  • thinly sliced scallions (for garnish)

Note

Lentils can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Directions

Step 1
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add leek, garlic, and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and tomato paste begins to darken, about 4 minutes. Add lentils and 2½ cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, 45–55 minutes.
Step 2
Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 10 minutes; add soy sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve lentils topped with scallions, if desired.

Kale with Sesame Oil

From magazine slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
Kale with sesame oil is simple and delicious. Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, with tons of vitamins and minerals, so it’s a great green to cook with.

Ingredients

  • 2 Bunches kale (ribs and stems removed, leaves torn)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Teaspoons sesame oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional

  • sesame seeds (for garnish)

Note

* Kale can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill.

* Sesame oil will become bitter if it gets too hot, so cook over gentle heat.

Directions

Step 1
Rinse kale; shake dry, leaving some water clinging. Heat olive and sesame oils in a large skillet over medium heat. Add kale; season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender, 7–10 minutes. Garnish with sesame seeds, if using.

Canal House Teriyaki Sauce

Serves Makes about 2 1/2 cups
From magazine Bon Appétit
Canal House teriyaki sauce is easy to prepare and requires only 3 ingredients found in most grocery stores. It's great on mushrooms, chicken, and fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

Note

Teriyaki sauce can be made 1 month ahead. Store airtight and chill.

Directions

Step 1
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 40–50 minutes; let cool.

Teriyaki Shiitake Mushrooms

From magazine slightly adapted from Bon Appétit
The teriyaki shiitake mushrooms are gently cooked until tender, then tossed in teriyaki sauce. This results in deliciously sweet and savory mushrooms.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 Ounces shiitake mushrooms (stems removed)
  • 1/4 cup Canal House teriyaki sauce (or store bought teriyaki sauce)

Note

* Mushrooms can be made 5 days ahead; cover and chill.

* The mushrooms are not salted as they cook—this is intentional. The teriyaki sauce they’re tossed in adds plenty.

Directions

Step 1
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 8–10 minutes.
Step 2
Add 2 Tbsp. water to skillet and cook, tossing mushrooms occasionally, until water is evaporated and mushrooms are tender, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl and toss with teriyaki sauce.

Dumpling King – North Miami Beach, FL

Green Onion Cake at Dumpling King Miami

Green Onion Cake with a Sweet and Spicy Sauce at Dumpling King

Dumpling King was our last restaurant adventure in Miami before returning to Chicago. It came highly recommended by one of Corey’s colleagues and fellow foodies, so we were eager to squeeze it in before we left. We’re so glad that we did! We’d been craving some authentic Chinese food (which there isn’t much of in Miami), and this sure hit the spot.

From the outside, Dumpling King didn’t look too impressive; it’s located in a strip mall in which building repairs were underway. But we didn’t let that stop us, and neither should you! After all, one of my favorite restaurants, Raku in Las Vegas, is located in a strip mall. I still dream of their homemade tofu and crispy shrimp, and I can’t wait to go back to Las Vegas to eat at Raku (among other things).

The day that we went to Dumpling King was a real scorcher, and when we arrived I was craving a refreshing beverage. Luckily, they had a wide selection of bubble teas: sweetened teas with tapioca pearls. I ordered the pineapple green tea. It was the perfect drink for a hot summer day, and I loved the cute panda graphics on the cup!

We started off with the green onion pancakes. They were crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The dish was served with a sweet-and-spicy dipping sauce that paired well with the mild green onion pancake.

Fried Fresh Pak Choi with Mushrooms at Dumpling King

           Fried Pak Choi with Mushrooms and Green Onion Cake at Dumpling King

We then ordered the fried pak choi (bok choy) with mushrooms. The  name is deceiving, as the baby pak choi is sautéed rather than fried. I think this method of cooking is preferable, since it lets the natural flavors of the vegetables shine. The pak choi was the perfect texture: tender yet still somewhat firm. The mushrooms soaked up the delicious cooking sauce, so when you bit into the mushrooms, flavors of garlic, soy, and ginger were released.

Pork and Celery Boiled Dumplings at Dumpling King

             Pork and Celery Boiled Dumplings with Fried Pak Choi and Mushrooms

Of course, a trip to Dumpling King wouldn’t be complete without an order of dumplings! But this is where the language barrier caused a mix-up (the server spoke very little English, a testament to the establishment’s popularity with Chinese residents of Miami), so read on to get the inside scoop. Our friend had recommended the soup dumplings (also known as xiao long bao). Soup dumplings are made by wrapping chilled gelatinous broth into a dumpling skin; when they are heated, the inside defrosts and becomes soup. This results in a truly remarkable dumpling experience—or so I’m told, as I have yet to try them.

We did not see “soup dumplings” or xiao long bao on the menu. We asked the server if they had soup dumplings, and she pointed to the soups on the menu. We tried explaining that we didn’t want soup, but rather dumplings that contained soup. She said that they didn’t have that, but fear not—they do! They’re just listed on the menu as “Shanghai Style Steamed Dumplings.”

Not knowing this at the time, we ordered pork and celery boiled dumplings. The dumplings came out piping hot. The dough was fresh and the filling was hearty. The quantity was quite impressive for the price: 12 generous dumplings for $6.50!

This is a great restaurant for authentic Chinese food, especially dumplings. It would be a good casual spot to visit with friends or family (they also do take-out). What it lacks in atmosphere and location it makes up for in tastiness!

Dumpling King's Menu North Miami Beach

Dumpling King’s Menu

Menu Dumpling King North Miami Beach

 Dumpling King’s Menu cont.

Info about visiting Dumpling King:

Address:

237 NE 167th St

North Miami Beach, FL 33162

Phone: (305) 654-4008

Hours: 11 AM – 9 PM, seven days a week

Cost for entrée: $6.99 – $12.99

If you’re in Miami and want some tasty Chinese cuisine, check out Dumpling King! If you do, tell your story in a comment here.

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