|Pin Wei 品味||
This Friday 1/31 is Chinese New Year; here's wishing everyone a wonderful, prosperous year of the horse!
This past Saturday, we hosted a Chinese New Year banquet and cultural event for the regional MIT alumni association. The event included a 17-dish, 3-course meal, 3 traditional Chinese dances and an afternoon of conversation and celebration. Some of the highlights in terms of food:
* Chicken in Chili Oil Appetizer
* Spinach in Ginger Sauce Appetizer
* Dan Dan Noodles
* Pumpkin Soup
* Crispy Whole Fish with Pine Seeds
* Hot and Spicy Shrimp
* Baby Bok Choy with Mushrooms
The dances were spectacular, and included a GeGe (Manchurian Princess) Dance of the Qing Dynasty, "Red Coral of the East" - a dance mimicking the movement of coral reefs swaying with the current, and "Bamboo Woods" - a dance inspired by the Dai ethnicity of Southwestern China. Enjoy the pictures below!
This is the latest of an increasing number of special events that Pin Wei has hosted. Our restaurant has seen baby showers, birthday parties, and even a wedding reception. Let us know if you'd like to host a special event at our restaurant; we'd be happy to work with you!
Highlights from this past Saturday:
So it's past midnight, and I'm hungry - really hungry. Spent the evening traveling back up to NYC where I spend most weekdays, and thus missed dinner. It's too late to eat, so I'll write about food instead (debatable whether that's a good idea, but here goes).
My fiancé and I often eat dinner together at Pin Wei, and we usually share a couple items off the menu. Chinese food is great for sharing as a couple, so I thought I'd share some of our favorite combinations. What we decide to eat depends on our baseline favorites, how hungry we are at the time and our mood. While we do generally like spicy food, we are not always in the mood for a ton of heat.
Great Combinations for Date Night:
- Cucumber in Scallion Oil appetizer
- Spicy Fresh Fish entree
The cucumber whets our appetite, and is a flavorful yet non-spicy start to the meal. After a few pieces of cucumber, I'm ready to dig into the juicy and aromatic fish entree. I usually save some cucumber to continue eating while I'm working on the fish. It's a good way to balance the flavors and fully appreciate each bite. The fish entree is large, so perfect for sharing.
- Dumplings in Chili Oil
- Cumin Lamb
- Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves
The Dumplings in Chili Oil are one of my favorite appetizers. It's spicy yet sweet, and I really savor every bite. I've tried to eat a whole serving by myself, and it got to be a bit much. Split between two, and it's perfect. The cumin lamb is only slighly spicy, and very flavorful. The snow pea leaves balance out the flavor profiles, and are a nice green leafy addition to the meal.
- Vegetable and Tofu Soup
- Sichuan Pickled Vegetables
- Yangzhou Fried Rice
This is when we are not feeling particularly adventurous, yet want just a tiny bit of kick to our meal. The vegetable and tofu soup is a mild yet tasty start. The pickled vegetables go really well with rice, and adds just that little bit of spice which makes everything stand out. These pickled vegetables are a staple in Sichuan - they make even plain white rice taste amazing.
Ok so now I'm really hungry, and the thought of these dishes is tantalizing me. I'll add on more suggestions in the future. We are BYOB, so remember to bring your bottle of wine for a great date night!
So it's almost midnight and I'm still working; consulting means endless powerpoint decks and excel models. Inconveniently, I have a huge craving for tiramisu right now - basically the little tiramisu cups from the restaurant.
I've always loved tiramisu. There's something about it that makes it the quintessential dessert in my mind. It's sweet but not too sweet, it oozes layers of flavor and texture, and there's just a luxurious richness about it that satisfies me completely. Before Pin Wei started serving tiramisu cups, I used to make my own. The problem was, every recipe says you have to chill it for hours before you can eat it, and I don't have great delayed gratification skills when it comes to tiramisu. In fact, given that I'm in NYC right now, I may just be able to find myself some tiramisu. This is after all the city that never sleeps!
So it's off to tiramisu-searching, more powerpoint slides and hopefully a work-related epiphany (rather than a food-related one) for once!
When I like a dish, I tend to eat it over and over again. This unfortunately means I get tired of it at some point, and need to find a new favorite. Recently, my favorite dish has been the Beef with Hot Peppers. This may not be the most glamorous dish out there, but it sure is tasty. The strips of beef are well-flavored and tender, and the green peppers add just the right amount of kick. If you like just a bit of spiciness, eat the beef but go light on the peppers. This is very much a classic, home-cooked favorite - essentially comfort food.
I probably like this dish partly because it reminds me of something an uncle of mine used to make. I stayed with his family for a summer as a child. My uncle worked late and would make dinner for us when he came home, always well after dark. My cousin and I would eagerly wait just inside the door, ready to pounce on him with round hungry eyes and a doeful plea for his famous beef and pepper stir-fry. Being very good-natured, my uncle almost always obliged. There was something about the way he made that dish (or maybe we were just really hungry by the time dinnertime came around!) that made me want to just eat and eat. Come to think of it, I should invite my uncle to Pin Wei to sample our version!
On a completely unrelated note, check out this fortune I found in a fortune cookie recently. Don't think it'd go down too well if I tried this line on my boss...
The other day, I brought a vegetarian friend of mine to the restaurant. She greatly enjoyed the Cucumbers in Scallion Oil, Mixed Mushrooms in Dry Pot and the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce. She remarked as we were leaving, though, that she would not have know what to order had I not been there. I acknowledged rather sheepishly that our menu is not intuitive when it comes to vegetarian options. We've since fixed that - if you are vegetarian, feel free to ask for our vegetarian menu; it'll show you on one page all your options.
There are two ways to order if you are a vegetarian. You could either order a dish that is already vegetarian, or ask for a dish with meat to be modified. The latter option obviously works only for certain dishes - if fish is the main ingredient in a dish, it's not going to be very good if we make it vegetarian!
Here are the vegetarian offerings on our menu. This is non-exhaustive; if there's another dish you'd like to try, feel free to ask whether it can be made vegetarian.
- Cucumbers in Scallion Oil
- Marinated Seaweed
- Sichuan Pickled Vegetables
- Spinach with Ginger Sauce
- Dan Dan Noodles (ask for vegetarian version)
- Cold Noodle Sichuan Style (ask for vegetarian version)
- Sichuan Style Green Bean Noodle
- Scallion Pancakes
- Spring Roll
- Hot and Sour Soup
- Egg Drop Soup
- Pumpkin Soup
- Vegetable and Tofu Soup
- Egg and Tomato Soup
- Mapo Tofu (ask for vegetarian version)
- Shredded Potato with Vinegar Sauce
- Dried Sauteed String Beans (ask for vegetarian version)
- Deep Fried Long Hot Peppers
- Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves
- Ginger and Scallion Pumpkin
- Sauteed Mixed Vegetables
- General Tso's Tofu
- Tofu Stew with Vegetables
- Eggplant in Garlic Sauce Casserole
- Homestyle Tofu Casserole
- Mixed Mushrooms in Dry Pot
- Mixed Mushrooms and Green Bean Noodle Casserole
- Vegetable Fried Rice/Lo Mein
- Vegetable Fried Rice Noodles
- Vegetable Chow Fun
My favorites are the dishes I ordered for my friend - the Cucumbers in Scallion Oil, Mixed Mushrooms in Dry Pot and the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce. After all, I was sharing the meal :-)
This is one of my favorite dishes ever. Be warned: this is not for the faint of heart.The dish packs a punch- if you like spicy food, you'll enjoy the flavors. The dish has tender beef, napa cabbage and bean sprouts simmered in a spicy, chicken-based broth into a rich stew that's wonderfully flavorful.
This dish is sometimes called "Boiled Beef" or "Water Boiled Beef"- highly unappetizing and deceptive names if you ask me. When I was a child, my family was traveling in China one year and ordered this off the menu at a restaurant, thinking it would be a bland dish to suit my tender, not-yet-developed palate. Needless to say, my five-year-old self was none too pleased when the dish arrived. Since then, I've grown to not just like but love this dish. Every bite hits a spot; the flavor penetrates every ingredient, creating a truly satisfying experience. The dish is too much for one person; perfect for sharing between two.
I think the title says it all - Happy Mother's Day to all mothers! Here's a special shout-out to my mother-in-law, who works tirelessly behind the counter at Pin Wei every day of the year.
For those new to the cuisine, knowing what to order can be a challenge. Some of the items on our menu are not self-explanatory (we'll try to fix that moving forward!), and the flavor profiles vary. If this is your first time (or first few times) trying our food, below are some suggestions.
1. Chinese food is best eaten family-style. Sharing a number of dishes allows you to balance between spicy and non-spicy items, vegetables and meat, and flavor profiles. Of course, sharing may not be possible due to dietary restrictions or vastly differing tastes, in which case some dishes work better as single-person entrees than others. For example, while one of my favorite dishes is the spicy fresh fish, it's too spicy for me to eat as a single-person entree. Some of our customers have - hats off to them!
2. While Szechuan food is know for being numbingly spicy, not every dish is spicy. Accordingly, it's always good to mix it up - eating food that is uniformly numbingly spicy means that you lose the ability to taste anything after the first few bites, and what's the point of good food if you can't taste it?
Since I'm quite a geek, I've put together the following flowchart to help newer customers navigate our menu. Of course, this non-exhaustive; just a place to start if you aren't sure of what to order!
Looking over my files, I found this picture from May 2012. This was when Pin Wei first opened, and it was very much an all-hands-on-deck experience. This was a makeshift stand I made out of newspaper to display our menu to those who walk past the restaurant. Thinking back, we've come a long way since (of course, we still have a long way to go!).
I remember the day we first opened. When the first customers walked in the door, the thought that went through my mind was "what do I do now?!" I quickly thought about all the restaurants I'd been to, what good service looked like, and set about trying to provide just that. Now it's been almost a year; we have full-time waitstaff so I don't help out as much. It's still a lot of fun being at the restaurant and meeting customers though.There's something very rewarding about providing good food.
I'm a management consultant full-time, have a passion for good food, and help out at my in-laws' restaurant when I can. It's been a real journey watching them start this restaurant from scratch, sharing in both the good and bad times, and thinking of ways to improve the customer experience. We can't say we have it down pat, but we won't stop trying.