Review: Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant

At Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant, the décor is comfortably rundown: a not-very-convincing fake palm tree in one corner, a toy parrot hanging from a perch on the ceiling, and assorted tourist kitsch from the proprietor’s native Trinidad.  But the walls are covered in accolades from the past couple decades–Best Caribbean Restaurant, One of the 99 Best Meals for Under $10, Best Cheap Eats–and Harry Singh himself takes your order, brings you a pitcher of water with your jerk pork because he knows you’ll need it, and presents you with a handwritten receipt at the end of your meal.  There’s not much in the way of elegant presentation or locally-sourced free-range artisanal ingredients.  Instead, Harry Singh’s is where you go when you want a plate of Caribbean comfort food, served with a side of calypso music that will have even staid Minnesotans swaying in their seats by the end of the meal.

Trinidad’s cuisine reflects its diverse population, with East Indian, African, Creole, European, and indigenous influences.  Harry Singh’s signature item is a 12-inch circle of roti, a flatbread made of ground peas and rolled out to a paper thinness to order.  It’s served folded around your choice of about a dozen fillings (half of which are vegetarian), from mild curries to spicy jerks.  The menu also features Creole and curry rice dishes and an interesting selection of tropical fruit juices and punches.

Harry Singh's

Potato and Chickpea Roti

The curry potato and chickpea roti is as basic as it sounds: curry-seasoned potatoes and chickpeas, wrapped in roti.  However, the textural contrasts and comforting flavors make this a vegetarian dish well worth your while.  The potatoes are well-done, cooked almost to the point of mushiness, while the chickpeas retain a solid bite.  The curry flavoring is mild, and deceptively simple at first.  But on the second bite, and the third, the warming spices spread across your mouth and give you a feeling of contentment.  The roti provides an additional boost of slightly nutty flavor, besides taking on the seasonings of the filling–the highlight of my dinner was coming across little chewy folds of doubled up roti that had soaked up bits of smashed potato.

Harry Singh's

Jerk Pork Roti

The jerk pork roti was generously portioned (and priced the same as the potato and chickpea roti, making it a bargain), with broccoli, cabbage, and onions in addition to chunks of chili-seasoned pork.  The heat level was manageable if you enjoy spicy food, but go slow–you’ve got a big job ahead of you.  Like the curry potato and chickpea roti, the best part of the dish is how the excess roti is saturated with the jerk pork juices.

I tend to be unenthusiastic about comfort food–it usually seems to connote an overabundance of cheese and a bland heaviness.  But a potato and chickpea curry, wrapped in a skillfully handmade roti and served to you by a man who has been doing what he does very, very well for a very long time?  That’s comfort food I can get behind.

★★★½ out of 4 (recommended)

Harry Singh's

Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant
http://harrysinghs.com/
2653 Nicollet Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 729-6181

Harry Singh's Caribbean on Urbanspoon

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls

While I grew up in a family that started each dinner with a formal grace, Mike comes from a non-religious background.  When we first moved in together I would recite a traditional grace while Mike looked on, but that always felt kind of awkward–food and ritual should be something that’s shared, not something one person does while the other spectates.  So a couple years ago, we switched to a Thanksgiving-style practice of listing something that we’re grateful for.  Since the PBS Newshour is on in the background while we cook, our gratitude tends to focus on the big things: thankfulness for shelter, for adequate food, for financial security, for freedom of speech, for our health, for our families, for each other.

But over this past week I’ve had lots of little things I’ve been thankful for, things that don’t seem weighty enough to mention after listening to reports of the Ukrainian civil war or ISIS atrocities.  I’m grateful that I have the luxury of being able to be thankful for smaller, non-essential things, like the heated seats in our new-to-us Prius.  I’m thankful that my freelance writing career has begun, and I have a few more pieces in the works.  I’m thankful that Mike met me over our Thursday lunch break for giant slices of Andrea Pizza (“The Biggest Slice in the Mini-apple”).  And I’m thankful that I have this space to write about life’s ups and downs, plus food, and that you’re sharing the journey with me.

And in that vein, I have a new recipe.  I wanted a simple whole wheat dinner roll recipe to pair with a pot of split pea soup, something hearty but not too dense.  These rolls, a streamlined version of Bea Ojakangas’ “Simple Savory Pan Rolls” from Great Whole Grain Breads, fit the bill, with an extra boost of flavor from the wheat germ.  The dough is quite stiff, almost clay-like, but don’t worry–they’ll turn out in the end.

Adapted from Great Whole Grain Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas

Yield: 16 small rolls (about 2 inches in diameter)

Ingredients:

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls Ingredients

2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Combine yeast, water, and sugar in a large bowl and let sit until yeast has swollen and small bubbles appear on the liquid’s surface (about five minutes).  Stir in the salt, eggs, wheat germ, and whole wheat flour and mix until smooth.  Stir in the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a very stiff dough forms.  Let dough rest for 15 minutes.

Knead dough until smooth.  Form into a ball and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

Punch dough down and divide into 16 equal pieces.  Evenly arrange in a greased 9×9 pan.

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls Before Rising

Allow rolls to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls After Rising

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake rolls until well-browned, about 16-20 minutes.

Basic Whole Wheat Rolls

Review: Glam Doll Donuts

For the past couple months, I’ve been eying up Glam Doll Donuts as an interesting dessert stop on Eat Street.  They’ve landed on a list of the best doughnuts in the U.S., their flavors are unique and cleverly named (i.e. the Misfit, a raised doughnut with orange, ginger & cinnamon infused glaze), and the shop has a retro-pinup-inspired shabby-chic vibe.  They source their dairy indgredients locally and even offer vegan versions of seven of their doughnuts.

Glam Doll Donuts

Clockwise from lower left: Flirty Frenchie cruller with espresso cream cheese; up close and personal with the Flirty Frenchie; Dark Angel chocolate iced doughnut with vanilla bean cream filling

But while the doughnuts look interesting on paper, in person they’re curiously lacking in flavor.  I sampled the Flirty Frenchie, a cruller topped with espresso cream cheese, and the Dark Angel, a chocolate-iced doughnut filled with vanilla bean cream.  While the texture of the cruller was perfect–light and flaky, with air pockets that would do any baguette baker proud–the bland cream cheese topping was devoid of any discernible coffee flavor.  Similarly, the Dark Angel was bursting with a filling that disappointingly tasted more like instant vanilla pudding than an actual vanilla bean.

The doughnuts aren’t bad, but after the hype and a high-end price tag ($3 for the filled doughnut, $2.50 for the cruller), I had hoped for something more than “not bad”.

★★½ out of 4 (recommended with reservations)

Glam Doll Donuts
http://www.glamdolldonuts.com/
2605 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 345-7064

Glam Doll Donuts on Urbanspoon

Mushroom Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles

As you may have gathered from many previous posts, I am a big fan of Molli Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate.  The vegetable-focused recipes are interesting and vibrant, with careful combinations of flavor and texture.  But one thing the recipes aren’t is fast: they tend to be suited more for weekends than for the full-time worker with a long commute and hunger pains that start kicking in at 4 pm.

Nevertheless, last Friday I decided to try a stroganoff recipe I’ve had my eye on, with mushrooms standing in for the beef and cabbage in lieu of noodles.  The recipe featured lots of prep work–over two pounds of mushrooms to slice, three cups of chopped onion, breaking down a head of cabbage–but between Mike and I it seemed doable.  We bought the ingredients on our weekly grocery shopping trip and looked forward to a mushroom-intensive dinner.

Then life intervened.  Our primary car is a 2001 Toyota Prius Mike bought back in college, which has been an increasing source of contention in our marriage as my Scrooge-like frugality clashed with Mike’s desire for operational air conditioning.  After repairing the Prius’ brakes in December (and lots of arguing), I finally agreed that it no longer made sense to continue to pour money into an increasingly decrepit car, and the next sign of trouble would be the end of the road.  The end came on Friday morning, when the Prius refused to start, we were already running late, and a dusting of snow promised to snarl our commute.  Luckily, we had a back up plan, in the form of the 2001 Dodge Intrepid I’ve been driving since high school.  The driver’s door unlocks only sporadically, the back is dented, the gas mileage is lousy, and it’s a beast to park, but the engine is steadfastly reliable.  We made it in to work, after a commute featuring lots of tears (me, because I tend to break down when initially confronted with major life changes), smartphone Google searches for used hybrids (Mike, who in contrast was feeling pretty gleeful), and a resolution to buy a newer used car as soon as possible.

So instead of spending Friday evening prepping ingredients together, I sliced up a giant mound of mushrooms alone while Mike jump started the Prius for the final time, in the hopes of driving it to a dealership for a trade-in.  There are nights when cooking is something I do to unwind, when creating something delicious erases the problems of the day.  Friday wasn’t one of those nights.  Mike came in from the garage to find me frantically wiping sour cream off the counter as a pot of barley boiled over for the fourth time, wailing about my stress level in adult-themed language.

But it all came together in the end, an almost meaty mushroom stew with a smoky, creamy sauce that saturated the cabbage.  I was afraid that the “cabbage noodles” were some sort of diet gimmick, but they actually pair wonderfully with the mushrooms.  The recipe calls for a dry white wine, and I used chardonnay.  However, since there is so much depth to the stew from the mushroom juices, smoked paprika, and sour cream, I suspect you could use broth or water instead.  I served this with a side of barley, but you could also mix some cooked egg noodles with the cabbage before serving, halushki-style.  It’s a lovely recipe, and one that I’m looking forward to cooking again–just not on a weeknight.

Adapted from The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

Mushroom Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
3 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 pounds white mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 head green cabbage, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
black pepper, to taste

Heat Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter and tilt to evenly coat and melt butter.  Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add paprika and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.  Stir in shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes.

Stir in the white mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cover and cook until mushrooms have given up their juices, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until dissolved.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Partially cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil cabbage in a stockpot until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain thoroughly and return cabbage to stockpot.  Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir until cabbage is evenly coated.  Set aside and keep warm.

Stir the sour cream into the mushroom stew until melted.  Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes, and add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Season with black pepper to taste and add additional salt if desired.

Serve cabbage in bowls, topped with mushroom stew.

Mushroom Stroganoff with Cabbage Noodles

Review: W.A. Frost and Company

This post is part restaurant review, part cautionary tale about why you should be wary of dining out on Valentine’s Day (or the days adjacent to Valentine’s Day).  The driving motivation for our dinner at W.A. Frost and Company was the vegetarian chef’s tasting menu–I had never splurged on a tasting menu before, mostly since vegetarian versions are few and far between.  However, upon our arrival, we were presented with a “Valentine’s Day Weekend Tasting Menu for Two” sans vegetarian option and featuring fewer courses than the regular tasting menu for the same price.  It was a disappointment, particularly since I had checked the restaurant’s website and social media pages beforehand and the special wasn’t mentioned.  But since the only vegetarian entree on the menu was pasta with a cream sauce–not something I’m ever particularly enthusiastic about–I went for the tasting menu, meat and all.  After all, my semi-vegetarianism is an environmental and health-based preference rather than a hard ethical line, and W.A. Frost does source local, sustainably raised meat.

W.A. Frost and Company

Clockwise from upper left: Sunchoke Soup with pickled onions, paddlefish roe, and dill; Shrimp Mosaic with whipped horseradish, celery, cocktail sauce, wakame seaweed, and gremolata; Duet of Beef (grilled New York strip and braised short rib) with Yukon Gold potato puree, glazed carrots, and truffle jus; Chocolate and Pineapple Bombe with raspberry caramel, candied cashew, and creme fraiche sherbert; and Red Table Meats Speck Ham with shaved pears, endive, walnut vinaigrette, and Dunbarton Blue cheese

I won’t subject you to a blow by blow account of our dinner, but I’ve included pictures of all five courses above.  Highlights were the sweet/salty contrast of a creamy sunchoke soup garnished with paddlefish roe; the salad course’s perfect balance of paper-thin ham, pears, blue cheese, and walnuts; and an amazingly tender braised short rib that was the Olympic-level version of pot roast.  Dessert stood in a class of its own–a chocolate and pineapple bombe, coated with a thick layer of chocolate and served with raspberry caramel, sweet and spicy candied cashews, and a tart crème fraiche sherbert.  My only gripe is that the shared portions were definitely on the sparse side–we needed a second basket of bread to feel satisfied.  I’m curious how the food quantity of the shared Valentine’s tasting menu compares to the standard version, since the standard tasting menu includes a cheese course and it is individual rather than shared.

It would be remiss not to mention the restaurant’s atmosphere.  Housed in a refurbished Victorian building in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood, the dining rooms call to mind an aristocratic club from an Agatha Christie novel.  Oriental rugs cover the floors, the tabletops are marble, and a crackling fire is occasionally stoked by the attentive staff.  Service is highly knowledgeable, the lighting is a hushed glow, and a soundtrack of classical music plays lightly in the background.  If you’re looking for a place to propose or impress, W.A. Frost is it.

It is a testament to the quality of a restaurant that it can serve me small quantities of meat at inflated prices, and I still want to come back.  W.A. Frost’s price range reserves it for very special occasions, but we have an anniversary coming up in August–and I still want to try the vegetarian tasting menu.

★★★½ out of 4 (recommended)

W.A. Frost and Company
http://wafrost.com/
374 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
651-224-5715

W.A. Frost & Company on Urbanspoon

Whole-Grain Bowls

As I’ve mentioned before, my attempts to cook for solely for myself border on the ludicrously pathetic.  It’s a good thing that I live with Mike, otherwise my diet would most likely consist of oatmeal, popcorn, baked squash, microwaved frozen vegetables, and apples (judging by the sorts of things I make for myself for lunch on the weekends, this is not an exaggeration).  Conceptually, I love the idea of wholesome, balanced lunches and eagerly pore over the healthy lunch recipe of the week on the The Kitchn.  But I never get around to actually making any of the recipes, probably because I don’t have the small portions of random ingredients required.  Although I’ve reached a point where I do have whole grains on hand other than oatmeal (usually wheat berries and farro), when it comes to knowing what to do with them I’m stymied by a lack of creativity and ingredients.

But with several months trial and error, I finally came up with some whole-grain bowls that I can make for lunches or Stacy dinners, using ingredients that I usually have on hand and a minimum of effort.

Wheat Berries with Tomatoes and Basil

Wheat Berries with Tomatoes and Basil

Wheat Berries:

I discovered wheat berries through a community ed cooking class, and love their wholesome flavor and chewy texture.  Since they’re a bit time-consuming to make, I cook one cup of wheat berries at a time and refrigerate or freeze half for later.  To prepare two hearty servings of wheat berries, combine 1 cup dry wheat berries and 2 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 40 minutes or until chewy-tender and drain.

  • Top wheat berries with tomatoes, basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper.  In the winter, I use halved cherry tomatoes and basil left over from Hot-Sweet-Sour Soup with Tofu and Pineapple.  In the summer, I use a chopped heirloom tomato from our CSA and basil from our herb garden.

Farro:

I usually have some farro in the pantry, left over from Spring Farro or Tuscan White Beans and Farro.  The texture is similar to wheat berries, but the flavor is milder and nuttier, and the cooking time is much shorter.  To prepare two servings of farro, combine 1/2 cup dry farro with 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook at a low boil until farro is chewy-tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain farro in a colander and shake to remove excess water.

  • My favorite thing to do with farro is top it with two cups of prepared Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes (half a batch).  I love the texture contrast between the chewy farro and the soft sweet potato, and the nuttiness of the farro complements the sweet and salty flavors of the sweet potatoes.
Oatmeal with Maple Syrup and Sunflower Seeds

Oatmeal with Sunflower Seeds and Maple Syrup

Oatmeal:

It is unnecessarily limiting to think of oatmeal as solely a breakfast food.  Since I like my oatmeal done fast and thick enough to hold spoon upright, I prepare quick oats by the bowl in the microwave.  I know this is kind of weird, so prepare your oatmeal however you like it.

  • Top oatmeal with sunflower seeds and maple syrup for a sweet-salty combination (I always have sunflower seeds on hand for my Fruit and Nut Oatmeal Bars).
  • It’s a classic for a reason: stir cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice into oatmeal and water before cooking.  Top prepared oatmeal with brown sugar.
  • Spreads make great oatmeal toppings–try pumpkin or apple butters or raspberry jam.

What’s your favorite whole grain?  Do you have any whole grain bowl ideas I should try?

Review: Maya Cuisine

The fluorescent-lit entry, cafeteria trays, and Styrofoam cups at Maya Cuisine are deceptive.  After you pay for your food at the end of the counter and stop at the salsa buffet, you can dine on a cobblestone plaza, complete with a gurgling fountain and faux building facades.  Maya Cuisine may be the most unexpectedly atmospheric eatery in the Twin Cities, and the menu of Mexican specialties does justice to the surroundings.

Although the menu primarily focuses on meats ranging from marinated pork to beef tongue, vegetarian options are well-represented: a sauté of potatoes and peppers is incorporated into a vegetarian burrito, taco salad, quesadilla, tacos, or torta; there are a few meatless tamales; and a few of the entrees (including the chile relleno, huaraches, and sope) are either already meatless or can be made so.

Maya Plate

Maya Plate with vegetarian tacos, rice, black beans, and rajas poblanas con queso tamale

The Maya Plate is a bargain if you want to try a few different items.  You choose any combination of three tacos, tamales, or tostadas, with sides of rice and black or refried beans.  I opted for two vegetarian tacos and a rajas poblanas con queso (poblano pepper and cheese) tamale.  Note that you can either have your meal garnished as it’s assembled, or do it yourself at the self-serve salsa buffet—if you’re trying out the spicier salsas, go for the self-serve.  While one of my tacos was just right, the other was a drenched with a bit too much medium-hot salsa for my Minnesota-bred taste buds.  Although some peppers were too close to the crisp end of crisp-tender, the fresh, handmade corn tortillas and perfectly tender potatoes made the tacos a success.  The rice and black beans had a serviceable institutional quality, nothing snazzy but decent.  The highlight of the platter was the rajas poblanas con queso tamale, with a flavor focus squarely on the roasted poblanos and just enough cheese to tantalize.

Torta de chorizo

Torta de chorizo

The torta de chorizo, served in two foil-wrapped halves, is large enough to be mistaken for two sandwiches at first glance.  A slab of toasted bread is slathered with refried beans and loaded with chorizo (a Mexican sausage), lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, avocado, jalapenos, and chipotle sauce.  It’s a respectable sandwich with fresh ingredients, and the moderate spiciness of the fillings is tempered by the refried beans and thick layers of bread.  But honestly, I fell in love with the handful of tortilla chips on the side.  Thickness-wise, they were more similar to potato chips, and that plus their generous dusting of salt gave them an addicting quality.

photo 4 Maya Cuisine

Although the food isn’t anything fancy, there are several culinary touches–the tortilla chips, the handmade corn tortillas, the perfectly cooked potatoes, the poblano tamale–and a festive atmosphere that make Maya Cuisine a worthy stop for a quick lunch or dinner in Northeast.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

Maya Cuisine
https://www.facebook.com/MayaCuisine
1840 Central Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
(612) 789-0775

Maya Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Curry Lentil Soup

I’ve been doing the whole mostly-vegetarian whole foods thing for about four years now.  Although I bake my own bread, make kale chips, and subscribe to a CSA, until now I’ve always felt like a bit of an imposter.  Why?  I couldn’t make lentil soup.  Yes, I have a great vegetarian chili recipe and we eat lots of tofu, but I felt like lentil soup is something that a mostly-vegetarian should have mastered by now.  This notion is about as valid as my teenage theory that once you become an adult you magically know how to do your taxes, but my lentil soup failures were still a cause of disproportional disappointment.  Over the years, I’ve made lentil soups that were basically rock-hard lentils in warm water, others that erred in the opposite direction and were the consistency of Dickensian gruel, pathetically bland lentil soups, and lentil soups that were a cacophony of competing flavors (and not in a good way).

But I am pleased to report that I have finally mastered a lentil soup recipe and am now a bona fide mostly-vegetarian.  Unlike my previous efforts, this recipe uses red lentils, which cook more quickly and seem more foolproof than their green cousins (my supermarket stocks red lentils in the Indian section of the ethnic foods aisle).  This recipe also benefits from its fairly simple flavor profile.  As originally written, it seemed a bit dull, so I upped the vegetable quantities and added some curry powder.  It’s a straightforward soup, quick enough for a weeknight but interesting enough to make you look forward to the next day’s lunch leftovers. And if it makes you feel more legit about your cooking skills, that’s an added bonus.

Adapted from the Kitchn recipe by Coco Morante

Ingredients:

Curry Lentil Soup Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery (about 4 ribs)
1 cup diced onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry red lentils
2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half of one lemon)

Heat Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add olive oil and tilt to evenly coat.  Add the carrots, celery, onion, and salt and stir until vegetables are evenly coated with salt and oil.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes, until onions are softened.

Add lentils, broth, 2 cups water, bay leaf, and curry powder.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until lentils have begun to fall apart and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and additional salt to taste if desired.

Curry Lentil Soup

Review: Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine is located in Minneapolis’s Eat Street, a neighborhood known for its array of ethnic eateries.  In the block-long walk from our car to our destination, we walked by a Greek restaurant and a Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich shop; the other side of the street featured German, East African, and Caribbean restaurants, an Asian grocery store, and a gourmet doughnut bakery.

The interior at Peninsula is understated, with earth-toned walls, lots of wood, and the occasional burst of flame from the open kitchen.  The lengthy menu is heavy on seafood, although chicken, beef, tofu, and various varieties of rice and noodle dishes are also well-represented.  Between the tofu and vegetable dishes, there are several vegetarian options, and many dishes can also be made vegetarian upon request (helpfully indicated on the menu with a little lettuce icon).

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Wonton Soup

The wonton soup is more like a small bowl of dumplings with a bit of broth than an actual soup, but with wontons so well-stuffed with pork and shrimp that’s definitely not a complaint. Refreshingly, the broth relies on chicken instead of salt for most of its flavor, while crisp vegetables provide a nice textural contrast to the soft wontons.

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Spicy Golden Tofu

Whatever your ethical position on animal proteins, try the house made tofu.  It’s offered in a variety of preparations, included stir fried, lightly breaded, and in a hot pot; while some of the options are identified as spicy, many are mild.  I opted for the the spicy golden tofu, which is lightly breaded and served with stir fried peppers and onions.  The tofu’s texture was striking, with a fluffy creaminess similar to scrambled eggs, and the lightly breaded preparation provided a satisfying fried flavor without excessive grease.  The dish’s heat lurks in the chili-flecked peppers and onions (I found the spice level to be moderate: enjoyable if you like spicy food but not overwhelming).

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Malaysian Lo Mee

The Malaysian lo mee is a mound of vermicelli-thin egg noodles in a pool of house made soy sauce, topped with chicken and mushrooms.  The sheer volume of soy sauce was initially alarming, but it has only a fraction of the saltiness found in the mass-produced variety; the predominant flavor was a mushroom-like umami.  Although the dish was tasty enough, the addition of some vegetables would add a needed note of freshness.

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Ice Kachang

The most interesting dessert on the menu is the ice kachang.  It can best be described as coconut flavored snow, liberally garnished with red beans, fruit flavored jellies, and chopped peanuts.  If you like unusual flavor combinations, it’s a refreshingly bold riot of ingredients; if you prefer straightforward preparations, opt for something else.

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

Fried Bananas

The fried bananas are a solid dessert choice–the crisp deep fried shell and sweetness of the bananas pairs well with the vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  However, the banana-to-ice cream ratio is a bit off; one scoop of ice cream would have been adequate.

Although it’s in a neighborhood with an abundance of dining options, the excellent house made tofu and the interesting dessert menu puts Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine on my Eat Street short list.

★★★ out of 4 (recommended)

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine
http://www.peninsulamalaysiancuisine.com/
2608 Nicollet Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 871-8282

Peninsula on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Fudge Pie

I have been struggling with this blog post for the past two weeks.  At one point, it evolved into a manifesto about self-confidence that referenced bad haircuts, my upcoming ten-year high school reunion, and my ex-boyfriend (this illustrates why insomnia-fueled 3 a.m. blogging is usually a bad idea).  However, despite my tortured literary efforts, this recipe doesn’t require an elaborate introduction.  It’s a glorified brownie baked in a pie dish, the sort of straightforward dessert that shows up in a ponytail and yoga pants, rolls up its sleeves, and gets the job done.

If you want, you can dress up your slice with an artful swirl of whipped cream.  But you don’t need to.  If my compulsive rewriting of this blog post has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes simplicity is exactly what’s called for.

Adapted from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters, by Marilynn and Sheila Brass

Ingredients:

Chocolate Fudge Pie Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease a 9-inch glass pie plate.

Mix melted butter and sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add eggs and mix until well combined.  Stir in the vanilla and melted chocolate and mix until well combined.  Finally, stir in the all-purpose flour and salt and mix until a smooth batter forms.  Pour batter into prepared pie plate and smooth to an even thickness.

Chocolate Fudge Pie Before Baking

Bake until a tooth pick or cake tester inserted into the center of pie comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Place pie on a wire rack to cool (center of the pie may sink slightly as it cools).  Cover and store in refrigerator.

Chocolate Fudge Pie

Serve topped with whipped cream, if desired.

Chocolate Fudge Pie