In case I haven’t broadcasted this loudly enough in the 114 entries prior to today, I tend to get a little obsessive in the kitchen when trying to find “perfect” recipes. “Perfect” is always some approximation of an ideal that got etched in my tastebuds in some other time and place — there’s salted butter caramel (Paris), bretzel rolls (a Fresh Direct discovery), frisee with poached eggs (Balthazar, 2003) and one day soon, those truffles from La Maison du Chocolat, as my wee Valentine’s Day supply has rapidly diminished. I know better than to try to go back to such a place and expect the same experiences time after time, but it doesn’t mean I can’t have warming fits of nostalgia when I find a lost flavor on my dinner plate.
Case in point today is the steamed vegetable dumplings from Ollie’s, a small chain of large Chinese restaurants up the west side of Manhattan. Growing up, I was absorbed with them and it’s (of course) my mother’s fault, as she would bring an order of them home for us after spending a day in the city, and I’d have them cold directly from the refrigerator as soon as I woke up the next day. They were perfect: dense but not too heavy, brightly flavored and full of tiny but easily-recognized ingredients — no mystery blend here!