Unless we're playing flip cup or Scrabble or fantasy football, competitive isn't exactly the word I would use to describe myself. I'm way too laid back for that kind of intensity, but if the occasion should arise, you'll see a whole different side of me. So when Jamie's dad challenged me to a potsticker and fried rice throwdown (a la Bobby Flay), I immediately laughed it off, but once the smack talking got started, so did I. "How does an A.B.C. know how to make potstickers? A.B.C.s don't know how to make potstickers." That's Jamie's dad talking smack on me for being an American Born Chinese. Well, just because I'm not an F.O.B. doesn't mean I didn't spend a good many hours of my childhood folding potstickers. Coincidentally, fried rice was the second dish I ever learned how to make behind my dad's ghetto grilled cheese (Kraft singles with Wonderbread warmed in the toaster oven). I felt like I had the basics down, but there's nothing like a little healthy competition to feed creativity, especially when the prize is a bottle of Blue Label!
Jamie came up with rules and regulations to dissuade any cheating, even though there may or may not have been a few rules bent. We were each allowed one sous chef and our dishes would be judged equally on three categories: originality, taste and presentation. It would not only have to taste good and look good, but we would also have to put our own twist on originals. How would I put my signature on dishes that have been made a hundred times over?
For the potstickers, I knew I had to make my own wrappers. I love making fresh pasta and it really makes all the difference in the world in a simple dish. My filling was pork based, because pork gives you the juiciest dumplings, which just might have something to do with the fattiness. I mixed ground pork with the traditional napa cabbage, shiitakes, ginger, chives and scallions. For bonus flavor points I added dried shrimp, tiger shrimp and kim chee. My trusty sous chef, Misa, helped me assemble the potstickers. Thanks, Mees!
For the fried rice, I wanted to present two dishes: one classic and one contemporary. My classic dish was a replica of my mother's fried rice. Chinese sausage, peas, eggs, shrimp and rice, of course. I drizzled in some homemade chili oil spiked with orange zest right at the end. My second dish was an arancini (fried risotto ball) studded with corn, zucchini, carrots, ginger and garlic. I borrowed a bit of inspiration from Italy. Here are the little nuggets rolled in Panko and ready to be fried.
Since my competitor had home court advantage, I did all my prep work at home. Here's everything ready for transport.
Even though it was a "blind" taste test, the open kitchen pretty much gave away any secrecy. I'm sure many of you will recognize my plating style too. Without further ado... I give you the side by side comparisons.
The garnish on this is dried oregano by the way. Maybe too original? The filling is shrimp, crab and pork.
That's a little chayote slaw on the side. Always nice to have a fresh counterpart to fried foods.
Where's Chiquita Banana? One rice is bacon and ketchup and the other rice is mustard greens, ham and eggs. Team B used Basmati rice, whereas Team a used traditional Jasmine rice.
Thanks to the Changs for hosting and letting us destroy the kitchen. Thanks to all our judges!