Sneak Preview: Eddie Huang's Xiao Ye
"Xiao Ye's cuisine is typical night market fare—or what Huang likes to call 'booty call food.'"
Leave it to Eddie Huang, the man who put the street back in Taiwanese street food, to name the dumplings at the soon-to-open Xiao Ye after a member of the Wu Tang Clan. When your dumplings pay tribute to a gangster rapper, you best come correct. And Huang does. Each translucent triangle is packed with Duroc pork—custom-ground by Pat LaFrieda Meats—and very little else except some flecks of crunchy Napa cabbage. "There's no green onions, no oyster sauce, no nothing, so you taste the meat," the Taiwanese chef told me over a sneak preview lunch yesterday.
Huang, who skyrocketed to fame with Baohaus's sumptuous pork belly gua bao has turned to the cut again for Xiao Ye's xian rou, or salt-cured pork. "It's the only one with a normal name," Huang said of the traditional Taiwanese dish.
Huang bathes the belly in soy sauce and wine for a day before double cooking it. First comes steaming, then batter frying. The end result is meltingly tender, unctuous slices of pork with a crispness around the edges. So what if it doesn't have a wacky name. It's still delicious.
Like the pork belly Huang's fried chicken marinates for a day. Unlike the pork belly, this dish has a wacky name: Trade My Daughter for Fried Chicken. (Apparently yen shu ji, or salt-fried chicken, just doesn't convey the bird's cravability.) Since I don't have a daughter, I can't say whether I'd trade her for a plate—but the succulent fried chicken dusted with crushed peanut and crushed chilies is certainly addictive. It's so juicy that one might be forgiven for mistaking it for a pork chop (as did another blogger who was present).
Huang's favorite dish at Xiao Ye, the Everything But The Dog Meat Platter, is aptly named. It's a riff on traditional Taiwanese red cooked pork that's in keeping with today's meaty times. Joining pork spare ribs and pork belly in a three-hour braise are oxtail, and depending on availability, short rib or beef rib. Combining beef and pork is a departure from tradition as is the addition of tomatoes. Huang uses them to add a punch of "natural MSG." The meats are ringed around the mound of rice and served with a sidecar of the braising liquid to pour over.
I also tried Huang's tarofongo, which is his take on Dominican mofongo. In place of mashed plaintains and pork there's fried taro, Chinese sausage, green onions, garlic, and soy. Huang says that Xiao Ye's cuisine is typical night market fare—or what he likes to call "booty call food." Something tells me that's the type of eating that Ghostface Killah could get behind.
198 Orchard Street, New York NY 10002 (between Stanton and Houston St., map)