Last Friday, Eddie Huang gave us a taste of what he’ll be serving at his new restaurant, Xiao Ye, when it opens on Orchard Street at the end of the month. While Huang may have had to forfeit the restaurant’s original name, Crackhaus, he hasn’t had to compromise his vision for the food, putting what he’s called an “American-born Chinese” spin on traditional Taiwanese classics. There will be an abundance of meat — some of which Serious Eats previewed last week — but also a number of vegetable and seafood dishes, some of which we tried. Click through to see what we ate, and what we were too stuff to finished: Huang may still be tweaking the menu, but if his portion sizes remain intact, then Xiao Ye is going to offer some of the best value to be found in Lower Manhattan.
Though they could easily be mistaken for spinach, these are actually sweet potato leaves, which Huang says are a common ingredient in Taiwanese cooking. Here, he’s sautéed them with garlic, a simple yet incredibly savory preparation. The leaves are remarkably tender yet maintain an agreeable bite.
The idea for General Tso’s head-on prawns came to Huang while he was watching a basketball game with his brother Emery, who jokingly suggested Huang put General Tso’s chicken on the menu. Although it’s synonymous with Americanized, bastardized Chinese food, Huang discovered that the dish does actually have roots in Taiwan, and decided to reinterpret it with fried prawns. He made the General Tso’s sauce from chili-infused oil, agave syrup, and garlic, and infused additional flavor with dried orange peel. The prawns, accompanied only by some scallions, are crunchy on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside, and hellishly addictive: Sucking out their creamy, salty brains is one of the more uncomplicated pleasures to be found below Houston Street. The sauce’s heat balances its sweetness, and the use of agave instead of sugar gives that sweetness a warmth and surprising dimension.
Huang steamed this skate in a sesame oil-based sauce with scallions and fresh ginger. It was falling-off-the-bone moist, and also huge. Haung noted that it’s meant to serve two people, though it could easily serve three. However, it may not be on the menu once the restaurant opens: Huang tells us that he’s since found out it’s not sustainable. Flounder, which is more traditionally used, is also unsustainable, so Huang is planning to replace the skate with striped bass. If he can’t find a proper replacement by the time the restaurant opens, skate will be on the menu, but only for a short time.
For dessert, Huang made pancakes drenched in syrup he made from brown sugar and lychees. Chopped jalapeños lent it welcome heat, and crushed peanuts provided nice textural contrast to the soft lychees and whipped cream and condensed milk that crowned the concoction. It may not have been traditional, but it certainly spoke the universal language of delicious gutbomb love.
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