Celebrating Mom's Cooking

Today's team lunch was a celebration of Mom's cooking. We each made chun-bing dishes from our childhoods for a culinary show and tell (and devour). There were no leftovers.

Love makes food infinitely better. A simple potato stir fry comes to life beneath loving hands. Chives and bean sprouts and shredded pork become brilliant symbols of togetherness. Cabbage and sweet potato noodles take on galactic importance. 

Remaking these dishes transforms us back into the kid who can't see over the counter but hears the sizzles and is told to stop bugging the cook — "just go sit down." Now we're on the other side, making and serving the food, but we're guided by that childish wonder. 

Ying Wang, an early Junzi Kitchen supporter and mother of our CEO, remembers watching her grandfather and mother cook for the family:  "I’ll always remember the scene: him standing over the giant wok frying chun-bing wrappers while my mom worked the bellows and fed firewood into the stove. We kids stood around and watched, our mouths watering from the smell. It was a tough time, and we were very poor, so the ingredients were simple: shredded cabbage, bamboo shoots, a little bit of meat, sometimes homemade sweet-potato noodles that we made ourselves. But Grandpa’s chun-bing were unforgettable."

Today, a similar scene happened. As our teammate Pauline made her childhood dish, whose recipe we've incorporated for the Junzi pork, her daughter stood close by with eyes bigger than bing.  

Our team lunch celebrated Mom's cooking

Our team lunch celebrated Mom's cooking

Pauline makes a dish from her childhood for our team lunch

Pauline makes a dish from her childhood for our team lunch

Ten Courses, (At Least) Ten Stories

When he’s not developing the Junzi Kitchen menu our chef Lucas Sin runs a ten-course pop-up restaurant with Kay Teo.

Improvisation rules the night of a seating: Lucas and Kay buy the best ingredients available that day and then figure out ten courses that will surprise and delight their guests. “We’re trying to start conversations and stories among our guests with our food,” says Lucas, “when you’re served ten courses, you’re going to talk about at least ten things.”

This was the case last Friday when the Junzi team got to experience Lucas and Kay’s culinary improvisations in full glory.

Drawing from his apprenticeships at Modernist Cuisine and Kikunoi (recipient of three Michelin stars), it was obvious that Lucas felt equally comfortable in a fine dining setting as the humbler surroundings of a chun-bing counter.

Cantonese duck breast, claypot rice with pork belly, a vegetable spread with pickled kale and roasted lotus root, smoked ham hock with green curry and yuzu compote, nectarine buckwheat cakes and more — each course was packed with technique, creativity, and love.

“It’s autobiographical cooking. For instance the clay pot rice [with braised pork belly, Chinese sausage, duck liver and flash-fried shrimp!] was my favorite dish as a kid. I’ve watched my father make variations of it many times.”

We’re honored to work with such a skilled chef as Lucas — and our bellies agree.

Between his duties as Junzi Kitchen chef, Lucas Sin runs a ten-course pop-up restaurant with Kay Teo

Between his duties as Junzi Kitchen chef, Lucas Sin runs a ten-course pop-up restaurant with Kay Teo

60-degree egg with unagi-style shiitake, bulgur, amaranth, kasha buckwheat, ginger and seaweed

60-degree egg with unagi-style shiitake, bulgur, amaranth, kasha buckwheat, ginger and seaweed

Hot-bean pickled kale, turmeric-roasted fennel, tarragon lotus root, thyme-roasted rainbow carrots, black sesame miso mushrooms, and asparagus in watercress-sesame sauce

Hot-bean pickled kale, turmeric-roasted fennel, tarragon lotus root, thyme-roasted rainbow carrots, black sesame miso mushrooms, and asparagus in watercress-sesame sauce

Cantonese duck breast with black garlic jus, kumquats and pearl onions

Cantonese duck breast with black garlic jus, kumquats and pearl onions

Claypot rice with red-braised pork belly, Chinese sausage, duck liver, flash-fried shrimp, ginger and scallion

Claypot rice with red-braised pork belly, Chinese sausage, duck liver, flash-fried shrimp, ginger and scallion

"Claypot rice was my favorite dish as a kid. I've watched my father make variations of it many times"

"Claypot rice was my favorite dish as a kid. I've watched my father make variations of it many times"

Junzi Takes LA

To celebrate Chinese New Year we visited Los Angeles for an all-out food frenzy. Armed with a rental car and a list of recommendations from friends, we dove into the city's beautiful food scene and loved every moment.

Below are some tasty highlights of our trip.

Beef rolls (beef wrapped in a scallion pancake) at 101 Noodle Express

Beef rolls (beef wrapped in a scallion pancake) at 101 Noodle Express

Colorful chicken bowls from Hana Kitchen in Santa Barbara

Colorful chicken bowls from Hana Kitchen in Santa Barbara

A family-style Korean pot at POT in the Line Hotel

A family-style Korean pot at POT in the Line Hotel

Delicious noodle and rice bowls from Chego!

Delicious noodle and rice bowls from Chego!

A great conversation with culinary mastermind Roy Choi (seated right)

A great conversation with culinary mastermind Roy Choi (seated right)

Magic of California sunshine

Magic of California sunshine

Our much needed dose of Vitamin D

Our much needed dose of Vitamin D


  

Ready For Spring

Preparing our springtime papercut display, made with help from many friends and supporters 

Preparing our springtime papercut display, made with help from many friends and supporters 

It's now spring according to the traditional Chinese agricultural calendar. And though Connecticut is still a snowy mess, we celebrated spring in the best way we knew, by eating chun-bing and cutting fun paper shapes. 

Chun-bing ("spring-pancake") is the traditional food to celebrate the arrival of spring, known in Chinese as Lichun ("arrival of spring"). The ingredients of chun-bing wraps can span a huge range of vegetables and meats, but we kept it simple during our events. (Check out our menu to see all our ingredients.)

chunbing
junzi_lichun_chickenchunbing

Chun-bing is traditionally eaten to celebrate Lichun. The chun-bing pictured here includes grilled chicken, julienned stir-fry vegetables and our garlic-chili sauce

Fresh from his victory at the 2015 Inter-University Iron Chef Student Competition, Chef Lucas starts up a chun-bing

Fresh from his victory at the 2015 Inter-University Iron Chef Student Competition, Chef Lucas starts up a chun-bing

In addition to eating delicious chun-bing, our founders Yong, Wanting, Ming and David grew up celebrating Lichun by making papercut shapes. Just like chun-bing, Chinese papercutting has been around for over a thousand years. It's an activity that brings together people to create an exciting collage of colors and shapes, and we loved seeing our friends morph paper in radically different ways.  

We were also inspired by the recent Henri Matisse papercutting exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. His use of simple shapes, vibrant colors and childish energy drove us to incorporate our friends and the community in a similar way — by making a papercut collage display for our storefront at 21 Broadway.  

Traditionally, Lichun is celebrated with chun-bing and papercutting

Traditionally, Lichun is celebrated with chun-bing and papercutting

The Wellinks team making awesome paper shapes

The Wellinks team making awesome paper shapes

We traded tea for papercut shapes with students at Bass library

We traded tea for papercut shapes with students at Bass library

Partly inspired by traditional Chinese papercutting and partly by the papercutting of Henri Matisse, we invited our friends to cut a bunch of fun shapes 

Partly inspired by traditional Chinese papercutting and partly by the papercutting of Henri Matisse, we invited our friends to cut a bunch of fun shapes 

With all of the papercut shapes from friends we created a new display in our storefront. And we'll be continuing to invite people to help us make paper shapes to put in the window. If we don't see you, feel free to slip one under the door at 21 Broadway. 

Our 21 Broadway location is ready for spring

Our 21 Broadway location is ready for spring

Greatest Sustainable City In America

Behind New Haven’s out-of-this-world-good food is a strong dedication to sustainability. Restaurants and community programs throughout the city work hard to aid the flourishing of present and future life, each in their own way.

Invasive species cuisine, zero-landfill catering, local agriculture education — these are a few of the many sustainably-minded efforts in New Haven. It’s a community that cares and acts, and Junzi Kitchen wants to learn from it.    

We visited some restaurants and community programs in New Haven to learn more about their sustainability practices. The goal is to work some of these learnings into a sustainability strategy for Junzi Kitchen, although we also just wanted to bring attention to the great stuff happening nearby.

Miya's Sushi

Led by star chef Bun Lai, Miya’s serves deliciously weird sushi that incorporates invasive species such as lionfish and Japanese knotweed. A look at the Miya’s Instagram will show Bun diving off the Connecticut coastline looking for more sustainable food options, and even cooking up cicadas.

Miya's owner Bun Lai and his skilled crew

Miya's owner Bun Lai and his skilled crew

An example of delicious sustainability at Miya's that includes jellyfish (top-right), pine needle sake (middle-left), and tilapia sashimi with roasted wax worms (top-middle)

An example of delicious sustainability at Miya's that includes jellyfish (top-right), pine needle sake (middle-left), and tilapia sashimi with roasted wax worms (top-middle)

Koffee?

Koffee? is a funky, welcoming coffeehouse in the northern section of downtown New Haven that serves great caffeine and made-from-scratch foods. Its bustling catering division, Koffee? Katering, completely avoids landfill waste by only using reusable, compostable and recyclable items.

The welcoming windows of Koffee?

The welcoming windows of Koffee?

Yes that's a onesie

Yes that's a onesie

Meat & Co.

Home to some of the best sandwiches in New Haven, Meat & Co. recently announced that all their pork will now come from the acorn-fed pigs of Walden Hill farm in New Haven: "For those of you that tried the pork you informed our decision, and we agreed. It was the best pork to come through our doors and onto our plates."

Meat & Co. cares about sandwiches

Meat & Co. cares about sandwiches

All pork at Meat & Co. is sourced from acorn-fed pigs in New Haven

All pork at Meat & Co. is sourced from acorn-fed pigs in New Haven

Blue State Coffee

Blue State serves consistently high-quality espresso drinks thanks to a rigorous employee training program, which has helped them expand operations into Boston and Providence. Blue State recently became one of the first Connecticut businesses to receive B Corp certification, which required them to meet high standards of employee, community and environmental impact.

Blue State on York St (right nearby Junzi Kitchen on Broadway!)

Blue State on York St (right nearby Junzi Kitchen on Broadway!)

Blue State sources locally and contributes 2% of sales to local not-for-profits

Blue State sources locally and contributes 2% of sales to local not-for-profits

New Haven Farms

New Haven Farms is an urban farming program that provides educational programs on wellness, nutrition, and cooking. They also run the Peels & Wheels compost pickup program (via bicycle). For a small weekly fee, New Haven residents get compost pickup service and also a portion of the finished compost every six months.  

CitySeed

CitySeed runs a variety of local food programs, including weekly farmers markets that accept SNAP, FMNP, and WIC benefit programs. They’ll even give you $10 of free fruits, vegetables or seedlings per day if you purchase $10 worth of produce at one of their markets with SNAP.

Common Ground

Common Ground is a high school, urban farm, and environmental education center all at once. Located on a beautiful 20-acre piece of land in New Haven, Common Ground regularly holds educational events, such as workshops for organic gardening and maple tree tapping.

We’re proud to open our doors in a city with strong sustainability efforts. It’s an ongoing process that we’re committed to working into our business from the start. We’re also interested in exploring the potential of collaboration with other sustainably-minded programs, so feel free to contact us at info@junzi.us.

 

More stories from Junzi Kitchen:
Liftoff
A Chun-Bing For Your Thoughts
Building On The Past
A Glimpse Into Junzi Kitchen 

Liftoff

Attention New Haven, Junzi Kitchen is lifting off.

We just updated the window display at 21 Broadway to play off our upcoming opening this spring, and also the history of our building. As mentioned in a previous post, Charles Tuttle, who was a longtime grocer at 21 Broadway, also rode in the first hot air balloon seen in New Haven.

And after Yale’s Michael Morand tweeted “Excited for @junzikitchen liftoff at 21 Bway,” we knew we had found our next display theme.

Liftoff is the theme of our newest window display.

Liftoff is the theme of our newest window display.

junzi_liftoff_wide

In addition to beginning construction on our space, we’re also looking for a culinary director to join our team to lead menu development. The ideal applicant has a culinary degree and experience with Chinese cuisine, but we’re keeping an open mind. If you’re interested, contact us at info@junzi.us.

On a silly note, we’ve been playing with our food. Only time will tell if we grow up.

junzi_liftoff_hinh

A Chun-Bing For Your Thoughts

With the help of hundreds of people over the past months we made huge improvements to the way we make and serve our chun-bing wraps.

In other words, we gave away a bunch of free chun-bing and then requested people to fill out surveys on what they thought about the food. This helped us figure out what people liked and what we could improve.

Among the key improvements we made were

  • a major reduction in chun-bing preparation time, so you don’t have to wait in line for long, and

  • switching to a foil wrapping so your chun-bing is easier to eat and stays warm.
We held multiple chun-bing taste test events in New Haven over the past months

We held multiple chun-bing taste test events in New Haven over the past months

At Startup Weekend New Haven

At Startup Weekend New Haven

At Startup Weekend New Haven

At Startup Weekend New Haven

At the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute

At the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute

We also did a simple keyword analysis of the survey responses and found that the most mentioned ingredients were beef, cucumber, pork and cilantro. Because we requested people to list the ingredients for the chun-bing wraps they ordered, it’s safe to assume that these ingredients were the most ordered.

There are many great combinations of chun-bing ingredients, and we encourage everyone to explore to see what they like best. (Our teammate MCK is fanatical about the garlic chili sauce, and I always go for the julienned mixed vegetables.)

junzi_tastetest_ingredients

None of these learnings could have been possible without the multiple organizations that let us use their space — including the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, The Grove, and Startup Weekend New Haven — and of course all the taste testers that contributed their palettes and helped us improve.

Our designer Ming painted this collection of cards to show our gratitude of everyone's support. We loved making you chun-bing and hope you're ready for more soon. 

junzi_tastetest_thankyou

If you’d like to be notified of upcoming tastings, join our email list below. We’ll also occasionally send you stories from the blog and information on other Junzi Kitchen events.

More stories from Junzi Kitchen:
Building On The Past
A Glimpse Into Junzi Kitchen 

Building On The Past

junzi_buildingpast_21broadwaynow

It's easy to tell that 21 Broadway, the home of our first Junzi Kitchen location, has New Haven history. But it's not so apparent that this history involves hot air balloons, a single dollar in savings, and multiple businesses that have fed New Haven. 

To get a better sense of the space we're coming into we visited the New Haven Museum, whose library contains an astounding amount of information on local buildings and residents. We saw maps of New Haven from the 1800s and early 1900s, directories of notable citizens and businesses, old advertisements, and more. The librarian who helped us was extremely knowledgeable, and it was a beautiful room to research in.

junzi_buildingpast_newhaven1851map
junzi_buildingpast_early1900smapnewhaven

The 21 Broadway building was constructed in the mid 1800s in an architectural style known as late gothic revival, which may also be found in many Yale buildings. The Connecticut Historical Commission notes that these architectural similarities "create a strong relationship between the university environment and the university-oriented commercial community on Broadway and York Street."

In 1848 the Tuttle Store was opened by William Tuttle to sell groceries and liquors. After a few years William was succeeded by his brother Allen Tuttle, who after a few years was succeeded by another brother Charles Tuttle, who ran the business for the next 45 years.

According to the Commemorative Biographical Record Of New Haven County, in 1856 Charles Tuttle rode in the first hot air balloon ever seen in New Haven. Charles Tuttle, along with Philip Pinkerman and Jas King, ascended from the New Haven Green, floated over the Long Island Sound, and landed on one of the Thimble Islands in Branford.

junzi_buildingpast_tuttlead
junzi_buildingpast_tuttlegif

In the early 1900s 21 Broadway was purchased by Simon Persky, a prominent New Haven businessman who owned over 300 properties in the city. According to A Modern History Of New Haven, Simon Persky arrived in New Haven from Russia with a only a dollar to his name. This single dollar he invested in chair seats, which he peddled. From here he worked and eventually owned a linens business, which delivered orders via horse and buggy throughout the city.

And in the 1940s the storefront was home to Mrs. Kligerman’s, a popular eatery among Yale students run by Sara Harris Kligerman. (We couldn’t find any photos of Mrs. Kligerman’s, but are very interested if anyone knows of some.)

The Tuttle Store, Mrs. Kligerman’s, Junzi Kitchen, and likely a few other stores that we’re unaware of — they’ve all fed New Haven throughout the 160-year history of the 21 Broadway building. We’re excited to build on this history by serving good food and good experiences.

And we’re excited to serve you a bit of history, as chun-bing wraps have fed northern Chinese communities for over 1,000 years and play an important role in Chinese New Year celebrations.

So, once we open our 21 Broadway location in early 2015, we invite you to join in the histories of the 21 Broadway building, New Haven and chun-bing by joining us at Junzi Kitchen. 

–Reed

 

More stories from Junzi Kitchen:
A Glimpse Into Junzi Kitchen 

 

A Glimpse Into Junzi Kitchen

A Glimpse Into Junzi Kitchen

Although our 21 Broadway location won’t open for a few months, we saw an opportunity in using our window space to have some fun and spread holiday cheer.

We wanted something that says a bit about Junzi Kitchen and contributes to the inviting storefronts of downtown New Haven. So, led by our designer Ming — and with the help of a ladder, some gift boxes, and a bunch of green circles — we created a simple holiday display.

You may be wondering, Why all the circles?

Well, the circle is an important symbol in Chinese culture for fulfillment and happiness. And beyond the cultural significance it’s a welcoming, inclusive shape. Circles welcome people, the holidays welcome people, Junzi welcomes people.

And they’re also the shape of our delicious chun-bing wraps.  :)

junzikitchen_holidaydisplay_circles
junzikitchen_holidaydisplay_ming

Ming (shown above) prefers simple, readily-available materials, and that mentality lives in this display. It’s just a ladder and some paper and boxes, but together they bring life to our space.

Another great example of Ming’s creative resourcefulness is the welcoming display she made for New Haven’s City-Wide Open Studios artist showcase in 2012, which was held at the New Haven Register building. As the building was home to a newspaper, Ming repurposed the newspaper vending machines into a gigantic welcoming sign.

junzikitchen_holidaydisplay_citywide1

Our display is just one of the many vibrant holiday scenes found in New Haven storefronts. There’s also an excellent display series created by Paier art students, professors, and alumni to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Shubert Theatre. The intricate paper displays all show plays that were performed at the Shubert Theatre.

The project was led by Paier professor Vladimir Shpitalnik, who received his MFA in design from the Yale School of Drama. He’s also contributed his creative skills to New Haven’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas and the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford.

junzikitchen_holidaydisplay_paier2
junzikitchen_holidaydisplay_paier1

We want to continue using our window space in creative ways throughout our construction phase. And just like the downtown-Paier collaboration, we’d love to collaborate with local artists on future displays that welcome and engage the community. Send your ideas to me at reed@junzi.us. Or contact us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Happy holidays!

–Reed