Fry This!

Welcome to Fry This!, a compendium of opinions about all things fried!

12.22.2005

Chicharron (Fried Chicken Skin Chips)

Chicharron (in English, "Pork Rinds") is a snack food typically served in Latin American and Philippine cuisines, usually consisting of large chunks of cured pork skin that are deep fried and puffed into curls. Less common varieties of chicharron are those made from other animals, chicken being the most popular of the other varieties (Some Filipinos have even been known to make snail chicharron!).

I happened upon a Filipino restaurant in the East Village called Elvie's Turo Turo, which offers traditional Filipino fare, and of course, chicharron, but only made from chicken. Unlike their pork counterparts, however, they do not contain the chunks of attached fatty meat that line the underside of pork skin. As a result, chicken chicharron pieces are usually much smaller and lighter.

An order of chicharron at Elvie's consisted of a little over a dozen pieces ($4.00). Upon visual inspection, it was obvious that these were generously salted, which is how chicharron is supposed to be prepared. The pieces were curled, each with its own unique shape, a natural by-product of the deep-frying process. Some Filipinos prefer to eat their chicharron by dipping it in vinegar, patis (a salty dark sauce made from fish extract), or a combination of both before biting into it. I opted to sample this dish both naked and with a vinegar-patis sauce.

Upon first bite, I was immediately greeted with the familiar snap that I had expected--this was perhaps due especially to the use of cornstarch to coat the skin before cooking (though I did not confirm that the restaurant used cornstarch in their recipe). The constant crunch during chewing confirmed that the pieces were fried for exactly the right amount of time necessary to maintain consistent texture.

While salt in the flavoring was expected, it did not overpower the natural taste of the chicken--the distinct taste of chicken skin came through very clearly. If I had to describe the flavor experience to someone who's never had any kind of chicharron, I would say that it is akin to what you would expect if you just ripped the skins off of deep-fried chicken (the Man Show brought to life the fantasy that many men had of being able to enjoy a bucket that was filled only with fried chicken skin).

After having about half the pieces naked, I decided to have them in the vinegar-patis combination (one that I had concocted myself, based upon years of experience growing up in a Filipino household). You can either lightly dip the chips in the sauce or soak the pieces for 10-15 seconds, depending on what sensations you are looking for. Lightly dipped, the sauce counteracts the salty taste of the chips with the vinegar's sour flavor while maintaining the same snap and crunch that they have when served naked, and may be the option for most. When soaked, the sauce actually complements the chips very nicely, as it seems to actually bring out the juices within the skin, and surprisingly, the chips do not become soggy when soaked, though they are not quite as crispy as when naked or lightly dipped. I prefer mine soaked (though I will say that this is perhaps more of an acquired taste than anything else).

I highly recommend this dish to anyone who has ever dreamed of being able to walk into a fried chicken establishment and order just the skins as a dish. The dozen or so pieces would be enough for most as a stand-alone meal, though, as with many of the other foods we've reviewed, I do not recommend this course of action (share instead), as it will induce food coma in most subjects.

Click here for Elvie's full menu.

12.16.2005

Launch Party

Our Launch Party was a rousing success. Here are a few pics of your hosts and their guests (more to follow later)...











12.10.2005

Pommes Frites



(Preethi)
Vive la poutine! Five cold and fabulous years spent in Montreal made me dependent on this mishmash of fries, cheese curd and gravy. It will cure all that ails you, while clogging arteries and making you a shoe-in for a triple bypass in the future. I find it only fitting that we chose the first of many slushy and cold days ahead to review Pomme Frites ... a Belgian fry joint in the East Village that claims to offer the true Canadian poutine along with the myriad of specialty mayonnaise that accompanies their main event of Pomme Frites. Poutine's origins are said to hail from the 1950's in a Quebecois diner. While this may be the truth as many other websites may cite, I prefer to believe in a more romantic origin. This foodstuff is what kept the French settlers warm during those brutal winters in the 1800's. The Voyageurs as they were called fur trapped their winters away, warm in their belly's and hearts thanks to the dead weight of this congealed fried mess. And what a lovely fried mess it was and continues to be.

The poutine stays true to its original format. The poutine consists of thick double fried pommes frites, meticulously layered with white cheese curd
(processed mozzarella you'd find on a plate of disco fries at 2:30 AM in a generic Jersey Diner this isn't) and a chicken based gravy (to be honest a true sauce should have the natural salting of a pork broth, but chicken is forgivable given the authentic curd).Served in the ubiquitous styrofoam container that all great poutines arrive in, it welcomes you for the first bite of the perfect melding of flavors, that leads to the engulfing of this simple delectable mess. While this poutine is above par considering it was assembled in Manhattan and not served somewhere between Montreal and Quebec City, it still will never come close to my gustatory memoirs of La Belle Province. However, it's fair to say its worth the indulgence and elicits a frerehood avec Les Voyageurs of the past. A must try and a highly recommended alternative to the regular fry fare offered.

(Rodney)
The Belgian fries were served in the classic paper cone, reminiscent of the way they were served at pommes frites establishments I've visited in Europe (the paper itself is quite practical, as not only is it disposable, but it serves to wick away condensation and keep the fries from getting soggy too soon). The volume of fries was roughly equivalent to twice that of an order of McDonald's Large fries (note that this was the smallest order possible, the "Regular" size)--but this is where the comparisons to fast-food fries end.
What makes Belgian pomme frites unique is that they are fried twice--once to ensure the insides are thoroughly cooked, and a second time to ensure a crisp exterior. The potatoes are freshly peeled and completely skinned, which allows them to be twice-fried without causing them to be overcooked The fries are traditionally served with a European style mayonnaise, but a variety of over 20 sauces were available, ranging from such unique choices as Rosemary Garlic Mayo to a Satay Peanut sauce to a Mango Chutney Mayo, and "classic" ones such as malt vinegar, mustard, and of course, ketchup.



(Why she doesn't need a boyfriend)

We opted for the Rosemary Garlic Mayo sauce with our order of fries. While lightly salted, the fries maintained their unique texture combination of extra crispness on the outside and soft (but not soggy) warmth on the inside. After enjoying the first few fries naked, the time came to dip them in the special mayo sauce. The rosemary garlic blend in the mayo was extremely satisfying and complemented the fries perfectly, the depth of the flavor making the American custom of dipping fries in ketchup seem bland and boring by comparison.

The sensation of the mayo-dipped fries on the taste buds is instantly unlike any other and superior to any of my previous experiences with fries. Going back to ketchup as the sauce of choice will be difficult for you after you experience flavored mayonnaise in all its goopy glory. Truth be told, my only issue with the fries was that the more-than-generous portion size resulted in several wasted and soggy fries as you moved to the bottom of the cone, but it's a minor complaint, considering that most diners stomachs' will be more than satisfied by the time they polish off just half of the "regular" size fries.

All in all, we wouldn't recommend having both an order of Poutine and Belgian fries in one sitting, because while absolutely delicious, it's a digestive disaster waiting to happen; but, as your resident reviewers, it is up to us to suffer for your collective delight. Pommes Frites is an excellent choice for lunch, dinner, and a late night snack (open until 3:30 AM on the weekends).


(Why our parents came to this country--so we could experience things such as these)

Restaurant Website

Menu

12.09.2005

Poutine and Belgian Fries For Dinner

Preethi and I are heading to one of our favorite french fry places tonight, Pommes Frites, for a hearty meal of potatoes, cheese, gravy, and mayonnaise. Preethi will be bringing her five years of experience in Quebecois culture and dining to the table, so she knows exactly what to expect out of her poutine. It promises to be a truly gluttonous evening, one which will surely result in prolonged hibernation for both of us afterwards, considering how cold and snowy it is in New York and how ingesting excess amounts of grease from double-fried potatoes results is enough to cause a food coma.

We'll write all about it when we awake from said hibernation.

12.05.2005

Czech Fried Cheese

Over Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. As part of the cultural immersion process, my friends and I subsisted on a diet of Czech food and Czech beer. What we discovered in the process was that Czechs and Americans have quite a bit in common, in particular, a love of deep-fried foods.

The Czech Smazný sýr (pronounced sma-zhe-nee see'r), which literally translates as "Fried Cheese", is one such dish. Usually served either alone as an appetizer with tartar sauce, or on a roll with mayonnaise as a sandwich, Czech Fried Cheese consists of a thick slab of an Edam-like cheese, which is breaded and deep fried, ideally giving it a crusty shell and somewhat stretchy interior.

I purchased mine from a lunch cart situated in Old Town Square, one of the most heavily-touristed areas of town, but the fact that there were many Czechs waiting in line at this cart led me to believe that for all intents and purposes, it was being served the way native Czechs like it. As advertisted, the fried cheese was served on a sesame seed roll and topped with mayonnaise, though the mayonnaise was not a variety an American would have recognized, as it was a lot less viscous than American varieties and was interspersed with bits of dill.

As I took my first bite, I could feel my arteries quiver in fear as the 100% lipid combination of cheese, mayo, and fryer cooking oil tickled my taste buds in a sensation that could only be characterized as one of pure ecstasy, akin to what one would have felt after their "first time" (at least if you were male, or if you were the girl who was with me). The consistency of the breaded exterior on my palate reminded me of a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish--the individual bread crumbs were discernible to the taste, yet maintained a uniform crispness through the bite. The cheese itself, though clearly melted in the frying process, maintained a respectable firmess through several bites, but as I worked my way through the center of the filet, the sandwich lost all of its cohesiveness, and finishing the rest of the sandwich became quite a messy affair, as mayo and cheese was spilling out of all sides and onto my hands and the +1,000-year-old cobblestone street below. However, that did not take away from the fact that this sandwich was absolutely delicious. The dill mayo complimented the cheese very nicely, giving the sandwich a slightly sour but pleasant lemon-like citrus finish.

I was extremely pleased with this sandwich, so much so that I felt compelled to order another one immediately after, my lactose intolerance be damned. So, for the equivalent of $1.40 USD (35 Czech Crowns), I couldn't help myself, and immediately got to work polishing off a second fried cheese sandwich in one sitting. If you ever find yourself in Prague, the Fried Cheese is something you simply should not miss.

12.04.2005

Crif Dogs

The Crif Dog is my marker for what is considered to be the pinnacle of the ultimate American hotdog. The beauty of the dog stands alone. Served in its surrounding of kitschy sub pop culture even the Ms. PacMan machine cannot distract from what the dawg is. The original Crif is a smoked pork frank which is deep fried to perfection, leaving the outside crispy and leading to that coveted snap in your mouth the moment your chompers hit this gift from the Lord of the Franks. Crif Dogs has extensive ways for you to dress the dog, however it is best left bald. While the dogs bring me back here, plenty is to be said of their tatortots … bringing you a full and hearty meat and potatoes meal. A nice accompaniment to these tots of plenty is the cheese sauce. This sauce does not pretend to come in the form of the melted down real thing. It's radioactive yellow and defines processed. Tangy and delicious, processed is the least of your worries if you are eating a hotdog.

Word to the digestively challenged:
Depending on the state of your stomach the cheese sauce will bring you much joy, however if you are known to any type of lactose intolerance it will stop you dead in your tracks but with a fantastic memory of the original indulgence.

Click here for restaurant info and menu.

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In a time of soy substitutes and raw food diets we realize the beauty of all things fried is being marginalized with its consumers left to feel ashamed of their gluttonous feats. However, the culture of deep fried goodness persists and we are here to live and document it for all.

It has become our mission to provide the public with reviews and revelations regarding what constitutes deep fried good eating. Our tasting ground is Manhattan and fry by fry we will present you the Best of the Wurst …


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