PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Cheryl” (Plus “A Tiger in the Kitchen” Book Giveaway)
Every Tuesday we turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. This week it’s Cheryl Tan, an author/freelance writer/blogger who just wrote a book called A Tiger it the Kitchen, A Memoir of Food and Family. It comes out Feburary 8th, but we have 5 copies to give away today… right after Cheryl gives us her recs for Lunching in Midtown.
Occupation: Author, freelance food and fashion writer
Where in Midtown do you Work?: Currently, at home in Brooklyn Heights but I used to work at Time Inc. on 50th Street
Favorite Kind of Food: Anything spicy; anything with big, robust flavors. I grew up in Singapore, where the cuisine is a hybrid of Indian, Chinese, Malay and European styles and almost everything is fiery — or kicked up several notches heatwise with super-spicy tiny chilies. So I tend to seek out those flavors — I adore Korean food (yook gae jang, the bright red spicy beef soup, is a favorite), Indian, Singaporean, Malay, Thai. I love anything curried — even sweet Japanese curries. Even better if these spicy flavors are combined with fried chicken or pork — curry katsu is one of my absolute favorite dishes. As is ayam masak merah, this amazing Malay dish involving chicken that’s deep fried and then stir fried in a spicy and sweet gravy. When I was researching my book, I persuaded a friend’s mother who is a phenomenal cook to teach me how to make it — it’s super easy.
Least Favorite Kind of Food: I’m an adventurous eater but I don’t always love dishes involving less typical parts of the animal like intestines and testicles. It’s not so much the taste — it’s really the mouthfeel. Rubbery and gelatinous don’t really do it for me.
Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: Go! Go! Curry (on 38th btw. 7+8th)– I would eat there every day if I could. It’s cheap, the portions are huge and the curry pork katsu there is really the stuff of dreams. I adore many restaurants in Koreatown (Kum Gang San and Kun Jip, both on 32nd Street, are favorites) but probably end up going to Kang Suh the most just because it’s large — so it’s easy to get a table, which is important if you need to have a quick lunch — and the food is consistently very good. They do a lovely job here with kalbi and yook gae jang. Menchanko-Tei on 55th Street (btw. 5+6th) is a delight — I’ve sampled almost all their ramens and they’re all fantastic. I love their chicken kara age (Japanese fried chicken, an appetizer) and rice balls filled with salmon, too. When I covered New York’s fashion week while it was held at Bryant Park, I found myself repeatedly going to one place for lunch simply because you can have a super quick, comfortable and not bad meal at the bar (I’ve been in and out and had a full meal of pizza or pasta in just 20 minutes): Simply Pasta (41st Street, near 6th). It’s not the best Italian you’ll find in the city but they have a nice selection of the basics, the food is usually satisfying — and it’s very quick.
“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Whenever I meet my old Wall Street Journal coworkers, who are now based in Midtown, we go to either Sapporo (49th between 5th and 6th), which has fantastic gyoza and ramen (I love the ramen topped with pork cutlet–ask for the pork cutlet on the side so it doesn’t get too soggy), or Wu Liang Ye (48th Street btw. 5+6th), which does great Szechuan pork dumplings and spicy shredded chicken. Pretty much everything on the menu at Wu Liang Ye is fantastic — I’ve never had a bad meal there.
Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Totto Ramen! (on 52nd btw. 8+9th) This may be my favorite ramen joint in the city — the broth here is amazing, so packed with umami. And I love sitting at the counter watching the cooks blowtorching slices of pork to give them a nice little char before placing them on your noodles. Great food and entertainment — you can’t beat that.
If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? As tempting as Rome and its delicious trattorias and sandwich shops are, I’d have to say Singapore. The country is packed with hawker centers that sell a mind-boggling variety of food — fried noodles, chicken rice, Indian roti prata, stingray smothered with spicy sambal sauce, curried Hainanese pork chops, Malay fried chicken — and it’s all incredibly cheap. You could have a lunchtime feast for under US $3 there every day of your life and never get bored. The sad thing is, it’s impossible to find good versions of these dishes anywhere outside of Singapore.
Anything you’d like to ask the ML readers? Since my book is all about my journey back to Singapore to learn how to make the dishes I grew up eating using my family’s recipes (braised duck, coconut jam, pineapple tarts and more) — what is your family’s most treasured recipe? (And do you know how to make it? If so, share it!)
Want to win a copy of Cheryl’s new book “A Tiger in the Kitchen”? All you have to do is answer her question, (or make any sort of comment below) and you’re entered to win. Limit one entry per person. 5 winners will be chosen at random on Tuesday Feb. 8th at Noon. Good luck! And as always, if you want to be next week’s Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email email@example.com.