XS Poppers Debut at NYC’s Drunken Dumpling Following XL Potstickers Fame

Drunken Dumpling, helmed by the spawn of 63-year-old former Joe’s Shanghai Chef Qihui Guan, set the food blogosphere on fire with the introduction of XL XLB — a soup dumpling the size of your face — best enjoyed with two straws.

With lines that rivaled Dominique Ansell’s circa 2013 Cronut queues, the gigantic XLB was proclaimed to be the most coveted item in the city by Eater and The Chew, selling out within the first 15 minutes of shop opening for four consecutive months. Despite its famous dissenters, including Anthony Bourdain and Eater’s own critic Robert Sietsema, Drunken Dumpling toppled every high-traffic food-stagram feed.

The XL XLB saw standalone-concept imitators from Washington, D.C. all the way to Sydney, Australia… and even made “Miss January” in New York Magazine’s 2018 calendar.

Chef Guan has returned with a counterpoint to the XLB, via a collaboration with Brunch Boys’ Jeremy Jacobwitz dubbed the “XS”: Size 0 dumpling poppers topped with chili oil.

More traditionalist, but still oozy and textural in an outsize way, are the lattice-style baozi, or Potstickers with Crisp Skirt. Drunken Dumpling has also added the Choco-Bao, sesame seed chocolate-filled buns.

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Austin’s General Tso’Boy Blends Chinese Flavors with Southern Charm at its Fast Casual Restaurant

Growing up, Gary and Jessica were both raised on American Chinese food, but like many Americans of international heritage it was during gatherings with family that they were given a true taste of authentic Chinese cooking. Both ethnically Chinese, whether it was making dumpling wrappers from scratch, or frying whole chili fish, their Taiwanese heritage and tradition began to shape their palates. The duo’s tastes have merged both food styles, Chinese and American, into unexpected combinations at General Tso’Boy, which first began as their flea market pop up in NYC before becoming a casual Austin eatery.

“Authentic Chinese food isn’t easy to find in the states,” Jessica shared. Whether it’s authentic or American, [Chinese] food is crucial to our diet, and over the generations the American diet, as well,” she shared. “When we’re dining out, we’re typically enjoying America’s favorite Chinese dish—General Tso’s Chicken, with a side of egg rolls or wonton chips.” While restaurants in China carry through traditional influences of their provinces, at General Tso’Boy the menu is designed to reflect Gary and Jessica’s heritage in a modern, fun way.

“There is so much variety in Chinese cuisine ranging from Szechuan to Hunan to Guang Dong,” she explained. Patrons to General Tso’Boy will find a variety of dishes that Gary and Jessica loved to eat growing up presented with a twist.  Located in the newly developed Rock Rose district of the Domain in North Austin, the restaurant does follow Chinese tradition in its name. “General Tso’s Chicken originated in Taiwan, and was created by Chef C.K. Peng as a tribute to General Tso, a military hero from Hunan,” Jessica told us. “But it evolved over time [in the U.S.] to adapt to the American palate. Our version is crispier and lighter, with a hint of sweet and savory spice.” In order words, the signature dish highlights some of the classic components of Hunan cooking, which she shared is spicy, aromatic, and deep in flavor.

“Our top seller, the General Tso’s Chicken sandwich is our way of eating our favorite American Chinese dish in a very American way as a sandwich. You won’t find anything like General Tso’Boy in China, that’s for sure!” Jessica laughs. You can try the popular sandwich for yourself for lunch or dinner, for just $8.50. It features a battered all-natural chicken thigh basted in General Tso’s sauce served on crunchy french bread.

Other items on the menu include Chinese-influenced dishes, such as Char Siu from Hong Kong, Black Pepper Beef from Fujian, Mapo Tofu and Chili Wontons from Szechuan, Jessica shared with us. Blending both Chinese-American and southern American culture, you’ll find several entrees and specialty sandwiches, as well as salads and starters. The eatery even serves soft drinks, coffee, and draft and can beers. Everything is available dine-in or takeout, sourced fresh from farmers as well as made from scratch in the restaurant’s kitchen.

The General Tso'Boy Sandwich in Austin Texas
General Tso’Boy Sandwich | General Tso’Boy Website

Monday through Wednesday from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM, patrons can order the Lucky Lunch Box, which includes mixed grains of white and brown rice, and quinoa, as well as one protein entrée, and a chilled sesame ginger broccoli or sesame salad, and a drink for just $8.88. “A visit to our restaurant is supposed to remind you of a brighter, cheerful Chinese takeout that’s updated from what you would find across America,” Jessica explained.

While most of the restaurant’s dishes have some type of Chinese origin, everything offered at the eatery looks different from China, she continued. Although, walking into the restaurant you can’t miss popular cues to Chinese culture, from chop-sticks to décor like the maneki-neko of Japanese-origin, which literally means “beckoning cat” or sometimes the popular “Chinese lucky cat,” sitting above the order counter. One old Chinese proverb refers to a cat that raises its paw over the ears to wash its face as bringing rain, while another belief is said to bring in customers.

General Tso'Boy Austin Chinese Food
Jessica and Gary, owners of General Tso’Boy

Besides the delicious food, what’s clear is that both Jessica and Gary carry a strong sense of their Taiwanese heritage with them. In fact, both have visited all parts of Taiwan and Gary has even traveled to Beijing, Shanghai, and western parts of China, including Xing Jiang. Those cultural influences coupled with American southern charm have shaped a playful atmosphere at their modern, American Chinese takeout restaurant.

Austin Chicken Lollypop’s Harmonious Scents of Cosmopolitan Bombay

If you were walking through the streets of Bombay, also known as Mumbai, the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra, you’ll encounter a symphony of spices, vegetables, and meats with scents so harmonious that the air is as melodic as India’s contagious music. Our senses were transported to the popular food carts and restaurants of Bombay when we stopped at Austin’s only Indo-Chinese eatery, Chicken Lollypop. The hidden gem, tucked inside a Braker Lane food mart just east of Interstate 35 was opened by owner and Chef Immie Shaikh a little over a year ago.

It was only after spending a year perfecting the recipe for his popular flagship appetizer, the Chicken Lollypop, that Immie felt fit to introduce the city to its first taste of famous Indian Chinese food. Tender and smoky, the Chicken Lollypop is shallow-fried together with its aromatic marinade, a signature Shezwan sauce reminiscent of Bombay. “In India, and Bombay especially, Indo-Chinese cuisine is very popular” he explained. A native of the cosmopolitan Indian state, it was during his studies in Bombay that his ambition for establishing good food in generous portions took root before setting out for the United States to settle in Austin.

Chicken-Lollypop-austin indian chinese food

He’s always loved to cook and incorporates one key Indo-Chinese restaurant difference—incorporating fresh ingredients and investing several hours in preparation time to make his dishes a model of the cuisine. “The food carts in Bombay serve the best Indo-Chinese food because it’s fresh,” he said, comparing the popular alternative to restaurants which tend to buy ingredients in bulk. Immie’s recipe for his chicken lollypop alone calls for 16 hours in a four-process marinade before it’s ready to be cooked and served, a noble effort that won’t be found anywhere else.

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“The green chutney is house-made and prepared from scratch early every morning before we open, and the vegetables are all chopped to order,” he said of the difference in his staple ingredients. From poplar naan wraps that start at $4.99 to fried rice and plated entrees, the menu features more than a dozen sizzling chicken, shrimp and vegetarian Indo-Chinese dishes that range from savory to spicy. Created with a perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables, the restaurant’s signature naan wraps were designed to satisfy his many lunch patrons through the work day.

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“The naan wraps were invented in-house and are most definitive of Indo-Chinese culture,” Immie explained. “In India they eat a lot of spicy food and the mixture of spices are found in a lot of dishes, along with the chicken and naan bread.” Customers can expect the flavors of chutney, garlic, julienne carrots and fresh green beans in the all-in-one taste of Bombay that he is proud to deliver. His chicken Manchurian and Chili chicken fried rice dishes are also popular creations.

“For many a restaurant is a business, but here I wanted to have a small kitchen to be able to focus on the quality of the food and my guests,” he said of the restaurants hospitality, which has brought with it long standing relationships and a loyal following of Austinites hungry for the unique, fresh and satisfying cuisine. Four tables sit inside the eatery’s kitchen to serve dine-in guests together with its to-go patrons, who can hear the simmering and clanking sounds of each dish being freshly prepared.

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He explained that when Chinese immigrants traveled to India and started to cook their native foods, the ingredients became married with Indian spices and flavors along with the influences of Indian chefs, and that’s where the diversity of Indian-Chinese or Indo-Chinese cuisine started in the country.

“In Bombay the cuisine is the best and that’s part of its popularity with tourists because the food culture is completely different there given its infrastructure and diversity,” he said, speaking of the city’s culture of inclusion. From Hindus to Muslims and Christians, everyone supports and celebrates with one another across their cultural experiences in Bombay, from disasters to festivals and cooking, culminating in a culture that’s surely as warm and generous as the food and hospitality you’ll find at Austin’s Chicken Lollypop.

8 Quaint International Tea Rooms in Houston You’ll Love

When it comes to visiting tearooms in Houston, some people chose tea for its health benefits, while others enjoy it for its other more sensory qualities like taste, smell, and the way it can trigger relaxation. In many part of the world, tea is eve a daily ritual, like in the British Isles and Asian countries for example, where over the centuries it has become a quintessential part of the cultures by being infused in societies.

Houston tea rooms, parlors and bars vary from those paying homage to British rituals of high-tea and afternoon tea, to expansive Asian varietals. It was Chinese scientist Shen Nung who was known to have initiated the first tea break during his travels sometime in 2700’s B.C., and today Vietnam and China are among the three largest tea exporters in the world. Couple that with Chinese and Vietnamese Americans making up the largest Asian groups in Houston, and you’ll see how easily Houstonian’s can find great places for tea locally.

Below are 8 places where tea lovers in Houston don’t have to steep long to find a cuppa (as the Brits call it).

1. Tea For Two | English culture

This quaint English-inspired tearoom has two locations; one in Houston and another in Cypress, just outside of Houston’s beltway, and makes visitors feel transported to a simpler way of life. The hideaway features a variety of specialty teas, a gift shop and serves lunch of delectable tea sandwiches and desserts, as well as offers a dinner menu. 8475 Hwy 6 N, Houston and 13115 Louetta, Cypress

2. McHugh Tea Room & Gifts | English culture

An English tearoom that believes your cup should be filled with happiness, creativity, peace and life, at their homey shop. Each teacup at this Houston tearoom is unique, seeking to brighten your day with premier organic teas steeped to the right time and at the perfect temperature. You can enjoy a lunch of salads, soups, quiches and desserts. 

3. Tea Cake French Bakery & Tea Room | French culture

You’ll enjoy the first butter croissants and French pastries to be introduced to the Spring neighborhood at this Houston tearoom and bakery. This French-inspired shop features breakfast pastries, pies, cakes, and lunch is sure to be a treat.  820 Cypress Creek Pkwy #19, Houston

4. Serenitea Tea Room | English culture

A classic English-style tea room and gift shop featuring soups and salads, where you can enjoy lunch or an afternoon tea in an elegant and relaxed setting. At Serenitea, tea is an experience from far away lands and memory of flavors; an exotic drink and sophisticated beverage for comfort, relaxation, socialization and of course health benefits. 13889 Southwest Fwy, Sugar Land

5. The Path of Tea | Japanese culture

A Japanese-inspired place for tea and only totally organic tea shop in Houston, The Path of Tea features over 150 certified and carefully crafted and selected fair trade teas. Beyond great tea, it’s owners include Texas’s first and only certified Tea Master in Texas, and sought to create a shop where community is celebrated, relationships are cultivated in a place of acceptance and tolerance. 2340 W Alabama St., Houston

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6. Tea Bar & Organics | Chinese culture

This Chinese-inspired tea bar has a few locations, but we recommend their Bellaire Chinatown shop for a real taste of China. The cafe features organic teas and even inspired dishes with organic rice, if you decide to stop in for a bite to eat. Customers rave about the green tea, traditional bitter Asian teas, and fruity milk teas featuring strawberry and mango flavors, as well as plates like the fish cakes and Takoyaki (a ball-shaped stuffed seafood snack). 9889 Bellaire Blvd. E211, Houston

7. Tapioca Place | Vietnamese culture

This bubble tea and Vietnamese cafe is known for its boba (tapioca) drinks, including favorites like lavender and strawberry boba, taro and coconut milk teas. Boba drinks are refreshing and healthy, containing tapioca balls that are soft, chewy and fun to eat. The cafe also known for its Vietnamese sandwiches, Banh mi (baguette sandwiches), featuring chicken, pork, beef, and more.  10226 Hammerly Blvd., Houston

8. Sharetea | Taiwanese culture

This Taiwanese cafe in Houston’s Chinatown makes its tea drinks from ingredients shipped directly from Taiwan, and prides itself on using high quality tea leaves in all its teas. The tea shop first started in Taipei City, Taiwan and has since sprouted locations around the world, including its authentic location in Houston. Get a taste of Taiwan at this shop serving up a variety of Taiwanese-inspired fruit, brewed, and milk teas, as well as cream and ice blended drinks.  9889 Bellaire Blvd. Suite E213

Explore Healing through the Southeast-Asian Art of Massage

For centuries, the art of massage has been practiced all over the world, but when it comes to healing through relaxation, circulation and stress-reducing techniques, Thai massage and reflexology have both found popularity in the US for both its healing properties and local availability of genuine practitioners.

Those who have experienced the traditional combination of a Thai-style massage—the yoga-style stretching, and it’s work on pressure points and energy meridians—know that it’s one that helps to invigorate, relax and balance the body for better mood and sleep quality. It’s become very popular in the US because of its ability to relieve stress, aches, pain, and tension, as well as promote healing.

Reflexology has been found to be practiced in the cultural history of China as well as the African country of Egypt. It’s an alternative ‘medicine’ that is practiced by applying pressure to the hands and the feet with specific techniques using the thumb, fingers and hands (without the need for lotion or oils).

It’s considered a healing art by many, and is based on the belief that zones on the body correspond with reflexes and zones in the ears, hands, and the feet. As mentioned, the art has been sought by many for its use in relieving tension and stress, as well as for helping with circulation and natural body functions in the trigger areas.