Inevitably with every good interview, there is never enough space to fit every interesting detail. Herewith, the second in a series of outtakes from Young & Hungry’s profile of the “Toque of the Town.”
During my recent visits to Toki Underground, at least two of my dining companions felt compelled to comment on the gauze-like fabric clinging to the bottom of their dumplings inside each steamer basket.
One gal described the material as “surgical.” And she found the woven bandage-like stuff a little unappetizing, to say the least.
In my interview with chef Erik Bruner-Yang, I asked about the material, which he promptly identified as cheese cloth, something that is “very much in a lot of kitchens.”
His explained his non-cheesy implementation of the cloth as part of a sort of duct-tape solution to a much larger problem with the restaurant’s steamer machine:
“I bought a $1,500 steamer that I could just stack all the baskets on. I figured I could steam half the restaurant at once. But I can’t get it hot enough. It’s right at 198 degrees. And I need to get it to 212.”
So he decided to try a different route to cooking the various dumplings. “We put everything on a plancha on the flattop, then we pour water through the steamer, it hits the flattop, so that creates the steam,” he explains.
“The original presentation was on a bed of Napa cabbage,” he says. “The cabbage wasn’t letting enough water come through to cook the dumplings. But the cheese cloth does. We’ve tried a couple different methods and that’s the only thing that allows enough steam.”
For now, the cheese cloth is just a “temporary solution,” he says.
In other words, a different kind of surgical tool.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery