As my friends and I sat down for dinner on Thursday night, they had no idea what HUDS had in store in the servery. I, on the other hand, had been anticipating this meal all week: a Chinese New Year celebration. After doing my research, I learned that the traditional meal served on New Year’s Eve typically includes both meat and fish, as well as eight individual dishes which reflect the number’s significance as a good luck symbol.
HUDS certainly delivered its version of the traditional Chinese New Year feast. I walked away with a full plate, excited to try the dining hall’s take on (the vegetarian) Buddha’s Delight, the hoisin glazed salmon, spicy green beans, peking cabbage, and some egg fried rice.
While I might be alone on this one, I was most excited for the Buddha’s Delight (pictured below). The elaborate vegetarian dish is one often served by families on Chinese New Year, and the dining hall staff created a great replication. Their version included tofu, water chestnuts, carrots, pea pods, baby corn, broccoli, and scallions, with soy sauce and sesame oil tossed in, and topped with a nice blend of ginger, sugar, and garlic. While the ingredients created a perfect combination, the dish was a bit too saucy, but a tasty addition as it leaked onto the cabbage and green beans underneath.
Continuing to break outside the normal veggie offerings this evening, the Chinese New Year fare included spicy green beans (read: green beans with crushed garlic, diced tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and cumin) and peking cabbage. The green beans definitely had an extra kick, making them an exciting and delicious break from the usual, but not quite what I would call spicy.
The fried foods were all table favorites: vegetable egg rolls (top) and pork dumplings (middle). I can speak for the egg rolls, and they were spot on this evening. Perfectly crisp on the exterior, without too much breading, and enough to give all of the inside veggies just the right flavor. The egg fried rice (bottom) was also well executed – filled with celery and mushrooms for an added touch.
Last but not least on my plate was the hoisin glazed salmon, cooked just right. Hoisin sauce, similar to American barbecue sauce, is made from a combination of soybeans, garlic, sugar, sesame seeds, and chili pepper. The slightly sugary sauce adds a sweet and savory marinade to the dish without taking away from the main attraction.
HUDS’ Chinese New Year meal was a complete success if you ask me. With a few tweaks and improvements, next year’s edition could be even better, but watching my friends walk into the dining hall to find the surprise was worth my full week’s wait. While my Chinese friends were able to celebrate a taste of home, my American ones (myself included) were able to enjoy a cultural experience we won’t forget.
Since word got out about the opening in early November, the hype for Santouka Ramen’s opening on campus has been palpable. Today, Santouka will finally open its doors to the public, ready to serve its steaming blue bowls of broth and noodles.
Unlike the traditional fast food-style ramen shops of Japan, the Cambridge location is Santouka’s second full-service restaurant, the first having opened in Seattle last spring. Harvard Square, already a destination for those looking for a sit down meal, will surely be the perfect place for Santouka’s second restaurant endeavor. Accommodating both ramen diehards and insta-ramen makers alike, each member of Santouka’s staff has undergone an intensive, two-week training to master the nuances of Japanese culture and cater to the needs of each individual customer.
While it is not the first restaurant of its kind, founder Hitoshi Hatanaka was quick to point out that Boston and Shinagawa, his hometown, share a very similar climate (i.e. bitterly cold winters). In this way, a steaming bowl of noodles, broth, and pork, will warm you right up in the way that Hatanaka had intended when he opened his first shop in 1988. Even the bowl design is taken into account: the thinner, deeper bowls are designed to conserve heat in colder climates. In addition to being a salvation from the cold, the founder explained that the dining room was designed specifically with Harvard students in mind. With two large, cafeteria sized tables at the center, Santouka will be well-suited for blocking group outings, as well as a casual date night. The prices ranges from about $10 to $15 per meal and it’s worth every penny.
Once just a small, nine-seat ramen shop in the Hokkaido region of Japan, Santouka Ramen is now an international business with locations from Malaysia to California. Throughout all this sucess, Mr. Hitoshi Hatanaka seems to have maintained Santouka’s character, as well as his own. At Monday’s private opening, scenes from the hit Japanese comedy, Tampopo, which Hatanaka cites as the inspiration for the opening of his first shop, were shown to instruct the attendees in the proper way to both slurp, and cherish, their ramen.
Without a doubt, you will find the best ramen in Cambridge at Santouka. Santouka has only been able to expand from its humble beginnings to an international chain by staying true to its original goal: serving high quality ramen to its customers. Lots, and lots of hungry customers. Though the noodles are not produced in house, Santouka has decided to maintain an especially keen eye on its broth, which is considered by many to be the heart of any bowl of ramen. With a good broth, noodles are just as auxiliary (or important, depending on your point of view) as the pork or mushrooms. The Tonkatsu broth base is laboriously made by simmering pork bones for twenty hours, extracting every last bit of flavor and fat from the bones and concentrating it into a rich and milky elixir. The addition of other ingredients, especially vegetables, add a sweet tinge to the creamy broth.
The dedication to the broth can also be seen in the amount of space the restaurant has devoted to the simmering process. As one can see from the long, rectangular window along the south wall of the restaurant, most of the kitchen is taken up by eight huge vats of broth, each clouded with the capricious steam from the pork and vegetables simmering below. The vats, lit with green light to emphasize the true alchemical magic constantly at play, can even be seen from Bow Street, enticing any passerby.
Here Head Chef Igo-san stands akimbo, taking a moment of rest before jumping back on the line. A veteran team member from Santouka’s Seattle location, Igo-san is especially familiar with, as well as proud of, the quality of ingredients he gets to work with everyday at Santouka. The noodles are made from a unique blend of wheat made specifically for Santouka that creates a full-bodied noodle which holds onto the broth flavor. While the more traditional ingredients, such as nori, umbroshi, and miso, are imported from Japan, the pork comes from the US to ensure freshness before it undergoes the secret process of cha shu.
At the private opening Monday, Santouka served up their signature dish: Shio Ramen. With a Tonkatsu soup base, Shio ramen is given depth with the subtle addition of sea salt. The noodles are then carefully folded into the cradle of hot soup, and finally a variety of toppings are placed on the top. The result? An impressive steaming bowl teeming with colors, aromas, flavors, and textures, each carefully crafted and balanced for your dining experience. (More information about the ingredients can be found here.)
“Caress it with the chopsticks:” How to Enjoy Your Ramen to the Fullest
Tackling one of these mighty bowls can be intimidating– where does one start? The founder, being so inspired by the Japanese comedy Tampopo, introduced ramen eating technique through one of the movie’s iconic scenes in which an obsessive old man demonstrates with extreme affection how to eat ramen. (It’s definitely worth a look; check it out here).
The bowl, roughly the size of an expanded stomach (foreshadowing much?), is first placed in front of you along with the proper weapons of choice: chopsticks and a deep soup spoon. The soup is scalding hot, and the arrangement of toppings appears too beautiful to be disrupted. But be disrupted, it must! For nothing may stand against you and ramen in your face! First, you pinch off a half dozen strands of noodles, and then, being careful not to sever any indivdiual strand, start slurping them into your mouth. When slurping, it is important to make noise and slurp in air with the scalding noodles in order to cool them down. The noodles soak up and deliver the broth, combining the flavor of the rich opaque pork bone broth and the texture of the full, lush noodle strands.
The central concept behind a good bowl of ramen is combining the variety of flavors and textures found in the soup. When the soup, noodles, and toppings are eaten in flavor-texture combination, innumerable sensations are possible.
The cha shu pork (1) is “the best pork I’ve ever had” (said Dana Ferrante, self-proclaimed pork specialist). Made with the fatty underbelly of pig, the pork is unbelievably tender and bursts with the hot fat flavor before melting away in your mouth. The bamboo shoots (2), harvested as young bamboo and then steamed, offer a subtle earthy taste with a pleasant fibrous texture that stands in contrast to many of the other ingredients. The fish cake (3), a new sensation to those unfamiliar with ramen, is a loaf of pureed whitefish with a very light flavor, standing out not only because of its decorative pink swirl, but also with its chewiness. The wood ear mushroom (4), with a flavor reminiscent of the woods, has a texture similar to the bamboo shoot, but it a bit softer and smoother. Finally, the hard plum (5): with its sweet, vinegar, pickled bite, cuts right through the fattiness of the broth and refreshes the mouth. With so many combinations of flavor and texture to try, there is a new experience in store every time you eat a bowl of ramen.
One last suggestion: eat it fast. The ramen is best when it is piping hot and first brought to the table. When the soup gets cold, the broth will dehomogenize and the noodles will lose their firmness.
“Happiness in a Bowl”
In the words of the owner, Ramen is “happiness in a bowl.” As I took my first loud slurp of ramen and chewed, I could not prevent a smile from spreading across my face. Delicious, hot, and comfortable. The ramen made me feel, well, happy. What can bother you when you are warm and have eaten your fill?
Here I am, Santouka. Signed, slurped, delivered, I’m yours.
Darwin’s Ltd. 148 Mount Auburn Street
By Danielle Leavitt ’17
Darwin’s Ltd., located at 148 Mount Auburn Street is the perfect place for a Valentine’s date. Eclectic decor, a vast array of natural, organic soups, made-to-order sandwiches, wines, and fresh veggies and fruits — it’s a great place to either pick-up a picnic lunch or eat in. Take a seat in the cozy seating area with your date, and sample many of the different flavored coffees and fresh bakery items. However, no great Valentine’s date would be complete without a gluten free option, and Darwin’s is no exception. Their gluten free sandwich bread is incredibly tasty, and the homemade gluten free pastries and scones are to die for. My personal favorite sandwich is the Hilliard: sprouts, Havarti cheese, and turkey on gluten free bread. For the yummiest and best kept secret in Cambridge, take your date to Darwin’s Ltd.!
Giulia 1682 Massachusetts Ave
By Victoria Piccione ’16
There are few things more romantic than really delicious Italian food. It makes sense: the country is romantic, the language is (quite literally) (R)omantic; it only follows that the food be romantic as well. Giulia on Mass Ave. has mastered this romance – and everyone knows it because the restaurant is always packed. The lighting is dim and the venue is small, the perfect amount of cozy for you and your Valentine. And despite below-freezing temps and below-zero wind chill, the food will warm you from the inside-out.
For the antipasto, you can’t miss the burrata: kind of a cross between mozzarella and ricotta, this is probably the best cheese you’ll ever eat. Choosing a main course is virtually impossible, with countless mouthwatering pastas on the menu, each prepared fresh daily at the big wooden pasta table featured right in front of the kitchen. And with amazing secondi, like homemade lamb sausage, you may be better off sharing, so you can both get a taste of everything. Of course, Valentine’s Day is the chocolate holiday, so your meal wouldn’t be complete without the chocolate terrine or the affogato. (The latter may just be the best gelato on this side of the Atlantic.) No matter what you choose, though, you can’t go wrong.
With a three-course meal averaging around $35 per person, I wouldn’t really call it a bang-for-your-buck kind of place. But you will certainly be getting your money’s worth. Let’s be honest: great food evokes feelings of pleasure–all the better to share it with your partner. But even if the date is a total flop, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself falling in love with Giulia.
Beat Hôtel 13 Brattle Street
By Orlea Miller ’16
Looking for somewhere new and exciting this Valentine’s Day? Try the Beat Brasserie (the Beat Hôtel)! The regular Bohemian-themed menu will be offered, along with specials including a Duck Confit Salad, the Blue Crab Crostini, and Roasted Lobster with Squid Ink Pasta. You can’t miss this season’s dessert offerings: banana bread pudding, raspberry and blackberry mousse, and flourless chocolate cake! Live music and drink specials are sure to add to the special occasion. Reservations are highly encouraged, call 617-499-0001 to make yours.
Taranta 210 Hanover Street
By Caroline Gentile ’17
Located in the always romantic North End, Taranta boasts an unlikely fusion of Italian and Peruvian cuisine that is actually a match made in heaven (perhaps like you and your date!). Any of their six pasta dishes are to die for, but the lobster ravioli are by far the most popular. As for the main dishes, the Petto di Pollo –chicken stuffed with fontina cheese and spinach– and the Amazon paiche are sure to impress. The dim lighting, friendly service and delicious food make Taranta a perfect place for a Valentine’s Day date. Be sure to make a reservation by calling 617-720-0052.
40 Brattle Street
By Dana Ferrante ’17
Tables for two, apricot cookies, a spiral staircase, peppermint orange hot chocolate. The only thing missing? That special someone. If you’re looking for an intimate environment, made for conversation, warm beverages, and classic coffee shop romance, Café Algiers is the perfect place to go and hide from the sure to be snowy Valentine’s Day weather this year. Chances are it won’t be teaming with people, and you won’t have to wait an hour to get your delicious tabbouli salad or cheese plate with arabic bread. For a causal Valentine’s Day, where you’ll be warm, well-fed, and able to hear what your date is saying, Café Algiers is the place to go.
There’s nothing like going from HUDS café to HUDS café and realizing that each one, as you feared, is serving the same assortment of lackluster pastries. With the integration of Hi-Rise Bread Company items on its menu, the reopening of the Barker Café seemed promising, yet the jury is still out on whether or not the Barker Café is really worth one’s precious Board Plus.
For these, and many more reasons, I am excited to announce: there’s a new pastry on campus. Better yet, pastries.
It’s called Feel Good Cake, and it comes in two equally tempting flavors: Chocolate and Orange Chia. Not your average cupcakes, these creations are completely guilt-free, meaning no matter if you’re gluten free, paleo, vegan, or just generally concerned about what you put into your body, you can enjoy the cupcakes without a second thought. Despite the common misconception that healthy versions of desserts never live up to original recipes, these muffins are rich, moist, and full of real flavor. Best of all, they are convenient, and will soon be available in Lamont Café, Cabot Café and Sebastian’s Café at the School of Public Health.
The masterminds behind these muffins are none other than two Harvard students. A little over a year ago, juniors Alice Han and Nina Hooper launched their company, The Holistic, in Harvard’s Innovation Lab, and have been perfecting their recipes ever since. Substituting avocado and ground chickpeas for the traditional butter and flour, Han and Hooper are committed to using organic, nutrient-dense ingredients in all of their products. Instead of sugar, the muffins are sweetened with agave nectar, meaning they are free from refined sugars, and have a lower glycemic index than normal cupcakes. In this way, Han explains, The Holistic products are also a good transition food for those with diabetes as they try to cut out foods that will raise their blood sugar too quickly. And the icing on the cake? A creamy chocolate ganache made from avocado, agave and cocoa.
Aside from being super-foodies, the duo has traveled around the world, most recently with a portable oven and suitcases packed with more ingredients than clothes, sharing their creations with people all over. Han explains, “we wanted to see how people reacted to our product,” while also trying to figure out “what makes people feel good about the food they eat.” Whether it was Dubai or Finland, Australia or Japan, Han says they spent a lot of time learning how other cultures eat healthfully and alternatively to the stereotypical American diet, with the hope of incorporating this knowledge into their future recipes.
Last year, The Holistic competed in the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Innovation Competition, making it to the second to last round with their guilt-less treats. They were also recently featured in Boston Magazine and hope to present their product to the regional division of Whole Foods later on in the semester. In the meantime, The Holistic continues to offer catering for on campus events.
As previously mentioned, The Holistic recently approached HUDS about stocking their products, and the muffins will soon be sold in Lamont Café as part of a trial run. Based on their reception, HUDS could begin offering them at more locations on campus — now that would be a sweet deal.