Anyone remember those ads on the subway a while ago that were paid by the National Peanut Board (yeah, who ever thought we had a National Peanut Board)? The ones that would give interesting little realizations about peanuts and how great they are to eat, like “What other food enhances the taste of both chocolate and beer?” Those ads always made me want some peanuts! I wonder if Big Peanut is also behind the creation of National Peanut Day today: it would make sense, if you want more people to go out there and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, readily accesible snack liek the peanut! The funniest thing about peanuts is that they are neither a pea nor a nut: they’re part of the legume family, which means they have more in common with kidney beans than almonds or cashews. An incredibly versatile food, peanuts have been used in cuisines all over the world for over 7,000 years, from West Africa to East Asia and the Americas. They contain more protein than any “true” nut, and are naturally trans-fat and sodium free. And, as we all know, the scientist George Washington Carver came up with over 300 different uses for peanuts in medical, culinary, and other uses–the most important of which is, peanut plants restore nitrogen to failing crop soil, making it invaluable to rotating crop farmers. The first mass-produced “junk food”–Cracker Jack–even included roasted honey peanuts in its mix. There is so much history attributed to the little peanut!
If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll notice that there are a LOT of national food holidays celebrating foods that have been made, or include a large portion of, peanut butter. So, for National Peanut Day I wanted to take a break from the butter and focus on foods that highlight the peanut itself. (Sorry, no peanut blossom cookies this time!) Like, for instance, the super delicious spicy peanut sauce dished out at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. Not your everyday Chinatown dumplings (you can tell just by the price!), Rickshaw Dumpling Bar serves them right from the steamer baskets to your table, and come with a wide assortment of sauces for you to try. I had tried out the dumpling bar back when it was just a truck, when I was hanging around the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket with my friend Clio. The Thai-inspired spicy peanut sauce has just the right amount of heat from chili oil to wake you up, but it doesn’t cause you to scramble for your water. It balances out the savory, juicy dumplings so nicely. And if you have any left over, you’ll want to stir it all up onto your chopstick and lick it off. You can still catch the truck as it’s ambling around the boroughs today, but if you don’t want to go running all over the city to find it, the brick-and-mortar restaurant sits right in the Flatiron District all day long.
Rickshaw Dumpling Bar
61 W 23rd St (between 5th Ave & East 23rd St)
“The dumplings (6 for $6) had diced chicken, cellophane noodles, basil and carrots inside, and had a pronounced basil flavor. The spicy peanut dipping sauce was perfect with these dumplings. I usually enjoy peanut sauce, but a spicy peanut sauce is even better. Good choice.”–New York Street Food
“At this lively eatery kids can mix and match six different dumplings with one of six dipping sauces. Classic pork with soy-sesame and chicken-and-Thai-basil with spicy peanut sauce are particularly tasty. If you want a full meal, pair your selection with a bowl of noodle soup. Above all, don’t miss the molten-chocolate dessert dumplings.”–Time Out New York Kids
“The dumpling wrappers were soft and springy, and the dumplings had diced chicken, cellophane noodles, basil and carrots inside, with a pronounced basil flavor. The spicy peanut dipping sauce was tasty with these dumplings. I usually enjoy peanut sauce, but a spicy peanut sauce is even better.”–CBS New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The boyfriend and I shared the chicken & Thai basil dumplings and the Peking duck dumplings. Both were super delish. The hoisin and peanut dipping sauces really set these dumplings apart from others. They definitely fall into the Asian fusion category as neither are authentic to any Asian cuisine, but there’s nothing wrong with some western influence in my book.”–Laura B.
“I’ve been here twice now and tried both fried and steamed dumplings, and lo and behold I quite enjoyed. The first time I tried the 6-piece chicken and Thai basil (fried) with the peanut sauce and the second time I tried the 6-piece duck (steamed) with hoisin sauce–very delicious as far as dumplings go!”–Marcus V.
And one of my favorite peanut treats as a kid was peanut brittle, how the caramel melted around the peanuts and made a sweet, crunchy confection that was sure to rip your teeth right out of their sockets 😛 And one of the best peanut brittles in New York City isn’t from a bakery or a confectioner; it isn’t even on any menu in the city. It’s sitting in a dish at the front desk of David Burke’s Fishtail. They offer their signature sweet, the peanut brittle, as an after-meal refresher for anyone who’s put down the dough to have a full dinner at their establishment. But the peanut brittle is anything but an afterthought: made fresh each day, the brittle is crunchy and sweet, and proves Fishtail has an air of whimsical nostalgia as well as a generous streak. This bounds well over all the heads of “fancier” restaurants that only have crappy mints for you to munch at the front desk.
Fishtail by David Burke
135 E 62nd St
“On our way out, we are offered some of the restaurant’s signature peanut brittle from a huge jar at the hostess station. The morsel is utterly delicious and proves to be a great snack to enjoy as we schlep it back crosstown.”–http://www.gloriousgluttony.com/new-york/brunch-at-fishtail-by-david-burke”>Glorious Gluttony
“Don’t miss their wonderful peanut brittle which can be sampled right as you walk into the restaurant and also the delicious mustard flavored pretzelsserved in their bar area. This is just a precursor to some of the good things that await you.”–The Restaurant Fairy
“I guess the kitchen got the memo that one of my mottos in life is “Life is short… eat dessert first!” because they brought us cheesecake lollipops. My date (a.k.a. my dad, who has an office in NYC!) pretty much devoured those, but it was all good because I’d saved my “dessert pocket” for the David Burke peanut brittle that they place on the counter instead of those silly after-dinner mints. (“Dessert pocket is a term I coined at age 2. Apparently when I used to eat a lot at dinner and still request dessert, I would tell my protesting mother that I had a “dessert pocket” reserved exclusively for dessert that never got full from dinner.) Yummmm!!!”–Cuisine Couture
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“***must eat some peanut brittle that they have as you leave. soooo, flavorful and tasty. right combination of peanuts and sweetness. ***”–Hannah M.
“The mustard cheese straws at the bar, the wonderful variations on Irish coffee, as well as the glass jar filled with OUTRAGEOUS peanut brittle, on the way in or out this establishment, make it impossible to not come back here.”–Lucienne D.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!