Favorite

Down-home fusion 

Southern Gourmasian adds Asian twist to dumplings and more.

We'd ventured out into the scorching June afternoon for lunch, and the shade provided by the newly erected blue-and-white striped tent at the University Market at 4 Corners was welcome, but barely adequate, relief. For us, there's only one answer to the stifling heat and painful light that's been a constant this summer — find something even hotter to eat, and keep eating it until everything else is cool by comparison. It's for this reason we found ourselves at a plastic picnic table on one of the hottest days of the year shoveling down chicken and dumplings ($7.50) from Little Rock's newest food truck, Southern Gourmasian. And before you count out dumplings as something you'd neither want to eat A) outside in the summertime nor B) from the aluminum and steel box that is a food truck kitchen, please bear with us for just a little while longer, because the Gourmasian's chicken and dumplings, like the rest of the food, is not quite what it appears to be at first glance — they're from one of the most exciting new menus in town.

As the name implies, Southern Gourmasian's food is classic Southern as seen through the flavor palate of Asian cuisine. Chef Justin Patterson, burned out with his work at the Pleasant Valley Country Club, decided to dive into the burgeoning Little Rock food truck scene with the idea, and name-checks David Chang, the superstar chef and founder of New York's Momofuku restaurant group as an inspiration. When we mention our admiration for Chang's "Momofuku Cookbook," Patterson smiles and says he's read it "at least seven or eight times." But it's easy to say that you've drawn some inspiration from a big name chef for your menu; it's even pretty easy to just take recipes from a book like "Momofuku" and serve up copycat versions — what's hard is taking an idea and making it your own. Lucky for us, Patterson has done that.

Which brings us back to those dumplings, a spicy mixture of mochi (sliced cakes made from pounded rice), shredded grilled chicken, shitake mushrooms, grilled onions, and a savory ramen broth. These rice cakes have some fabulous qualities to them, as they take well to both boiling and frying, and Patterson makes the most of these attributes by crisping them lightly in oil and then letting them bathe in the ramen broth. The result is a dumpling that approaches the consistency of a seared scallop, with a neutral flavor and chewy texture that not only makes it the perfect vehicle for the peppery broth but also provides a nice contrast to the tender grilled chicken and mushroom mix. This dish could honestly survive just as a dish with seared rice cakes in sauce (which is a Chang recipe), but by adding the smoky chicken and mushrooms, Patterson adds the warm feelings that come from a classic comfort food staple like chicken and dumplings.

This same playful nature is present in the second dish we tried, the shrimp and grits ($8.50). Now shrimp and grits is one of our all-time favorite dishes, and we were interested to see what Southern Gourmasian's take on it would be. Upon first sight, we weren't sure of anything except that we had a container piled high with five large crispy coconut shrimp. Where were the grits? Upon eating the first shrimp, we saw them — a crisp fried cake of grits nestled just under our mountain of shrimp. It's an excellent idea, especially from a food truck; we've never considered shrimp and grits to be an on-the-go dish, but having a solid cake of grits with the shrimp makes it possible. The shrimp were crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside and the grits were coarse ground with a slightly smoky flavor. We thought that the dish could have used more spice. A little more heat would really do a lot to set off the tasty mango gastrique drizzled over the top of the shrimp.

Favorite

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Latest in Dining Review

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation