At Cheu, a Hanukkah meal with flavors from Japan and China

As a child, the big Hanukkah dinner with chef Ben Puchowitz’s family meant homey, comforting tastes. It meant the Eastern European flavors of cabbage and roasted vegetables, crispy latkes, a brisket bubbling in the oven, and his bubbie’s sponge cake at the end of the night. It meant cousins and kids gathered on the floor in a circle to open presents, then running around to play with them as soon as the wrapping paper was torn away.

Puchowitz, who with friend Shawn Darragh owns Cheu Noodle Bar, Bing Bing Dim Sum, and Cheu Fishtown, retained memories of those formative holiday foods. Even as Asian flavors came to guide Puchowitz’s restaurants, Jewish cooking remained in the forefront of dishes like the ramen with brisket and matzo ball, and “Bubbie Chow’s sliced beef”: brisket served with steamed buns at his Fishtown location.

As Puchowitz recently prepared a Hanukkah meal in the bright, colorful Cheu Fishtown kitchen, he built on the family recipes he grew up with, transforming them with Chinese and Japanese ingredients into dishes like barbecue brisket, latkes with scallions, sweet and sour Brussels sprouts, and cake with ginger and mandarin.

“I don’t even have Hanukkah dinner anymore, but this is what we made at our dinner,” he said. “I just made it a little different.”

Camera icon ELIZABETH ROBERTSON
Chinese barbecue brisket with stewed onions and sweet-and-sour Brussels sprouts with crushed peanuts at Cheu Fishtown..

Puchowitz’s father, a former butcher who served thousands of customers in Rittenhouse in the 1980s and 1990s and provided meats for untold numbers of Jewish meals, used to make cabbage soup for Hanukkah and serve it as a first course. Puchowitz added canned tomatoes and egg noodles, swapped curry powder for paprika and sprinkles chopped fresh dill over the top for a soup with a fresh, complex flavor.

Camera icon ELIZABETH ROBERTSON
Cabbage soup with egg noodles, tomatoes and dill at Cheu Fishtown.

His father also made the latkes, which he would set beside a bowl of sour cream and another bowl of applesauce made by his grandmother. Puchowitz’s version swapped matzo meal for flour and added scallions to the potato hash, as well as furikake, a Japanese seasoning made from dried fish, seaweed, and sesame seeds.

He served his latkes, crisped golden brown and warm on the inside, with scallions, miso créme fraiche, and delicate ribbons of shaved bonito, a dried fish that evoked the oceanic flavors of smoked salmon.

“It’s an exact Jewish-Japanese fusion,” he said.

Puchowitz marinated his brisket, often the centerpiece at his family’s Hanukkah dinner, in a Chinese-inspired blend of soy sauce, honey, oyster sauce, hoisin, and beet juice. After searing it, he braised it for several hours, drenching it in liquid made from the marinade and sauteed onions, which add flavor as they cook down. The finished slices of brisket came out juicy and infused with flavor.

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Chinese barbecue brisket with stewed onions, sweet-and-sour Brussels sprouts with crushed peanuts, and potato latkes with scallions, garnished with miso crème fraiche and bonito at Cheu Fishtown.

For his green vegetable side dish, always a requirement on his family table, Puchowitz modified a recipe for Brussels sprouts he has served at Bing Bing Dim Sum in South Philly. He roasted them, then tossed them in a sweet-and-sour sauce made from pineapple juice, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and chili flakes. The sauce gave the sprouts, topped with crushed peanuts, a satisfying sweet-salty tang.

Camera icon ELIZABETH ROBERTSON
Sweet-and-sour Brussels sprouts with crushed peanuts at Cheu Fishtown.

For dessert, he made his grandmother’s sponge cake, mixing together eggs, sugar, potato starch, and matzo cake meal with a hint of salt, and adding lemon juice. He covered the cake with a glaze flavored with fresh ginger and the juice from mandarin oranges. The glaze made for an acidic, citrusy contrast against the light, fluffy slices of cake.

The glaze is optional, Puchowitz cautioned — the cake doesn’t necessarily need it. “Other than that, it’s my grandma’s exact recipe,” he said. “I always remember that vanilla taste.”


Chinese Barbecued Brisket with Stewed Onions

Serves 14-16

Chinese BBQ brisket with stewed onions and sweet and sour brussels sprouts with crushed peanuts at Cheu Fishtown in Phila. on December 1, 2017. Traditional Jewish dishes take on Asian flavors and more when Chef Ben Puchowitz of the Cheu Noodle empire whips up his version of a Hanukkah feast. Cabbage soup with egg noodles, tomatoes and dill, potato latkes with scallions, garnished with miso crème fraiche and bonito, Chinese BBQ brisket with stewed onions, sweet and sour Brussels sprouts with crushed peanuts, sponge cake with ginger mandarin syrup. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

INGREDIENTS

1 piece nose off brisket, about 7 pounds

6 tablespoons salt

6 tablespoons sugar

¾ cup soy sauce, plus one teaspoon

6 tablespoons honey

1 cup oyster sauce

1 cup hoisin

¼ cup beet juice

5 white onions, julienned

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat brisket in cure made with salt and sugar and let sit at room temperature for an hour.
  2. Make the marinade, whisking together soy sauce, honey, oyster sauce, hoisin, and beet juice.
  3. Pour over brisket and let sit overnight or at least four hours.
  4. To braise the brisket, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove brisket from marinade and save liquid.
  5. Heat a braising pan and sear brisket for about 3 minutes on each side.
  6. Transfer meat to oven-safe pan and add onions to hot braising pan.
  7. Saute onions for about 2 minutes. Add excess marinade to pan and use wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan.
  8. Pour onion liquid over brisket and distribute evenly so the onions are not covering the skin of the brisket. Add a little water to the pan if it seems dry. The level of liquid should be about 1/3 of the way up the brisket.
  9. Cover pan and braise in oven for 3½ hours.
  10. Remove brisket from pan and chill in refrigerator so  it’s easy to slice. Slice brisket thinly against the grain and return to pan with onions.
  11. When ready to serve, cover and reheat brisket in oven at 250 degrees for about 1 hour.

-- From Ben Puchowitz of Cheu Fishtown

Per serving: 386 calories, 43 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 227 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 23 g sugar.


Potato Latkes with Miso Creme Fraiche

Makes about 40 latkes

Potato latkes with scallions, garnished with miso crème fraiche and bonito at Cheu Fishtown.

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and held in cold water

½ small white onion, peeled

1 cup matzo meal

4 eggs

1 bunch scallions, sliced

1 tablespoon furikake

1 tablespoon salt, plus extra for the creme fraiche

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons oil

6 ounces crème fraiche

1 tablespoon miso paste

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Bonito or smoked fish for garnish, if desired.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

  1. Add eggs, matzo meal, scallion, furikake, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to mixing bowl. Do not mix.
  2. Grate onion using small holes of cheese grater and add to mixing bowl.
  3. Grate potatoes in large holes of cheese grater and add to mixing bowl.
  4. Mix ingredients together with a fork or by hand. Do not let batter sit for too long after mixing; plan to start frying immediately.
  5. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan (preferably one with high walls).
  6. Pan-fry latkes on medium heat in batches, about 3 minutes on the first side until golden brown, and about 2 minutes on the second side. Add more oil if needed. The size is flexible; start by making them about ½-inch thick and about 2.5 inches in diameter.
  7. Keep finished latkes warm on a sheet tray in the oven.
  8. For the crème fraiche, mix remaining ingredients, plus a small pinch of salt, in a bowl using a whisk.
  9. Top latkes with crème fraiche and garnish with scallions and bonito, if desired.

-- From Ben Puchowitz of Cheu Fishtown

Per serving: 50 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 219 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar.


Cabbage Soup with Egg Noodles, Tomato and Dill

Makes 6 to 7 quarts (12 to 14 servings)

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup olive oil

1 white onion, julienned

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 stalks celery, julienned

1 head green cabbage, diced large

5 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon madras curry powder

56 ounces San Marzano crushed tomatoes

1 gallon low-sodium chicken stock

4 ounces egg noodles

1 bunch fresh dill, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Using a large pot, saute  onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil for 4 minutes.
  2. Add curry powder and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add cabbage and salt and cook on low for about 20 minutes until soft.
  4. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  5. Cover pot and cook on low heat for 60 minutes, seasoning as needed.
  6. Add egg noodles and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  7. Ladle hot soup into bowls and sprinkle a pinch of dill on each.

-- From chef Ben Puchowitz of Cheu Fishtown

Per serving: 93 calories, 5 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 1028 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar.


Sweet-and-Sour Brussels Sprouts

Serves 12-14

Sweet and sour brussels sprouts with crushed peanuts at Cheu Fishtown.

INGREDIENTS

2½ tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons water, plus ¾ cup water for sauce

5 ounces pineapple juice

1½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

¾ teaspoon chili flakes

3 pounds Brussels sprouts, stems removed and cut in half

4 tablespoons oil

4 teaspoons salt

¼ cup crushed peanuts

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make slurry with corn starch and 5 teaspoons water, mixing with a fork.
  2. For the sauce, add pineapple juice, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, chili flakes, and remaining water to a sauce pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Simmer for about 5 minutes on low. Then remix slurry and add to pot.
  4. The sauce will thicken once slurry is added. Once the sauce thickens, it should be ready.
  5. To roast Brussels sprouts, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sprouts with oil and salt and transfer to roasting pan.
  6. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through.
  7. If serving immediately, stir in sweet-and-sour sauce (you don’t need to use all of the sauce) and sprinkle crushed peanuts on top. Do not mix in sauce and peanuts until ready to serve.

-- From Ben Puchowitz of Cheu Fishtown

Per serving: 187 calories, 4 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 396 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 25 g sugar.


Bubbie's sponge cake with ginger mandarin syrup

Serves 10-12

Sponge cake with ginger mandarin syrup at Cheu Fishtown.

INGREDIENTS

10 eggs

3 cups sugar

1/3 cup potato starch

¾ teaspoons salt

1 cup matzo cake meal

Juice from 1 lemon

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Juice from 10 Mandarin oranges (or regular oranges)

6 tablespoons butter, cubed

1 tablespoon cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a mechanical mixer with the whisk attachment, beat eggs for about 20 minutes until foamy.
  3. Lower speed to slow and add 2 cups sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Mix for 1 minute.
  4. Add cake meal & lemon juice. Mix 1 more minute until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Pour batter into 10 inch, ungreased tube pan and bake for 1 hour.
  6. Let cake cool for at least 2 hours upside down. The cake will stick to the pan. Use a knife to cut it away.
  7. For the syrup, melt 1 cup of sugar with 3 tablespoons of water in a saucepan on low heat until very lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes).
  8. Add ginger and orange juice. Cook on low until sugar dissolves fully (about 10 minutes).
  9. Whisk in butter and cream and finish with ½ teaspoon salt. Keep warm.
  10. To serve, cut cake into slices and drizzle warm syrup on top. Sift confectioner's sugar over cake if desired.

-- From Ben Puchowitz of Cheu Fishtown

Per serving: 397 calories, 5 g protein, 75 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 153 mg cholesterol, 543 mg sodium, 52 g sugar.