Zing's awesome rice brings a new twist to an old standby

Haijing "Zing" Bai, a 35-year-old former lawyer, made an appointment with a real estate broker last June khổng lồ check out a space in Hell’s Kitchen, Manha


The exterior of Zing's Awesome Rice, located in the Lower East Side in Thành Phố New York City.Courtesy of Haijing "Zing" Bai
Haijing "Zing" Bai, a 35-year-old former lawyer, made an appointment with a real estate broker last June lớn check out a space in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattung, where she wanted to lớn open a restaurant.

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That first meeting turned out khổng lồ be their last.

A rice platter from Zing's Awesome Rice in the Lower East Side in New York City.Courtesy of Haijing "Zing" Bai

A month later, the Beijing-born business school graduate found herself another agent và came better prepared with a business plan she drafted in under a few hours. “I realized I needed something to show people that I’m serious about this, not just a bored law firm associate who’s joking around,” she said.

Bai’s pitch was to lớn sell a healthier alternative sầu to Chinese-style fried rice that would be ready in three-to-four minutes. Her “pan-seared rice,” as Bai calls it, would be a big hit on the Lower East Side, she predicted, where both the hip & the health-conscious live sầu & visit.

The new broker took her lớn a cozy space on Ludlow Street, a former brick-oven pizza joint that can squeeze in around a dozen diners, và after observing foot traffic while day drinking at a wine bar across the street, Bai decided lớn sign the giảm giá khuyến mãi and open Zing’s Awesome Rice in November.

“I want the food lớn be awesome và eye-catching, & I hope it works,” said Bai, who chose her English name "Zing" because she likes the way it sounds.

Bai’s decision to build her eatery around rice came from her love of ramen. In many major American cities today, ramen shops are as ubiquitous as sushi restaurants, but before the Japanese noodle staple became the in-thing to lớn eat in the U.S., many Americans’ knowledge of ramen started và ended with Cup Noodles, introduced to lớn the American market in the early 1970s.

Bai wanted lớn vày for greasy fried rice what ramen shops did for instant ramen. So in early năm ngoái, Bai, who often cooked and invited her lawyer friends over for dinner, told her co-workers she planned to lớn leave sầu Cadwalader, Wickerssay mê và Taft, a Thủ đô New York law firm, to become a restaurateur.

“They’re all like, ‘That’s so true, you’re so good at cooking, why are you being a lawyer?’” she said, laughing.

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But lớn be successful, Bai needed khổng lồ invent a process that quickly dried out steamed rice, which helps with stir frying. To eliminate the excess moisture, cooked rice is ordinarily stored in a refrigerator overnight, so khổng lồ speed things up, Bai experimented with baking the rice at a high temperature right after it was steamed. Following a mas sa with a touch of olive sầu oil — a necessary step for White rice, she said, but not for brown or purple rice which have sầu husks — the kernels are spread on a tray and put in the oven for 10 minutes.

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Bai discovered that this not only dried out the rice but also gave it the chewy texture desirable for fried rice. “This was the technical breakthrough,” she said, adding it took almost a year lớn figure it out.

“Watching people eat my food is the greachạy thử satisfaction.”

One popular dish at Zing’s Awesome Rice is the Sausage Seared Rice. Bai uses lap cheong, a smoky và sweet Cantonese-style pork sausage that she often cooked while studying for her MBA at Hawaii Pacific University. Lap cheong is fatty, Bai said, so she removes its excess oils by first steaming it.

As promised, Ashour’s meal was ready in less than four minutes. Bai packed it into a 26-ounce take-out container and sprinkled some raw scallions on top.

“The ingredients are really simple, but it’s really flavorful at the same time,” Ashour said as he tucked into lớn his $12.99 meal. “The consistency is exactly what I expect in brown rice, & all of the peppers và vegetables actually complement the rice.”

Bai caught the tail-end of Ashour’s Đánh Giá, bringing a smile lớn her face, a reminder of why she enjoys cooking so much.

As a little girl, Bai developed an appreciation for all things culinary from her father, an air force general in Đài Loan Trung Quốc. “The way he expressed love was by cooking for me,” Bai said.

But Bai’s parents also made sure their daughter learned the ropes of the kitchen. When Bai turned eight, it was her turn khổng lồ make a meal — a dumpling các buổi party — for the family. Having mastered the different steps of dumpling making as she grew up, Bai prepared everything from scratch, including the dumpling skins and stuffing, she said. The result was a resounding success.

“Watching people eat my food is the greakiểm tra satisfaction,” Bai said.

Bai also has a larger goal: she hopes lớn turn Zing’s Awesome Rice inlớn a chain. She said she’s looking to lớn open a second restaurant in downtown Brooklyn, Hell’s Kitchen, or the Financial District, where she lives. And if she expands outside Thành Phố New York, she said she’d consider bringing her pan-seared rice to lớn San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Charlotte, and Miangươi.

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“I want to lớn see every customer who has rice walk out the door looking happy,” Bai said.