The Accidental Foodie tries bubble tea and a Dumpling Concept at Twisted Soul in Poughkeepsie
Totally yummy empanadas (top) and shrimp and crayfish dumplings (below)
The Daily Beast recently ran a list of the 40 Deadliest Fast Foods, many of them cheeseburgers so big you can probably see them from space. I’m proud to say that not one of the 40 has ever passed my lips, which may explain my annoying vitality. Check the list — then avoid all those chains and go to real eateries where they serve stuff that won’t kill you.
If you’re anywhere near Poughkeepsie and you’re in the mood for something deliciously different, check out Twisted Soul near Vassar, serving an eclectic mix of “Food Concepts.” Once (and I do mean once) I ate in a local spot with the tagline: “Food Creations.” The “creative” aspect turned out to involve defying the laws of physics by piling ten portions onto a normal-sized plate — quantity triumphing over quality in spades. So I was a bit leery about this “Food Concepts” notion. No worries though. Ira Lee, the chef who owns Twisted Soul with his wife, Brenda Black, does a terrific job of blending the soul food of his childhood in the south with cuisines he has enjoyed in Asia, Mexico and South America.
“I think of it as composing a plate, and then putting the dish inside a dumpling, or an empanada or an arepa,” explains Lee, a Culinary Institute grad with a cool look. What you wind up with is tasty, original concoctions like Ethiopian BBQ grilled tofu with fried plantains (an Arepa Concept); or a soup of fried chicken with lo-mein noodles, Malaysian curry coconut sauce, and peanuts (a Noodle Bowl Concept); or lamb dumplings with portobello mushrooms (a Dumpling Concept) — and let’s hear it for a chef who can spell portobello!
I tried one of the Dumpling Concepts for lunch. Shrimp and crawfish in about equal parts were minced with some scallions, seasoned with a dash of Madras curry and a speck of ginger, then steamed in a wrapper. $6.95 buys you six fresh dumplings arranged around a little mound of jasmine rice, with hot sauces, if you want them. “Totally yummy” was my not very professional assessment, but then I was expressing my thoughts to Ira’s three-year-old son, Jalen, who’d plopped down to join me for lunch. (He’s delightful company, as well as a looker). Empanadas that I took home (three for $5) still tasted fresh and totally yummy when I heated them up next day.
Kid Concept: Jalen Lee
There are Drink Concepts, too. Brenda told me bubble teas are all the rage with the Vassar set. They’re a Taiwan invention (the teas, not the Vassar set), sometimes called “boba,” made with black or green tea, milk, and fruit syrups, and served cool, with pearls of tapioca in the bottom. The black-tea flavor wasn’t popular, so now they just sell their jasmine green-tea version. I’m more of a wine and beer girl, myself, but there’s no Alcohol Concept here, so I tried my first boba: a plain bubble milk. If this is new to you, here’s how it works: You suck this milky, perfumy drink through a fat straw, and soft, chewy, black beads of tapioca occasionally land in your mouth. It’s certainly different, and I believe I could become a fan if the world’s supply of wine and beer ever dries up.
You may remember Twisted Soul from their two years on Main Street. This is a nicer location. It’s a long, narrow space with high, black ceilings and white walls. Order at the counter and take out, or eat perched at one of the high tables. There’s another table on the sidewalk, and one big enough for four by the window, where young Jalen may join you, if you’re lucky.
Lee says he’s planning to add tostados to the lineup. I like the sound of chicken and parsnips... call 845-454-2770 for hours.