Delivered: Asian Farm-To-Table
By Hailey O’Connor
Paulo Wei, the creator and owner of the East Village Asian eatery Our Kitchen, is debuting a new farm-to-table delivery service from his Upstate New York farm that will transport you to the other side of the planet. Jumping on an international flight or skipping down to Hong Kong for a taste of the world’s best Asian food may not be too easy — but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have an intimate and eye-opening experience with food culture during the coronavirus pandemic. Our Kitchen, “It’s like an Asian Blue Hill Farm,” says Wei, a 25-year-old Columbia University sophomore, hailing from São Paulo and raised between Hong Kong and Beijing. “We have our 14th Street restaurant and now we have a working farm Upstate, which is all about the process of planting the seed, growing the food, and delivering it to the table. That is how you make really authentic Chinese food.”
DUMPLINGS, BUNS, & TOFU
Wei’s 43-acre farm situated alongside the Neversink River outside Port Jervis will supply Our Kitchen with just-picked seasonal Asian ingredients, for both fresh and frozen prepared foods. Better still, the farm will ship flash-frozen delicacies to the city — or even deliver them to the Hamptons. Think of items like beef and farm-grown carrot dump- lings, organic vegetable buns, and home-made tofu transported to your doorstep. Wei has also opened an on-site farm stand where Our Kitchen Farm devotees can shop for fresh ingredients. Guests can take free private tours of the farm’s extensive gardens or, by appointment, order a catered farm-to-table lunch. “Our Kitchen Farm is all about chillax vibes for city people,” says Wei, whose fully staffed farm will eventually see its 80 horse stables transformed into a boutique hotel with Japanese-style tatami floors.
THE CHINESE TOON TREE
On a tour of the gardens, guests can experience firsthand how farmers cultivate products using traditional and con-temporary techniques. For instance, calming music is piped throughout the farm to aid the growing process. Crops include everything from eggplants, chives, scallions, and radishes to more exotic ingredients like the onion-flavored young leaves of the Chinese Toon tree. The real foodie focus at Our Kitchen is dumplings, both meat and vegetarian. “The idea started with my grandmother,” says Wei. “We had always said, ‘One day let’s open a restaurant that serves the food we eat, homemade Chinese food.’ Dumplings are a symbol of family in China.”
Wei didn’t create his dream eco-retreat overnight. After his mother purchased the farm, he recognized its potential to become something special. It boasted two large houses, and an Olympic-sized horse arena. It had good soil and water views. Piece by piece, Wei began building a one-of-kind farm and eco-destination. He may have had some restaurant experience, but he also had help. He tapped the expertise of his friends — some of the best Asian restaurateurs and chefs in NYC. “Now we have a serious food brand, great service, and incredible products.” However, Wei says the core of his mission is to educate. “Americans are only exposed to commercial Chinese food,” says Wei. “But real Chinese food culture is aligned with the movement of the universe, the flow of energy, the rotation of the earth, and seasonal changes.”