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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Ramen Champ Santouka Kills ‘Em on the Westside

The new location of Santouka in the West L.A. Mitsuwa is even better than the original location of late, says rameniac–they’re really on top of their game.

Shio ramen is the one to get: rich and flavorful, noodles nice and chewy, with seasoned bamboo and rich, lovely pork. For a little extra, you can get the “special pork”–it’s worth it, says sel. You might also want to order “oomori,” or large bowl, says rameniac–Santouka’s portions are, well, typically Japanese.

The menu is limited for now, with just the shio, soy, miso and spicy miso ramens, and no side dishes. One interesting variation on ramen, though, is tokusen torinaku ramen, where the noodle soup comes with a bunch of toppings, including super-fatty chashu (roast pork), for you to dip in the sauce.

And if you’ve acquired the taste for natto, the traditional and highly divisive dish of fermented soybeans, they’ve got it, says omotosando. A bowl of rice topped with natto and negi is $1.99; you can also get natto and rice with your ramen set.

Regular ramen is $6.49; tokusen torinaku ramen is $9.49.


Santouka Ramen [Beaches]
at Mitsuwa Marketplace
3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles
310-398-2113
Map

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Santouka for newbies
Santouka quickie
Natto at Santouka and elsewhere
what to get at Santouka

Amazing Roast Pig at Wing Hing Restaurant

Melanie Wong is smitten with the “boon fei so” roast pig at Wing Hing Restaurant. It’s the most beautiful roast pig available from the many delis along San Bruno Avenue in Portola’s developing mini-Chinatown. The boon fei so has fine-grained, bubbly, crisped skin and succulent meat well-striated with fat. It’s the platonic ideal of this type of roast pork, and it tastes as good as it looks.


Wing Hing Restaurant [Portola]
2550 San Bruno Ave., San Francisco
415-468-5309
Locater

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‘Boon Fei So’ Roast Pig @ Wing Hing)

Grease Is Good

Pupuseria San Salvador has some of the tastiest pupusas rworange has ever had–especially the loroco-stuffed variety, which is full of characteristic green tea flavor that even the delicious curtido can’t mask.

About those pupusas, though. “There is no way to be euphemistic about this,” says rworange. “These are some of the most flavorful pupusas I’ve had, but they are also the greasiest.” In this case, grease is good–it works with the cheese and the strong flavors, and is not remotely unpleasant, but rather adds to the yumminess. The same principle applies to the fried tacos–as you might expect. And if you happen to notice a batch of chicharrones being fished out of the hot lard while you are there, definitely give in to the grease and get some.


Pupuseria San Salvador [West Oakland]
1498 7th St., Oakland
510-763-1467
Locater

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West Oakland (near BART)–Pupuseria San Salvador–loroco pupusas & taco frito

Cafe Collage: Coffee Artistry on Bleecker Street

Java hounds are buzzing about Cafe Collage in the Village. It’s mellow in mood but exacting about its coffee, which comes from the specialty roaster Intelligentsia in Chicago. Open since October, Collage pulls espresso drinks with care and offers an unusual French press option, reports stevebookman. Choose your beans, which are ground to order, and you’ll be given a press and a timer (depress the plunger after four minutes).

There’s ample seating, free wi-fi, and croissants, scones, and other baked bites from Balthazar and Brooklyn’s Baked.

Cafe Collage [Greenwich Village]
189 Bleecker St., at MacDougal, Manhattan
212-505-2205
Map

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Village: cozy coffee & bakery places?

East Ocean Palace: Cantonese Find in Forest Hills

East Ocean Palace is just what many Forest Hills chowhounds have been waiting for: a reasonably authentic Cantonese seafood house. “We’re thrilled to have some real Chinese out here,” says Polecat. “I wouldn’t say it is on par with the very best in Chinatown, but it can certainly hold its own.”

Recommended: braised fish with bean curd, rice noodles, salt-baked fish, chicken casserole. Shrimp is exceptionally fresh and well prepared, in dumplings, black bean sauce, or the crowd-pleasing Hong Kong specialty with walnuts and mayonnaise. Lunch specials are a deal: entree, soup, and rice (white or fried) for $5 or $6.

Focus on Cantonese chow, especially seafood, and eat in the restaurant. Takeout orders and dishes from other regions (hot and sour soup, eggplant with spicy garlic sauce) have been disappointing.

East Ocean Palace [Forest Hills]
formerly Golden Pond
113-09 Queens Blvd., between 76th Ave. and 76th Rd., Forest Hills, Queens
718-268-1668
Map

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new chinese restaurant on queens blvd near kew gardens courts
Jade Eatery and Lounge–Forest Hills
East Ocean Palace Forest Hills

Harlem’s Best Rugelach

“Rugelach by a Brother,” it says on the window at Lee Lee’s. And sure enough, alongside bread pudding and red velvet cake, this Harlem bakery makes better-than-decent rugelach. They boast satisfying weight, buttery yet crisp dough, a sweet (but not too sweet) interior, and a dusting of cinnamon and sugar, reports rose water. Just one flavor: the classic cinnamon and nut. ScottStuff suggests calling ahead to see when the next batch will be ready and showing up right then.

“The man who runs the show is slow-moving, eager to chat, and lovely,” rose water adds. Beyond baked goods, a sign on the door advertises grits, eggs, and biscuits for $3. No reports yet.

Lee Lee’s Baked Goods [Harlem]
283 W. 118th St., between Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.) and St. Nicholas
Ave., Manhattan
917-493-6633
Locater

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Harlem Rugelach
Rugelach
ISO Rugelach

Enough Cilantro to Choke a Cow

At Peruvian Kitchen, not only can you get the usual ceviche and stir-fries of Lima, you can also get beef or chicken hearts as an appetizer. The thinly sliced beef hearts, marinated in vinegar with garlic and chiles, are delicious, and hardly gamy at all, says Chubbypanda. Texture-wise, it’s almost like biting into a slice of filet–a very tender and yet slightly crunchy filet.

Potatoes a la huancaina, or in the style of Huancayo, the capital of the central highlands, are boiled and smothered in a creamy, spicy cheese sauce spiked with olives and chiles. But yuca a la huancaina ups the ante, with stuffed balls of mashed yuca stuffed with cheese before being boiled and covered with the cheese sauce. It’s like a very refined (but more filling) version of nachos.

Arroz con pollo involves braising tender chunks of chicken with rice, tomatoes, saffron, vegetables and enough chopped cilantro to choke a cow. Each bite fills your mouth with chickeny goodness–the chicken pieces themselves just seem like an extra.

Lomo saltado is stir-fried beef, tomato, and French fries, served over rice. It never fails to satisfy.

Tiradito al aji, a kind of spicy ceviche with chile peppers and ginger, is tasty and surprisingly subtle. You can also get it as an entrée (listed as tiradito mancora).

Snapper ceviche is less successful, though–the pieces of fish are just too big, making them hard to chew, while the marinade is a bit too strong.

And for a lover of starch-on-starch action like Chubbypanda, tacu-tacu can raise some…interesting emotions. “Here’s a platter just disturbingly sexy in a drunken, one-night-stand-with-someone-you-know-is-never-going-to-call-you-back sort of way. At the base is a mound of refried beans and white rice, which have been stir-fried together. That’s right. Together. In a sinfully hedonistic, crispy on the outside, creamy with al dente bits on the inside, patty of delectable, heart-clogging delight. On top of that, a perfectly seasoned and grilled country steak full of juicy and flavorful beefy goodness. To either side, two long halves of fried plantain with their rich, crunchy sweetness. Add one egg, sunny-side up, so that when your fork pieces the delicate yolk, the golden nectar within runs out and over the entire, sensually voluptuous experience.”


Peruvian Kitchen [South OC]
8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley
714-847-7555
Map

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Noshing Peruvian

Chicken Stock Safety

Conventional wisdom says it’s okay to keep chicken stock in the fridge for quite a while if you bring it to a boil every couple of days, but that’s probably not best, in terms of food safety. To keep your exposure to the bacteria that love to live in stock to a minimum, you should cool your stock quickly, either by transferring it to small containers or putting the pot in an ice bath. If you don’t use it within a day or two, freeze it. Kelli2006 brings any stock, whether it’s been refrigerated or frozen, to a rolling boil for 5 minutes before using it. And as Bostonbob3 points out, boiling a stock reduces it a bit, thereby intensifying its flavors.

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Bacteria in Chicken stock

Old Bay Beyond the Seafood Counter

Old Bay seasoning is classically used in crab cakes and for steaming shrimp, and it lends itself to lots of seafood preps, but chowhounds love it in nearly everything savory.

It’s great for seasoning hamburgers, or as a dry rub for steaks. Add it to the coating for your fried chicken. Use it in deviled eggs, and to season shrimp, chicken, or tuna salad. Sprinkle it on popcorn or french fries or edamame. Old Bay is a great seasoning for bloody Marys, too.

fiftyfootgirl shares this addictive recipe for spiced nuts with Old Bay (she likes it best with pecans):

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
3 tsp. Old Bay
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. hot sauce of your choice
4 cups nuts

Preheat oven to 300F. Mix all ingredients except nuts in a large bowl, then stir in nuts, coating them evenly. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

As an alternative to Old Bay, yourbasicfoodgroupie likes Blue Crab Bay’s Chesapeake Bay Style Seafood Seasoning, which is similar, but has a more refined flavor, he says.

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My First Tin of Old Bay: What should I make??

Wine Headaches

Get lots of wine headaches? There may be other causes, besides hangovers.

Possible culprits include tannins, sulfites, and histimines. Says zin1953, in his experience, the problems tend to be sulfites in white wines, and histimines in red wines. But you have to experiment on yourself to figure out what’s going on, says Robert Lauriston. If it’s tannins, you’ll also get headaches from strong tea. If it’s sulfites, then cured meats should also give you headaches. And if it’s histimines, then you should also get headaches from strawberries.

If you figure out what you’re reacting to in particular, you can do all sorts of things to control for it–like looking for low-sulfite wines, or searching out older wines. Check out these articles on allergic reactions to wine and on additives in organic wines.

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Wine and Headaches