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

Porridge to the Max

Get top-notch Korean porridge at Bonjuk, says rameniac, who experienced their juk recently for lunch.

The quality of the rice and other ingredients make this place stand out. There’s a mind-boggling selection–we’re not talking about Quaker Oats here. Most are savory porridges filled with generous chunks of abalone and mushroom; or octopus and kimchi, surprisingly delicious; or beef and mushroom. You get a few kinds of kimchi, including water kimchi, with each bowl, and some salty shredded beef.

Make sure to get the Korean plum juice for dessert–flavorful and unusual.

Premium porridge ain’t cheap, however. The least expensive bowl is $8, the most expensive $30–that’s the special abalone, as distinct from the regular abalone, which is a mere $16.

Parking note: Go ahead and park in the “medical plaza” lot behind the building. The restaurant validates.

A completely different school of juk is at San, a beloved dive where the rice porridge is thick and spartan, the abalone’s authenticity a little shady, and you get a (raw) egg to break into the whole thing.


Bonjuk [Koreatown]
3551 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
213-380-2248
Map

San/Mountain Cafe [Koreatown]
3064 W. 8th St., Los Angeles 90005
213-487-7615
Locater

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Oh so genteel porridge

A Chicken in Every Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie at Daily Grill is one of the best around. Wonderfully flaky crust, plenty of white meat, some veg and a rich, rich gravy. They also do a damn good lobster pot pie, with big hunks of lobster in bechamel sauce. Chicken pot pie is $16; lobster is about $19. Look for their promotional fliers, which offer good deals on these dishes.

Henry Moffett’s is a chicken pie place, but the dine-in experience really isn’t worth it. Get a pie to go–they’ve got very tasty chicken, nice gravy and a good, firm crust. The food served at table, on the other hand, seems like it’s been sitting around waiting for a sucker like you. Mashed potatoes are a tiny cloud of starch, and bread a tasteless cottony puff. Biscuits, on the other hand, are top-notch–you can get those to go, too. Chicken pie is about $5.

Clementine, a great spot for baked goods and homestyle take-home entrees for the kitchen-averse gourmet, also offers a chicken pot pie for $9.


Daily Grill [Multiple locations]

Henry Moffetts LA-ish]
16506 Lakewood Blvd., Bellflower
562-925-5061
Locater

Clementine [Century City]
1751 Ensley Ave., Los Angeles
310-552-1080
Locater

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Chicken pie challenge
Opinions on lobster pot pie
Lobster pot pie report

Getting the Most from Dried Mushrooms

When you soak dried mushrooms in hot water to rehydrate them, never discard the water, which will be a wonderful mushroomy elixir. Strain it through a sieve lined with dampened paper towels or a coffee filter, and add it to your dish if there’s a liquid component (e.g., in soup or risotto). If you can’t use it right away, the soaking liquid is worth freezing for later use.

If your dried shiitakes (Chinese black mushrooms) have stems attached, cut them off after the mushrooms are rehydrated, but don’t toss them, either. They’re too tough and fibrous to eat, but they have lots of flavor and can be used, along with strained soaking liquid, to flavor a stock or broth.

CindyJ uses marsala, madeira or sherry to reconstitute dried porcini, then strains it and uses it in her recipe. Chicken stock is another makes another double-duty mushroom soaking medium.

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dried mushrooms

Minestrone Secrets

Chowhounds share their favorite ways to add extra deliciousness to a pot of minestrone:

Barilla brand mini penne are the perfect pasta to use, because if you’ve got leftovers, it doesn’t expand in the soup overnight like most do, says coll.

Jazz up your minestrone by adding crushed red pepper flakes and/or worcestershire sauce. Or drizzle a bit of truffle oil over the individual bowls at serving time.

Save rinds from Parmesan cheese in your freezer and throw them in your pot of minestrone–they add an amazing depth of flavor.

C70 makes a paste of garlic, chopped parsley, parmesan, and olive oil and adds a spoonful to each portion when serving.

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minestrone

Olives from the Deli Bar – Good Tip

Lots of markets have nice selections of olives in brine in the deli area. Since they’re priced by weight, drain off the brine; you can make your own to keep the olives in. A scant tablespoon of non-iodized salt to a pint of water should do the trick. They’ll keep well in the fridge in this solution.

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Storing Olives from a Market’s Olive Bar

Popped Amaranth Seeds

Amaranth seeds can be popped much like popcorn. The seeds are much smaller than popping corn, and make a delightful crunchy topping. It’s highly nutritious, gluten free, and contains lots of protein. Health food stores carry the seeds. grocerytrekker says they taste a bit like Rice Krispies, but more delicious. In Mexico, they make a popped amaranth treat called “alegrias.” The popped seeds are bound together with a sweet solution, like Rice Krispies treats.

All you need to pop your own amaranth seeds is a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid. Get the pan very hot, add a few tablespoons of seeds, clap the lid on, and keep shaking the pan until the popping stops. Some will be “duds,” but they’re good to eat too.

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popcorn vs. popamaranth

Let’s Get Small

Nanotechnology, the creation of “machines” on a very, very small scale, like the size of a molecule, has ramifications for the foods you eat.

Michael Pollan must be spinning in his … office chair at the thought of some of the enhancements that scientists are coming up with for familiar foods An article titled “Future Foods: Friend or Foe?” on the BBC website quotes researchers who “promise to promote better eating by designing innovative products, such as milk that uses nanoparticles to make it taste just like cola.”

‘By adding these sensations, children will start drinking it who don’t like normal milk,’ he promises.

Other scientists are working on boosting the nutritional value of food ingredients, and on droplets that consist of fat on the outside and water on the inside for making products like mayonnaise lower in fat.

Some researchers are sounding the alarm on nanotech foods, noting that nano-sized chunks of stuff could penetrate human cells. Not surprisingly, the article also notes that foods made with nanoscience are already on sale in the U.S.

A Prize Just for Showing Up

The Chicago Tribune reports on the awesome new trend of restaurants’ giving diners free stuff to take home at the end of their meals (registration required).

The gifts—which range from custom spice blends to fluted rum cakes to chocolate madeleines to sourdough bread—are doled out seemingly at random. That said, seasonality and, no doubt, whatever the bakery happened to overproduce the night before play a role in selecting what gets given away.

Inasmuch as door prizes skim the extra cream off the top of the production cycle, they should be able to delight diners with very little to no additional cost to anyone involved. But when the practice starts getting out of hand, and live lobsters are being pressed into your arms as you try to quietly lumber out of the local Cheesecake Factory, you can say you read it here first.

Bad News for the Chapati Dude

The good old Beeb brings us distressing news from the subcontinent of India. An estimated 300,000 street food vendors in Delhi may have to shut down their carts, shacks, stalls, and other assorted miniature dining facilities in the face of a court order that bans the cooking of food at stalls along the roadside.

The cause of the court order is, on the surface, fairly reasonable—cooking conditions are often, to put it lightly, unhygienic. But this appears to be a case where the solution—damaging or bankrupting hundreds of thousands of small businesspeople—is far worse than the problem (untold thousands of cases of sour stomach and food-borne illness).

If the court order is the sharp end of a wedge of reasonable regulations and inspections designed to bring some sense of hygiene to roadside mini-diners, it might not be an entirely bad thing. But if enforced literally, it threatens to have a catastrophic impact on the cultural flavor of Delhi—and on the livelihoods of thousands of sidewalk vendors.

Snickers “Kiss” Ad Canned

On Tuesday the maker of Snickers said it would discontinue its latest ad, responding to complaints by gay-rights organizations that the commercial was homophobic. The ad, which first aired during the Super Bowl, depicts two auto mechanics “accidentally” kissing as they eat from opposite ends of a Snickers bar; they immediately feel the need to “do something manly,” which of course means each ripping out a handful of their own chest hair (or drinking motor oil, or bashing each other with wrenches, according to the alternate endings that were posted on the Snickers website until Tuesday).

OK, putting aside for a moment the clear gay-bashing overtones and heinous violence here, can we just talk about how much the candy bar looks like poop? The lighting is all wrong, people! That, combined with the images of ripped-out chest hair, makes me not want to eat anything at all (let alone a Snickers) for a long time. Totally the opposite of food porn.

Fast-food commercials in general seem to have been going in this unappetizing direction for a while now (at least since Carl’s Jr. began its “slobvertising” back in 2000). Perhaps it’s a reaction to all the gorgeous foodie photography in magazines and on TV and blogs these days—just like the recent wave of calorie-bomb burgers is a big eff-you to nutrition-conscious eaters.

Have you seen any totally nasty food ads lately?