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

Elements of Sushi: Wasabi and Rice

In sushi, the best ingredients are key, and not just the fish. Fresh wasabi makes a world of difference, but not a lot of places offer it–and even then, sometimes only to customers having omakase meals.
You can get freshly grated wasabi at Mori, Asanebo, Urasawa, and Tama. Azami uses both the paste and fresh stuff. Yabu uses fresh with sashimi and paste with nigiri sushi. KaGaYa, an upscale shabu shabu place, grates fresh wasabi. So does Hirozen, but it’ll cost you about $15 extra.

And then there’s rice. Mori’s rice is grown specially for the restaurant in Sacramento, and polished in-house daily.

In the school of warm rice, Nozawa and Sasabune have fans, but alexfood says Hiko has better rice than either. HPLsauce likes Sasabune’s rice but says the fish isn’t as good since the move. Nozawa’s rice isn’t always consistent, says zack, but it’s usually spot-on. His nori, an equally important ingredient in rolls, is excellent.

Also good: Echigo, Sushi Tenn, Kiriko, and, of course, Urasawa.

Torafuku isn’t a sushi joint, but it specializes in rice dishes. Zuke-don (marinated tuna bowl) with sushi rice is fantastic, says alexfood.

Mori Sushi [West LA]
11500 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

Urasawa [Beverly Hills]
218 N. Rodeo Dr., at Wilshire, Beverly Hills

Tama Sushi [East San Fernando Valley]
11920 Ventura Blvd., Studio City

Azami [Melrose District]
7160 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

Yabu Restaurant [West LA]<br
11820 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

Kagaya [Little Tokyo]
418 E Second St., at Central Ave., Los Angeles

Hirozen [Beverly Hills]
8385 Beverly Blvd., at N. Orlando Avenue, Los Angeles

Sushi Nozawa [East San Fernando Valley]
11288 Ventura Blvd. # C, Studio City

Sushi Sasabune [West LA]
formerly Todai Sushi
12400 Wilshire Blvd, # 150, Los Angeles

Hiko Sushi [Sawtelle Strip]
11275 National Blvd., Los Angeles

Echigo [West LA]
12217 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

Sushi Tenn [Sawtelle Strip]
2004 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles

Kiriko Sushi [Sawtelle Strip]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

Torafuku [West LA]
10914 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

Board Links

Which sushi joints serve fresh wasabi?
Where’s the best sushi rice?

When the Temperature Drops, Go for Hot Pot

Spicy hot pot at Lu Gi tastes the most like the ones in Taiwan, says eileen216. Of course, the pot comes with both regular and spicy broths. You mix up your own dipping sauce–try vinegar and sesame oil with green onion and garlic.

They have all kinds of ingredients for dipping into the boiling broth: lamb, beef, meatball and fishball, intestine and vegetables. King mushrooms are especially good, tender and juicy. Lotus root adds crunch. When you’re done, get some noodles to absorb the flavors of all the food you’ve cooked in the broth–it’s super-tasty.

Lu Gi Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
539 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel

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My favorite Taiwanese-style hot pot

Stand-Ins for Panko

Panko, the Japanese breadcrumbs that make super-crispy breading, are made with special dough and an electromagnetic cooking process–not something recreatable at home. Chowhounds offer a couple of alternatives if you’re stuck panko-less and crave crispiness:

chameleonz approximates panko’s texture by trimming the crusts from good whole-loaf white bread, slicing it, letting the slices sit uncovered for an hour, and running them through the shredding disc on a food processor. Then he spreads the crumbs on a baking sheet and put in the oven with the heat off until they dry out.

shanagain gives Rice Krispies a whirl in the food processor. Seriously, she says, they do the trick.

Board Links

How can I make Panko?

Bean Soup with Bacon

Katie Nell set out to recreate her childhood favorite, Campbell’s bean with bacon soup, but better–and says it’s the best soup she’s ever made. Even better served with garlic bread!

Here’s the recipe:

1/4 lb. bacon, diced
1-2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 small red onion, in small dice
1/2 small red pepper, in small dice
1 large carrot, in small dice
3 small cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken stock

1 can white beans
Parmesan cheese

Fry the bacon in a saucepan until crispy, then drain and set aside, reserving the bacon fat in the pan. Add butter to pan and saute red onion, red pepper, and carrot until they just start to caramelize; add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add thyme; cook for 1 minute. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Add white beans and bacon, and heat until warmed through. Serve with Parmesan cheese on top.

Board Links Bean w/ Bacon Soup Recipe!

Get Your Red Hot Kielbasa Right Here

New Poland is a terrific resource for Polish food products, listed by state.

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Polish sausage from central IL–any available online?

Western-Inspired Chinese Food

Hong Kong-style cafes and restaurants serve western food for an Asian clientele. The offerings are reasonably priced and the resulting dishes can be surprising. Some of these places will span Chinese, American, French, and Russian influences, yielding French-style onion soup, clam chowder, borsht, as well as congee-type porridge. The borsht will often be made with tomatoes, instead of beets.

Sometimes the dish is named after the country that inspired it:

“Russian style” = A red sauce with some vegetables
“Mexican style” = “Russian style” with kidney beans
“German style salted ham hock” = based on schweinhaxe

Cities that have large Hong Kong immigrant populations will have these eclectic places. Peanut butter porky bun, anyone?

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Hong Kong-style Western food–$6 entree w/ soup (borscht) ,salad, spaghetti, dessert, ginger coke & $4 breakfast
Prince Cafe–19th and Geary, SF–Report

Mystery Chicken Part

After much anatomical discussion, the mystery of this chicken part seems to be solved. You won’t find it in the baggie containing giblets.

In the cavity of some commercially dressed chickens there are two reddish-brown blobs that rest next to the lower spine. They ‘re leftover bits of the kidneys.

Karl S recommends checking for them and removing them. If left alone, they’ll add a slightly acrid note to the pan juices.

All you ever wanted to know about chicken innards

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in the chicken cavity–kidney? liver?

Kid in a Candy Store

Kid in a Candy Store

Fresh from Madrid Fusión, a peek into Heston's goodies. READ MORE

No Squirrel for You

Squirrels are scarier than ever.

There once was a time—long before it became famous as a haven for mobsters and a mecca for ziti—when New Jersey was known mainly for its toxic-waste dumps.

Sadly, that time may be returning. The Trentonian reports that New Jersey officials are warning residents in the Ringwood area not to consume too many squirrels after a lead-contaminated bushy-tailed critter was found.

A letter sent Tuesday to Ringwood residents advised them that children should not eat squirrel more than once a month, pregnant women should limit their intake to twice a month, and adults should not eat squirrel more than twice a week.

The area is home to the Ramapough Mountain Indian Tribe, who often hunt, fish, and forage for their food, as well as a toxic-waste dump that has been on the list of Superfund sites for years.

Even small amounts of ingested lead can create a host of problems, including nervous-system damage and problems with brain development in children.

Maybe the government should clean up that site so that mesquite squirrel can come back to the northern New Jersey table.

Someone’s Got to Play with the Chocolate

In the realm of dream job, how does spending a month playing with chocolate sound? Sarah Copeland of the Food Network has done just that. Hey—someone’s got to make sure your chocolate soufflés don’t “expire.”

The project was in preparation for the Food Network’s guide Chocolate 101, which includes tips, history, buying and tasting notes, how-to pointers, and recipes. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the sweet dark stuff. As she reports on the Food Network Kitchen blog, Sarah and colleague Mory Thomas spent a month working on the recipes for the features—and, most important, the photos.

In order to get a great photograph of a soufflé just when it is at its highest, we had to have plenty of mise en place ready to account for the fact that a soufflé will exhale (or fall, if you must) before it makes it on film. Next, we baked off a dozen soufflés at intervals to shoot as we adjusted lighting, a composition until we came up with two shots that we loved.

While baking—and subsequently devouring—soufflé after soufflé may sound like a rough job, Sarah claims that it is all for “the greater good of chocolate lovers everywhere.”

Hmm, now where can I get a job like that? I’m ready to martyr myself for chocolate.

Until then, I’ll just have to content myself with reading up on the Food Network’s Chocolate 101.