Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.
Been pining for that special Central Asian pop in your mouth ever since imports of caviar from the Caspian Sea were restricted in 2005? Well, the international regulating body that sets caviar export quotas has decided that sevruga and osetra can be sold this year.
As reported by Florence Fabricant in The New York Times (requires registration), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, believes that the Caspian’s sturgeon stocks are being managed sufficiently to allow harvesting this year by companies in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.
But the cream of the crop—satiny-salty beluga—is still on the forbidden list, since years of overfishing and pollution have damaged the beluga sturgeon most of all. And don’t fire up the toast points yet: Caviar from the 2007 catch won’t be available for at least two more months.
When you have a deep need for a solid hit of roe, but don’t require the delicate aesthetic heights of fine caviar, dip into some Greek cod roe–it’s cheap and tasty in the best way, says Robert Lauriston, at about $4 for an 8-ounce jar. Try Hellenic American Imports in San Francisco or Greek Imports in Daly City.
Salmon roe is also excellent–European market sells it by the half-pint and full pint for between $12 and $20 a pound, with price depending on the degree of intactness of the eggs. And 99 Ranch Market in Richmond usually carries bulk salmon eggs, tobiko, and other roe.
Hellenic American Imports [Mission]
2365 Mission St., between 19th and 20th Sts., San Francisco
Greek Imports [Peninsula]
6524 Mission St., Daly City
European Market [Richmond]
3038 Clement Street, at 35th Street, San Francisco
99 Ranch Market [East Bay]
3288 Pierce St., in Pacific East Mall, Richmond
Caviar and Roe
Even if you just got off the plane from Shanghai, the xiaolong bao at Shanghai House will not disappoint, says Gary Soup. They’re almost, but not quite, the equal of the dumplings at Shanghai Dumpling King or Shanghai Restaurant, but at $4.95 for 10 dumplings, he’s willing to cut them some slack.
Some other dishes are a little weird, like a tofu and seafood hot pot that seems overwhelmed by too many ingredients. All of it’s fresh, though, and cooked just the right amount. Think of it as Chinese cioppino.
Don’t miss the savory soy milk (yan doujiang), some of the best in San Francisco. It even has proper Shanghainese brine shrimp with their proper teeny little eyes sticking out.
3641 Balboa Street, San Francisco
Shanghai Dumpling House/Dumpling King [Richmond]
3319 Balboa St., San Francisco
Shanghai Restaurant/Shanghai Xiao Chi [Chinatown]
930 Webster St., Oakland
A quick take on Shanghai House
“We Malaysian transplants are hard pressed to find a suitable L.A. eatery that serves authentic fare,” says copacetic. Little Malaysiam however, is true to its name.
Some favorite dishes:
Char kway teow, the classic street food of stir-fried flat noodles. Get it hawker style by asking for it extra spicy, and get some chopped chile in soy sauce on the side.
Satay beef is a knockout, skewered on bamboo sticks and accompanied by chopped red onions swimming in a syrupy sweet sauce.
Seafood in garlic sauce is just plain delicious…and healthy.
Clear soup with fish balls is a reminder of the simple food from the island provinces.
Kankung belacan is vegetables with fermented shrimp paste–this one can be an acquired taste.
Beef rendang, complete with cloves, isn’t quite as good as that at Penang but still damn tasty.
Little Malaysia Restaurant [East LA-ish]
3944 Peck Rd. # 8, at Forest Grove, El Monte
Penang Malaysian Cuisine [Inland of LA]
987 S. Glendora Ave., at Vine, West Covina
Little Malaysia Review
One thing may bring you out to Downey Pizza Co: pastrami pizza. It’s like a pastrami sandwich on a pizza–pickles, mustard and all. Amazing, say russkar. Well, as long as you like pastrami. Everything else is more like Chef Boyardee, says ipse dixit.
Downey Pizza Co. [South LA]
9026 Florence Ave., at Lakewood, Downey
Never a fan of Smitty’s, The Oracle was surprised to find the burger can be described as a mound of heavenly goodness. The smokehouse burger has meaty slices of applewood bacon, a thick hunk of beef, the bread is delicious, and the cheese melts in perfectly overall. Fries are lightly seasoned, really nice.
Smitty’s Grill [Pasadena-ish]
110 S. Lake St., at Green, Pasadena
Smitty’s Grill (Pasadena)–review —great burger!
Among Manhattan’s South Asian cabbie hangouts, Desi Deli is one of the newer entries. Skillet Licker, who’s made the rounds, says it’s also one of the best, a cut above Cuisine of Pakistan, Haandi, and Pakistan Tea House. He reports a surprisingly fine meal highlighted by soulfully delicious chickpeas. Other standouts: eggplant with green peas, malai kofta, and even a decent, fresh version of the usual throwaway salad. Saag, however, can be lackluster and over-pureed.
Also on the menu at this 24/7 Punjabi spot: goat and chicken curries, paratha and other griddled breads, tandoori chicken, a couple of chaat. Fiery green chiles grace every table, seating is serviceable, and the TV shows all Bollywood all the time.
Desi Deli [Clinton]
724 10th Ave., between W. 49th and 50th Sts., Manhattan
There’s solid, homey Egyptian food at Astoria’s Al-Omda. Recent standouts include rich, garlicky, herbaceous green soup and juicy, tender, spice-rubbed rabbit, Brian S reports. Also good: rice pilaf, fresh pita, and pickled or spice-macerated vegetables (olives, peppers, carrots). “This place is awesome,” Brian adds. Beyond the chow, expect a bright, pleasant room and a friendly owner fluent in English.
33-10 28th Ave., between 33rd and 34th Sts., Astoria, Queens
Al-Omda Restaurant —in Astoria, a little Egypt
Candy says this pecan pie is a nice change from those made with corn syrup-based fillings, but warns that using brown sugar made from beet sugar will lead to a gluey filling:
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1 lb. light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. bourbon or 1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F. Scatter pecans in bottom of pie shell. Stir together remaining ingredients (do not beat) and pour over pecans. Bake 40 minutes, then reduce heat to 225F and bake 15 minutes longer, until pie is set.
Pecan Tassies and no corn syrup Pecan Pie
Colored egg yolk glazes (also called egg tempera) are a great way to decorate sugar cookies. They’re made by mixing small amounts of beaten egg yolk with food coloring, and you paint them on the cookies before they are baked. The colors after baking are bright and true, says kittyfood. The glaze doesn’t add any sweetness, but you can sprinkle decorative sugars over the glaze before baking the cookies, or outline the designs with icing after baking. Be sure to have plenty of inexpensive paint brushes, or even Q-tips, for applying the glaze. It’s an excellent cookie-decorating medium for children, who become absorbed in creative cookie painting, notes Rhee.
Help with Decorating Christmas Cookies