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

Xiaolong Bao and Chinese Cioppino

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.

Shanghai House
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

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A quick take on Shanghai House

Malaysian Street Food and Island Fare

“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

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Little Malaysia Review

Two Foods Become One: Pastrami Pizza

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

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Pastrami Pizza

Bowled Over by Smitty’s Burger

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

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Smitty’s Grill (Pasadena)–review —great burger!

Desi Deli: Punjabi Standout in Hell’s Kitchen

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

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Desi Deli

Comforts of Home, Egyptian Style, at Astoria’s Al-Omda

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.

Al-Omda [Astoria]
33-10 28th Ave., between 33rd and 34th Sts., Astoria, Queens

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Al-Omda Restaurant —in Astoria, a little Egypt

Pecan Pie without Corn Syrup

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
3 eggs
1 lb. light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. bourbon or 1 tsp. vanilla
pinch salt

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.

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Pecan Tassies and no corn syrup Pecan Pie

Snazzy Sugar Cookie Decoration Technique

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.

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Help with Decorating Christmas Cookies

Foie Gras on the Half Shell

Yes, foie gras is occasionally served “cru,” i.e., raw. One such French preparation, “foie gras cru au gros sel”, is foie sliced thin like prosciutto, and sprinkled with coarse salt. Interesting, says Robert Lauriston, but the flavor and texture are better when it’s cooked.

Soaking the foie in milk and curing with some salt before the raw presentation, changes the texture and character from truly raw, adds JudyAU.

In most French recipes for raw foie, you just keep the liver in the fridge until the last minute, and then slice it with a knife that’s been dipped in warm water. The foie gras is garnished with coarse salt, crushed peppercorns and served with toasty country bread. Only the finest liver is used, says Carswell.

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Fois gras..Cru??

Spiral Sliced Hams

For a party buffet or a family meal, spriral sliced hams are a real convenience. There are some good ones out there.

Harrington’s of Vermont has good piggy products. Emilief says their spiral hams are delicious, and there’s no need even to warm them up (though you can).

Chinowayne is awaiting the arrival of a Burger’s Smokehouse semi-boneless, spiral sliced city ham. Dhedges53 says their smoked ham hocks are something special, as well.

Nueskes is another good company, with great ham and bacon. GretchenS ordered a whole, bone-in ham (“best we’ve ever eaten!”), and they offer spiral sliced too.

DanaB is a fan of Honeybaked Hams. They’re wonderfully convenient for impromptu get-togethers. They’re at their best at room temperature. Dana has never NOT been able to get the size she wanted. “It may not be the best ‘ham’ but I think they are the best ‘spiral-sliced ham’.”

Don’t forget Costco’s spiral sliced ham! Jen Kalb agrees they’re definitely not the best, but very cost effective and very good. Tip: don’t use the sweet glaze that comes with it; make your own with mustard and brown sugar, then stud the ham with cloves.

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Spiral Sliced Hams. What is the best? Honeybaked? Harry & David?