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

Steamed Pork Patties

There are excellent steamed pork patties at West Lake Restaurant, reports vliang. Many varieties of pork patties are available. Favorite: mei tsai–steamed pork patty with water chestnuts, topped with pickled vegetables. Their steamed pork patty with salted egg is great, too; it’s even better than Capital’s version.

There’s a group lunch menu special–three dishes for $16.95–and the mei tsai pork patties are on it. There’s also a neat $2 menu, with things like salt and pepper shrimp (big, head-on shrimp with nicely crispy outsides and juicy insides, and a good amount of heat).

There’s a ton of offerings on their menu at every price point.

West Lake Restaurant [East Bay]
320 Jackson St., Hayward

Board Links: Steamed Pork Patty @ West Lake Restaurant, Hayward

Buying Fish

To be sure you choose the freshest fish, use your eyes and your nose. The flesh or skin should be shiny, the eyes clear, and the gills should be nicely pink. Most good fishmongers will let you smell fresh seafood; if it’s old, you’ll be able to tell.

tbear says some fish varieties hold longer than others. Flat fish like sole and turbot are more perishable. Ask when they were caught, since these fish are often caught and brought to market same day.

Large fish, like tuna and swordfish, last longer if they aren’t cleaned immediately. If they’re caught at a distance from the market, they’ll be flash-frozen on the boat–which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Oysters and mussels hold surprising well, because they’re stored alive. Toss out open ones, which may be dead. A test for determining if they’re dead: tap them on the counter. Good ones will close right up!

Most important: get to know your fishmonger.

Board Links: Buying fish on a Monday at a supermarket

How to Keep Dairy Products Fresh Longer

This trick is so simple, you’ll be slapping your forehead that you haven’t thought of it already!

Store milky products, like milk, cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc., in the back of the fridge, where it’s coldest. This applies too, when you pick them up at the store; choose containers farthest back in the case. You’ll find these items will remain fresh longer.

A tip for cottage cheese from rworange: store it upside down (in the back of the fridge, of course!). This is said to create a vacuum seal that helps keep the cottage cheese fresh.

Board Links: A thank you for a good tip … keeping dairy products fresh
Keeping cottage cheese fresh

Tenderizing Collards

Here’s a nifty tip for tenderizing mature collard greens.

Cut out the tough center ribs, put the collards in a plastic freezer bag, and freeze them for a while (anywhere from a few hours to a week). Freezing helps break down the tough cells in older collards; you’ll still need to simmer for a good while, but the result will be more palatable and require less cooking time.

Board Links: Collards

Microwave Marmalade

Homemade marmalade is simple to make in your microwave, says Sherri. She makes small batches throughout citrus season, and finds that it keeps in the fridge just fine.

Here’s her technique, which works equally well for oranges, grapefruit, limes, lemons, or any combination (it’s especially good with Meyer lemons or blood oranges).

Wash and chop 8 oz of citrus fruit into 1/8-1/4” pieces, including peel and flesh, but removing ends and seeds. Place in a 2-quart microwave-safe glass bowl and add 8 oz sugar. Stir to blend. Microwave on high for about 8 minutes (depending on the power of your microwave), stirring occasionally, cooking until thickened. Pour into a clean glass jar, cool, and refrigerate. Makes about 12 oz.

NOTE: The yield of the recipe can be changed; just use equal weights of citrus and sugar.

Board Links: Citrus Marmalade for Pat Hammond & Enjilico

Red Horse: Inviting New Coffeehouse in Park Slope

Coffee lovers have quickly taken to the Red Horse Cafe, a pleasant spot that opened just a couple months ago in Park Slope. Beans come from Barrington, the artisanal Massachusetts roaster that also supplies the hound-endorsed Joe in Manhattan. “So far, they seem to be doing a pretty good job with them,” observes PAL, who ranks the newcomer ahead of established neighborhood favorite Cafe Regular, “where I’ve received three totally botched espresso drinks in the past few months.”

The Red Horse also sells premade sandwiches, as well as sweets from Baked in Red Hook. It has comfortable leather couches, tables for laptop users, and free wi-fi. “A great place to hang out,” says Peter Cuce.

Red Horse Cafe [Park Slope]
497 6th Ave., at 12th St., Brooklyn

Baked [Red Hook]
359 Van Brunt St., between Wolcott and Dikeman, Brooklyn

Board Links: Great coffee in Brooklyn
New to south Slope and starving
new place on Sixth Avenue, Park Slope

Cooling Off in a Bowl of Japanese Noodles

There’s no better hot-weather meal than cold Japanese noodles, and Saburi works a delicious variation on the theme. Its hiyashi chuka–thin wheat noodles in soy-flavored broth, topped with egg, sliced chicken, shiitake, pickled ginger, cucumber, and lettuce–is a refreshing dish that nails the subtle flavors of the Japanese-Chinese fusion cuisine called wafu-chuka, reports sunnydesu. Also recommended: unagi ishiyaki don (broiled eel on rice), tender inside, sweet and smoky outside, and served hot and sizzling in a stone pot.

Rai Rai Ken, whose ramen gets mixed marks, offers decent cold noodle specials in summer. kenito799 recommends tasty (if inauthentic) cold ramen with chicken, seaweed, apples, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and ginger.

In Midtown, ramen specialist Sapporo unloads an “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” take on hiyashi chuka, says Spoony Bard: cold noodles in dark, sweet broth, topped with beef, chicken, fake crab, egg, red pickled ginger, cucumber, mushroom, seaweed, tomato, and corn. Not bad, but it may overwhelm those of more austere taste.

A relatively restrained version can be had at Menchanko-Tei, which makes more elegant broth and limits its toppings to egg, chicken, cucumber, mushroom, and seaweed. Other cold noodle treatments here include tsuke men (with pork, vegetables, and a dipping sauce) and sesame-peanut sauce with chicken.

For fans of buckwheat noodles, East Village favorite SobaKoh serves cold soba several ways–a terrific recent special paired the delicate handmade noodles with uni and salmon roe.

And in Soho, cold (or hot) soba remains a dependable specialty at Tokyo-based Honmura-An. “Pure serenity,” sighs guttergourmet. “Highly recommended to escape the heat wave.”

Saburi Restaurant [Murray Hill]
168 Lexington Ave., between E. 30th and 31st Sts., Manhattan

Rai Rai Ken [East Village]
214 E. 10th St., between 1st and 2nd Aves., Manhattan

Sapporo [Rockefeller Center]
152 W. 49th St., between 6th and 7th Aves., Manhattan

Menchanko-Tei [Midtown]
43 W. 55th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan

Menchanko-Tei [Grand Central]
131 E 45th St., between Lexington and 3rd Aves., Manhattan

SobaKoh [East Village]
309 E. 5th St., between 2nd and 1st Aves., Manhattan

Honmura An [Soho]
170 Mercer St., between Houston and Prince, Manhattan

Board Links: Japanese noodle bars
Honmura An

Stuck on This Kebab

The secret herbaceous ingredient in Heider Baba’s koobideh sandwich was driving mr mouther wild. Mint, Thai basil, dill?? Whatever it is, is blended masterfully with the creamy dressing and spiced ground beef. The sandwich also has lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Adds bfez, the adas polo (rice pilaf with raisins, lentils, and more) is great.

Heidar Baba [Pasadena-ish]
1511 E Colorado Blvd., at Hill, Pasadena

Board Links: great pita sandwich from Heider Baba in Pasadena

Sweet Relief: Mango Shaved Ice

After two weeks of eating Taiwanese mango shaved ice every other day, TonyC says the absolute best is at Shau May on Valley Boulevard.

What makes this mango shaved ice so darned special?

A ton of condensed milk
Free shaved ice refill
Plenty of fresh mango chunks
Mango juice in addition to condensed milk
Various bits of almond/fruit jelly squares
AND a whole cup of mango jello on top

They’re running a buffet special for $4, plus $1 for shaved ice. Shaved ice alone is $2.99, an unbeatable deal for flavor euphoria.

Shau May Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
250 W Valley Blvd., between New and Del Mar, San Gabriel

Board Links: Best Taiwanese Mango Shaved Ice (at least in the SGV)

A Wiener Winner, with Chili

Hot Dog City takes its hot dogs seriously, says Melanie Wong. They use Schwarz sausages, with natural casing. Their chili dog, $3.75, is everything a chili dog should be–meaty, brown, and glorious. Chili is made on premises. It’s made almost completely of hand-chopped, irregularly-sized, browned, and braised beef, with creamy red beans. It has a resonant, meaty depth to it. It’s not about the seasonings; it’s more a robust experience of pure beefiness. Cheese and onions are grated and chopped to order, ensuring freshness. The steamed bun is fluffy, and the dog itself is perfect–snappy, plump, and juicy. Every bite yields a burst of liquid meat flavor. The place is never that busy, and patrons worry it may not make it. So go, please!

The downtown location is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and closed on Sunday.

Hot Dog City [Sonoma County]
631 4th St., Santa Rosa

Hot Dog City [Sonoma County]
804 Coddingtown Ctr., Santa Rosa

Board Links: Hot Dog City, Santa Rosa