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

The Secret to Light and Crispy Beer Batter

If you prefer fried fish, onion rings, etc., with a light, crispy crust (vs. a denser, crunchy one), Pei has discovered the secret: incorporate beaten egg white into a typical beer batter. Here’s her recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 T cornstarch
1 T baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 bottle of beer
2 egg whites

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the beer, and stir to mix thoroughly. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Mix a little of the batter into the whites, then mix that all back into the batter. The mixture of dry ingredients and beer can sit as long as an hour–but beat the egg whites just before frying.

Board Links: Egg Whites for Beer Batter

Reduced-Sugar Fruit Sorbet

Good, dead-ripe fruit is sweet enough that it doesn’t require lots of extra sugar when making desserts. But sugar plays a larger role than just sweetening in making sorbet–it also affects texture and freezability. Too little sugar will produce a sorbet that freezes rock hard when stored, and will be full of ice crystals even when fresh. Here are some strategies for reducing sugar without compromising quality.

Instead of adding simple syrup to your fruit puree, try stirring sugar directly in (superfine sugar dissolves best). The taste will be cleanest, and you won’t be adding unnecessary water, which could help produce ice crystals. A pinch of salt helps bring out the fruit’s flavor.

Add a bit of alcohol (about 2 T of vodka for a neutral taste, or use a liqueur with a complementary flavor) toward the end of your ice cream machine’s freezing cycle. Alcohol inhibits overfreezing.

Remember that if your mixture has the perfect sweetness before freezing, it will be less sweet after, as freezing mutes sweetness. So adjust accordingly!

Board Links: Sorbet with a Reduced Sugar Simple Syrup–Will it work?

The Crepe of the Vietnamese

A Vietnamese crepe (banh xeo) is a more hot-blooded affair than a French crepe. While the latter is a thing of grace and delicacy, of yielding textures and measured softnesses, a Vietnamese crepe is closer in aesthetic to, say, a fried bar snack. The outside is thickly crispy, the inside a bit melty and oozy. The way my Vietnamese mom used to make ‘em, the inside of the crepe was still clearly a form of batter–and you liked it that way.

Oh, and Vietnamese crepes are filled with sprouts and shrimp and pork.

Edie’s favorite Vietnamese crepes are at Bodega Bistro. The crepes next door at Mangosteen are good, but not as delicious. Bodega Bistro is open seven days from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

veebee’s favorite Vietnamese crepe is at Lotus Garden. Her second favorite crepe is Angkor Borei. Though Angkor Borei’s crepe is not quite Vietnamese, it’s pretty close, and, in any case, it’s simply a real good crepe. Her third favorite is that at the aforementioned Bodega Bistro, though they can occasionally be undercooked and gummy.

Mike Lee’s favorite Viet crepes are the ones at Le Soleil.

Bodega Bistro [Tenderloin]
607 Larkin St., San Francisco
415-921-1218
Map

Mangosteen [Tenderloin]
601 Larkin St., at Eddy, San Francisco
415-776-3999
Map

Lotus Garden [Mission]
3216 Mission St., San Francisco
415-282-9088
Map

Angkor Borei [Mission]
3471 Mission St., at Cortland, San Francisco
415-550-8417
Map

Le Soleil Authentic Vietnamese [Richmond]
133 Clement St., San Francisco
415-668-4848
Map

Board Links: vietnamese crepe recommendations?

Daim Cake at Ikea

The Swedes love Daim cake. It’s made from an almondy biscuit batter that yields a thin cake. The cake is covered with chopped pieces of Daim candy (similar to Heath bars) and milk chocolate. It’s very sweet and rich.

The cakes are found in Ikea’s frozen food department; some stores sell it by the slice in the Cafe, too. JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester) likes the milk chocolate one best.

See a photo of Daim cake.

Board Links: Ikea–any worthy treats I should purchase?

Italian Meal Courses

The traditional ordering of courses for a classic Italian meal, says Robert Lauriston, is as follows:

Antipasto (‘pasto’ means meal, so antipasto means before the meal, i.e., appetizer)

Primo (first course, usually pasta or soup)

Secondo (entree), with contorni (vegetables on the side)

Dolce (dessert, often fresh seasonal fruit)

Cafe (coffee)

A salad course may be slipped in between entree and dessert, or a more substantial salad, such as Caprese (tomato and mozarella), can be served as a first course.

Board Links: Antipasto/Antapasti

What the Devil’s Got into Your Eggs?

Hounds offer up their favorite variations for filling deviled eggs.

-smoked paprika in the filling and as a garnish

-mayo, soy sauce, and chili-garlic paste

-wasabi and smoked salmon, topped with white and black sesame seeds

-high-quality unsalted butter and anchovy paste

-plain yogurt and mayo, curry powder, mango chutney, cilantro leaf garnish

-crumbled bacon

Board Links: Deviled egg variations ? Favorites for fruit salads? Suggestions please!

Thai Satay

Thai Satay may look and feel like every other little Thai restaurant in town. No weirdo-specials, no regional intensity. But nearly every Thai standard on the menu is prepared either competently or brilliantly. It is, consequently, the winner of katya’s survey of Peninsula Thai restaurants.

Her four favorite dishes are:

Egg rolls: filled with silver noodles and chicken, and entirely ungreasy. These are perhaps her favorite egg rolls in the Bay Area.

Cold vegetable spring rolls: filled with glass noodles, tofu, and bean sprouts. Not quite as good as the egg rolls, but still satisfying.

Pad kee mao: wonderous, with a good level of spiciness. And…

Yellow curry chicken: with a nicely complex sauce.

Also excellent: red curry, mussamun chicken, pineapple fried rice, panang chicken, and rad na. Quite good are tom kha gai, garlic pepper chicken, and sweet basil chicken. Not so good: cashew chicken, chili paste beef, and baby corn chicken. There also the excitingly named F.B.I.: fried banana with ice cream. Sadly, it is less than ballistically delicious.

One last note: order stuff medium spicy. If you get stuff very spicy, they just throw on lots of excess chili oil and pepper flakes. Sloppy and unmodulated spiciness. Not good.

Sun-Thu, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Thai Satay [Peninsula]
173 E. 4th St., at S. Ellsworth, San Mateo
650-342-3617
650-342-6451
Map

Board Links: Thai Satay in San Mateo – Great Curries and Egg Rolls But Don’t Get Busted by the F.B.I.!

Korean Fire Chicken

umetaro found a buldalk restaurant during a drunken post-sushi stumble. Buldalk is Korean fire chicken, a.k.a. “kill my mouth and make me scream” chicken. Fire chicken is the latest Korean craze–brutally spicy barbecued chicken, typically consumed by drunken twentysomething Koreans.

At this place, there’s no panchan, the rice is old, and the maekju is Americanized (which, in this case, means smaller pitchers and mugs). The acoustics are terrible, too–loud and echoey. But you can get buldalk with ddeok, and it’s satisfyingly spicy.

In brief: this place wouldn’t survive long in Seoul, but as San Francisco’s only buldalk restaurant, it’s worth a visit when you’re in the mood for chicken and pain.

It looks like they open at 5:30 p.m., and stay open as long as they’re busy. The restaurant sign reads “Korean Restaurant” and “Fire Chicken.”

Unnamed Korean Restaurant [Union Square]
East side of Taylor St., between Post and Geary, San Francisco
Map

Board Links: buldalk (fire chicken) restaurant

Lobster New England-Style: At Frugal Prices

The Palm is offering a lobster dinner deal, through Aug. 19. For two people, salads, two sides, coffee or tea and a 4-lb lobster is $75; 5lb $85; 6 lbs $95. There’s some question about whether these behemoths actually taste as good as their more modestly sized cousins, but New Trial says at least they’re never overcooked at the Palm. See more info.

Mark’s is doing a Wednesday night lobster special that’s a steal: chowder, salad, corn on the cob and a 1 1/2-lb Maine lobster.

At McCormick & Schmicks, Mondays are lobster nights: $20 for lobster with corn and some other stuff.

Frankie’s often has a well-priced whole lobster special–on a recent visit JudiAU had it prepared fra diavolo with pasta for $23.

And although Malibu Seafood would be the place to go for fried seafood, Neptune’s Net, on the side of PCH up near Ventura, is where it’s at for tender steamed ocean dwellers. Note that it’s pricier than you might expect, given the outdoor picnic tables and biker vibe.

There are a ton of mediocre seafood places on Redondo Pier–and two great ones. At Quality Seafood, look over the leap-up-at-you live blue crabs and lobsters and tons of other fresh fish and shellfish, and have them steam it for you right there. You can also get the oysters on the half shell.

Pacific Fish Center does it Korean-style: the crabs and lobsters are huge, and come with hot pepper paste for dipping. Also check out the wonderful spicy fish stew.

Palm Restaurant [Beaches]
9001 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-278-6366
Map

Palm Restaurant [Downtown]
1100 S. Flower St., Los Angeles
213-763-4600
Map

Mark’s Restaurant [West Hollywood]
861 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles
310-652-5252
Map

Mc Cormick & Schmick’s [Downtown]
633 W. 5th St. #4, Los Angeles
213-629-1929
Map

Mc Cormick & Schmick’s [Beverly Hills]
206 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills
310-859-0434
Map

Mc Cormick & Schmick’s [Pasadena-ish]
111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena
626-405-0064
Map

Mc Cormick & Schmick’s [Beaches]
2101 Rosecrans Ave., El Segundo
310-416-1123
Map

Mc Cormick & Schmick’s [South OC]
2000 Main St., Irvine
949-756-0421
Map

Frankie’s On Melrose [Melrose District]
7228 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
323-937-2801
Map

Malibu Fish & Seafood [North Beaches]
25653 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu
310-456-3430
Map

Neptune’s Net Seafood [North Beaches]
42505 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu
310-457-3095
Map

Board Links: Redondo Beach Seafood Restaurant?
Neptune’s Net vs Malibu Seafood
Where to eat a whole Maine lobster that’s somewhat affordable?
Where to buy live Maryland Crab?

Meatless Thai, Still Full of Flavor

The food at Busaba, a new vegetarian Thai restaurant, doesn’t suffer from a lack of meat, says abeccarey, who found it fresh and tasty. Green curry with roti and pad see ew are nicely seasoned (there are three levels of spiciness). The menu designates vegan dishes, as well as ones that can be “vegan-ized.” It’s a surprisingly elegant place, and the service is very hospitable.

Busaba [Melrose District]
7168 Melrose Ave., Formosa, Los Angeles
323-857-1882
http://busabathai.com
Map

Board Links: Busaba—Vegan/Vegetarian Thai