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

Hawaiian Food Dream Factory

The cook at Aloha Food Factory says he can make anything you want.


Well, if what you want is along the lines of a burrito stuffed with Spam, pineapple and kalua pork, drenched in teriyaki sauce and spiked with wasabi, yes.

OK, it sounds…odd, but ipse dixit insists, “The nice salty, crunchy feel of the slightly charred spam mixed in with the sweet pineapple and pork…all of it blended in nicely with the wasabi. Oh, and of course, the teri sauce just makes sure it all goes down the windpipe with ease. This was so damn good.”

On the more traditional front, spam musubi is good here, with a good proportion of spam and nori compared to the rice, says AquaW. Fried-to-order sesame chicken is pretty awesome too.

Shaved ice hits the spot on a hot day, but isn’t quite like what you’d get in the islands.

Aloha Food Factory [San Gabriel Valley]
2990 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra

Board Links: I have found my reason for living … ALOHA FOOD FACTORY!

Hawaiian Shave Ice

True Hawaiian shave ice can be tough to find on the mainland. Key ingredients: good ice cream, adzuki (sweet red) beans, house-made syrup (and a variety of choices), and powdery, properly shaved ice.

You’re probably best off going to Teri Hawaii, where syrup flavors include strawberry, lilikoi, and pineapple–and you can get them together. Ice cream and adzuki beans are available, and the result is creamy, fruity, and delectable.

Teri is Hawaii-authentic, if not the same quality as Matsumoto, the famed shave-ice spot on Oahu’s North Shore, says ek. Mike Q, though, hands Teri the advantage for serving the shave ice in a good-size cup, not a paper cone. A serving is about $3.

A couple other recommendations: Maui BBQ, where shave ice is served with ice cream and adzuki, and about eight flavors of syrup. And in Simi Valley, of all places, there’s Tutu’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shack, where they’ve got all the fixings.

Teriyaki Hawaii [South Bay]
a.k.a. Teri Hawaii
1425 W. Artesia Blvd. #34, Gardena

Maui Hawaiian BBQ [North OC]
1323 S. Harbor Blvd., Orangethorpe, Fullerton

Tutu’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shack [West San Fernando Valley]
4332 Cochran St., Simi Valley


Board Links

Fish Balls Fuzhou Style and Other Chinatown Bites

Wei Choon Wang makes first-rate fish balls in the Fuzhou style, reports Chandavkl. At this 24/7 hole-in-the-wall on Eldridge, $3 buys 10 of them–fat, surprisingly light, and stuffed with minced pork–afloat in a bowl of light broth. Season to taste with sriracha, vinegar, and other condiments on the table.

You’ll also find this dish down the block at Young City Fish Balls and at many other restaurants in the newer, Fujianese-dominated quarter of Chinatown, east and south of the neighborhood’s historic core.

For a different spin on fish balls, XO Kitchen has nice ones made in house and served in noodle soup, says Chandavkl. Hounds also recommend this Hong Kong-style cafe for its pork chop casserole, jellyfish with preserved egg and ginger, Japanese-style pan-fried dumplings, and teriyaki freshwater eel over rice.

Finally, a fresh Chinese bakery tip from Wilfrid, who’s been munching his way through Sunshine Cafe’s lineup of savory and sweet buns and pastries. Especially recommended: chicken pies, dried pork rolls, and hot dog and scallion buns, average price around 75 cents.

Wei Choon Wang Restaurant [Chinatown]
6 Eldridge St., near Division, Manhattan

Young City Fish Balls [Chinatown]
21A Eldridge St., between Canal and Division, Manhattan

XO Kitchen [Lower East Side]
148 Hester St., between Elizabeth and Bowery, Manhattan

Sunshine Cafe [Lower East Side]
201 Allen St., between Houston and Stanton, Manhattan

Board Links: knock my socks off for under $3
XO Kitchen (Hester) recommendations?

Cobble Hill Dinner Deals at Chestnut and Caffe Carciofo

More good deals in Cobble Hill, where Chestnut lays out a $25 prix fixe three-course dinner on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that “has to be one of the great bargains in Brooklyn,” suggests Steve R.. The entire menu is available (with supplements for some entrees that raise the price to $30). Many restaurants offer comparable midweek specials, Steve adds, “but Chestnut’s food is a steal at this price, where others are merely good bargains. Highly recommended, especially now that they’ve opened the outdoor area in back.”

Standout appetizers include soft shell crab tacos (with tomatillo sauce and crisp fried onions in house-made tortillas) and haystack shrimp (six sweet jumbos, wrapped in shredded potato and served with coriander pesto). Among the entrees, black sea bass, fig-stuffed pork chop (served with polenta), and tender chicken breast (with white asparagus and quinoa salad) are good bets. For dessert, try house-made ice creams or rhubarb brioche with Meyer lemon curd and strawberry sorbet.

A couple blocks away, Caffe Carciofo offers another attractive special–a $19.95 three-course dinner from the full menu, Monday through Thursday. “It’s certainly the best deal I have seen anywhere in the nabe,” says vespa, who recommends broccoli rabe crostini, grilled calamari, and wild mushroom risotto, among other things, from the mostly Tuscan menu. “Two of us had three courses each and a great Shiraz for $70.”

Chestnut [Cobble Hill]
271 Smith St., near Degraw, Brooklyn

Caffe Carciofo [Cobble Hill]
248 Court St., at Kane, Brooklyn

Board Links: Pre fixe at Carciofo

Lunch Special at Primorski

There’s a don’t-miss bargain at Primorski in Brighton Beach, which for 25 years has served up hearty Russian and Georgian chow —plus nightly floor shows and free-flowing vodka. At lunchtime, $5.98 buys an appetizer, a main course, terrific cabbage salad, and coffee or tea. It used to be a dollar cheaper—what wasn’t?—but it’s still a steal.

“This is one of the great meal deals in the city,” notes jen kalb.

Among the appetizers, mrnyc recommends kharcho (lamb and rice soup) or nice peppery Ukrainian-style beef borscht. Among the main courses, meat blintzes (filled with well-spiced, fine-ground meat) and salyanka (lamb stew with tomato and onion) are both filling and fine. For a buck or two more, get a round of fabulous house-made bread.

Primorski Restaurant [Brighton Beach]
282 Brighton Beach Ave. #B, between Brighton 2nd and 3rd Sts
Brooklyn, NY

Board Links: brighton beach: PRIMORSKI lunch special

Fabulous Tofu Dish

“It’s been a long time (probably the early 1980s) since we’ve been able to utter “Golden Dragon” and “good food” in the same sentence…” notes Chandavkl, “But thanks to a recent banquet I’ve discovered the best tofu dish I can recall eating at a Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area.”

Called fried tofu in special sauce (or something), it consists of round, silver-dollar-size slices of deep-fried tofu, tender inside, with mushrooms and vegetables in a savory light sauce with an elusive yet terrific flavor.

Golden Dragon Restaurant [Chinatown]
960 N. Broadway, Los Angeles

Board Links: Fabulous Tofu Dish At Golden Dragon (Chinatown)

Persian in Glendale

Rarely (if ever) mentioned in discussions of Glendale’s stable of Persian and Armenian restaurants is Moon Mart, a small place tucked into a mini-mall. terim swears by the deliciousness of the food—don’t be deterred by people smoking outside. Bring a group in order to try more of the tasty side dishes.

Moon Mart Kabab [East San Fernando Valley]
400 S. Glendale Ave. #A, Glendale

Board Links: persian or armenian glendale

Onion-Saving Secret

Onion cognoscenti offer a neat trick for prolonging freshness (especially with varieties that don’t usually keep so well, such as Vidalias): store them in pantyhose! Drop an onion into a pantyhose leg, and knot it off. Drop in another onion, knot, and repeat.

When you need to use an onion, just cut the hose off before the next knot. The rest stay protected! Hang your oniony pantyhose in a cool, ventilated area, and the onions will last for several months.

Bonus tip: to prevent weeping, hold a small piece of bread in your mouth as you chop (don’t chew!). Another trick is to keep a few onions at a time chilled in your crisper drawer (cold ones aren’t as gaseous).

Board Links: Onions in pantyhose, Vidalia chocolate cake & other tips

Carnitas in Your Kitchen

A taqueria lives or dies on its carnitas. They must be nice and crispy outside, moist inside, sufficiently fatty, and full of flavor. The intrepid hound asks: can I make incredible carnitas at home? You bet!

adamclyde suggests a simple method. He uses pork shoulder (cut in 3-inch chunks), the peel of an orange, and lots of fresh lard (enough to barely cover the pork). He cooks on a very low simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until very tender, then cranks up the heat, watching closely. As soon the meat browns, remove to paper towels, salt, and break into chunks to serve.

gordon wing riffs on various carnitas recipes using boneless country-style pork ribs: he cooks them down with water, orange juice, salt and pepper, cumin, a bit of paprika, and some chipotle hot sauce (they give up enough fat that he doesn’t feel need for lard). Once very tender, he browns in a hot wok.

Several chowhounds swear by an Epicurious recipe using boneless country-style pork ribs and orange juice…plus, of all things, brandy. “I thought this sounded odd, but they were by far the best carnitas I’ve ever eaten,” raves FlyerFan.

Board Links: carnitas–thanks for the inspiration! (pic)
Carnitas…anybody have a good recipe?

Brazilian Snacks, All the Time! And Cashew Juice!

Most of the time, Sabor Brazil is a combination grocery store and coffee house, with fresh Brazilian juices, snacks, and bakery items. The cafe part is cheery and sunny.

The fresh caju (pronounced ‘ka-ZHOO’) juice is some of the best juice rworange has ever had in her entire chow-focused life. It is all tart and tangy, something like pineapple juice without the fruitiness or acidity. Tons of other juices, too, including acai (palm berry), acerola (wild cherry), and abacaxi (brazilian pineapple). Cocao juice is white, with a unique taste–buttery, tart, and tangy. It tastes a little like lychees, and a little like passion-fruit. You can also get cocoa with cream–cocoa juice blended with milk and sugar. This results in a very different beverage–frothy, a little pulpy, and quite good.

Great snacks, too, like coxinha–a croquette shaped like a chicken thigh. This is basically a hunk of plain stewed chicken, wrapped in potato, rolled in bread crumbs, and deep-fried. The dough has a mochi-like texture, a nice contrast to the crisp breadcrumb crust. Theirs is a very nice coxinha, but the coxhina at Sunstream may have a slight edge.

The best two snacks are disco and empadeo goiano. Disco is a meat patty covered with flavored bread crumbs and deep-fried. It tastes like a really good Italian meatball. Empadeo goiano is Brazilian chicken pot pie. It has a nice brown crust, which looks like brioche, but turns out to be a delicious, thick layer of cheese. Inside, there’s shredded stewed chicken, mixed with green olives, diced potatoes, corn niblets, and spices.

Chicken enroladino is pie crust with a soft chicken filling (really soft–as in mashed potato soft) and bits of corn. It comes in two sizes; one’s a big turnover, and the other is basically a mini-muffin.

Pao de queijo are little walnut-sized cheese bread. These are good (though, again, Sunstream’s version might be a little better). Take ‘em home and heat ‘em up. Quibe (a mix of minced meat, mint, and couscous fried in oil) is good, as is rizole de milho–yet another deep-fried, breadcrumb-covered snack, this one filled with creamy cheese, corn nibblets, and some sort of chopped green herb.

There’s also a Brazilian marketplace with coffee, condiments, guava fig newtons, and a freezer case full of frozen Brazilian fruits.

But here’s the big news (and we thank you for your patience). This place also throws dinners once a month, on Sundays. The next one is in July. There is no dinner this month because, well, soccer.

But back to fried snacks once more if we may. The best coxinha of all may be the ones at Nino’s Pizzeria’s, which come in regular and cream cheese versions (the cream cheese is mixed into the dough). They’re served with jalapeno-spiked ranch dipping sauce. It’s peppy.

See a great web page (with photos) of Brazilian salgadinhos (all these crunchy savory snacks) at:

Sabor Brazil [East Bay]
4820 Bissell Ave., at San Pablo, Richmond

Sunstream Cafe [Richmond]
2884 Geary Blvd, San Francisco

Nino’s Pizzeria & Brazilian Restaurant [East Bay]
1916 Martin Luther King JR Way, Berkeley

Board Links: Brazilian snacks & cocoa juice at Sabor Brazil & Nino’s Pizzeria
Bay Area Brazilian Markets & Brazilian Easter Eggs