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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Where Are the Healthy Drive-Thrus?

Fast food tastes disgusting. It's made from Z-grade ingredients and doled out by people who are paid slave wages by companies whose very existence poses a threat to the planet. Each meal we eat at BK or McDonald's brings us one step closer to a heart attack and produces a pile of garbage that will be shoveled into a hole in the earth.

So why do we eat it? Because in our busy, busy lives, rushing from point A to point B, we don't have time to cook, we don't have time to get takeout from a restaurant, we don't even have time to turn off the car and run into a convenience store. Sometimes it's drive-thru or nothing.

But why do drive-thrus unilaterally peddle such God-awful food? Pink-slime burgers, mystery chicken; there's nothing mysterious about making a burger and fries out of real, healthy ingredients. Where are the healthy drive-thrus?

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Hand-Pulled Noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods

At Xi'an Famous Foods, the noodles are made fresh daily. Alex Van Buren celebrates Chinese New Year with their savory cumin lamb noodles. A tip: Get the noodles to go and shuffle down the street to eat them with a beer at your favorite bar.

Sakanaya’s Gleaming Piles of Fish

Home sushi-makers, take note: Sakanaya (literally "fish market" in kanji) has fish that are making scotty27 tremble with joy. "Absolutely the best I've seen on the East Coast, bar none. I was in Tokyo yesterday. This guy? This guy rocks."

There's bluefin, bigeye, and albacore tuna; there's sushi-grade hamachi (a.k.a. yellowtail, a.k.a. buri). It's way pricey: $80 a pound for bluefin toro. But "I bought $18 worth, which due to its richness was more than enough for two people when served with vegetables and fried tofu," says scotty.

The house-made sushi and sashimi is a slightly more economical snack, at about $4 for eight "delicious" pieces, says scotty.

Sakanaya [Allston]
75 Linden Street, Boston
617-254-0009

Discuss: New Japanese Fish Market: Sakanaya

Baza Mows Down the Russian Deli Competition

Baza is the Russian market to beat, says StriperGuy. How do the hounds love it? Let us count the ways:

* Baked goods are superb, particularly the rugelach, cabbage turnovers, cherry and cheese blintzes, and freshly baked bread.
* The selection of jams is vast, choice, and inexpensive. "I grabbed a 4 pound (yes 4#) jar of sour cherry jam there for $7 that was the best I've ever eaten. My Italian father in law, who knows from jam and makes his own, agreed," says StriperGuy.
* "Best selections of salami (mostly Eastern European) in Boston, period," says StriperGuy.
* A huge variety of Russian pelmeni. "I got some bear ones the other day—most badass lunch ever," says Prav. "'What'd you bring for lunch, Prav?' 'Oh, just some bear.'"
* Smoked fish is abundant, and great.
* Interesting prepared foods lurk behind the counter, such as the chicken livers stewed with onions procured by StriperGuy, and the duck legs with apples slavered over by Prav: "When they're done right, they're sooo tender and good! And cheap!"
* Lots of varieties of adjika, the Russian red pepper/tomato paste.
* A freezer case full of Russian treats. Prav recommends the chocolate-covered cheesecake bars. "Nom."

Plus, "randomly, they have a guy who will make you sushi rolls too," says Prav.

Baza [Metro West]
30 Tower Road, Newton
617-986-8510

Discuss: Quick Updates Praise for Baza, Red Lentil

Overheard on the Boston Board

"I just had the most amazing duck dish at Chez Henri for dinner earlier tonight. It's sliced duck with a citrus pomegranate sauce, on top of spätzle and baby bok choy. I don't usually rave like this, but even just two days after suplerlative Peking Duck at Fuloon, this was a duck dish to remember." – lipoff

"KitchenArts is now Kitchenwares. It is in the same location that KitchenArts last occupied. The new owner seems to have injected a renewed passion into the business that KitchenArts lacked in its last several years of existence. They are also doing culinary related classes there." – Blue Point

"Dali's bread is a round loaf with a fine crumb; dry texture on the inside. A quarter-inch-thick slice would hold two tablespoons of hummus and not flinch." – enhF94

Cooking with Beans

34 ways to bean up, from salads to dips to chili and beyond. BROWSE

Hello, I’m Your Annoying Server

Hello, I’m Your Annoying Server I find it distasteful when servers introduce themselves. I’m no snob but I feel the role of a server is to be as close to invisible as possible. Is this some kind of server ploy to get a bigger tip, like drawing a smiley face on the check? READ MORE

The Soaked Torta

A torta ahogada is a classic dish of Guadalajara, "part tradition, part rite of passage," explains losangelicioustimes. "The hefty sandwich involves a thick sourdough-ish roll called a birote salado, which is filled with stewed pork and a thin layer of beans, topped with pickled onions, then literally drenched in red sauce. The last detail is the most important, as the sauce is a careful composite of two other sauces: one mild tomato and the other a searing chile de arbol salsa, which is reminiscent of Tapatio on steroids." The customers themselves decide the ratio of the sauce. Most go for "mita y mita"—a lip-tingling blend of both sauces. The masochistic may opt for all ultraspicy sauce.

The bread is always particularly chewy, so it holds its form despite the deluge of sauce. "The torta ahogada is intended to be eaten with your hands, staining your fingers red and leaving you with a distinct pepper odor despite the copious use of napkins," says losangelicioustimes.

Try it at Tortas Ahogadas El Guero, which shares its name with a famed tortas ahogadas shop in Guadalajara.

Tortas Ahogadas El Guero Restaurant [East LA]
4508 Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles
323-262-8900

Discuss: Tortas Ahogadas Y Mas: Exploring Whittier Boulevard in East LA

Spam Musubi and Kalua Quesadillas

Hapa J's is an unlikely oasis of good food in chow-poor San Clemente, says Lau. It's Hawaiian food, some traditional, some fusion-y.

The best thing on the menu is the Spam musubi, a sushilike roll with Spam sautéed in teriyaki sauce and rice seasoned with furikake, an ultrasavory mix of dried fish, sesame seed, and seaweed. Second-best: Portuguese sausage, made for Hapa J's by a local butcher.

Hapa J's also has an excellent version of the Hawaiian diner favorite loco moco: grilled hamburger patty and eggs over rice, all smothered in tasty, tasty brown gravy. Kalua pig, another Hawaiian classic, is served in pulled pork quesadillas topped with avocado, sour cream, and chipotle aioli. Perfect beer food, says Lau.

Hapa J's [Orange County]
2016 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente
949-276-6657

Discuss: Hapa J's – Great Hawaiian Food in San Clemente

Shut Up About El Taco’s Enchiladas Already!

The chicken enchiladas at El Taco are "superb," says HoundDogz. "They are, to put it bluntly, beyond good. They are great and beyond that... I kept on thinking about these enchiladas after I finished and was driving home. My wife had to have an earful about the enchiladas because I would not stop talking."

Chicken enchiladas are in a light red sauce. Beef enchiladas, also fabulous, come in a heavier red sauce. Both are excellent, but if push comes to shove, go for the chicken, says HoundDogz.

El Taco was founded by the same person who founded Taco Bell. A piece of history, my friends.

El Taco [710 Corridor]
7665 Firestone Boulevard, Downey
562-806-0672

Discuss: Superb Food At El Taco