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

Teranga’s Multinational Menu

Senegalese food has touches of French, African, Portuguese, and Vietnamese cuisine to it, as the menu at Teranga demonstrates. Take the nems for example, which are much like Vietnamese imperial rolls, or the maafe, a lamb, peanut, and rice stew that has a distinctly African feel and is “delicious without being weird,” says kayowinter.

“I’d say this was the best Senegalese food I’ve ever had but that wouldn’t mean much since it’s the only Senegalese food I’ve ever had,” says 9lives. “It won’t be my last.”

For her part, kayowinter was cock-a-hoop over the decidedly non-average salad “ordinaire,” which mixed spring lettuce with white and sweet potatoes and beets in a light, garlicky dressing. Her husband loved the lamb chops, which were “tender and garlicky with a lot of that delicious char taste from the grill.”

Senegalese cuisine is known for its ultra-fresh juices; hounds generally like the ginger drink, but say that the bissap juice (a purple mix of sorrel or hibiscus juice, pineapple, orange flower water, and vanilla sugar) is an acquired taste.

Teranga [South End]
1746 Washington Street, Boston

Board Link: Teranga/ Senegalese South End

Sriracha: A Universal Condiment?

What’s the difference between the popular hot sauce called sriracha and the condiment known as “chili garlic sauce”? Isn’t sriracha pretty much chili garlic sauce? Aren’t they interchangeable? The main difference is that sriracha has sugar, and chili garlic sauce doesn’t, says goodhealthgourmet. Sugar tempers the heat a bit.

Chili garlic sauce is also more garlicky and tart in flavor than the sriracha, again, because of the lack of sugar, says Miss Needle. “Personally, I find sriracha to be more of a ‘universal’ condiment as the sugar balances out the vinegar,” says Miss Needle. “And I’m only talking about the Huy Fong brand as I’ve found other sriracha sauces to be quite vinegary. And sriracha is smooth while there are seeds present in the chili garlic sauce.”

Another similar product is the Indonesian sauce sambal oelek. It’s even more elemental than chili garlic sauce as it “has no garlic or sugar,” says SnackHappy. “The ingredients are chile, salt, and vinegar, but the taste is pretty much straight-up chili paste.”

Board Link: Sriracha/chili garlic

Soy Joy

little.tiger loves number 137 on the menu at MuLan, “bean curd with dry bean sauce,” a dish that features “a crunchy, salty, slightly sweet crushed dry bean topping over silken tofu in a sweetened soy sauce with broccoli.” But what are those delicious little “dry beans”?

They’re dried soy beans that have been “glazed with some sugary substance and deep-fried,” says Luther. “Honey-roasted soy nuts, basically.”

Dou su jiang, or “fried crispy soy bean sauce” is a common Taiwanese condiment, and is often found as a topping for fish. “It’s quite a bit better on the tofu,” says Luther, “perhaps just because you can enjoy the sweet/salty without having to add ‘tender mild white fish’ to the combo.”

MuLan [Cambridge]
228 Broadway, Cambridge

Board Link: Taiwanese food experts: what are the “dry beans” in Mulan’s “bean curd with dry bean sauce”?

Can All You Can

DailyFinance provides one of the best roundups available of coverage of the Great 2009 Canning Craze, and the various reactions to it. Primal? Practical? Precious? Is it possible that canning, something our grandparents and great-grandparents did to cope with all the extra cucumbers and tomatoes, has somehow become something insufferably twee?

Salon thinks so; the Wall Street Journal doesn’t. The DF roundup starts by putting its fingers on the craft’s pulse as trend of the moment, but swings quickly into deeper and more philosophical territory: canning as a personal revolt against Big Food, which is less and less perceived as the safe, delicious, affordable wave of the future.

A brief excerpt from the surprisingly stirring conclusion to the DF story:

“It’s not that I don’t trust corporations. It’s just that I don’t know the corporations. And I know Amy, who sells me tomatoes, and I know that I care whether or not my children are sickened by my food.”

Trendy or not, that makes sense.

Like Disneyland, But With Food

There have been, of course, a burst of reviews about The Bazaar, José Andrés’s wonderland of food experimentation. elmomonster’s recent review really captures the magic of the place. Bazaar is Disneyland, says elmomonster. “Plain and simple, it is a theme park made for people like me. And it isn’t just for the fact that there are three distinct themed rooms, which is obvious; but for the food, which takes you on a ride as head-trippy as [It’s] a Small World on acid.”

“The menu, itself, is like a park map which asks: What do you want to go on next?” says elmomonster. There’s Frontierland, with the traditional stuff like cheeses and charcuterie. Then there’s Tomorrowland, where the weirdness starts.

Ignore the tasting menu, suggests elmomonster, and go wandering on your own. There is humor here, like a joke version of a Philly cheesesteak, which is a sort of puffed up matzo cracker, filled with cheese, and topped with ultra-thin slices of Wagyu beef. There is delight here, like “12 Tiny Eggs Sunny Side Up.” “When you can get a penny-size, unbroken yolk in every spoonful, you don’t wonder about anything else other than why the dish hasn’t been copied for every IHOP and Denny’s in America,” says elmomonster. And there is madness here, like sea urchin roe, sitting “like ice cream over silky oil and bits of finely diced vegetables with the jarring crunch of Pop Rocks and the sharpness of relish.”

And then there are the scientific magic tricks. “Not Your Everyday Caprese” is a “starting lesson in molecular gastronomy 101”, says elmomonster. The dish involves liquid mozzarella, “a Mr. Wizard science magic trick that creates a thin film of skin around the liquid—a temporary water balloon that bursts on your tongue. The trick for the diner is to pick up the fragile orbs with a spoon, along with the de-skinned cherry tomato, the pesto, and the Cheez-It-like cracker. And when it’s all in your mouth: POP!”

The place is full of whimsy, says elmomonster, but you’re always in on the joke.

The Bazaar [Mid-City]
465 S. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles

Board Link: Another The Bazaar Review with Photos

Chinese Tomato Beef with Rice

A lot of folks think of tomato beef with rice as a Cantonese-American dish, but some claim that it’s actually a very traditional, very old-school, totally Cantonese comfort-food classic. Of course, there are different versions, including pure Cantonese takes, very sweet Hong Kong café versions with ketchup, scrambled eggs, and French-style cubes of filet mignon, and the gloppier Americanized takes.

Some versions start with a vinegar base, others with ketchup, and others with soy sauce, explains ipsedixit. Though ipsedixit likes the cubes of filet mignon in the various Hong Kong versions around town, the excess sweetness in the Hong Kong version (a result of an excessive dependence on ketchup instead of real tomatoes) is a turn-off.

Bamboo House Chinese Restaurant is a dumpy little place, but the tomato beef with rice is incredible, says J.L.. This version is Mandarin-style, with a soy sauce and tomato base, and thinly cut flank steak.

May Mei serves quite authentic Cantonese fare, and their take is quite tasty, says crystaw.

Bamboo House Chinese Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
2718 W. Valley Boulevard, Alhambra

May Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
639 W. Duarte Road, Arcadia

Board Link: Chinese Tomato Beef w/Rice

A Huge Lobster Benedict

Here on the West Coast, most lobster Benedicts are either too small, or “can best be described as ‘long time no sea,’” says Servorg. But not so at the wonderful Mollies Famous Café. “This is a huge portion of quite nice New England lobster meat, excellent hollandaise and two perfectly poached eggs with soft yolks … along with a raft of country potatoes done with a nice brown crust,” describes Servorg. The whole mess is a mere $11.50, which is more than fair.

Mollies is, in general, a great local breakfast spot, says Servorg, and it also has wonderful apple butter. Beware, though: There are other, similarly named restaurants in the area that bear no relation to this one, and aren’t nearly as good.

Mollies Famous Café [Orange County]
32033 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano

Board Link: Lobster Benedict in San Juan Capistrano (SJC) This Morning

San Francisco to David Chang: Go Momofuku Yourself

San Francisco chefs are pissed. One week after Momofuku’s David Chang said that in San Francisco, “There’s only a handful of restaurants that are manipulating food,” and that “every restaurant in San Francisco is serving figs on a plate with nothing on it,” the Asia Society center in San Francisco has canceled a forthcoming Chang book-signing.

Giving what Grub Street calls a “Larry David-style apology,” Chang said it was a misunderstanding yet affirmed, “I’m never gonna open a place in San Francisco.” OK, thanks for that.

By the way, the context for the “figs on a plate” comment was a panel at the New York Food & Wine Festival with Anthony Bourdain that actually sounded pretty amusing. Chang and Bourdain’s other targets included Guy Fieri (“Those dumb fucking sunglasses and that stupid fucking armband,” says Chang), food blogs (Chang copped to calling one blog “The Shitbag”), and Alice Waters (“I’m constantly having [my own internal] argument with Alice,” said Bourdain, as quoted in the New York Post. “I agree with the message, I just don’t think she’s the person to deliver that message … [like] when I see her cooking Leslie Stahl one egg over a roaring fire.”).

The Asia Society book signing was to be the first event in an upcoming book tour for Chang. Ouch.

Image source: Flickr member ∗clairity∗ under Creative Commons

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