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Dim Sum Chowdown at Peony, Oakland

Thanks for checking it out. And in my observation, even thought it is more expensive then the surrounding (dim sum, Oakland) offerings, it is by no means absolutely expensive. I found it a good value compared to good SF/Peninsula dim sum, or surrounding Oakland Downtown/Uptown brunch offerings.

about 12 hours ago
...tm... in San Francisco Bay Area

Kainbigan Restaurant (Oakland)

I stopped by the other day to check it out. It's been in the neighborhood for a year or so, and seems to be publicizing their delivery capabilities. I got the chicken adobo with garlic rice. I think this was the first adobo I've truly enjoyed. Others I've felt were too bland, too soy/magi sauce, or to dry, but this was very well balanced in acidity, and very moist dark-meat chicken.
I'd tried Lucky Three Seven further out on Fruitvale, but the adobo was much sweeter, which isn't my style.

about 12 hours ago
...tm... in San Francisco Bay Area

SFBA Dish of the Month (Sept 2014) - Nominations/Voting

HAR GOW

about 13 hours ago
...tm... in San Francisco Bay Area

Anyone used Good Eggs/Fair Share specialty food delivery services?

I agree. I've ordered only a couple of times, but if you're happy with what is listed and the prices, go for it. As mentioned, the prices are a bit high, but perhaps worth it to get breads without a trip/wait in line. Though some of the higher prices I saw as a convenience fee, other items I haven't seen elsewhere, like finger limes. Their customer service is very responsive, as others have mentioned.

about 13 hours ago
...tm... in San Francisco Bay Area

Chowdown Report: SF Excelsior Food Crawl Part I (Aug 2014)

I had always liked the feel of the Excelsior when I was driving through, but rarely had time to stop by. It is one of those less expensive areas that are quite rare in SF these days--and the business corridor along Mission Street looks alternately like it hasn't changed since the 50's, and has weathered several influxes and departures of immigrants. Most shops seem to be aimed at the value minded consumer, serving large or hearty portions for not that much money.

I enjoyed the stop at Kadok's. I hadn't had tokwa't baboy before. Though I enjoyed the lightly fried, but soft from boiling pork belly with fried tofu and a soy/vinegar dipping sauce, I prefer the crispier lechon kawali with it's companion, liver sauce, if I'm going to dive in to a fatty dish. They also have crispy pata on the menu. They have locations in Daly City, Union City, and Milpitas.

Los Planes de Renderos had some good pupusas, I enjoyed both the rice and the loroco versions. The plantains with "milk custard" are called empanadas on the menu, in case anyone is looking for them, and puzzled, as I was, by the salvadoreno use of empanada for a dessert item. I also ordered the atol chuco, a boiled purple cornmeal drink served hot, in a gourd. While I didn't really like it (nor really expect to), the beans on the bottom were perfectly cooked and made me want to get a bean based dish next time.

I intended to get an order of nam khao at Maneelap Srimongkoun to go after the hounds split up, but they were closed from 3-5 so I kept walking and stopped by El Pollo Supremo. It seemed like a generic grilled chicken joint, with the exterior branding of a chain (I've always liked their sign). While waiting for my two piece I noticed a wooden carving of Cuba on the wall, though I didn't notice too much specifically Cuban on the menu. I did add a side of moro rice. The chicken was fairly juicy, though the seasoning on the skin tasted a bit artificial to me. The black beans and rice were okay, decent texture, but not much in the way of aromatics.

I also noticed that Mike's Liquors is more than a usual liquor store--they had beer brewing equipment out on the sidewalk, kegs of Free Flow wines, and more of a wine selection than I would have expected.

Fresh babycorns in Bay area

They have it at Berkeley Bowl occasionally. I saw some in the past couple of weeks.

Cheese made w/ citric acid but no rennet, or rennet alternatives

As far as I know, this is the case (plus farmer's chees), but I haven't looked int it too much.

My favorite acid-only cheese is fresh goat's cheese, made simply by heating goat's milk to at least 180F, add acid (I usually add lemon juice--about 1/2 lemon/quart), let cool slightly, and strain through muslin (actually old cotton clothes or coffee filters. You can add salt and flavorings at this point, but I've enjoyed it plain.

Aug 22, 2014
...tm... in Cheese

Okonomiyaki: SFBA Dish of the Month August 2014

I stopped by and looked at and even asked at a few of the neighborhood Berkeley Japanese restaurants that are my usual go-to for regular mom and pop style Japanese food. Musashi, Norikonoko, Temari, and Anzu do not have it. This is unfortunate, as I've not been a huge fan of the okonomiyaki I've had in the past, and wanted to sample some other interpretations. (Actually, the Iyasare version sounds good to me, as it subs out my least favorite element, the sticky sweet okonomi sauce for chili ponzu, but I've yet to try, and imagine I'd be more tempted by other items on their menu.)

In any case, I've felt like many of the DOTM dishes, perhaps because of the price ceiling, are often dishes that fall on the easier/better/cheaper to make at home side of things for me. Of course, this is no reason not to try versions during DOTM, as it is always interesting to sample different interpretations to gain insight to the essence of the dish, or the elements you prefer. Anyway, I gave okonomiyaki a try...
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/986701

Okonomiyaki

After striking out on local new inspirations for the SF DOTM okonomiyaki http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9843... , I decided to DIY. I’ve felt like oftentimes the “dish of the month” on the SF board has been a homey dish that is better homemade, but I appreciate how taste testing many versions informs you and helps you hone in on what is important/delicious to you about the dish.
I admit, I haven’t enjoyed the few okonomiyaki I’ve tried before, at a couple non-memorable places in New York, then at takoyaki/okonomiyaki specialist Otafuku. At each place it just seemed like a sloppy mess topped with even sloppier sauce and mayo. Even though I’d hated the samples I’d tried I still thought there could be promise in the dish--I like pajeon and spaghetti pie. (though pajeon has a more agreeable, acidic dipping sauce, and spaghetti pie has a better texture.
)I know, actually, the thing that most turns me off about it: the ‘okonomi’ sauce. It shares the characteristics of some other sauces I’m not that excited about--ketchup and ‘BBQ sauce’. For me, somehow, the sum of sweet, vinegar, tomato, and spice in these is much, much worse than the sum of those parts and it distracts and detracts from the dish it is meant to compliment. I realize these sauces are quite popular, so something must be reading a bit off in my mouth.

So of course my recipe journey began with the purchase of Otafuku Okonomi sauce (actually I did some research first, but all versions seem to feature this sweet, sticky sauce. Like many “BBQ” recipes, there are homemade versions of the offending sauce, but, again like homemade “BBQ” they tend to feature combinations of other storebought sauces/seasonings with ketchup, my mortal enemy. So I just bought the sauce.

The directions on the back are hilarious. They call for 1 cup okonomiyaki flour (I’ve gathered from the web that this is some combination of wheat flour, powdered nagaimo, and dashi powder), ¾ cups water, 4 eggs, chicken, cabbage, shrimp, oil, and 1 cup!! okonomi sauce. That is a hilariously high ratio of gloop to pancake, but honestly, might have been what I was served and hated in the past.

I decided to try (#2) the modern yaki recipe here http://shizuokagourmet.com/okonomiyak... as I imagined it had the best chance for my affection, as I’ve always liked the texture of noodles in egg more than I’ve liked the traditional Osaka style egg pancake or my taste imagination (haven’t tried) the Hiroshima style which features noodles sandwiched between a flour batter and an egg.

I mixed 1 c dashi (from powdered) with 1 c all-purpose flour, 2 medium eggs, and ½ c shredded, slimy nagaimo. I added about ½ c shredded scallions and ¼ head shredded cabbage. The link above mentions the Hiroshima style often uses leek-scented oil, so I poured my shallot oil the griddle and put down a layer of bacon, followed by the batter mixture. I put the noodles on a separate part of the griddle. The directions call for adding okonomi sauce to the noodles, but I just added a bit of soy and cooked for a bit before flipping the egg-batter pancake and transferring the noodles to the top (I did, actually, brush the top of the pancake with okonomi sauce very lightly, as per recipe). When I poured additional batter on top of the noodles it did not turn out like the picture in the linked recipe. The batter didn’t sink in to the noodles at all. This could have been because of structural cabbage pieces. (If I were to do it again I would leave out some cabbageless batter to pour on top to see if it could better integrate with the noodles, though the slimy, Nickelodeon-like slime created by the nagaimo could be contributing most of that “top jello layer”). A flip to cook the top layer of batter wasn't as difficult as I'd anticipated, and the final product was turned out and topped with a thin, brushed layer of okonomi sauce, kewpie may squiggles (oddly, before this recipe I hadn't bought kewpie mayo, I'd just tasted it on dishes and classified it as a thicker mayo. Now that I've tasted it plain, I realize a main difference from American mayo is that it has a noticeable mustard taste.) topped with aonori and katsuoboshi, with a side of pickled ginger.

To be honest, it hasn't won me over, but it was less gloopy and sticly sweet than I remembered. I was disappointed that the noodles weren't truly integrated into the batter, but still my platonic modern-yaki still ranks behind a pajeon or spaghetti pie on my taste buds.

I tried a version with oysters on the flipside instead of noodles and liked that a bit less.

Photos in reverse chronological order--the first two are the oyster okonomiyaki, the rest the modern-yaki.

Aug 22, 2014
...tm... in Home Cooking

HAMBURGERS! Home Cooking Dish of the Month for August 2014

I followed up the regular, quick burger with a sous vide version to see whether it was worth the time and effort. I even used the same grind as in the previous post, so it was a fair test. In summary, I thought that it wasn't, mainly because one of the things I really value about a burger is the well charred exterior (though not, of course, over a juicy interior). I basically followed the recipe here http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2...
Though I do have an immersion circulator. (Side note, I find it funny that it took Kenji, who I really respect and is usually a source of brilliantly simple ideas quite some time and a suggestion to figure out that submerging a ziplock in water to get the air out is a good way to prep bags. I guess my broken vacuum sealer taught me quite a bit.)

I did question the wisdom of salting ahead of time, as I've found it can make ground meat a bit sausagy in texture, so I did a side by side comparison. At all steps before final tasting the pre-salted version (left, in all pictures) seemed to be winning out--after 1/2 hour at 55C the salted exuded less liquid than unsalted. It also had a darker exterior color both before and after searing, and the interior looked similar when I broke the patties apart. However, upon tasting, the pre-salted version did have a firmer, slightly cured, stuck together texture, while the unsalted (well, salted at searing stage) had the preferable loose texture of a burger that releases its juices at each bite.

While the burgers were more reliably medium-rare than those cooked from raw, the exterior crust was a bit less, and the time was much more.

Aug 22, 2014
...tm... in Home Cooking

Da Nang Quan [Oakland]

I noticed a new name at the former Bun Mang Vit Than Da on E 12th St and 6th Ave in Oakland and stopped in for a quick bite. I ordered the chanh muoi (salty lemonade) and mi quang.

The mi quang was a very refreshing meal on a hotter than usual day, and very filling for a medium portion at $7.25. The turmeric stained yellow hofun were served with two perfectly cooked shell-on shrimp, pork riblets, and chicken slices in a light broth, with just the right amount of peanuts and scallions. The accompaniments included lettuce, tailed beansprouts, lime, mild chilis, and banana blossom slices, along with fish sauce and housemade chili sauce. It was all very well balanced. I'll be back, particularly for some specials I haven't heard of, such as wild boar, deer, and hen xuc banh trang (baby clams with vietnamese chips). The bun bo Hue looks good in yalp pictures, too.

Where to get fresh Sapota fruit?

I've seen it at Berkeley Bowl within the past week.

Downtown Oakland Lunch Spots [split from Stag's Lunchette thread]

I stopped by Camber early evening and the crowd appeared to be there mostly for the bar--they had both A's and Giants games on. The menu is, indeed, all over the place (Pan-Asian Cuisine!!), with the addition of tea leaf salad on the specials board. The website claims influences from "Thai, Lao, Mien, Burmese, Indian, and Vietnamese cuisine". The bartender wasn't much help when we asked how the chefs were pulling off dishes from India to Laos to Thai to Burmese, but he also struggled to understand my order for one of the five beers they had on tap. The website now explains that "The husband and wife duo have a marriage of diverse flavors with Linda being Mien American, while Irfan is Burmese and Pakistani American." which does make the menu make sense.

I ordered the nam khao, as I am a huge fan of rice ball salad. I asked for it spicy, and it was delivered just the right amount of spicy for me, though too spicy for my dining companion. I enjoyed it quite a bit. The rice was fried quite crisp, with a high ratio of crisp bits. It was served with lettuce and lime, but no additional fresh herbs. Cilantro and mint were mixed in with the salad. The cucumber on the side wasn't something I'd gotten before. Though I didn't think it mixed well with the salad, it was a refreshing break between bites. I also though the seasoning was a bit different--it seemed like there was an additional wet chili element, and maybe some rice vinegar and sugar. I suspect my spicy request might have meant mix a bit of their house pepper sauce in. Overall, I enjoyed it. Though not my favorite nam khao (Souk Savanh wins for me, due to their noticeable coconut note.) I would go back.

Victory Burger - Oakland

I tried a cheeseburger here recently and wasn't too impressed. The fries were really good and crispy. Like shanghaikid, I found the burger, despite its five dot ranch pedigree, and noticeable juciness, didn't have that much flavor. Part of my disappointment is my fault, as I failed to realize that housemade ketchup came standard on the burger, and that sweet flavor profile isn't something I enjoy.

Modigliani Cafe (Oakland)

I stopped by here for a late, quick lunch recently. The menu includes several sandwiches, several Italian-American inspired. I got the sausage roll for $6.50, which had just come out of the oven. It is a relatively thin layer of dough (not much yeasted rise, like I expect in stromboli), rolled with house-made sausage and mozzarella, with pickled peppers and marinara sauce on the side. The roll looked a bit limp and underdone, but the flavor was good, and the whole thing melded into a gooey sausagey whole. I don't know if I'll order the roll again, but the tomato sauce was vibrant enough to make me want to come back and try the meatball sub.

The Half Orange [Oakland]

I'd read a bit about, but not been to Jay Porter's the Linkery in San Diego, as I'm always plotting escape from inside my hellish yearly conference there in Hotel Circle, but rarely make it out.
The Half Orange, near Fruitvale BART (in the former Taco Grill space) offers a brief menu with one sausage, burger, fried cheese curd po-boy, salads, salchipapas, Ensenada-style beef tongue, and a grilled Baja shrimp sandwich with 'rustic relish'. It had been on my list to stop by for a burger or sausage, but somehow when I made it through the door it was a day I didn't feel like eating meat. I got the Baja shrimp sandwich and a side of fries (I was offered the option of fried in lard, which I accepted). Everything was well executed, from the toasting of the bun to the shrimp doneness. The 'THO' sauce served on many menu items seemed to be a nutty style salsa plus mayo, or emulsified on its own. The house-made cucumber pickles were bread and butter style, not overtly sweet, but not my favorite style. The fries appeared floppy, but were actually had a nice crispness, with a soft interior, definitely double fried.
I liked my meal, and like that there is a careful attention to ingredients and sourcing, but at the time the $19 total was expensive. The shrimp is the most expensive thing by a bit, and I'll be back to try a sausage, burger, or the 'lengua asada fries' mentioned on the website, perfect to enjoy with a beer, the liquor license was not in place yet when I stopped by but is now.

Eater reports the couple that own The Half Orange are opening another place on 42nd and Market in Oakland for California Cuisine.
http://sf.eater.com/archives/2014/08/...

Red Boat Fish Sauce 50N or Salt

I haven't seen the 50N or salt in stores. I usually see the 40N in Asian markets, and have recently been amused that it is popular enough to have knock-offs (picture taken at Sun Hop Fat, Oakland). It looks like they are no longer offering their regular 35N sauce, which was actually my favorite general use sauce. The "N" is a measure of nitrogen/liter, and I found the 40N to be both more concentrated in fish flavor and salt, which required watering down a bit more for nuoc cham.
As a useful note, I've found the Megachef brand recommended by David Thompson in his tome Thai Food is now frequently available here. I noticed it at Sun Hop Fat, and Koreana Plaza, likely elsewhere.

Sichuan Peppercorns & Chili Bean Paste in East Bay? SF?

For some reason I always forget Lhasa Karnak sells herbs and spices, I only think of their medicinal herbs, oils and tinctures. They just moved their Shattuck Ave branch into the bigger corner space.
I do think there is something to buying the Sichuan peppercorns from a spice importer. Those I've gotten from Oakland Spice Shop and Rainbow Grocery have been much fresher and more fragrant than the prepackaged ones I've gotten from Chinese groceries.

How I Wrote an Entire Book on Banh Mi

Oh, I think more of you for it. Though I love several of the traditional banh mi, (dac biet, meatball, lemongrass pork, bi) one of the most pleasing I've had was with leftover takeout fried chicken and biscuit (not even a good quality biscuit) with mayo+soy, do chua (from your online recipe), cucumber, and cilantro. It definitely had banh mi character.

Aug 16, 2014
...tm... in Home Cooking
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Tamashii ramen pacific east mall,richmond

The articles about Sun Noodle say that some places custom order noodles with Vitamin B2.

Lay's Potato Chips' New Flavors -- Seen or Tried Them?

I tried and really liked the cappuccino chips, even better than the chicken and waffles from last year. (an aside, I hated the winner from last year, "garlic bread" which just made the chips taste heavier and not that cheesy or garlicy, would have been more to my taste with a bit of acidity.)
In any case, I found the cappuccino to be a good mix between sweet and salty, not too much of either. Chicken and waffles had a similary sweet/savory mix going on, but cappuccino adds the hint of bitterness with the coffee.

Aug 08, 2014
...tm... in General Topics

Making yogurt without using commercial yogurt or starter

But that's cheese's just so story.

Aug 06, 2014
...tm... in Home Cooking

Black vinegar at good luck dim sum [San Francisco]

I agree, Golden Plum brand is best. There are a lot of yellow label imitators, however. I actually find this tendency for knockoffs of the most prestigious brand to be helpful when shopping--you can narrow down the search to those that are trying to appear similar, and often tell from the ingredients on the back which is the original, quality brand (usually doesn't contain caramel coloring, etc.)

ethnic markets in EB (esp Afghan/Indian)

Brundo has Ethiopian spices I haven't found elsewhere

Yuen Hop in Oakland Chinatown for noodles and dumpling wrappers.

The markets on/around International Blvd in Oakland are worth checking out.

Sun Hop Fat 1 is the largest and best stocked. I rotate through the others--Thien Loi Hoa, Sun Sang, Long Hing, New Saigon Super Market II.

I really like Sontepheap--their fresh selection varies quite a bit and occasionally sell plants of various herbs/eggplants out front. Sometimes they have unlaid eggs on weekends.

There is also Mekong Market next to/a couple doors down from Lao Market. I usually stop by both when in the neighborhood--stock is slightly different.

Crossroads World Market in Hayward has Eastern European and Middle Eastern packaged goods (and some South American). I have to stop by anytime I'm in the area for their Greek yogurt--it is the best yogurt I've had in the Bay Area.

Is "calamari steak" available in SF?

My dad really enjoyed the version at Tadich, served in a garlic butter sauce.

HAMBURGERS! Home Cooking Dish of the Month for August 2014

I'll start out with my baseline burger. It isn't the best burger I've ever tasted, but it's really good, simple, and quick, and therefore any restaurant burger must beat it by quite a bit on taste, or come near to it and be worth the dishwashing charge (or come with excellent fries, which are less quick and easy to make). More complicated burger preparations are assessed based on how much better they are per the extra amount of time/ingredient/equipment stocking it takes. This burger can easily be on the table within 15 minutes, with time for salad prep as well.
It is very simple--chop a chuck roast in large pieces, pulse in food processor (usually 20-30 times), form into patties, salt and pepper and place in preheated cast iron skillet. About 2 minutes per side gives enough time to cut up some cheddar and tomatoes and wash some lettuce (I like butter lettuce best on burgers). Remove burgers to rest and add a bit of butter to the pan to toast the buns.
This time I didn't have any buns at home, but had gotten grass fed chuck, that still had enough fatty parts, on sale, so made due with sourdough rolls. I prefer these burgers to any grilled burgers I've made, not just for convenience, but because much of the flavor comes from the crisped beef in touch with the griddle. Any grilling I've done fails to get this crust (unless we're talking well, well done).

Dish of the Month: Two years in review-- we need more exploration and eating!

I really like this graphical summary. I would never have guessed that hamburgers were the most sampled DOTM, but now we know. I do think that although there are constantly new restaurants and dishes being posted on the boards, questions that begin with "Where can I find good..." are often answered with stale, echoey answers. I also feel DOTM has lead me to a few orders that I normally wouldn't order, for instance, I don't think I would have ordered wonton noodle soup when I went to Cooking Papa without good reports from DOTM (as I've always thought of it as okay takeout fare in the US), but it turned out to be one of the best dishes I've had there.

SFBA Dish of the Month (Aug 2014) - Nominations/Voting

PIZZA MARGHERITA

Chili House at 8th and Clement? [San Francisco]

I've also seen a large bag of the green varietal at the Lion Supermarket on Story Rd. in San Jose. I'm no expert, but it seems to me that the green version is a different varietal than the red version, the green being less numbing and more floral than the red. I got a version from the Lao temple in Santa Rosa that seemed somewhere in between the two and went well with the Kachin pounded beef with herbs in Naomi Buguid's Burma cookbook.

Finding details about varietals/species isn't as straightforward as I thought it would be. Andrea Nguyen has a good intro here http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...
This page is a bit more detailed
http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com...
and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/299646
Apparently a related species Zanthoxylum americanum can be foraged, particularly in the Eastern US http://eattheinternet.blogspot.com/20...
http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plan...

Anyway, I also wondering if anyone has seen fresh peppercorns, and if so what are they used for?

Home made frozen dumplings, East Bay?

I'll have to check if they still have sheng jian bao at Shanghai--I'm searching for a decent version. I can attest that at least the xiao long bao are made and frozen in house. One time when I was there a woman was making them at the table, yet the waiter pulled a bag from the freezer to cook for an order.