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Pupusas : SFBA Dish of the Month September 2014

I tried some pupusas at Los Cocos in Oakland (Fruitvale Ave and 14th St). I ordered a revueltas and a loroco. They came out not terribly crispy, but browned on the outside, and slightly less done than I'd like on the inside. The revueltas filling was one of the more flavorfull I've had in recent memory, however, with plenty of pork flavor in the bean/cheese mix. The curtido was quite crunchy, with what I perceived to be a vinegar note (rather than fermented) and plenty of picked onions. The hot sauce was a fully pureed tomato salsa in a squeeze bottle. Overall I wasn't too excited, though I've never been a huge fan of pupusas. My favorite part of the meal was the tamarindo agua fresca I got, after being told they were out of coco and ensalada. It wasn't too sweet and was ade with real tamarind pulp.

most varied Vietnamese herb plate

Of the inexpensive East Oakland places I've been going to recently it has been hard for me to distinguish seasonal/availability variation from dish variation, though culantro and rau ram seem relatively common. One place in the East Bay I remember having a surprisingly varied herb plate is Anh Hong in Berkeley. I find pretty decent, and at the chowhound in 2009 we got an herb plate with fishmint and rau ram http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6634...
I have been back for just bun, and have gotten fewer herbs--maybe fishmint goes with a particular dish, or maybe you just have to ask. I wouldn't be surprised, as it is generally unappealing to me (even though I like fishy fish).

Captain & Corset in Oakland Uptown

That's too bad--I was really interested in the menu posted online, but never made it. I guess I'll have to see where Sophina Uong goes next.

2014 Oakland Eat Real Festival, Sept 19 - 21, Jack London Sq.

By 7:30 there were enough lines that it made it difficult to walk through the festival, the lines were spotty and many of the longest were at trucks that go to several OTG events per week. I got the panucho from the Nido stand, as I've yet to go there and there was no line. It was quite tasty, though seemed a bit overpriced at $7 (a price I would have been less annoyed by if I were sitting in their restaurant, drinking, rather than standing and trying not to flick the cabbage garnish onto my friends' shoes.)
I also got the lamb poutine from The Whole Beast stand, with a very short wait. It was really good, with plenty of smoky lamb chunks, a thin in texture, but very flavorful chorizo gravy, and a crumbled sheep's cheese. The fries remained crispy.
I was also interested in Burma Bear, "Californa-style BBQ perfectly paired with traditional Burmese cuisine", particularly the ribs with biriyani, but was quite full by that point.

Issue roasting chicken thighs on foil lined baking sheet?

I've had many vegetarian friends understandably worried about cooking meat. Since you likely aren't experienced in eating chicken cooked to different temperatures, various recommendations are likely confusing. There are two main factors: is this safe? (have I killed the bacteria that may be lurking on/in the meat?) and is this a texture of chicken your family wants to eat? (Dark meat can remain a bit gummy until about 175 F). Pinkness isn't necessarily a reliable indicator of doneness, as various salts can keep the color a bit pink, even when thoroughly done. In some of the lower-end grocery store chickens that are injected with brine solutions that I've roasted the meat in the drumsticks often remains pink in color, but thoroughly cooked in texture, even when the temp reads 180 F.

To answer the safety question, scroll down to the graph here, taken from the USDA guide (which is extremely cautious). It shows that if the temperature is 165 F (or above) the meat is at a safe level instantaneously. At slightly lower temperatures, the meat must be held at that temperature for longer, for instance 140 F for 35 minutes.

If your family has typical tastes, the preferred cooking temperature for thighs is 175-180F, so the only thing relevant from the above safety info is that if the center of the thigh is 165 or above it is safe to eat, even if it just reached that temperature 1 second ago. As others in this thread have mentioned, chicken thighs are much more robust than chicken breasts to cooking. The breast meat becomes mealy and dried out at lower temperatures, which is why people are often worried about overcooking chicken.

Sep 18, 2014
...tm... in Home Cooking

Where to buy fresh lard?

I used to by it at one of the Mexican groceries on 24th St. in San Francisco. Now, in the East Bay, I've gotten it from Three Stone Hearth (I got some off the shelf at El Cerrito Natural Grocery, but I think you can order/pick up from Three Stone Hearth directly.) I've also gotten it from Massa Organics at the farmer's market. They don't have it every time, but it is in their online store now.
The Mexican versions I've gotten tend to be porkier and darker, probably rendered at a higher temperature with more meat bits in them.

HAMBURGERS! Home Cooking Dish of the Month for August 2014

I like the idea of kimchi mixed into the burger--I'll have to try it next time friends insist on turkey burgers. It seems like it could the flavor and moisture that is almost always missing from the non-red meat burger genre.

Aug 29, 2014
...tm... in Home Cooking

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.

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.

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


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.

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...


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.

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

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.)