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Searching for Northern-style zha jiang mian

I'd appreciate it if you kind folks would listen to my very, very picky request. :)

I'm looking for zha2 jiang4 mian4 (bean sauce/pork noodles) in the East Bay, and I'm trying to find a version that lives up to the kind I inhaled in my grandparents' house in China by the bowlful. It must be the traditional Beijing/Shandong style--a salty black bean sauce, not the sweet red version--with good (preferably hand-made) noodles and the requisite cucumber slices.

I began my search at QQ Noodle in Fremont, #3 on their menu for anyone familiar with the place, and I was frankly disappointed. While their hand-pulled noodles were 5-star for texture and taste, the zha jiang sauce itself was...bland. Not unpleasant, but bland. Zha jiang, as I've had it, is an aggressive, in-your-face affair. It's traditional Chinese peasant food, and my favorite version can by no stretch of the imagination be "delicate" or "subtle". It's salty, savory, bold, and the flavors attack your mouth. Less than a cup or so of the intensely black sauce (the flavor coming from strong salted black beans) should suffice to barely coat a huge bowlful of noodles, yet the flavor should still be full and sharp. Ideally, only pork, no seafood, should function as the meat component. Nothing gloopy or soupy, zha jiang should be a condensed explosion of taste.

But I digress into drooling now. :) I know it's always a tall order to demand a restaurant that can meet memories of divine home cooking, but can anyone offer a suggestion? Browsing the boards, the last topic was in 2001 (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1711...) and I think I might hit up China Village to taste test their version.

Thanks in advance!

Aug 27, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Place to grab kimbap (Korean "sushi") in downtown SF?

Wow, a search on "kimbap" actually yielded NO results on this board! I'm shocked...

Anyways, I'm looking for a place to hit up to soothe this kimbap craving I have. I know of a few sit-down Korean restaurants that serve the stuff in a pinch, but ideally, I'd like to find a supermarket/convenience store type of place where I can grab and go for cheap. :) Any suggestions?

Jul 28, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Good Chinese delivery in SOMA?

Garden Cafe has VERY cheap, pretty good food (dishes can be hit or miss), it's in SOMA, and I *believe* it delivers. Call them up?

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Garden Cafe & Catering
937 Howard St, San Francisco, CA

Jul 24, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Where can I find *Frigor* Swiss Chocolate?

Hmmm, I can't personally say I've encountered it, but Fog City News on Market prides itself on carrying an extensive selection of imported chocolates. Try checking there, perhaps? And if you do find this Frigor anywhere, do tell! Nothing gets my saliva glands working like the mention of "the most delicious chocolate" :)

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Fog City News
455 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Jul 23, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

bitter taste in zuchini

Buy small has been my experience too. And this doesn't answer the question of why or how to get rid of the bitterness if it's already there, but I've found that farmers' market zucchini are never bitter.

Jul 22, 2008
Pammeh in Home Cooking

Cheap lunching in SOMA

Oh Luna...delish but usually reserved for Fridays, when I don't feel as guilty for falling asleep at my desk after lunch :) I think my boss goes to that Vietnamese place and loves the soup--I was planning to make a trip soon.

Jul 21, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Cheap lunching in SOMA

Ooooh that sounds AMAZING. The sketchiness of 6th st sometimes makes me think twice, so I never casually wander into the area and wasn't aware that a new place opened up. Sounds good :)

Jul 21, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

La Farine morning buns: long time good

I'm going to be butchered for this, but I actually don't like their morning buns. Yes, they're flaky and crispy and caramelized, but they seem so insubstantial and not bread-y or bun-y enough. Same applies to their baguette for me--which is not to say that I like my baked goods heavy, just not overly airy (I love love love the light, holey rustic batards/baguettes from Acme, but their dough retains an elastic, addicting chew!)

And well, on that note, I feel like Acme is a long-time keeper. :)

Jul 21, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

asian bread baking lessons in bay area?

Wow...really interesting request, and not one that I've heard. Surprisingly, though I love asian baked goods, I never thought about "learning", maybe because I assume they're just so simple?

Can't help with the baked question, but as far as steamed man tou-type ones go, the way my grandma and dad make them is SO easy: simply combine flour, water, and starter (or yeast) until it reaches a kneadable consistency, let rise, knead/shape, and steam. Voila! No salt, sugar, whatever. Never saw a measuring cup, spoon, or bowl whipped out.

Jul 18, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Cheap lunching in SOMA

I work near Folsom and 5th, and I'd like a few good lunch recommendations that AREN'T sandwiches. :) Not to hate on them, but AK and Tony Baloney have gotten old fast. Cheapness is a must, and if there are suggestions from farther afield that deliver...that'd be awesome too!

Oh, I do know about Tu Lan, but am sketched out by various stories and the hygiene (or lack thereof)

Jul 18, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

1 day in San Francisco- food must haves

If you want a wide selection to "sample" from and don't need a sit-down place, I'd recommend the Ferry Building. Yes, it's super-duper touristy, but you know what? There's a reason for it. If nothing ELSE, you need to hit up Acme Bread there--it's also very affordable (I walked 1 hour and ~2 miles out of my way at 8 AM yesterday for bread.)

mmmm...bread.

Jul 18, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Your Taste Buds May Quake in Fear

*Er, London, haha. Man I wish we could edit.

Jul 14, 2008
Pammeh in Features

Your Taste Buds May Quake in Fear

That sounds...dangerous. This restaurant better have health advisory signs up, or the first overweight senior with a heart attack is going to be suing them out of business. ;) Oh, AMERICA.

Jul 14, 2008
Pammeh in Features

East Bay bakeries for small and cheap wedding cake/cupcakes

I've heard about this place--I think they're generally supposed to be on the cheap-ish end of the spectrum, though I have no firsthand experience

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Toot Sweets
1277 Gilman St, Albany, CA

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Berkley near 4TH St

I adore this place!! I always walk out with a gigantic, heavy paper bag full of pastries that I can't possibly finish for under $5...though every time I've gone, they're out of the chicken tamales which I've heard so much about. :( It might be a bit of a walk though...

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

I love Japanese but not sushi...

Oooo, sounds great! And at those prices, I can get BOTH katsu and oyakodon! :) When presented with both on a menu, I often agonize over which one to try.

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

Berkley near 4TH St

Yeah, it really depends on WHERE on 4th St you're walking from, and what your parameters for "walkable" are. I used to work near 4th St and University, and I walk fast, but here are a few places that I loved:

Cheese Steak Shop - mmmm, greasy, fattening, and fits perfectly into that "divey" category

Tomate Cafe - very very cute and charming, and the staff is totally sweet! I love the atmosphere--it's warm and sunny and homey

@Siam - ok fine, this is a stretch for walking from 4th, but I loooooooved this place for lunch. Clean, bright flavors, never falling into the trap of oiliness, and their lunch special is a great deal.

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Cheese Steak Shop
1054 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

Tomate Cafe
2265 5th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

I love Japanese but not sushi...

Oh em gee. Geta looks fabulous--I'm excited already by looking at the (cheap) donburi section on their menu! Quick question, would you recommend the pork or chicken katsu, based on your experiences?

And no, no ambience needed at all ;P

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

I love Japanese but not sushi...

I love O Chame! :) But unfortunately, it's a bit to pricy to add to my list of regular comfort food places. Yeah, I'm reaaally craving fried meat and eggs over rice first thing in the morning now, haha...

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area

The Basics: How to Make Berry Cobbler

Hmmm, doesn't it turn out better if you soak the berries in juices+sugar for a while first?

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in Features

The Basics: How to Make Oven Fries

Even easier? My super-duper lazy method of a baked-style potato treat is to simply slice potatoes and nuke 'em for 5-10 minutes. It's surprisingly delicious if you like the contrast between mealy insides and the chewy outside "skin" that the microwave gives them.

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in Features

I love Japanese but not sushi...

...which is not as contradictory as it may sound. I'm not a fan of fish, and the combination of that with rice/nori/raw veggies rather bores me, but I love love LOVE Japanese comfort food: tonkatsu, chicken katsu, oyakodon, unagi over rice, omurice, udon...you get the picture :)

I've been craving these for a while, but every Japanese review I look up ends up discussing the sushi! Anyone have any recommendations for getting a good bowl of meat over rice (or udon--not ramen, but udon) in the EAST bay? (I know of some places in SF, but I'd love to get a restaurant or two closer to home)

Thanks!!

Jul 11, 2008
Pammeh in San Francisco Bay Area