Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Great Bread Mystery

If you've eaten with me with any regularity you would know that I don't really like bread. Actually, we should clarify it's American made bread that I don't like.

I have a piece of toast made from bread from Sogo most mornings for breakfast. I love Asian bakery and sandwiches in Taiwan. Pan de leche, love it. Would have endless amounts of bread with good butter in France. But American bread... hate it. It can be French style, Italian style, sourdough, whatever. If it's made for general American population consumption, I won't like it. I have no idea why. I mean all those artisnal bread places aroudn here like Acme and such... why is it that they cannot make a bread I like? I think it has somthing to do with the crust. I don't like it when my bread scrapes up the insides of my mouth. Also, it seems like the bread here lack a certain aromatic quality.

But Sogo Bakery, I like.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I need a cumin lab hot pot recipe!!!!

Have been thinking about this dish a lot lately. Even though I had crab with Sherri last night at Lee Hou. It's one of my favourite dishes. I tried to make this once but it was such a miserable disaster that I dare note even take a picture of it. Alas, maybe I'll have to find someone to go with me to Spices! 1 again so I can research.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Chowdown at Lucky River

I think we found a great sustititue for Best Panda!!!

Chowdown Report: Lucky River and Marco Polo
Thursday night 24 chowhounds and their guests trekked to Sunnyside for a chow-connaisance mission at Lucky River (700 Monterey Boulevard, San Francisco). This is an unassuming Hong Kong-style eatery with a lime green awning and hanging duck barbecue station on the ground level with dining rooms up a flight or two of stairs. It’s been flying under the radar with few mentions here or elsewhere on the web. Nancy Berry and I put it into the chowdown rotation based on a tip from relatives that the cooking here is a cut above the other inexpensive Chinese options in town making it an excellent value.
We had pre-ordered the $138 wo choy menu (Chinese-only, set menu) for 12 people, plus a claypot dish of eggplant, salted fish and chicken, for each table. Our dinner included the following,
Cold appetizer platter – jellyfish, char siu, 5-spice beef shank, and pork hock stuffed with forcemeatScallop and seafood soupLobster with ginger and scallionsSugar peas and beef stir-fryHoney walnut prawnsZhejiang sweet and sour spareribsCrispy skin chickenSalted fish, chicken and eggplant clay potBlack mushrooms and grass mushrooms with mustard greens in oyster sauceClear steamed flounder (this might have been Petrale sole)Hot red bean dessert soup
With steamed rice, tax and 20% tip, the cost was $17 per person.
So, chowdowners, how’d you like it? Please post your impressions and highlights.
Take-out menu -http://www.sporq.com/sanfrancisco/luckyriverrestaurant/700montereyblvd?view=zoom
A ‘hound once quipped that the history of this community’s eating events should be subtitled, “and then we had gelato”. True to form, ten diehards headed over to Marco Polo on Taraval afterwards for a gelato nightcap. Lychee is still my favorite flavor here, but I did enjoy the soursop and guava too.
-Melanie Wong May 18, 2007 01:00AM

Dark Leafy Greens

I've been addicted to Chinese broccoli lately. Not exactly sure how it is different from broccoli rabe. But I can make a meal of a whole big plate of it. Maybe thinner stalks?

Well, whatever the difference is, I like mine sauteed with a bit of olive oil, whole cloves of garlic, and a slight bit of salt. I don't like it when it's too done. There should be snap left to the stalks and the leaves just wilted.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Eggs & Lunch

I'm still doing catch-up posts on things I made over the last month or so. In reality, I will be having dinner with CH'ers tonight. But in the meantime, let's talk about egg dishes. I do western style eggs fairly well... omelettes, poached, sunny side up, etc. Chinese eggs... that's another story. A few weeks ago, I made a srambled egg with Chinese sausage. That was pretty easy and tasted great with rice porridge ( I went through a week during my time off between jobs eating nothing but rice porridge - don't ask me why).

But when I tried my hand at the dish eggs with small fish, well, it was less than optimal. My problem with Chinese style eggs is in the "done-ness". It's supposed the be a bit browned, unlike western eggs. That is a style choice that allows the aromatic aspect to come through. It's not too hard when I'm scrambling. But in the case of the eggs with small fish, I could time the cooking right. The outside is supposed to be ever so slightly browned yet the inside is supposed to remain more steamed-like in texture. Well, as you can see below, I over did it.

As a side note, eggs with small fish over rice is very much a classic "bien dang" dish. Bien dang or bento box or lunch box is something kids would get bring with them to school in TW. The box is usually metal. They all get collected in the morning and go into a big steam room. Then the boxes are re-distributed to students at lunch for a hot meal. Children would pity the one or two students in their class that do not have a lunchbox sent with them from home. Those without homemade lunches were considered to be from dysfunctional and broken families without love and would end up eating a cup of noodle or some such. What a cultural difference that is to the American lunch system, huh? Having parents and family who pay attention to a student's studies is a way of life there (a child's studies is usually considered the number one priority in a family) and how much your family cares about your studies is judged by the contents of your lunchbox. Shame and ostricization befall the unlucky child without a homemade box. In fact, the teachers, the neighbors, and the parents association would go visit the home of lunchbox-less children and ridicule the parents. What would it be like for our inner city and economically challenged youths if we had the same kind of social pressures for families to care about their child's lunchbox? Hmmmm....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Battle of the Sha Guo Fish Stews

When I went to visit Taiwan this year, I had a very memorable Sha Guo Fish Stew at a shrimp fishing facility (we'll talk about that another time). It had a whole fish, assorted homemade fishballs, tofu, vegetables all in a great sha cha sauce infused sauce. The whole thing came in a boiling pot set over a butane stove to keep the heat and to keep the flavours melding as one ate. The first bite and the last bite had different tastes that spoke of the evolution of the dish. I couldn't get enough of the dish. It was earthy yet light. It was rustic but delicate. Here's a picture of the original.

When I came back home, the dish haunted me. So I went about trying to replicate it. First, I went to Ranch 99 and selected a yellow fish from China. I had the fishmonger clean and fry the fish for me (one of the reasons I love Ranch 99). At home, I filled a pot with water, added sha cha sauce, frozen assorted fishballs, silken tofu and let the concoction come to a boil. I then placed the fried fish in whole. The whole pot simmered for about 15 minutes. At the very end, I dumped in 3/4 of a bag of a mixed spring greens salad mix I had leftover. Hell, I was all about the shortcuts where I could get them. Here's a picture of my first try at sha guo fish stew.

I scooped a small bowl out for myself while I allowed the rest of the pot to continue to simmer on the lowest of heat. The first bowl had that delicateness I was looking for. But I felt that the flavours could meld together more. At this point, every bite, every ingredient was still distinct. While the soup had sha cha flavour, none of the other ingredients had it *soaked* in. An hour later when Wil came by, I laddled a big bowl for him and a small half bowl for myself. This time, the stew had matured. The effect is almost like let red wine breathe. Everything was now more blended. The sharp edges between ingredients had mellowed into a rounded smoothness. All I could say is... damn, I'm good!

My only lament with my version is that it did not have the fantastic homemade fish balls the version I had in Taipei did. Ah, homemade fishballs... that's another mountain to climb saved for another day. Daddy made homemade Fujian style fishballs when I was a little girl from scratch. And I mean scratch like, filleting fish. Not sure I am brave enough for that path. But maybe I will try making fishballs soon from the pre-made fish paste they sell at asian markets. The ones at the shrimp fishing place in Taipei were exquisite (sigh!)

P.S. I made this dish again a few weeks later and made one major change. Instead of the mixed green salad, I added tong-ho to the stew. Who would have thought - but I liked it better with the western greens better. The tong-ho made the soup bitter. Now, I am a fan of bitterness, but the Chinese medicine quality of this later version really took away from the sweetness of the fish and fishballs. It also made the sha cha base taste murky. Not a good experimental result. Survey says... mixed green salad from a bag is a winner.

Beef Noodle Soup - How Appropriate!

This is the first entry in my new food centric blog. Now that Xander isn't in Philly anymore, I don't think I will be using my LiveJournal blog anymore. Plus, my entries of late have been more about food anyway.

The name "Noodle Door" is something Wil and I made up back in 2002 when we were facing the complete tanking of Sig Bio. It was our version of "going off the grid" (the biotech grid that is). Wil and I were going to open a noodleshop in the finanacial district. It's still our joking Plan B.

So on with the food... as many of you know, I started a new job in SSF. And having just come off of a vacation to Taipei, I was jonesing for some Taiwanese food. I found old posts on CH about New Mandarin Garden in SSF so decided to give it a whirl. From the previous posts, I was ready for a really generic Chinese-American looking place. That I got. But when I saw that the people working there speaking to each other in Cantonese - that really threw me off. I almost wanted to leave because I was afraid that it was going to be an Ollie's in NYC rendition of BNS (meaning Cantonese version of a Northern/Sichuan dish with thin egg noodles and tomato-ish taste to the broth).

But I was already there, so I ordered the BNS (called Chuan Wei Nu Ruo Mein) off the Chinese menu which had no English ranslation. On this menu there were dishes that are supposed to be Taiwanese. There was also a whole section of the Chinese menu that was written in Korean with what appeared to be Korean-Chinese noodle dishes. While I was waiting for my food, I noticed there were two tables of people speaking Korean and happily devouring noodles, a large table of Shanghainese speakers without food yet, a table of Taglog speakers conversing with the waitstaff in Taglog about their steamed whole fish, and a smattering of Cantonese speakers also conversing with the waitstaff. It was like a conglomeration of Asian cultures!!! I felt like I was in bizarro Asian world.

My BNS was pretty good - deep flavour on the broth with a little heat (not too bad considering my preference for mild and I didn't ask them for mild either). The beef was much more tendon than meat, but soft enough. The noodles were fantastic - so much bite and bounce. I still think Little Potato and New China's broth and meat are better. But New Mandarin Garden's noodles are hard to beat.I will definitely go back and try the Taiwanese dishes (fried rice noodle and dan zi mein). Also, am intrigued by the Korean section.

And beef noodle soup - it's the epitome of Taiwanese small eats. I can think of no better subject for my inaugural post!!!