Delicious Food Co. is one fourth delicious

Let us all agree that food tasting is subjective, and totally unrelated to the food’s affiliation. That means even if I hate goat cheese I still find goats quite cute, and if I choose instant cup noodles over a meat-filled burrito it doesn’t mean I have something against Mexican immigrants. Now that we’ve made that clear, I’ll get to the point: I don’t like the Cantonese turnip cake (luobo gao). We got it at a very crowded Chinese bakery in Oakland Chinatown this weekend. One white lady in line before us asked for 3 turnip cakes, and I want to stress “white” because her Western palate gave us assurance that this treat is among those rare Asian ones that are happily consumed by white people, aka it must be at least “normal” (white people, especially Caucasian Americans, are not always up to trying “new” food). So we thought we’re in for a safe bet. Turns out, turnip cake (a misnomer for daikon cake), unlike crumbly carrot cake, is an oily soft chunk most resembling a used oversize eraser, except not as gummy. It’s neither sweet nor savory nor bland. The taste […]

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Bún bung, sort of…

Vietnamese The scent pierces through the air, half like fresh lime and half like mint, liberating. The broth is fulfilling like juice from a just-ripe fruit, coating every strand of vermicelli and making them supple like newly washed hair. There is red, white, bright green, fall-leaf yellow green, and the earthy sepia tone of bone meat. My first bowl of bún bung. Bún bung is a noodle soup of the North. Not having been to Hanoi, I learnt about bún bung from the interweb and tasted it via imagination. My mom has heard of it, but Saigon doesn’t have it, and I don’t know how popular it is in Hanoi today. It wouldn’t surprise me if the old fashion noodle soup is only half surviving in the baskets of old ladies dressing in brown and having their teeth dyed black. Anyway, it has a funny name. Bún (pronounced like “boon” with a quick rising accent) is just the usual rice vermicelli. Bung (pronounced like “bung” in “übung” in German – English doesn’t have this sound) is the method of cooking: stir fry first, then simmer until boil in water. There’s no adequate […]

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Wiki Wiki Hawaiian BBQ – What would be cut?

Speaking of unpopular authentic dishes taken off the serving tray, I’m reminded of the Hawaiian place on Shattuck. I overheard the owner say that he would have to remove some stuff from the now-three-page menu. There’s business, most are lone diners and take-outs, but naturally business is not the same for every item. Once a middle-aged man ordered 20 spam musubis to-go, and I imagine this is nothing unusual for a $2 nori-wrapped solid brick of rice with one slice of browned processed succulence. It’s just a good deal, it tops the chart in terms of convenience times filling factor divided by cost. If you’re a Berkeley student, I guarantee you can’t dig up a better combination of those quantities in this area. So the spam musubis are safe, but who are (not) on the chopping block? The barbecued meat and fried seafood? I don’t think. BBQ is in the name. You can snob up your chin about meat quality, but don’t tell me that the smell of caramelized grilled short ribs doesn’t wet your tongue. Crunchy fried mahi mahi and fan-shaped split shrimp offer more texture than taste, so I might […]

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Taiwanese pastries from Sheng Kee Bakery

Just last autumn the celebration was marked with a little piggy from Singapore. In a blink of the eye the maple tree in front of my apartment has started turning radiant again, telling us that it’s time we find ourselves in front of countless beaming mooncakes. This tiny pretty bite is pineapple mooncake from Sheng Kee Bakery in the 99 Ranch Market plaza. As my reader, new friend, and Chinese food expert Kathleen Chen told me :-), 99 Ranch Market is Taiwanese-owned and the most reliable sign that a bakery is Taiwanese instead of Chinese is the pineapple cake (鳳梨酥). Well, the pineapple mooncake is certainly tasty, but if you know me, my taste buds are slightly influenced by my political and cultural preferences, so DOUBLE thumbs up for Taiwanese pineapple mooncake! 🙂 The nicest thing about the pineapple mooncake is that it’s not too sweet. The pineapple didn’t lose all of its tangy signature but rather just had the edges smoothened out, so to speak. Meanwhile, a little shreddy, uneven texture makes the paste more interesting. Continue reading Taiwanese pastries from Sheng Kee Bakery

Eating missing

Vietnamese No more flan. Giovanni on Shattuck has closed its door after 25 years in business. I’d been there once when I suddenly had a craving for Italian pastas. Not that it had amazing Italian, but it certainly was unique. Anything old is unique. There was the bar in the front. In the back there was a big warm brick fireplace around which tables were set, the old school fireplace with a real log burning and real fire sparkles you know. And it’s also the only place in Downtown Berkeley that actually had flan. Not amazing flan, but any flan was better than none. UPDATE: Giovanni is back! Not sure if it’s the economic downtime or just the common evolution of restaurants that is turning certain dishes into forlorn memories. Phở Hòa has been replaced by PunToh Fresh Thai Food, and of course that means no more bò kho (beef stew), something that’s really hard to come across even in San Jose. Bánh Cuốn Tây Hồ #9 in Oakland has a new owner, Duyên – the niece of the old owner, who schicked up […]

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Vietnamese I was first deceived by its genteel green color to taste a spoonful all at once. Ever since, the wasabi has been a turnoff. Ever since, I also scoff at sushi, “pieces of overpriced cold rice, cold veggie and tasteless seafood” I labeled them. Well, they’re still overpriced, still cold, but definitely not tasteless. Be it the oksusu cha, the small salad with Korean mayo dressing, the creative rolls, or my infatuation with anything Korean (even when it’s just Korean-made Japanese food), the sushi at Anzu taste wonderful to me. I’ve blogged about Anzu twice already, but it would be incomplete to talk about Anzu without talking about their sushi menu. The selection is countless: nigiri/maki, vegan/non-vegan, normal/fried/baked/crunchy, etc. Yah yah yah, this is uramaki (Westernized sushi) with the nori inside, avocado, cream cheese, names like Avatar and Golden Gate. But the point is they’re good. They also give you free soup, salad, and either edamame, fried tofu, or gyoza for appetizer. This would be one of the first places I’d take my little sister out to eat, had the US Embassy […]

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Chocolate festival at Ghirardelli Square

What’s with this time of the year that festivals keep popping up every weekend? Just two weeks ago my friends and I were strolling among some 60 food trucks at Jack London Square; then last week we had some awesome grilled chicken at Martin Luther King Park; and this past Sunday we wound up queuing in the shivering bay wind for some artisan desserts at Ghirardelli Square. If we keep this up(*) I will become quite athletic, all that walking and standing in (long) line build muscles, you know. 😛 So here’s the deal with the 15th annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival: you get a $20 ticket to try 15 samples (there are 31 total, some of them are chocolate favored alcoholic drinks); supposedly the booths started giving samples at noon, but lots of people got there earlier and lined up in front of the booths. Kara’s Cupcakes is one of those booths with a 100 feet line before it even opened. I’m not crazy about cupcakes (yeah… you can tell I’m not American) so I didn’t contribute to that line’s ridiculous […]

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Beef wrap n’ roll

It took me six years eating steaks and potatoes and one evening of eating beef sausages rolled with greens and rice paper to realize that perhaps the best way to eat meat is to eat it with vegetables. No hard feelings, dear steak, you are like pure chocolate, and bulgogi in lettuce wrap is like orange flavored chocolate. Then you add pickled carrots and daikon, minty herbs, rice paper, sweet and sour nước mắm, and the beef is bound to take off just like the Apollo 11. Such revelation dawned on me when I took the first bite of a bò lá lốt roll at Ánh Hồng in Berkeley. Ánh Hồng was famous in the old Saigon for their creation of the seven courses of beef, a menu that other Vietnamese restaurants quickly imitated to serve big parties. Despite knowing the menu’s popularity, I rarely thought of its main items as desirable, simply because, for instance, I wasn’t a fan of the wild betel leaf (lá lốt in Vietnamese and cha phloo in Thai) that wraps outside the ground beef. It’s […]

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Sura in Oakland – A banchan chapter

The one thing you can be certain about when you go to Korean restaurants, regardless of their size and price and menu, is that you will always get full. I’ve never been to a Korean restaurant where I think “hmm, maybe I have room for some more” when I leave. Korean restaurants always give you big portions, and on top of that, there is the banchan (반찬). When you sit down all starving because of the steaming broth or the grilled meat smoke from nearby tables, the banchan is the first thing to nibble on and ebb the hunger. You can either get a lot of coleslaw and dongchimi (동치미, pickled white radish in this case), or an array of little bitty plates that look too colorfully appetizing to disturb. Naturally, the size of your bill corresponds to the variety you can sample. And the biggest sample of banchan I’ve had so far is at Sura. Here’s what to prepare your tummy for when you’re at Sura: 1 starter, 18 side dishes, whatever you actually order (which comes with either brown rice or white rice), […]

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Got time? Make vegan curry.

CAUTION: Don’t make this curry when you’re in a hurry. If you’ve got half a day to kill, then a trip to to the groceries and a couple of hours in the kitchen might be fun. At the groceries: grab 3-4 plump potatoes, 2-3 red yams/sweet potatoes, carrots, mushroom, yellow fried tofu, fresh gluten meat, 1 can of coconut milk. The fresh gluten meat is white, slightly layered, with a wet, bouncy texture, usually sold in packages of 2-4 blocks. Do not get the canned kind, or the kind that looks like bread. If fresh gluten meat is nowhere to be found (as happened to me at 99 Ranch Market), “vegan chicken” might substitute. At the sink: peel all potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Cut them into big chunks (at least a finger digit thick) so that they won’t just dissolve in the curry later. Cut the fried tofu and gluten meat into similarly thick chunks. At the stove: Continue reading Got time? Make vegan curry.