So Gong Dong Tofu House

Five minutes drive from Stanford. More commonly referred to as Tofu House… Because of the variety of soondubu (순두부 soft tofu soup) here. Served with a raw egg and brown (purple) rice with red beans. You crack that egg into the boiling stone bowl, and stir it up. Pieces of soft tofu break. Steam. Taste. Slurp. And perspire a little. This soup works wonder when you’re feeling sick. Continue reading So Gong Dong Tofu House

I tried I Squared

What is the product of Italian and Iranian food? It’s I Squared‘s food. Clever name. Clever combination to get the oddivores, those who seek to eat oddities at odd places, like me, hooked. While looking for a nice eggplant parmesan to properly celebrate Ashley’s birthday, we were presented with a choice among the traditional Ristoranti italiani, the eggplant parmesan sandwiches, or I Squared. It’s clear what we picked. Eggplant Parmigiana from I Squared – Baked layers of eggplant and Napoli sauce topped with fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses The eggplant parmesan of I Squared is among the healthier, lighter kind of eggplant parmesans, where the eggplant slices are baked instead of battered and fried, and there is hardly any cheese between layers. The wilted, sinewy eggplant peel adds a dried-apricot-like chew, the bread crumb and melted cheese on top makes every bite sink and bounce in lushness. The palm-sized portion drowns in a pool of tomato sauce sprinkled with mozzarella. I find it best to eat each layer of eggplant by itself, just plain, when it’s neither like fruit nor vegetable. The texture is amazing. Continue reading I tried I Squared

Best Pho in the Bay

If you ask me a few weeks ago, which place has the best pho in the Bay Area outside of San Jose, I would not give a straight answer. I would instead say that the speediest pho is at Le petit Cheval on Bancroft, at most 5 minutes after ordering and a bowl is steaming up your nose; the most spacious pho restaurant is Phở Vỉ Hoa in Los Altos; the lowest price of a sliced beef number is about $6; and upon slurping you usually can’t escape a tightened, salty lingering at the back of the throat, reminiscence of the seasoning package that comes with your instant $1 pho. If you ask me now, I’d say without hesitance: Le Regal has the best pho in the Bay, and possibly one of the best I’ve ever had I still don’t have the answer yet: UPDATE on October 15, 2011: Le Regal’s pho broth has become fatty and bland, it is now one of the worst pho I’ve ever had… The following is but a beautiful memory: 🙂 Continue reading Best Pho in the Bay

What to get and not to get at Dara

Diagonally across the intersection from Crepevine on Shattuck are one Thai restaurant and one Thai-Lao restaurant, right next to each other. We know that it’s pretty much impossible for us to get a pure Lao dish in America, given that we can’t really tell the difference between Lao and Thai names. Still, the three-lettered word addition on the sign has an alluring effect on us mini-globavores. So we choose Dara over Cha Am. Secluded high above street level with a red brick gradation ascending up to the door, Dara offers its patrons two seating choices: out in the garden curtained by a multitude of mini palm trees, bamboos, and kalanchoes, or indoor, surrounded by faux gilded statues, metal vases, and wall ornaments. There’s no music; except for the talking in the kitchen far back, the only sound you hear here is your own voice. The dinner menu at Dara has a list of house specialties, Lao finger foods (with familiar items like sai gauk, satay gai, noke todd, nam lao), various noodles and curries, and of course, pad thai for […]

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Salmon day

There are two types of fish that you are guaranteed to find in American diners: catfish and salmon. Catfish is almost always filleted, battered and fried. Salmon is either grilled or smoked. Because the choices are so unlimited, I never order them. And this is the prime example of what you would miss out if you stick to your prejudice: had it not been because of Vân, I wouldn’t have had a tasty salmon burger and a tasty salmon-on-baguette today. Nation’s Giant Hamburger (NGH) is a small local chain spanning the Greater Bay Area, serving burgers, breakfast, hot dogs, and also pies. Of the 24 locations, Berkeley’s NGH on University is a little oasis of the ’80s rural: small dusty parking lot with old cars, highly-walled-up booths in dark colors, the smell of fries and oil and the grill twirled with the smell of old people and homeless people and unkempt teenage boys, the pies fluffed with whipped cream in glass cabinets, the chili, the wallpaper, the red and white theme. It doesn’t speak clean. It isn’t cheap either, a third-pounder costs anywhere between $3.70 to $5.70, depending on the type […]

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Down the Aisles 6: Asian markets’ hits and misses

I’ve been lying low on the blogging front for the past couple of weeks, because the school front is under serious bombarding. Having classes is one thing; having to teach, applying for stuff, looking to join a research group on top of classes is a whole different level of war. Not that I lose my appetite, but when twenty deadlines are approaching like a flock of Luftwaffe‘s Bf 109, quick filling meals trump elaborate dishes. Loco moco is a winner, but even I know that I can rely solely on gravy, egg, and hamburger patty for so long before a heart attack. Hence the deli section in supermarkets gain appeals. But if you’re gonna buy cheap store-made food, you gotta do it in style. Apple pies, rotisserie chicken, turkey sandwiches, or those mushy bean-and-pasta salads are so 2009 (I used to buy a rotisserie chicken every week last year :-P). This year we hit up the delis in Koreana Plaza and 99 Ranch Market. Entree 1 – kimchi big dumpling ($3.99 for 4) from Koreana. Each is as big as my fist, the dough is springy […]

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Szechwan slurpings in Oakland Chinatown

What would you prefer to order, something whose name you don’t understand, or something whose name you do understand but the combination of ingredients is strange to you? The biggest problem we face at Chinese restaurants in Chinatown is that the waitresses don’t know much English, and we know zero Chinese. We can’t ask about the dishes and have to rely solely on the English description, if it is written, which leads to the second problem: all the descriptions are the same. Not just that. If you are not Chinese and have spent many years eating $7 Chinese buffets like me, you probably know that there’s hardly any difference between Szechwan chicken, orange chicken, sweet and sour chicken, and whatever chicken. Same goes for fried rice, chow mein, vegetables, and other edibles, which appear identical everywhere (unless it’s really bad). So imagine my excitement of spotting “tai lou mein” and “pickle and pork rice noodle soup” as I flipped through the menu at Szechwan Restaurant on 8th Street. We’ve never heard of those things. The tai lou mein is, unexpectedly, a bowl of noodle soup. (We thought we’re in for stir fried noodles.) […]

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