One bite: patechaud at UCafe


In 2008, nobody knew what I talked about when I said “pate chaud“ (pronounced |pah-teh-sho|), unless that person was Vietnamese. Not even Wikipedia. But it’s French, how can wikipedia not know about a french pastry, I felt desperate. Now Wikipedia has a page for it, first created on Nov 3, 2011. So it came from an obsolete French word for hot (chaud) meat pie (pâté), but the pastry itself is far from obsolete. Until now, the only place where I can get patechaud has been Vietnamese sandwich shops, which Berkeley doesn’t have. Then UCafe opened, and one day, I saw the patechauds at the counter. UCafe also has banh mi. Although I’ve been to the new Sheng Kee Bakery on Telegraph that everybody raves about, although Sheng Kee does have an artificial-tasting but really satisfying taro bubble tea, and although UCafe doesn’t have taro bubble tea (yet), I’ll be loyal to UCafe. The nitty gritty: UCafe labels it “puff chicken” on the receipt. I don’t know what they call it per se because they’re not Vietnamese and I do the classic point-and-get thing. The […]

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One bite: Harusame soup at Cha-Ya

Kinoko harusame ($8.50) - potato starch glass noodle soup with mushroom (shimeji, eryngii, enoki, hiratake (oyster mushroom), portobello mushroom and shiitake.

Kinoko harusame (~$8) – potato starch glass noodle soup with mushroom (shimeji, eryngii, enoki, hiratake (oyster mushroom), portobello mushroom and shiitake. Japanese glass noodle (harusame 春雨) is different from Vietnamese glass noodle: it’s made from potato starch (instead of mung bean starch or canna starch), it’s much thicker (like a spaghetti, whereas Vietnamese glass noodle is like a capellini), and it has a softer chew. With that vegan broth sweetened by mushroom, it was comforting. Continue reading One bite: Harusame soup at Cha-Ya

Burma Superstar and a review of my review style


It was 1 AM Wednesday night when I saw the text message from Chris, “hey Mai, do you expect you’ll have another review ready by tomorrow?” “Yeah I think so.” “Oh good. When can you have it in? It’ll have to be sort of early if we want to get it in Friday’s paper.” Chris is the editor of Eating Berkeley, and all of my publications with them so far are online, so it’d be pretty exciting to see my name in print. The problem: it was 1 AM and I had to finish a few scripts for my research the next day. The good thing: I just had dinner at Burma Superstar (the Oakland one) earlier that evening, followed by a LOT of puer, so my eyes were opening as wide as the Pacific Ocean and ready for no sleep. I started typing away about Burma Superstar. This morning I picked up a copy of the Daily Cal at the bus stop. It IS good to see my piece in print, although it’s on a B&W page and I don’t feel like they chose the best […]

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Dungeness crab by the bay


Dungeness crab season is on. It was delayed twice in the Pacific Northwest because the crabs there weren’t big enough, but not here in the Bay Area. What my companions and I got a few weeks ago were 2-pound crabs, roughly one-fourth of which were meat, tossed in garlic and butter to perfection. More on that in a second. First, what defines good crab? It has to be fresh. Its flesh should be tender and sweet, which are also defining characteristics of Dungeness crab. You also want the flesh to be firm, somewhat springy, and easily pulled off from the shell. If the meat sticks to the shell and if the shell is too hard, the crab is old. Dungeness crab is best enjoyed steamed then tossed in garlic, butter, salt and pepper, as to maximally preserve the sweetness of its meat. It’s not hard to turn a good fresh crab into a good cooked crab, but it can be messy to cook, eat and clean up after. So if you dislike cleaning as much as I do, the place to satisfy your Dungeness craving is Thanh Long in San Francisco. The restaurant […]

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Cafe Rouge – two different ways to think about a bad experience


A few years ago, things were rough at school and I was a bittermelon*. I got upset easily, turned people away from me, was critical of everything and mostly found faults in mankind. Long story short, I became a misanthrope and immersed myself in two things: anime and foreign language. Ironically, the former taught me to think more positively, and the latter brought me new friends. Then I realized that when I suppress my negative thoughts, eventually they dissipate on their own and I would feel so much better without bothering anyone with my complaints. In America, we are encouraged to express our negative feelings. People like to see and hear about problems (that’s why the daily news are mostly bad news and the reality shows are full of anger). Some people say that it’s good to let it out. That’s true, but it’s only temporary. Complaining is like eating chips, it’s impossible to stop**. Anger multiplies when it’s let loose. The more cynical I feel about a situation, the more depressing scenarios I envision, and it only goes downhill from there. These days I try to appreciate everything more, and when some incident doesn’t seem […]

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Bookmark: Koto in Sonora


The best food always rains on me when I least expect it. Who would have thought that Koto, the only Japanese restaurant in the landlocked Sonora west of Yosemite, could have such fresh sushi and perfectly crisp and seasoned saba shio? I didn’t bring my camera that day, and the next time we went the restaurant was closed. My blogging conscience doesn’t allow me to post without pictures, but Koto made such a pleasant impression that I had to write about it somewhere. So here it is: a guide to Yosemite in the Travel Issue of the Daily Cal. If I ever run past this town again with enough time for lunch, I’ll run in and order two days worth of food, take pictures, and post them here. (UPDATE on July 15, 2014: I came back yesterday and guess what, it was closed AGAIN!!!!! Because they close all day on Mondays. >__>) It’s hard enough to find a Japanese-own Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, yet there’s one in this little bitty button of a town next to a mountain range. Address: Koto 70 West Stockton St Sonora, CA 95370 (209) 532-7900 Continue reading Bookmark: Koto in Sonora

My regular lunch stop these days

chicken bun, spicy sausage roll, and pineapple bread from UCafe

One of The Clog‘s editors said: “Let’s do a cafe crawl around campus.” I happened to have tried almost everything at UCafe and been going there forever these days, so I took up that part of the crawl. I sent a 466-word essay to the editor, right before I saw her email from 5 minutes earlier: “hey guys, cuz we’ll do 5 cafes total, let’s make it 100-150 words each”. Haha oops. Cutting time. Here’s the finished product. Here’s my original 466 words. With pictures. 😉 “Since its grand opening last fall, UCafe on the South side has proved to be a reliable supplier of the Spanish bun (ham, cheese and sausage in a roll), the perfect $1.95 filler for those 10 minutes between classes. Continue reading My regular lunch stop these days