Sushi California – great sushi, even greater korokke


For a while I knew nothing about Japanese food, then within less than one year, I’ve found three places in Berkeley to satisfy my Japanese cravings. To get yakitori, guaranteed quality and to impress friends, I go to Ippuku. For a homey meal at affordable price and convenient distance, I swing by Musashi. For sushi and croquette, Sushi California tops the list. Its name is generic and its location rather hidden, had Kristen not shared a Berkeleyside review on my Facebook wall some time ago, I would never have noticed Sushi California, much less tried (I tend to stay away from generic names because they often imply generic food). Then Kristen totally forgot about the place. One day I asked her “wanna try Sushi California?” – What’s that? – The place you posted on my wall… – … The biggest reason that I remembered Sushi California before going there was this line in Anna Mindess’ review: “Chef Arakaki admits that he used to offer other Okinawan classics like goya champura (sautéed bitter melon) but they did not sell well.” I love bitter melon, and even more than […]

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Eating in Seoul: Street Foods


This past June, I spent 10 days in Seoul to do some research and to present my paper at a conference. But of course, I didn’t stop with my food exploration while abroad. I’ll be writing several posts over the next few weeks to document the food adventures that I had in Seoul! For this first Seoul post, I’ll cover the street foods that I ate! I regretted not trying as much street food as I could but I’ll profile the foods that I did try! Any suggestions for next time as well are welcome! The first street food that I had in Seoul were these delicious chestnuts right outside of the Anguk Station (I think it was Exit #3). I love roasted chestnuts and these were flavorful and meaty – they have a texture similar to that of a baked potato and are deceptively filling. Continue reading Eating in Seoul: Street Foods

one shot: Roasted duck pad thai at Nara Thai


Juicy, tender duck packed with sweet-savory marinade, you know, the typical red roasted duck that you see hanging by the neck at cleanliness-questionable Chinese eateries in Chinatown. But in this case, we don’t see the hanging ducks, the restaurant is Thai, and at least from where we’re sitting, everything looks clean(*). The noodle, too, is flavorful. The same sweet-savory vibe. Chewy and not soaking wet. I was doing well until the last maybe 3-4 bites and I could feel the part under my diaphragm harden, like a water balloon. I can’t ask for a box for 3-4 bites, so I stuffed it in. To the very last noodle. Continue reading one shot: Roasted duck pad thai at Nara Thai

Modern, fusion and my confusion

We were driving in San Francisco. A friend suddenly asks: “would you like to live in Berlin?” – No. – Why not? – German food isn’t good. – What about London? – Same thing. British food isn’t good either. Then my friend started chastising me about how I haven’t lived in those two cities to know, how they have wonderful restaurants of various cuisines, and how I should be open-minded to try new things. True. But for me, “London has many good restaurants of various cuisines” has nothing to do with “British food is good”. Another example. I like yakisoba, and I like some yakisoba in San Francisco, but that just means I would prefer any Japanese city to San Francisco in terms of yakisoba. In order to like a city, I have to like its culture, and its regional cuisine happens to be the least personal cultural thing that pops up in my mind. Edit: with Cheryl’s comment below, I think I should clarify a few things here: there’s ethnic restaurant, and then there’s fusion restaurant, both types make up the culture of a city. So, in a sense (and in the future), a fusion Chinese restaurant in […]

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M.Y. China, xiao long bao and food reviews


The restaurant is big, clean and convenient. It’s in Westfield San Francisco, a big chunk of the fourth floor of the shopping mall is restaurants, and M.Y. China is one of them. Sitting 50 feet from the kitchen and you can smell the intoxicating fumes of dumplings. We order two Chinese classics: xiao long bao (pork & crab juicy dumplings) and niu ro mien (beef hand-pulled egg noodle soup). The niu ro mien is good. Fourteen dollars. Melting tender beef, chewy noodle (not as chewy as I would like, but I’m not a fan of egg noodle anyway), dark, flavor-packed broth (which gets a bit too salty after a while and sends you drinking water like mad). The xiao long bao‘s are dry. Twelve dollars for five. There’s not enough broth in them. The dumpling skin is dried up on top, the carrot slice at the bottom, which supposedly helps preventing the dumpling from sticking to the spoon, disrupts the harmony in texture. The pork filling? This is where my friend and I disagree. Continue reading M.Y. China, xiao long bao and food reviews

MasterChef U.S. Season 4 Mid-Season Commentary

Masterchef is a reality TV show that currently airs on Fox and is in its 4th season. I’ve watched the show for three seasons now (I missed out on the first season), and have been increasingly bothered by much of the show. While I understand the need to create drama to boost up ratings and that shows about cooking that are not on food-specific channels really aren’t actually about food per se, there are some issues, particularly in this newest season, that have been consistently bothering me about Masterchef. I figured that Mai would also feel the same way, so I asked her to watch this season with me and then see if my angry reactions were justified. We decided to share our many Facebook chat conversations with you guys (slightly edited and condensed). We’ll love to create an ongoing dialogue about this show so feel free to talk back in the comments! Any points that you disagree/agree with us? Who’s your favorite/least favorite contestant? Any judges you love/can’t stand? Join in the Flavor Boulevard conversation! Mai: Hmm, I’m watching episode 2 of MasterChef now. Doesn’t it feel like the judges choose people based on their inspirational backstory or […]

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New addition to Flavor Boulevard: Meet Kristen

Kristen Sun

Kristen Sun This is Kristen Sun, food blogger, researcher in comparative ethnic studies, and my partner in crime in a lot of fooding activities, including eating, kimchi-ing, and talking about food. We tell people that we met in Korean class, which is true, but I believe the deciding moment was when she posted on Facebook that she went to Commis. We hadn’t talked much before then because we didn’t even sit near each other in class, but I felt compelled to ask her what she thought of the restaurant. She replied with a thorough, professional and perceptive analysis of the food, the service, the presentation, and how overall it didn’t live up to her expectation. That’s when I knew we’d become best friends. 🙂 Kristen’s expertise in food? You’ll find out soon when you read her posts. We focus on slightly different areas, but overall Kristen and I share not only similar taste in food and similar opinions on food culture, but also a tenacity to read and write about food (actually she’s even more dedicated than me). That’s why I have invited her onboard Flavor Boulevard, although she started […]

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Mai’s Restaurant – 35 years and counting


My junior year of high school was my first year ever in America, and I was still learning the rope of living here, high school dance among other things. A friend invited me to Homecoming. For the pre-dance dinner, he talked about going to a Vietnamese restaurant named Mai in Houston. I didn’t know exactly where it was or what it was (this was 2002, Google Maps and Yelp didn’t exist), but I thought that was considerate of him. In the end, we went to a steakhouse instead, I thought it was because Mai was a bit too far away, and I was left wondering what Mai was like. A few years later, my host parents mentioned Mai again in passing conversation, and suggested we went together sometime. The place, dated back to 1978, is known as the very first Vietnamese restaurant in Houston, and pretty much every Houstonian knows at least its name. My parents and I were interested, but again, days passed and we forgot. One day in early 2010, news came that the restaurant had been destroyed by a fire. We sighed, somewhat regretful. Luckily, it reopened. I forget how and when we […]

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