Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tommy's Joynt

Tommy's Joynt has been a favorite of ours since J's law school days. A huge plate of food for under $10 paired with cheap beer in a casual atmosphere is a big draw when you're a poor student!

Nowadays, the food is too heavy for us to eat regularly, but once in awhile we do fall prey to the allure of Tommy's hofbrau-style good eats. You stand in line cafeteria style, pick which slab of meat you want to eat by pointing to the guys manning the carving stations, then pay and find a seat. Remember to hit up the pickle bucket on your way to your table. Tommy's has perhaps the finest homemade pickles in San Francisco. Lightly brined, but not too salty and still crunchy and fresh.

I had a brisket plate, which happened to be a little high on the fat ratio but otherwise very tender. I like baked beans at Tommy's, and the other choices of sides are all fine though nothing special.

J had the ginormous turkey leg with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. I think we headed to the gym after this  meal, but it was last week so I forget. I sure hope we did!


Friday, January 08, 2010

Taishan Cafe

Tasty new restaurant alert! That's right, I ate at two good restaurants today. We're eating out more and more as we pack up more of our belongings and eat down more of our fridge and pantry. Today we tried Taishan Cafe on Clement and 12th. We've noticed this place a lot in the past, but never really got curious about it recently. When J realized it might be a great place to eat some regional dishes from his mom's family's region of China, we knew we had to go scope it out for her.

The pig stomach soup with pepper was my favorite dish of the night. You can get this soup at a lot of Chinese places, but Taishan Cafe really kicks the flavor up a notch. The soup, though almost clear, is so gingery and peppery that it's almost spicy, with an undercurrent of herbs that's simultaneously distinctive and subtle. This was the perfect almost-boiling hot soup for a chilly night.

A small plate of chicken's feet was on the house.

A-chai, or Chinese lettuce. This was really good, made with fermented bean curd as well as garlic. See how the broth at the bottom is murky rather than clear? That's some of the fermented bean curd sauce. But buyer beware: Taishan is infamous for overcharging for vegetables! This plate was over $10. And while it was tasty, I probably would not pay for it again; it cost more than anything else we ordered tonight!

Half duck, house special. This tasted of plum sauce and five spice powder. Different, but nice!

Clay pot with pork patty and salted fish. This is the $6.95 "individual" portion. Do not be fooled into getting a larger size! This pot contained enough rice to feed two or three people, but our server insisted that we should upgrade to a "small" pot for $18. I'm so glad we opted for two different individual sized pots instead of one giant one! The pork over rice was very good, and we had fun scraping the burnt rice off the bottom and munching on it.

Since the server insisted that one pot would not be enough for three people, we ordered the lamb pot as well as the pork pot. The lamb is a signature dish, but I didn't find it very exciting. There should have been more sauce, and the meat was not very tender. The flavor was fine, the dish just wasn't as exciting as some of the other things we had.

Taishan is a really great place for cheap eats, seeing how a $6.95 clay pot alone could be dinner for two. Not every dish is a winner, but I think some menu exploration could uncover some real gems. We ended up spending a whopping $44 for three people, with enough leftovers to make lunch tomorrow. We'll definitely be bringing J's mom here next time she visits!

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Tuna Casserole

I know, tuna casserole. You thought you were momentarily transported back to the 70s, didn't you? Well, I apologize, but things are going to get even weirder here on Chez Pei as J and I embark on our final month of pantry cleansing before our big move. We try really hard not to hang on to canned food for more than a few months at a time, but we did unearth some kind of unusual things this weekend. Amongst them were a can of cream of mushroom soup and a family sized can of tuna.

Add half a pack of macaroni and some very old-fashioned sensibilities, and voila! Tuna casserole. And you know what? It's not half bad. Here's a break down for those who are interested. For a small baking pan (about 9x9" or slightly larger):

  • 1 family sized Campbell's cream of mushroom soup (or two 12-ounce cans)
  • 1 family sized can of tuna (or 2 regular cans), drained
  • 1/2 cup water or milk
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 1/2 pound macaroni pasta
  • about 1/4 cup grated cheese. I used Gryuere but any cheese that will melt and brown nicely will do (Cheddar, Parmesan, Jack, even American)
Cook the pasta until it is barely al dente. Err on the side of too hard to eat rather than just right.

Meanwhile, sautee the onions in a little olive oil over medium heat, until they are translucent but not brown. Add the soup, tuna, water, and plenty of black pepper. When the pasta is done, drain it well and add that to the soup mixture too. Combine well, making sure everything is distributed evenly. There are no real rules about how thick this needs to be. The texture won't change much in the oven so just add enough water to make it the consistency you like.

If you're cooking this right away, just pour the heated mixture into a lightly greased pan, sprinkle with cheese, and broil for about ten minutes--remember to check after the first five minutes! If you're putting it in the refrigerator for later, heat it for30 minutes or until it bubbles in a 350 degree oven, then put it in the broiler for about 10 minutes.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Fried Rice

Sorry, all. I really haven't had time to cook anything interesting or document it in saliva-inducing photographs. But we did have comfort food tonight: fried rice! There's nothing like a slightly greasy bowl of rice to sooth the stomach.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bang San Thai

Today, I revisited what I consider an under appreciated local gem: Bang San Thai on Jones near O'Farrell. A lot of Tenderloin restaurants develop cult followings despite their seedy digs, but for some reason Bang San's never caught on. I suspect they might suffer a little from consistency (as in, they have one bad cook or occassionally suffer because a cook is sick or something). However, when they're on their game, they are really phenomenal. I hate mediocre, overly sugary Thai food, which there's a lot of. But good Thai food has really unique, dare I say zingy, flavors that my mouth isn't used to. Sweet, sour, salty, spicy, all working in balance with a variety of textures--what's not to like?

One of my favorite dishes, and one by which I judge Thai restaurants, is tom ka gai soup. A good version should be creamy but not thick or gloppy, have just a hint of heat and sugar, and have a nice tang to it. Chicken, mushrooms, and tofu should all be present in my perfect version. And the broth, like the one at Bang San, should have a savoriness and depth that comes from using a rich herbed chicken broth as its base. Poured voer some rice, it's one of my favorite comfort foods.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Stir Fried Tomato and Eggs

I promise, the next post won't be about tomatoes. Cross my heart.

This dish isn't much to look at, but it's easy comfort food that I've been eating since I was a kid. I don't know why it took me so long to realize I should give it a try with heirloom tomatoes. I guess it's usually something people make with tomatoes that aren't too good! The Chinese name of this dish is tomato fried eggs, so it's pretty obvious what the two ingredients are.

To make a big plate, slice two tomatoes into very thin wedges. Some people like to use chunky tomatoese, but I don't like the outside edge of my slices to be thicker than a quarter inch. Sautee the tomatoes over medium heat in a tablespoon of olive oil, and add a sprinkling of salt along with about a teaspoon of sugar. Yes, sugar! Stir the tomatoes until they are cooked through and the juices that come out of them have started to evaporate off. Then push the tomatoes to the side of the pan so there's a doughnut hole in the middle. Put a teaspoon of oil in the middle and pour in two beaten eggs. Let the eggs cook for five or ten seconds, then scramble them without touching the tomatoes too much. When the eggs are more than halfway cooked, stir the tomatoes back into the center and combine everything evenly. Top with some black pepper, and eat over rice.

Note: there are a million ways to do this. My mom liked to scramble the eggs halfway, set them aside, use the same pan to cook the tomatoes, then add the eggs back in at the last second. I've seen other people do the opposite. I think my mom's way makes for the neatest presentation, and I do it if I have to serve it to other people. But my way really gets the tomato and egg flavors to combine and makes for a great sauce to mash into rice. Try it both ways!

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tomatoes Three Ways

Today's lunch was grownup versions of a classic American combination: tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich.

The soup was easy. All I did was heat up a quart of the tomato sauce I posted about yesterday, and stir in half a quart of lowfat milk once the soup was heated through. The key is to not cook the milk too long, and to whisk it as it goes into the sauce so the milk doesn't curdle in the acidic sauce. A little salt and pepper with the addition of milk is good too.

For dipping in the soup, we had grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced heirloom tomatoes. There's just something about dunking a melty sandwich into a bowl of creamy soup that works for me.
And, just to really get some overkill on the tomatoes, we had a bowl of raw tomatoes too. In case you couldn't tell, the $15 case I got is really going far around here. I've made more than three quarts of sauce and we've had raw tomatoes almost every night since Wednesday. And we still have at least half a dozen to go! Luckily, neither of us is really tired of tomatoes yet.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Vegetable Curry

The sudden change in weather was a call for comfort food.

Easy vegetable curry. I diced up seven different vegetables and sauteed them in a scant tablespoon of olive oil. Then I added enough water to cover all the vegetables, brought the water up to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer until the vegetables were almost cooked through. Then I stirred in two cubes of Golden Curry to create a chunky curry with plenty of sauce. You can get as creative as you want with the vegetables you use, but this time I used: acorn squash, purple bell peppers, carrots, onions, red potatoes, yellow potatoes, and celery.

This time, I added a vegetable that is brand new to me: moringa. It seems to have originated in the Tamil region of India, and is popular throughout South and Southeast Asia as well as Africa. The leaves are small, tender, and almost flavorless. I would say it's most similar to spinach, but really has no taste except perhaps an extremely mild cucumber flavor. It's very high in a variety of nutrients, contains a lot of protein for a tree, and often credited with helping impoverished regions stave off starvation. I think, unless it's seasonal, this is going to be a cheap and versatile leafy addition to our diet.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009


Olivos has quickly become one of our favorite neighborhood spots. The restaurant isn't much to speak of, so we usually order take out, but today we headed back there with a camera to make sure Olivos gets its due.

The #1 thing to order there is the menudo. For about $10 you get more than a quart of rich, spiced (but not spicy), thick, slightly sticky soup with large chunks of tripe floating around in it. J likes to order it without the vegetables to make room for any pork hocks or extra offal the kitchen might feel like sparing. The menudo is served with a few lime wedged, chopped cilantro and onions, and two tortillas that you can either rip up and throw in the soup or use to wrap pieces of tripe. I think even people who don't like offal should try this soup. It's really meaty and delicious.

I always order two pupusas. It's hard to resist this much food for under $5. Today I picked cheese and pork pupusas, which are served with a side of Salvadorean cabbage slaw.

Olivos serves a wide array of Mexican food that you can find at Taquerias, but it bills itself as a Salvadorean restaurant and the pupusas are what people seem to go there for. There are other decent Taquerias in the area, so when we go we always get the menudo, pupusas, and get out for about $15 (sometimes with leftovers!). You can see why it's what we eat when we're feeling too lazy to cook.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Si Gua, Chicken, and Mushroom Porridge

OMG yay, I'm back! All it took for Blogger to start behaving was for me to post a mean comment about how lame it was.

Anyhow, let's backtrack. This is last night's dinner, which was good old fashioned Chinese comfort food. I simmered two pieces of chicken leg and thigh in two quarts of water until they were cooked through, then I removed the chicken and let it cool while I cooked a cup of rice in the resulting broth. Then I took two si gua (aka. Chinese okra, but which is more like a soft squash), peeled and sliced them, and sauteed them in a little oil and salt with a handful of sliced shitake mushrooms. I peeled the skin off the chicken pieces and shredded the meat, then added the vegetables and chicken to the porridge. Salt and white pepper was added in the last few minutes, to taste.

And, a rare Taiwanese treat. Okay, not really. We have plenty of fermented soy bean in the states, but J's aunt brought us a really delicious jar from Taiwan. The better brands have a smoother texture, are less salty, and have a more balanced flavor. They take the whole concept of fermented tofu from an afterthought to really delicious.

Here's a closeup. I'm not sure how to describe the flavor, but it's kind of like really fresh miso. The beans on the side are, of course, soy beans.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

PB&B Sandwich

Flash back to childhood:

Everyone had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a kid, but as I got older I switched to liking peanut butter and banana sandwiches instead. And with all the long runs I've been taking, it's become a daily snack. Whole wheat toast, lightly sweetened peanut butter (sorry, Skippy), and sliced bananas really kills hunger pangs and contains a nice combination of protein and carbohydrates for long lasting satiation and enough sugar to provide an instant pick-me-up. I eat one of these for breakfast, and if I'm feeling especially ragged I have one right before bed.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Satin Eggs Over Rice

Satin eggs are a popular dish at Cantonese cafes. It's in the category of foods that's warm, soft, and comforting poured over rice. The dish can be made with any type of meat and/or seafood, but my favorite involves beef.

For enough to eat for several meals:
  • 1/2 pound sliced sirloin, or other sliced steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 pound frozen peas
  • 1 can straw hat mushrooms, halved
  • 1 container silken tofu, cut into large cubes
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4 heaping tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with enough water to dissolve it
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 can chicken stock
  • 4 eggs, beaten
Sprinkle beef with baking soda and let sit while you prep the other ingredients. Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a wok until it's screaming hot. Stir fry the beef, adding the mushrooms and then the peas when the meat is half cooked. Stir fry everything until warmed through, then pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn the flame down to a simmer, add white pepper and rice wine, and cook for three minutes.

With the mixture gently simmering, pour in the cornstarch mixture slowly, stirring continuously. Work slowly or you'll end up with gloppy lumps. You might need to adjust the amount of cornstarch up or down depending how you like it. Stir until the cornstarch is cooked through. It will turn from white to almost completely clear. When the starch is cooked, pour in the beaten eggs in a circle. Let it cook for about thirty seconds, then stir gently to scramble the eggs throughout the mix. Thin with water if necessary, then stir in tofu and warm through. The smooth texture of the cornstarch and eggs is what gives this dish its name, and what makes it a popular comfort food.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Wo's Restaurant

The stars did not align very well tonight, but we ended up having a very satisfactory meal at Wo's Restaurant way out on Judah and 48th (almost to the ocean!). The first restaurant we went to was cash only, and we only had $20. The second one had a wait, and I was starving. So Wo's to the rescue!

I had the slippery beef over rice. Very nicely done, and this enormous portion was only $5.50. I know there's a lot of cheap Chinese food to be had, but Wo's really stood out to me because their food is not greasy. That is incredibly rare for a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant with rock bottom prices. Usually after eating this kind of meal I expect to feel a little queasy, but it's four hours later and I feel fine--still full, but not stuffed. J had a chicken pho in a nice clear broth, and we shared a plate of piping hot deep fried spring rolls. All for $16! Amazing.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Coffee-Braised Beef Ribs

Coffee-braised meats are the latest in "What's new is old" cuisine. It sounds nouveau and unexpected, but the cowboys were stewing meat in leftover coffee grits ages ago, I'm sure. I joined in the fun today with some ribs that I bought for a song at Whole Foods. My sides were paprika dill rice with a squeeze of lime and a simple salad of diced heirloom tomatoes, raw corn, garbanzo beans, and diced onions.

This is how the ribs looked before being thrown on a plate with sides. For a nice big pot, good for multiple meals:
  • 9 large beef back ribs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes, 12 oz or 24 oz depending on your preference
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Thai chili
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
Rub the ribs all over with salt and pepper. If you have time, do this the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator. In a dutch oven, sear all sides of the ribs on high heat. Set aside and put the onions in to cook with the butter. You can add carrots, celery, or root vegetables, but I didn't have any. When the onions are cooked through, sprinkle the flour over them and cook until slightly browned. Add the wine, scraping the bottom to release any brown bits. Then add the tomatoes, heat, and put the ribs back in along with the chili and bay leaves. Add a little water if the sauce does not cover the ribs, but it's better to use a pot that's small enough that you don't use too much sauce. Salt and pepper to taste, turn the flame as low as it will go, cover the dutch oven, and braise for three hours or until the ribs are tender. I let mine go all afternoon, for almost six hours at the barest simmer. You'll notice the liquid turning a little gooey and sticky when the tendons and fat start breaking down. That's how you know you're getting close to being done. Take the cover off and turn up the head to medium until the sauce thickens as much as you'd like.

Here's the stew halfway through cooking, smelling great but still soupy.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Aji de Gallina

The desire to make this dish came from a meal over a year ago at Fresca. I won't say my version is anywhere near as good as theirs, but it was a nice homey meal at the end of a fantastic holiday Monday! We went to the shooting range with W, had lunch at La Cumbre, went grocery shopping, and stopped by Mitchell's for a snack before coming home and spending the entire afternoon cooking. Good times!

The recipe needs tweaking, but you can click here for the recipe I followed.

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