chezpei.com

Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Liang Fen

We had a few cold dishes today that were a little noteworthy. All these recipes are still being tweaked, but I'll give the gist below:


Liang fen is a Szechuan creation of mung bean (and green bean) starch. The starch, when cooked with water and then chilled, makes a noodle that is very much like Jell-O in consistency, minus the sugar. Traditionally, it is served with chili oil, Szechuan peppercorns, chopped green onions and cilanttro, soy sauce, and (optional) a healthy dose of Chinese black vinegar. Our approximation was pretty good today, but some tweaking is in order before I will post a recipe. 



Simple stir fry of spring asparagus. California asparagus is at its peak this month, and we've been enjoying it a lot as a simple stir fry: flaming hot pan + thinly sliced asparagus + a bare pinch of salt = really good eats!


Lastly, our signature surf clam salad. For most of my life, I had a deep-seated aversion towards surf clams. I viewed them as an extraneous, rubbery, waste of money that always appeared on assorted sashimi plates. But tossed in the proper sauce, the humble surf clam really come to life! We like it with a spoonful of masago, chopped green onions and/or cilantro, a spoonful of soy sauce, and a spoonful of lao gan ma hot sauce.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Negihama Handrolls

Full tutorial today, everyone! Why? Because I finally had a chance to make something simple and new that I think anyone can make. J and I found a great price on sashimi grade yellowtail this weekend, so we made a lot of handrolls today after enjoying yellowtail sashimi with our cherrystone clams last night.

Not too bad, right? I know the handrolls aren't perfectly formed, but I promise they are delicious. For two people you'll need:

  • 1 package nori (seaweed), 10 sheets per pack
  • 1 pound sashimi grade yellowtail (tuna also works well
  • 1-2 green onions, depending on size
  • 1 tsp soy sauce, plus more for dipping
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi, plus more for dipping
  • 1-2 avocados
  • 2 cups cooked sushi rice, cooled to room temperature or very slightly warmer
Beautiful piece of fish, isn't it? This is about 1.75 pounds, so don't worry if you can't find a piece this big!

Chop the fish and green onions, then combine in a large bowl with a teaspoon of soy sauce and half a teaspoon of wasabi. Mix well, and add a pinch of salt or two if needed. The mixture should be slightly salty to your taste.

Slice your avocado thinly. Here's a trick for making perfect slices: using a small knife, make very thin slices in half an avocado, all the way until your knife touches the skin. Then, use a large metal spoon to scoop out the perfectly formed slices. You'll be surprised how well this works, even on an extremely ripe avocado.

Using half a slice of nori at a time, layer your fillings in your hand roll. Feel free to add an extra dab of wasabi, horseradish sprouts, fish eggs, pickled gobo roots, or whatever else you like.

Roll everything up, and eat it before the nori gets soggy!

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cherrystone Clams

3:00 o'clock snack was extra tasty today. We got home from the market and couldn't wait, so half the clams got taken off the dinner menu and put on the snack menu.

Instead of steaming them in water or wine, J steamed them on a rack today so they would retain every last bit of flavor.
And, proving once and for all why he is Spouse in Charge of Aquatic Affairs, J came up with a great combination for a really fragrant dipping sauce: ponzo, chopped green onions, and a little zest from both a pomelo and a blood orange.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

La Mar, Ghirardelli, and a Rainy Weekend

A trip to SF by some friends in LA gave us an excuse to head to La Mar this weekend. Actually, we spent Saturday restaurant hopping and strolling the city. Here's part of our day, captured in photos.

Pisco sour, of course! Can't go to La Mar and not have one of these lime-licious treats.

Ceviche classico, the most traditional type of ceviche with halibut, hominy, yams, red onions, and a dangerous slice of habanero perched on top.

Ceviche nikkei (Japanese style ceviche) with avocado slices, sesame sees, nori, and a soy sauce base.

After sharing that very small pre-lunch snack, the four of us strolled Fisherman's Wharf and had chowder bowls for lunch--I know, I know, chowder bowls! But you have to give the tourists what they want. Personally, I find these dingies a lot more interesting than chowder bowls. They are so cute, and painted so whimsically.

After lunch, we took another stroll over to another tourist destination for a Ghirardelli sundae.

It's crazy to think that was just two days ago, because today we're cooped up inside safe and sound from one of the worst storms to hit the Bay Area in years. I stave off boredom I've started another knitting project--you'll have to see what it ends up being later!

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sushi Rika

J stopped at the new apartment tonight after work to check on what's becoming some rapidly visible progress. There are some things that are tedious but not really visibly apparent to us lay people--patching and smoothing a wall, or re-wiring electrical circuts, for example. However, there are some things that really change a room. Today, that change was the hardwood. All our damaged boards have been replaced, other boards have been re-laid so they point the same way, and the kitchen finally has beautiful new hardwood instead of dilapidated linoleum!

After checking out the apartment by flashlight (no lights for now!) we decided to go to Sushi Rika and not order our usual two items: a lion king roll: lightly torched sashimi salmon on a California roll; and Al Bap: Korean style chopped sashimi with chili paste on a bed of lettuce.

Today, we started with a sashimi sampler.

J chose a double salmon roll.
I had udon with tempura on the side.
I was hoping for a nice bowl of hot soup, but for some reason this was only lukewarm. Overall it was a decent meal; exactly what we've come to expect from Sushi Rika. But next time I think I'll revert to our favorites!

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Pacific Catch

Pacific Catch is a small chain serving Pacific fusion cuisine. Mostly, this means a combination of grilled and fried seafood and Japanese dishes. So, for example, today I was torn between fish and chips or a raw ahi tuna salad on a bed of mixed greens including daikon and shiso.

Because it was freezing and I'd just run 2.5 miles, I opted for the fattening option. Today's lunch special did not disappoint! I got three thick pieces of juicy, piping hot fish in a light crust, and a heap of what might be the best sweet potato fries I've had in the city. The cole slaw was mild and crunchy though a bit too heavy on the mayo, and I enjoyed having Thai chili sauce (Claire, are you reading?) as well as tartar sauce with my meal. Not bad; I think I'll be back.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Blue Fin Sushi

Happy anniversary to us! I'm a terrible wife--J had to remind me today that if we wanted to do a nice pre-anniversary nightl out, we would have to do it tonight or wait until next weekend. He even suggested a new restaurant for us to try: Blue Fin Sushi on Clement and 19th Avenue. There are definitely perks to marrying a seafood fiend.

The star of the show tonight was the sashimi plate ($28). We might have gotten a few extra pieces because it was a slow Sunday night, but either way this is a gorgeous dish and a phenomenal price for San Francisco. All the fish was fresh and delicious, but compared to other sushi plates this dish had some extra culinary flare as well as nice aesthetics. In the martini glass was a pool of ponzu and several ice cubes. Perched on top of that was thin sliced halibut topped with shiso leaves and masago. Tipped in ponzo instead of wasabi, the halibut was a nice change of pace from the rest of the plate.

Deep fried oysters ($1). Yes, you read that right. $1! On Sunday-Thursday between 5pm-10pm, there is a short list of appetizers that are available for $1 a plate for every $30 you spend. We ended up spending enough to get a deep-fried soft shell crab as well, but the oysters were by far superior. Six meaty pieces, deep fried to perfection, with a richy, creamy, flavorful center.

The scallops were another very nice dish, served with thinly sliced lemons and masago ($14.50, seasonal). One thing about Blue Fin: all the fish eggs were exceptionally fresh and crunchy, with just a salty hint of the ocean. The scallops were so fresh and sweet that, eaten with the lemon slices, they almost reminded me of lemonade. Crazy, huh?

The side dish that came with the scallops was a fried pancake made with the parts of the scallop not suitable for sashimi. It was like a Korean pajeon, served with a light ponzu dipping sauce.

The one dish we regretted getting was the foie gras ($14.50). It was too expensive for the portion, and the portion was a little overcooked. It was also probably not great quality to begin with. If I'm going to eat the innards of a tortured goose, which I don't very often, it'd better be beyond delicious. Sub par foie gras is just not worth it.

Finally, we had the king roll ($14.50). This was an unagi maki roll topped with sea urchin roe and tobiko. Again, the fish eggs were deliciously fresh and crunchy. The uni was tasty, but I did not like the roll underneath. But overall, this was a really great meal at not a bad price point. I may have to revise my long-held assertion that there is no good medium-range sushi in San Francisco!

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Feast

New Year's dinner: it all starts with a bottle of bubbly...

This year, we decided to take it easy. No family, no parties, just me and J and a fantastic meal. He's been really overworked this week, and I'm busy all day dealing with contractors and packing up our old place, so we just wanted to pamper ourselves with a night in. So I opened up a bottle of Laurent-Perrier I've been stowing away for a special night, and got busy in the kitchen.

Fire! Flambe is always a celebration in and of itself. I set some sauteed onions and parsley on fire with a healthy dose of vodka. This formed the base of our simple holiday meal. I scooped these onions into a pan with about a centimeter of water. Once the water was boiling, I got busy steaming seafood!

I went to Sun Fat in the mission to day to buy our dinner: a crab and some cherrystone clams, Manila clams, and PEI mussels (har, Pei and PEI).

Cherrystone clams, done! When steamed correctly, these meaty clams are truly divine. They're often steamed until they shrivel up into dry lumps, so if you cook these keep an eye on them and remove them right when they open wide! You might even have to remove the faster cooking clams while the slower ones cook.

The rest of the meal included a heaping bowl of mussels and Manila clams steamed in onions, parsley, thyme, and lemon; and a whole crab steamed in herbs and black peppercorns. Who could say no to all this! But...it gets better.

Had to take a picture of the aftermath.

I stopped by Tartine! J's been so stressed at work, a banana cream tart was in order.

And for me, a passionfruit coconut bavarian cake. If you like very tangy, lemony desserts, this is the one for you. Even thinking about it makes my mouth water! And a pleasant surprise: this cake is GREAT with champagne. I should have bought a whole cake!

Happy new year, and may 2010 be full of tasty eats for everyone.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Everything Gumbo

I do 99% of the cooking in our home, but when J decides to step up to the plate, he does not mess around. This weekend he decided it was time to revisit one of his favorite foods: gumbo.


The result was smashing, and we are not lenient judges around here. J achieved the perfect consistency for spooning over rice, and the gumbo had enough soup for sipping while still being full of Dungeness crab (two whole ones!), chicken, shrimp, sausage, okra, celery, onions, and green bell peppers. The only thing it lacked was a hint of smokiness from a smoked ham hock and/or a little blue crab flavor, but given what's easily available in SF it was a phenomenal showing. What a treat to come home to after an afternoon at the gym!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe

More home supply shopping brought us into the Bayshore neighborhood again today. And boy, we just keep finding good food down there! Today, we went to Queen's Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe for the first time. I was extremely pleasantly surprised.

First, the space. I was expecting a hole in the wall, or at best a tidied up older space. That's what you usually find in this part of town. But Queen's is a completely renovated space: clean, open, inviting, with tasteful decor and a great staff. Everyone was very friendly, and after being asked if we were first time customers we were offered free samples of the sweet potato fries and the gumbo (both delicious). This is obviously a family-owned neighborhood establishment, but it's clear they took the effort to make it a place that could compete in SF's tough food scene.

J had an oyster po-boy. Yum. I would only say that the bread was a waste of stomach space, because the fried oysters were done very nicely indeed.

Gumbo: YUM! One of the best gumbos we've ever had. Some people might take issue with this gumbo being more like a soup and less like a thick stew. However, I liked being able to sip it, and the flavors were amazing. The soup had an intense crab flavor and light smokiness, and it was chock full of crab meat, shrimps, chicken, and sausage. There was some rice and beans at the bottom too. This would be a great meal on its own.
I had the fried catfish, which came with two sides; I picked hush puppies and a potato salad. This picture was taken after I was more than halfway done, so you can imagine how much food there was. The catfish had a fairly substantial cornmeal crust, but the crust was hot and crispy and the fish was moist all the way through and tasted very fresh. There's nothing worse than muddy catfish! And the hush puppies were a revelation. I don't usually like these thick balls of dough, but these were garlicky, oniony, herby, and had corn kernels embedded in them. And with honey butter? Perfection.

We'll definitely be back at Queen's sooner rather than later. Yay, Bayshore! What a fun neighborhood it has been to explore.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Original Old Clam House

Shopping for appliances, home improvement supplies, furniture, and other things we aren't usually in the market for is really bringing me and J into parts of SF we never go to. This weekend, we found The Original Old Clam House down on Bayshore.

Does it remind you of The Drunken Clam from The Family Guy? I swear that neon sign was designed by the same person.

The star of the meal was the steamed cherrystone clams. It's hard to find cherrystones on this coast, especially so perfectly prepared. The pieces of meat were large, plump, and juicy, and there was plenty of flavorful clear broth to sip. The broth wasn't too salty either! The other food passing by looked great, especially a clam bake that's brought to the table on fire. I'm a sucker for food that's on fire.

The clam strips were less interesting. I wouldn't order them again. But I do think we'll be back at The Old Clam House. It's a little out of the way, but it's the kind of homey divey place that J loves. And I can also appreciate an old-fashioned, unpretentious place that had probably been serving the same food for fifty years. Most places like that get lazy with their preparation or cut corners by buying too much out of the Sysco food catalog. Then they either shut down or survive by having cheesy decor and attracting tourists. But when gems like this keep up the food quality, they are wonderful flashes of an All-American past.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Miso Black Cod and New World Korean

Yum! Seafood! It's been awhile. We were at my favorite fish shop in the Mission (Sun Fat), so we splurged on a piece of black cod and marinated it in miso, rice wine, soy sauce, and plenty of grated ginger. Then we paired it with some tasty kimchi and marinated bean sprouts from New World Korean Market. SF can't match LA for Korean food, but New World takes the edge off the cravings with some great homemade kimchi and well-stocked shelves of most Korean basics. To keep up with our veggie routine, we had a plate of sauteed broccoli, carrots, and onions.

The project is slowly grinding to its closure (sort of). I hope to have an update soon!

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Scallops, Salami, and Cheesee

A lot of favorites appeared on the table tonight.

I love scallops, so when I saw gigantic wild scallops at 99 Ranch that were so fresh I could smell their sweetness through the packaging. J and I seared these up, then put them on a plate of stir fried greens and used the pan drippings to make a little vermouth and mushroom sauce for the plate. A 10 minute dish that looks and tastes truly professional but cost about $9 for two.

We also assembled a little salami plate from our morning stop at Molinari's in North Beach. From the left, we had head cheese, hot salami, and mortadella with pistachios.

And finally, the prize of the night and the thing we lingered over while watching TV and sipping red wine. J finally found Stinking Bishop cheese at The Cheese Board in Berkeley (see the "in" from the "stinking"?). This washed rind cow's cheese is one of the most pungent I've ever tasted, with a strong musky scent that's hard to describe. "Old socks" come to mind, but in the good way. Let's just say if you don't love cheese, stay away. I'm not sure I could a whole block by itself, but it was pretty good spread on some bread and piled high with salami and head cheese!

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Old Port Lobster Shack...and a Party!

We finally had an excuse to get down to Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City today. It was a beautiful afternoon and we needed to be in Newark by evening, so we stopped by for lunch.

Old Port is in an unimposing strip mall, just like everything else in the suburbs.
Lobster bisque ($7.75 for a mug): we decided on this after the suggestion of KK. Great idea! Out of everything we ate, this has the most intense seafood flavor. We also had a lobster mac n' cheese ($10.75 for a half order), which sounded amazing in concept but was really just average. The pasta was a little overcooked and the sauce was good but not extaordinary.

We also shared the Double Play (35), which is two lobster rolls with one order of fries and coleslaw. It's the perfect meal for two because most people want their own sandwich but can't finish all the fries. We got one dressed roll (lightly tossed in mayo and spices) and a naked roll (served straight up, with a side of butter). Both were great, though the naked really shone after a sprinling of salt.

I wouldn't let this post go by without a close up!

After our very big meal, we toddled around the Peninsula. We ran some errands, stumbled upon an arts fair, and found K&L Wines in Redwood city. This wine store is pretty cool. I've been to their branches in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but the Redwood City branch has an impressive number of large format bottles. Look at how big they are compared to J's hand!

After an afternoon of wandering around, we went to a friend's house for her nephew's first birthday party. Happy Birthday, Baby! (that's what the whole family calls him). The proud grandparents went all out on the occassion, hiring an Indian caterer that actually set up in their back yard. There was a tandoor (Indian oven) as well as this deep frying contraption. They're making deep fried potatl balls stuffed with garlic and herbs. There was also deep fried fish, vegetable fritters, cheese pakoras, desserts, chai tea, and a dozen other things (not to mention three tables of alcohol). AND a bouncy castle in the back yard! Sadly, I was wearing a dress and could not partake (well, that and I'm not under the age of 12). It was a fun time for all.

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