14
Nov 16

Recipe: Taiwanese Minced Pork (肉燥)

The times where I really miss home, I like to make myself a comforting bowl of Taiwanese minced pork. What’s great is that there is flexibility in what you serve it on (traditionally it’s on rice but I topped udon with it), and even what’s inside; for my minced pork, I’ve taken advantage of the incredible produce in SF and made it my own, and you can too!

Prep time: ~15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 30 min, mostly stewing so you’re not doing much
Commitment rating (time + money): Low

Ingredients

  • 1 pound, ground pork
  • 1 tsp of vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 2 cup of carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup of onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup of mushrooms (can be of your choosing), sliced
  • 2 cup broth
  • 2 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce paste
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of fried shallots

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized pot, add cooking oil and ground pork into high heat. Stir and break out the pork into small pieces.
  2. Quickly add the diced onion to briefly sauté with ground pork. The ground pork should start looking brown after a few minutes.
  3. Add in carrots, mushroom, broth, cooking wine, soy sauce paste, soy sauce, sugar/honey, black pepper, star anise, five spice powder, fried shallots (3/4 of the amount). Bring this mixture to a boil, and then turn the heat to low. Stir occasionally (every ~20-30 minutes).
  4. Prepare the rice or noodles
  5. To serve, fill a bowl with rice/noodles and top it with the minced pork, leftover fried shallots, scallions, and cilantro.

Enjoy, and hope your tummy feels as comforted as your heart!


07
Oct 16

What’s On My Plate: Fall Breakfast

As we get into fall, there is the emergence of new items like plums, grapes, squash, etc. and the continuation of summer items like beans and tomatoes. No complaints here! Pictured are produce from the CUESA’s farmers market at the Ferry Building:

Enjoy the season, and get your hands on this produce. If you do, I’d love to hear about what you’ve made and eaten!


02
Oct 16

Recipe: Easy Peasy Chicken Stock

If you’re scared but want to start cooking, go with making a chicken broth. It’s delicious, cheap, lasts a long time, and most importantly – satisfies your soul. Plus it’s a great way to save your scraps (and the environment)!

Prep time: ~5-10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours, mostly stewing so you’re not doing much
Commitment rating (time + money): Low

Two full tubs of stock!

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, eaten to the bone (keep all of what you don’t eat!)
  • 2 quarters of water
  • 1 onion, sliced including the head
  • 2 scallion stalk scraps
  • 2 pieces of ginger (sliced 1/4″)
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into 1/4 pieces (I use Early Girl, but you can use whatever you like)
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4 pieces
  • 1/2 serrano pepper, sliced (optional, I like a little kick in my broth)
  • Coarse sea salt, use as much as desired

Note: Feel free to add in any other vegetable scraps you have. It’ll make your stock have a personal touch!


Directions

  1. Fill a medium-to-large deep pot with water
  2. Toss in all ingredients into the pot with a pinch of sea salt
  3. Heat pot at medium heat
  4. Cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally every 30 minutes. Add in water if you want more stock, and if too much water has evaporated
  5. Add in salt as desired (recommendation: don’t add too much salt if you plan on using this stock for other dishes)
  6. Strain the broth using a fine-sieve colander directly into a container

Voila! You’re done, and you can go back to watching the second season of Narcos.


12
Sep 16

Noodle in a Haystack: Creating Bowls of Ramen Delight

Inspiration can come from a number of sources and this pair of foodies is one of mine. Clint and Yoko, husband and wife, host Feastly meals highlighting their love for Japanese cuisine, more specifically ramen. Their goal is simple but challenging – to bring reliably good ramen to SF.

If anyone has lived in SF and is fairly obsessed with ramen, you’ll find our situation distressing; we have a plethora of Japanese restaurants/izakayas/ramen joints that have one or a combination of these traits:

  1. Expensive
  2. Long extended waits
  3. Just not “good” e.g. flavorful, extremely salty, dry meat, etc.
  4. Don’t make their eggs right (this makes me particularly angry)

How is it that in a city where there is over 30% Asians, this is this our reality?

Just moving back from Japan, Clint and Yoko missed ramen where finding a delicious bowl and access were never an issue. Unlike most of us, they did something about it. They made their own, and it’s awfully delicious.

They honor the traditional with the use specific Japanese ingredients and spices, often requiring them to scour SF markets for these items. In addition, being in the Bay Area, they take advantage of what’s around to make their interpretation of optimal delicious ramen. Sous vide meat? Yes. Incorporate Meyer lemon to lightly bring out citrus/sweetness to offset the fat in the broth? Oh yes.

Needless to say, every detail is carefully thought through – flavor, texture, presentation – with what reminds them of their experiences in Japan to their daily inspirations living in the Bay. They don’t hold back either e.g. their chicken skins may take up to two-three hours to make, their broth requires a multi-step process to gather umami flavors. The best part of this is, we get to enjoy what they passionately create for each bowl and dish. #winning.

Here are a few photos to help bring to life their welcoming and satiating meals.

Chicken-skin with ikura “deviled egg”

Mazemen

Shio ramen

Okinawa sugar panna cotta with kinako graham crackers

Show your support, and check out a meal with them. They host their dinners via Feastly in the Mission and Daly City. Relish in each bowl you eat, and guarantee you will leave wanting more on any given day.


08
Sep 16

Ju-Ni: Serving Symphonies of Sushi

I’ve found one of my “ones”, and cannot wait to tell you about it.

Before going into the restaurant itself, I’d like to clarify what it takes to be a “one”. It’s not just about the food. The institution needs to be more than that: the environment – space, decor, lighting, plating – all play a role in establishing a harmonious experience; the sequencing of the meal itself; interactions and explanations from the chef and/or waitstaff weave in and out of conversation. Without sounding too out-of-the-world here, it’s about the orchestration of it all.

Ju-Ni is sushi restaurant and located in San Francisco (frankly, way more accessible to me than some other places in the area). It’s not the cheapest meal, starting at $95 for 12 piece nigiri omakase, and with a $35 three-piece supplement you are getting at $130 out of your pocket. Logistically, it’s gotten much more difficult to get reservations over the past few months with only 14 seats and two seatings per night – 6:00pm and 8:30pm.

Still totally worth it.

The traditional sushi dining experience is challenged at Ju-Ni, and updated to suit a new generation of sushi chefs in the Bay Area. The dialogue that happens between you and their staff is welcomed and encouraged, going against the notion of placing a sushi chef onto a pedestal and marveling him from afar (think Jiro from “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“). Chefs, including the owner, don’t need to be Japanese as it has no bearing at all to the quality of food they are able to produce.

They still stick to purist ideals for the way nigiri is served. Each wooden board in front of you is carefully wiped after each piece to ensure you’re able to isolate flavors between each taste. Fish and ingredients are carefully picked, and prepared in a way that is mindful of flavor and texture at the same time.

Without giving too much away, enjoy the photos of some pieces that have been my favorites in the times I’ve dined there (the menu does vary based on what’s in season, etc.)

Mackerel (Aji) with Ginger and Scallion

Soy-cured Tuna

Shima Aji

Bluefin Tuna (Sustainable)

Ikura with Ankimo Snow

Kaisui Uni

So make that reservation – wait a few weeks – and get ready to meet one of my “ones”. If you go, enjoy their delectable symphony and tell me about it.

Ju-Ni
1335 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Reservations


01
Jun 16

Castagna: Playful Fine Dining in Portland

I love Portland. It is a magical land of eats, microcrews, hikes and no sales tax which activates the inner consumer in me. Stuff, for LESS? Yes, count me in.

There are many great deals in Portland, and one of them is at a New American restaurant called Castagna. Not many institutions there where there are of a white-cloth dining experience – it’s certainly more about the hipster casual – so Castagna naturally stands out from the crowd. With an offering of $98 or $155 tasting menus (the price varies based on number of courses you receive), I find it a steal. Hopefully this posts shows you why. **There will be many photos. Be ready to scroll.**

Let’s start off with snacks – which is arguably one of the best ways to ever start a meal. There are many of them that whetted my appetite. These delicious small bites made me sit back and think, “Wow if this is the way it’s beginning, I can only anticipate what will come…”

Beet chip with foie gras cream. Creamy and crunchy. Please sir, can i have some more?

Their house made bread comes with two spreads – smoked pork lard and butter. I enjoyed slathering these different spreads across the warm wheat rolls. As to which one was better? That’s a hard one (and still can’t answer that question).

This is what they described as an “adult version of a fruit roll-up“, which was very good and unfortunately did not note down what was in it. I’m ashamed, mostly because I can’t properly describe how tasty this was.

Oysters so beautifully plated, and tastefully balanced.

Now, we venture into the course section of the night:

Peas, agastache and goat’s butter served in a small porcelain cup and a mother-of-pearl spoon. Was it as delicious as described? Hell yes, and every bit as luxurious as you’d think too.

This egg-looking dish is actually centered around asparagus, reminding you of the spring time.

Okay, I know this isn’t the best photo of what a scallop is, but this is a marinated scallop indeed. A few bites, and wish I had a bit more to be able to evaluate my feelings for the dish; it was fresh and mildly sweet.

Beet with black garlic powder and maltaise (aka hollandaise sauce), which was one of my favorite dishes of the night. Not only did the beet feel meaty, but also melded with the sauces and dust.

Morels with fiddlehead fern, and a few other beautiful things. Earthy and rustic, a small bite of something slightly heavy easing into the next course.

Culotte with oyster leaf was sadly, the only point in the night where I wasn’t satisfied. The meat was chewy, but not in a very pleasant flavorful way, which took away from the other parts of the dish.

Another one of the most impressive dishes of the night was the frozen rhubarb with black olive and vanilla sitting underneath. The combination of these flavors and textures made me come alive, and wonder for the next 30 minutes how this exact dish was formulated…and I’m still wondering.

Toast with strawberries and milk makes the last official course of the night, and what more comforting than those ingredients. The sharp-edged milk shardes poking into the strawberry ice cream and toast crumbs left you feeling like you can sit back and relax in ease, like giving out the last hug of the night.

Chocolates rounded out the night, with hazelnuts and sea salt. Who could say no to that?

Castagna plays around with seasonal ingredients, using different textures and preparation methods to have you think twice about each dish. Each bite makes you ask more – the whys and whats – and that’s what I love to do when I eat. Let curiosity flow, and enjoy your full blown thoughtful dining experience there.

Castagna
1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
Reservations


04
Apr 16

Lists: Where do I Foodjourney?

SF_Eats__To_Try_

Recently I’ve had a number of people ask me where I eat at or if I have recommendations to eat in certain cities, and…I’m awfully flattered! It’s great to hear that people value my perspective on food, drink, and the like. Below are lists on Foursquare (it’s really the easiest way to share places with my friends), with the exception of the Taipei, that may be helpful to you as you travel to these cities in the future.

If you’re interested in seeing more photos and foodjournies, follow me on Instagram and Twitter!

For those in San Francisco, please help me dwindle down my list. There’s currently over 75…:GASP:

San Francisco
The SF Musts
SF Places (To Try)

New York
New York Musts
NY Want to Try
NYC Cheap Eats

Taipei
Taipei Eats

Tokyo
Tokyo Eats

Portland
Portland (To Try)

Hawaii (Honolulu)
Hawaii Eats


08
Mar 16

Aster: It’s Magically Delicious

I generally stay away from anything that reminds me of “fusion”. An image of two foods singed together, unnaturally meshed, and creating a frankenstein dish makes me very uncomfortable. Why? Often times, I’ve actually pay a lot for this type of “cuisine” at restaurants and doesn’t taste good; it’s usually confusing and leaves my tastebuds in a disappointed state.

Aster seems to make the combination of Asian and Western come together seamlessly, like a perfect magic trick. They were awarded one Michelin star this year – which isn’t the end-all-be-all per se – but at the same time, it’s catching the eyes of some critics. With a four course menu at $59, it’s a reasonably affordable meal where you will encounter interesting textures and beautifully made dishes.

We started with house-made sourdough bread with butter. As someone who loves bread, this couldn’t be any better – the butter was creamy enough to stand up to a sourdough. At the same time, the bread wasn’t too sour and finished nicely. YUM.

The first dish was beets with pomegranate, pistachio, cultured cream and arugula. Beautiful? Yes. As delicious as it is pretty? Oh yes!

Soft-cooked egg with crispy potato, ikura, and bacon vinaigrette, everything melded together – with its various textures and flavors – to create an umami boost of flavor. Not only is it fun to have the ikura pop in your mouth, but the potato made it crunchy, while the egg bounded each ingredient altogether.

 

The pork shoulder was cooked for hours and assembled layer by layer, with a crispy layer of skin, to be surrounded by carrots and satsuma mandarins, and shiitake furikake. It was like a well-done magic trick. In this case I’m not sure how umami, fat, and citrus can be brought into one dish, but it DID happen…and tasted really good too.

Lastly, the pink lady apple with broiche, sunflower seed, and bay laurel was the perfect ending to the meal. It was the just the right amount of sweet (just from the apple), along with the crumble and seeds, you still get nice bite even though the apple is soft.

The menu changes with the seasons, so that just means another visit is necessary. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the “magic” that comes out of that restaurant. Hopefully more solid and interesting dishes to come!

Aster
1001 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
Opentable


18
Jan 16

Yakiniku Champion (焼肉チャンピオン): Premium Meats, Japanese Eats!

I’m starting off this new year with a post about a meal in 2015 because, well frankly, it was really delicious. It was one of my more memorable meals during my Asia trip; to no one’s surprise the meal was in Japan where the “average” restaurant would probably kill it in SF or NYC in terms of how it tastes (or at least presented!)

Shortly getting off my flight, my cousins who live in Taiwan enthusiastically laid out a number of options…

Cousin: “What do you want to eat?”
Me: “I don’t know…what is there to eat?”
Cousin: “Oh, well there’s ramen/udon/soba, sushi, tonkatsu, yakitori, shabu shabu…<trails off>”
Me: “Om-gee, I LOVE Japan.”

I decided on meat, and was quickly taken into a brightly-lit mall and headed to the 14th floor where we got seated immediately. After checking out their menu (and trusting my cousin to order), we were brought a series of appetizers to whet the appetite.

A series of pickled vegetables also came with as well, to help with adding some variety against the myriad of fatty meats (it helped me feel less guilty too).

And now…onto the MEATS!

Beef tongue, which was actually quite tasty; lean and flavorful, super easy to consume quickly.

Want to pour a raw egg over premium Wagyu beef? YES PLEASE. It was as delicious as it looked – not only was the meat perfectly fatty, where it melted in your mouth, but the egg helped with melding the flavors of the meat to sauce together. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, people!

On the grill, we also ordered tripe and…something else (more innards?) Deliciousness ensued.

We ended up a choice of noodles or rice, and I chose noodles – it was a nice end to a meal full of grilled meats – mostly since the broth was slightly tart.

Japan has a plethora of delicious restaurants given what they produce there is incredible. I won’t be inundating this blog with the other meals in Asia, though this was a great way to round out the year in 2015. Now into 2016, looking forward to more great meals!

焼肉チャンピオン (池袋東武店)
東京都豊島区西池袋1-1-25
東武百貨店池袋店
レストラン街スパイス14F
http://www.yakiniku-champion.com/


31
Dec 15

Best Bites of 2015

As I reflect upon this year with big changes like moving to a new city (chime in “California love”), entering a new decade (“30s is the new 20s” according to Jay-Z), and starting a new job, I couldn’t help but come up with a list of my best bites for this year. It spans several cities and cuisines so take a nice scroll through, and enjoy!

San Francisco

  1. Stones Throw’s Puff Potato and Egg (Russian Hill)
  2. Nopa’s Cheeseburger (Hayes Valley)
  3. Hog Island Oyster’s Cioppino (Embarcadero)
  4. State Bird Provisions’s Burrata (Pac Heights)
  5. Liho Liho’s Tuna Poke (Tenderloin)
  6. Lazy Bear’s Whipped Scrambled Eggs (Mission)

New York

  1. Shuko’s Grilled Toro (East Village)
  2. O Ya’s Truffle and Potato Nigiri (Nomad)
  3. Upland’s Hen of Woods (Nomad)
  4. Tanoshi’s Uni and Ebi Sushi (Upper East Side)

Hawaii/Japan/Taiwan

  1. Izakaya Torae Torae’s Negi Otoro Ikura Don
  2. Yakiniku Champion’s Wagyu Beef with Egg 
  3. とんかつ まい泉’s Tonkatsu Set
  4. 8% ice Cream’s Strawberry Balsamic Cheese Soft Serve

Looking forward to more bites in the new year! (^_^)v