Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sushi Nights and Steak Dinners

Whenever I go to the Bay Area, I make a list of restos to visit and dishes to taste-- Masu for sushi rolls, Joy Luck for dimsum, Red Robin for burgers, La Petite Camille for banh cuon, etc. The list often changes and is subject to whim, but there are always a few constants-- dishes I have to taste each and every Pacific crossing because, well, they're just too damn good. Two of those constants (see title) are courtesy of my brother-in-law, Chef Richard.

Sushi Night is all about California-style rolls and nigiris, which are Richard's specialties. The actual composition of the rolls depends on whatever was just bought at the supermarket, usually Suruki Supermarket in downtown San Mateo. Mainstays are unagi (roasted eel), maguro (tuna), toro (fatty tuna), and shake (salmon), usually combined in some combination with avocados, nori (seaweed sheets) and sushi-meshi (vinegared rice) to make the sushi rolls. Those red dots you see in the picture are drops of sriracha, a Thai chili sauce, which can also be used to make spicy tuna.

Another meal I always look forward to is my Steak Dinner. Now, I usually avoid beef and other red meat, but I drop my beef abstinence for special dishes, and this is one of them. Unlike most American steaks, this steak needs no sauce to make the meat taste better. There's really nothing better than perfectly-cooked marbly beef just off the griddle/pan/oven and onto your plate. I like my steaks medium rare, a little pink in the centre and very juicy. Richard says he doesn't make good steaks-- nonsense, since his steaks are some of the best I've had, and I'm not saying this just to be nice. Much better than the steak I had at Outback, really. On the picture you'll see my steak topped with herbed butter, on a bed of peppered brown rice and steamed vegetables (hey, we need something healthy to counter the steak).

Other great dishes I've had the pleasure of savouring include roasted vegetable antipasti, stuffed mushrooms, chicken breast in veloute sauce, beef stew, clam chowder, eggplant parmigiana, the list goes on-- all of them superb hits. There have been a few misses from time to time, of course, but Richard would be the first to call them misses. He sometimes dabbles in the catering business, so far limiting himself to small parties (20 people or less) in the Bay Area. I'd add his contact information right about now for would-be clients, but so far my Sis (Richard's wife) hasn't emailed me the contact info they'd like posted here. ;) When/If she does read this post, you'll see the info in the comments section below. Do contact them if you happen to be in the Bay Area and are thinking of having a small party.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Found Grechnevaya Kasha

A few months ago, I wrote a post about looking for grechnevaya kasha, or roasted buckwheat porridge. Well, I found some during my trip to the Bay Area-- in Safeway Supermarket, in the international food section underneath the Israeli flag beside the matzo. They were only selling one brand of kasha-- Wolff's. Their website is pretty modest, but has loads of information including recipes and tips for cooking.

I got the meduim granulation, which is midway between fine and coarse. This granulation is usually steamed and eaten like rice or bulgur (that yellow circle on the box says "instead of rice"), which is exactly what I plan to do with the kasha. A 13-ounce box (369 g) costs $3.85 (around P150), if I remember correctly-- much more expensive than brown rice which costs P50/kilo-- and I got two boxes. Well, I think it's worth it for a little taste of Russia and Central Asia.

To say that the Russians like kasha is an understatement (or so I hear). They have a saying: щи да каша-- пища наша. It literally translates as, "Shchi (cabbage soup) and kasha-- our food." Now, that may not sound like much, but in Russian it is pronounced as, "Shchi da kasha-- pishcha nasha," which rhymes well. If you're looking for some profound meaning behind this saying, well, there's none. It's just a rhyme about their staple food, something kids can easily memorise and in the process form a national identity.

A Filipino equivalent could be something like, "Adobo't kanin-- ating pagkain." Other suggestions?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Manila, log off

Arrived in Manila three days ago. I started this habit of "logging off" my travelogue upon my return when I went to Central Asia last April, mainly because I was actually blogging while I was on travel. On this trip, however, I logged a measly five posts (two not about travel) in the three weeks I was in SFO. But I'll still log off, even if the bulk of my entries for my SFO trip will be written after I've logged off. Oh well.

Like my work, I have a backlog of stuff to blog about, mostly about food (which is why I'm logging off here and not in the other blog). Stuff include Red Robin, my brother-in-law's steak dinner, Noche Buena, Chinese-style fried flounder, and 25-year-old port wine. Maybe I'll get to writing about them next week, when my boss is gone (hehehe).

Anyway, for now here's a few stuff I found over at BBC:

Wine and snottiness

Playing with food