Monday, October 7, 2013
We've seen Korean food trucks on the streets of San Francisco. Chinese food trucks. Japanese food trucks. Filipino Food trucks. Vietnamese food trucks. Thai food trucks. Until now we've not had a Burmese food truck (not counting a rogue Burmese food purveyor that operated briefly a couple of years back from a borrowed truck at a borrowed location). Now comes Lil Burma, a fully permitted food truck with a Rangoon chef and a menu of authentic Burmese specialties. The founder of Lil Burma, which also does catering, is Lewis Eng who, according to the company's website, is originally from Rangoon, with parents from Meiktila and Mandalay, and a chef since 1985.
Lil Burma debuted at SoMa StrEat Food Park just last Friday and I caught up with it there today while on a Costco run. It was featuring a menu of signature Burmese dishes, inclucding Burma's "National dish" (by most accounts), mohinga, and local food fan favorite, tea leaf salad:
1) Catfish Soup with Rice Noodle (Moh Hinga)
2) Coconut Chicken Noodle (Ohn No Khauk Swe')
3) Tea Leaf Salad (Lap Pat Thouk)
4) Noodle Salad with Chicken (Kyat Tha Khauk Swe' Thouk)
5) Burmese Curry Prawn (Pa Zune Se Pyan Chet)
6) Burmese Curry Chicken with Lemon Grass (Kya Tha Zapalin)
7) Indian Style Curry Chicken (Kalar Kyat Tha Se Pyan)
Given the City's reputation among gastro-tourists as a place to try out Burmese food, It's only right that SF now has Burmese in it's food truck mix.
*The heavier the bowl, the tastier the noodles
Monday, August 26, 2013
I fell in love with many of the foods of Xi'an more than five years ago at David Shih's Xi'an Famous Foods in Flushing, NY's now legendary Golden Mall and have been lamenting the near total absence of this cuisine from San Francisco ever since. I am happy to report that it is now possible to get my Xi'an food "fix" in San Francisco, thanks to Xi'an Gourmet Restaurant at Geary Boulevard and 2nd Avenue.
A couple of weeks ago, San Dong House restaurant, looking for a way to distinguish itself from the growing number of local hand-pulled noodle joints (with and without "Shandong/Sandong" in their names), morphed into Xi'an Gourmet. It was not a gratuitous makeover: the chef at San Dong House was from Xi'an and, it appears, has an assertive grasp of his hometown cuisine, at least judging from to two items I had today.
I consider Xi'an Famous Foods' lamb roujiamo a benchmark, simply because I've eaten so many of them, and Xi'an Gourmet's stacks up well to them. Overall, XG's version was about the same size and as full of meat as XFF's version. XG's lamb seemed slightly less fatty, but at least as aggressively spiced with cumin, jalapenos and chili oil as XFF's. Xi'an Gourmet's buns were a bit denser and more impermeable than Xi'an Famous Foods', which gave them a nice crunchiness but made XG's roujamo messier, as the buns didn't absorb the chile oil and juices as well. XG's lamb roujiamo are also more expensive, at $5.95, though they also serve a pork version for $3.95.
I'll be returning within the week to vet the yang rou pao mo (a hearty lamb soup that uses torn up flatbread instead of noodles) and will have a further report once I've analyzed and cherry-picked the menu.
Xi'an Gourmet, 3741 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave., San Francisco
Friday, August 2, 2013
|Guangzhou King & King (L) becomes iCafe (R)|
Guangzhou King & King was one of the last two places in San Francisco Chinatown offering house-made Chinese sausage for retail sale, so I was somewhat dismayed when it appeared to have morphed into a coffee shop, iCafe, even though it was serving "the best coffee in Chinatown." To tell the truth I'd not often been in the market for lap cheong (Chinese sausage), but it was comforting to walk by and see the strings of various types of Lap Cheong hanging at the back of the store. It would be sad to see it go. Fortunately, it was not so. A Twitter follower who saw the Instagram I posted pointed out that the Chinese sign on iCafe mentioned BBQ, so I decided further research was in order.
Sure enough, I discovered when I returned early enough in the day to tolerate some caffeine, several varieties of house-made lap cheong were on display, laid out horizontally in glass cases behind the counter, which was adorned with pastry cases. It was just a "remodel," said the owner with a grin.
|Lap cheong can be see laid out behind the coiunter|
|A menu that would look at home in Hong Kong|
To complete the transformation of a Chinese charcuterie into a Western cafe a la Hong Kong, where is artwork on the wall for sale by an artist named Nate1, a friend of the owners. Fittingly, the art work even included a bit of lap cheong art.
|Lap cheong art.|
|Butcher, baker and latte maker Nobo of iCafe|
iCafe is at 57 Walter U. Lum Place, jsut off Washington, on the backside of Portsmouth Square
Thursday, June 20, 2013
If you know me, or even if you only read my blogs, you know I'm not a Frenchy food kind of guy. But when Carlos Muela told me a new French street food truck would be slangin' sausage sandwiches, I decided to check out the debut of France Délices at Muela's SoMa StrEat Food Park.
They had me at merguez.
I love the spicy Mediterranean sausage known as merguez. It's my favorite of all sausages, especially when made from my favorite of all meats, lamb. On my trips to Montreal, a well-dressed grilled merguez sausage sandwich on a french roll from An-Nasr at the Jean-Talon market trumps a medium fat from Shwartz's at the top of my must-eat list. A Montreal merguez sandwich, especially with its Lebanese twist, is probably not replicated anywhere else in North America, but I'm always ready to applaud a good stand-in, and here was a credible candidate staring me in the face.
France Délices' menu is simplicity itself. There are four choices of grilled sausage sandwiches: lamb merguez, chicken merguez, wild boar with apple and cranberries and one with -- wait for it -- my second favorite animal flesh, duck, somehow combined with figs. (The cunning bastards, they know I'll be back to try that one.) A sausage sandwich on a soft French roll with your choice of two toppings is $7.00. The truck also offers hand-cut frites (Freedom fries to you) served Euro-style in a large paper cone, with your choice of dips for $4.00. But wait! There's the "meal deal," which gets you a sandwich, fries and a drink (soda or bottled water) for a flat $10.00. That would be me, see?
I ordered my merguez sandwich with sauerkraut and sweet peppers as toppings. It did not disappoint. There were two decent-sized links of merguez sausage, and the spicing and texture seemed right on, compared to what I have become accustomed to. With a slightly firmer bun and some chopped green olives as a topping option, it would have been a pretty good facsimile of my beloved Montreal merguez sando. As it is, it was a winner of a sandwich on its own, and the fries went down well too, especially with the ailoi dressing I selected.
And by the way, France Délices folks, if you are listening, let me put a bug in your ear. Since you've already got the sauerkraut and four kinds of sausage going, how about putting together a nice robust choucroute garni platter for dinner service at SoMa? That, some cold beer and a Giants game on the telly would be a great way to while away a couple of hours on a not-too-chilly evening.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Notable Nosh: Frikadelle Slap Chip Roll at Amawele's South African Kitchen Leaves Me Frikkin' Slap-happy
Where noshed: Amewele's South African Kitchen, Rincon Center, 101 Spear St., San Francisco
Monday, April 29, 2013
I'm not really planning a literal "Food Truck of the Month" feature. There may not be another Food Truck of the Month for another six months in this blog; then again there could conceivably be be two FTOMS in one month. The simple fact is that once in a while a food truck comes along that stands out so prominently that it deserves an honorific of sorts, so why NOT "Food Truck of the Month?" El Calamar Peruvian Cuisine, which started appearing frequently at the SoMa StrEat Food Park a month ago, is just such a truck.
El Calamar serves traditional Peruvian classics; there's no fusion or crossover foods on the menu. Yes, there's the familiar lomo saltado and papa a la Huancaina; but you'll also find less familiar platos, like carapulca, a stew of chicken, pork and dried potatoes in a peanut sauce, and jalea, a mixed grill of sorts featuring (mostly) fried calamari, grilled fish, shrimp and yuka. Calamar means calamari, of course, and you can also get a standalone order of fried calamari or, also in the fishy deparment, grilled tilapia. The current menu also includes papa rellena, and a Peruvian tamal. The refreshing Peruvian purple corn beverage chicha morada is also offered, and alfajor cookies for dessert.
Another thing: if you are a chili head, ask for the hot sauce if it's not included. You won't be disappointed. If you're not a chili head, approach that little tub of green stuff with caution. It's not guac!
And oh yes, if you are listening, El Calamar, let me whisper something in your ear:
Friday, April 19, 2013
|Peruvian Leche de Tigre Cebiche from the Sanguchon Truck|
tunnsbrödsrulle) and his Nordic Truck. The nicely-breaded and perfectly-cooked cod came with French fries of just the right size (to my taste) though not quite as browned as I like; the latter didn't stop me from eating them all (which for me is a rare occurrence). The F&C was accompanied by a watercress remoulade (by way of a tartar sauce) and some fresh pickles.
As if the above weren't enough fish for a two week period, I also enjoyed a salt cod (among others, they're small) Sonora-style burrito from the Burr-eatery truck at SoMa StrEat Food Park, and some excellent takoyaki from a popup that only seems to appear on Post Street during Cherry Blossom Festival.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
And the winner is.......ceviche!. There are two food groups that call my name, but LOUDLY, namely ceviche and lamb. I managed to work both into my grazing over the past few days (lamb more than once), but the fishy one always trumps the barnyard-y one, and it was Shrimp & Love that held the winning card. I ran across this vendor at Mission Mercado, which I visited for the first time today (what have I been doing all these Thursdays???). Mission Mercado is a neighborhood "farmer's" market for the Mission with many familiar produce and value-added vendors, but has more of a community "street market" feel than other neighborhood farmer's markets are able to achieve. Shrimp & Love is the brother-sister team of Orlando and Monica Trigueros, who have developed a whole range of ceviches from traditional to fanciful (think passion fruit). Their ceviches are prepared off-site and sold in chilled, sealed packages (probably a DOH stricture) but come with a spoon, napkin and a packet of restaurant-style tortilla chips, ready for wolfing down at one of the convenient nearby tables. I chose the "Shrimp-aquachile" ceviche, a Mexican style. As the name implies, it comes with a very soupy sauce, packed with fiery green chiles, slivered onions and plenty of shrimp (I think I counted seven). Needless to say, I immediately hunkered down and devoured the plastic bucketful of jalapeno heaven. I'll definitely be back for more, and to try the other ceviche varieties on offer.
Shrimp & Love, Mission Mercado, 22nd and Bartlett Streets, San Francisco
Aria Korean American Snack Bar, 932 Larkin Street, San Francisco
La Falafel, 428-11th Street, San Francisco
Sticks BBQ, 2138 Irving Street, San Francisco
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
|Off the Grid at sunset|
The 2013 edition of Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center got off to what must be described as a roaring start on March 22. I've been to 78 or so Fort Mason Center events (if you can believe Foursquare), including all four season openers, and don't believe I have ever before seen it inundated so early in the evening or in the season by the hungry hordes that greeted the 4th edition's opener. Commercially, at least, Off the Grid shows no signs of having jumped the shark. When it comes to food choices, however, a less sanguine picture is emerging.
Even it you choose not to buy into the "Chef's Table" elite, you'll be happy to find more booze queues for designer label cocktails and artisan beers, more (or at least better deployed) picnic table seating, and louder canned techno-beat music from DJs with names. You'll also find new novel treats like gourmet corn dogs and ice cream tacos.
What you won't find at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center 2013 are noshes like classic Peruvian anticuchos, fiery som tam, a cochinita pibil salbute, fried Tianjin dumplings or a Trinidad "Double." And you can bet your sweet patootie you won't find the pre-Hispanic insect protein-based cuisine of Don Bugito. There are far fewer food choices this year than last for people who like close-to-the-bone Asian or Latin street food, and it appears that the more authentic or exotic the food, the less likely its vendor was to make the cut when a diminishing number of slots for 2013 were doled out.
Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center's mission statement, revealed in a 2010 press release, states:
Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center was established to create a unique San Francisco night market experience that highlights the vibrancy and culture of Asian and Latin Street Food markets, and provides legal opportunities for food entrepreneurs to showcase their products.There's always been a little bending the rules, of course, to round out the offerings. You could sell cupcakes or kettle corn if you included an "Asian" flavor such as pandan. (Ironically, they do sell unflavored kettle corn on the streets of Shanghai these days.) It was easy to wink at this dodge as long as these hipster fetishes were overshadowed by the number of more or less authentic Asian or Latin offerings available, as was the case through last year, when Off the Grid: Fort Mason seemingly reached its peak. It's harder to do so today.
I compared the roster of vendors for 2013 with the rosters for first two Fridays in September 2012 (a handful of vendors were bi-weekly and rotated). Of the 35 vendors you might have encountered over those two Fridays in September, 2012, 18 have either been written out of the plan, self-deported, or exiled to Oakland on Friday nights; 17 have returned for 2013, along with 10 new (to Fort Mason) vendors in the public area. It's somewhat problematic categorizing vendors by ethnicity, on account of fusion and crossover trends, but by my own classification 24 of the 35 vendors at Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center in 2102 were manifestly Asian or Latin food vendors, but only 14 of 27 in 2013.
|NOT in 2013|
|NOT in 2013|
If you are craving ramen, you won't find Kirimachi around with its $8 ramen bowls, but you can avail yourself of new vendor Chotto's $12 bowls. Korean comfort food? Local legend Seoul on Wheels and its robust menu have been banished to Oakland on Friday nights, but perhaps you can make do with a beef wrap or not-so-Korean fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles from new vendor Bok Ssam.
|Bini of Bini's Kitchen|
Who else will you not find around at Fort Mason Center on Friday nights this year? You won't find AK Double Up (Trinidad doubles) or New American/fusion/crossover purveyors Brass*Knuckle, Eat on Monday, Kung Fu Tacos and Wing Wings. They're gone too.
Asian and Latin street food market or Gen-Y scene? Check it out and decide for yourself. And enjoy an artisanal corn dog with your hand-crafted cocktail while you're there.