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Archive for the ‘The Traveling Foodie’ Category

Grandma’s Green Onion Pancakes

In by Deanne, The Traveling Foodie on July 15 at 6:30 am

When I first arrived in Taiwan for my two-month trip, I was afraid that I’d be reluctant to go back to my parent’s hometown, Yilan, to visit my grandparents since Taipei was so much fun (shopping, karaoking, eating, the exciting, cosmopolitan area, etc). However, once I arrived at my Grandma’s house, I suddenly remembered why I loved my Yilan home so much. Three words: Green. Onion. Pancakes. They are so delicious and my Grandma is an expert at making them. Ever since I was a little girl, visiting Taiwan in the summer and getting eaten alive by mosquitos, I always looked forward to eating my Grandma’s green onion pancakes in the morning. Even today, long after my Grandma has stopped dying her hair black or going on three-hour jogs in the morning, I can still hear her hard at work in the kitchen, rolling out dough and frying it. The smell of toasted sesame is such a delicious smell to wake up to!

So this time, as a passionate foodie, I figured that one of my main objectives is to write down my Grandma’s most famous recipes. After all, she’s 89 and has nearly a century of experience under her belt. She was eager to teach me and had me help her make green onion pancakes:

Green Onion Pancakes

Green Onion Pancakes

For the uninitiated, green onion pancakes are a Chinese dish (and very popular in Taiwan street stands) that’s basically a flat bread with scallions or green onions (and in my grandma’s version, dried shrimp) rolled inside and pan-fried with oil. The result is a delightful, savory pancake (or more like flatbread for Westerners) that’s crispy on the outside and has layers of chewy bread on the inside. It’s so good that even when I was a picky six-year old who ate only plain rice and dumpling skins, I absolutely loved green onion pancakes. My favorite thing about my grandma’s version, above the ones I get at restaurants is how there are salty little surprises in the dough, with crunchy dried shrimp and green onions exploding with that hidden fifth flavor, umami.

The ingredients for green onion pancakes are quite simple, so it’s all about the execution. My grandma doesn’t use a formal recipe, she just does it by heart, so I’ve tried my best to convert her measurements and tricks for you all to try at home:

Grandma’s Green Onion Pancakes

Yield: 4 pancakes

Ingredients:

White flour (at least 4 rice bowls, or I guess that’s 4 cups–then extra for when you are kneading the dough)

Vegetable oil

Salt

Green onion, at least 1 1/2 cups, you can add more for sure, depends on your liking  (Tip: to ensure that your pancake doesn’t get a broken and funky-looking surface, prepare the green onions by drying them out in the sun first, then refrigerate or freeze)

Dried shrimp, at least 1 1/2 cups

Sesame seeds, at least 1 1/2 cups

Water

Add 2 spoonfuls of oil into a hot pan, then add 1 spoonful of salt and a small handful of flour. Stir. Then set aside.

Heat 1 and 1/2 cup of water over high heat, then stop the heat a little before the boiling point.

Add 1 spoonful of the oil to 4 cups/rice bowls of flour (1 bowl = pancake) in a large bowl. Slowly add the hot water to the mixture, stirring with your hands simultaneously until it forms flakes/clusters of dough. Knead the the clusters into one ball of dough. Transfer the ball of dough to a cutting board, then knead with both hands into a roll about a foot-long. Sprinkle the board with flour, then begin rolling the dough out into a flat, rectangular shape with a rolling pin.

Spread the oil/flour mixture from the pan across the dough (you don’t have to use all of it, just as necessary). Sprinkle the dough with dried shrimp and green onions (you don’t have to use all of your dried shrimp or green onions either, just as much as you want).

Roll up the dough from the bottom to the top, tightly like a yoga mat. Seal up the ends. Then section the roll into 4 by twisting them off and sealing of the ends (very important to seal off the ends of the small rolls, make sure none of ’em green onions are peeking out!) Slightly flatten the balls. Sprinkle and spread a little flour and water onto one side, then squish that side into a plate of sesame seeds. Roll out the balls (sesame side down) into flat circles, nearly one foot in diameter. (Tip: to get a really nice circle, turn the dough constantly as you roll).

Pan-fry the dough in low heat with lots of oil. Fry until golden brown, then cut into slices.

Enjoy!!! :)

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Bakery Mexico No. 2

In by Katherine, The Traveling Foodie on March 21 at 4:46 pm

(Cured jamon ham + chorizo + salchicha + fried egg) + (cheese + avocado + tomato + onion + jalapenos) + lightly toasted sesame roll = the absolutely monstrous cubana torta at San Jose’s Bakery Mexico No. 2.

cubana torta from bakery mexico no. 2

Just one of these babies is enough to stuff you for an entire day, not to mention take care of your sodium and cholesterol allotment neatly.

Bakery Mexico No. 2, located in the heart of downtown San Jose on E. Santa Clara between 2nd and 3rd, is a combination deli and bakery with friendly service and huge portions.  I went there yesterday with my parents before our excursion to the Tech Museum of San Jose’s free family day.

Tortas and liquados menu at Bakery Mexico No. 2

Recommended: My dad ordered the monstrous cubana torta ($6.00), which tasted as amazing as it looks and was my favorite torta of the three, especially because of the fried egg.  I found the salchicha (Vienna sausage) to be an off-putting addition, but the overall torta was so good that I rolled with it anyway.  I was pleased with my pork loin lomo torta ($5.50) as well; the meat was slightly dry but flavorful nonetheless.

From the bakery, we ordered some of the pan dulce (sweet breads) Yelpers were gushing over — our cashier’s two personal favorites, the pound cake with chocolate crust and the cheesecake.  Both were super delicious; I’m normally not huge on cheesecake, but this version was much denser than American cheesecake and just sweet enough without being cloying.

bakery mexico no 2 san jose

Not recommended: The flavor of my mom’s breaded steak milanesa torta ($5.50) was, sadly, overpowered by the greasiness of the breading.  They were out of the mango liquados we ordered, and had to give us strawberry liquados instead, which essentially amounted to a regular strawberry milkshake.

Overall: A decent tortas joint; not worth a special trip to San Jose, but I’d come back if I was in the area with a huge appetite.  I’d combine the best of both worlds by ordering a combination torta with lomo (pork loin), pierna (smoked ham), and huevos for a trifecta of awesome.  I would also definitely go back for the pan dulce selection.

tortas from bakery mexico no 2 san jose

Bakery Mexico No. 2

87 E Santa Clara St.

San Jose, CA

(408) 920-2518

Bakery Mexico (original)

2811 Story Rd.

San Jose, CA

(408) 272-3838

Berkeley Group Eats Around the Bay Part 2: Powderface

In by Amy, The Traveling Foodie, This is Why John's Fat. on February 13 at 6:17 pm

Alas, school + recruiting for summer internships have consumed most of my time lately, but I’m back!

Cindy and I had breakfast at Powderface on our second day of interviews. The shop is located in a shopping center right off the Fruitvale BART station, and looks like a fairly ordinary semi-modern cafe, with high tables and chairs, black furniture, free wi-fi, the like.

We originally intended to just grab a pastry to go. While the cafe’s menu seemed pretty standard, a quick look to the walls, adorned with pictures of people with powdered sugar smothered around their mouths, revealed the store’s true signature product: New Orleans-style beignets.

While I am Californian through and through, I have to admit there is something irresistible about a piece of fried dough covered in sugar.

I got one order (comes in a pack of 3), and about 5-8 minutes later, received…

Powderface's New Orleans-style beignets, served with powdered sugar on top.

This monstrosity.

The only other place I’ve had beignets at is Angeline’s Kitchen, a Foodie Friday favorite that, like Gregoire, Cheeseboard, and Wood Tavern, has yet to be blogged about.

Angeline’s beignets are pillow-like and almost always served with 2+ cups powdered sugar on top. In contrast, Powderface’s beignets are served with much less sugar. The beignets were more fresh and crunchy here than Angeline’s. I wasn’t used to the crunchiness, but the little time it took to consume these morsels attests to my approval.

I’ll have to have Angeline’s again to more directly compare, but Powderface was a pleasant surprise in a most unexpected place. I’ll have to look for some place to have lunch/dinner in Fruitvale to justify the amount of time it takes to get there, but this place is definitely worth checking out.

A warning: Cindy and I had some trouble eating these cleanly. Best to not attempt eating these in dark business clothes, like we did. We had to adopt some weird eating scheme where we had to eat with arms outstretched as far away as possible from our bodies.

Berkeley Group Eats Around the Bay Part 1: Outerlands

In by Amy, The Traveling Foodie, This is Why John's Fat. on January 22 at 1:21 am

Last week, I came back to Berkeley early to conduct interviews for The Berkeley Group with Cindy and Michael C. (of FF Iron Chef fame). Our interviews spanned 4 days, with 2 days dedicated to San Francisco. We stopped for quick meals and uncovered quite a few hidden gems. This is part one of our food adventures.

A perfect lunch: Michael's hot open-face pastrami sandwich with a dark beer.

By the time lunch rolled around on the first day of interviews, we were in the Sunset district with access to a car. We originally planned to go to Chou Chou, a reasonably priced French bistro, but to our disappointment it was not open. I opted to phone-a-friend and call my trusty pal Chuck, a Yelp Elite, who in turn recommended we check out a sandwich place closer to Golden Gate Park.

Outerlands is delicious, reasonably-priced ($4-12) “new American” cuisine in the most random neighborhood. It reminds me a bit of Gregoire in Berkeley, although the food is far from “gourmet.” Located on the corner Judah Street at 45th Avenue, it is hidden in a three-block stretch of Chinese restaurants; we actually drove past it twice before finding it.  Its exterior is unassuming, but a step inside (past the tricky door) offers an entirely different experience that somewhat recalls the style of Disneyland’s Splash Mountain.

I’d never had an open-faced sandwich before, but a few tips from the friendly girl behind the counter helped make our order decisions. Michael ordered a pastrami sandwich; Cindy ordered a honey ham sandwich with cheddar and dates which had been soaked in red white; I ordered a grilled cheese with a side of their soup of the day, a carrot soup. Michael also bought a darker beer, after another staff member recommended which beers to pair with the pastrami.

When the food arrived, we were pleased by the size of the portions and quality of the food. Outerlands bakes its own sandwich bread; it is very thick, similar to the brioche/French toast served seat La Note. Consequently, the sandwiches were much more hearty and filling than expected, and all of us ended up boxing half our sandwiches for later.

Michael’s pastrami, pictured earlier, was a solid order. Michael said that the beer, which came with a hefty price tag of $6 a bottle, complemented the dish very well. He remarked that he would return in the future if in the area.

My grilled cheese was described on the menu as “brushed with garlic butter” and “seared on a cast-iron skillet.” This was the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had, hands down. The bread was much thicker than anticipated, but the inside was still wonderfully fluffy despite a crunchy crust; the cooks used a blend of swiss and cheddar in the center.

Grilled cheese sandwich brushed with garlic butter and seared on a cast iron skillet; side of spiced carrot soup. Dip to achieve optimal taste.

The sandwich cost $4, and I paired it with a side of their soup de jour, spiced carrot soup. I normally hate cooked carrots, but the flavor of this soup was very good; rich, spicy, and only carrot-y at the end. To make my dining experience especially tasty, the staff advised me to dip the grilled cheese into the soup. All I can say is that I’ve come to appreciate what a difference garlic and pepper can make! This was my personal favorite of the three meals, and I will definitely be coming back for more.

The best sandwich that was most unique was Cindy’s; it was a unique taste that was pleasantly surprising.

Cindy's open-face sandwich: honey ham with cheddar and dates soaked in red wine.

Normally, I’m not a fan of honey ham–I find it too sickly  sweet for my taste. However, the dates helped cut through the heaviness of the meat, making for a delightful sandwich.

One thing that I didn’t like as much was the cheese; I felt that they could have cut back to make a more balanced sandwich. Aside from this easily alterable note, Outerlands was the perfect place for a quick lunch. If you’re heading towards the Sunset, I definitely recommend you give this place a try.

Good Eats in Boston: Cannoli, Cupcakes and More

In by Amy, Dessert First, The Traveling Foodie on October 14 at 11:28 pm

I recently took a trip to the Boston/Cambridge area, and in addition to witnessing some beautiful scenes of New England foliage, I also made the rounds around the food circuit.

1. L.A. Burdick Chocolate Cafe

Most of my time was spent in eating in the Cambridge area, especially around Harvard Square. If you’re feeling like a hot drink and you’re near Harvard Square, head on over to L.A. Burdick on Brattle Street. It’s a small, narrow shop, with a glass display of delectable chocolates at the front. In the back, you can order an array of drinks. Anna took me here on a particularly blustery day.

Delicious rasberry tart from L.A. Burdick, served with a side of whipped cream.

Delicious raspberry tart from L.A. Burdick, served with a side of whipped cream.

I ordered a dark hot chocolate, and Anna got a chai. The flavor was wonderful–not too sweet. Even the chai wasn’t that bitter, even though Anna steeped it for a while. L.A. Burdick also scores extra points for cute atmosphere and tasty tarts, though its tables are a bit small for proper coffee shop studying/working. A great place for a snack or afternoon coffee/tea.

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