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Monday, October 29, 2007

Akane Sushi (Los Altos) Part 1

I grew up in Hawaii where sushi in my family usually meant something like a California roll. We ate sashimi as well, but I'd not had nigiri, or at least really good nigiri, until coming to San Jose. Our friends introduced us to some awesome sushi at Sushi Masa in south San Jose, and we were ruined forever. Now, Annie and I are very discriminating sushi lovers.

Searching around on the Internet, I found out about Akane Sushi restaurant on the "Big List of Peninsula Sushi" . It was #2 on the list because of the high quality fish at a great value. So when the opportunity arose, I suggested we head out to Los Altos and see for ourselves.

Even though we were enticed and sidetracked to the Los Altos farmer's market, even though we grazed at said market for a whole hour after arriving, and even though we actually picked up a rotisserie chicken from the Roli Roti truck, we still made it to the restaurant. The place was packed but there was room at the sushi bar for us to sit down. We told the itamae, Shu-san, "omakase" or chef's choice. Instead of ordering from a set menu, it's up to the chef to choose for us.

First up, Tai, or snapper. There is a small piece of shiso leaf tucked between the rice and the fish. Then the fish is drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt. Exquisite.

Next up: Hirame, or halibut. The fish is lightly seasoned with a soy-ponzu sauce. Very nice.

Third came sake or salmon. This wasn't just a cold piece of fish slapped on some rice. I noticed the chef got out a small blowtorch to scorch the fish. This seemed to melt a little of the fat and activate the oils, while also giving a smoky overtone. Amazing.

Nigiri #4 and 5 were toro (fatty tuna) and kanpachi or jackfish. The toro was excellent - melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The kanpachi was firm and sweet, but not particularly noteworthy.

So far, so good!


Continue Reading: "Akane Sushi (Los Altos) Part 1"...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Crab Cake with Salad

Sometimes, you just gotta have something light, quick and easy. But you don't have to sacrifice flavor or health to do it. Crab cake with ancho pepper jelly; salad with romaine lettuce, red bell peppers and ham plus garden cherry tomatoes, topped with honey mustard dressing.

Actually, the title should be "Salad with Crab Cake" since the majority of the plate is raw veggies. It took hardly any time to assemble. Probably the most time was spent halving the cherry tomatoes.

The ancho-pepper jelly was something new. I like the spicy bite plus the sweetness of the jelly combining with the savoriness of the crab cake. I bet it would go great with pork...


More quick and easy recipes: Corned Beef Hash, Cream of Corn Soup, Pan Fried Tilapia, Smoked Salmon Salad, Spicy Cod Roe Spaghetti, Sweet-Sour Tilapia Fillet

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Rotisserie Chicken, mango salsa

Annie and I were out on a date in Los Altos, a small town northwest of San Jose, one Thursday evening. We were going out for sushi but, when we got out of the car, we noticed a farmer's market that was open in the evening one street over from the restaurant. We hadn't been to a farmer's market in over a month, so we went over to investigate.

It was a very bustling farmer's market. As it turns out, a Roli Roti rotisserie truck was there selling rotisserie chicken and baked potatoes. We had read about Roli Roti in a post on EatingAsia that enthused about their porchetta (roast pork). Too bad only the San Francisco one sells it.

Even though we were planning on sushi that night, we still picked up half a rotisseried chicken to take home for the next night's dinner. Here it is, served with kalamansi limes. It was very flavorful but, being reheated in the microwave, it probably would have been better eaten the day we bought it.

At the farmer's market, Annie got some mangoes for cheap. She made a mango salsa using one of the mangoes, the tomatoes we bought, plus a mild, sweet pepper. Seasoned with lime juice, s&p, and ground cumin and coriander.

The porchetta will have to wait till another day.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pan-fried tilapia, veggies, sweet potato

Annie made pan-fried tilapia fillet for lunch and the kids liked them so much she made it for dinner too. The tilapia was seasoned with herbs de Provence, granulated garlic, paprika, s&p. The corn, onions and summer squash were sauteed with garam masala. Baked Okinawan sweet potato needed no seasoning.

A light, colorful, and healthful meal!


More quick and easy recipes: Corned Beef Hash, Crab Cake with Salad, Cream of Corn Soup, Smoked Salmon Salad, Spicy Cod Roe Spaghetti, Sweet-Sour Tilapia Fillet

Continue Reading: "Pan-fried tilapia, veggies, sweet potato"...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dim Sum @ Dynasty Restaurant (San Jose)

Back in Honolulu, Annie and I used to go produce shopping almost every Saturday morning in Chinatown. By lunchtime we were famished. If we didn't have other plans, we'd often stop in at Mei Sum on Pauahi and Smith Streets. You could get pretty good quality dim sum at a more reasonable price than the fancier places like Legend in the Chinese Cultural Plaza.

Nowadays, dim sum is more of a "once in a blue moon" deal. There are some good places to eat in Milpitas and Cupertino, not to mention faraway restaurants like Koi Palace in Daly City. We've tried out other dim sum places (Hong Kong Saigon in Sunnyvale and East Ocean in Alameda) but our go-to dim sum restaurant of choice is Dynasty on Story and McLaughlin right here in San Jose.

Deep Fried Taro puffs. The taro paste is stuffed with a mixture of chicken and mushrooms before frying. Great texture contrast between the airy-crispy crust and the soft inside.

Baked Char Siu Bao. These are on the small side, not much bread, and baked with a sticky-sweet glaze on top. Irresistible!

Shrimp and chive dumpling that has been pan fried so the rice flour skin has crisped up. What I like the the load of shrimp they put in this, plus the garlicky-chive counterpoint to the meat.

Egg Tarts. A bit on the sweet side for me. The pastry was pretty crumbly. I miss the Golden Gate Bakery ones but we haven't been up to SF in a long while.

In my opinion, Dynasty is one of the best places in San Jose for dim sum. Where is your favorite dim sum place near you?


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More Eating Out in San Jose: Andiamo's (Italian), East Lake (Chinese), Goveas (Mexican), Halu (ramen)

Continue Reading: "Dim Sum @ Dynasty Restaurant (San Jose)"...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Linguine w/ Pancetta, shallots, zucchini, and homegrown cherry tomatoes

Pasta has been one of my comfort foods going back to small kid time when we used to add bottled Ragu sauce to ground beef and ladle it on a big bowl of spaghetti, then top it with torn up Kraft American cheese slices. The ingredients have significantly improved in the House of Annie (as demonstrated by her recent Linguine alla carbonara). This time, she decided to kick things up a notch.

Instead of the regular bacon, Annie used pancetta. She also used shallots instead of onions. The cherry tomatoes were picked fresh from the garden, as was the basil chiffonade.

How do you "kick up" your pasta?


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pan-fried gyoza

In a previous post we did gyoza which was cooked by thrice boiling it in a big pot of water. The boiled dumplings are then eaten with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce or enjoyed with a steaming bowl of noodles. That's not the only way to eat gyozas though - you can pan-fry them as well.

Put a little oil in a med-hot pan, arrange some gyoza flat-side down and start frying until you hear a sizzle. Then add some water to the pan until it comes up to 1/3 of the height of the gyoza. Cover the pan and cook until the water has evaporated. Let the gyoza crisp up for another minute, then remove from heat.

You can either scoop them out with a spatula (be careful not to break the skins) or turn them over onto a plate.

I like eating pan fried gyoza because the flavor is not lost in boiling water. Instead, flavor is created from concentrated, caramelizing gyoza juices. You don't need any dipping sauce this way.

Here's a video of the gyoza-making process

What's your favorite way to eat gyoza?


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Crepes weren't a big thing for me back when I was growing up in Hawaii. Batter-based breakfasts were usually in the form of waffles, muffins or pancakes - rather bready. Nowadays, I can't take too much of those dense kinds of foods. Thankfully, crepes are a nice alternative.

Using the "Chantilly Crepes" recipe from Rose Levy Berenbaum's cookbook "The Cake Bible", I whipped up a big batch of batter then set to work with the crepe pan. I couldn't help but notice the browning patterns on the cooking crepe. They kind of remind me of a Mandelbrot set -- pretty cool ;-)

I made a pile of crepes for a brunch party the next day.

Spread with Nutella, sliced up half a banana, and topped it off with a few dollops of fresh whipped cream. Yum!

I like crepes because they're so versatile. You can put all kinds of jams and fruits on top. Annie's mum likes them with fresh squeezed orange juice and a little sprinkle of sugar. You can even put savory stuff inside...the sky's the limit!

What do you like in/on your crepes?


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Okinawan Sweet Potato

Fall is the season for harvesting sweet potatoes. I'm not just talking about the yellow and the orange sweet potatoes you normally see showing up in pies and casseroles. There is also the Okinawan sweet potato, which is purple like a yam but has almost none of that stringy fiber or gritty mouthfeel.

We picked up these Okinawan sweet potatoes for a good price, about a doller per pound at the Asian grocery these days. Just wrap in foil and bake until cooked through. I love the amazing purple color and the delicate, sweet flavor. There is nothing that can compare.

You can eat them plain like this or mash them up to make haupia sweet potato pie or use them as a filling for spiral pastries (that's another post).

Have you had these beautiful and delicious sweet potatoes before? Try them!


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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Secret Garden Korean Restaurant (Sunnyvale)

I love Korean food. Growing up in Hawaii, we had our favorite Korean restaurants (Gina's comes to mind) to get our fix of meat jun, bbq chicken, and kal bi. Here in the Bay Area, there is a high concentration of Korean restaurants in the Sunnyvale / Santa Clara area. Too many to try all by ourselves, so we asked some of our Korean friends to recommend a place to go for lunch.

They recommended Secret Garden Korean Restaurant. It's in a little strip mall in Sunnyvale on El Camino Real near Lawrence Expressway, across from the Starving Musician shop. When we arrived at 12:30, there wasn't much of a crowd and we were seated right away.

Typical of Korean restaurants, they loaded our table up with pan chan (side dishes). Here is the won bok kim chee. This wasn't sharp or overly salty like others I've had. It's definitely been fermenting for a while - the won bok cabbage is quite soft. I also liked their daikon kim chee.

Annie ordered the Soon Dubu Jigae, a tofu hot pot. It comes to the table boiling hot. There's pieces of pork mixed in with the soft tofu and green onions. The dish was really wonderful - I loved the bonito flavor in the broth. It wasn't too light or too heavy - just perfectly balanced.

For the kids, we got the fried mackerel fillets. It's not like the normal grilled mackerel you get at Japanese restaurants. This one looked like it was breaded in rice flour and then deep fried. The crust was crispy but yielded to a spoon to reveal moist white flesh. The fish was fishy as mackerel should be but not masked by salt. The kids were not the only ones who enjoyed this dish ;-)

I got a bi bim naeng myun. Thin, chewy buckwheat noodles (different from Japanese soba-style noodles) served cold and mixed with julienned slices of radish and cucumber, thin slices of Korean pear, a couple of slices of beef, and half a boiled egg, swimming in a sweet and tangy Korean chili sauce. It's not as spicy as it looks, though I did start to sweat a little. I almost didn't want to let Annie have some of my dish.

This was the best Korean food I've had in a while and, while the prices are slightly higher than what we're used to, the quality and flavor are worth coming back for.

Any favorite Korean restaurants in your neighborhood?


Continue Reading: "Secret Garden Korean Restaurant (Sunnyvale)"...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Korean Pancake

Pancakes come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in lots of different flavors - blueberry, banana, etc. But what about pancakes with meat and veggies? I'm not talking about bacon and potatoes on the side, but actual meat and veggies inside the pancake!

Our friends gave us this package of Korean pancake mix. You're supposed to mix the batter, then add various veggies and meats to the batter before frying. Annie sliced up some bell pepper and green onion, and also added some shrimp to the mix.

Here is the pancake after frying.

It was good, but could have been better with some kim chee. So the next time we had a bottle of kim chee, we added that to the mixture.

It came out pretty well. I like the tangy, spicy kick that the kimchee gives to the dish.

What do you think would go well in these pancakes?

Aloha, Nate

Related recipes: Beef Tenderloin in Salt Crust, Churrasco Taco, Filet Mignon, Killer Kalbi, Thai Beef Salad

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Beggar's Chicken

Annie's been meaning to make Beggar's Chicken for a while. Legend has it that a Chinese beggar stole a chicken and cooked it by wrapping it in clay and tossing it in a fire. The chicken, sealed in the clay, came out moist and tender.

She got this modernized recipe from "At Home with Amy Beh": Marinate a whole chicken in some salt, pepper, sesame oil, and a little Chinese rice wine. Stir-fry some ginger, carrots and mushrooms and add a sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, cooking wine, salt, thick soy sauce, and sesame oil. Stuff into bird.

Wrap chicken in lotus leaves, aluminum foil, and finally a salt dough. Bake at 200*C for 1 hour, then reduce to 190*C and bake until the dough is dark brown.

Crack the dough and split open the package.

The chicken is very moist, tender, and flavorful. The aroma of the lotus leaves added to the dish. The downside to this is the hard work making the salt dough and wrapping the bird. It may be easier to do in a clay pot.


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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Foccacia w/ Poached Garlic

After my last foray into breadmaking, I thought I'd take another stab at it so I started looking through "The Bread Bible" for an easy recipe. This one looked interesting. Foccacia, studded with garlic cloves that have been poached in olive oil.

First I separated and peeled one head of garlic, put them in a small saucepan and covered it with olive oil. I poached them over low heat for half an hour before removing them to cool.

The foccacia recipe is a very wet dough and I almost thought I ruined it because it was so gloppy. But with a little more patience (and the right attachment for the KitchenAid), the dough got to the right consistency. I let it rise for 4 hours before pouring it out onto a sheet pan that was greased with the garlic-infused oil. I stretched it out, then studded the garlic cloves into the dough.

It sat for another hour then went into the oven at 475*F for 13 minutes.

I'd say it came out all right for a first attempt. The poached garlic is great - almost sweet. I'll have to do it again...this time with more garlic! :-p


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