Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Don Xuan part II

Note: part one can be found below!

When we entered Yummy we both still had a decent beer buzz going on. So, we were boisterous as can be expected. The staff was really trying to get out of there (it was 9:30 by now) and told us if we ordered right away we could stay. God, did we want to stay, so we cobbled together an order right quick: salt and pepper tofu, half a roast tea duck, “crab” (k-rab) meat won-tons, and spare ribs with bitter melon. Two Tsing Taos, please, we need something to wash this down.

The food was impeccable. I mean really great. The bitter melon with the spare ribs was an excellent pairing, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it was my first experience with bitter melon. However in my defense I had been wanting to try it for a while. E and I agreed that it’s definitely an acquired taste, but one that we would be happy to spend time acquiring. I made sure the spare ribs were pork and since they were indeed it was chow-down time.

The fake crab meat won tons didn’t fail to impress; I don’t think they ever have anywhere I’ve had them (usually at the Long Life Vegi [sic] House); and they are the only thing that I ever eat with the barbarian (sweet-n-sour) sauce that many palefaces seem to want to drown everything in. This reminds me of an anecdote from rural Washington when I was up there doing a web site. We went out for Chinese food and I was vegan at the time. Having California Chinese cuisine as my experience to draw from, and having been thwarted in attempts at veganism by Chinese restaurants that call hot and sour soup vegetarian and then fill it full of egg, I figured I’d head these small-town purveyors of the middle country’s finery off at the proverbial pass, and made sure they would not be putting egg in the soup. Sure enough, the soup arrived with no egg in it; for we wouldn’t want to mix cow and egg and make it non-kosher. Indeed, the soup had about a steak’s worth of boeuf; something I don’t eat anyways, much less when I’m doing a three month cleansing. Joke’s on me.

E was really into the salt and pepper tofu, not just because she loves tofu, but because it was very, very good. We ordered another round of Tsing Taos and tore into the duck. That crazy quacker was one of the best examples of his species I’ve consumed in a very long time, and the simple rice flour buns were piping hot out of the steamer. We finished what we could pack away, tipped the staff heavily, and headed home with food boxes a-swingin’ in a plastic bag. I took all the bones from the duck home with visions of soup stock dancing in my head. The waiter almost couldn’t believe it; it was probably the first time he had seen white folk do such a thing. When we explained what we planned to do with it, he softened. “My mom does that all the time!” he exclaimed.

That was Friday. By Sunday, we had decided that what we needed to do with our paychecks was hit the town again. So, after a few Oranjeboom Dutch Lagers, we headed to the Berkeley marina for some kite flying. After we reeled in the kites, we headed over to Skate’s for some drinks and apps. I had a Mojito; E, a Bloody Mary. We ordered the calamari, and while it wasn’t excellent, it was plentiful, and we were hungry. We had a beer each and then headed over to 4th street for some real paycheck burning.

I don’t believe I’ve gone off on the virtues of Café Rouge’s meat market yet. Their charcuterie is so good that even as a lowly East Bay Vivarium employee I used to frequent it (what the hell, it was a block from my job and they have BEER there!) E and I also enjoy oysters at the bar there from time to time (not so much anymore since we’re on our going out diet). We wanted to have some of their Kumamotos but they were all out. Bummer. Since they know us though they gave us a sample of some hog islands. We weren’t impressed. So instead of throwing away my money on oysters, I hurled it at the bar. Our friend Sean who was with us got to get away without buying any drinks because I made him buy us one of the charcuterie’s excellent rotisserie chickens to be eaten later. We also laid hands on two rabbit-basil sausages and two boudin blancs. One hour and three drinks later and it was time for a breather, so we walked it off before piling into the wagon again. It was another five pint day.

The dénouement of this story may be more interesting than the rest of it; for it is with the climax of the plot that we can get down to the business at hand: that of the food-making. Let’s start with the base, a very good place to start.

Initially I decharned the rotisserie chicken and reserved the bones, which I cracked to allow access to the marrow. Then I removed my duck bones, fat still clinging to them, from the refrigerator, as well as the remainder of the pork spare ribs (about 10 tiny riblets) and some of the bitter melon as well. Into the roasting pan these went, along with the trimmings from one bunch of fennel, several carrots, one onion, a bunch of basil, and a shallot. I roasted them at 450 for about 20 to 30 minutes to bring the flavor out. When they were ‘bout ready, I put them into a large Dutch oven and covered them with water. As I brought them to a boil, I roasted some peppercorns, cumin seed, and sesame seeds in a little bit of truffle oil. These I added to the mix.

I have written many a post on how to make stock so I’ll save it this time. What is important, however, is that this stock came out so god damned well, I surprised myself. Then, in a pan on the stove, I began cooking up the meaty part of the fennel, the onion, a huge shallot, the four sausages, and several carrots using the just-made stock. I was at a loss because even with the mushrooms I had (which I reserved for later so as not to make them too squishy), I still had not enough mass to compensate for their being drowned in all that stock. So, I took two cups of Thai black rice and two cups of mushroom stock (organic, store-bought) and cooked the rice in the rice cooker. The careful reader will notice that this is half the amount of liquid required to cook any hard-skinned rice; rightly so, for what I planned was paella.

Without resorting to clichés, I can only describe the taste of the finished product as nothing short of awesome. I just ate a bowl of it an hour ago and already I want more. If you like paella, I highly recommend your making it with a fresh, homemade stock; it’ll increase its flavor tenfold.


Blogger uncle jazzbeau said...

You should've asked me at Yummy (yes, crummy name, great food). They have a mean beef stew soup noodle there. I have always assumed that Yammy was a waste of time. (Glad to know I was right.) There's also a non-descript hole-in-the-wall Chinese place in ECP near the Trader Joe's. Never ate there, but I would usually bump into its owner in the kitchen at Super Wok.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Monkey said...

Pro-Life Resources. That cracks me up. Nice to see someone using the links bar for malevolently amusing ends, rather than just the same tired list of food blogs (see Kitchen Monkey for example).

Nice blog by the way.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Dr. Jones said...

Jim; you know the crazy thing about that hole-in-the-wall (it's called "Chef Chinese") is that it's always PACKED with Asians. This might mean it's not as awful as I've always thought, E and I are actually tempted to try it.

10:50 AM  
Blogger drbiggles said...


Yeah, Chefs. My sister and husband go there on a frequent basis. DON'T EAT THE STEAM TABLE FOOD. Order from the menu.
Unfortunately they had a nasty lunch on Sunday. Wonton soup was made with water, no broff. Other things were off as well. Should have had lunch at Mel O Dee.


3:50 PM  

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