Sunday, August 31, 2008

Roast Duck Noodle Soup - A "What I've Found So Far" Survey

I seem to go through sharp phases, like how I had a Banh Mi phase, a Pho phase, a sit-down Burger phase.. a Who Am I Kidding, I Love Anything Teriyaki relapse phase.. (which I'm still on).

Most recently it has been about Roast Duck Noodle Soup.

I have to say that Chinese Noodle Soups in general had been something I've learned to love. It's easy for me to find the Soup/Broths in these too light at first when compared to some of the heartier soups of Japanese Ramen which I'm more accustomed to. But it didn't take me long to open up and enjoy how the lighter amber broth style of Chinese Noodle Soup (Ramen's origin?) complemented rich meats such as roasted duck.

I'll begin with what started my whole infatuation where now looking back it is the better I've had so far.

The Roast Duck Noodle Soup at Tan Ky Mi Gia off El Cajon Blvd. ($5.50)

Topped with Flat Leaf Chives, Chopped Scallions and Cilantro, this amber soup although light had more complexity in flavor than others I have tried that I enjoyed very much. I noticed some teeny bits of fried pork fat in it as well.

The Duck served on a separate platter was very juicy moist, flavorful and generous (for 5 bucks). Together with the soup, using any of the many condiments never crossed my mind.

The Pot Stickers I've also had were just ok and wouldn't best represent other better dishes that I had here in my opinion. (Sorry forgot to write down its price.. I'll get this food blogging thing down one of these days!)

As far as I know Tan Ki Mi Gia is a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant and I'm not sure how this plays with the difference in flavor I had with the others. So far it's my place to go for better Chinese overall. Especially for Duck Noodle Soup. But way out in El Cajon and 52nd, just wish it were a little closer!

Tan Ky Mi Gia, 5237 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

So hoping that I would score a bowl just as good as TKMG but much closer, I decided to try out my neighborhood In a Pinch Chinese spot Maxim's Palace.
I'll be honest and say that convenience is usually the motivating factor for visiting MP. It is my stand-by neighborhood joint that allows me the satisfaction of having a hot freshly made BBQ Pork Fried Rice that hasn't been sitting under lamps. And because of that, I appreciate Maxim's and what it has to offer my 'hood. They are also fast. Very fast. I never bother calling ahead for my to-go order because the food is usually out in 5-minutes.

Although not on the menu, they were more than happy to make a Roasted Duck Noodle Soup for me. I never figured out its exact price but by deducting the Pan-Fried Dumplings I also had from the total it seemed a rather high ~$9..

Portion was overall generous though, especially with the Duck.
The soup wasn't stand out but wasn't bad either. The topped scallions helped with adding some flavor here. Although meaty I found the duck rather lean and it also seemed to lack the expected Five Spice flavor.

The Pan-Fried Dumplings ($3.45) were in fact deep fried. Definitely pre-made store bought but it will do in a pinch. Isn't that so with anything deep fried?

More of an experiment this day ordering a dish not listed and dining in for the first time even. Dining at Maxim's makes me feel a little like being in a Scorsese film taken place in NYC and while that's not for everyone, I personally dig it.
Discovering this day the flexible "we'll make it for you" side of the place was also a surprise and a nice thing. I will keep supporting you.. My Neighborhood In-A-Pinch Chinese Restaurant - Maxim's Palace.. :)

Maxim's Palace Chinese Restaurant, 2810 El Cajon Blvd # D, San Diego, CA 92104

So still searching, I was hoping to find a place that would be as good as Tan Ky Mi Gia, maybe not as convenient as Maxim's (blocks away from home) but still relatively easy to get too, or in this case a place where I may find myself more often like Kearny Mesa.
I've read somewhere on the interweb that Sam Woo BBQ had pretty good Wonton Noodle Soup. If so I then imagined that they had a good Roasted Duck version as well.

Wouldn't you? Yum.

I've never sat down to eat at this San Diego Sam Woo located inside 99 Ranch Market. I must say I'm really glad I finally did because prior to, my experience had only been with the bang for the buck hot steam trays located up front.

The sit-down portion while still having great value allows you to order up things made to order from their amazingly long list of menu offerings that was quite something. The Lunch, Dinner and Specials pages given to me this weekend day totaled 15 pages! So I was sort of glad I had already had my heart set on a bowl of duck noodle soup. Watching what others were ordering while I waited was a lot of fun though.

The Roasted Duck Noodle Soup ($4.75).

A good medium sized portion with so-so on the Duck.
But what they did give was pretty meaty. However again surprisingly low on flavor, especially when I knew how tasty Sam Woo's Roasted Duck when purchased a la carte can be.

While I found the broth maybe a bit more flavorful than Maxim's, it wasn't out of the ordinary and did wish there were some chopped Scallions because the Chinese Cabbage didn't do much as a garnish for me personally.

My remedy was the usual generous drizzle of Hot Oil and.. a Pokey at the Ducky.. *Poke-Poke* At the Duck fat that is. By now the soup had a glistening sheen on the surface that I'm a bit more used to when eating large quantities of Egg Noodles (which here were the very thin kind).

The Fried Wontons ($4.50) were great.

Deep fried in Sesame Oil (or at least a blend) the crispy fried pouches had the nutty sesame oil flavor while the contents..

..were of a moist minced Pork and Shrimp filling.

Overall both nice dishes especially for each being under $5. I look forward in returning back again. Though only after more carefully going over the 15 pages I managed to photograph. :)

Sam Woo BBQ Restaurant, 7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd #103, San Diego, CA 92111 (Located inside 99 Ranch Market)

My journey for a good bowl of Roast Duck Noodle Soup in San Diego will be sure to continue.

At least for now I know where I can go when the next craving hits.. :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Animation Inspired Food - Part One, Haha o Tazunete Sanzenri

While Pixar's take on CG Food was interesting in its getting close to real ways, I've always been inspired by the renditions of Food in older Japanese animations. Done so simplistic yet still awesomely hunger inducing.

This includes the stylized cartoon Giant Mound Bowl of Rice often seen in Nihon Mukashi Banashi, an Animated Television Series on Japanese Folktales to the later more modern Comic Series of Oishinbo.

My most memorable though were the foods seen in Haha o Tazunete Sanzenri (3000 Leagues in Search of Mother).
Never knew the full plot until reading its Wiki article but the animation was strangely entertaining to watch poor Marco go through his journey often hungry and broke.. (I wish I were joking!)

I remember meals made from scrappings in back alleys.. Aw..

And simple meals eaten on trains..

The story was probably bearable because it would always involve generous people giving Marco a helping hand..

Marco was never left starving..

Back to the topic of rendition of foods, these of Soup and Stew are most iconic for me.. Yumm.

Reminds me of this Potato Leek Soup ($4.95) I had at Shakespeare Pub one afternoon..

So Creamy and Tasty..

Shakespeare Pub & Grille, 3701 India St, San Diego, CA, 92103

All images from the animation are from Japanese blogger Hoshinon btw where he managed to archive EVERY scene shot of 3000-LISOM that Involved Food In Any Way. AMAZING. I almost peed my pants when I found this. He even recreated a few dishes from the animation. WOW.

So while browsing through Hoshinon's amazing archive I started to think..

Was Marco in fact really a Foodie with No Reservations using the excuse of finding his mother to travel and have good eats??

Like these lamb chops.. "*munch munch*, hmm grilled perfectly with a nice balance of gameyness and herbs.. What do you think Amedeo?"

I'm just kidding of course. Although eating bite-sized lamb chops in a pomme frite like conical newspaper wrapping sounds amazingly cool, I certainly believe it doesn't take much to enjoy a simple meal on a bench, especially when you're traveling.

This day for Marco was a small Loaf of Bread, a strip of Beef Jerky and Dried Berries. Not too different than what I have on some of my low budget road trips, haha.

I'm so inspired I seriously want to hit the road again, I almost don't care where! But I haven't had time, not to mention being broke (maybe not Marco broke but still..).

Hmm, I might have an idea.

To be continued..

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Three Not So Ordinary Breakfasts.. Part Two

Taking another break from my usual breakfasts..

Although my first Not So Ordinary Breakfast post came together randomly and rather easily, this second one was going to require some research. For me that usually just means a quick Wikipedia look up but I also came across this L.A. food blog post about traditional Chinese breakfasts that I mentioned in my previous Sheng Jian Bao post.

While the Onion/Scallion Pancakes and the calzone-like "Leek Box" interested me very much I came across a Rice Porridge with Century Eggs dish at Tan Ky Mi Gia in Rolando.

1000 Year Egg & Pork Porridge ($4.50).

Wow I didn't expect such a large portion.
Unfortunately the Eggs were sunken into the hot porridge when it came but the chopped Scallions, Cilantro and almost artful dollop of golden Sesame Oil made for a simple and lovely presentation. :)

Quite brave of me to try these Preserved Eggs which I've known them in Japan as the Pitan. The last time I had was with large quantities of Beer at some random Chinese restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo of all places.

To describe the Century Eggs for me (even when sober this time) is a bit difficult but I'll try. If I closed my eyes, I can almost convince myself it were a regular lightly salted boiled egg. Almost. The "Whites" are more jelly-fied while the Yolk was creamier and would occasionally hit me with a mildly pungent flavor when I would let my guard down (the moment I thought I had conquered it).

Tried to take close-ups but not much to see perhaps. To the left is the "White" of the egg and the right, the cheesy Yolk. It was only my second try with the rice masking the flavor somewhat so all I can really say is that it was definitely an acquired taste.

I was most afraid though that the Rice Porridge would seriously lack flavor like Japanese Okayu.

But I found it quite good (probably made with their tasty soup stock?). The bits of lean Ground Pork seemed to only contribute to texture for the most part but I appreciated its presence especially when I felt the need to take a break from the Eggs. With occasional reinforcements of many condiments to choose from, I didn't have too much trouble finishing.

I'll need to do another post for Tan Ky Mi Gia again for I've been here a few times and tried some other dishes which I enjoyed. As Kirk of MMM-YOSO mentions, their name is confusing because although the sign outside says Tan Ky Mi Gia, the menu inside reads Hinh Ky Mi Gia. I'm using the former for this post because they seemed to have taken down the banner with the latter.

Tan Ky Mi Gia, 5237 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115

A revisit to Leilani's for the intriguing Da Teri Omelet was due.
While trying out all new places for this part two was tempting, it would only be my second visit to Leilani's Cafe and maybe this time I'll have a chance to take a longer look at their menu. (Darn I forgot to ask for a take-out menu again!)

Da Teri Omelet.. ($6.50)

I'm not sure if this is a common dish that can be found in Hawaii or if it is a Leilani's original. While the actual Teri Omelet was much tamer than what my sometimes wildly imaginative head had made it up to be, I found it simply tasty.

A Fluffy Omelet filled with chunks of Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, Veggies and Cheese. The two scoops of rice had a drizzle of Teriyaki sauce as you can see.

I also had a Manapua ($2.50) on the side. Right out of the steamer and too hot to hold for a few seconds.. :)

While it didn't seem to have the local flare like the ones I've seen on OnoKineGrindz I liked how it wasn't overly sweet as some of the Char Siu Bao I would find at 99 Ranch.

Another nice experience I had this day at Leilani's Cafe and I still need to try the Hilo Style Loco Moco that Kirk mentioned he enjoyed so another revisit won't be far away.

Leilani's Cafe, 5109 Cass Street, San Diego, CA 92109

My final not so ordinary breakfast for this post is the Idli Sambhar dish I had at Surati Farsan Mart. This also came about through my casual researching phase.
I also had ordered my most favorite Chole Samosa. I'd be honest and say this was a bit of cheating on my part because when I asked the gentleman at the cashier if it would be a dish considered typical Indian breakfast, his answer was an ambiguous, "Sure, why not.." :)

Idli Sambhar ($3.50) and Chole Samosa ($3.50).

The puffy steamed ground lentil and rice cakes, Idli. I read usually eaten with Chutney and at some places even served with pure Ghee. So I asked for this Indian Purified Butter on the side (free of charge).

Mmm, a perfectly nice alternative to say.. an English Muffin. I think a person would enjoy the Idli if they also liked Grits or Oatmeal for breakfast (a tiny pancake version of course). I'm not the biggest fan of either but munching on an Idli with a bit of Ghee and Coconut Chutney was definitely a pleasurable experience. The highlight though was the spicy Sambhar Vegetable Stew which was off the hook good! I am ill-qualified to explain it any further so I will leave it at that.

While the Idli would take some adjusting for me to have on a daily basis, the Chole Samosa, I would not at all..

Maybe because it consists of something Fried, haha, but the two golden crispy vegetable Samosas are savory enough to satisfy a bacon-n-eggs lover like me. When topped with spicy vegetables, chick peas, chutney, cilantro and onions.. It is So Good I wouldn't want to change a thing.

I've had few other dishes at Surati Farsan which I'm sure I'll be writing about sooner or later. While I've found not everything offered here is exactly my cup of tea, what I do enjoy I do a lot. There are many more I would like to try, especially after finding their menu (with pictures) here.

Surati Farsan Mart, 9494 Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92126

Final thoughts are that I like the smell Curry and Teriyaki in the morning.. Maybe an occasional 1000 Year Egg too.. Maybe.