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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Mohinga Mania Restarted, With A Hearty Bowl At Tender Loving Food


A couple of years go I completed (or so I thought) a mission of sampling all eight versions of mohinga, the catfish chowder considered the national dish of Burma, available in San Francisco proper. It turns out I had missed one which was hiding in plain sight on the menu at T-28, the Chinese/Hong Kongese/Macanese and, apparently, Burmese restaurant on Taraval better known for its Macau Pork Chop Sandwich.  Since then, the boom in Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area has added another four or five versions, so I decided it was high time to resume my Mohinga March.

Mohinga Mania 2.0 begins with a bowl at Tender Loving Food, Burmese restaurant impresario William Lu's contribution to the stomping ground of his salad days, the Tenderloin.  As befits its location, TLF is in rough garb, with most of its exterior signage still identifying it as Pesba's Fried Chicken, and with an interior that makes Yamo look elegant by comparison. There is a poster with food pictures in the front window that seems to identify the establishment as Burmese Gourmet, but by the posted menus inside as well as all the media, it's "Tender Loving Food," and who could improve on that?

Tender Loving Food's version of mohina is not eleganty "plated", i.e. with the respective garnishes carefully arrayed across the top, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up in heartiness. It was probably the thickest version I have encountered, and the most gingery. Part of the heartiness had to do with the quantity of rice vermicelli noodles they managed to pack into a bowl; it was perhaps too noodle-forward for my tastes (and I don't often make that criticism) but it may have been designed with the nutritional needs of the neighborhood in mind. Even Kenny Bania would admit this is a meal. The broth itself was also thick, not overly fishy, and gingery.  Among the solids lurking is its depths were actual ginger slices along with the bits of chick pea fritters and samusa skin. I'm one who likes to chew on the ginger, so I considered the slices as little gifts. Along with the soup came a little container of cracked pepper and a couple of lime wedges.  A squeeze of lime and a pinch of the pepper played nicely against the ginger and rendered the broth at once more sprightly and more complex.

In short, Tender Loving Food serves up a bowl of mohinga that may be a bit wabe but still rises above the coarseness of its environs. Be brave. Be hungry. Go there!

Where slurped: Tender Loving Food, 393 Eddy Street, the Tenderloin, San Francisco.

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