Sunday, December 31, 2017
Clever wordplay, eh? Actually I was sober as a judge when I downed the nabeyaki soba at Dojima-ann, and expect to be in the same state long after Anderson Cooper's last giggle of the evening takes air. The eating of soba, the nutty-flavored buckwheat noodles, is a New Year's Eve tradition in Japan, but as far as I know has nothing to do with lining one's stomach for a night of hard drinking (something Japanese salarymen are alleged to do every night).
In doing my research (a.k.a. Googling) for the best places to eat soba, I came across Dojima-ann, one of those places that flies under the radar because it's right under our noses (at O'Farrell and Powell Streets). Dojima-ann's menu offers 15 hot noodle soups (and another 6 cold noodle dishes), each with a choice of udon or soba noodles. It being close to dinner time when I arrived there, I decided to go for the nabeyaki, a meal in itself, along with a side of gyoza.
The six gyoza in my side dish, though on the smallish side, were intensely flavorful, and a well-recommended protein add-on. I wanted to try the potato croquettes, but judging from the menu, they are only available with the curry udon or as a bento box item.
Dojima-ann, from all accounts (including my own limited sample) serves decent Japanese fare at reasonable prices, and is very conveniently located once you know it is there. I'v probably passed it a hundred times on the Geary bus without noticing it, obscured as it is by throngs of tourists in the street. I'll definitely return to vet the udon, as well as to enjoy some non-noodular menu items.
Where slurped: Dojima-ann, 219 O'Farrell St. at Powell St., San Francisco
Friday, December 29, 2017
|Knock Knock, who's there? Knocked Fish Noodle Soup.
As I write this, I know of only two restaurants in the U.S. serving the cuisine of Wenzhou, China. Golden Corner Noodles in Flushing, Queens, New York, and Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More in San Jose's Japantown. By the time you read this, most likely, one of the two will be gone; alas, it will be the one in San Francisco's neighbor to the South.
Wenzhou is a Chinese city in Zhejiang Province, which is immediately south of Shanghai. Located in a coastal enclave, it was historically isolated from the rest of China, and thus developed a distinct sea-food based culinary culture, as well as a dialect of the Wu language that is unintelligible to even its nearest neighbors. Wenzhou's significance in the context of Chinese food, a well as the rarity of its cuisine in the Chinese diaspora are well documented by an article by Jacqueline M. Newman in Flavor and Fortune.
Wenzhou Fish, Noodles and More* was opened in late 2016 by the husband and wife team of Max Soloviev and Carol Chen after sinking $2 million into renovating a historic building in San Jose's Japantown. I filed this intelligence in my memory banks for possible future action then forgot about it, understandable because downtown San Jose is a place I had visited perhaps twice in the 50+ years I have lived in San Francisco. Visiting the restaurant became a matter of some urgency, though, when news came through a couple of months ago that the restaurant would be closing at the end of the year. I am carless (and not even a driver), so when my daughter arrived in town for a Christmas visit we rented a car and trekked to San Jose (combining the restaurant visit with a visit to the San Jose Museum of Art, which had an exhibit she wanted to see.
At Wenzhou Fish, Noodles and More, I ordered two iconic Wenzhou dishes, "Wenzhou Silky Knocked Fish Noodle Soup" (温州敲鱼面) and a "Wenzhou Style Stuffed Pita With Dried Vegetables & Ground Pork" (梅菜干麦饼) to share with my daughter who, being somewhat averse to wheatens, ordered a more conventional fried rice dish for herself. The "Knocked Fish" is so-called because a "dough" of fish flesh scraped from the skin combined with a little potato starch is knocked into a thin, flat mass with a wooden dowel, lightly pan fried, rolled up and cut into into translucent ribbons with bits of fish visible. This slow-loading (but worth waiting for) video shows a woman in Wenzhou making the "knocked" fish noodles.
While we were dining, co-owner Carol Chen was conversing with a woman at the next table in the Wenzhou dialect. I can normally pick up on Shanghainese and other Wu dialects almost instantly, but even straining to listen to the conversation, could not recognize a single word in the Wenzhouhua.
|Co-owner Carol Chen
Will opportunity knock more than once for knocked fish noodles in the Bay Area?
Where slurped: Wenzhou Fish, Noodles and More, 625 North 6th St,, San Jose
*I suspect the comma is an unintended intruder; most Chinese restaurants have fish and noodles, but very few have fish noodles.
Friday, December 15, 2017
|Yangchun noodles with "pocket" eggs and ham slices from the fridge.
Although I've been away from chasing down exemplary Asian noodles for the blog, I haven't deprived myself of noodles -- far from it. My partner and personal chef Ju Ju's work schedule has left her with less time for cooking, and in a pinch she falls back on her (and my) favorite time-saver, yangchun noodles (阳春面), which I've been enjoying up to three times a week .
|Chef Ju Ju
As for the name? Although "yangchun" literally means "springtime," the 10th month on the Chinese calendar, roughly October, is referred to as "Little Springtime" (akin to our "Indian Summer"?). Based on this, "yangchun" in colloquial Shanghainese refers to the number 10, and since the original street vendor price was 10 fen (cents) the noodles came to be known as "yangchun" noodles. This explanation probably seems less convoluted to a Shanghainese than it does to you and me.
Spring noodles or fall noodles, they won't lead to my winter of discontent.
Posted by Gary Soup at 11:09 PM