From savory dumplings dipped in soy sauce and chili paste to sweet deep-fried sesame balls, here are my top eight picks for my favorite dim sum plates. What’s on your list?
1. Har Gow — shrimp dumpling
2. Spinach shrimp dumpling
3. Chicken feet with black bean sauce
4. Bee’s nest taro puff — fried taro dumpling
5. Shiu mai — pork dumplings with diced mushroom
6. Char siu bao — steamed barbecue pork buns (click here to learn how to make baos from scratch)
7. Custard tart
8. Deep-fried sesame seed ball with sweet red bean paste
Where can you enjoy fresh and great-tasting dim sum in the Bay Area?
365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015
101 Spear Street between Howard Street and Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
662 Commercial Street between Kearny Street and Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Char siu baos are Cantonese buns, bao, filled with a barbecued pork filling, char siu. They can either be steamed or baked. I personally prefer the steamed variety either as a snack or as part of dim sum with Chinese tea. The bao filling can either be savory like char siu pork or it can be sweet like a Lotus seed bun made with sweetened Lotus seed paste.
Siopao is the Filipino char siu bao, which can be filled with pork, chicken, or even salted eggs. When I was a kid growing up, I always enjoyed tasty siopao with a cold bottle of soda as a tasty snack after school.
How do you make homemade char siu bao? First make the char siu or barbecue pork filling and then the yeast dough. Place the filling inside the bun and steam them. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? This recipe is adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings.
Making the char siu pork filling
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp water
2 tsp canola oil
salt and ground white pepper to taste
2 scallions, chopped white and green parts
1/2 pound char siu, homemade or store-bought, diced (click here to find out where to buy store-bought char siu pork)
1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry (optional)
1-1/2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
Combine sugar, salt, white, pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce and water in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions, and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Add the char siu pork and stir well. Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until the pork is heated through.
Add the Shaoxing rice wine to the dissolved cornstarch. Add the wine and cornstarch mixture to the warm pork and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute until the mixture has come together into a mass that you can mound. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool at room temperature before using.
The filling may be prepared up to 2 days in advance, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before using.
Making the yeast dough
1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups (12 1/2 ounces) flour
Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the water and set aside for 1 minute to soften. Whisk in the oil to blend and dissolve the yeast. Set aside.
Combine sugar, baking powder and flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Slowly stir with a wooden spoon, moving from the center toward the rim, to work in all the flour. Keep stirring as a ragged but soft dough forms. Then use your fingers to gather and pat the dough together into a ball. Transfer to a clean work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. You should not need additional flour if the dough was properly made. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and slightly elastic.Press your finger into the dough and it should spring back with a slight indentation remaining.
Place the dough in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm, draft-free place to rise such as an oven and let it sit for around 45 minutes until the dough has nearly doubled. You can refrigerate the dough if you do not need it right away but make sure that it is covered well with a plastic wrap.
Forming and steaming the bao
Lightly dust your clean work surface with flour. Cut the dough in half and roll into a foot-long log. Cut the log into eight pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball and flatten each piece gently into a small disc using your palm. Using a small rolling pin (either a 1-inch wooden dowel or the end of a wooden spoon like what I used, would do) roll the edges and only the edges. There should be a small bulge at the center of the dough, which the Chinese calls the belly.
Place a generous tablespoon of your char siu pork filling in the center of the dough, right on the belly. Wrap the filling by pressing and pulling the edges of the dough.
Gather and pull the edges up and twist the top to fully cover the filling.
Cut 2-inch square wax paper sheets and use these to line the bottom of each bun before steaming them. Steam up to 4 buns in an 8-inch bamboo steamer. Make sure that there’s around a 1 to 2-inch space in between buns inside the steamer. A bamboo steamer is definitely not a must; a regular steamer will work, too.
Boil water in your wok or a large pan and place the steamers with the buns in your wok or pan. Steam for around 15 minutes. Make sure that the water does not come in contact with the buns.
Remove the lid before you turn off the heat to avoid condensed water from dripping back to the buns. Continue steaming the rest of the batch.
You can pretty much put anything inside your bao. You can make your own barbecue pork from pork loin and your favorite barbecue sauce. You can even make good ol’ Sloppy Joe if you want and make it your bao filling. But as Dennis cleverly pointed out, it has to be called Un-Sloppy Joe because it isn’t sloppy anymore. The fact that the filling is conveniently contained inside the bun actually makes baos a really cool snack.
Let me know what interesting tasty fillings you come up with for your bao.
Polpette is Italian meatballs.
Generally made with beef and pork, combined with some olive oil, garlic, cheese, bread crumbs, egg and parsely and rolled by hand, polpette can be easily made at home. Toss them with tomato sauce and spaghetti to make the beloved American favorite, spaghetti with meatballs. Or grab some crusty bread to make a hearty meatball sandwich. Or simply roll them in grated or shredded Parmesan cheese and serve them as an hors d’oeuvre or even a main course.
This Italian meatball recipe is taken from Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food.
1 pound ground grass-fed beef
3/4 pound ground pork shoulder
1 cup torn-up pieces of day-old white bread with crusts removed
1/2 cup milk
1 small yellow onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and pounded to a paste
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
a pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and fresh-ground pepper
Season the ground beef and ground pork with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.
In a small bowl, combine the bread pieces and milk. Set aside to soften. Grate the onion using the large-holed side of a box grater or if you don’t have a grater, chop the onions very finely until it becomes a rough puree, which will add moisture on top of flavor to the meatballs. Squeeze most of the milk out of the bread and put the bread in a large mixing bowl together with the seasoned meat and the grated onion.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix them with your hands gently and thoroughly. Mixing them too much makes the meatballs tough. Fry a little meatball in a small pan and taste. Adjust the salt and pepper as needed. If it seems a bit dry, add a little milk. Gently roll the mixture into golf-size meatballs by hand.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and bake the meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet until just cooked through. Waters suggests a baking time of about 6 minutes. When I made mine, I baked for 8 minutes and then turned up the broiler and broiled the meatballs for another 2 minutes to brown them a bit. An alternative to baking is frying the meatballs in little oil in a pan, turning them occasionally for even browning. I personally prefer baking since I find it hard to brown the meatballs uniformly by frying them.
Waters suggests the following cool variations.
- Use ground turkey instead of ground beef.
- Use cold cooked rice or potato instead of the bread.
- Add other chopped herbs such as mint, marjoram, sage or thyme.
Across the street from the old warehouses in Pier 70, Kitchenette serves tasty lunches out of a garage door along Illinois Street. Run by chefs who have worked with the likes of Thomas Keller and Alice Waters, the food is organic, local and delicious.
I’ve had memorable lunches at Kitchenette since we moved to the Dogpatch. Their house smoked pastrami sandwich (Marin Sun Farms beef smoked over fig wood with apple-caraway mustard and braised cabbage) and their beef and pork polpette sandwich (meatballs in amatriciana sauce with parmesan cheese) are really yummy.
But the most memorable by far is their bacon snickerdoodle. I think it’s genius. It’s an excellent example of how bacon can make anything, like a simple snickerdoodle, extra special.
You can play it safe and enjoy the traditional pollo: chicken; asada: beef; carnitas: fried pork; or al pastor: marinated pork. Or you can be less pedestrian and try the more adventurous lengua: tongue; cabeza: head and cheek; tripitas: tripes; or buche: neck. These don’t actually faze me a bit since feasting on barbequed chicken intestines and sizzling chopped pig cheeks was part of growing up in the Philippines. Either way, it’s all good Mexican street food.
$1.75 buys you a tasty taco. Served on unpretentious paper plates with pickled peppers, these tacos are best enjoyed sitting on a pavement and watching the world go by.
Catch the taco truck right outside Best Buy at 14th and Harrison in SoMa or visit their shop at 24th Street and Shotwell in the Mission.
The fried chicken sandwich was outstanding. How about the burger?
It was pretty damn tasty.
And my burger connoisseur thinks it so, too.
The burger is a third of a pound of granulated Harris Ranch brisket, short rib, and chuck that is seared in beef fat, topped with tasty caper aioli, monterey jack and caramelized onions and served on a griddled Acme bun. It’s granulated and not ground beef, which makes the burger even tastier. Mission Street Food’s blog describes the process of granulation in this link. Granulation is a process popularized by Michelin 3-star chef Heston Blumenthal.
Just a few notes about Mission Burger. I love salt as much as I love sugar and butter but some people may find the burger a bit salty. I actually did but I didn’t mind it at all. Should you order fries? Absolutely. If you’re not a lemonade person, such as myself, grab a drink at Duc Loi since they only serve mint lemonade and nothing else, not even water. The dining area is a little snug and you may end up enjoying your burger on a milk crate. But seriously, who cares? You’re enjoying a tasty Mission burger anyway. And for only $8, it’s an amazing deal. They’re even donating $1 from every burger to the San Francisco Food Bank. And a final word, they’re open everyday except Thursday.
I love Indian food. I love spicy curries and masalas with warm basmati rice and naan bread. Lately, I discovered a new Indian treat: flaky and buttery rotis at Kasa. They wrap rotis around tasty chicken tikka masala or lamb curry with marinated onions and chutney to make tasty kati rolls. Dip these rolls in a refreshing raita and they’re simply scrumptious.
Kasa is cool because they make simple and flavorful homestyle Indian food. They use natural and local ingredients. And for under $15 you can enjoy a wonderful meal.
Kasa is an Indian eatery at 18th and Noe in the Castro. Follow this link to know more about Kasa.
For those people like me who are a bit unfamiliar with the varieties of Indian flatbreads and who have always equated Indian food with naan, roti is unleavened while naan is leavened. Kati roll is a popular Indian street food that consists of a flatbread wrapped around seasoned meat or vegetables. Chicken tikka masala is a curry dish of roasted chicken, chicken tikka, in a rich red, creamy and tomato-based sauce. Raita is a yogurt-based sauce or dip seasoned with coriander, cumin, mint and other herbs and spices.