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Best Claypot Dishes

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Melanie Wong Oct 5, 2000 09:16 PM

Limster, if you like claypot-type dishes, you should try Bow Hon on Grant Avenue in Chinatown which specializes in these. It’s been a couple years since I’ve been there and don’t have a favorite. The kitchen understands the glossy, braised, high heat flavors that this style of cooking should bring out. Other things are fine too, and it’s not very expensive. A good choice for a simple meal.

There’s a clay pot dish at Koi Palace in Daly City that we like a lot. It’s beef shortribs in pepper sauce. This has nicely browned and braised ribs that are chewy and tender at the same time in an intense black pepper sauce with sweet carmelized onions and roasted garlic, then topped with a still-crisp but cooked julienne of red and green bell peppers. There’s so much flavor going on in this dish.

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    Limster Oct 6, 2000 12:12 AM

    Gosh - I've been trying to get a group to Koi Palace for ages. I'm a grad student at UCSF and my food budget turns out to be much higher than other starving students, which makes it hard for me to gather a large group of friends to go eat with me.

    Thanks for your tips on these Chinatown places. I've stuck to the Sunset and Richmond for Chinese food (with the exception of Szechuan food at Sam Lok.) I'll give Bow Hon a whirl since it seems like a place where I can eat solo at short notice and will report back.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Limster
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      Melanie Wong Oct 6, 2000 12:30 AM

      I haven't been to any of the places in the Sunset district - I've heard the prices are lower than Chinatown.

      I studied the menu at Sam Lok recently while wandering by and it looked really good. Tell us about it?

      1. re: Melanie Wong
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        Limster Oct 6, 2000 12:36 PM

        Sam Lok's (Jackson at Kearny) a pretty good Szechuan place. As many of you know, Szechuan is landlocked but had access to lots of hot spices via trade and their own agriculture. So the food tends to be smoking hot (spice, not temperature.)

        I went there a few months ago. Most of the things we got were basic Szechuan dishes. (Apologies in advance if I get the names in English wrong - I ordered in Chinese and only read the Chinese parts of the menu.)

        Dishes that I liked:

        Couple's Delight (appetizer section) - tripe and thinly sliced beef in chilli oil and sesame seed. Great textural contrast.

        Beef in chilli sauce or oil or something like that (sorry I couldn't be more specific here; the Chinese translation literally means water-cooked beef or boiled beef) - a large bowl of tender beef slices and baby bak choy brimming with a red-hot chilli oil-based sauce.

        Fish and preserved vegetable soup - a clear soup with sliced fish (boneless) and shreds of salted preserved vegetables. The sourness of the preserved veggies do a nice job of enhancing the fish, just a like a squish of lemon in many western dishes. (BTW, Szechuan is landlocked and not known for good fish dishes; this is probably the exception.)

        Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce - this is not specific to Szechuan; you should be able to get this at any decent Chinese place. It's not on the menu (although I think you can ask for it under seasonal vegetables or something like that.)

        Dishes that were OK:

        Kung Pao Chicken - this has peanuts and a few other vegetables. My favorite versions back in Singapore consisted of dried chilli and chicken. Period. No peanuts or carrots or celery or whatever. Still yet to find a version like that here.

        Pork with garlic (under appetizer I think) - slices of steamed or boiled pork with raw minced garlic and a light chilli sauce. The version I like has just pork and garlic. (You can get that version at Little Sichuan in San Mateo.)

        All in all, Sam Lok is worth a trip if you're in the city. If I had more time, I'd go to Little Szechuan in San Mateo, which is slightly better.

        1. re: Limster
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          Melanie Wong Oct 7, 2000 12:21 AM

          Outstanding write-up! Thanks so much. I've got a friend who continues to ask me for good Szechaun places and I haven't been able to give him any.

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      Limster Oct 7, 2000 01:28 PM

      On Melanie's tip, I had dinner at Bow Hon in Chinatown last night with 3 of my buddies - it was very good! I was so busy stuffing my face during dinner that I barely said a word. (Thanks Melanie!)

      Instead of the claypot dishes, I noticed claypot rice on the menu and immediately steered everyone toward that because I haven't had it in a long time - must have been 2 years or so. Anyway, we ordered a version with chinese sausage, chicken and mushrooms as well as one with chinese sausage and pork or "waxed meat" (that's the best translation I can come up with - the meat is treated like the sausage and has a waxy appearance).

      The rice is cooked in a claypot along with meats and pick up a bit of their flavor, as well as some of the soy sauce. This was made to order - it took quite a while for the rice to come. Rice and meats are served separately, but they can mix the meats into the rice at the table - that's up to you. For those who have never had this, the rice can be a little crispy and slightly hard unlike the fluffy steamed version. The texture is very enjoyable. The versions back home usually add some dark soy sauce at the table and mix that into the rice, didn't see that here. After you're done with the rice, there's a layer that sticks to the claypot that's very crispy and maybe a bit too hard. Here, they add some gingery stock to the claypot to get that last bit of rice off - that was a nice finish to the meal.

      BTW, the meats were tasty too!

      Each claypot rice is big enough for 2 - the menu tells you that. They also come with a side of vegetables in oyster sauce. Since we had 2 orders of claypot rice, we received 2 side of veggies, but the neat thing is that they weren't the same. One was Chinese broccoli (gai lan for afficionados), the other was one that I was less familiar with (Mom never made that at home *grin*), vaguely like baby bak choy, but larger.

      We also had some deep fried tofu stuffed with fish paste - lots of cilantro in there. That was also delicious.

      Tab for 4 - $42 including tip, no alcohol. A great simple and hearty meal.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Limster
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        Melanie Wong Oct 7, 2000 05:17 PM

        Great! I'm so glad you liked it. It's been a reliable choice for me. I've probably eaten there 7 or 8 times the 15+ years I've been in SF. My Aunt Lil from Salinas originally recommended it to me.

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        liujaroo Oct 8, 2000 10:26 PM

        Nuts, I should've brought Limster's detailed report with me... We went to Bow Hon last night and must've ordered the wrong stuff. Taro root duck with gravy clay pot, seafood and tofu clay pot, spinach and tofu soup and preserved beancurd spinach. The duck was sadly mostly fat and skin and hardly any meat, although the claypot flavors were pretty good. The chicken broth used for the soup was quite flavorful too but the pieces of squid in the soup were overtough. To our surprise, the spinach came with no preserved beancurd, although the spinach was young and very, very fresh, seasoned with just enough garlic. Maybe I'll try again, with Limster's recommendations clutched tightly in my fist (also, the restaurant is very nice about letting you bring in beer and wine if you want -- there's a grocery store right up Washington from the Buddha Bar where you can buy a few cold ones).

        2 Replies
        1. re: liujaroo
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          Melanie Wong Oct 9, 2000 12:41 AM

          I'm going to take Limster's report with me too next time! The rice thing is a new one for me.

          Duck with taro root is an old-timey dish I haven't had for ages. Wish it was better becaue I'd like to taste it again. Do you think your server didn't believe you really wanted preserved bean curd on your spinach?

          1. re: Melanie Wong
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            Liujaroo Oct 17, 2000 09:33 PM

            sigh, don't know. Next time I go, I'll let you know.

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