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Original San Francisco Dishes/Recipes

Our fabulous city is noted as the mother to a great number of original foods such as Green Goddess Dressing, Crab Louis Salad, Irish Coffee and the Fortune Cookie. Do any chowhounds out there know of others? Maybe there are resources on them. I think it would be neat to have a list of these and maybe learn a little about the foods made famous by our city by the bay.

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  1. Chop suey in the mid 1900's due to the Chinese laborers working on the U.S. transcontinental railroad here or said to be because the Chinese ambassador Li Hung Chang’s cooks while he was visiting New York.

    The big overstuffed burrito?
    Sourdough bread?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Lori SF

      I'm sure you mean 1800's as the gold spike, joining the East and West, was pounded in 1869 at Promontory Utah. Part of the California connection was Leland Stanford the elder.

      1. re: Lori SF

        Unfortunately all of San Francisco's wonderful innovations (does Sourdough bread count?)... were undermined by the absolute ruining of the Burrito (aka Mulita) =)

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Well the mulita was created by Mexicanos so at least it's an authentic mutation. Same goes for a lot of immigrant food like pizza, chop suey, etc.

          1. re: Eat_Nopal

            ha ha funny I said Sourdough, what about it used a bowel to eat clam chowder out of and not the red kind?

            1. re: Lori SF

              I don't think even Andrew Zimmern is up for eating clam chowder out of a bowel...

            2. re: Eat_Nopal

              Sour dough invented in SF? Ever heard of levain?

          2. hangtown fry - I think it's a gold miner dish
            celery victor (a bit obscure, but delicious), from the chef at the St. Francis whose name was Victor.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Absonot

              Hangtown fry
              You put down your poke (bag of gold) and take your chances on which version of the story you want to believe.
              http://whatscookingamerica.net/Histor...

            2. Crab Louie, the Martini and the Fortune Cookie. The martini is actually from Martinez. The fortune cookie was invented by a Japanese American for a tea ceremony in Golden Gate Park. Crab Louie is bit more contentious...some say Seattle, others SF.

                1. re: Carrie 218

                  hum don't know I grew up thinking it was pismo beach?

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Well, if the Mai Tai of Trader's Vic origin is going to be credited, don't forget crab rangoon also from the same place.

                    While It's It is definately San Franciscan, I never heard the popsicle was invented in the area.

                    While it is not a menu creation, sand dabs are very local ... found at Tadich's, Sam's and various Fisherman's Wharf restaurants.

                    Rice-a-Roni, crab Rangoon, fortune cookies, Mission burritos ... amazing that SF became a food city.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Just passing along a source, Krys -- don't shoot the messenger!

                        I'd add Crab Louis to your list of embarassments, as well. Why pour all that goop over perfectly good crab?

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          Whew, there's a real case of the tone being misunderstood in print. I went back to read if it could be construed as cranky. I was writing it in a bubbly sort of manner, I was surprised about popsicles and just thought some of the things we are famous for aren't something to especially be proud of. Has a San Franciscan ever eaten Rice-A-Roni regularily? Well, a Chowhound San Franciscan ... even a foodie San Franciscan.

                          Yeah, I'll probably get a million Rice-a-Roni love responses.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Rice -a- roni is based on a very delicious Armenian recipe for rice pilaf with vermicelli. Like crab Louie it became famous because when made with fresh ingredients and love it can be a great dish.

                            2. re: Xiao Yang

                              Crab Louis's history from SF is debatable. While Helen Evans Brown, in her cookbook West Coast Cook Book, states the following on the history:

                              "Just which Louis invented this West Coast specialty I am not prepared to say, but only because I don't know. I do know, however, that it was served at Solari's, in San Francisco, in 1914, for Clarence Edwords gives their recipe for it in his epicure's guide, Bohemian San Francisco. However some credit the origin of Crab Louis Salad to the chef at Seattle’s Olympic Club in Washington. In 1904, when the Metropolitan Opera Company played in Seattle, Washington, Enrico Caruso (1873-1921), considered the world's greatest tenor, kept ordering the salad until none was left in the restaurant's kitchen."

                              And the reason for the "goop" is that 100 years ago, crab was peasant food. Meaning, only the poor would eat it plain while being rich meant you could have it dressed up.

                              1. re: Carrie 218

                                Just like lobster was considered fit only for servants and prisoners in old New England!

                              2. re: Xiao Yang

                                a little bit of Louie dressing made with homemade ketchup and homemde mayonnaise (you nose in the air foodies would only use aioli I suppose), minced shallot and lemon juice can really enhance freshly picked dungeness crab meat