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Clay Pot Rice and Double Boiled Soup at Best Taste in Oakland

Now that the weather has turned chilly after our fabulous Indian summer, thought I’d post about a meal at Best Taste with some cold weather specialties. This is a very unassuming little spot that looks like any number of somewhat dumpy, hanging roast duck-window’d places in Oakland Chinatown. Passing by, I’d have written it off as just another noodle and barbecue joint. Luckily, my sister had been here before with some family members who knew better. A glance around the small room revealed that all the older Chinese patrons had a claypot and double boil soup jars on their tables. (http://www.homemade-chinese-soups.com... )

Indeed those two styles of cooking turned out to the stars at this inexpensive eatery. Double boiled soup of the day was a cleansing stock of duck web, goji berries, and flower mushrooms. The individual servings of soup ($1.99 each) were so fragrant and intensely flavored. The selection changes each day.

The clay pot rice takes a bit longer to come out and I was invited into the kitchen to see the special equipment. These custom burners are designed for making fan bo (rice clay pot dishes).

We tried the Eel and tender green clay pot rice. Adding the seasoning sauce provided in the condiment caddy, the combination was magic.

On request, a couple ladles of hot stock can be added at the end of the meal to the crusty rice stuck to the clay pot to lift up the last bit of goodness.

We also had yu choy (too mature and tough) and at least one or two other dishes. At this point, I can’t remember what they were other than very average. No matter, the double boiled soup and the clay pot rice are the reason to return.

Best Taste Restaurant
814 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94607

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  1. I heard that they sometimes serve a ginseng soup which I'd like to try but don't know which days they have it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: zippo

      Hmm, I hadn't thought about there being a set schedule for the soup recipes. Hope the next person in asks and finds out for us.

      1. re: zippo

        The double boil soup last Thursday had a few pieces of ginseng in it. I wonder if that's what you've heard about? It was a chicken broth and had aromatics that seemed to be (I'm hardly an expert...) longan berries, lotus nuts, and a black olive. The olive had a crisscross in the bottom to remove the pit. Are you supposed to eat any of that stuff, or are they only there to flavor the broth?

        BTW, thanks for the tip about this place, Melanie. The soup was light and delicious, and your tip about using the condiment caddy with the eel was dead on.

        1. re: hyperbowler

          Everything in the soup, well but the bones, should be edible. But in this style of soup, the aromatics and flavor have been cooked out of them. I suspect that rather than an olive, that might have been a jujube or red date. They're sort of olive-shaped. As far as not being an expert, you ID'd the longan and lotus nuts, hardly commonplace ingredients.

          Glad you used the seasoned soy sauce from the cruet in the condiment tray. But not too much, most of them have a lot of MSG and extra salt and sugar. It always makes me sad to read someone's account of trying claypot rice and not understanding the attraction. Often it's because the finishing touch of adding the sauce was forgotten. The other tip is to not scrape up the bottom crust immediately. Let the heat of the claypot keep cooking it longer. Then scrape it. And when you're near the bottom, ask for some extra soup stock.

        2. re: zippo

          I made it here yesterday after finally remembering the name of the place and realizing that it was not far from where I usually go in Ctown. I was parked nearby Saturday to go to Orient Market and actually walked in, looked at the menu and decided that it wasn't the place. That evening when describing what happened to a friend I realized that it was. It doesn't help that this ABC doesn't read Chinese.

          After a long morning at the Alameda Flea Market, I dropped in and was able to describe the double boil soup to the waitress. She called it steamed soup and pointed to a menu listing on the wall. They had chicken ginseng with quite a few small chunks of chicken, pork and some small, oblong, reddish berries and little batons of ginseng. I was much in need of a restorative and the soup did revive me from flea market overdose.

          In the rice plate of cha sieu and tender greens, the meat was dry and the greens not-so-tender. I ordered the wrong thing there but it made for an OK leftover doctored with a can of creamed corn.

        3. Sounds wonderful on a cold winters day. Besides the clay pots do they have a full Cantonese menu? When I make it over there i will ask about they have a set soup menu.

          Love double boil soups

          11 Replies
          1. re: yimster

            surely you've heard of the expression, "jack of all trades, master of none".
            was there recently, tried the war won ton(5.75) a hearty meal but really tastes different from won ton houses. won tons were like gold balls and tasted of five spice.

            no, not a full cantonese menu. more like what you expect in a place that sell roast meats as it's specialty : chow mein, chow fun, rice plate, roasties over rice, won ton, won ton noodles etc.

            the original owner was known for their fried drumstick (similiar to the IZ IT food truck one). haven't tried this owner's rendition yet.

            1. re: shanghaikid

              Thanks, got the idea. A Chinese BBQ with a small kitchen serving Chinese comfort food. One question are the won tons mostly shrimp or pork. I have had this desire lately for shrimp won tons.

              I will report back when I get over to the East Bay as long Oak Joan does not spot me.

              1. re: yimster

                the won tons i had were shrimp pieces with a mushy pork presence. not a lot of shrimp taste. good to great shrimp won tons seems hard to find. the war part was worth it. lots of bok choy, other goodies......

                on another site, KK recommends Ming Tai won ton noodles (2455 noreiga) for shrimp won tons only, not noodles. haven't tried it yet.

                1. re: shanghaikid

                  I have had the Ming Tai won ton when they were in San Bruno and they were real shrimp won ton. Have not tried the Noreiga location. Still on my list to try in Oaktown.

                  1. re: yimster

                    Ming Tai on Noriega is good for shui gow only, which the restaurant translates as shrimp dumplings, but are not won tons. It's not as excellent as it was before but better than Champagne Restaurant in Millbrae and Cooking Papa.

                    As far as won tons...Cooking Papa makes an acceptable version for SF Bay Area.

                2. re: yimster

                  Yep, the menu's pretty limited, not the hundreds of dishes at full scale HK seafood places. But who knows, looks are deceptive here, never expected to find these two specialties here. Yet, I didn't find the other things we ordered compelling, can't even remember what they were, and it's unusual for me to not recall a meal.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Well on this cold day I made to Best Taste and had a jar of warm soup. The menu was petty large but I did not check it out completely since I was in a rush. I just had a plate rice with Chinese Beef Stew over rice. A nice size offering with decent flavor and texture. A good mix of stew and tendon with a fresh small bok choy. The soup was with wolfeberrys and other herbs. Very rich flavor. I did asked if they had a regular menu of the soups. I was told they do not have a set menu of soups but was told I could call early in the day and ask. But I fear that only works if you speak Chinese.

                    I will be back when I have more time to check it out. I will the say the serving was good.

                    1. re: yimster

                      Thanks for giving it a try and following up on zippo's question.

                      You know, I was looking at a menu for can't remember which restaurant recently, and it was littered with dishes served in a jar. This seems to be a trendy thing, e.g., rillettes in a jar, cheesecake in a jar, creme brulee in a jar, yogurt in a jar. So maybe double boiled soup in a jar will take off, especially when they're as good as Best Taste makes them. Let's not tell anybody that this is a hundreds of years old tradition.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        The menu was a lot of pages, but the waiter was quick in taking my order and I wanted the soup so I did look with more detail but I will be back for the soup. It was as good as home made with the work.

                        1. re: yimster

                          Last night's dinner: 2 double boiled soups @ $1.99 each, 1 salted fish, chicken, tofu clay pot, chinese broccoli w/ garlic, + 1 small bowl of rice = just under $22

                          We were unexpectedly surprised by the full house at 6:45 p.m.

            2. Has anyone tried the clay pot rice at Gum Wah (345 8th St.)? Not sure if they are still serving these, but last time I tried it was about a year ago... Gum Wah's version uses the noh mai fan (glutinous rice) instead. Their serving portion is also slightly larger. Because of the different grain, Gum Wah's comes out a bit richer, with more flavor. Last time I checked, theirs was also higher in price, about $0.50 more. If ordering more than 1 or 2 orders, the wait time is also longer at Gum Wah -- they can only do 2 orders at a time w/ their equipment, whereas Best Taste can do 4. Speaking of wait times, these orders do take time to make, about 20 mins; sometimes I call ahead to order even if I'm planning to eat there.

              Gum Wah
              345 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

              1. Do they serve soup and clay pot rice during lunch?

                2 Replies
                1. re: ckshen

                  Indeed they do. Tried the eel clay pot rice and the pork rib preserved meat clay pot rice. They are both great for the chilly weather. I like the eel version better because the flavor is pretty nuanced. The misses like the rib one better.

                  For the soup, today's is coconut chicken soup. I like it. And it's quite nice @1.99. Tho would love if they offer choices of container sizes at a different price so I can slurp multiple bowls.

                  Thanks for the recommendation.

                  1. re: ckshen

                    Thanks, now I want that for lunch. Need to get back.

                2. Returned again for another wonderful lunch. So far only rice plates and the soup. But will be trying more dishes at a later date. But the soups are wonderful on a cold winters day, it is nice to have soup like this without doing all that work. Nice when someone else does the work.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: yimster

                    Went there today for lunch with a friend. I had the eel clay pot and my friend had beef chow fun. We each had quail double boiled soup, which was very nice and flavorful. I had never eaten eel before, but found it quite tasty. My friend loved his chow fun. The portions were huge.

                    Best Taste also seemed cleaner than most of the other Oakland Chinatown spots, and the waitress was much more accommodating than one expects at such places. She even asked if my friend wanted his chow fun wet or dry.

                  2. Have you been to Taishan Cafe on Clement (at 12th). I'm wondering how the clay pots compare. Taishan has a double boiled chicken ginseng soup as well.. but definitely not for $1.99.

                    I'm a big fan of the soup with the crunch rice (though I usually take it to go and eat it the next day as rice soup).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kairo

                      Ah, Taishan Cafe, yes, but only once 5 years ago. Thanks for the reminder.

                      Taishan has a more rustic style. Best Taste has a bit lighter touch.

                    2. from a lunch at Best Taste last Friday:

                      here's a slideshow of some pictures I took - if the captions don't appear, just click on "Show Info" in the upper right-hand corner:

                      - Chicken ginseng double boiled soup, $1.99 - one or two 3/4" pieces of ginseng (in the photo, a piece of ginseng is in the center of the spoon) with some sweetness from chunks of dark meat chicken which offset any bitterness from the ginseng and what sure looked like a black olive. Any other dishes with olives? I forgot to ask which days they might serve the chicken ginseng. Soup was very good and not heavily salted. Is the paper on the inner cover a seal to keep the juices in and what kind of paper is it?


                      - Roasted duck over rice with cabbage, $5, from the 'Barbecue Rice Plate' section of the menu. A generous portion with a slight crispiness to the skin and a hint of spice (anise?). I agree with Melanie that they have a lighter touch, which I like.

                      They were doing a brisk takeout/delivery business while I was there and many of the customers seemed to be known by the staff.

                      Here's a picture not included in the slideshow:

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: zippo

                        Glad you made it there on ginseng day! As mentioned above, I would be surprised if there was an olive in the soup. The bitter of ginseng needs to be balanced with something sweet and a red date would make more sense. I've always assumed the paper was to help keep the steam in, but don't know for sure. Some places use parchment paper, others use something like brown craft paper.

                        Thanks for the photos.

                        1. re: zippo

                          Zippo, great set of pictures on flickr ! thanks.

                        2. Today's soup was what the waitress called "coconut water chicken" which had chunks of skin on coconut, ginger, the nuts and olive previously mentioned, and a few chunks of dark meat chicken.

                          I liked it. Hot, delicately flavored, and satisfying. It didn't taste like there was coconut water in the broth, just coconut pieces in the water/broth.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: drewskiSF

                            I'm enjoying reading about the different kinds of soup 'hounds are finding here. The coconut chicken sounds lovely.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Also had the coconut chicken soup. Can't be certain that it contained the same ingredients, but ours was definitely with red dates, not olives. Also had coconut flesh, chicken, goji berries, ginger and pork; agree that it probably didn't contain any coconut juice. Loved it.

                              There were several big take-out orders for fried chicken wings (Superbowl?), so we tried a couple. Overly greasy, wouldn't order again. The clay pot rice with frog and black bean sauce spareribs were both very good.

                              1. re: Kirk_T

                                Welcome to Chowhound, Kirk. You've shown your true 'hound colors posting about the French Laundry and also Best Taste. Love it.

                                I was back at Best Taste myself a couple weeks ago and had my fingers crossed that I'd pull the coconut chicken in the soup of the day draw. Nope. But I was happy with the ginseng chicken soup, perfect for a cold night.

                                For our claypot rice, we picked the quail with tender greens. Really liked that too with lightly seasoned quail that was not at all dried out (as too many can be). Another dish that I'd recommend is the chicken-salt fish-tofu clay pot. Ones I would not order again would be the spicy green beans or the dry-style beef chow fun.

                                The French Laundry
                                6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                                Best Taste Restaurant
                                814 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94607

                          2. Had soup and clay pot today. Thanks for the tips--specifically the sauce in the cruet and the soup at the end. So satisfying. I had preserved meat, rich with bacon, sausage, salted pork and a bit of salted chicken wing. My wife had chicken and mushroom. The soup had meaty spare ribs, ginger, ginseng, dates, a bit of what looked like black fungus, something that looked like a hollowed out gingko nut, and some orange-y bits that looked like pine nuts, guessing wolf berries? Really clean despite all the pork and so full flavored. What a treat! Thanks again.

                            1. Well, I finally made it with a few friends and was able to order a decent meal not just a plate rice or chow mein.

                              The soup was ginseng and chicken wonderful on a cold night. Rich and flavorful, worth the trip by itself.

                              Disappointing was the Mongolian Beef and the Eel Clay Pot Rice.

                              OK was the won ton soup

                              Garlic Stir Fry A Choy, Spare Rib Bitter Melon Clay Pot, Spicy Eggplant Clay Pot, BBQ Trio Roast PIg, BBQ Pork and Roast Duck, Preserved Meats Clay Pot Rice.

                              A place worth the trip for the Double Boiled Soup but the rest of the menu is hit and miss.

                              1. Decided to try Gum Wah for claypot rice. Menu choices were exactly the same as Best Taste. Went with sweet rice instead of jasmine for 50 cents more. (Note: prices were higher on check than they were on the wall menu.)

                                Pretty good. No discernable difference in flavor or texture of the rice, which was kind of disappointing. Was not sticky at all, grains were separate. Short grained though, so ended up confused as to whether or not we got sweet or jasmine.

                                Portions of the toppings/garnish were significantly bigger than Best Taste. I got preserved meat and there was bacon, sausage, salted duck, and something else I couldn't identify, and a lot of it. So that was nice. My wife got chix and mushroom and was pleased that the chix was boneless, as she states the chix at Best Taste cuts up her mouth for days.

                                Rice on the sides was a little less crunchy than Best Taste. They just gave us the sauce from the BBQ station in a little bowl instead of having a cruet of something on the table. We asked for soup at the end and the waitress was confused but eventually acquiesced. The broth, as I remember from a visit some time ago, has a strong flavor of MSG/shrimp powder.

                                We also got a combo plate of BBQ pork and roast duck. Duck was very fatty, not so crisp but nicely flavorful. Pork was not good, sliced thin, no real fat or flavor, tasted wan. I like the burnt fatty ends: I wish I knew how to ask for it that way.

                                Overall, a nice claypot experience, not significantly better taste-wise than Best Taste but I did like getting all that yummy preserved meat. It is, as others have mentioned, unremitting in its filth, but we sat near the door so it wasn't so bad.

                                1. In tomorrow's East Bay Express, Luke Tsai highlights the double-boiled soup at Best Taste as "Chinatown's Best Bargain Soup":

                                  "Whether it was a soup made with pork spare ribs and goji berries or another that featured free-range chicken and a starchy knob of ginseng, each of the versions I tried were clean-tasting and loaded with flavor, with a subtle sweetness to the broth from having been infused with sundry Chinese medicinal herbs."