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Jun 25, 2012 05:24 PM

San Francisco Dish of the Month July 2012: Nomination Thread

Based on the success of Cookbook of the Month on the Home Cooking board, I'd like to introduce a new idea to Chowhound. I'm starting this on the San Francisco Bay Area board mainly because I'm based here, and I'd like to participate. But if things are successful this month, hopefully this can expand to other boards too.

The idea is this: choose a 'Dish of the Month' for the SF Bay Area, and then collectively try as many versions of this dish as possible, reporting back with details and photos. In some ways this is similar to the Dim Sum Civil War of 2002, where Chowhounds collectively tried various dim sum places in the Bay Area.....but instead of an entire genre of food, we'll stick to one dish. I think the project should be limited to the specific month (i.e. you must eat the dish during that month—not sometime in the past—and it must be at a restaurant/shop in the SF Bay Area).

We only have 5 days to decide on a food, so I'm starting this nomination thread.....and then on Thursday June 28th I'll create a voting thread with the ideas that resonate.

I'm thinking that the criteria for choosing a dish should be that it's something readily available, but not too generic (i.e. pizza and tacos are too broad) and also affordable for most people (i.e. average cost of the single dish is less than $8)

I have a few ideas, so feel free to agree with these, or contribute others.

1) Banh khot -- Vietnamese shrimp/coconut fritters (see: - they're available at several Bay Area Vietnamese restaurants.

2) Blueberry pancakes -- I'd love to know who makes the best version of these, and I'm willing to try a few to report back!

3) Fried chicken -- This might be too generic? But could be an interesting one.

So, who's in? Any other ideas for our first pick?

Dave MP

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  1. If we end up choosing banh khot, I could imagine doing a South Bay banh khot crawl, hopefully with others. I think this is my current top choice! But I'm still hoping for other nominations.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave MP

      I really like the fried chicken idea, and I've been wanting to try the fried chicken at Cora Jean's Old Skool Cafe in Bayview. And I read in a BOC (Best of Chowhound) that the dish is called: "Someone's Grandmama's Fried Chicken Wings." And if that's not an enticing name, I don't know what is. So I vote fried chicken.

    2. it sounds great - i'd like to participate, not sure how much/often i can, but would be willing to try!

      i love the idea of Banh khot, but now that you've mentioned that, I would also like to find the best Banh xeo, too.... maybe those two can be combined....

      maybe, also (i don't know the proper name of the dish): sichuan cold pork in spicy garlic sauce?

      if i think of something else, I'll come back to this post. Thanks!

      2 Replies
      1. re: mariacarmen

        suan ni bai rou (literally garlic mud white meat)

      2. I like the Banh khot idea.

        I'd be game for American style fried chicken in the winter when the best sides are available. But "asian" chicken wings would be something I'd be up for now. Some recent ones I've had of note would be Ichi sushi's yuzu sous vide, Toyose's Korean Fried Chicken, and New Sun Hong Kong's tangy chicken wings (similar style to San Tung, but without the gloop)

        3 Replies
        1. re: hyperbowler

          These ideas are great. My two cents, not necessarily for July, are knife-cut noodles and chawanmushi, both of which are pretty specific, affordable and have multiple purveyors.

          1. re: hyperbowler

            i would be sooo into Korean Fried Chicken....

            and chawanmushi.

            1. re: hyperbowler

              If we do Asian Fried Chicken this month, I forgot to mention one place. Dan Sung Sa in Oakland has outstanding spicy sauced fried chicken wings. As a bonus, the leftovers are great cold and stay crunchier than most place's fresh wings.

            2. Knife-cut noodles seem cool. So do chicken wings, though American-style fried chicken seems its own thing. Maybe strictly Asian ones?
              Other random ideas: pozole, carnitas (definitely got a theme emerging), bun cha?

              1. This is the last chance to nominate foods for the first round of Dish of the Month. I'll be creating the voting thread this afternoon!

                As of now, the nominated foods that I'm planning to include in the voting thread are:

                Banh khot
                Asian fried chicken
                American fried chicken
                Suan ni bai rou
                Knife-cut noodles

                I picked these for inclusion since all were mentioned by more than one person. But if anyone wants to add anything else, you have until 3 PM PST!

                12 Replies
                1. re: Dave MP

                  Great idea! How about soup dumplings? I've been on a mission to find some that are descent and close to Din Tai Fung, but haven't had any luck in the Bay Area.

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    When choosing a cookbook of the month, besides the topic ,I consider whether I own the book or whether it is available at the library (number of copies etc).

                    Perhaps it would be nice to know for these dishes where some of the restaurants that are considered good are located so we can make a calculated guess -- how far we will travel, how many restaurants within a certain distance etc ; so when I would vote for a dish I would look at which dish I'm most interested in and then factor in some other considerations.

                    1. re: SueF

                      Very good idea.

                      Knife-cut noodles:
                      Shan Dong, Oakland
                      China Village (closed currently), Albany
                      Five Happiness, SF Richmond District
                      Beijing Restaurant, SF Excelsior
                      Joy Restaurant, Foster City
                      Darda Seafood, Milpitas

                      1. re: SueF

                        Yep, good idea. And I'll also add that I think we should try to stick to items that are somewhat widely available (i.e. at enough restaurants that there will be available versions in at least the East Bay, SF, and South Bay)

                        Banh khot are available at several SF restaurants (in the Tenderloin, Sunset, and elsewhere), and at some Vietnamese places in the East Bay, and definitely at a few in San Jose area (there's even a restaurant in San Jose named for this dish)

                        Asian fried chicken is broad enough that it's available all Korean restaurants in particular, but elsewhere too. American fried chicken is also everywhere.

                        I'm not as sure about chawanmushi and suan ni bai rou.

                        My hope for this project is that we'll collectively eat the dish at as many of the known places as possible....but also that we can seek out unknown versions of the dish, perhaps at places that aren't necessarily known for it. There are definitely Chinese restaurants that I frequent that have versions of fried chicken wings that I've never tried...and this project will be an excuse to try them out!

                        Only 30 mins left until I put up the voting thread!

                        Dave MP

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          Actually, part of the fun should be to find new places offering these dishes instead of rehashing the known quantities. You know, act like chowhounds. And get outside the City of San Francisco . . . so many things are done better in the 'burbs.

                          Every genuine Sichuan restaurant has suan ni bai rou (cold pork belly in garlic sauce) on the cold appetizer menu, as well as some others.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Exactly. A big reason to do this project is to discover new places throughout the entire Bay Area!

                          2. re: Dave MP

                            After I posted about great chawanmushi at Takara, lots of people chimed in with their recommendations in this thread:

                            I'd be curious about not-in-SF stops, too. The spirit of the hunt!

                            1. re: Dave MP

                              "Asian fried chicken is broad enough that it's available all Korean restaurants in particular, but elsewhere too. "

                              Apologies for the late thought here --- Asian fried chicken is much too broad a category to have a meaningful look at the huge variety of dishes available in the Bay Area. Kara-age, ayam goreng, pritong manok, tori kara namban, yang nyeom tong dak . . . and I'm not even iterating the various Chinese preps deserve a closer examination as well as learning their proper names.

                              (Similarly, let's avoid lumping pasta carbonara and käsespätzle together under the heading of "European cheesey pastas".)

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                I understand what you're saying here, but for the purposes of this project, I don't think I agree. For me, the point of this project is to encourage people to discover new foods, new dishes, and new restaurants....things they might not normally order, and places they might not normally go. I think that if we pick a very specific dish, like banh khot, we'll accomplish this (and it would be great, particularly for people who've never had this dish), but the project will be equally successful with a broad category like Asian fried chicken. The category is broad, but specific enough (specific protein, a specific cooking method, and a specific differentiation from American Southern fried chicken) that I think the results would still be meaningful. I recognize the problems with grouping distinct dishes/cuisines together in a category like "Asian fried chicken," but I think that bigger categories like these might also be more accessible to people, since they will have more choice in where to find the dishes. So that's why I voted for Asian fried chicken (though I'd be very happy if banh khot wins too!)

                                Also, for the record, I wouldn't have any problem with a category like "European cheesey pastas" - if I'm craving cheesy pasta, it would be great to know the various options in the area to get some combination of pasta+cheese, whether it's Italian, German, etc.

                                I'm pretty excited about this project regardless of what gets picked, and it's really up to everyone! So everyone should go vote here. Voting ends tomorrow!

                                Dave MP

                                1. re: Dave MP

                                  I guess the point is that the "Asian fried chicken" is not a dish, as you say, it's a category of sorts. Banh khot is a dish, suan ni bai rou is a dish. I'm sure the "Dish of the Month" run will be fun no matter what's picked. . . even if it's not the one dish but a genre (which seems contrary to the concept outlined your opening post).

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Along these lines, for future months, we should discuss whether a central (and special) component is the focus, or the actual dish. For example, I can't say this is true for knife-shaved noodles, but most places serving hand-pulled noodles represent them in several different soups and maybe a stir fried dish or two. We should be clear, or directly unclear, about whether we want to compare subtle variations on a fully prepared dish, or see what a specialty item is capable of.

                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      Good concept --- be clear or intentionally fuzzy. I appreciate your clarity! :)

                                      Maybe the "Asian" fried chicken hunt will turn up an edible version of General Tso's chicken.