At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Monday, December 31, 2012

POSSIBLY THE WORST FOOD IN CHINATOWN

Shan't say which restaurant, as you are not likely to ever go there unless you are originally from Hong Kong, in which case you already know better. But it was not a good experience. Fish collops and eggplant in a clay pot, the best part being the five or six bellpepper slivers thrown on top for colour.
I've had better rice, too.
But the milk-tea was excellent.
And the service was absolutely stellar.


The last time I went there the service was stressed out and absurdly haphazard, and the food was right on the cusp of mediocre. But on the wrong end thereof, where the howling pit of bad buggery awful stares up at the diner gnashing its teeth.
I am strangely fond of establishments that try so apathetically.
And in the case of this particular place I have never yet had a good meal.
It just isn't in the cards.


Eating there is like being on a date with a lovely young lady whose spongy brain is entirely occupied by handbags, fashion accessories, how to be fabulous, and Hello Kitty. It looks good, but you do not wish to invite it in for coffee unless you are Hugh Heffner. You would much rather run away screaming at the end of the date, or go to the bathroom and never come back.

I left a very good tip.
As I said, the service was excellent.


On the other hand, I've noticed a restaurant nearby with high ceilings and chandeliers that I would really like to try some day. But I rather suspect that they do not have much that is suited to the single diner.
So it will have to wait.




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HO SI FAT CHOI - HOW TO PREPARE DRIED OYSTERS WITH HAIR VEGETABLE

For the benefit of everyone who wishes to know how to prepare dried oysters with hair-vegetable, here's the link:
http://atthebackofthehill.blogspot.com/2011/02/ho-si-fat-choi-dried-oysters-with-black.html.

[Dried oyster and hair vegetable (ho si fat choi) is a typical Cantonese dish often served on Chinese New Year and at auspicious events. The name is written using the phrase 好事發財, which expresses a wish for prosperity and good fortune.]


好事發財


Ho si: 蠔豉
Fat choi: 髮菜


Note: also appropriate for festive occasions is sea cucumber.
For more on that subject, and cooking instructions, click here:

海參

Sea cucumber (hoi sam 海參) can be found in grocery stores that specialize in dried ingredients, as well as some herb stores and supermarkets, in many Chinese neighborhoods. Soaking hoi sam in preparation of cooking will take a few days, so you must plan ahead. Change the water at least twice a day. When softened, clean grit out of the cavity, slice, and blanch. The full process is described in the string of posts that clicking that link will pull up, and your merchant will also be able to explain it thoroughly.



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Sunday, December 30, 2012

HABITS OF THE SOCIAL ANIMAL

Scattered drifts whirl around in the cold wind, and Nob Hill at twilight presents an antique image. We do not burn the fallen leaves, there is no smell of distant fires.
But the fragrance of my pipe provides a dissident note.

The views yesterday were splendid, the Bay is beautiful on a clear winter day.
 I rarely pause to admire the vistas of Angel Island or Alcatraz, and regarding the Golden Gate Bridge, it is at it's best when you cross it in fog.
But I do not tire of the streetscapes in my part of the city; the slopes of the hills -- Nob, Telegraph, Russian -- and the narrow one-way streets that cross over, as well as stretches that are dense with trees, such as Hyde Street between Washington and Broadway. That, probably, is my favourite stroll. It is near the apartment, and far enough uphill that neither alcoholics nor tourists infest it much, though they roll through on the cablecar periodically. This is a mixed neighborhood, with shops and many small restaurants, some very inexpensive, some far less so.
Perfect for a stroll and a pipe at teatime as the scant daylight of December fades.

Years ago there were half a dozen bookstores within ten minutes easy walk of home. For reasons I need not detail there is only one left. There are fewer "destinations" for the wandering bachelor, and though there are coffee shops a-plenty, you will understand that besides being non-smoking environments, they too no longer present a welcome end of the journey.
There's something off-putting about places filled with yuppy cellphone yack or laptop frenzy. Do people even own books anymore?
If so, how did they buy them, and where do they read?


I suspect that walking around with a book nowadays is similar in some ways to showing a visible disease. Unsettling, and evidence of tree-murder and deviance.

Much like enjoying a pipe.
But at least I have earthmother repellent.
It's at full blast, offending greenie-weenies wherever I go.


If certain old-fashioned vices don't displease you, you could join me.


You might end up smelling faintly smoky, though.


I hope you don't mind.


We can read a bit.


Some tea?






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UNO MAS, CON TODO!

What many of the late-up-staying residents of San Francisco know is that the food options after midnight in this city are strange and wonderful.
In consequence of which I slept fitfully.


DREAM ONE

I'm out on a date with the girl of my dreams - Suzie Derkins. Did I ever mention that I'm a sucker for smart chicks? This girl is it; clever, funny, and an A student. Unfortunately, the dinner of fried rat grosses her out.
Wake up.


DREAM TWO

I never go down to the wharf. Now I know why. One is likely to get mugged there.
While shopping for stylish San Francisco Giants gear, I become aware of a sharp stabbing pain in my ankle. And a squeaking noise. When I look down, there's a small hamster wearing a turtleneck trying to saw my foot off with a nail file.
I've heard of such things. Gift hamsters, once the thrill has worn off, end up neglected and become delinquent. They start taking drugs and run away from home, to waylay tourists and knock-over souvenir shops at the piers.
It's San Francisco's secret shame.
Heck, they may look all cute and innocent. But those lovable furry beasts are playing you for a sucker. While you're at work, they're turning your apartment into a crack house, and renting out your station wagon to criminals.
Hamsters, everyone knows, are extremely bad news.
But fortunately you can easily outrun them.
I never did buy the baseball cap.
And I've still got my feet.
Despite furry thugs.
Wake up.


UNO MAS, POR FAVOR, CON TODO

At around two in the morning I went down the street to the Walgreens, where an unlicensed food vendor sets up shop on the sidewalk late at night. Bacon-wrapped dog, bun, mustard - mayo - ketchup, plenty grilled onions, pickled chili peppers. Si, con todo. Gracias.
I had two of them. It was a good idea at the time.
How was I to know about the dreams?

Suzie Derkins was the round-headed girl in Calvin & Hobbes. The comic strip stopped running in 1995, so she's probably all grown-up now, and doing post-graduate studies at some place like Princeton or Harvard. I'm guessing an impossibly wichtige major, like mediaeval art history with an emphasis on surviving heathen elements in church decoration, or the hidden morals in mythology.
But she still has tea-parties with her dolls.

Hamsters are cup-sized animals originally native to the Middle-East.
They can live for about three years. To their owners they have distinct personalities.
I'll agree that they are rather cute.
Rats are more intelligent.

By the way: I never wear clothing with sports emblems or logos. No team-branded sweatshirts, no Forty-Niners sleepwear, no San Francisco Giants baseball caps.
All such things look stupid.



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Saturday, December 29, 2012

THE MISSING CHOPSTICKS

The other day I made a lovely curry containing zucchini (courgettes), potatoes, and tofu. The base was Thai red curry paste, garlic, stinky shrimp paste, hot red chilies, plus some fresh herbs, with coconut milk, stock, lemon grass, and a squeeze of lime with some of the grated rind to finish. Great over rice noodles.
There was, of course, too much for the single man.
And it will not freeze well.
Fun dinner, though.

My apartment mate has a different food schedule, and mostly eats at earlier times of the day than I do, and would certainly not even think of curry for breakfast.

Maybe the single man needs a kitchen midden.
Or at least a compost heap.


I regret not having someone to eat with. Food is much more fun when shared, and the possibilities are more expansive for couples. Often I eat in Chinatown, but as you know Chinese restaurants usually have menus that offer a wide choice for plural diners, but fewer options for the solitary person. And there is no conversation.

Still, a lot of fun can be had sitting alone at a table in an eatery on Stockton Street, observing people and listening in. White folks are nearly invisible, and unless I let the cat out of the bag, no one realizes that I understand Cantonese.

Yes, I often do let the cat out of the bag.

Placing an order for the nam-yu roast chicken over rice (南乳烤雞飯 'naam yu haau kai faan') is just easier that way. And anything containing bitter melon (苦瓜, 凉瓜 'fu-gwa', 'leung-gwa') will prompt the waitress to worriedly inform one that it is nigh inedible if one didn't ask for it in Chinese.

[In fact, the only place where I've never yet spoken Cantonese is my barber shop. So I get to hear the conversations all around me entirely in private. No, they do not talk about Whitey. There are far more important things in life to discuss. Like the weather, for instance. Or food.]


冇筷子 MOW FAAI JI

After thoroughly enjoying my own meal, I sipped my coffee and observed the people at other tables. I had found a seat in the back, and consequently could see everyone else in the place without being particularly noticeable myself. The restaurant was booming, despite it being near closing time. The wait staff were preoccupied with putting stuff away for tomorrow, and cleaning the counter area.
The faster they finished, the sooner they could go home.
A bit understaffed - the helpful Ah-Sook was absent.

[Ah-Sook: uncle, how men of indeterminate age are addressed. Anyone between forty and four hundred is 'Ah-Sook' (阿叔). The term 'sook' indicates a man who is younger than one's father, specifically his younger brother. The corresponding term for women is 'auntie': Ah-Yi (阿姨).]

A late middle-aged woman two tables over had placed an order, and seemed sad that what she wanted had not come yet. Finally the waitress brought over her bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup (牛肉河粉湯), placed it in front of the customer, and quickly returned to her other duties.

The woman looked around. Stared at the rack where there should have been chopsticks. There were none, it was empty. Then she sought to get the attention of the waitress. Any waitress. The wait staff were bustling, and did not notice. She looked over at the rack on her table again, then at other tables. But all the other tables were occupied, and simply sliding over and snagging chopsticks, well, no. Quite unthinkable.
She looked at her noodle soup. So close. So close!

Rice stick noodles, fresh crunchy beansprouts, sliced jalapeño, pink meat.....
The tempting aromas of basil and cilantro, as well as the fragrance of lime.....

I had seen her happily squeeze the citrus into the hot bowl.
It was the only thing she could do without utensils.
But she could not eat without proper equipment.
And she was well aware of that.
It was a knowledge more painful with each passing second.

When she looked over at where the waitress was packing stuff into the refrigerator, she could not catch her eye.

Finally she let loose a disconsolate wail.


"MOW FAAI-JI!!!!!!"


Do you remember that scene in the Jazz Singer? The one where Laurence Olivier (Cantor Rabbinowitz) howls: "Eye. Haff. No. Chop. Stick!"

Precisely so.

Before the waitress could even react, I scooted over and wordlessly handed her a pair of chopsticks in their fresh paper sleeve. The rack on my table was still supplied.

You cannot eat noodle soup without chopsticks.

Back at my table I continued observing, while studiously looking elsewhere. The mirror along one wall. The reflective surfaces of the display cases and counters. The polished metal of the big cafeteria coffee and hot water machine.
Don't want to seem like I'm staring, you know.
Vietnamese noodle soup is a multi-sensual experience. Slithery rice stick noodles, tasty crunchy bits, lovely smells and textures, savoury meat......
All in a lovely deep broth.


You cannot eat noodle soup without a spoon either.


Scooted over with one of those too, before she could become unhappy again.



慢慢食,阿姨。




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Friday, December 28, 2012

DON'T OFFEND THE RABBIT!

For some reason I myself don't understand, I went to have a caffeinated beverage at the Caffe Trieste in North Beach. And I'm glad I did.
Years ago I would go there nearly every day for a latte in the morning, because it was conveniently close and they really are the only place in San Francisco that can make a latte -- not entirely sure what all those other places do, but calling a mildly flavoured wussy warmed milk drink a latte does not make it so -- however I rarely visit the Trieste nowadays.

No, I still like the place. It's the customers that I object to.
I just don't have much tolerance for "artistic" types.
North Beach still has far too many of those.
It's a Bermuda Triangle of attitudes.


There were three other people sitting near me, two of whom were deep in conversation. The third was happily relating to her bunny rabbit, and studiously ignoring the adults.
Precisely that made me notice them. Cute little girl, big blue rabbit.
You don't often see a bunny rabbit wearing a ballerina dress.

"It's that place that used to do pies on Washington, you know, Sun Wah Kue. They do noodles now"

My ears perked up. The restaurant the woman mentioned happens to be a favourite lunch spot of mine - San Sun Restaurant. What had been there for many years was an old-time Chinatown standard that many people still remember.
Sun Wah Kue (新華僑餐廳) was famous for their orange pie, as well as fried chicken and daily lunchcounter-type specials. Their apple pie was probably the best in the city. You could sit there for hours drinking coffee and reading the newspapers on a wet day. Heaven.
Unfortunately they closed down a long time ago.

San Sun (三陽咖啡餐屋) moved into that location last year. They have an extensive menu, but what they do best is phở.

"Robert LIKES noodles!"

That was the little girl's first contribution to the conversation. The man looked startled, and said "her name is Robert? What kind of stupid name is that for a girl?!?"
It was probably the ballerina dress that confused him. Boys rarely wear those.
The little girl indignantly replied "Robert is a MAN!"
"Why is he wearing those clothes then?"
"They're nice!"
"Hah, he looks silly."

"NO HE DOESN'T!!!"

"Whatever."

The man and the woman continued their discussion, and the little girl again gave her full attention to her bunny. I could hear her murmuring, and even though I wasn't trying to listen in, I distinctly heard her extracting a promise from Robert that uncle George would NEVER get noodles again. Ever!

Especially not on Easter!

At this point I was fascinated. The idea that there is a big blue rabbit (in a ballerina dress) who goes around gifting noodles on Easter is enchanting.
Who wouldn't want festive pasta instead of eggs?
Boiled eggs, feh!
I was beginning to feel sorry for uncle George, who wasn't going to get anything at a time when everyone else would be enjoying their noodles.

Sometimes you just have to stare off into space while dawdling immensely over your hot beverage. Pretend like you aren't even aware of what's going on around you. Like a little girl assuring her bunny rabbit (Robert) that uncle George was, in all ways, a real "dick head".

"Melanie! Don't say such things!"

"It wasn't me, it was Robert!"

"One of these days I'm going to wash his mouth out with soap!"

"No noodles for you!"

The woman was completely nonplussed. Clearly she didn't know that her daughter's stuffed animal went around giving everyone noodles at Eastertime.
How ignorant can you get? I mean really!
After extracting a commitment from Melanie to NOT say THAT word again, even if she was 'quoting Robert', a very bad bunny by the way, she returned her attention to the man identified as 'uncle George'.

Who was still quite unaware that he wouldn't get noodles.


Probably because he's a dick head.


On the other hand, I'm looking forward to Easter.
I like noodles.



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Thursday, December 27, 2012

VIGILANCE IN THE FACE OF POPULIST WORDS

Bart De Wever angrily accuses the Belgian monarch of implicitly calling him a fascist.
This, following the holiday speech by King Albert.
Bart De Wever is, perhaps, an idiot.

And almost beyond any doubt a fascist.

Sorry, my dear man, but you are. You and your entire Flemish movement are modern European fascists. You are more polite and polished than the radical ultra-left and the far-right extremists, but no less toxic.
Flemish Nationalism is the ethnic exceptionalism of small minds and decaying relevances.

To quote King Albert: "Altijd zoeken ze naar zondebokken voor de crisis, ofwel zijn het de vreemdelingen, ofwel landgenoten uit een ander landsdeel -- de crisis van de jaren dertig en de populistische reacties die ze teweegbracht, mogen niet worden vergeten."

[Translation: 'Always they seek scapegoats for the crisis, either it's the foreigners, or countrymen from a different region. The crisis during the thirties and the populist reactions that it caused may not be forgotten']


Random question, my dear mr. De Wever - how many Flemings fought with the SS on the Eastern Front?
No, that is NOT an irrelevant historical detail, because as you know, Flemish Nationalism in the post war period has been sodden with collaborationists seeking the rehabilitation of a generation that excelled solely at mediocrity and opportunism.
Again, how many Flemings?

Every Belgian who died in Russia, and every Belgian that returned thence, once the Third Reich collapsed, was a proud Flemish Nationalist.
Indeed, that was long ago, and most of that crop have since departed.
But their stench remains.


"In de verwarrende tijden die we nu meemaken, moeten we waakzaam blijven en de populistische betoogtrant helder doorzien. Altijd zoeken ze naar zondebokken voor de crisis, ofwel zijn het de vreemdelingen, ofwel landgenoten uit een ander landsdeel."


Mijnheer De Wever, u bent werkelijk een Fascist. Daar valt absoluut niet aan te twijfelen. U, en uw partijgenoten vertegenwoordigen een geniepigheid en kleinzierigheid dat van uw eigen volk, de Vlamingen, een middelmaatse meute van min-betekenis maakt, en alle anderen nabij de vijand roept.

U bent, weliswaar, meer "genuanceerd" dan menig Europeesche populist.
Maar niet minder giftig.


The ideology of Flemish Nationalism, mister De Wever, at its heart says first the foreigners, then the Walloons, and then everyone who does not fit.
All else is mere camouflage and window dressing.

Your king was being diplomatic.

He should have called you by name, and called you a bastard.

Mister De Wever, fifteen generations ago, ancestors of mine escaped the Catholic terror in the south of the Netherlands. Thirteen generations ago we arrived in New Amsterdam. Five generations ago, Dutch was still, remarkably, our language as much as English.
I speak Dutch, fluently. I know the history of Les Pays-Bas Bourguignons from Roman times to the present better even than American history.
And I identify myself as in part Netherlandish-American.

You are a Fleming. You therefore represent the same Netherlandish cultural and historic inheritance as I do.
But you and I have nothing in common.


And you want Flanders to separate from her kin, and go it alone.


In the mediaeval play Mariken van Nieumeghen, the heroine leaves home and goes to live with Satan for several years in Antwerpen.
Antwerpen is a city which will always be dear to me.
It remains eternally the best of Flanders.
But the devil still lives there.




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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CANTONESE ROAST GOOSE

Perhaps it is a little too late for this. If you celebrated Christmas, you have probably already had your roast bird. And you regretfully marvelled at the frightening inedibility of Turkey. Why, you wonder, does anyone still eat that horrid creature? Surely it is best suited to being a Bourbon trademark?
Well, yes.

Turkey is a dry and not very exciting fowl.

Goose, on the other hand........

A fine Cantonese-style roast goose, succulent and crispy skinned. And if you've seen Hong Kong movies, you may remember scenes where working men purchased their lunches from dai pai dong and hunkered down to a scrumptious feast.
Roast goose and some veggies over a bowl of rice.
Siu ngoh fan: 燒鵝飯.

[If you don't know what I'm talking about, head over to Yee's Restaurant (文仔記燒臘茶餐廳) at 1131 Grant Avenue, between Pacific and Broadway. Don't worry, a serving of siu ngoh fan won't break the bank. Very affordable at $7.95. Ho peng, ho sik. Yee's is also a cha chanteng (茶餐廳), a "tea restaurant" - so also have a cup of Hong Kong milk-tea (yit nai cha: 热奶茶).]

Obviously, you cannot shlep the gonze mishpoche over to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner. It just isn't done.
Something very wrong with that.

But you can make Cantonese roast goose at home. And serve it with an array of other scrumptious dishes, not even leaving your kitchen a mess.
It is not difficult.


燒鵝 SIU NGOH - ROAST GOOSE

Trim -- wash -- dry -- roast.
Chop, and eat.
Simple.

Purchase your fresh goose a few days in advance of dinner.  When you've got him home, trim off the excess flaps of fat at the neck and reserve, and tip the wings, as the extreme ends of these are virtually useless and will char in the oven.
Save all this for broth and extracting the delicious fat.

Remove the neck and pack of giblets from the cavity.
These can be used as you see fit (goose stock).
Place the goose in a deep pan with a rack.

Now heat a cauldron with water, soy sauce, and sugar or honey.
Proportions: for every cup of water, one to two TBS each soy sauce and sugar or honey. In HK cooks would use Maltose, but that is a bit hard to find over here.
Add whole star anise and a jigger of black vinegar if you feel like it.
Bring to a roiling boil.

Ladle this over the bird, making sure to pour it over the skin entire.
Decant the liquid from the deep pan back into the cauldron, and bring it back to boil. Repeat the procedure. This tightens the skin, which will help it become crisp. The soy sauce adds a little flavour, the sugar or honey will let it brown evenly and deeply, when one or two days hence it is being roasted.

[When doing this to fowl, I usually add a few thick slices of ginger. You may also add a handful of fresh-roasted coffee beans - the ghostly remaining hint on the bird will add a haunting and mysterious fragrance, without dominating the taste.]

There is no set number of washings with the hot liquid, but do it at least once.
You will see the skin tightening up, and three times is probably best.

When this has been done, shove the largest size funnel you have into the rear of the bird, then set it upright so that no part of the skin need touch anything, and place it in your refrigerator for a day or two to dry.
If you do not have an extra large kitchen funnel, make do -- an empty whiskey or brandy bottle will also work, as long as the outer surface of the bird is clear.

On the day when you wish to eat the beast, take it out of the refrigerator and heat the oven up to four hundred and twenty five degrees Fahrenheit (220 grades of Celsius, more or less).
Bung the bird in the oven, and roast for about an hour and three quarters.
Which is about twelve minutes per pound.

You will use a rack, of course, and rotate the bird a couple of times. For the first hour of roasting, it might be best to cover with aluminium foil to prevent excessive darkening.
If, at the end of cooking, there are parts which still look pale, it is perfectly all right to "retouch" those areas with the kitchen torch.
Assuming that you have such a thing.

Remove the bird from the oven, and let it stand for about thirty minutes.
To serve, either waste a lot of time carving it, for an American - British - European presentation, or place it on the block and chop it Chinese style, which is much more efficient, and a hell of a lot easier.
Remember, chopstickable pieces!


ROAST GOOSE IN HONG KONG

If you are visiting the Special Administrative Region, you will probably want to have Cantonese roast goose while you are there. It is a famous Hong Kong specialty.
Hong Kong people, like their kin across the border in Guangzhou (廣州), are keenly knowledgeable and passionate about eating, especially roast meats (siu-mei: 燒味) and superlatively fresh sea food.
A whole steamed grouper (jing sek-paan yü: 蒸石斑魚) and a lovely roast bird at your banquet are essential.


There are three great goose restaurants that come to mind.

裕記大飯店 Yue Kee Taai Fan-Diem
9 Sham Hong Road, Sham Tseng
New Territories, Hong Kong.
新界, 深井, 深康路 9號

深井陳記燒鵝酒家 Sham-Tseng Chan Kee Siu Ngoh Jau-Ka
Ground floor, 63 Sham Tseng Village, Castle Peak Road, Sham Tseng
New Territories, Hong Kong.
新界, 深井, 青山公路, 深井村 63號, 地下

鏞記酒家 Yung Kee Jau-Ka
32-40 Wellington Street, Central
Hong Kong Island
中環, 威靈頓街 32-40 號

All three are excellent choices.  The first two are in Sham-Tseng out in the New Territories (san-kai 新界), which is reachable by public transit. Both of these are considerably more reasonably priced than the last restaurant mentioned, but Yung Kee is by far the most famous, having served princes, presidents, and potentates.


SIU-MEI IN THE BAY AREA

Here in San Francisco, we aren't famous for goose. Somewhat cynically, I would add that any culinary fame we have is a vast over-statement, as most restaurants have more style pretensions and higher prices than is really warranted.
Excepting, of course, our very best restaurants.
Many of which are actually Chinese.
With only a few others.


As an alternative to goose, you can also eat roast duck. Cantonese roast duck in Chinatown is a LOT cheaper than expensive canard in a snooty place that aspires to European standards.

新凱豐燒臘店 San Hoi Fung Siu-Lahp Diem
Gourmet Delight Barbecue
1045 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.
415-392-3288.
Note: strictly take-out.

港新寶燒腊小食 Gong San Po Siu-Lahp Siu-Sik
Kam Po (H.K.) - Kam Po Kitchen
801 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133.
415-982-3516.
Mostly take-out, eat-in also possible.

文仔記燒臘茶餐廳 Man Chai Kee Siu-Lahp Cha Chan-Teng
Yee's Restaurant
1131 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133
415-576-1818.
Extensive menu, excellent roast meats.
Table seating suitable for large groups, couples, and single people. They have what your heart desires. Sit down and eat.


Final note, for anyone cooking goose or duck at home: avoid overmuch use of garlic; it makes fatty birds taste salami-like. A fine thing in its own way, but it really ruins the goose or duck.



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YOUR OVERDUE RECOVERY

Now that Christmas is over, you've woken up to the fact that, musically at least, the entire last month and a half has been indescribably ghastly.
Fact is, if any hamsters (or gerbils) sang anywhere near you right now, you'd probably kill them.
Stuff their little cadavers into the garbage disposal pronto.
Not even reserve them for the compost heap.


Daemonic hamsters (and gerbils) are just one of those things that makes the commercialization of the holiday season such an abomination.

But it's over now, you can return to sanity.

And, coincidentally, I have the music that makes it possible.


A BETTER CELEBRATION!


[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1UvrUnAxKc.]


Didn't that sound so much nicer?
And more real, too.


Here it is, almost exactly two years later, and I still do not know why she is carrying a stuffed pig. Or is that a fat bunny rabbit?



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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH FRUIT CAKES

There are two fruitcakes in my kitchen right now.
I have no idea how they got there. This must be the mysterious confectionery multiplication that I've heard about. They increase exponentially.
One single fruitcake leaves Texas every year. Just one.
And before you know it, they are everywhere.
Cell-division, like a primitive life-form.
By the time the solstice comes around, civilization is awash with fruitcakes, then just as suddenly they disappear.
It's a mystery.

I am alone in the house. With TWO fruitcakes.

And, remarkably, I think I now must wander around the neighborhood smoking my pipe.
If I should see a nice young woman who looks lonesome, I will likely ask her in, to share some fruitcake.

[Not, strictly speaking, the most practical of ideas at present, as it is raining buckets outside; but a drenched orphan might appreciate it.]

Hello, Young Lady! Can I offer you some fruitcake?
I have EXCELLENT fruitcake at home!
Two of them. Please.

The world is NOT ready for anyone tempting innocent young persons with a promise of divine fruitcake. That is the kind of queer shiznit you read about in newspapers.

"ELDERLY DELINQUENT THREATENS FRUITCAKE!"

This, you will agree, would be the perfect holiday headline in the San Francisco Chronicle. A middle-aged bachelor using fruitcakes as a decadent and possibly depraved lure for the unwary. The city is a dangerous place, when people like me lurk in residential neighborhoods with fruitcakes.

Miss, I'm going to feed you fruitcake.
Till you scream.

I am evil.


Nevertheless, they are truly wonderful fruitcakes. And there is far more than I can possibly eat by myself; I should like some help. But being both a practical man as well as just a wee bit gluttonous, I do NOT want the assistance of someone with a humongous appetite.
Forgive me, but I wish to consume the greater portion.
So naturally a youthful female of modest physical dimension comes to mind as the logical partner in fruitcake.
Her dietary self-control will limit her intake.
We'll have equal portions, with cocoa.
Later I will walk her home.

Then at around two in the morning, I shall have some more.
Toasted, with melted butter, and a little whisky.

Percentage-wise, I get most of it.

Unless she twists my arm.


Or offers me a carrot.



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A HAPPY PIG

When I left the house for Marin County yesterday afternoon, there was a small pig sitting outside the church. No, this little fellow was not up for adoption, nor did it appear to be abandoned. The car parked at the curb next to the pet-carrier looked like it came from somewhere rural, and there was a farm trailer hitched behind.

Somebody is getting a special visit this Christmas.
That pig is still very young, not even one hundred pounds.
Personable and charming; a real sweetie-pie among the pork.

It sat in its carrier on the sidewalk, calmly surveying the passing scene with bright intelligent eyes and an intrigued expression on its face. Not sure what the next few hours would bring, but confident that good things would happen.
As, indeed, any pet pig should naturally assume.
A creature whose bipedal associates have extended the trotter of friendship.
This particular porcine individual seemed very well behaved.
And full of the proper holiday spirit.


I am certain that there is a little girl in this neighborhood who has read Charlotte's Web, or seen the movie Babe. She must be ecstatic.
Quite likely her guest-pig is only temporarily in town -- landlords in the city are not fond of livestock -- but for both of them it will be the very best Christmas ever, and the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Whichever relatives brought along their pig have scored a mighty coup.
I cannot imagine a more delightful reunion.

It makes me wish that I was that age, and had pigs in the family.
She is a lucky child, and I would love to see her face.
Her smile will be absolutely radiant.


Merry whatever the heck it is that we're celebrating.

Insert your own silly joke about "hog-heaven" here.


I'm envious. Of both of them.
You probably are too.



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Monday, December 24, 2012

POINTLESS TIME WASTING

Good morning. It's Christmas eve. Most people are starting to run around frantically right about now, as they realize they have less than fourteen hours to buy some tacky crap for their beloved friends and relatives. They dawdled, they postponed, they did other things.......
They counted on the Mayan Zombie Apocalypse, figuring that when the feathered serpent demons came there would be no need to get aunt Getrude and Uncle Janosc bupkes, because after all if the Mayans were right, Santa did NOT spring forth from a giant purple egg in 1776 when the Peruvians landed the Mayflower......

Unfortunately, December 21 came and went.
The world did not explode in 2012.
You still have to buy gifts.
Hurry, hurry!


They're YOUR aunt Gertrude and uncle Janosc.
I don't have to get them jack.
I can watch youtube all day.

Youtube, in a disturbingly big brotherish intrusion, now keeps track of what people look for, and makes suggestions based on recent viewing.

Here are the first two things youtube thinks I should see.



DUDE ARGUING WITH A BIRD

[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2E7akTESzA.]

That bird totally owns him.


A POPULAR BONGLO RECIPE

[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63hlG66Pr4g.]

I like a good maacher jhol as much as the next man, but I am not so fond of jeera, and I would expect youtube to know that.
I cannot recall EVER searching for cumin on youtube.

What were they thinking?


By the way, you've now wasted over ten precious minutes of the LAST shopping day before Crotchmatch. Aunt Gertrude and uncle Janosc, remember?


It's time to frenzy.



Psst! Here's another great crow video: CLICK.



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Sunday, December 23, 2012

IT'S JUST YOUR IMAGINATION

The person with whom I share living space is absolutely convinced that A) there are snow weasels; and B) a savage horde of them are lurking in our neighborhood right now, intent upon eating her.
She can hear them, and the clatter of their cutlery.

No, she isn't insane. She treats metaphors and subconscious embodiments as reality. I would not describe that as anything more than a somewhat minor dysfunctionality.

Evenso, I have tried explaining that there are no such animals as snow weasels, nor have the little flesh-eating pests constructed a trail down from the frigid northlands, littered with the bones of their victims and discarded cutlery.

To no avail.


SO BALLY COLD!

Earlier today, when I came out of the bath and was dressing myself, I could hear her in her room muttering disconsolately "snow weasels, so bally cold, snow weasels!" When I was fully decent, I went over and found her on the floor with a warm blanky, in front of the electric heater, rubbing her hands together.
Suffering intensely from the cold.
Imaginary chills.

It actually wasn't cold at all. Just raining, with a bit of wind. But she has completely convinced herself that it is freezing.
So bally cold!

It's a mental thing. And a lack of sufficient body fat.

There just isn't enough insulation there, as both I and her boy friend have been trying to tell her.
She refuses to gain weight.
If she does, snow weasels will eat her.


WOMEN ARE STARK RAVING MAD

I said earlier that she wasn't insane. By that I meant that she was no more batsh*t than any other woman. Who, as all men eventually find out, are off their rockers. Totally loopy, out of their minds, im gonzen farkehrt.
Incapable of calm rational thoughts.
About some things.

Savage Kitten has the intellect and keen intelligence of a mature adult, but sometimes the emotional age of a juvenile. It's like living with an obsessive genius somewhere between eight years old and sound middle-age.
It varies, depending on mood.

Her major personal goal this week was to find a more appropriate tee-shirt for the small gorilla which also lives in our apartment. The gorilla, named Arabello Oyster, was wearing something that said "eat, sleep, dominate", meant for humans in their first year of life, when that's all they do. Savage Kitten has informed me that some of the more insecure roomies were upset, because they felt that it showed 'attitude'.
I naturally did not understand what she was talking about.
Of course he should wear 'eat, sleep, dominate'.
He's the Control Monkey - it's perfect.

I often wonder how her boy friend deals with her.

Maybe she's never shared such things with him?

Which is totally unfair. He probably doesn't even know about the snow weasels either. Here I am, the person who has to put up with an angry teddy bear, grumpy stuffed animals, strife between the four monkeys (in order of entry into the household: Urasmus Wazzoo, George, Max, and Mr. Oyster), AND the bally snow weasels.
And all he has to worry about is body fat.

A much saner person (in other words, a man) would not hide this from their significant other. They'd share it.

Especially the bit about snow weasels.
For which there is NO evidence.
No. Such. Critter. At. ALL!
And it's NOT that cold.


It's all in your mind.


I really have to wonder if there are rational women out there, who have quieter OR more sensible stuffed animals, do not object to pipe-smoking in their vicinity, would love to go out for a curry breakfast, and thoroughly enjoy sharing tea (and cookies!) at twilight. Women who are actually normal.
Who don't believe in imaginary creatures.
Such as snow weasels.

I would like to meet one sometime.
But they probably don't exist.
Like snow weasels.



Actually, my toes ARE cold.
Now that I think about it.



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THE PERFECT BREAKFAST

In some parts of the world people eat their breakfast at the local bar. Not because they crave alcohol at that early hour, but because the coffee is fresh and strong, the company is cheerful and equally engaged, and the kitchen does a damned fine job.

The neighborhood drinking hole is in fact the communal living room.

Bars in the Benelux are not customarily stocked with the huge variety of intoxicating beverages that one sees in the United States. No vast selection of fine single malts, no choices among the Bourbons and the Irish whiskies, nor even much in the way of Brandy, Vodka, or gin.

That last category may be represented only by its Netherlandish iterations. Specifically two or three Oude Genevers, and three or four Jonge Genevers.
Plus Citroen Genever and Bessen Genever for the ladies.
Who will likely drink sherry instead.


The only similarity between an Amsterdam café at dawn and the same place at dusk is the tables covered with carpets, the glint of glass, and the cheerful hubbub.
Breakfast is not a big deal, but just in case, the owner's wife will be manning the kitchen. He, however, will probably be at the coffee machine, making cups of strong coffee with a contraption that jets boiling water through a measure of grounds, yielding a hot cup on which some yellow foam drifts as evidence of freshness.
It is strong, aromatic, and bitter.
And always served with a cookie. The Dutch would NOT like the coffee without the cookie. It just doesn't seem right. Coffee and cookies go together like ducks and water, or fish and chili paste.
And BOTH start with the letter 'K'!
Quod erat demonstrandum!


If you've ended up in a kroeg which has drunks early in the morning instead of open-faced meat or cheese sandwiches, and slices of appeltaart (pie), you have come to the wrong place. The same holds true for bars in the United States.

Alas, bars in the United States are often the wrong place.
At any time of day.



What we need is a pleasant public living room, with a sober Dutchman behind the counter, who will bring you a fresh cup of coffee on a saucer with a spoon, a few sugar cubes, a small creamer, and two (!) wrapped cookies.
With a comfortable terrace, shielded from the wind.
On which there are tables and rattan chairs.
With gleaming ashtrays on the tables.

Sounds quite nice, doesn't it?


Unfortunately, that isn't possible in San Francisco. The ashtrays are outlawed in any case, and you'd be accosted by loonies, rabid anti-smokers, and other vagrants.
And you would probably freeze -- our climate is rather miserable.
There are almost no awnings or outside heaters.
It's a long dark winter here.
Most of the year.
Crap.


I'll just pretend I'm at a café with a cup of coffee and two cookies.


I never actually eat the cookies, but they're essential.


Coffee, without cookies, is naked.



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Saturday, December 22, 2012

UNLEASH YOUR INNER BADGER

Here it is, Saturday night, and you are alone in the house. Your snooty roommates have decided to go to a show, followed by dinner, and dancing at two different clubs south of Market Street. You, on the other hand, have just finished laundry, and are wondering what to do next. It seems such a pity to waste a perfectly good evening when you don't have to be at work tomorrow.....

A good book? Sonnets, by Jean-Pierre Rawie?
The collected letters of Vladimir Vladimirovich?

Oh the hell with it. Go wild.
You always wanted to rub yourself all over with warm apple pie and pretend that you were the quintessential American mom.
Bitch gone bad, at long last.
Done snapped.
Do it.

Don't forget to thoroughly rinse the bath tub afterwards. Buttery crumbs.
Then go down to the shopping district and spring for some thoroughly naughty stuff, a new bra and panty set from Victoria's Secret in Union Square.
Even if you're a man.

ESPECIALLY if you're a man.

Really, you need a new set. Those undies you stole from your older sister do not suit you. And, given that that was back during the sixties, they're quite out of style now.
You should never have repaired them with duct tape.
Honestly, what were you thinking?!?
Men!

I'm sure there's some hip gay boutique that caters to elderly cross-dressers on Polk Street. And it's bound to be open late during the Christmas season.
They've probably got a Mansiere with your name on it.
Perfect gift for a pudgy sixty-year old.
Demi-cup or full plunge.

At this point I'm rather wondering what kind of roommates you have.
If they're not like you, you may be living with the wrong crowd.


If, on the other hand, you are a young lady, you already know that brassieres should NEVER be repaired with duct tape. It's a style statement that just doesn't work. Even at Halloween parties. The skin in that area is soft and rather sensitive, and ripping slipped tape loose there hurts like holy hell.

I hope that your aren't rooming with that pudgy sixty-year old.....
He's bad news, sweetheart.

Whatever you end up doing tonight, be yourself. Ditch the outmoded attitudes, and explore a bit. You can also simply go to the top of Russian Hill and admire the lights of the waterfront down below. A thick warm coat, a thermos of hot coffee, and that pack of cigarettes you've been hoarding. It's a little brisk outside, so the trails of smoke will look and smell pleasantly autumnal. And there will be no earthmoms lurking around at this hour, not outside. No one will object if you sit there with your coffee and Camel Filter Kings.
Afterwards, go down Vallejo Street toward North Beach for some people watching. It's Saturday night, so the Eurotrash will be out in force, as well as the morons from the East Bay. With a bit of luck, some of them will brawl.


Even in this weather, the Oakland bootie is showing an awful lot of leg.
Several bootie, and several leg.


Really, if they're going to dress like that, they need to buy some better underwear. No wonder the trash and the morons are in fighting mode.


*      *      *      *      *      *

In case you're wondering, I myself am not in North Beach at this hour.
Instead, there's a comfortable place where pipe-smokers are welcomed, and where the badly behaved young men who are out on Broadway tonight will probably not be seen. A safe haven, as it were. An environment of calmness and good cheer, inhabited by individuals who act more mature than that. 

No trash, no morons. Nor objectionable earth-moms.
Feel free to bring a book, it's not unusual.
Sonnets, by Jean-Pierre Rawie.
Perhaps Nabokov.


.........................

PS.Seeing as the Mayan Zombie Apocalypse did NOT happen, many weak-minded individuals will presently be exerting themselves in paroxysms of savage post-non-end-of-the-world disappointment and drunkenness. What went wrong? Why are all those evil rationalists and sceptics still around? Earthmother-Jesus was supposed to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (again), and take the anti-pope into the pit of fiery nuclear wastes out in Nevada, where the n.w.o. United Nations Police (or the Masons) are perfecting a death-ray device that will kill all the Hobbits and usher in the New Age!
Ajaw Janaab Pacal (no. 2) will return to Palenque! Woe!

Given that San Francisco is ground-zero for weakminded individuals, it seems odd that they would predict the re-destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Maybe they meant New York?

Oh well. Better luck next time, dudes.



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Friday, December 21, 2012

CHOOSING FRIENDS WISELY

A group in which I was an organizer and board member for seven years has, effectively, told me go intercourse myself. I had the temerity to object to the rabid rightwing bile of one of the other members, you see.

Seven years.

Any number of street protests.

Two years ago someone was outraged that I was even a board member, because, apparently, I was a Gentile who was well-trained in Talmud-criticism or something. Why, she was utterly furious that anyone even listened to me. That, she avered, was precisely what was wrong, and it was for that very reason that she had quit the group in a huff many years before I even joined.

That particular comment was made on a mailinglist which didn't last very long.
The list had been called into being to keep activists across the Bay Area connected, and to more effectively coordinate at a time when it had become more urgent than ever to do so.
Several other people on that list had their own unique instabilities, and it fell apart in recrimination and quarrelling. Entertaining in its own way, but a complete and rather repulsive waste of time.
Despite the very best of intentions.

I got attacked several times on that list.
Good thing I can defend myself, because few others did.


Fast forward to September of this year.
After several incredibly offensive e-mail screeds about President Obama and the Democrats, I de-subscribed from the mailinglist for the board. After seven years. Seven rather long years. And any number of street protests.

The reactions ran the gamut from "oh well" to "go intercourse yourself". Along with several which indicated that they were keenly interested in hearing more hatespew about the President and his party, and really rather despised balance and nuance.
Mostly silence, though. If silence can be said to blither.

Seven years.


The cause is still worthwhile. More so than ever. But its proponents are, with only few exceptions, ineffective and offensive dunderheads, insecure about themselves, with issues, and incident-prone.

One of them asserted, a few years ago, that he wanted someone in his foxhole whom he could rely on to cover his back.
It's a pithy remark, and peculiarly appropriate to the political environment in the Bay Area, where our cause is not popular. Unfortunately, the current loyalists have done their damnedest to disenchant anyone who seeks a balanced and nuanced approach, and we find ourselves less than marginalized.


I myself am largely inspired to apathy at this point.
Not just because of other activists' personal insecurities, issues, and incidents. And not because the silent majority presently on the board seem to agree with the vocal few who have told me and others like me to go intercourse ourselves.
Mostly, probably because I cannot see myself feeling entirely safe in a foxhole with biased, irrational, immature, and unreliable emotional cripples.


You know, I just don't feel part of it anymore.
Good luck with the cause, rabbosai.
It's still worthwhile.



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Thursday, December 20, 2012

DESPERATE MALE, PROBABLY DUTCH

The other evening I ate at a particular restaurant because I know when the lovely daughter of the family will be working there. And, naturally, I have absolutely no intention of telling you where it is.

No, I'm not planning to make a play for the damsel. As far as I know she's still in junior college, and far too young for an old fossil like me. But she is exceptionally nice to look at. She has a sunny face.

No idea what her physique is like. Partly, that is because like many young ladies she dresses comfy-baggy. Partly it's because if I am going to sneak surreptitious peeks, I'll scope out the face. Particularly the eyes. And partly, because that night was cold as a witch's bosom, and I couldn't really focus. Oh, and she was warmly dressed; even more comfy baggy than usual.


Again, not planning to pursue. This blogger is a sober realist. And consequently I know better than to yearn for something I shouldn't.

[FYI: another very important reason to eat there only when she is on the premises is that the uncle who waits tables on the other evenings is not nearly as nice to look at, and he NEVER serves tea to the white people unless they ask for it. I always want tea. Always.]

It's not a question of what I see in her, as it is what she could possibly see in me. Obviously, I see a fresh springlike quality, as well as considerable charm.
But I am utterly clueless as to any characteristics of mine that could appeal to someone of her age, unless it's my peculiarities.
Heaven knows I've got a ton of those.


Still, it's well worth going to the same restaurant more or less every week to please the eyes. They benefit from looking at someone nice.
It's good for the soul, too.

She's a few years older than when I first saw her, and becoming a very sweet young woman. She looks more grown-up now, and she's no longer so timid. Carries her self with greater confidence, too.
And there's a gentleness there.
Beautiful.

And seriously, I can hardly wait for warmer weather.
The comfy baggies won't be quite so baggy.
Arms. I bet she has elegant arms.


It was too cold on Tuesday to smoke a pipe after dinner. Nevertheless, I made a valiant attempt. Because it's part of my regular 'tradition' to have a digestive stroll around Chinatown after eating well.
It helps prolong the moments.
Yeah, I damned well froze.
It was worth it, though.



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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

THE DELICIOUS WHALE

Everything I've read tells me that whale meat is fine-textured, lean, and exceedingly good to eat. Especially the tongue, and premium cuts near the tail (oniku).
Understandably, the Japanese and the Norwegians also think so.
As well as several tribes in the Pacific Northwest.

The Dutch and the Australians object strongly to the concept of eating whale, but as neither of their countries are known for fine dining, their opinions must be discounted.
I've delved into Netherlandish culinaria elsewhere here (just type "Dutch food" into the search field on this blog if you're interested), and the Australians are notorious Vegemite aficionados.
They even add that ghastly spread to their spaghetti sandwiches.
'Nuff said.


Normally, a fine cut of whale can be cooked by slicing it into thin steaks, sautéing it briefly in butter or olive oil, then serving it with a jus.
You could also marinate it Greek style (lemon juice, olive oil, thyme), and grill it festively on the backyard barbecue. Tzatziki, olives, and sliced tomatoes from your own vines would be perfect, and, as it is a red meat, a nice glass of Burgundy.

Mink whale, by the way, is NOT endangered. Not by any rational standard.
And it is high time we stop relying on the Texans and Argentinians for our animal protein. Or the New Zealanders, for sheep slaughtered after Hobbit perversions.

Hrefnusteik!

Nice thick tournedos of hval meat, perhaps wrapped in bacon, or served with a creamy caper-mustard sauce. And some potatoes and a salad on the side. Or even with French fries and a warmed saucière of Béarnaise.
While whale barbecued Mexican-style has its own appeal, and various tasty stir-fries also suggest themselves, I am extremely keen to try it in curry.


CHETTINAD VHĒL

Two pounds Whale.
Four onions.
One thumblength ginger.
Four or five garlic cloves.
One TBS. ground coriander.
One TBS. cayenne.
Half Tsp. turmeric.
Half Tsp. mustard seeds (black).
Half Tsp. cumin seeds (jeerakam).
Half Tsp. fennel seeds (perinjeerakam).
Half Tsp. cinnamon powder.
Half Tsp. salt.
Four or five green cardamom pods, three or four whole cloves, a dozen whole peppercorns, and a bay leaf or two.
Two TBS. tamarind juice. Half a dozen Roma tomatoes, or two beefsteak tomatoes.
Four or five fresh green chilies, finely minced.


Cut the whale meat into chunks, dry-roast the spices as appropriate. Grind two of the onions with the ginger, garlic, and all spices plus the salt, EXCEPT the bay leaves, cardamon pods, and mustard seeds, to a paste. Stir the tamarind water into this, and rub it all over the meat. Let the whale sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so to absorb flavours and tenderize.
Chop the tomatoes.

In a roomy pan or chetty fry the mustard seeds briefly in ghee or oil, add the remaining onion, cardamom pods, and the minced green chili, and sauté till nicely golden. Add the chopped tomatoes, cook till soft.
Then add the meat and its marinating paste, and cook till the moisture has dissipated and the oil separated. This, by the way, is the key to developing a good flavour, hence the need for a roomy pan or chetty - you do not want to crowd the chunks of meat.

Add water to cover, plus bay leaves, and simmer on low for about an hour. You may substitute coconut milk for some of the water. Stir it occasionally, and when the meat seems tender enough, remove from the heat. You may fish out the cardamom pods and bay leaves it this point.

Garnish liberally with cilantro, and serve with chapatis or steamed rice, as well as fresh chilies and lime wedges on the side.

Good for a holiday party of six to eight people, with other lovely side dishes.


If you cannot get whale, you can substitute an equivalent amount of goat.


But it won't be as festive an occasion.


Shubha bhojana!




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DOOMSDAY AND DENVER, DECEMBER 2012

Do you have enough SPAM and inflatable devices to tide you over?
This is very important, as there are only TWO days left.
To stock up. Also buy plywood and duct tape.
These make great gifts, btw.
If zip happens.

Please buy all your survival necessities now, taking advantage of the super sales at various retailers. Now! Now! Now! Just in case you're one of the soft-in-the-cranium individuals who believe that the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar means the end of the world, and do not live close enough to Denver Airport to invade the vast shelters for the elites which have been built underneath.

Yeah yeah, when Christ comes back riding the flaming tail of a comet this Friday, destroying the world in a cataclysm so vast that even space aliens will take note, you'll be able to gloat at my cynicism and unbelief. "Hah", you will say to yourself as you lock the heavy portal to your survival cave deep in the Berkeley Hills, "that stupid blogger didn't know jack!".
And you'll marvel at the giant whale-like beings from beyond Pluto, where the old gods slumber, who will opportunistically wipe out whole villages with their photon flippers or something.
They are angry at what we did to their ambassadors.


Seriously, anyone who actually believes that the world will end in two days is ripe for the picking. Stark-raving bonkers.
I wish I knew someone like that, for taunting purposes.

Obviously I don't hang out in the hinterland much.
Or anywhere near Denver.
Dang.


PS. More on stupid Christians HERE.



Gratuitous link: Fritters.



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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ONE POUND FISH, VERY VERY NICE!

Kudos to Mr. Muhammad Shahid Nazir in London for inventing a better mousetrap.
Or fish jingle. Metaphorically, it is a better mousetrap.

For some strange reason I deeply desire a wholesome seafood dinner right now.
Perhaps cooked with turmeric, black mustard seeds, and yoghurt.
I do not know why.


COME ON LADIES, ONE POUND FISH!


[Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_miGclPFGs.]



SARSON MAACH

Take one pound fish, cut into large chunks, and rub with turmeric and salt. Fry in a hot pan with two or three green cardamom (whole) tossed in, till the flesh has opaqued. Set aside.

Sauté one small onion (or two or three shallots), finely chopped, in the same pan, with a pinch of cumin added. When the onion is nicely golden and the cumin darkly fragrant, splash with water and cook down till the oil separates.
Add one cup of freshest possible yoghurt into which you have beaten one teaspoon black mustard seeds (sarson ka beej) which have been toasted and coarsely ground, one teaspoon cayenne (lal mirch), a pinch of turmeric (haldi), and two tablespoons of besan flour. The besan flour ('gram flour') is EXTREMELY important! If you do not add it to the yoghurt, the yoghurt will curdle in the pan.

[NOTE: this blogger will also whip a goodly pinch of corn or tapioca starch into the yoghurt, as that also helps prevent watery separation, and further allows greater use of oil.]

One or two chopped Roma tomatoes may be added, as well as split green chilies.
It is up to you, and your personal sense of yumminess.

Anyhow, once the yoghurt mixture has reached a boil, stir it, slide the fish chunks into the sauce, and turn the heat down to simmer.
Add a pinch of freshly ground white pepper and an even smaller pinch of cinnamon (in lieu of Sindhi Garam Masala, which you do not have), cook for a few minutes more, then garnish liberally with minced cilantro (coriander leaf), and serve with a heap of white rice alongside.


Ideally, you would use mustard oil (sarson ka tel) in cooking this dish, but it is quite possible that you do not have that, which is a pity. But do not worry, other cooking greases also can.




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DARKLY GOLDEN MOMENTS

I managed to intrigue a Chinatown grandmother yesterday by lighting up a pipe on Stockton Street. Pipe-smokers are sufficiently rare that you do not see them often.
And, a distinct though not particularly likely possibility, I may have looked like her first lover. She herself appeared to be quite spry, and she must have been a very lively young lady over fifty years ago. She was waiting for the bus, I had stopped to light up. I could see her staring in amazement, reflected in the window glass.
When I turned, she promptly swiveled her head back toward the street.
I paused a bit in front of that shop window, pretending to examine the merchandise.
She slowly turned her head to scope out the pipe, which I had angled so that it would appear in full profile from her vantage point.
I twitched, as if to continue walking.
Her face snapped streetwards.

Oh wait, I did not see that item yet.
Better lean forward and inspect it.
Behind a reflective pane of glass.

Yep. She was looking again. And the smoke was whisping past her. Surely she could smell it, but she didn't seem to mind at all.
I'm more convinced than ever that her first lover smoked a pipe.
Possibly on the ferry back to Kowloon, after taking her dancing in Wanchai.


Lady, you should have married him. Yes, I know that back in the sixties good girls didn't get hitched to white men, but just think of how different your life would have been if you had taken the leap. Why, you'd be able to smell the haunting perfume of fine Virginia flake ALL the time, every day since.
Instead of only when a handsome stranger lights up after lunch.
Wouldn't that be heaven?
I think so.


My post-lunch dawdle took me down to where the parrots gather in the tall trees near the Embarcadero. Despite the chill grey season the birds were cheerfully and noisily hyperactive. If birds can be full of beans, these creatures were.
After flicking out the ashes, I headed home. At the top of the hill a man carrying grocery bags gently called to his little daughter to follow him, which she did.
She smiled happily, so very pleased at being with her father.
He had probably picked her up from school earlier.
Then bought fresh vegetables for dinner.
They looked lovely together.


Perhaps she'll grow up to be intrigued by pipe smokers.
They'll be an even greater rarity by then.
Possibly a protected species.


香滑奶茶

It was after teatime when I got home.
But it's always time for tea.
As well as cookies.




TOBACCO INDEX


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