Yin Du Wonton Noodle

The number five. I always order the number five.

Yin Du Wonton Noodle opened up in Chinatown less than two years ago and early on, I became a regular. A short walk from work, I go there whenever I’m craving a warm, comforting bowl of Chinese soup (which is often).

Wonton noodle soup

Yin Du’s cash-only menu is somewhat limited, and despite trying a few of their other dishes, I always come back to the number five: dumpling noodle soup. The chewy egg noodles and shrimp and wood ear mushroom-filled sui gao are perfect with a drop of fiery chili sauce. I often order their steamed beef brisket and noodle soup too, which is equally satisfying. The beef brisket sauce is delicious enough to stand on its own. The wonton noodle soup is pretty good too.

Yin Du Wonton Noodle is a casual operation and closes early at seven in the evening and is often packed for lunch. Plan accordingly and the next time you’re craving noodle soup, go for the number five.

Crab Rangoon

I’m not even going to pretend like these have any semblance of authenticity to them. Say “crab rangoon” and all I can think of is a 1980s Chinese take-out menu in Anytown, USA. But crab rangoon are also delicious. Cheesy, seafoody, and deep-fried: what’s not to love?

I serve these with a sweet chili dipping sauce but a soy-vinegar sauce would also do well and cut through these crab puffs’ richness.

Crab Rangoon

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped green onions
8 ounces shelled crab
1 egg
About 40 square wonton wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying
Soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar and chili oil, and sweet chili sauce

1. Whirl cream cheese, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce together in a food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in green onions and crab.

2. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water in a small dish. Lay wonton wrappers flat. Brush with egg wash, covering completely with a thin layer. Spoon a scant 1 tbsp. crab mixture onto center of each wonton. Pull up corners so all four meet in the center, pressing edges together to seal. Set on a rimmed baking sheet.

3. Fill a wide pot with 2 in. oil. Heat over medium heat to 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, fry rangoons, turning as needed, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer rangoons to a plate lined with paper towels. Let cool slightly before serving with dipping sauces.

Gochujang Chicken Wings

Gochujang is a a Korean fermented chili paste, which gives these chicken wings a uniquely spicy flavor that I can’t get enough of. It forms the backbone of the sauce, which is pretty simple to put together. Gochuchang (not to be confused with gochugaru, or Korean chili flakes) is both pungent and hot, sweet and salty all at the same time. It’s delicious. I’ve been experimenting with Korean flavors at home, and these spicy-sweet and sticky chicken wings have become one of my favorites.

Korean-style chicken wings

Ingredients:

6 pounds chicken wings, tips discarded and wings split
1/4 cup canola oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup gochujang (Korean chile paste)
2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chile powder)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Sesame seeds and sliced green onions, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss the wings with the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the wings, skin side up, to the prepared baking sheets and roast them for about 45 minutes, until they are cooked through and crisp.

2. Meanwhile, in another large bowl, whisk all of the remaining ingredients except the garnish with a pinch of freshly ground pepper.

3. Add the crispy wings to the chile sauce, toss to coat and garnish with the sesame seeds and scallions. Serve hot.

Cafe Clem

I used to hate scrambled eggs. They’re gummy, flavorless, and bland. Or so I thought.

The first time I sampled Cafe Clem’s scrambled eggs, I immediately saw the light. They’re fluffy! They’re creamy! And they’re steamed-scrambled, and while that sounds like an arduous process, the results make for my favorite local brunch in downtown Berkeley.

Cafe Clem

Cafe Clem is a daytime casual French joint with a small menu and a cute outdoor patio to boot. My favorite dish there has become their les oeufs Lucas: steamed-scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, goat cheese, basil, roasted tomatoes, and levain toast. I can’t think of much else I’d rather do on a lazy weekend morning than enjoy that underneath the sun.

Thanks, Cafe Clem. Scrambled eggs are no longer the food nightmare of my youth, but rather, a weekend treat.

Sushi rolls

I’ve just returned from a trip to Tokyo and jet lag aside, it was everything my sushi-laden dreams are made of. I’m no early riser, but I even had sushi for breakfast one morning at Tsukiji fish market. The sushi was as good as I remembered it from my last trip a few years ago, and I’ve been craving it at home since I returned.

Thankfully, good sushi is within reach at home. For me, the toughest part is making the vinegared rice. I haven’t mastered it yet but I’ll keep trying until I get it right. It’s a great excuse to eat more sushi.

Homemade sushi

Homemade sushi

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sushi rice
1 2/3 cups water
1 4-inch piece of kombu seaweed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 to 15 toasted nori seaweed sheets
any assortment of the following filling ingredients: sliced sashimi-grade tuna, sliced sashimi-grade salmon, salmon roe, sea urchin, crab, barbecued eel, egg omelet, shiso leaves, takuan pickled daikon radish, sesame seeds, sliced cucumber, sliced avocado, green onions, soy-simmered shiitake mushrooms, umeboshi plums, soy-simmered kampyo gourd strips, cooked spinach

1. Make the vinegared rice: soak the kombu seaweed in the water for about one hour to make the stock. Wash the rice 30 minutes prior to cooking and drain on a sieve. Put the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot and heat slightly until dissolved. This completes the vinegar dressing. Place the rice and stock into a rice cooker and cook according to cooker instructions. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar dressing. Using a flat wooden spoon, toss the rice with horizontal cutting strokes while cooling the rice with a hand-fan. When tossing is completed, cover the rice with a clean cloth moistened with water.

2. Place a nori seaweed sheet on a maki-su bamboo mat. Put the vinegared rice lightly on the nori sheet and spread over the sheet, leaving 3/4-inch at the top and bottom uncovered.

3. Place filling ingredients of your choice horizontally on top of the rice.

4. Lift the edges of both the bamboo mat and nori sheet nearest you and bring over to meet the far edge of the sheet.

5. Gently but firmly press the bamboo mat around the roll to shape it. Push both ends of the rolls towards the center firmly a few times using a cloth or plastic wrap.

6. Cut in sixths or eighths crosswise. Clean the knife with water between cuttings. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.