In the Mood for Fried Chicken

I think I have mentioned that fried chicken is one of my favorite foods. I can be satisfied by inexpensive fast food fried chicken like Popeyes. I can also be happy ordering it in a fine dining restaurant for a pretty price such as Pican in Oakland.

I have been spending a lot of time this month in San Francisco checking in on my ill grandmother who lives in SoMa (South of Market). I always forget that she lives fairly close to Farmerbrown’s Little Skillet. This is the take out offshoot of Farmer Brown in the Tenderloin. Little Skillet closes early at 2:30, so many a time I have missed the opportunity. I had my second visit to Little Skillet yesterday. I walked up to the window to order my two piece fried chicken and two piece waffle. Within five minutes it was ready.
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The smell of the fried chicken through my take out box was tempting me to just open up my box and eat it on the street. That’s what most people do when they get their food from Little Skillet. I beat temptation and made it to my grandmother’s place before I devoured it.
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I like having the combination of chicken and waffles, but I like to keep the two separated because I don’t want maple syrup touching my chicken. I was surprised that my waffles held up through the walk. It still had some crisp to it. Dressed with syrup, it was tasty. My chicken also held extremely well. The batter on the skin was seasoned perfectly and the crispy batter had a loud crunch. It was all very satisfying.

After eating the chicken and waffles, I wanted to know where the dish originates. Wikipedia suggests several theories. My favorite one involves Thomas Jefferson. Legend has it that he bought a waffle iron in France in the 1790’s and shortly thereafter chicken and waffles started to appear in American cookbooks.

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Borinquen Soul: Not Just Another Food Truck

It was six years ago when I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico (PR) with my BFF. It was a great trip because we had friends that took us around and made us feel like locals. Those memories reappear when I am near the Borinquen Soul Food Truck. It’s a food truck straight out of Oakland that brings not only the “Taste of Puerto Rico,” but the smells and the music.
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Borinquen Soul has music playing from their truck speakers which is what you would hear on the streets of PR. My coworker and I had just finished walking Lake Merritt and the fun music and the wonderful smell led us to Borinquen Soul which was parked off Snow Park in Downtown Oakland. We decided we would share a combo and a side item.
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We ordered combo #2 which came with Puerto Rican rice, a beef turnover, and plantains. The side we ordered was the beef fritter. We waited about ten minutes, but the music helped make the time go by faster. Our food came in one large container which we brought back to the office to divvy up.
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It was actually enough food to split between the two of us. I love Puerto Rican rice with the green olives. This one was moist with good texture. It was tasty. The beef empanada had a crispy exterior with minced ground beef inside. My friend thought it was good, but thought it lacked beef. I didn’t notice that, but some of her beef may have spilled out during the cut. We both agreed that the beef fritter was amazing. I didn’t expect the deep fried outer coating to be made of plantains. The plantains that came with our meal were actually tostones. Those are unripe plantains that have been smashed and fried twice. The first time I had them was about six years ago in PR. These were nicely seasoned and delicious.

Be on the look out or listen for Borinquen Soul, better yet follow them on twitter at twitter.com/BorinquenSoul
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Bun Mam Soc Trang: Vietnamese Done Right

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I love the fact that Oakland has a fairly large Vietnamese community because I enjoy eating Vietnamese food. The cuisine varies so much, I usually can find something on the menu that will hit the spot. I recently was introduced to Bun Mam Soc Trang, a Vietnamese restaurant two miles south of me in East Oakland. I have returned twice this past week. It’s a little dive, but it’s clean. The hostess/waitress is extremely pleasant and the food is authentic and comforting.

I go for the #12, Bun Bo Hue or spicy noodle beef soup. Unlike other places for Bun Bo Hue, they give you condiments of chili and fermented bean paste. It may be an acquired taste for an adventurous palette, but for me adding these two favors brings the soup to a new level.
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On one visit, my sister ordered #14, Bun Thit Nuong, Cha Gio, or grilled pork with egg rolls, and vermicelli noodles. This is a dish I like to order and when hers came out, I wish it were mine. I was able to try it and thought it was fresh and tasty. This establishment knows how to grill meat really well.
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After seeing the fried egg rolls on my sister’s main dish, my friend and I decided to order one as an appetizer after the fact. The way to eat them correctly is to take a piece of green leaf lettuce, place an egg roll on top with some pickled vegetables, wrap it, and dip it in fish sauce. These did not disappoint.
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Vietnamese Iced Coffee is made with espresso and sweetened condensed milk. I could not remember the last time I had a Vietnamese Iced Coffee and decided to have one here. It was the weekend after all.
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And because it was a weekend, we got free dessert. I’m not very familiar with Asian desserts, but it was some type of tapioca and pumpkin pudding. I thought it was a nice treat and ended the meal on a high note.
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Bun Mam Soc Trang (BMST) might be the only Vietnamese restaurant in Oakland that maintains a yelp rating of 4.5. Between food and service, I can vouch for the high rating. I should probably note that BMST is not in the safest area of East Oakland. I am quite comfortable going there in the daytime. The restaurant closes at 4pm and then offers take out from 4-6pm which I think is a smart and safe strategy.

Aloha Alameda: Hang Ten Boiler

By following fellow foodie friends on Yelp, I can learn about places to eat that I may otherwise not know about. This is how I found out about Hang Ten Boiler (HTB) in Alameda. HTB serves two types of cuisine that initially may not sound like a good mix, but it provides options. HTB serves Cajun food and Hawaiian food. On my first trip to HTB, I only went with one friend so we stuck mostly with Cajun food. The food was great and it meant we had to come back with a larger group.
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I returned to HTB on July 4th with a party of six so we could eat off both menus. The seafood menu has a choice of dungeness crab, lobster, mussels, crawfish, clams, or shrimp. At HTB, you pick a seafood, a flavor, and a spice. We ordered the shrimp with “da signature” Hang ten flavor, and no spice (my two young nieces were with us). Last visit we got the spicy (aka bring it!) which was super spicy. We added some corn on the cob as well. The fresh shrimp had heads on with loads of Cajun sauce, which goes well with white rice.
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I clearly remembered the fried catfish being so good on my first visit that we ordered it again. It was not a fluke, the cornmeal crust had the perfect crispiness and flavors again. It laid on top of delicious Cajun fries.
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We tried to order the popular garlic noodles for my vegetarian friend, but unfortunately for her they ran out. This picture is from my first visit. From my recollection, they were very garlicky and had a nice al dente consistency.
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In lieu of garlic noodles, my friend settled for some garlic fries. HTB does a good job. No need to run to Gordon Biersch for them.
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We ordered lumpia that came with Thai chili sauce for dipping. My nieces loved these. Well, I did too!
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HTB has a good variety of meats to choose from including chicken, pork, steak, and short ribs. We decided to order Andrew’s BBQ mixed plate which came with Tattoo Ed’s BBQ chicken and kalbi short ribs. The plate, or in this case box comes with steamed rice and island style macaroni salad. It included a generous portion of meats that were marinated and grilled just right. I could see myself ordering this item togo and utilizing their curbside pickup.
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HTB is bookmarked on my yelp account if you want to follow me.