Articles rss

Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Mashed Potato Cakes

When you’ve got leftover mashed potatoes, the best way to revive them is to make them into mashed potato cakes. Add whatever herbs or flavorings sound good to you–hounds especially like chopped scallions and grated cheese. Some mix in an egg as a binder, but many find this is unnecessary, and can sometimes make the mixture too wet to shape easily. Drier mashed potatoes are easier to shape and pan fry, but potatoes rich in butter and cream can be dredged in seasoned flour and fried up well. Fry in olive oil or butter over medium heat until well browned on the bottom without moving, about 5-6 minutes, and flip to brown the other side. They’ll be crisp outside, soft and warm inside, and very satisfying.

Board Links

how would you make mashed potato cakes?

Pork Belly

The new hot ingredient in high-end cooking is pork belly; it’s a cut that’s a lovely combination of fat and lean. It’s the same cut that’s used for bacon, but it’s unsalted and fresh. Pork belly can be braised or slow roasted. It lends it self to rubs and Asian flavorings.

Formerlyfingers says it’s a unique textural sensation, with alternating layers of collagen-rich fat and tender meat.

You can prepare pork belly at home. Niman Ranch sells it online.

Board Links


Pho. What Makes It Good?

There’s lots of agreement about what makes for a good bowl of the traditional Vietnamese noodlesoup called pho (it’s pronounced “fuh”). Pho bo tai is the popular beef and noodle version, with raw beef added to cook in the hot broth.

The aroma should rise up and make you hungry. The broth should be steamy, but not so hot that it will instantly cook the beef through. (The best pho joints keep the thinly sliced beef cold, and add it in a clump, so it remains rare in the center.)

No one flavoring should dominate; charred ginger, star anise, and the various herbs, should combine into a flavorful whole. The broth should have a silky feel from the long cooking of bones and meat.

Each bowl will get broth, noodles that have some body, and a choice of meat. There’ll be a variety of garnishes from which to choose: bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, scallions, and lime to brighten the flavors. Add some of the sweet and hot sauces, to your taste.

Board Links

What is really good Pho

Roast Pork at Tweety Deli

Dave MP thinks the roast pork that comes in the roast pork wonton soup at Tweety Deli is the best in San Francisco. A generous serving of tasty, nicely sweet pork comes in a simple broth with large pieces of bok choi and overcooked, falling-apart wontons. For $4, though, the soup is worth it just for that lovely pork.

Tweety Deli [Mission]

1200 Vermont St., San Francisco



Board Links

Roast pork wonton soup at Tweety’s Deli–23rd and Vermont by SF General Hospital

Mini Buns

If you’re making homemade sliders or adorable miniature sandwiches for a party, you can buy mini buns from Neldam’s Bakery. mochimunchie made miniature pulled pork sandwiches with them for a party and the guests loved them.

Another option is to use dinner rolls. San Francisco Sourdough makes a good version, available in the bread aisle in local grocery stores (look for the orange label, not the green one), that won’t overpower the flavor of the sandwich you’re making. foodiegrl has successfully used them to make sliders with grass-fed beef and pickled onions.

The best rolls ever are made by Panorama, but they can be tough to get ahold of. Robert Lauriston notes that they sell at many farmers’ markets (check their web site for locations), and suggests you call ahead to see if they could bring you some when they are at your local market. foodiegrl notes that these are the rolls that Myth restaurant uses for their sliders. Just don’t get seduced by the beautifully glossy, eggy dinner rolls ordinarily on sale at the Panorama stand at the farmers’ markets–they have orange rind in them, probably not appropriate for most savory sandwich uses.

Neldam’s Danish Bakery [Downtown]

3401 Telegraph Ave., Oakland



Panorama Baking


Board Links

Know of a good bakery that sells mini hamburger buns?

Madina: Full-Throttle Pakistani Spice in Brooklyn

Robustly spiced steam-table curries and first-rate meats and breads from the tandoor are winning fans at Madina in Kensington. It’s the best of the many Pakistani places on the Coney Island Avenue strip, for gnosh’s money–not that a lot of money is required.

Chicken kababs, with a slight char and strong peppery kick, are around a buck apiece. Nan, baked to order, are pillowy at the edges, crisp and thin at the center, and finished off with a brushing of butter and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Vegetable dishes–okra, chickpeas, spinach with potato, etc.–deliver complex flavors and authentic heat. “Nobody could complain that they’re toning things down for the American palate,” says gnosh.

It’s mostly takeout, but a recent expansion created a room where diners can sit down.

Madina [Kensington]

563 Coney Island Ave., at Beverley Rd., Brooklyn



Board Links

Best Indian in Brooklyn?

MADINA-nice Coney Island Avenue alternative

Olympic Pita Comes to Manhattan; and Other News

Brooklyn’s Olympic Pita–celebrated for shwarma, falafel, and stellar fresh-baked flatbreads–has branched out in Manhattan. Sprightly vegetable salads, served as sides or generously stuffed into sandwiches, are another highlight. Despite the restaurant’s name, many fans prefer the thicker laffa bread to the pita.

The scramble system of ordering has flummoxed many newcomers since the place opened in November. “It is a bit chaotic. People had no idea where to go,” reports Miss Needle. So here’s the deal: Go to the cashier in the back on the right. Place your order and pay. Then return to the front and give your receipt to one of the counter guys.

In another welcome expansion, Midtown’s Taksim has opened a second restaurant in the East Village. A highly promising report from Pan raves about lentil balls, rice-and-herb-stuffed cabbage leaves, and hearty, slow-cooked lamb shank and eggplant in tomato sauce, among other things. “Go now,” he urges. “In a few months, the place will be hopping.”

On the Upper West Side, Vinnie’s is no more. It was just a neighborhood pizza joint, but it grabbed hound attention for a time with unexpected offerings like crustless, quiche-like zucchini pies.

Olympic Pita [Garment District]

58 W. 38th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Manhattan



Olympic Pita [Midwood]

1419 Coney Island Ave., between Aves. J and K, Brooklyn



Taksim [East Village]

99 2nd Ave., between E. 6th and 5th Sts., Manhattan



Taksim [Midtown East]

1030 2nd Ave., near E. 54th St., Manhattan



Vinnie’s Pizza [Upper West Side]

285 Amsterdam Ave., between W. 73rd and 74th Sts., Manhattan


Board Links

The Olympic Pita in Manhattan?

Taksim East Village

great pizza on UWS

The OC’s Old-School Mexican American Joint

Mexi-Casa has been serving up giant meals of consistently tasty Mexican-American food at paupers’ prices since the ‘60s (when no non-Latinos in OC could pronounce the word ta-que-ria), and recently moved to new digs, says GrindzHound.

Make sure to get the cheese chips, roasted in the oven to toasty, bubbly perfection. Al pastor and carnitas are especially good. A lot of people seem to like salsa roja with al pastor, but it makes a great combo with salsa verde–the combination of tomatillos, crunchy onions and the meat is a classic one. There’s also a sinus-clearning chile verde and beef tacos, the shell and beef deep-fried together for a meaty roasted flavor.

Combination lunch with two items, rice and beans is $3-4. Combination dinner (same) is $4-5.

Mexi-Casa Restaurant [South OC]

1778 W. Lincoln Ave., at Euclid, Anaheim 92801



Board Links

Maybe the Best Value in OC, Mexi-Casa.

Ramen for Everyone

Foo Foo Tei knocks Westside ramen joints Ramen Ya and Asahi Ramen out of the water, says Chandavkl. There’s a flavor combo for everyone–if you like it spicy, get the shin shin ramen, which you won’t find elsewhere. ipse dixit wishes it were possible to find menudo this spicy. Seafood ramen includes oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and shrimp in a deeply flavored broth.

MPKen notes that the noodles are often overcooked, making the broth fairly starchy and too thick–try ordering them “firm.”

Side dishes are great too–fried squid leg with wasabi mayo, gint shiu mai, croquettes, gyoza, and tonkatsu are super tasty.

The Hacienda Heights location is the original, but hounds can’t agree on whether it or the MPK location is better. mejonlee says that after several comparisons, MPK consistently comes out ahead–but they don’t serve beer or sake.

Foo Foo Tei Noodle House [San Gabriel Valley]

750 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park



Foo-Foo Tei [Inland of LA]

15018 Clark Ave., Hacienda Heights



Board Links

Foo Foo Tei Ramen in Monterey Park

Foo-Foo Tei Noodle House Monterey Park

Mario Batali Cookware

Celebrity chef Mario Batali has teamed up with manufacturer Copco to produce a cookware line called Italian Kitchen. Chowhounds are really impressed with the enameled cast iron pieces. They’re well made and they perform beautifully. They’re comparable to Le Crueset, giant in the field of enameled cookware–but the Italian Kitchen stuff is much more affordable.

The 6-quart Dutch oven is excellent for soups and braising, stovetop or in the oven; the inside of its lid has spikes to keep the moisture from condensation in your dish, a feature of the super-expensive Staub line. The panini pan includes a heavy press to produce nicely grilled sandwiches and doubles as a grill pan that themiss says heats more evenly than her Le Creuset. The deep lasagna pan is a real heavyweight at 11 pounds, but does a magnificent job on anything in the oven. They all clean up very easily, and hounds aren’t shy about their love of the pretty colors in the line.

The Kitchen Essentials line includes a bunch of utensils and also pans of other materials, as well. The stainless steel pans get a big thumbs-down from Richard Somers, who ended up returning his for its abysmal performance.

Board Links

opinions on Mario Batali’s cookware line