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

Jayakarta Restaurant: Indonesian!

Jayakarta Restaurant will be a source of great happiness to Bay Area Indonesians and anyone who wants real, hardcore Indonesian food, says Han. They do chicken particularly beautifully. Try lemper, chunks of flavorful chicken fragrant from being grilled in a banana leaf. The bakwan malang is a flavorful chicken soup with chunks of flour cakes, beef balls, and other goodies, though it might be a bit weird for non-natives.

And how about some “chicken gizzards with stinky beans”? Despite the name, It’s delicious, says Maya S, and the beans aren’t a bit stinky. They are, in fact, just favas. Or try the ayam kalasan, says jhinky–moist grilled chicken that’s been marinated in young coconut juice, served with fresh chili sauce.

Part of the joy of Indonesian food is the inscrutable weirdness of some of the dishes, but unless you’re up for that, you should probably avoid the nasi lelapan lengkap, says a very nonplussed chilihead2006. This dish consists of a wedge of raw cabbage, some raw green beans and other actually-just-raw veggies, a chunk of fried chicken, and some sauce and tamarind broth.

If you’re into embracing the surreal, just order at random. You’ll probably be really surprised.

Jayakarta Restaurant [East Bay]
2026 University Ave., Berkeley

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Jayakarta–short review (Berkeley)
Jayakarta —Indonesian in Berkeley!

Champions of Chirashi

Chirashi is the working man’s sushi lunch. It’s basically a bowl of sushi rice with a bunch of cuts of various raw fish on it, pressed down with a wooden press. Think of it as a sort of massive, frisbee-sized hunk of mega nigiri sushi. It’s not exactly lovingly hand-made, but it is cheaper. Where are this town’s good chirashis?

Sushi Go 55 makes an amazing chirashi with the usual cuts of fish plus mackerel, squid, and octopus, and uni available for an extra charge, says Haiylin. Izayoi has a beautiful chirashi available on their lunch menu only.

Sushi Gen’s chirashi is packed with tamago, various sashimi slices, perhaps octopus, ikura, shrimp, and more.

Jinpachi’s chirashi is an artfully assembled bowl of aquatic life with some less typical offerings like uni and squid, for around $20, says oleskoo. Sushi Kushi Imai has a dependable, workmanlike chirashi for substantially fewer bucks.

Considering their high quality, Sushi Tenn’s chirashi is an absolute bargain at $18 at lunchtime.

Kiriko makes a solid chirashi as well.

Shaab is a good chirashi stop if you’re near Pasadena.

Mako’s chirashi in Little Tokyo is good and inexpensive.

Sushi Go 55 [Little Tokyo]
333 S. Alameda St. #317, at 3rd St., Los Angeles

Izayoi [Little Tokyo]
132 South Central Ave., Los Angeles

Sushi Gen [Little Tokyo]
422 E. 2nd St., at Alameda, Los Angeles

Jinpachi [West Hollywood]
8711 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

Sushi & Kushi IMAI [Beverly Hills]
8300 Wilshire Blvd., at San Vicente Blvd., Beverly Hills

Sushi Tenn [Sawtelle Strip]
2004 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles

Kiriko Sushi [Sawtelle Strip]
11301 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles

Shaab Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
77 N Raymond Ave., Pasadena

Mako Sushi [Little Tokyo]
Weller Court Shopping Ctr.
123 Astronaut Esonizuka St. #313, Los Angeles

Board Links
Best chirashi in LA?

Catskills Picks, from Pizza to Sushi to Venison Chili

“Keep in mind that this not France. It is upstate New York,” cautions erstwhile city slicker gala. He’s talking about eating in the Catskills, from around Oneonta to Phoenicia. That said, there’s still deliciousness to be found here. There are superior seasonal produce, local cheeses and maple syrup, as well as a handful of restaurants that rise above the generally discouraging norm:

- Pizza Factory, Delhi: Best pizza for miles around (including an excellent Sicilian) plus soulful soups and other Italian food. “The owner loves to cook and has a good imagination.”

- Slow Down Food Co., Andes: Simple American chow from organic, locally produced ingredients, made by followers of the Slow Food movement–salads, sandwiches, soup, chili, breakfast fare, hamburgers (from Skate Creek pasture-raised beef), etc. It’s terrific, but very, very slow. Be prepared for your meal to last many hours.

- Elena’s Sweet Indulgence, Oneonta: Exceptional pastries, especially Italian. Go early–she tends to sell out.

- Brooks House of Bar-B-Q, Oneonta: Chicken is the way to go, fine when hot but even better as takeout. “Served cold the next day, it is heaven. True white-folks barbecue.” Pass on the butterscotch-sweet barbecue sauce.

- Peekamoose Restaurant, Big Indian: Nicely done upmarket American, heavy on local produce, from chef Devin Mills, an alumnus of Gramercy Tavern and Le Bernardin. Typical choices: house-made charcuterie, chili with venison and Granny Smith apples, Hudson Valley vegetable plate, roasted wild striped bass with eggplant caviar. “Absolutely wonderful, right up there with Berkeley’s Chez Panisse Cafe.”

- Tuna III, Delhi: Sushi, noodles, and other decent Japanese, with especially good deals for lunch. “As good as any passable big-city Japanese restaurant….Otherwise, if you expect to eat anything the least bit foreign and come out of it with a good meal, save your money and find the nearest stove.”

Pizza Factory [Delaware County]
6 Kingston St., near Main, Delhi, NY

Slow Down Food Co. [Delaware County]
22 Lee Ln., at Main St. (Rte. 28), Andes, NY

Elena’s Sweet Indulgence [Otsego County]
281 Main St., between Elm St. and Ford Ave., Oneonta, NY

Brooks House of Bar-B-Q [Otsego County]
5560 State Hwy. 7, west of Rte. 47, Oneonta, NY

Peekamoose Restaurant and Tap Room [Ulster County]
8373 Rte. 28, near Lasher Rd., Big Indian, NY

Tuna III Japanese Restaurant [Delaware County]
82 Main St., near Kingston, Delhi, NY

Board Links
Catskills, NY- Livingston Manor, Roscoe, Margaretville Area?

At Prosperity Dumplings, a Wealth of Cheap Eats

The latest five-for-a-buck Chinese dumpling joint to turn up on hound radar is Prosperity on Eldridge. It offers a familiar lineup of fried or boiled dumplings, plus sesame pancakes, noodle soups, and a handful of Fuzhou-style bites like peanut noodles. “Can’t say enough good things about Prosperity or its proprietors,” raves Nosher, who gives the friendly newcomer the edge over Dumpling House a couple blocks to the north. bolletje puts it a rung below Chinatown’s Tasty Dumpling.

Like most of the other dumpling contenders, Prosperity makes a great cheap sandwich by stuffing fresh-griddled sesame pancakes with meat and a lively, banh mi-like vegetable slaw. The beef-vegetable version is terrific, says Nehna, who adds that a mere $5 will buy two of them plus 10 dumplings and bottled water.

Prosperity Dumplings [Lower East Side]
46 Eldridge St., between Canal and Hester, Manhattan

Dumpling House [Lower East Side]
118A Eldridge St., between Broome and Grand, Manhattan

Tasty Dumpling [Chinatown]
54 Mulberry St., between Bayard and Mosco, Manhattan

Board Links
Best Chinatown not dim sum, not noodles, not viet
Manhattan Chinatown Report (long)
Skyway Malaysian (On Allen and Canal)

Get the Banana

Just get the banana gelato at Bovolo. This advice applies to you even if you don’t like bananas. “It sings with ripe, floral banana-ness swathed in silk,” raves Melanie Wong. Other winners: lovely, complex “Garden” gelato, fragrant with mint, thyme, and rose; flavorful peach prosecco gelato; and damn fine currant black tea gelato. The flavors are so intense and absorbing that you may feel obliged to sit on the sunny patio to enjoy your gelato. A “single” size costs $3. Also, you can get a frequent buyer card, which entitles you to one free gelato once you buy ten. Go nuts.

Bovolo [Sonoma County]
106 Matheson St. (inside Plaza Farms), Healdsburg

Board Links
Bovolo’s Gelato
More Gelato Greatness at Bovolo in Healdsburg

Heavenly Hummus

Looking for high-quality batches of wholesome hummus?

Nyala’s unusual hummus, with a hint of cumin that sets it apart from the rest, arrives as an amuse-guele at the start of every meal.

The Newsroom Cafe’s hummus is served as an appetizer with a healthy portion of grilled vegetables and yummy flatbread.

Although short on ambience, Skaf’s might be the best hummus in LA, and ambiance doesn’t make hummus taste any different, says Das Ubergeek. Alcazar ranks a close second.

The sprouts vendor at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market makes very good hummus.

Mom’s Products sells hummus, pita, chips, and other mezze in various farmer’s markets all over town. Their roasted garlic hummus is particularly great.

Instead of choosing ordinary pita to go with your take-home hummus, bernardo urges a visit to the organic fresh bakery at Wholesome Choice market, which continuously rolls out an irresistible assortment of hot-from-the-oven flatbreads. Sangak is a favorite; it’s a chewy, onion-y, delicious concoction double the size of a placemat.

Cafe Dahab is an Egyptian Cafe and hookah bar whose hummus is the real deal, according to some Yemeni and Lebanese filmmakers who frequented the place last year, Kris P Pata recalls.

Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine [Fairfax Village]
1076 S Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

Newsroom Cafe [Fairfax Village]
120 N. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles 90048

Skaf’s Grill [East San Fernando Valley]
6008 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood

Alcazar [West San Fernando Valley]
17239 Ventura Blvd., Encino

Hollywood Farmers’ Market [Hollywood]
1600 Ivar Ave., Los Angeles

Mom’s Products [North OC]
at farmers’ markets all over town
7441 Cerritos Ave., Stanton
714- 995-1705

Wholesome Choice [South OC]
18040 Culver Dr., Michelson, Irvine

Cafe Dahab [Sawtelle Strip]
1638 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles

Board Links
Best Hummus in L.A.

Addictive Cilantro Rice

Robert Lauriston says his wife’s cilantro rice is simply addictive, and megek raves that it’s fantastic–“tangy and spicy and flavorful.” You can use whatever kind of rice you like.

Cook rice using your preferred method, using 1 tsp. salt per cup of rice. For each cup of rice you cook, puree the following in a blender and stir well into the rice once it’s done:

2/3 cup cilantro, loosely packed
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 jalapeno (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. olive oil

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Cilantro rice

Savory Uses for Coffee

A bit of coffee enriches the flavor of chili and baked beans. You can deglaze your pan with coffee to make a nice sauce for any stewy red meat dishes, just as you would with wine, says piccola.

Davwud shares his method for a southern classic, red eye gravy: fry a ham steak until it starts to brown. Add coffee and a wedge of onion and simmer until the ham starts to come apart at the seams, where the muscles attach. It’s perfect over grits, and also goes well with home fries and scrambled eggs.

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What to do with too much coffee?

Baby Pineapples

Baby pineapples are kissing cousins to the common pineapple we see most often. They’re delightfully sweet, and a perfect size for two. They’re not cheap, but they also contain no core, so they’ve got more edible flesh than you might suspect.

The ones from Costa Rica are very nice, sweet and honey flavored, with a bit of tartness. Buy them when firm, and slightly fragrant. Lunchbox likes them about a day overly ripe.

The Queen Victoria variety from South Africa weighs only about a pound and a half, but it’s packed with deliciousness. JMF pronounces it the best pineapple he’s ever had.

They sure are cute!

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Baby pineapples–decoration or food?

The Fat of Your Choice

For cooking, there’s more to choose from than just butter or Crisco; there’s also duck fat, goose fat, bacon grease, and, of course, lard.

For many bakers, lard is the shortening of choice. Good lard makes a lovely biscuit or pie crust. There’s a difference in lard quality, you ask? Of course. The quality of lard depends on how the fat was rendered. The pure white supermarket lard is not great; it’s been processed and hydrogenated, says JMF. A Mexican grocer is a fine place to buy good lard; if you’re lucky, they’ll have made it themselves. It’ll be a tan color, and retain a bacony flavor. The best lard is called “leaf lard,” and comes from around the hog’s kidneys. It doesn’t have that porky flavor; it’s clean.

Karl S notes that some markets will carry fresh geese during the Jewish New Year and Chanukah. You can get about a quart of goose fat from cooking just one goose. It’s better than duck fat, he says.

Save your bacon and poultry fat for cooking. All of them will keep a long time in the fridge, and they also freeze well.

Board Links
Lard–to use or not to use? [moved from Home Cooking]