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Stewed Tripe, Chicken Feet and Coffee Ribs (and more) @ Koi Palace

19 May

I had always wanted to go to Koi Palace. It was one of the legendary dim sum places everyone’s talked about. But being a total city girl without actual form of transportation, a restaurant outside the city limits could always be bit of a challenge. Thanks to my lovely roommate and her trusted Corolla: I was finally able to make the trip this past Sunday!

Warning: the wait was very, very long. They had a system fo walk-in’s and call-in’s, systematically displayed in the overhead screens. Underneath were mic’ed up front of house ladies, and a man making dragon’s beard candy as a form of guest entertainment. The wait area was cramped, with people of all ages and races, craning their necks impatiently next to the large water tanks filled with live sea creatures to be devoured. So close, they thought to themselves, to the luminous hall behind the arch, underneath the ornate cloud lanterns.

And everyone knew that the wait would be worth it. As soon as we sat down, the steaming carts came roaming. Cantonese ladies approached us one after the other, displaying buns and dumplings and many other delicacies hidden in the rolling metal cages of yum.

Dining with my Filipino roommate and her family meant, to start off, our orders were slightly out of the ordinary. First thing first: tripe stewed with daikon in herbed broth. Meaty, chewy yet soft at the same time, the rich flavor complimented by the cleanse of daikon: everything an offal lover enjoyed. We got two things of this.

A dim sum trip, for many, may not be complete without some shrimp dumplings and shu mai. For us, it was the chicken feet. Unlike the fried then steamed in red sauce variety often seen in Chinatown, Koi Palace prepared our delicate digits by stewing them in a nice flavorful broth, probably for an insanely long period of time. Because the skin and the tendons (what you eat with chicken feet) just falls right off when you suck on them, forming such deliciousness that, well, only select Asian people could appreciate – sadly. It was an acquired taste. Matt, in the blurred background, agreed.

It had come to my attention that no visit to Koi Palace would be considered authentic without an order (or three) of coffee ribs. Marinated in coffee grinds overnight, the ribs exuded such elegant flavor rarely found. They were fried to seal in the juices then steamed to tenderize the meat to a level of dreaminess. Do not leave without ordering. Ever.

We have also ordered scallion pancakes and steamed rolls. The scallion pancakes had more of an American pancake texture, soft and spongey.

The steamed rolls pictured here were referred to as “flower rolls” back in Taiwan. The dough was pulled into thin threads, then rolled together to form the shape seen here. Mega delicious eaten alone, or dipped in condensed milk.

For dessert, we had fried sesame balls: made with rice flower stuffed lotus seed paste, then covered in sesame before frying. Frying, such key in Chinese cuisine, more so than you’d think.

Last, but not in the very least, my absolute favorite dessert was douhua, a mildly sweet, extremely soft tofu. Transported in a giant metal can, our lady scooped out the trembling tofu into a giant bowl, then passing us, in a separate bowl, some ginger-infused syrup. It was like eating the finest custard with a sweetness of soy not often found in store-bought tofu cases. The syrup, cool with an enticing aroma, elevated to the clean flavor of the tofu without much disturbance. A must try.

There were many other dishes we ordered: shrimp dumplings, chive dumplings, soup dumplings and more. But I was too busy to stuff my face to make proper records of these small pockets of deliciousness. The impressiveness of Koi Palace continued even after we finished the meal. The expected feeling of greasiness-induced lethargy was not there. We were so full, yet so bright-eyed and alive at the same time. Like some odd magic spell of happiness (or of the Koi King). Long live the Koi King.

Koi Palace | 365 Gellert Blvd. | Daly City, CA 94105 | 650.992.9000

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Spicy Beef Tendon & Dumplings.

23 Jul

It’s not a figurative speech when they called Kingdom of Dumplings a hole-in-the-wall joint. Hidden far away in Park Side, without the sign and the line of people waiting in the from, it could easily been mistaken for some sort of elevated basement. Despite being tightly packed into the square room, the patrons waited patiently to be served, as the late afternoon shined through the front windows.

Here we are, the Kingdom of Dumplings! The space was tight and slightly too warm, the walls appeared to be a tad greased, but the servers were all smiles and kindness. We are here for the dumplings, and some Northern Chinese eats that cannot be found on the East side of San Francisco – where the Cantonese and Hunan cuisine dominated.

I was most excited to have found spicy beef tendon on the menu, even more when it appeared before my eyes. Beef tendons cooked in soy sauce, rock sugar and anise seed, chilled then thinly sliced. It is then mixed with chili oil, garlic, pepper, chopped cilantro and sesame oil.

The tendons see-through when picked up. It was cold and refreshing at first, the texture gelatinous but on the chewy side. Chopped up cilantro brought a nice aroma that erased any unwanted fattiness. Then – as we sat and ate, before we knew it, the stealthy numbing spice hit us. Like wild fire it spread through our mouth, making us sweat yet unable to stop going for more.

It was really a ‘thank goodness’ moment when the dumplings arrived. For we could then divert our attention from the tasty, killer beef tendons, and move on to something else. Sitting in the mess of our tiny plastic-covered table, 12 cute little boiled dumplings sat and stared. “Eat us instead!” they said. The heat was making me slightly delirious.

You could really taste the hand-knead dough. Thicker than the store-bought, machine-made ones, the dumpling skin was thicker and a chewier, the perfect kind that holds the stuffing together. Inside, ground pork and cabbage made a great pair – juicy, sweet, with a nice crunch from the green veggie. A light dip in black vinegar and some ginger slices gave a rounded taste.

Yumm’s the word! Next up, our taste buds travelled to Shenghai for some soup dumplings. Also known as tiao long bao, the dough is traditionally slightly softer, thinner and more translucent compared to ones use on the dumplings. Though it seems that Kingdom of Dumplings just used the same hand-knead dough.

These dumplings were steamed instead of boiled. Enveloped within is a pork filling, prepared with solid pork aspics that melted into the tasty broth when heated. Because of the hot soup that could burst at the bite, it was recommended that we open up the dumplings a bit to let it cool before eating.


Umami was its profile. The broth was on the greasier side, but tasty nonetheless. It provided a whole different experience next to the spicy tendon and the boiled dumplings – which were felt like a hugely satisfying, working man’s meal. The soup dumpling, despite its thicker skin, felt delicate and gentle. To my tummy that was happy, that went for a long sigh and said: What. A. Day.

1713 Taraval Street | San Francisco, CA 94116 | 415.566.6143

Chicken Feet.

22 May

May 21st, 2011. Woke up to a sunny, breezy San Francisco day. The end of the world was no where near, and @KatManalac (of Hidden Menu) was back in town. What other way to celebrate than dim sum brunch at my favorite East-of-Filmore locale: City View Restaurant!

Shu-mei, shrimp dumplings, chive dumplings, soup dumplings, pekin duck pieces in sweet sauce wrapped in delicious white buns. Delicious of delicious indeed. But in true weird food spirit, it is inevitable that we tackle the most infamous dim sum of them all – Chicken Feet.

Being born and raised Taiwanese, again, had led some bizarre ingredients to become household products growing up. Chicken feet is one of them. My mother would buy about 30 – 40 chicken feet, stew them overnight in a soy sauce and melter rock sugar mixture, and eat them slowly while watching TV.

Chicken feet of the dim sum variety was slightly fancier. They were first fried to create a slight crunch, then braised in a sweet sauce (often used on sweet n’ sour chicken) with a generous amount of what looked like jalapeno and banana peppers to give it a nice kick.

@KatManalac asked a fair question: just what is being consumed when one eats chicken feet? There really isn’t as much meat as, say, pig trotters. “It is all in the skin,” was what I told her (and a bit of the tendon, of course). To eat a chicken foot, one would bite of the tiny pieces of bones by the joints, then eat the piece of skin around it. It was time consuming, but sort of created a fun around is – quite similar to eating sunflower seeds.


The skin was thickened from the frying, then soaked orange in the sweet and spicy sauce. It fell off the bone easily, had a crispy yet softened texture. The tendons was slightly chewy like beef tendons, but not as meaty. While it was a bit time consuming for what we got out of it, the experience itself was mildly entertaining in a snacking sort of way. And that is the point of dim sum, which in Mandarin also stands for “snacks”. You see what I just did there? No? No wonder I wasn’t saved from the Rapture.

City View Restaurant | 662 Commercial Street | San Francisco, CA 94111 | 415.398.2838