Flavors Worth Finding: Potato Chips in Sandwiches and Korean Stews

Miss Tomato's tuna sandwich is the grown-up version of the tuna of your childhood.  (Gabe Meline)

Dining in the Bay Area can mean lots of optimized salad bars and grain bowls inhaled between meetings. Here, KQED staffers share recent meals that demanded we slow down and enjoy them thoroughly.

Some more Flavors Worth Finding

Miss Tomato's Take on Tuna

Your basic dorm-room stoner munchie recipe follows a simple formula: just cram together whatever you've got in the fridge, throw it in the oven or on some bread, and call it good. It rarely is. But every once in a while, some inspired accident rises to the level of “edible.” Or, even rarer still, “tasty.”

Such is the case with the crunchy tuna sandwich at Miss Tomato Sandwich Shop in San Francisco. Thrown into its proverbial blender of randomness is tuna salad, potato chips, pickles, wasabi mayo, and arugula, on a soft roll. It shouldn't work. It does. I've gone back to it again and again, with each bite asking myself, “Why aren't potato chips a required addition to all sandwiches?”

I am not alone. On a recent afternoon, I counted 40 people crammed into the small, 250-square-foot shop on Market Street, waiting for their order. The sandwich is only six inches long, and costs $10, and takes about 15 minutes to arrive on crowded days. But on the first bite, when the arugula and wasabi come together to undergird, in grown-up fashion, the childhood comfort food of tuna fish, all is forgotten. I've tried to replicate it myself at home, to no avail. And so back to the sandwich shop I go. Gabe Meline, Senior Arts Editor

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S+M Vegan's chef Marie Chia and Shane Stanbridge will soon open up a Singaporean brick and mortar restaurant in the Dimond district.
S+M Vegan's chef Marie Chia and Shane Stanbridge will soon open up a Singaporean brick and mortar restaurant in the Dimond district. (Courtesy of S+M Vegan)

S+M Vegan's Rhapsodic Shaobing

I’ve been meaning to go to one of S+M Vegan’s pop-ups at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland ever since I heard about their sandwiches from Soleil Ho, the San Francisco Chronicle’s food critic. When I finally sampled last Tuesday’s shaobing sandwich No. 21, I damn near burst into tears. With my first bite, I knew I had met my new favorite sandwich.

Every layer of No. 21 was so thoughtfully prepared: a golden sesame flatbread, with an airy interior and a shattering crust, sandwiching slices of meaty and salty Sichuan peppercorned seitan coated in a mellow soymilk thousand-island dressing. The crisp pickled cabbage with black bean delivered a welcome acidic kick to blast through the fatty richness. And the textural cherry-on-top (or cherry-in-middle): a layer of still-crunchy potato chips preemptively tucked in.

I’m itching for the opening of Lion Dance Café, chef Marie Chia and Shane Stanbridge’s forthcoming Singaporean brick and mortar in the Dimond district, another ecstatic addition to Oakland’s vegan culinary moment. I sincerely hope shaobing sandwich No. 21 gets a much-deserved spot on the café’s regular menu, because this rhapsodic sandwich won’t be leaving my heart anytime soon. —Olivia Won, Associate Producer Check, Please! Bay Area

Less Known Korean at Moo Bong Ri

Spur-of-the-moment dinners after work with colleagues are always great. Someone picks a well-vetted restaurant everyone will love, and people talk, laugh, eat and leave with full bellies, wide smiles and lighter wallets.

That’s the kind of night I thought was in store when a friend and I left the office. After parking at our first choice proved impossible, we picked a restaurant neither of us had been to. Up the block from Jack in the Box in a strip mall-esque corner in Oakland was a Korean restaurant, Moo Bong Ri, with small bursts of decor. The space was homey and cozy. We’ve had Korean food before, so we figured it’d be a safe bet for two hungry people who just want to eat something good. We were wrong. In a good way.

None of the usual Korean dishes one might expect were on the menu. Soups, stews, pig's trotters, intestines; yeah, you’re not gonna find this at the typical Korean BBQ spot. Afterward, I learned that Moo Bong Ri is known for their soondae, Korean blood sausages. 

We had the spicy baby octopus and the beef short rib stew. The baby octopus was served in a red beef broth with rice cakes and flour noodles. It was spicy, sweet and savory—a nighttime carnival of flavors. The short rib stew was smooth and refreshing; filling, but not heavy.

I’ll go back again with the memory of this meal, but the menu is special enough so that any time I revisit Moo Bong Ri, it’ll feel like the first time. —Chinwe Oniah, Arts Video Intern