At the 2nd annual Bay Area BBQ Championship ahead of the A's game against the Mariners this Saturday, you'll see celebrity chefs like Dr. BBQ (aka Ray Lampe). You'll see celebrity baseball stars like Jonny Gomes.
You may have to seek out the Oakland Fire Department's corner of the People’s Choice category. But having tasted what Station 12 is bringing, I recommend looking for it, and saving some space.
Lieutenant James Patrick Troy -- or “JP” -- out of Oakland Fire Station 12 says the firefighters aren't bringing a lot of, em, heat to the competition. But firefighters famously eat well, and Station 12 in Chinatown is no exception. Troy's team, the “Dragonslayers,” features at least two guys with experience working in restaurants.
The team's Top Chef is Zach Fraser, who knows enough Cantonese to shop in Chinatown. To say that a white guy speaking Cantonese charms the shop keepers is an understatement. They beam at him. "Jo San!" he calls out as he enters Yuen Hop on Webster, and the cashier calls back "Joooo Saaan!"
Fraser winces at the phrase "Asian-style," but it's a fair description of the way he cooks. And it fairly describes the menu he's putting together for Saturday: marinated chicken seared on the grill, topped with black sesame seeds and a sweet, sour sauce made with plums. Plus a side of coleslaw with an "Asian" (sorry, Zach) take on Green Goddess dressing.
Now I have to admit, I was kinda hoping for tri-tip and Caesar Salad. After all, Saturday night is traditionally Steak and Caesar Night with the Oakland Fire Department.
But the Chef has his reasons. Since the firefighters, their union and the Championship organizers are forking out for the food, red meat for hordes of people is a tad expensive. Also, the romaine lettuce in Chinatown is not always up to snuff. Like any cook worth his salt, Fraser makes something delicious out of what's available. And as it happens, plums are in season.
Listen to Zach Fraser in action:
Here are the recipes. Fraser doesn't do portion sizes -- everything is to taste, so adjust accordingly...
Recipe: Chicken Marinade
Skinless chicken thighs
Seasoned Rice Vinegar
Chinese five spice powder
Shredded fresh ginger
Shredded fresh garlic
Chopped green onions
Mix everything but the chicken in a bowl. Then put the raw chicken in. Let sit for 45 minutes to 2 hours.
Recipe: Dragonslayer Chinatown BBQ Sauce
Splash of rice wine vinegar
Fresh plums if in season
Saute onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Deglaze with beer (if not cooking at a firehouse, where all alcohol is forbidden.) Add all other ingredients and cook down until it thickens. Check your flavors and adjust to taste. Push sauce through a sieve. Great on pork as well as chicken.
Recipe: Coleslaw dressing
Rice wine vinegar
Toasted sesame oil
Canola or other neutral oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Blend all ingredients except for the seeds, cilantro and half the avocado, which lends a nice creaminess to the dressing. After you've shredded your cabbage and carrots, toss with sliced avocado, chopped cilantro and dressing. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.