Saturday in Photos

Some more photos, which I took a ton of on my iPhone. We’ve been having mild weather here in San Diego, which is unusual for August.

On Saturday, I met up with Brian and Sharon at the Tourmaline in PB* (Pacific Beach). Here’s a photo of the water:
Idyllic California Shore

An interesting arrangement of kelp in the water:
Kelp

Afterwards, we were off to La Torta, a Mexican deli further south in PB. Food porn!
Sandwich 3

Then there was a visit to La Jolla Cove. At the Children’s Pool, or Casa Beach, some people went swimming there and hung out on the shore even though that’s an area where the seals like to beach (not things I’d do there):
Stupid people clearing out

It was cloudy late in the day and the horizon looked too much like one of those motivational posters. I’ll entitle it “Optimism.”
Optimism

The Pink Berry recently opened in Hillcrest. Good frozen yogurt, but a place of cute overload:
Cutesy Wine Corkers

My last thing I had to do was stop by the Apple Store to pick up my computer. While in Fashion Valley, I saw this brilliant window display in front of Saks:
Fall Preview

*San Diegans often refer to Pacific Beach as PB. Definitely part of the local dialect.

No Pho King Way!

Pho King 4

Like many large cities, San Diego has its fair share of Vietnamese restaurants, especially those that serve pho. Many (but not all) of these restaurants have pho in their names, particularly one out on El Cajon Boulevard, not too far from Hoover High and the Saigon Restaurant (very good).

Whether it was an intentional pun or simply a brag about having great pho, you gotta love the name choice.

Sometime, I’ll have to pay them a visit and see if all that Pho King is worth it.

Pho King 3

Miso

Miso

If you’ve only had miso soup made from a dehydrated powder mix, you’re missing out. This common Japanese side dish is best made fresh from a paste like those pictured above.

Miso is fermented soybeans, rice, and barley. While it is typically a rich paste with some degree of saltiness, miso varies in color, flavor, texture, and intensity. Some are even sweet (though not in the candy sense). “Red” and “white miso are commonly used for soups along with dashi (soup stock made with bonito flakes and a strip of kombu [kelp]) for flavoring.

Making the soup isn’t too difficult. All you need is a small tub of miso paste, some dashi, and water (of course). A bit of salt can be substituted if you don’t have access to dashi or if their use is too complicated.

For the miso, I prefer those imported from Japan. I typically use white miso, though red is just as good. While Whole Foods and Wild Oats carry miso made in the USA, I don’t trust them. I grew up on Japanese miso and that’s what I use as an adult. I know what it tastes like, whereas I fear that the American variety is made with hippie-dippy health food tastes in mind. If this is what you have access to, work with what you got. I’ll just have to treat you to the real thing if possible.

Dashi can easily be made by boiling bonito flakes and kombu together. I tend to take a more modern approach and use an instant, granulated type. It makes preparation much quicker and easier. On some level, this may contradict my feeling about powdered miso. However, miso is the star while dashi is the supporting player. While my mother also uses granulated dashi, she gives adds a more authentic touch with throwing a square or two of kombu in the soup mix.

A heaping tablespoon of miso for every two cups of water should generally do the trick. Trust your tastebuds on figuring out the amount. Bring water to a boil and then turn it down before adding some dashi (sprinkle sparingly) and miso. Never, never, never over-boil miso as it ruins the flavor and the aroma. While miso paste can be pungent, miso soup can have a pleasant, nutty aroma.

Almost anything can be added to miso soup: chicken, clams, fish, scallions, spinach, potatoes, to name a few. I’ve even added a few things such as courgettes and yellow crookneck squash.

Miso has quite a few other uses as well. It can be made into a grilling sauce or salad dressing. Also, some of the darker varieties of miso are used as fillings for onigiri (rice balls). I’m good at making those too.

Umakatta!*

Santouka

I usually don’t do food posts, but I thought it would be fun to do one on Santouka, a Japanese noodle chain that has a few foodcourt outlets in several Mitsuwa stores in Southern California. Given that there is a Mitsuwa in San Diego, I didn’t have to go to Costa Mesa or Los Angeles to experience some very good and insexpensive noodles.

Like lots of chain places, Santouka uses a visual narrative to evoke an image to accompany the experience, which is that of an old noodle house. However, I’m not there to eat the wood or the other decorations.

Visual menu for Santouka

Santouka has a fairly simple menu, which is amazing. We live in age of too many choices, which can be quite crippling when it comes time to decide what to eat. Less is definitely more, as there are three basic choices for the noodle broth: salt, miso, and soy. All of the noodle bowl choices are a variation of the three. The best thing about the noodles is the garnish of sliced pork, which is inescapable. There are also some bowls of rice with toppings such as chopped scallions, fish roe, natto, and pork. Everything on the menu can be enjoyed solo or in several combinations.

One very Japanesey experience is the visual menu, which shows the customer plastic versions of the dishes offered. It’s a very fun part of the pre-dining experience and it helps diners make informed decisions. If only Bill Murry and Scarlet Johansen were able to look at one in Lost in Translation, they may have had a more pleasant lunch.

100_0063

Here, I ordered one of those combinations, which is enough to satisfy any American appetite. The main course was a bowl of miso ramen, topped with their incomparable pork slices, a piece of fishcake (white with pink spiral), and some chopped scallions. A bit on the salty side, but definitely umaii.*

The side dishes are also worth mention. The hard boiled egg is soaked in some soy sauce flavoring. It should be easy on anyone’s palate. The topping in the rice bowl, on the other hand, can be an acquired taste. Natto is sticky, fermented soybeans with a bit of a pungent odor. The flavor, though, is nutty and it goes well with rice. If you’re not familiar with natto, it is best to go with the scallions or the pork topping.

I’ve been thinking about a post listing some good cheap eats in San Diego, and I’d include Santouka on that list, even if they aren’t unique to this area.

*umaii is a Japanese adjective that means delicious. umakatta is an adjectival past tense form.