Sakura Mandarin

Duck Tongue

Claire and I have been trying our best to accommodate her chaotic schedule; booking time with a graduate student who also works several days a week can be a difficult task, but we do our best to find little holes in her schedule and usually end up spending the found time at one of Philadelphia’s many amazing restaurants.

We’ve passed Sakura a few times with the intention of trying it out, but when we realize how close we are to one of our standards, we pass it by with a “next time” promise which we never seemed to keep. So when we found a few hours together this past Saturday, we went for broke and headed in for a quick dinner. The location itself used to be one of my favorite Chinatown noodle houses and has changed hands and concepts several time since my last visit.

I was initially leery about Sakura because it seemed to be a hodge-podge concept; Mandarin specialties, Sushi, Noodle Soup are all offered on their menu and I worried that they’d be a little too homogenized for our taste. Turns out I was totally wrong.

The menu offered quite a few “adventurous” appetizer options including tripe, jellyfish and my appetizer this visit, cooked duck tongues. Unlike the wait staff at Chinatown’s PENANG, our waitress didn’t react when I ordered the plate of tongues; I expected a “you know that the duck tongues are duck tongues, yes?” warning. But she just took the order with a smile.

They came out in no time at all, and there I was sitting in front of a plate full of them. I dove right in, popping the tongue into my mouth and biting down. Bad call. Turns out they have either a bone or a lump of cartilage at the base of the tongue, which you have to eat around. I found the best technique was to bite off the tip of the tongue and pull the meat from the bone with your teeth. Strips the meat off fairly well though it’s a bit disconcerting at first. My only complaint was a lack of a dipping sauce. The wine they were cooked in was good, but something a little salty would have been good for dipping.

For our entrees, Claire went with a Mapo Tofu and I had the Salt Baked Squid. The tofu dish was good; very spicy and well balanced. I’m not a fan of tofu that soft, but Claire loved it. My squid was good. Salty, not overcooked and plated on shrimp puffs. Claire finished her meal off with an avocado roll. The price was decent for the amount of food we got; the service was good (she forgot Claire’s diet coke, but remembered to charge us for it) and the menu had enough interesting offerings to tempt us back for a second visit.

Sakura Mandarin.
1038 Race Street

Appetizer: 9/10
Entrees: 8/10
Price: $


Meat and Cheese

The cooler months are perfect for dry curing; humidity and temperature is much easier to control. The weather started changing recently in Philadelphia, so to celebrate I hung my first prosciutto of of the season. I mixed up the dry rub this time; running rosemary, black peppercorns and truffle sea salt through a round in my mortar and doubling the amount of rub used on previous ducks.

Claire and I took the prosciutto down earlier today and made a meat and cheese plate featuring the duck and joined by seared foie gras and sweetbread sausages, a truffle infused cow’s milk cheese, cumin infused cheese and a very garlicky cow’s milk cheese.

I made use of the meat slicer that Claire got me for Christmas, slicing the duck a little thicker than DiBruno’s usually does for a more solid bite.

As the fall progresses, I’m going to start experimenting with fermented cured sausages; until then… I’m going to enjoy the rest of this duck!

Adsum Philadelphia

Foie Gras Poutine at Adsum

Adsum opened on July 14th just off South Street in Philadelphia.
A friend messaged me about their foie gras poutine appetizer yesterday morning; 20 minutes later I was showered and headed that way to sample a combination of two of my favorite foods. My little Chef Claire joined me, and we walked in a little after 1pm.

We were, for the entirety of our meal, the only customers in the restaurant. That said, the staff was extremely pleasant, our waitress helpful and very attentive and the overall ambience nice. I can imagine that dinner there will get a lot more crowded, particularly with a kitchen that stays open until 1am.

I ordered the foie poutine appetizer; the portion was small compared to what I’m used to with poutine and easily triple the price. But the foie gras that topped it probably had a lot to do with that. The fries were seasoned perfectly, the duck liver melted in my mouth and the gravy was excellent. The cheese curds could have been better; when I bite into a cheese curd I want a little resistance and these were a bit too soft. But they’re a rare commodity in Philadelphia, so I’ll cut them some slack.

Claire ordered the Pierogi. Tasty, fried just right with a smoked bacon foam on top. The caramelized onions really stood out and it was finished with a nice herb garnish. The dinner size plate comes with four plump pierogi (which Wikipedia just informed me is the plural usage).

The menu has a few offerings that I’ll be back to try; the bone marrow plate, fresh salt & vinegar Chicharr√≥ns, PBR BBQ pork belly and the KFC style sweetbreads, and fried oysters with a pickle juice remoulade all sound like they’ll be worth the visit.

Adsum’s concept seems to be hipster/haute; classic ingredients like sweetbreads, foie gras and pork belly made new with the indie generation in mind. The PBR BBQ sauce being the prime suspect for my theory. That said, the menu looks great and despite somewhat eyebrow raising pricing, I’ll certainly be back for more.

Appetizer: 9/10
Entree: 7/10
Price: $$

700 South 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 888-7002

Tod Mun Pla

Philadelphia has an amazingly diverse restaurant scene, little pockets of regional and international cuisine can be found all over the city if you know where to look, ranging in price from $1.75 for an amazing lamb kabob snack to skies the limit dinners. Why is it then that it’s so dang hard to find decent Thai in the city?

I’ve been craving it for the last few days, so Claire and I went on a little adventure today stopping off at Siam in Chinatown for a late lunch.¬† More than anything I was craving my favorite appetizer: Tod Mun Pla. Fish cakes seasoned with red curry and kaffir lime leaves that are usually served with a Thai sweet chili sauce and sliced fresh cucumber. $9 for five decent sized fish cakes was a bargain.

Our entree was a garlic and Thai basil fried duck plate. Good. Not great but tasty enough to justify my “let’s get Tod Mun Pla” excursion.

Siam Thai Cuisine-
Appetizer: 10/10
Entree: 6/10
Price: $

I did a bit of digging and found a recipe for the fish cakes; I’ll be attempting my own soon!

8 oz. fish paste
1/2 egg (beaten)
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
5 snake beans/long beans (thinly sliced)
5 kaffir lime leaves (cut into fine thin strips)


Duck Prosciutto

I first tried duck prosciutto at DiBruno Brother’s in the Italian Market here in Philadelphia. Thinly sliced; salty, fatty and perfectly paired with melon or a nice strong cheese. The downside was price: $35/lb or thereabouts.

My cooking partner/Little Chef Claire and I took the bull by the horns and decided to try our hands at home curing our own prosciutto. My New Years Resolution for 2010 was to get into dry curing, so this simple project was a good starting point. The recipe we used was taken from Ruhlman’s excellent “Charcuterie: The craft of salting, smoking, and curing”.

We headed back to the Italian Market and stopped into D’Angelo Brothers. Sonny set me up with a nice fatty Moulard Magret duck’s breast. These ducks are raised to produce Foie Gras and are extra fatty. The breast itself was just over a pound and came from a local organic farm.

Total cost: $19.

The breast was packed in kosher salt and allowed to sit for 24hrs. I mean packed. I used half a box of salt to make sure the meat was fully covered. Wrapped the container in plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator to start the curing process. I was like a kid at Christmas waiting the 24 hours. Patience when it comes to delicious foodstuffs is not exactly my strong point. Once the clock hit 24hrs I removed the breast from the salt, washed it thoroughly and started the next step: Seasoning.

We mixed cracked black pepper corns and course sea salt and rubbed the duck down with it. Claire topped it with a fresh sprig of Rosemary, wrapped it with one full wrap of cheesecloth and tied it with butcher’s twine in preparation for the drying process.

This is where patience came back into play: The duck had to cure a week. Seven days with it hanging in my basement (which is luckily temperature and humidity controlled) before I could cut it down, unwrap it and get to the business of eating it. Every day I watched the butcher’s string getting looser; over the course of the drying process the duck breast loses about 20%+ of it’s weight. I had to make adjustments to the wrapping, check the heat/humidity and check the time to see how many days were left.

At seven full days I finally got a chance to unwrap it. I shaved a few thin slices off and decided that it could stay hanging an additional day or two. We re-wrapped it and put it back on the hook. Two days later it was ready to go. Tangy. Pungent. Gamey. We served it for the first time with a few cheeses and dry cured salami. The taste was spectacular as was knowing that Claire and I made it.

Subsequent breasts have been rubbed with truffle salt and other spices to vary the taste.

This is a simple process that’s very fun to DIY…. why buy it when you can make it!