Archive for March, 2008

Wat Buddhanusorn Thai Buddhist Temple

March 13, 2008

Wat Buddhanusorn
36054 Niles Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94536
(510) 790-2296
www.watbuddha.iirt.net

What makes a dining experience great can be different for different people. For me it is not just about the food, but it can be many things. I have been to many church bazaars and many Buddhist Temples, but this one stands out for me so far.

Unlike many bazaars, which feels more like people doing business than volunteering, this place is very different. It made me feel like I am actually on a street with many food stalls. The use of the Tokens gave me more comfort in spending money there, because it was meaningless to haggle with the vendor. Many of the volunteers and attendees were very jovial and welcoming, even though no real money was really being exchanged.

If you are using price as meter, I am sure you can find cheaper food somewhere else. American Buddhist Cultural Society in Fremont probably can be cheaper , since donations are not monitored and many attendees can refill as many or as much times as they want, until the food runs out. The people in ABCS are very friendly as well, but they do mainly speak Chinese (Mandarin) and is pretty serious about etiquette and decor. The banquet is also held only on Sundays, as well, but it starts at around 12PM till about 2PM. Although it does not seem to be required, many do attend the service, which starts at 10AM, but it is in Mandarin only. They serve a vegetarian fair (non-strict because they had cake which probably contains eggs), compared with Buddhanusorn, which serves shrimp, chicken, and pork.

You probably can get better quality (in my opinion) Thai food at The Original Krung Thai Restaurant in San Jose, because the curries are much thicker and food more spiced up. Quality is a very subjective trait. However, I can say objectively, that the ingredients are very fresh and are handled with the utmost care. I felt that the volunteers were cooking for their own family members, which is not how many restaurants are ran. A good example of this is how they ran the Pad Thai station, because they refused to cook as many orders as possible at once, and only cooked one order at a time. I also found the Thai Iced Tea really good, because I found the spice to be not as overwhelming as the ones in the restaurants.

This is definitely a good place to stop for a visit, if you are looking for a unique dining experience. The food is authentic and the environment is unique. The people are welcoming and easy going, so you do not have to worry about being converted if you do not want to. It is almost like traveling to a small piece of Thailand without the price of airfare.

Here is how my list of places to get Thai food:
1. The Original Krung Thai Restaurant (in San Jose)
2. Wat Buddhanusorn Temple (in Fremont)
3. Tuk Tuk Thai Cafe (in Berkeley cost a little more than Thai Basil, but better atmosphere)
4. Chiang Lai Thai (in Berkeley simular to Thai Basil but hidden)
5. Thai Basil (in Berkeley in the Asian Ghetto, too crowded)

What is your opinion?

Thanks,
H.

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Is it me or does nobody cares about “Tea”?

March 1, 2008

Being Chinese (and once British controlled Hong Kongnese), I love my tea. I love it pure, I love it mixed, but I can only have it one way and not the next.

I am a traditionalist when enjoying it pure. No tea balls or filter needed except nice pure tea, hot water and a porcelain cup or dedicated clay tea pot. But where can you buy real tea today. It seems everyone is selling it and no one appreciates it. I love “Eye On the Bay”, but when I saw how they served up Oolong as Kung-fu tea, it made me wonder who can I trust, even the tea shop was sacrilegious.

In pure Chinese teas there are different ways to enjoy different teas. You always heat up the containers that will contain the tea, so that the temperature change is minimal. You do not want to scald the tea, but the aroma is in the tea’s steam. Some teas require a rinse (i.e. Kung-fu teas) , while most is just a steep. When the tea is ready to drink the leaves automatically fall towards the bottom, so there is no real need for a tea ball or filter. Also depending on the tea, some are packed into the pot and they let it sit, and mix the concentrate with hot water to enjoy. In some parts of China nowadays, they do have tea bar in which they do let you sniff the emptied glass cylinder to check out the fragrance like sniffing the cork of fine wine.

To have expensive teas in Bay Area Dim sum places is just a waste (even though once upon a time I used to enjoy it at Koi Palace in Daly City) since the food items are so heavily spiced. Most hot Chinese teas, do help in digestion, especially if the food is greasy, which seems to be the case in most Chinese restaurant around the bay. Although you can drink pure teas plain, they can be paired. With some expensive teas like Golden Monkey Tea the flavor is light (but the finish is smooth), you can only pair it light flavored dishes (i.e. almond tofu?) to get the best out of it.

In areas in and around Hong Kong the milk tea is made with a blend of Western (anything to the west since Europe does not produce) teas. It is a copy of the teas the British drink (ironic the Chinese are copying something they probably drank first, which maybe a copy of the yak tea drank in Western China and introduced to Marco Polo). Most producers use two pot of boiling water and something close to a pantyhose. In Hong Kong the best milk tea is referred to silk pantyhose milk tea. Although most do not use a pantyhose today, it is rumored that it used to be made with a pantyhose as a filter, giving it a smooth finish. The tea blend is poured into the filter and dipped in the first pot a couple of times to rinse it. It is believed that the tannins of the tea gives it the sour bitter tastes and a rough texture finish. The goal is to rinse it enough to remove the tannins, but leave the maximum flavor. Sure some can hide this flaw with cream, but then you lose the intense flavor of the evaporated milk, some even use condensed milk (not original as well). I do not know why they prefer evaporated to fresh cream, but maybe the weather down there inhibited it. This is the drink that most SinoWestern dishes are served with, the other drink is the YinYang, which is half coffee and half milk tea.

The YinYang is simple yet complicated, because both flavors have to come through. So far I have not found a similar YinYang in the BayArea as in Hong Kong. I have tried to make it with good coffee such as Columbian or Sumantra, but the coffee over powers the flavor of the tea. Any suggestions?

Tapioca in everything was curious at first, but where is the value? Sure if the tapioca is done correctly it gives me some interesting texture and flavor, but it still can be dangerous or cumbersome at the end. I really do not see the novelty in it anymore. The adding of flavors, like adding flavor syrups to an latte is cute, but milk tea to me is still about flavor and texture finish.

What about Chai? Well I can not compare it with HK milk tea or Thai Iced Tea, because the specs are also different. Maybe because I am Chinese I prefer the Chinese pure and HK milk tea more.

As teas go I like them in the follow order:
1. Pure tea
2. HK milk tea
3. Taiwan milk tea
4. Chai
5. Thai milk tea

Top 3 Taiwan milk tea places:
1. Tea Station (on Cedar in Newark)
2. Tapioca Express (on Decoto in Union City)
3. Fantasia (on Cedar in Newark)

Top 5 milk tea places:
1. Venus Tams Cafe (on Jarvis in Newark)
2. Tea Station (on Cedar in Newark)
3. Cousin Cafe (on Cedar in Newark)
4. Tapioca Express (on Decoto in Union City)
5. Fantasia (on Cedar in Newark)

What’s your fav? How do you rank them?

Thanks,
H.