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Straits Cafe (San Francisco CA)
|(415) 668-1783||3300 Geary Street,|
San Francisco, CA 94115
Chris Yeo surely knows how to cook the greatest Singapore-style food in these parts. His Satay and Indian Bread with Curry Sauce is terrific. Three of us who ate there after an AIWF meeting can attest to that as can four others the very next evening. The Chilean Sea Bass which comes in parchment paper with ginger, shiitake mushrooms, sweet longans and rice wine is not to be missed. Enjoy them under the faux-shuttered balconies and windows near pseudo-palm trees and dream of great food here and in Singapore.
Food at this Cafe is pure Nonya, named after the Straits Chinese settlements which were among the first communities in what is now known as Singapore. Cognoscenti know Nonya as a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian food and a unique cuisine little known outside of Singapore. Become one, get to know that the cultures it comes from have wonderful blends of flavor, color, texture, and taste and a large variety of aromatic, sometimes piquant dishes.
Settle into the this Cafe with their Sample Platter of Satay of chicken served with peanut sauce, Senosa (a vegetarian curry mixture with a tangy chili garlic sauce), Grilled Oysters with Ginger Marmalade, and a pastry filled with prawns and vegetables called Kway Pai Ti. Wet these down with a Singapore beer or with tea in a small knobby traditional iron pot. Both go well with Nonya food and a must with the Cafe foods.
Taste the Roti Prata. This grill-made batter-type bread is served with a long-handled wooden dipper filled with a sauce redolent of curry, chili, and peanut flavors. And, try those Wok-Roasted Mussels seasoned with cracked pepper and garlic glazed with butter.
Load up on Roti Prate, Satay Lamb, and some Rojah, a salad made with cucumber, jicama, pineapple, bean sprouts, and pulled fried dough in a prawn paste dressing of Sambal Blechan. The Rojah, some say, is an acquired taste, others say, get hooked on it.
Share Duck Kapitan, a mix of grilled duck breast with a duck leg, the latter made confit style. Do not know how Nonya that dish is, never mind, it can be called 'Kapital' and if you are willing to take risks, try and savor a Chili Octopus that is soft and rather spicy. It goes well with the mild Potong Kari Ayam, better known as Singapore-style coconut curried chicken. Also order their crispy whole fish in a black-bean and basil sauce, a heavenly decision!
No matter what you eat at the Strait Cafe, it is bound to please. The food is great, the prices reasonable, and the service caring and accommodating. Just do not come unannounced unless you have a hell-bent for chatting on the street awaiting a table. Reservations are honored and they honor you with fantastic food.
Should you want to try some Nonya food at home, check our my interpretation of Rojak and a Nonya item served at the restaurant, taken from The Cooking of Singapore by Chris Yeo and Joyce Jue. That book was published by Harlow and Ratner in Emeryville, California in 1993. The recipes below are from the Yeo and Jue book. They are written in Flavor and Fortune style. They and this review appeared in the article titled: On the Menu in San Francisco.
1 Tablespoon chili paste with garlic
1 Tablespoon blachan (dry shrimp paste)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon tamarind, rinsed in warm water2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cucumbers, seeded and diced in half-inch cubes
1 cup bean spouts, heads and tails removed
1/2 cup diced peeled daikon or kohlrabi
1/2 cup canned pineapple, drained well
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
3 squares fried bean curd, cut into half-inch cubes
1. Mix the first four ingredients with four ounces of water mashing the tamarind until it combines with the other items, then add the lemon juice and mix well.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients, toss thoroughly, and serve as a cold side dish or salad.
|Sweet and Sour Peppers and Eggplant|
2 Japanese eggplants, cut in half lengthwise and thirds crosswise.
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/3 cup white vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with one tablespoon water
1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds
1. Fry eggplant in oil in a wok or deep pan for about four or five minutes until golden brown then drain on paper towels. Remove all oil but one tablespoon from the wok or pan.
2. Fry garlic, onion, and both peppers until tender but still crisp. Then add everything else except the sesame seeds and bring to the boil.
3. Return eggplant to the pan, toss to reheat and coat with the sauce.
4. Top with sesame seeds and serve.