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Fried On For Size

I’ve always got some food idea up my sleeve: a restaurant I’m never going to open, a bakery I’m never going to launch, the greatest pizza delivery on earth that will never be. The cookbook I’m never going to write is called Fried on the Inside. My working subtitle is something to the effect of: Heaven is a Place Where Soft and Crunchy Meet. (Although soft must proceed crunchy by just a second, you understand. It's all about order.)

This book is going to have recipes for all my favorites fried-on-the-inside dishes, inspired from restaurants around town: The short list includes the Alaska roll at Kiji (my favorite sleeper sushi spot), stuffed with deep-fried salmon skin, gobo and scallions; Baja-style fried fish tacos from chef Traci Des Jardin’s Mijita or Nick’s Crispy Tacos or Tortilla Heights (where Nick, the original owner of Nick’s Crispy Fish Tacos, now resides); a DIY burger from Joe’s Cable Car (order the onion rings and insert inside); and the “Mr. Williams” sandwich from Piperade which is made with deep-fried chicken and avocado.


Nick's Crispy Tacos: A perfect example. (photo by Stefanie Michejda)

Last weekend, I had a very exciting discovery of the fried and true sort. While waiting for soup dumplings to arrive at Shanghai House on Balboa, I noticed that the Chinese couple sitting next to me were eating something that looked like sushi. I inquired within and it turned out to be menu item #11, labeled “Savory Rice Roll” on the Chinese menu. (If you look as white as me, beware of getting the American menu handed to you.)

I quickly ordered one myself. When it came, it was a heavy log of glutinous rice that had been wrapped in plastic wrap and steamed until warm. Sliced into thirds, it revealed that the rice was enshrouding a crisp Chinese donut (basically a long strip of unsweetened fried dough), as well as preserved vegetables, fresh herbs and a delicious salty, dried shredded pork called rousong (which apparently translates to undelicious-sounding "pork floss"). According to Wikipedia, the roll is a Shanghaiese breakfast treat called ci fan tuan. I loved it enough that if Boulangerie Bay Bread starts selling them, my mornings are going involve a personal struggle as I decide between a ci fan tuan and an almond croissant.

I know you readers aren't a commenting bunch, but please—for the sake of my personal happiness—let me know about some of your favorite fried-on-the-insides. Let's share the love.