Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Elevated Leftover

Growing up, we had a saying in our household “even better the next day.” It applied to leftover food and covered everything from day old popcorn to mom’s famous casseroles to her meatloaf that was simply stunning in cold slabs on sourdough bread for our brown bagged school lunches. As an adult, I am still a big fan of the takeout container in restaurants, as I tend to frown upon the concept of leaving waste on a plate that will get dumped in the back when there are so many hungry people in this world. But the one thing that has changed in my habit of keeping my spare food for the next few days is the way I eat it. Instead of just heating it up, I tend to find a fun, foodie challenge in creating an altogether new dish out of the contents provided.

For Labor Day, the Cute Gardener and I did our traditional thing of going to a Chinese Restaurant for the holiday, a ritual we started in San Francisco on the 4th of July. Being raised by a mother who cooked Chinese often, as her parents had owned a Chinese restaurant in her youth, he doesn’t feel the need to seek out the cuisine as much as he likes checking out his favorites of French, Japanese and Italian so we relegate it to the events when everyone else in the nation is celebrating American-style.

We chose Newport Tan Cang Seafood in San Gabriel. A typical Chinese, family style restaurant of which we had heard about their signature whole fried lobster and crab but when we arrived we were disappointed to learn that the dishes were steeped in hot chili peppers. So instead of ordering what everyone else in the world seems to visit the restaurant for (by the end of the evening there were at least thirty people standing in the parking lot waiting for tables), we opted for other items on the menu that we thought we might like.

The deep fried noodles with broccoli and beef were tasty but the sauce was overly thick. It seemed like all the dishes like this, aside from the monstrous crab and lobster plates that came gleaming from the kitchen, were merely an afterthought, which was unfortunate.

The whole steamed cod (although we think it may have been red snapper) was delivered with full glossy eyeballs and authentic style, except mostly a spiffy fanfare of bones, tail and skin lacking a substantial amount of ginger and green onion steamed meat to pick.

We had wanted to try the elephant clam but after learning that it cost over $100 a serving, we stuck to the squid with broccoli, which was good but a little bland.

We were served enough food for a small army so we ended up taking the squid home. That’s where the redemption came into our entire experience and where the beauty of utilizing leftovers with panache began.

Although it left us a bit unsatisfied on the spot, a few evenings later, the CG ended up throwing the leftover squid, broccoli and sauce into a new pot of his own special broth with udon noodles and furthermore garnished with quartered, hard boiled eggs and made a fusion dish worthy of the money we had spent.  

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