One of the things that's impressed me about San Francisco is the cultural diversity. (Hey, I'm from London, so that's saying a lot.) Looking at the city through food lenses, that means you can feast on Mexican tacos, Peruvian ceviche, Vietnamese crêpe, Hong Kong salt and chili crab, Japanese sashimi, American cheeses ... I could go on ... and all of that of pretty high quality.
One of the facets of this diversity, that you might not find easily in London, is the range of breakfasts on offer. On Tuesday, I went in search of a city centre café serving good old American buttermilk pancakes, but the place appeared to have vanished, along with my SF Breakfast Part I. Next up on my list were Vietnamese pho, dosai, and bagels with smoked fish (the last one as recommended by KB). A short journey got me to Part II this morning.
I found this meal of rice noodles in broth with tender slices of beef warming and comforting, and a great way to start the morning. (Now, I've come across a perception in some parts that hot breakfasts are unique to Asia, but this is puzzling, given the existence of aforementioned pancakes, oatmeal porridge, and the eminent Fry Up.)
Alongside the warm broth were served beansprouts, mint, green chilli, and hoisin and red chilli sauces. I like that the vegetables are served separately, so that they stay fresh and aren't softening in the hot soup before they reach you. Nice touch, Vietnam!
A few other dishes on the menu caught my eye, and along came a daikon rice cake with shitake mushrooms and shallots, and a dish of stir-fried brussels sprouts (it was almost 11.30am, and this was turning into brunch...).
The shitake and shallots were invisible, but the daikon rice cake was definitely visible and very big. The lady sitting at the table next to me was waiting for her friend (and her friend was really late), so I asked her if she wanted to share some of the rice cake. Upon tasting it, she started analysing it and listing the ingredients (I tell ya, San Fran is full of fellow foodies): rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and ... a texture that was softer and less coarse than she'd expected. (We agreed that it was the daikon.)
The brussels sprouts added a bit of healthy green to the meal, and they were nice and crunchy, but otherwise they were ok.
You know that cultural diversity I was talking about? Well, this Vietnamese restaurant also happens to do an excellent Hong Kong milk tea (both the hot version and the iced bubble tea version). I'm sure Malaysians, Singaporeans and Taiwanese, amongst others, will want to claim this type of tea as their own. I'm not getting involved, but I'm just sayin'...
The tea has to be really strong, and it's made with condensed milk spooned into very hot water. This is the basic tea you'll find if you stop at the drinks stall of any hawker centre or food court in Singapore - warm, strong and sweet. The waiter helpfully left the tea strainer with the leaves on a saucer, in case I wanted it stronger.
You can see that the strainer went straight back into the pot.
p.s. Slanted Door at the Ferry Building