The husband and I were invited to a party for a friend at Pican in downtown Oakland on a Saturday evening. We had never been to Pican (California inspired Southern comfort food in downtown Oakland). All who have been there sing its’ praises, and I soon found out these praises were legit. We were there for light bites and drinks, which was probably better in the long run for my – at times – over-stimulated digestive system. Some family members and friends say I am super healthy and very disciplined, but when things don’t work well with the digestive system to the degree that I have experienced, you learn to just bypass those foods and find WONDERFUL tastes in and an appreciation for super natural foods. However, it can at times be hard for me to remember my dietary downfalls when tempted by a scrumptious corn meal and maple battered fried chicken breast in front of me. So, before getting sucked in to a couple days worth of stomach issues, (which probably would have been TOTALLY worth it) we said our good bye’s to our hostess and were on our way to grab dinner. We headed back towards the car, remembering the place we had parked outside of: Hawker Fare. The menu looked Thai, or what we could relate to as street Thai food, having had some experience with what has become a food truck nation in San Francisco. We were both excited to venture on in.
Upon entering Hawker Fare, the atmosphere made us comfortable and not as square as we think we are getting. We don’t drink very much (in fact my husband has cut down on even enjoying a beer or two per week or lattes because of some stomach issues) and we eat as healthfully as we can, when we can control it. This is due also to budget; we don’t eat out very much. SO…when we do, we want to take advantage of the amazing food that the Bay Area has to offer, while accommodating a shoe string budget that we allow ourselves for eating out. There was some really interesting electronica/hip hop/trance/dance music in the background, but it wasn’t playing so loud as to make the restaurant seem too hip for its own good. And the staff were super kind, were obviously really pumped about the menu themselves and happy to serve us, even thought we came in about 15 minutes before closing. Colorful and bold street art and random music and vintage movie posters spanned the walls. My favorite was what looked like a vintage flyer that read off, for each day of the week, an animal body part that was going to be served for that given day. Ethically uncomfortable? Or a sign of using the whole animal and respecting the food chain in all its glory? I think so. I am not a vegetarian, but I eat very little meat, and the meat I do eat usually comes in small amounts and, these days, in the form of organ meats (pates). I also love vegan and raw cuisine. But, when in Rome…and when the waitress mentioned that their beef “larb” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larb) also had tender tripe mixed in? I was willing to give it second shot, despite having had tough and unmasked textured tripe in Morocco. THAT was an experience.
Our order: we got the green papaya salad, the beef larb and the “Kao Mun Gai”: poached chicken served with a salted mung bean sauce, fresh cucumber and cilantro leaves. The papaya salad and beef larb were really refreshing and had very complex flavors from some of my favorite ingredients mixed together: red onion, mint and cilantro. The Kao Mun Gai also came with a fried egg on top, so the side sauce made for a great accompaniment to the cracked and oozing yoke. It was delicious. Plus, it being 9:30pm, it’s always hard to properly digest heavier foods that close to hitting the sack.
Some interesting facts about cilantro, mint and the infamous mung bean, which can all be found in South East Asian cuisine:
Cilantro: from the carrot family, cilantro supports the spleen, stomach, bladder, and lungs and help as a diuretic. It supports perspiration and can treat a fever, as it is subtly spicy, but doesn’t usually provide as much discomfort as certain peppers can. It aids digestion, relieves intestinal distention and can help with nausea, soothes inflammation and quenches thirst. It is also believed that cilantro can be used to remove toxins, including heavy metals, from the nervous system and body tissues. The fresher it is the better!
Mint: this is a very cooling herb that I often forget about putting with savory dishes. it supports the lungs, liver and helps to disperse pathogens, i.e. viruses, and promotes the circulation of energy, blood and the lymph system. The essential oil of mint is also very useful and helpful: inflammation, nausea, indigestion, fever, flatulence and headaches may subside with its use. Mint tea with lemon and honey? Yes please.
Mung Beans: of sproutable seeds, mung bean ranks at the top with alfalfa seeds as easy to sprout, tasty and easy to use for many things: making into noodles or used for dal, in Indian cuisine. They are great legumes to eat in hot weather as they disperse body heat. Try a mung bean mash stew with coconut curry. SO tasty.
Next time you are in OAKLANDISH territory, pay a visit to Hawker Fare. It will take you into a really interesting part of Oakland where there is a heavy insurgence in its rich culture, expanses of empty corporate space, and where super creative people are setting up shop and making Oakland into an amazing place to venture into.
More on Hawker Fare:
Wood, Rebecca. (2010). The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY. Penguin Books.