Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks to Open in Berkeley with Giant Slabs of Fried Chicken

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 12:41 PM

Fried chicken, spotted at the Shihlin Night Market in Taipei. A new Berkeley restaurant will serve its own version. - COURTESY OF SOON KOON VIA FLICKR
  • Courtesy of Soon Koon via Flickr
  • Fried chicken, spotted at the Shihlin Night Market in Taipei. A new Berkeley restaurant will serve its own version.

One of the most famous food destinations in Taiwan, Shihlin Night Market is a sprawling mass of street vendors selling the likes of stinky tofu, oyster omelettes, and bubble tea. The narrow alleys go on forever, and even over the course of several hours, it’s impossible to taste even half of the offerings.

This weekend, an international chain will softly open its first East Bay shop that pays homage to that very night market: Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks (2521 Durant Ave., Ste. E, Berkeley).

Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks already has locations in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The Berkeley restaurant joins Milpitas as the second branch in the United States.

The menu is pretty short but the main attraction is, indeed, something that draws long lines at the Shihlin Night Market in Taipei: da ji pai, a whole, deep-fried chicken cutlet. On the menu, it’s called XXL Crispy Chicken ($7.99) due to its giant size. Usually, it’s prepared with pounded chicken breast, but Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks also has a leg and thigh option. Ultimately, this dish is all about the satisfying, carnal crunch and salty/spicy balance. For more on Taiwanese fried chicken, check out this good explainer from former Express food editor Luke Tsai. Unfortunately, the only other spot to offer da ji pai, Oakland’s Chick & Tea, has closed.

Other menu highlights include oyster mee sua (noodle soup with oysters), braised meat rice (otherwise known as lou ru fan, served with an egg and pickled vegetables), and sweet potato fries dusted with plum powder.

During the shop’s soft opening on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24, folks will get a free drink — think winter melon tea or smoked plum juice — with the purchase of one XXL Crispy Chicken.

Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks, 2521 Durant Ave., Ste. E, Berkeley,

(510) 529-4166, facebook.com/shihlinsnacksberkeleyca

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Vegan Donut Gelato Delivers Plant-Based Comforts

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 8:00 AM

These doughnuts look suspiciously normal. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • These doughnuts look suspiciously normal.
In the hopes of encouraging more folks to go vegan, Sam Kang turned to doughnuts.

He ran a plant-based Vietnamese restaurant in Sunnyvale for eight years before getting burnt out. After a short break, he figured vegan-izing one of the most common American comfort foods would do wonders for converting the masses.

Enter Vegan Donut Gelato (411 E 18th St.), which softly opened earlier this month just east of Lake Merritt. It’s Kang’s second location — his first vegan doughnut shop launched in Modesto last December. Rapid expansion wasn’t and still isn’t his primary goal, though.

“When we opened in Modesto, a lot of people came from Oakland and asked us to open,” Kang said.

He thinks Oakland’s central location will help him reach the vegan community across the Bay Area. But vegans aren’t actually his prime demographic — he’s hoping to feed the masses.

“I want it to feel just like a normal doughnut shop,” he said. “I don’t want to be fancy. I want people to feel comfortable. I want it to feel familiar.”

The place does feel like your standard, no-frills doughnut shop. The display cases are stocked with all the usual suspects: raised, cake, holes, twists, fritters, and more, with a healthy dose of chocolate glaze and rainbow sprinkles.

It’s stands in stark contrast to Pepples Donut Farm, Oakland’s only other all-vegan doughnut purveyor, which focuses primarily on cake doughnuts in unusual flavors like green tea or kaffir lime. The price point at Vegan Donut Gelato is also slightly lower: raised and cake doughnuts go for $2, and maple bars hit $2.50, for example.

Kang wouldn’t reveal the secret to his doughnuts, only vetoing my guesses at alt-milks, flax seeds, garbanzo beans, and egg replacers. I sampled a single raised doughnut hole and found it not quite as airy and soft as non-vegan recipes but pretty darn close.

The gelato will be made in-house with an almond milk base, but the machine hasn’t arrived yet. It’s coming from Florida, and with Hurricane Irma, Kang isn’t sure when it’ll make its way here.

Plant-based living wasn’t always so important to Kang, but he’s from Indonesia, where folks tend to eat vegetable-focused meals with small amounts of meat and lots of tempeh — quite different from the typical American diet. He’s been vegan for the last 25 years and hopes to convince more people to join him.

“Our main goal is to spread this lifestyle,” he said. “I don’t
want to do protests. I just want to give people doughnuts.”

Vegan Donut Gelato, 411 E 18th St., Oakland, VeganDonutGelato.com.

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