I haven't said much about my new role as editor at BlackboardEats, but I'm breaking my silence today. I really enjoy assigning reviews, sharing deals at top restaurants and working with chefs and restaurateurs to create exclusive culinary experiences. Most weeks subscribers get 30% off at a noteworthy restaurant, but today something a bit different is on offer that I'm excited to tell you about. Chef Alex Ong at Betelnut has put together a menu utilizing offal, in particular veal sweetbreads, chicken livers, lamb tongue and fish heads. Chef Alex Ong grew up in Malaysia, a country of many culinary influences including Thai, Chinese and Indian and his dishes reflect those flavors. Three of the dishes are based on Malaysian street food dishes and one is a very special curry served for celebrations.
One of the Chinese style dishes is salt and pepper veal sweetbreads topped with fresh ginger, garlic and Szechuan peppercorn topped with scallions, five spice, and salt. This dish reminds me most of crispy calamari. The sweetbreads are mild and the vibrant Asian flavors make the dish irresistible.
A dish with Northern Malaysian and Thai influence is the cured lamb tongue served cold with lime, galanga and crispy taro strips. This almost looks like a sashimi plate! It's very elegant and light.
Another Chinese influenced dish is the crispy chicken livers that come with black pepper sauce and roasted onions. The chef soaks the livers in milk three times then dredges them in cornstarch and deep fries them. The exterior becomes crunchy but the interior remains soft and creamy. You'll want a beer to go with this. Like anything that is fried and crispy, these are addictive.
Nonya cuisine is unique a combination of Chinese and Malay styles. In the South in Singapore you'll find more Indonesian and Indian influences. I've read that fish head curry might have been created in the 1950s by a Keralan chef who wanted to use every edible part of the fish. It is cooked in an Indian style curry of coconut milk, tamarind and shrimp paste. It's a dish served at home for celebrations like birthdays or anniversaries. The cheek and collar meat are most succulent but the curry has okra and cauliflower in it too. It's pure comfort food, whether or not you ate in Singapore.
Betelnut is consistently chosen as one of the Top 100 Restaurants by the San Francisco Chronicle. The restaurant is lively and has wonderful atmosphere, with vintage 1920's Shanghai style. While people typically come in for what the chef calls "the happy meal" meaning Cecilia's minced chicken in lettuce cup and Szechuan string beans, I hope they will come to try some of his Malaysian menu specials, available for the next two months for BlackboardEats subscribers only.
If you'd like to try these amazing dishes, I hope you will subscribe to BlackboardEats.com in San Francisco, download a passcode today and enjoy as many of these dishes as you'd like!
Note: These dishes will be available for 60 days, for subscribers who download passcodes.