Culinary Trips to Asia While Staying in Place in San Francisco

By Emma Krasov. Photography by Yuri Krasov

San Francisco Bay Area restaurants provide a wonderful variety of international cuisines to the wary “non-travelers” tied down with continued limitations imposed by the ever-mutating virus.

Warung Siska is a new Indonesian restaurant in Redwood City, California, serving traditional staples derived from the culture of “warungs,” small family-run restaurants known for a wide range of affordable home-cooked dishes.

Chef Siska Silitonga, originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, created her warung in partnership with restaurateurs Anne Le Ziblatt and Ervan Lim with a goal to introduce traditional Indonesian cuisine to the Bay Area diners.

Every dish, made with fresh California produce and locally sourced meat and paultry, has a special ingredient or a few that tie it to the land of tropical fruit and spices. Small Plates menu features Bakwan—corn fritters made with okra, green onions, and markut lime leaves.

Sate Udang—shrimp skewers made of head-on Gulf shrimp, is marinated in garlic, soy, and chili, and can be served with a spicy peanut dressing.

Among the Main Plates, Babi Bali—Balinese grilled pork made of tender jowl meat with sautéed spinach, tomato relish, and peanuts, is perked up with Balinese spices.

Desserts are not-to-be-missed—fruity, fragrant, and deeply satisfying. Es Cendol is made of bright green mung bean flour jelly, iced sweetened coconut milk, and pandan palm sugar. Coconut Lemongrass Panna Cotta is garnished with sesame coconut caramel sauce and candied orange.

For libations, there are tap wines and California draft beers as well as non-alcoholic drinks—coconut water, teas, and a special Soda Gembira or “happy soda” made with condensed milk, strawberry syrup and whipped cream.

The dining room design, created by Anastasia Contakos, showcases a large mural with Southeast Asian motif, wicker lamp shades, and art deco elements above the comfy tables and chairs.

Warung Siska is located at 917 Main St., Redwood City, California. Open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, call (650) 393-5515 or visit  

Amber India, a three-decade-old restaurant, which has several locations around the Bay, recently started its weekend brunch buffet, overflowing with the most popular dishes of Indian street food.

In the San Francisco location, (others are in Los Altos, San Jose, and Milpitas) The Endless Brunch Buffet put together by the Executive Chef Hitesh Gautam is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

California’s seasonal produce is used in a wide selection dosas, chaats, tandoori meats, and curries, like the silky and flavorful butter chicken (Amber’s signature dish), a pungent goat curry, red-hued cuts of the crowd pleaser tandoori chicken, bright yellow saffron basmati rice, and tender sea bass in mango and tamarind sauce.

Everything from vegan aloo pea samosas to saag paneer (cottage cheese in spinach-garlic sauce) to garlic naan and other tandoori-baked Indian breads is fresh, wonderful, and bursting with flavor.

The food is supplemented with bottomless mimosas. Besides the traditional orange, there’s also pineapple, lychee, watermelon, and mango bubbly to meet any demand and satisfy any craving.

On the a la carte menu, palak chaat (fried spinach with yogurt, tamarind relish, and pomegranate seeds), Malabari shrimp (sautéed Monterrey Bay shrimp, coconut, and Malabar spices) and tender lamb chops are definite standouts.

On the dessert table, there are traditional gulab jamuns, fried golden and dipped in saffron syrup as well as the Western sweets of cheese cakes and brownies.

Amber India San Francisco is located at 25 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco, California. There’s an indoor and outdoor seating available, and masks are required when not eating or drinking. For more information call (415) 777-0500 or visit

Bring a Taste of Taiwan to Your Home” was this summer’s Taiwan Tourism Bureau campaign, and one of the most memorable virtual trips to Asia for this reporter.

To demystify some of the most popular Taiwanese snacks, namely the flaky airy scallion pancakes and the sweet and foamy bubble tea, Taiwan Tourism Bureau collaborated with Chef Chelsea Tsai from CookInn Taiwan at an international cooking session.

More than 70 cooking class attendees in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles received a box with Taiwan ingredient kit and detailed recipe cards to their home addresses in advance of the virtual event.

In my box, there were all-purpose flour, vegetable cooking oil, salt, and dried scallions for the pancakes, and Taiwanese whole-leaf black tea, tapioca flour, and brown sugar for the tea. There were also a pair of chopsticks, and reusable metal drinking straws.

On the day of the cooking session we all dutifully followed Chef Chelsea’s directions, even though it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Everything was flying in her hands. In mine—not so much.

While I managed to knead the dough for the pancakes more or less properly, the tapioca and sugar mixture for “boba,” those sweet little balls used for bubble tea, proved to be much harder to handle.

For the pancakes, I sprinkled scallions upon the rolled out dough, and formed it into sausage-like tubes as instructed. Then I formed them into snail-patterned rounds, and flattened again with a rolling pin. After that it was easy, and I happily fried my Taiwanese pancakes to their flaky perfection in hot oil.

The boba dough, which was supposed to be made into long narrow rolls like Silly Putty and then cut into small cubes, didn’t want to stick together in my production. I had to force it into submission by continuous kneading, and then spend much more time than intended trying to roll those tiny little balls that would easily slide through a wider metal straw included in my ingredient kit specifically for the purpose of enjoying the boba tea.    

Through overcoming my first-timer’s challenges in cooking real Taiwanese foods, my task was nonetheless accomplished, and made me as proud as can be at the result of my labor.

I still decided to myself that better than trying it at home I’d use any opportunity to indulge in Taiwanese cuisine when international travel opens up again and I’ll be able to fly to Taiwan! 

According to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Taiwanese people are devoted to traditional, high-quality cuisine, and their culinary philosophy is to eat often and eat well.

In fact, there are no less than 30 Michelin-starred restaurants and more than 190 recommended by Michelin among the Taipei and Taichung City fine dining establishments and local neighborhood joints.

As for real-life travel to Taiwan in the not too distant future, Linda Lin, director of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau San Francisco office, said “We are keeping up our communications with journalists and trade partners and providing them with the most updated market information and travel inspiration. Taiwan adheres to all health and hygiene regulations, providing safety for travelers. The Taiwan Tourism Bureau will provide further updates regarding the border reopening.”

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