Saturday, June 09, 2007

Wandering Chopsticks Turns 1!

Happy blog-birthday to me!
Happy blog-birthday to me!
Happy blog-biiirthday dear Wandering Chooopsticks...
Happy blog-birthday tooooo meeeeee! :)

Wandering Chopsticks turns 1 year old today! (OK, that's really my last birthday cake but we won't quibble.)

My adventure into food blogging started by accident. While I knew about blogs in general, the few I had stumbled upon read like online diaries. Opening up my personal life to strangers? Nah, not for me.

But last year, while searching for a recipe for cha ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-style sizzling fish with dill and turmeric), I found this post by Noodlepie. I began lurking on his blog because many of his street scenes of Saigon brought back lovely memories of places I had eaten at or passed by the summer before.

Later he had a post referencing Kirk of Mmm-yoso, and a rather lengthy discussion ensued of Vietnamese food in Vietnam vs. Vietnamese food abroad. In the comments of that post, I discovered Elmo of Monster Munching, who had a rather disappointing experience with bun rieu (Vietnamese crab and shrimp rice vermicelli noodle soup) in Orange County. Well, that post finally spurred me from being a lurker to a commenter because I actually had a recommendation for him -- Vien Dong Restaurant in Garden Grove.

But let's backtrack a little. For years, my friends knew me as the go-to person if they wanted to try new places to eat. In fact, I kept a list of restaurant recommendations and mailed it to anyone who asked. Same goes for my recipes. So you'd think I would have realized the wonders of food blogging earlier, but I really didn't.


And then, of course, I felt weird dragging out my camera when I went out to eat. So my first post was Claro's Italian Market in Upland, a small chain I had passed by many times but had never gone in. But for some reason, exactly a year ago today, I absolutely had to get their homemade pizza dough. And a sandwich. And possibly a cannoli or two.

Well, after that, I didn't post again until the next week. And then for the rest of the summer, I forgot about it entirely. Because posting a restaurant review blog just seemed too cumbersome. And then in the fall, I had these lovely photos of my garden and it seemed such a shame to just let them languish in the bowels of my laptop.



So I started adding in some gardening posts. And some recipes. And some travel pictures. And before I knew it, I turned my blog into something sort-of personal after all. It wasn't until last December with this post that I felt Wandering Chopsticks had enough of a personality for me to say, "Hello World"! So this blog became a site for me to celebrate the everyday things that made me happy -- still obsessing about food, with some gardening and quilting thrown in. And who knew that I had an audience for all that?

And before I knew it, it became weird if I didn't carry my camera with me whenever I went out to eat.

I also learned some things along the way. From Kirk of Mmm-yoso, I learned to always acknowledge every comment. If you take the time to respond to me, I'll certainly take time to respond to you. Yes, I get an email every time someone comments so if you comment on an old post, I'll respond on that post, usually by the time I put up my new post. I'd hate for you to sit there waiting and waiting for a response. I think of my blog as a conversation. I share a little something, you share a little something back. Or sometimes, we just visit each other's blogs and say, "Howdy."

I try to respond to as many recipe requests as possible, so if you're still waiting on one, please be patient. I'm still working on it.

I try to include as much information on a place as possible but can't always guarantee that it'll be up to date.

But mostly, I try not to take myself too seriously. If I did, I'd carefully craft a proper restaurant review. They're not. They're simply snapshots and some random thoughts while and when I eat. Which I think is more accurate of how I eat anyway.

I don't wait for the best time of day with the best lighting to cook and photograph my food. I cook when I feel like it and sometimes my photos turn out well, sometimes they don't. But if the recipe itself is worth sharing, then I'll post it regardless of the quality of the photo.

I've also found a ton of new restaurants through other food blogs. Great for my tastebuds. Not so great for my waistline. But it places me one step closer to eating every cuisine that SoCal has to offer.

So now, it's time for me to share a little something. I know, it's my blog-birthday and ya'll should be giving me presents right? :P

But I've made such lovely online friends who share my mutual love of food, or gardening, or quilting, that I want to give you a little something. It's not much because hey, I'm poor, yo! And I gotta ship it to you! Yes, I'll send it overseas and I figured my overseas readers are the ones who will want this the most. And yes, you need to be willing to pay any possible customs fees if you want this badly enough.

You'll get a goody box with my favorite hot and spicy ramen noodles, dried lily buds to make my recipe for Chinese hot and sour soup, vermicelli noodles to make cha gio (Vietnamese egg rolls), banh trang (rice paper) to make goi cuon (Vietnamese salad rolls) or to wrap nem nuong (Vietnamese grilled pork patties), a Vietnamese coffee filter and Trung Nguyen coffee so you can make ca phe sua da (Vietnamese coffee with milk iced), a nice tin of green tea, nori seaweed to make Spam musubi, a pho spice kit of cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves so you can make pho bo or pho ga (Vietnamese beef noodle soup / Vietnamese chicken noodle soup), and Sichuan peppercorns for ma po tofu. And that's all I could fit into the box!


The only requirement? I'm only opening this up to my readers who have commented before as a thank you for making my first year of blogging such an enjoyable experience.

C'mon dear readers, drop a note, let me know what keeps you coming back or what you'd like to see here on my humble little blog. Contest closes at midnight as the clock strikes June 14 (because that's when I got around to my second post on this blog and it just seemed like a good deadline). I'll draw the names at random and will announce the winner later that day.

*****
1 year ago today, I bought fresh pizza dough at Claro's Italian Market in Upland.

31 comments:

  1. Happy Blogging Birthday WC! AND you're givin' out free stuff?!?! You're making the rest of us look bad! ;-)

    I've been enjoying your blog ever since you commented on my bad bun rieu. And I'm ever so thankful you introduced me to Vien Dong!

    And to think that that post of mine spurred you into action and to start blogging, well, that kinda puts a tear in my eye, because you can count me as one of your biggest fans. Your food videos in particular make me giggle with delight. The way you hold the camera with one hand and cook with the other.

    It's trite to say that you have more talent in one little finger than most people have in their entire body, but those videos say it all: you only need one hand to cook!

    Keep up the great work!!!

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  2. Good Morning Ms. WC,

    I'll accept your challenge to "de-lurk". I have been enjoying your blog for a few months now. I think the first one I read was the one about the Vietnamese salad rolls and you tried to help the lady make one.

    By reading your posts, I have learned so much about the different kinds of food that have sort of been mysterious to me. Next step now is to actually get out there and try them myself! I work in Huntington Beach, right on the border of Westminster, so these places are pretty close for me. My lone foray so far has been the Banh Mi Bi at Lee's in Westminster Mall. (which I totally love).
    I live in Torrance, so I get to pretty many of the local Japanese places on a regular basis.

    The best part of your posts though, are the ones you write about your family and all the parties you have. I am soooo jealous! Your post about your grandmother was wonderful. She was an awesome lady.

    I think I found your blog through "Eating LA" (if you are keeping track of such things.) I have been inspired to finally try my hand at blogging.
    "mke2lax@blogspot.com"
    nothing there yet, really. But I just got back from vacation in Seattle and Portland, so now I have some stuff to write about.

    thanks again and bon apetit!

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  3. Hey WC - Happy Blog-a-versary, or whatever we call it nowadays! What keeps me coming back? Well, it's you of course! Your unique voice and style, and mad cooking skills!

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  4. Happy blog-birthday! Woohoo! I hope there will be many more.

    What a coincidence! I got into (reading) food blogs the same way you did! I did a search for some kind of Vietnamese food and found Noodlepie, started reading Kirk's blog, and then Elmo's. Haha. It was probably through either Kirk or Elmo's blog that I found yours, and I'm glad I did!

    I also like your videos and personal stories because it adds more personality to the blog.

    Ooh, a contest, eh? I appreciate the offer, but I'll let someone else enjoy the goody box since I have that stuff :) (lol I ate Nong Shim almost everyday this past week)

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  5. Happy Blogthday Wandering Choppysticks! I'll continue the tradition to read your mouthwatering posts for another year! :)

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  6. HB WC!!! If not for your Blog, I wouldn't have gotten soooo many delicious recipes!!!

    Keep up the good work!!!

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  7. Indeed Happy birthday and here's to another few more :)

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  8. so theres only gonna be 1 winner?

    t

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  9. Happy Blogday! It's good to read your blog-history. And I enjoy your blog because I learn new (more) things about Viet (culture, food). You know, I've already tried Viet drip coffee twice ever since I found out about it in your blog. I'm happy ;D
    Haha, I tried Vung Tau today at San Jose today. Ordered the Bahn Khot,Bun Bo Hue and Ba Nam Sadec. Though I've not written to you personally to ask for specific recommendations, they seem (and sound good) to me, with impression of seeing similar food in your blog before. :D and indeed they are yummy!

    My in-sync, Wandering Chopsticks, *hugz*...

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  10. The Guilty CarnivoreJune 9, 2007 at 11:20 PM

    Happy birthday, WC. I am happy to have found your voice and your experience (and it often seems like a very shared experience) here on these Internets.

    You're amazingly prolific with your posts and set a good example for us all!

    Here's to many more years of food blogging.

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  11. Happy Birthday!

    Although I have enjoyed reading this blog, I have not commented before. I guess now is as good a time as any. I especially enjoy your frequent postings. Keep up the excellent work. I wish you and your blog another great year.

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  12. Happy birthday and may you have many more dumpling-eating years to come!

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  13. Well, I've been meaning to comment for a while and this post seems to be the best one on which to de-lurk :-) - or did I delurk when I first arrived? I cannot recall!

    I've been lurking for maybe the last month, and reading back and forth through your archives: it's been wonderful, and I just know you're going to be a brilliant resource for me, now I'm forced to cook Viet food for myself and cannot so easily wander over to my family's houses.

    Hope the blogging continues to be rewarding for you!

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  14. Why are you so sweet?! You don't need to give your faithful readers any physical gift, because you give to us abundantly and generously already: you have shared with us the stories of your family, carefully documented your delicious food excursions in the O.C., engaged in dialogue with us (with comments), and shared amazing (and authentic) Vietnamese recipes (that we seriously could not get any where else, not even in the best Vietnamese cookbook). For me, you've taught me more about my own culture--the wonderful Vietnamese culture. Thank you so much Wandering Chopsticks! We all love you!

    Happy blog birthday, and here is to many more years of blogging!

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  15. Elmo,
    Gosh, you have ME giggling like a little girl! I didn't expect such a compliment. And it's half you (the other half being Kirk) who got me started food blogging. So you need to take half the credit! So thank YOU!

    Hi Mary Ruth,
    Welcome! I'm glad you de-lurked! Please feel free to comment or ask any questions. I aim to get as many people to try as many foods as possible so hopefully some day you'll venture further out and into Little Saigon? :) Aww, man, you just made me miss home. I hope you had a fun time in Oregon? And thank you for such nice words about my grandma. I still miss her a lot and that post was pretty difficult to write b/c I always end up crying.

    Kirk,
    Thanks! That means a lot considering I'm no where near what is it now? 300 places you've eaten?

    Christine,
    Haha! Such a nice compliment and you didn't even want the goody box! ;)

    Jaded One,
    Thanks for coming back to visit when I didn't know to visit yours until later!

    Tricia,
    Thanks for actually cooking my recipes! I didn't know anyone did that! :)

    Graham,
    Thanks!

    t,
    Yes, only 1 winner. Besides, you don't need this stuff, you already live in SoCal.

    Tigerfish,
    You didn't tell me you tried ca phe sua da! Hmph!

    Go back to SimCooks and read the comments under the post about her mom being in town. I wrote up a bunch of other recommendations there. So? Did you like the restaurant?

    GC,
    Thanks for such good wishes. Your experience is pretty unique too!

    Nobody,
    If Nobody speaks, can anyone to hear? Hehe! :) Please feel free to comment more often.

    W&S,
    Thanks! And stop wishing for more dumplings! I'm already turning into one! Oh, yeah, and I ate dumplings again today. ;)

    Oanh,
    Howdy! Thanks for de-lurking. No, you haven't done it before! :) I'm always happy to "meet" other VNese bloggers. And I even know where Bac Lieu is!

    PE,
    Awww, you're being too sweet. Thank you for saying such nice things. :)

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  16. happy blog birthday, I've been away for a few days so didn't get to read this post till today. I do check your blog quite often and have tried out at least 2 recipes within the last 2 weeks. I guess I keep coming back because I can always find my favorite vietnamese dishes with easy to follow recipes here. Keep up the good work. Love, Anh.

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  17. Hahaha...I just went to look at what you recommended at Simcooks, and yippee!!! I think I ordered the "right" food (I swear I din read your comments before I went to Vung Tau). I only read about the Bahn Knot. Yay! I like the Sadec a lot. That one shrimp was big fat and juicy. ;p We also ordered the spicy beef noodles that came with pork blood...nice.
    And of course Cafe Sua Da! :D

    I was wondering (I think you know).. where can I get the coffee filter, and typically how much does it cost (so that I know I'm not being ripped off if I happened to see it). Thks!

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  18. I saw your post on the mangosteens this morning and was thinking how nice it is to drop by and see what you've been eating :-D Well, happy blog b-day! I think your VN food descriptions/recipes/how tos/history are great fun to read and even try. I've also appreciated looking back at your virtual tours (I don't get out much!). And one day, maybe we'll get together and go to Chinatown (prompting by Elmo's post). Well done, you.

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  19. One year?? Congrats!
    I love your food reviews. Such a joy to read. Makes me hungry. And jealous...that you have the time to do them.
    Food is heavenly.

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  20. Hedgehog,
    It's so nice of you to actually try my recipes. :)

    Tigerfish,
    The filter is sold in most Asian grocery stores between $3-$4. On my original post, there's a link to an online site that sells them, including a discount code for mentioning me, if you can't find them anywhere.

    Nikki,
    Haha! I can't believe anyone would be interested in my eating habits. Yes, we'll definitely have to get together and hit up some of those SoCal places that I keep overlooking.

    Gina,
    Welcome! Thanks for de-lurking. :)

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  21. Hi WC,

    I can't remember how I got to know your blog, but I have stayed as a frequent reader since, as: first, you're blogging about Vietnamese food; second, you blog almost everyday (so I always have something new to read about every morning); and third, garden pictures and dumplings. I love food and enjoy cooking as well as enjoy reading food blogs like yours.
    The Vietnamese community in my city is very small (around 300 people), and I don't have my big family here, so I don't get to eat much Vietnamese food unless I make a long trip back to Saigon. Anyway, happy blog-birthday and keep up the good work.

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  22. hi wandering,
    what keeps me coming back is your delish recipes. i'm always looking for new recipes to spark my interest in cooking.

    keep up the good work! :D

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  23. Happy birthday to you! I love reading your stories about food, especially recipes that I normally don't make myself.

    (big hug!)

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  24. Happy Blog Birthday! I love all the dumpling house reviews, garden updates, and of course the food. :)

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  25. happy birthday, WC! you've given everyone lots with your sharing of food and knowledge about food.

    you're truly a good person!

    thanks for everything!

    henry

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  26. I've only just started reading your blog, initially interested in the OC aspect as my brother and father live there and although I love my fave VNese restaurant, it's time to branch out. I would not have commented but for your recipe for Mango Bread (even with the temptation of goodies). I am going to try it tonight. I live in Hong Kong where mangoes are plentiful, but my favourite (from Taiwan) are not easy to come by here. But this is the season, so we are going to cut and freeze so we can have mango sorbet, shake (and now Mango Bread) year-round.

    Happy Blogging.

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  27. Happy blog-versary to you, happy blog-versary to you, happy blog-versary to **** aka wandering chopsticks, happy blog-versary to youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu ! :) Can you hear me ? Thx for all the lovely food recipes, restaurant reviews, and thx for sharing your lovely flower plantation hehe, cheers !:)

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  28. Happy Birthday, WC. That's something to celebrate!

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  29. Hoang Anh,
    Aww, thanks! Where do you live that the community is so small? Midwest? South?

    BC,
    Thanks. You gonna try any other recipes on HubBub? Hehe.

    Jaden,
    That's quite a compliment coming from a professional such as you!

    Amy,
    Ha! I didn't even know you looked forward to the garden updates until you said so!

    Henry,
    Awww, thanks! And thanks for teaching me how to upload videos!

    L-K,
    So? How did it turn out? Did you like the mango bread?

    MW,
    Of course I could hear you! :)

    Tammy,
    Yes it is! Little things right? Peas in the garden and blog birthdays. :)

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  30. Happy Belated blogoversary, Wandering Chopsticks!

    I have been busy lately and have not been reading all of my blogs.

    You've had so many interesting posts the past week. That pear juice drink is so different and sounds delish, though a bit pricey at $13.

    Oh, and that mango....I just want to dive into my screen and eat it!

    I've never heard of mangosteens, but if I ever see one now I will probably buy it and think of you when I eat it!

    Your blog has been a pure pleasure for me to read. I like the food, the flowers and the quilt posts.

    You seem like such a warm person.

    Have you ever posted your picture? I don't remember seeing one.

    Oh, and those pink cosmos are gorgeous.

    Looking forward to reading your blog for a long time to come.

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  31. Hi Zoey,
    Awww, thanks so much. That means a lot considering how I've been stalking your gardening posts for more than a year now. No picture. I prefer to remain anonymous. :)

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