Monday, April 30, 2007

Everything's Growing Again!

Does this look like a real garden yet? There's still an awful lot of bare patches though.

Let's see what's growing in the herb garden on the side of the house.

Sweet peas have such a strong fragrance for such a little flower.

Ooh, can't wait for the fresh strawberries.

This Queen Anne's lace is from a wildflower mixture. I never know what's gonna turn up. See the blue cornflower right behind it?

My cannas and bac ha (taro plant) are slowly coming back to life from January's cold frost. This is part of my "bog garden" since water from the yard always pools in this area.

See the Blue Tide iris?

And the Dutch iris? Purple irises are my very favorite flower.

And Oriental poppies. Ugh! I absolutely hate the word Oriental, it's so offensive.

Is this a poppy too? With that wildflower mix, I can't always identify every flower.

And Love-in-a-Mist is just as elusive to capture with my camera as it is in real life. ;)

I'll show you all my roses in a separate posting. Too many pictures. And much weeding left to do. My peonies look like they're about to bloom. Peonies are notoriously finicky and hate SoCal weather. Hmm. Maybe January's cold frost helped that along. I only planted them a year ago and it looks like the red, white, and pink peonies all have buds. Yay!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Donut Man - Glendora

It's a good thing I went for a jog this morning. You should too if you're gonna indulge like this. I've got my brother hooked on reading Jonathan Gold's food reviews. If you don't know who he is, Gold is the LA Weekly's resident food critic, who recently won a Pulitzer, the only food critic to receive such an honor. I trust him for his knowledge of the San Gabriel Valley's Chinese restaurants, but he's been spot on about other locations as well. So after reading this review of The Donut Man's strawberry-stuffed glazed doughnuts, my brother tried it out and liked it so much he took me. The Donut Man resides in Glendora on the old historic Route 66 that spanned across the country. You can see the "fresh strawbeery donuts" sign right when you drive up. It's just a walk-up window with doughnuts on both sides. My brother said I could get any doughnut I wished. But who was he kidding, I'm going for the stuffed strawberry glazed ginormous doughnut. See it in the upper left corner? I had to wait an hour before I could taste it. An hour! We were loading up my car with my boxspring mattress on top and the long sofa upturned, legs removed, and me squished forward with my knees touching the dash, the back rest all the way down, twisted sideways because my shoulder was wedged between the sofa, while driving on local roads the long, long way to my new place. Oh man, was I salivating by the time I got the box open. Just look at it. I don't think I need to say anything else. :P Oh, yeah, this was $2.50. I also noticed the box said "peach donuts." When is peach season? Because I am so there! The Donut Man 915 E. Route 66 Glendora, CA 91740 626-335-9111 P.S. Ignore the rest of this post if you're only here for the food. Incidentally, any of my blogging buddies need to shape up too? I've got an important family wedding (not mine!) in 8 weeks. It'll be a big family reunion and I want to take lots of pictures so I need to lose weight. I am so out of shape. :( I only jogged/walked 1.5 miles at the park this morning. Man, I wish I had the energy of a child. They take any opportunity to run. And not the paced jog of people running for exercise. Children run with their arms flailing, or head bent forward, arms straight back, forward to the wind with all their might. Me? I'm jogging/walking, but more on pace with the elderly. Anyway, I'm just going to put in little notes at the bottom of each post reminding myself of how much I did each day so I make myself accountable. Just ignore if you wish. I ran 7 miles last week! 3 miles outdoors, 4 miles on elliptical. Today was 1.5 miles outdoors. Yay me. Yes, encouragement would be lovely. :)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

My Second-Youngest Uncle's Com Ga Hai Nam (Hainanese Chicken Rice)

I was feeling lazy and didn't want to cook, nor did I want to go out to eat. Man, living near family is so great. My cousin said she was bringing her baby to her parents' house, so I went over to my second-youngest uncle's house to play. And I got fed too. :)

My cousin made me up a plate and said people who have never had homemade com ga Hai Nam (Hainanese chicken rice) just don't know how good it can really be. I agreed. But then I've said this before. :)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Chicken and Dumplings

So I know it's really way too hot now for soup, but I had the carcass from my citrus baked chicken and haven't made chicken in dumplings in quite a while. Besides, suppose after reading about the recipe, you immediately went out and made your own? You'd need another recipe for the leftovers, wouldn't you? :) I added in all the leftover potatoes and beets, and it had a nice citrusy tang. If you don't like lumps of dough, which is basically what the dumplings are in this recipe, then you won't like this. But if you're a fan of matzo ball soup, or other similar foods, this will be yummy indeed. Anyway, it's a really quick recipe, but much better suited for cold dreary days. Chicken and Dumplings For a 5-quart pot, you'll need: For soup: 1 chicken carcass with whatever meat is still left 4 stalks celery, diced 1 onion, diced 2 carrots, peeled and diced For dumplings: 1 cup flour 2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp sugar 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup milk Fill a 5-quart stock pot half way with water. When the water boils, add the chicken carcass and turn the heat down to medium-high. Let simmer for at least half an hour to 45 minutes. The longer it cooks, the more flavor gets extracted from the chicken bones. About half an hour before you plan to eat, remove chicken carcass from pot and set aside to cool. When it's cool enough to touch, strip any meat that's left on the bones and put it back in the pot. Add diced onion, celery, and carrots. Turn heat back up to high. In a bowl, mix 1 cup flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork until butter is in small clumps. Pour in the 1/2 cup milk and mix thoroughly. Tear off about 1-inch lumps of dough, roll it, and drop it into the boiling soup pot. The dough will quickly rise and fatten into dumplings. When all the lumps of dough have been dropped in and are cooked, you can turn off the heat and serve immediately, but it's better if you let it rest for about 15 minutes and let the dumplings absorb the flavors of the broth. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lil' Sis Cooks Insalata Caprese. I Cook Roasted Golden Beets, Sauteed Beet Greens, and Baked Chicken with Citrus Marinade

Sometimes my inspiration for dinner comes from just one item. I bought this bunch of golden beets from the farmers' market in Alhambra for $1 and was trying to decide what to do with them. Yesterday, my cousin comes knocking on my door with a 4-lb chicken. It was only $2.33, so I guess there was a sale. I decided to make my salt, pepper, lemon baked chicken and use up my potatoes with the beets, and roast everything together in the same pan. The golden beets look lovely don't they? I simply peeled and cubed them. I was down to only 1 lemon and 2 small sweet limes, so I remembered an LA Times' article on conchinita pibil and a mixed citrus marinade. I modified my recipe a little to include blood oranges and it came out wonderfully. Baked Chicken with Citrus Marinade You'll need: 1 lemon, juiced 2 small sweet limes, or 1 regular lime, juiced 2 small blood oranges, juiced, plus 2 more blood oranges pricked with fork for stuffing 1/2 grapefruit, juiced 1 chicken 1 tsp salt per lb of chicken freshly ground black pepper Wash chicken thoroughly. Measure 1 tsp of salt per lb of chicken. Rub the salt all over the outside and inside of the chicken. Leave to rest at room temperature for about an hour. Meanwhile, juice all the citrus fruits. When ready to bake, pour juice over outside and inside of chicken. Add freshly ground black pepper. Insert two small fork-pricked blood oranges into the cavity of the chicken. Place in pan with cubed beets and potatoes. Bake in oven at 425 degrees, breast side down for 1 hour. Flip carefully, turn temperature down to 325 degrees and bake for another half hour. When the chicken is ready, take it out of the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. The chicken will be slightly tangy, slightly sweet, crispy on the outside, and so moist and tender on the inside that it will literally fall off the bone. The beets will be slightly sweet, the potatoes have absorbed all the tangy juices. Lil' sis also told me recently she wants to learn how to cook. So I decided to start her off easy with one of our favorite salads - insalata caprese (Italian Capri tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad). She was very careful about slicing everything just so. And arranging it just so. And then mincing everything finely just so. So please compliment her and tell her all her hard work came out wonderfully. :) Incidentally, my original recipe called for balsamic vinegar, but I happened to find a bottle of white balsamic vinegar at Trader Joe's for only $1.49. So we used that instead to get the same flavor but without the dark balsamic vinegar discoloring the mozzarella. I also juiced the blood oranges with some grapefruits my youngest aunt had given me. I've made this blood orange grapefruit juice before and still think it's gorgeous. Quick and easy dinner. But looks so fancy no? (Well, it'd look fancier but I haven't moved my dining table yet. ;) ) I carved half the chicken and some of the potatoes and beets and brought it down to my youngest uncle's house since he did give me the chicken and all. And then after I got home, realized I forgot to serve my sauteed beet greens. Sauteed Beet Greens You'll need: Beet tops, cut into 1-inch strips or so, washed Olive oil Garlic, minced Cut beet tops into 1-inch strips or so and wash thoroughly. In a wok or saute pan on high heat, drizzle some olive oil. Toss in the garlic and saute quickly. Then add beet tops and saute until wilted. Enjoy! My other baked and roast chicken recipes you might like: Baked Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Lemon, and Rosemary Baked Chicken with Salt, Pepper, and Lemon Cuban Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken Fessenjan (Persian Walnut Pomegranate Cornish Game Hen) with Dill Rice Ga Ro Ti (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken) Peruvian Roast Chicken

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bissara (Moroccan Fava Bean Dip) and Fava and Garbanzo Bean Salad

I bought several pounds of fava beans at the farmers' market in Alhambra recently. They're only going to be in season for maybe another month. So if you haven't tried them before, hurry! Fava beans taste like a cross between lima beans and edamame. They're a bit of work since they have to be shelled twice - the hard outer layer and the inner covering over the bean has to be removed. One pound of beans will result in about 1 cup after shelling. After you remove the tough outer pods you'll see these beans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CeFiore - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) (Closed)

So following a very filling dinner at Daikokuya Original Noodle and Rice-Bowl, with a selection to-go of mochi from Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop, did I really need more dessert? Yes! Dessert goes into a different part of my belly. :P

CeFiore - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) 1

I decided to try CeFiore, yet another frozen yogurt chain patterned after Pinkberry. Except, CeFiore is owned by sushi buffet chain Todai. The frozen yogurt is advertised as Italian non-fat yogurt. It is tart, but lacks Pinkberry's fresh-tasting tartness. The consistency was a little icier. It seemed more like the basic soft-serve ice cream, but tarty.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo)

So after cousin Q placed his name on the waitlist for Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice Bowl, we walked a few doors down to Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop.

The Kito family has operated the confectionery since 1903, making it the oldest business in Little Tokyo. Read about how the shop grew along with Little Tokyo at the turn of the last century, the Kito family's attempts to continue making mochi while interned at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming during WWII, and how the old-fashioned decor reminds many Japanese Americans of their past. The family also claims that Fugetsu-Do founder, Seiichi Kito, created the fortune cookie. Whereupon afterward it was copied and mass-produced by Chinese American David Jung, who popularized it.
Brian Kito, the third generation of the family to run Fugetsu-Do, still makes the mochi and sweet red bean paste filling by hand. Mochi is made by pounding steamed glutinous rice in a large wooden mortar with a wooden mallet. Mochi were originally made as offerings to gods at shrines. Afterward, the offering was cut into smaller pieces and given to people for good health and fortune. Mochi became popular during the Heian Era (794-1192) when it was served during the New Year.

Mochi were displayed on both windows of the shop entrance.

Don't eat these! They're either plastic, or hardened and old.

Notice the well-worn floor of the shop. Owner Brian Kito was going to remodel it until he heard from many Japanese Americans who returned and said they liked that the shop was exactly as they remembered. One woman even had wedding photos taken there because her grandmother had recently passed away and she had many fond memories of all the times her grandmother took her to Fugetsu-Do for a little treat.
Look beyond the front counter of all the packaged goodies and you'll see...


More mochi!

These are special sakura mochi, wrapped in cherry leaves. They're only available now during cherry blossom season, which usually runs from late March until April. These were my favorite. The leaves had a very faint briny taste, reminiscent of pickled grape leaves, which contrasted well with the subtle sweetness of the red bean paste filling.

The yellow one tasted like lime and the aforementioned sakura cherry leaf mochi. The others all had sweet red bean filling (the dark one with the pink flower is inside out). The mochi were incredibly soft. I liked it a lot, but maybe that's because it reminds me of my mom's Vietnamese banh hong. Mommy lovingly folded 23 rose-shaped pink banh hong for my 23rd birthday so these mochi brought back nice memories for me.
How can you pass up such pretty and cute food still made by hand? Mochi are 95 cents each. $1 for the cherry leaf one because it's special. :) Get it while you can, I think sakura season is just about over.

Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop
315 E. First St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sunday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo)

Do I really need to say anything after this photo? I mean really. Can't you tell the pork will be so tender it melts in your mouth? The ramen noodles will be soft and chewy? The broth will be so flavorful that you'll literally slurp the whole bowl? I wasn't feeling very hungry, but when cousin Q invited me out for ramen at Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, there was no way I was gonna say no. I'd been hearing him rave about it for so long you see. After our lunch at Shin-Sen-Gumi in Rosemead way back in November, he couldn't stop comparing it to Daikokuya's meltingly tender pork, flavorful broth, and very generous portions. So we headed into Little Tokyo. You might recognize the tower from Showdown in Little Tokyo, starring you know, the very Japanese Brandon Lee and Tia Carrere. Heh. :P While he went inside to put his name on the waitlist, I got a look around. Here, you can just read what the restaurant says makes their ramen so special. After maybe a half hour wait or so? I had wandered down the street for some very cute mochi that I'll show you tomorrow, we went back and waited inside for our table. Daikokuya is very small. Just six booths (there's another booth to my right) and a dozen spots at the counter. Of course we all got the special ramen for $7.50. My cousin asked for extra pork, which was $2 for two more slices. I opted for a ramen and tempura combo for $10.95. First out was our hot green tea. My combo included thinly sliced cabbage salad. On the table were small containers of pickled ginger, pureed garlic, and togarashi (Japanese chili). My tempura was nicely crispy with a good selection of vegetables. I was saving it to dip in the ramen broth though. OK, OK. I know this is what you've all been waiting for. Just look at that bowl and see how rich the broth is. That comes from cooking the pork bones with soy sauce for a full day. Cousin Q had to lift up his slices of pork just so I could see what he means. So tender, it just started falling apart. My cousin literally made humming, yummy noises as he slurped his bowl. And when the noodles were all gone, he supped as much of the broth as possible, getting excited each time he found a small piece of pork in the broth. I'll admit, I was equally excited. This was good stuff. Really good stuff. Really, really good stuff. Here's another look at that bowl after I doctored it up with ginger and togarashi. This was seriously rave-worthy ramen. I thought the hard-boiled egg added a nice touch. I broke it apart, ate the white part that had been seasoned from the broth, and then mashed the egg yolks into the broth. The pork, the broth, the noodles, the generous portions. Everything was perfect. Well, OK, I wouldn't mind more pieces of pork and bamboo shoots. :) Daikokuya was so tasty I went back a couple of days later with lil' sis. We shared a bowl of ramen. Mmm. And ordered the fried spicy tuna for $4.95. The spicy tuna was wrapped in shiso leaf, dipped in tempura batter, and fried. There was a little saucer of sea salt to dip with this. I liked the shiso leaf fried, it was a nice alternative to the usual sushi way of eating spicy tuna. We got the ramen with fried rice combo. Wow! That marvelous black pig that so flavored the broth was used in the fried rice. It was so good lil' sis declared this the best fried rice she's ever had. I had a coupon but totally forgot to use it so I guess I'll have to go back again. :P Who else at at Daikokuya? Henry Chan of Henry Chan's Food Videos also loves Daikokuya. Elmo of Monster Munching had a rather disappointing experience. My other ramen posts: Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Monterey Park Foo Foo Tei Noodle House - Monterey Park (Closed) Santouka - Costa Mesa Santouka - Los Angeles Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Gardena Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Rosemead Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl
327 E. First St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012 213-626-1680
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. - Midnight Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. - 1 a.m. Sunday noon - until soup is gone