Saturday, May 31, 2008

Canh Rau Cuu Ky (Vietnamese (Chinese) Boxthorn Soup)

Since I'm hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to ask my fellow "herb" bloggers if they know of a common English name for the Vietnamese herb cuu ky? At the Asian grocery store, it's just labeled as cuu ky herb leaf, so no luck there.

Cuu ky is an herb that my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) would often cook during the summers because it was "cooling." I've posted before about the concept of hot and cold, or yin and yang foods in Chinese food therapy. Without a common English name, or scientific classification though, I can't offer up much info. I just know it's supposed to be good for me. I've never eaten it raw, only in a light broth-based soup.

Canh Cuu Ky 1

The plant looks like the picture below. The stems can get wooden if it's too old. There's also a few thorns, so be careful. Pluck the leaves only to make the soup. My second-youngest aunt was in town recently during a heat wave and made a "cooling" healthy soup with cuu ky and Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort).


Friday, May 30, 2008

Friendship Sealed with a Case of Mangoes

Yesterday when half of the White on Rice Couple was in L.A., I suggested we meet up. I've drooled over their gorgeous pictures for months, chuckled over their senses of humor, and watched in awe at their amazing videos. It was just a last minute thing, because she was already downtown and yet, Diane showed up at my door with an entire case of mangoes. Man, if I didn't already love her, the mangoes would have sealed the deal.
Mango 1
Hey, my friendship can be bought, but it doesn't come cheap! Mangoes are nearly twice as expensive as they were last year. :( The day before, I was at the grocery store and bought one mango. I couldn't justify buying a whole case even though I love mangoes so. And yet, she gave me a whole case. She said to share with my family, but ummm...if they don't know I have them, it's not selfish right? Right? In the close-up, don't the mangoes look like dinosaur eggs?
Mango 2
Anyway, so I've made Egg Rolls Stuffed with Bananas and Mangoes with Nutella Dipping Sauce, Goi Xoai Xanh (Vietnamese Green Mango Salad), Mango Bread, Mango Salsa, and Mangoes with Sticky Rice - Vietnamese-Style. Then last year when I asked ya'll what should I do with this case of mangoes, someone suggested mango chicken. Well, I did make mango chicken way back in September. But it just wasn't colorful enough so I haven't posted my recipe yet. What do you think? Do ya'll want the recipe anyway? Or should I make another batch and add some colorful bell peppers or something and then post a recipe?
Mango Chicken
In all honesty, I don't know why I ask because I can happily devour the whole case as is. Well, not in one sitting mind you, but I don't need to cook mangoes to enjoy them. I like them even when they're the world's smallest mangoes and take more work to peel than to eat. Hmm. Maybe mango sorbet or mango shortbread squares? Anyway, so we went on a little eating frenzy last night. She decided to try Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana - Monterey Park, where we ordered a large half Salsiccia 3 and half Fungi E Tartufi and the crab-stuffed mushroom appetizer. She literally scraped the plate clean. With a fork though. She's mannerly like that. ;) She even saved one lone mushroom for her better half. We saved him three slices of pizza too. Then we moved on to 85 Degrees C Tea House - San Gabriel where we shared a mung bean shaved snowflake and a pot of semen tea. Then, oh, yeah, we're not done yet, we went to J & J (Jin Jian) Restaurant - San Gabriel where we had an order of pork and an order of pork/crab xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) and Shanghai sticky rice cakes. Don't worry, most of that went home with her other half as well. Before the eating extravaganza though, she got a tour of my uncles' gardens. So here's a happy reminder of my second-youngest uncle's baby pomelos. Can you spot all three?
Pomelo
Thanks again White on Rice Couple! You're the best! ***** 1 year ago today, a very, very basic cucumber salad that lil' sis and I happily munch on all summer long.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sup Mang Tay Cua (Vietnamese Asparagus and Crab Soup)

So now that I've taught you how to make Canh (Vietnamese Soup Broth), it's time I finally shared my very favorite Vietnamese soup -- sup mang tay cua (Vietnamese asparagus and crab soup).

Sup Mang Tay Cua  1

This recipe is in no way as remotely as good as my mom's, but it'll do in a jiffy. Make a big pot. I can (And have!) happily eat three big bowls of this and call it a meal.  


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How to Make Broth for Canh (Vietnamese Soups)

Unlike Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup), which requires hours upon hours of simmering, canh (Vietnamese soup) is usually a quick, light broth-based soup. My "stock" is simmered for about half an hour, usually made just for each particular pot of soup. You can do this with beef, pork, or chicken. Most Asian grocery stores will sell beef or pork chin bones with meat specifically for this purpose. You can also use pork, without bones, and get both a broth and boiled pork for Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Salad Rolls).

Here's how I make my canh to be flavorful yet light and clear like what you see below.

How to Make Canh 1


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

If you're fortunate, you may be faced with an aisle like this in which to choose your fish and soy sauces. Fish sauces on the left, soy sauces on the right. With such varied selection, how do you know which one to pick and what it will taste like?

San Gabriel Superstore 13

Fish sauce is a part of many Southeast Asian cuisines including Vietnamese nuoc mam, Filipino patis, Korean aek jeot, and Thai nam pla. There's also non-liquid versions of fish and shrimp pastes such as Vietnamese mam ruoc, Cambodian prahok, Filipino bagoong, and Malaysian belacan. But for the purposes of this post, I'm only going to discuss the liquid version of fish sauce in general, and Vietnamese fish sauce in particular.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Weekend Wokking and Rules

Weekend Wokking
One of the things I've noticed with food blogging is how recipes seem to synchronize. Part of the reason is because many of us are trying to cook with seasonal ingredients. The other part is because once we see a certain item on someone else's blog, we might be persuaded to try it ourselves. So why not challenge each other and compile those recipes at the same time? So I've decided to create a food blogging event called "Weekend Wokking." I was thinking along the lines of the spirit of Iron Chef, but as I'm sure the title is copyrighted, I had to invent a new name along with a logo. I really liked the picture of one of my woks which featured its lid, bamboo cleaning whisk, and frying spoon. So perhaps Carbon Steel Wok? Nah, not catchy enough. Wok. Wok. Wok. Hmm. Weekend Wokking? No matter what else I attempted, the WW sounds stayed in my head. So Weekend Wokking it is. Of course, use of a wok is not required for the recipes. Also, unlike Iron Chef, I don't want a food fight to determine a winner. I just want to see how many different variations we can make of one ingredient. Wouldn't it be great to see a variety of cuisines and to see how each of us handles that one ingredient? Taking cues from Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, who created Weekend Herb Blogging, let's get everyone "Weekend Wokking." I'll be the first host, but I'd like "Weekend Wokking" to rotate so if you're interested in hosting send me an email at wanderingchopsticks (at) gmail (dot) com. For now, let's make it a monthly event, with the round-up on the first Wednesday of each month. Weekend Wokking on Wednesdays. :) Here are the rules:
1. Entries for Weekend Wokking must be written specifically for the event, and the posts cannot be submitted to other food blog events. Exceptions include entries that are also submitted in photo contests. 2. Entries are encouraged to be original recipes created by the submitter, but if you made someone else's recipe, please include a link to that person's recipe. You are allowed to revisit your recipes, provided that the photos and post are new and created specifically for the event. 3. Submissions must include the words Weekend Wokking and a link back to this post. If the round-up is hosted by someone else, submissions must include a link to this post and a link to that round-up's host. For example: Weekend WokkingI'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient. The host this month is Wandering Chopsticks. If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month. Or if you'd like a slightly larger logo. Weekend WokkingI'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks to celebrate the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient. The host this month is Wandering Chopsticks. If you would like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month. Or at the very least, the entry should say: This recipe is for Weekend Wokking hosted by Wandering Chopsticks. Use of the logo is encouraged but not required. 4. The compilation of Weekend Wokking will be posted on the first Wednesday of each month at a time that is most convenient for the host. The inaugural round-up will take place on Wednesday, June 4. Entries must be submitted to the host by the end of the weekend ie. Sunday at 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time, prior to the first Wednesday of each month. You can use the Time Zone Check to see what time the deadline is in your part of the world. Late entries may be accepted at the discretion of the host. Please put Weekend Wokking in the subject line of the email to make it easy for the host to identify entries. Also, include: Your name or what name you would prefer to be called: The name of your blog: What part of the world you want identified as your residence: The title of the recipe: A permalink URL to the recipe: One recipe per entry, one entry per person please. 5. The current host gets to pick the secret ingredient for the next round. Hosts will announce the next secret ingredient at the end of the current round-up. If the next host is unable to obtain the secret ingredient when it is their turn, they may opt out of posting a recipe of their own, but, of course, will still host the round-up. Choose only one "secret ingredient." There are no restrictions on ingredients, but I'd like to express some reminders. Please keep in mind that some ingredients may not be available to everyone. I think it'd be nice to be seasonal with ingredients but you don't have to. And lastly, please be aware of others' budgets. Recipes may be anything you wish, as long as there is some form of the secret ingredient in it.
And lastly, it's not a rule, but please remember to thank the host(ess). Round-ups take quite a bit of work and its nice to show them some appreciation. With all that said, the first "secret" ingredient will be ASPARAGUS! Let's see how many recipes we can make with asparagus shall we? Please email wanderingchopsticks (at) gmail (dot) com. Submit entries by 11:59 PM, Sunday, June 1 for inclusion in the Wednesday, June 4 round-up. I know it's short notice but I only just came up with the idea! And I was so excited I had to implement it straight away! Rules for Weekend Wokking Weekend Wokking Round-Up Who's Hosting Weekend Wokking? Weekend Wokking Host Duties We Wok! ***** 1 year ago today, a smiley face on my bimbimbap (Korean mixed rice).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Salsa Verde with Roasted Tomatillos

Ah, thought I was done with the quick and easy roasted recipes didn't you? Just one more. I made a nice salsa verde with roasted tomatillos for my brother's Memorial Day party. Tomatillos are in the same family, but a different genus, from the tomato. They look, but do not taste, like green tomatoes.
Salsa Verde 1
Salsa Verde with Roasted Tomatillos You'll need: About 2 lbs tomatillos, 1 lb will reduce to less than 1 cup after cooking 2 jalapenos, or more if you want spicier 1 small bunch cilantro 1 small bunch green onions 1 lime, juiced Salt, to taste Look at all the lovely green to truly make this truly verde. Tomatillos in their papery husks, cilantro, jalapenos, and green onions. The green onions are from my garden.
Salsa Verde 2
Tomatillos are surrounded by a papery husk. Look for the freshest and greenest husks as possible. Split open the husks a little to pick firm, smooth tomatillos. Peel off all the husks and discard.
Salsa Verde 3
Tomatillos got their name because people thought they were baby green tomatoes.
Salsa Verde 4
Wash and halve tomatoes. Remove the stems. De-seed and halve the jalapenos. Lightly oil a pan and lay tomatillos and jalapenos, skin side up. Lightly spray oil and sprinkle a light layer of salt on top. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour until tomatillos are slightly golden.
Salsa Verde 5
Meanwhile, wash and roughly chop the bunches of cilantro and green onions. When the tomatillos are done, they'll release a lot of liquid so scoop them out with a slotted spoon into a food processor. Add in the jalapenos, chopped cilantro, and chopped green onions. Puree until desired consistency. I like mine roughly smooth. Add juice of one lime. Taste and add salt if necessary.
Salsa Verde 6
Serve with tortilla chips, or top Carne Asada (Mexican Grilled Meat) or Tacos al Pastor (Mexican Shepherd-Style Tacos).
Salsa Verde 7
Enjoy! Other salsa recipes: Guacamole Mango Salsa Salsa Fresca I brought the salsa verde to my brother's Memorial Day party. Where it joined the rest of the goodies. There's the oldest '87 making mojitos with fresh apple mint.
Salsa Verde 8
That was a pretty fine mojito.
Salsa Verde 9
The oldest '88 made salmon ceviche.
Salsa Verde 10
Iced tea and sangria.
Salsa Verde 11
Bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
Salsa Verde 12
I made some Mo Hanh (Vietnamese Scallion Oil) to slather on the corn.
Salsa Verde 13
And the middle '87 made a smooth and creamy cheesecake. So good that when I inquired about leftovers the next day, cousin Q told me my youngest uncle had eaten half a cheesecake. Gone!
Salsa Verde 14
***** 1 year ago today, bulgogi and kalbi (Korean barbecued beef and short ribs).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tacos al Pastor (Mexican Shepherd-Style Tacos)

Another recipe that's been sitting in my queue for nearly a year. Except, it had been so long and I don't write down measurements that I completely forgot what proportions and ingredients I used. So of course, I had to make it again and write it down this time.
Tacos al Pastor 1
According to Wikipedia, tacos al pastor (Mexican shepherd-style tacos) was created in Puebla, Mexico, likely influenced by Lebanese immigrants who roasted meat for shawarmas on spit-grills. A slice of pineapple was placed on top of the meats so the juices could drip down while it roasted. The meat is then sliced off like doner kebabs. While some recipes for the marinade included several varieties of chili peppers, soaked, and then strained, I preferred using canned chipotle for ease. The marinade also included orange juice for sweetness. You can make achiote oil for color but I found using red wine vinegar and the chipotle sauce was just fine. I obviously don't have a spit-grill so I roasted the meat in the oven with slices of pineapple on top. Then either slice or shred the meat and serve with tortillas, Salsa Fresca, and cilantro. A close-up. The second time around, I used flour tortillas and added some shredded cheese.
Tacos al Pastor 2
Tacos al Pastor (Mexican Shepherd-Style Tacos) You'll need: 1/2 lb pork butt or shoulder, cut into 2-inch wide strips for faster cooking 4 oz or half a can of chipotle peppers including sauce, mash peppers Juice of 1 orange Juice of small lime, or 1 tblsp red wine vinegar 1 tsp salt 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 onion, diced (Save other half for topping tacos.) 1/2 tsp oregano 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp cumin Pineapple for placing over pork while roasting For topping tacos: 1/2 onion, diced cilantro, chopped cheese Salsa Fresca Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash pork and slice into 2-inch strips for faster cooking. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix 4 oz or half a can of chipotle peppers including sauce, mash the peppers, juice of 1 orange, juice of small lime, or 1 tblsp red wine vinegar if you don't have it on hand, 1 tsp salt, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 diced onion (Save the other half of the onion for topping tacos.), 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cumin, and pineapple for placing over pork while roasting. For the pineapple, I simply save the trimmings from cutting out the eyes so nothing is wasted. Taste the marinade and adjust seasonings if necessary. Slather the marinade all over the pork. Top with pineapple trimmings. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Let cool and shred or slice the meat. Serve with tortillas and diced onions, salsa fresca, cilantro, or shredded cheese.
Tacos al Pastor 3
Enjoy! My other Mexican recipes: Carne Asada (Mexican Grilled Meat) Guacamole Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea) Mango Salsa Nachos, Texas-Style Salsa Fresca Squash Blossom Quesadilla Sweet Corn Tomalito ***** 1 year ago today, the first appearance of geraniums in flowerpots.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Salsa Fresca

Another quick and easy recipe but an important part of tomorrow's recipe for Tacos al Pastor (Mexican Shepherd-Style Tacos). Not that you need another recipe to go with salsa. As it's simply perfect with just tortilla chips.

Salsa 1


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Roasted Tri-Colored Carrots

I saw these gorgeous carrots at the Farmers' Market in Claremont and couldn't resist.

Roasted Tri-Colored Carrots 1


Look at how pretty they are on the inside.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus 1

Ever made a whole meal out of just an appetizer? I bought 10 fat stalks of asparagus for 56 cents at the grocery store. They were really too fat to stir-fry or to put into a soup, but they were perfect for roasting. If you don't have fat asparagus spears, you can bundle two or three smaller ones together.  


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh (Vietnamese Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil)

I know, I know, I tease you with a roasted catfish picture and then I veer off into discussions about chicken! What can I say, I'm not a sequential thinker. :P But mmm, let's see that catfish again yeah?

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh 1

My dad had just caught the catfish the day before in Oregon before he came down to SoCal. I was all hopeful when he told lil' sis, "Ma lam ca bong lau cho con (Mom made catfish for you)." Lam could mean anything from to work, to cook, to do, to make. Unfortunately, in this case, it only meant my mom had cleaned it. :(

Darn it! I wanted some homecooking. I actually had never roasted a catfish before so I decided to use the marinade from Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Fish in a Claypot), figuring that if it doesn't char properly, at least the marinade will make it taste good. And boy, did it!

I also had some scallions in the fridge that needed to be used up so I decided to make mo hanh (Vietnamese scallion oil) to pour sizzling over the top. The recipe turned out better than expected. So much so that the fish was eaten in minutes.

As my brother picked a section for his wife, he told her our mom made it. No, she didn't. I did! Mommy only cleaned it. Huh! (Actually, he said the same thing a few years back when I made Cua Rang Muoi Tieu Me Toi Gung (Vietnamese Crab Stir-Fried with Salt, Pepper, Tamarind, Garlic, and Ginger). He started talking about how mom makes a sauce from the crab butter. Nuh uh! Mommy only sent down the Dungeness crabs. I made the sauce. Huh!) Anyway, since the first batch went so well, I made it again a few weeks later when my dad came down again and brought me two catfish.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Mo Hanh (Vietnamese Scallion Oil)

Mo hanh (Vietnamese scallion oil) is a quick and easy topping to enhance plain rice or noodle dishes such as the banh hoi (Vietnamese steamed rice vermicelli sheets) that are often served with Chao Tom (Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp Paste Wrapped Around Sugarcane). You can also use to top plain sticky rice, banh beo (Vietnamese steamed rice discs topped with dried shrimp), Ca Bong Lau Nuong (Vietnamese Roasted Catfish), or brush over grilled corn. This recipe is so quick and easy, it really doesn't need photo illustrations. But here you go anyway.

Mo Hanh 4
 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Fish in a Claypot)

Updated from the archives January 13, 2010:
I had never been particularly pleased with my original post for Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Fish in a Claypot). Partly because I didn't have a claypot in the original photo and partly because I had made it with tuna instead of catfish, my preferred fish for this dish. I wasn't enamored with my original entry for this dish either, but posted it anyway.

The only adjustments I've made to the recipe, actually for most of my braised dishes, is to substitute Indonesian kecap manis for the Nuoc Mau (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce). I always have a bottle of kecap manis on hand, it's dark and it's sweet - all qualities of nuoc mau but waaay easier.

Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Catfish in a Claypot) 1

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Peony

I finally dug up my peonies from my old house and brought them to my new house. They're just in pots for now. Peonies don't like to be moved so I was afraid they might not make it. One withered. One budded but the bud dried up, although its leaves are still green. And the third had one magnificent bloom.

This was the peony on April 27th.
Peony 1

On May 5th.
Peony 2

On May 8th.
Peony 3

On May 10th.
Peony 4

And on May 15th. :(
Peony 5


I'm such a bad blog buddy. I missed Mochachocolata-Rita's Chinese take-out party to celebrate her 88th post. :( Instead of food, how about I virtually bring this peony? Since peonies are traditionally one of the national floral symbols of China, it's still in keeping with the theme of the party. With so much food already, wouldn't you rather have flowers? :)


*****
1 year ago today, roll your own nem nuong cuon (Vietnamese grilled pork patty rice paper rolls) at Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa Vietnamese Restaurant - Rosemead.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ruby's Diner - Commerce and Live On the Go

Every week, I get emails from public relations representatives promoting some product or another. Occasionally, it ends up being something useful. Recently, I was contacted by Live On the Go, a website that lets you place orders online. They wanted to offer a $5 discount to my readers on the first order, and they gave me a $10 discount to try it out.

Ruby's Diner 1

Most of the locations that use this service right now are in Orange County so my readers there will probably find this much more useful. There are a handful of locations in LA County, and more are being added.

I chose Ruby's Diner in the Citadel Outlets, figuring I could make a quick stop at the Le Creuset outlet as well. Can I just say that at even outlet prices, Le Creuset is way too rich for my pocketbook? My Lodge cast iron pans, and non-name brand enameled pots work just fine. Just walk away from the shiny objects.

Anyway, so I placed my order online and set a time of 12:15 for curbside pick-up. That gave me plenty of time to get to the mall, finger some overpriced Le Creuset cookware, before getting back into my car and driving to the front of Ruby's. Yeah, I know, I could have walked over and picked it up in person, but that would defeat the whole purpose of this experiment. Well, I was going under the supposition that if you were to use this service, you'd order and just head over to the restaurant for pick-up.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mashed Potato-Stuffed Potato Skins

What to do with all those potatoes from the sack I bought to make mashed potatoes and fried chicken?

Overly-stuffed potato skins. I've made them the typical way with the mostly hollowed out potato skins, and I like my version with the mashed potato centers added back in. Crispy potato skin, fluffy mashed potatoes, crisp bacon, melted cheese, and a dollop of sour cream on top.


Stuffed Potato Skins 1



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

WC's Chao Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste-Wrapped Sugarcane) by Blondee47

Back in October, reader Blondee47 told me she was looking for sugarcane so she could make my recipe for Chao Tom (Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp Paste Wrapped Around Sugarcane). It took seven months, but she finally managed to find some in Canada. Unfortunately, some of the pieces looked like this.
Chao Tom by Blondee47 1
I advised her to cut off all the discolored parts and to keep only the white. If you don't know how, read my post on how to chop and prepare sugarcane.
Chao Tom by Blondee47 2
From Blondee47:
"Here are the amateur pictures of my sugar cane prawns. Except that I did not use prawns but used a combination of minced fish including dore pike and whitefish which I bought from my monger during Passover when he was mincing fish for people to make gefilte fish.
Chao Tom by Blondee47 3
Chao Tom by Blondee47 4
However, all seasonings are yours. I did not serve with rice paper - just on a bed of soba noodles.
Chao Tom by Blondee47 5
Everyone loved it!! Son thought it was chicken - could not believe it was fish. Thanks so much this is going on the 'keeper' list."
Thanks for trying out my recipe and for the feedback Blondee47! Wanna hijack my blog? Check out Readers Cook WC Recipes for guidelines on how you too can participate. ***** 1 year ago today, an orange phosphate, a hot fudge sundae, and a macadamia nut malt at Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain in South Pasadena. And no, I didn't eat it all by myself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Garden Cafe - Alhambra

OK, one last post discussing Hainanese chicken rice, a few loose-end posts, and then we'll move on to the roasted catfish recipe I teased way back when. Unless you want me to veer off on this tangent? But no one was interested when I first mentioned him...

My friend, HH, was in town earlier this month and staying with me for a few days. His flight came in late at night. After traveling around the country for several weeks, he was also sick. For late night eating and some wonton soup, there's nothing like a Hong Kong-style cafe. I decided on Garden Cafe in Alhambra since it was open until 4 a.m.

A decade ago when I first moved to SoCal, and way before I started food-blogging, I used to go to Garden Cafe pretty regularly. One of my second-cousins had taken me here and the varied menu made it an easy default restaurant option when we couldn't decide where to eat.

Then Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie opened and that became, and still is, my preferred Hong Kong cafe. But as I've already blogged about Baccali, Garden Cafe, I decided to take him to Garden Cafe that night. They either redid their menu, or I never noticed before, but it's now rather Cheesecake Factory-like with lots of ads and pictures interspersed. And the picture for the Hainanese chicken rice for $6.50 looked pretty good. As you can see, the rice had color, indicating that it had been cooked in chicken broth and had some flavor. The chicken was firm and juicy. I didn't care for either of the dipping sauces, but the chicken and rice wasn't half-bad. Not as good as homemade, mind you, but much tastier than Savoy Kitchen's.

Garden Cafe 1

We also ordered a bowl of shrimp wonton soup for $4.95. Hong Kong-style shrimp wontons are on the large side, packed full of shrimp. My friend ate the whole bowl.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Steamed Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce

To go along with my simply Soy Sauce-Steamed Chicken Wings, I tucked in a few gai lan (Chinese broccoli) to steam. Yup, this is usually the sole green I get at dim sum restaurants. Gai lan, sometimes spelled kai/cai lan, is a slightly bitter vegetable with edible stems, leaves, and flowers. Use it as you would regular broccoli - steamed, stir-fried, or boiled.

Steamed Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce
 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ga Hap Xi Dau (Vietnamese Soy Sauce-Steamed Chicken)

For another quick and easy recipe, let's go back to that handy-dandy steamer my mom gave me. At the time, I had an internship that made me pretty tired when I got home. Since I was a poor college student, it was either budget frozen dinners or cheap and simple meals. I used to make fried rice with bologna back then... After making ga hap (Vietnamese steamed chicken), I was reminded of how much I used to love simply steamed chicken wings with only soy sauce. I used to make my whole dinner in 15 minutes. Since the steamer was oval, I'd have one bowl of rice, one bowl of two chicken wings doused in soy sauce, and tucked in some vegetables on the side. Set the timer for 15 minutes and that was it. The simple flavors are best enjoyed with plain white jasmine rice. I like chicken wings for this because of its firm texture and slight chew, but any part will do. Steam with the chicken skin attached for moistness, and remove before before eating if you're watching your weight. I did the same thing again recently and it was just as good as it was back then. Now, if only I could have my 19-year-old body back too...
Ga Hap Xi Dau
Ga Hap Xi Dau (Vietnamese Soy Sauce-Steamed Chicken) You'll need: Two chicken wings, or whichever and however much chicken parts you'd like. 1 tblsp soy sauce per wing or chicken part Wash chicken and place into a bowl. Douse about 1 tblsp of soy sauce onto each chicken part. Toss and make sure it's evenly coated. Place in steamer for about 15 minutes or until juices run clear when poked. If you don't have a steamer, then use a steamer tray or place a bowl bottom-side up on the bottom of stock pot, then a plate on top. Fill water just to below the steamer tray or plate. After the water boils, turn heat down to medium or medium-low and let chicken steam for about 15 minutes. Serve with plain white jasmine rice and steamed gai lan (Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce. Enjoy! ***** 1 year ago today, May flowers - Double Delight roses, Lady Fairbanks roses climbing a trellis, cupflowers, leeks, strawberries, cereus, and a blue vase of sweet peas and roses.