Friday, April 30, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 8

The month started off with my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother)'s death anniversary.


Ba Noi's Dam Gio (Vietnamese Paternal Grandmother's Death Anniversary)


My ong co (Vietnamese great-grandfather), ba noi's father's, death anniversary back in February.


Ong Co Ngoai's Dam Gio (Vietnamese Paternal Grandmother's Father's Death Anniversary)


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How to Flip a Roast Chicken With a Wooden Spoon

Salt, Pepper, Lemon Basic Baked Organic Chicken 4

This tip might be obvious to some of you, or it might be a light bulb moment for others. As you know, I bake a lot of roast chicken. A lot. Really. Really. Really. A lot. And after making it enough times, I've become pretty good at flipping the bird (heheh) so that the skin stays mostly intact.

The trick is to use a wooden spoon. It's best to use a spoon with a wide mouth, like a wok bamboo wooden spoon, to stabilize the chicken while turning.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thai Red Curry Roast Chicken

Thai Red Curry Roast Chicken 1

This recipe is really easy and very flavorful. On the hunt for new roast chicken recipe, I started rooting around my pantry and then the fridge and then the freezer when I chanced upon some frozen Thai red curry paste. Hmm. What if I rubbed the curry paste all over the chicken as a marinade? I like my curries with coconut milk, so what if I added coconut powder as well?

The curry spices mingled with the chicken juices while cooking to create the most wonderfully delicious taste. So simple. So yummy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tom Yum Goong Kai (Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp and Chicken Soup)

Tom Yum Goong Kai (Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp and Chicken Soup) 1

A while back, I received an email from a reader named Emily who said she uses the blog to stay in touch with her friend after she moved to Chicago, Illinois, and her friend stayed behind in Orlando, Florida. They browse through the blog, picking out recipes they want to try, and then compare notes.

She said they were talking about how delicious tom yum (Thai hot and sour soup) was and "immediately" searched the blog for a recipe. (I liked how she actually searched for the recipe before emailing me. Ha!)

Unable to find the recipe on my blog, she emailed me to request one. "There are other tom yum soup recipes available online but WE TRUST YOU," Emily said.

Awww. I asked her exactly how she and her friend used the blog to stay in touch?

Friday, April 23, 2010

How to Prepare and Use Tamarind in Recipes

Tamarind 1


Me (Vietnamese Tamarind) is a common ingredient in several dishes for a slightly sweet-tart flavor. You can buy tamarind pods whole for a few bucks at the Asian or Mexican grocery store. I find the Asian tamarind of better quality than the Mexican tamarind in my area -- pods intact, fresher, sweeter tasting.

You can actually snack on these plain if you wish. They taste like chewy sweet-tart candy.

To prepare tamarind for recipes is pretty simple.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Giordano's Stuffed Spinach Pizza - Chicago - Illinois from Gourmet Pigs

Giordano's Stuffed Spinach Pizza from Gourmet Pigs 1

In the pizza wars, only one pizza reigns supreme for me.

Because there's only one pizza for which I get cravings. For the buttery, flaky crust. For the deep dish stuffed spinach goodness. For the liberal amounts of tangy tomato sauce on top.

Sure there are other deep dish pizzas and other stuffed pizzas, but only Giordano's stuffed spinach pizza comes with heaping amounts of nostalgia for my undergrad days. For snowy winters and having to decide whether to brave the cold for Sunday dinner or stay in the dorm and make do with a bag of popcorn.

The stuffed or deep dish pizzas I've tried in California, NorCal and SoCal, just aren't the same. So I was way excited when Gourmet Pigs came back from Chicago with a frozen stuffed spinach pizza for me. Yippee!!!

You can order the pizzas half-baked and frozen at the restaurants and they'll have it ready for you to take on the plane. One of my college friends did this once. On the way to take me to the airport, she said she had to make a pitstop, and came out with two frozen pizzas for me to take home. Way cool.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Evening Primroses

4.21 Evening Primroses

Unbeknownst to me, some of the evening primrose seeds tagged along when I dug up my roses when I moved. Not many, but enough for a small bouquet in my favorite pitcher.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pollo Campero - Commerce (Closed)

Pollo Campero - Commerce 1

While on one of my runs for Wednesday 99-cents fish tacos at Tacos Baja Ensenada - (East) Los Angeles, I noticed the Pollo Campero a little ways down and across the street. I knew it was Guatemalan fried chicken, but that was about the extent of it.

According to Wikipedia, Pollo Campero was founded in 1971 in Guatemala and has expanded to 300 locations around the world. While most of the restaurants are in Central America, there are locations as far-flung as Bahrain and Indonesia. There are 50 locations in the United States.

Considering how much I love fried chicken and that I didn't have a Guatemalan entry on the blog, I made a note to check it out on a non-Wednesday. Which I did, way back in September 2008. I know! Reaching far back for this one. I ordered a 2-piece leg and thigh meal with yucca fries and a roll. I also got red and green salsas, chilies, and limes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos 1


OK, I'm going back to August 2008 for this one. Super quick and easy recipe for chipotle shrimp tacos. For times when you're hungry and want to eat now, or for when you're busy and want to blog now. :P

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Las Cunadas Rosticeria and Mexican Food Restaurant - Alhambra (Closed)

Las Cunadas - Alhambra 1

Sometimes my forays into cheap eats aren't always so successful. In August 2009, I was craving rotisserie chicken, but felt too lazy to drive all the way to El Monte for Pollo Mania. So I decided to try Las Cunadas Rosticeria and Mexican Food Restaurant in Alhambra.

Located in a small strip mall next to an auto parts store and what used to a photo booth, but is now the psychic Mrs. Lin's fortunetelling booth, Las Cunadas was easily overlooked. But the sign did say rotisserie after all.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

El Ranchero Restaurant - Alhambra

So what can beat 55-cent taco Tuesdays?

El Ranchero Restaurant - Alhambra 1

Why 50-cent taco Mondays, of course. Gotta go 5 cents less and a day ahead of the competition!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tacos Mexico - (East) Los Angeles

Tacos Mexico - (East) Los Angeles 1

In April 2009, after dining at One Sunset - West Hollywood, I still wasn't quite satisfied. I wasn't hungry, but dinner didn't quite hit the mark for me. After dropping off The Glutster, Danny of Kung Food Panda and I saw the "open 24 hours" and "Especial Martes Tacos .55" signs at Tacos Mexico and decided to make a pit stop. It wasn't a Tuesday so the tacos were actually $1.05, but that seemed just right for a late night snack.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guelaguetza Restaurante - Los Angeles

Guelaguetza Restaurante - Los Angeles 1

Shortly after the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, Gourmet Pigs organized an online auction of gift certificates to Los Angeles-area restaurants with all the proceeds going to charity. I scored a gift certificate from Guelaguetza Restaurante of dinner for two that included two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, and two drinks. She bought the other gift certificate.

So in March, we decided to try Oaxacan Mexican cuisine and invited L.A. and O.C. Foodventures and WeezerMonkey to join us.

While we were looking over the menu, the waiter brought us tortilla chips topped with mole and queso fresco.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vertical Wine Bistro - Pasadena (Old Town)

Vertical Wine Bistro - Pasadena (Old Town) 1


After dinner at Tibet Nepal House - Pasadena, we went around the corner to Vertical Wine Bistro. The entrance was so cute! I love string lights. Creates such an intimate ambiance.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tibet Nepal House - Pasadena (Old Town)

The first time I tried Tibetan and Nepalese cuisine was in Wisconsin, of all places. Actually, Madison was surprisingly wonderful, filled with more ethnic restaurants than I expected (I tried Afghan cuisine for the first time there too.). I remembered mung bean patties and a huge dosa, but can't remember which was my or my friends' order. The flavors were vaguely Indian, redolent of spices and curry, but different.

Tibet Nepal House - Pasadena 1

Several years later, I met up with a friend of a friend for dinner and he took me to Tibet Nepal House in Pasadena, thinking that it'd be a new cuisine for me. Nope! The conversation was better than expected; the food, however, was decidedly less so. I remembered ordering the sherpa stew, and that the meat was so hard and dry that he wanted to send it back to the kitchen. For someone who picked a cuisine that was a little unusual, even for SoCal standards, he was really quite unadventurous with regards to food in general and we never went out again.

So my first impression of Tibet Nepal House wasn't so stellar. I don't remember what else we ordered that night, but one dry, hard stew shouldn't chase me away from further exploring Tibetan cuisine. So in July 2009, I went with Gourmet Pigs to try out the $8.99 lunch buffet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Com Suon Cha Trung (Vietnamese Rice with Pork Chop and Steamed Egg Omelet)

Com Suon Cha Trung (Vietnamese Pork Chops with Steamed Egg Meatloaf) 1

Except for the time- and ingredient-intensive Vietnamese soups, most of my cooking is pretty simple. Rice, sauteed greens and/or a quick soup, and some kind of meat. While my cooking has certainly improved through the years, getting a basic meal on the table was never a problem.

I won't mention you-know-who and her 30-minute meals and her inane acronyms, except for the fact that a basic meal really doesn't, or shouldn't, take more than half an hour to put together.

Recently, cousin Q's older brother's wife's friend, Cristina of Spaz Attack, ranted about how difficult it was for her to get dinner on the table. Her diatribe was just too funny not to share.

Granted, I don't have two little boys running afoot, but instead of looking at my food pictures, just try cooking. It's easy! You don't have to marinate meats ahead of time. You don't have to chop onions and garlic into uniform pieces. Just get in the kitchen and do it.

I'm not trying to make light of her frustration. I've heard from several readers who said they thought cooking was difficult until they started making my recipes. With good results! And the first time they were able to feed their significant others and children filled them with such joy. I love hearing these stories!

I think as women, we're just too hard on ourselves. Cue freshman year Women's Studies and "The Second Shift" by Arlie Hochschild with Anne Machung. While we've made some strides with gender equality, all too often, cooking falls to women. After a long day at work, women have to work a "second shift" to get food on the table, clean the home, and take care of their kids. I hear from enough male readers who are in the kitchen that I know that's not always the case.

Heck, even for single people, sometimes at the end of the day, it's exhausting. But, we all have to eat. Might as well learn how to cook and feed yourself and/or your family too.

Let's start with simple pork chops. A pack of two cost me a little more than $2 so they're cheap. Pan-fry them and you're done in 20 minutes. If you're industrious, make this while Cha Trung (Vietnamese Meatloaf Steamed Egg Omelet) is steaming and you've got rice, meat, and side dish in half an hour.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cha Trung (Vietnamese Meatloaf Steamed Egg Omelet)

Cha Trung (Vietnamese Meatloaf Steamed Egg Omelet) 1

There's no quicker or basic meal than com tam (Vietnamese broken rice). A basic rice plate will have your choice of meat, sometimes Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls), and Cha Trung (Vietnamese Meatloaf Steamed Egg Omelet).

Funnily enough, the last time I made this, in October 2008, my brother was over for dinner and I was making a quick meal for us. Then recently, near the end of his paternity leave, I wanted to help out, but was feeling too lazy to cook. So, of course, the answer again was pork chops and cha trung.

I think of cha trung as a combination of meatloaf and omelet. It's really hard to ruin this dish. Add some vermicelli noodles and Nam Meo (Tree Ear Fungus) to bind the meat, beat in a few eggs, and steam for about half an hour. If you have extra filling from making egg rolls, you can use that mixture too since many of the ingredients are similar.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Introducing Baby M3 and Baby A's First Birthday

Baby M3 and Baby A's First Birthday 1


Baby M3, the newest addition to the family from cousin T in Oregon, came at 10:34 p.m., weighing in at 6 pounds, 15 ounces, and 20 inches long.

Isn't she adorable?

She's the youngest of five grandchildren in her generation.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Canh Tao/Rong Bien (Vietnamese Seaweed Soup)

Canh Tao Rong Bien (Vietnamese Seaweed Soup) 1


After I made the Canh Du Du (Vietnamese Papaya Soup), I remembered that Koreans often serve seaweed soup to new mothers to replenish iron. I decided to make Canh Rong Bien (Vietnamese Seaweed Soup) instead. My mom used to make this soup quite often when I was growing up. When I saw a package of laver at the grocery store, I purchased it with this soup in mind.

The type of seaweed used in this soup is not the same type used in making sushi. This laver is black with a purplish tint, is dried in thick sheets, and is not seasoned. Don't substitute as nori is far too salty for this type of preparation.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Canh Du Du (Vietnamese Papaya Soup)

Canh Du Du (Vietnamese Papaya Soup) 1


This is another of those recipes that sat in the queue too long because I didn't like the photos so I never blogged it. Or maybe it was more because there was no story attached, until now. I last made this soup almost exactly a year ago. Then upon review, the original photos weren't as horrible as I remembered, but these are much better. I just like how the color of the papaya pops out at me.

Along with the Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) I made for my brother and his wife, I also made Canh Du Du (Vietnamese Papaya Soup). Vietnamese believe that ripe papaya helps with lactation if you're breastfeeding. Evidently it's not just Vietnamese superstition since my sister-in-law's mother has been bringing over lots of papaya too. Whether there's any truth to this superstition has been much debated. Nonetheless, an extra boost of beta carotene and vitamin A is always a good thing whether you're lactating or not.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger)

Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger) 1


One of the times when lil' sis and I were home in Portland, our parents had already made plans to go out for dinner. What? They were abandoning us? :( Don't worry, daddy said. He made us a special chicken dish from his hometown.

When lil' sis and I checked the pot, it turned out to be Ga Kho Gung (Vietnamese Braised Chicken with Ginger). While you could make this recipe with whole pieces of chicken, my dad chopped his chicken into bite-sized pieces, bones and all. Daddy's a country boy, where some of the neighbors literally live in mud floor huts with palm leaf walls. Eating a whole drumstick or thigh per person would have been a luxury. Hence, the chopping. It also makes for easier eating.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

How to Eat Hot Vit Lon (Vietnamese Fetal Duck Eggs)

How to Eat Hot Vit Lon (Vietnamese Fetal Duck Eggs) 1

I had intended to post about how to eat Hot Vit Lon (Vietnamese Fetal Duck Eggs), or balut to Filipinos, a while back but the photos were pretty bad. I usually only eat hot vit lon when my parents are in town because my youngest aunt buys it for them. The lighting at her house isn't the best. After visiting Hot Vit Lon Long An - Westminster (Little Saigon) last fall, even though I only bought sugarcane juice, obviously it would've been a good chance to do a how-to post, but again, bad photos.

My parents were back in town again recently to visit their first grandbaby. One night, because I hadn't come over for dinner, youngest aunt knocked on my door with a bag of Vietnamese dumplings and hot vit lon. Aha! Slightly better lighting at my house. Plus, I can set them up oh so prettily with my egg cups. Yes, I bought egg cups specifically for hot vit lon. Because I'm just that weird. Well, I guess you could use them for soft-boiled eggs, but these egg cups are reserved for hot vit lon in my house. :P

I've kinda circled around to the idea of Vietnamese fertilized duck eggs. I've always eaten them growing up. I used to enjoy eating the individual body parts of the duck. Gross! I know! Eating the little webbed feet and body and then head. Then I avoided it for a while because seeing the little fetal duck made me squeamish. And then, there was the time in college when my friend hadn't boiled them long enough so they were still raw and when he reheated it in the microwave they all exploded. Except for mine. Which unfortunately decided to explode IN MY FACE when I tapped the shell. Not that that scarred me or anything. Now, while I don't buy them myself, I will eat them if they happen to be available.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Happy Sheep Cafe - Rowland Heights (Closed)

Happy Sheep Cafe - Rowland Heights 1

Recently, I was contacted by the son of the owners of the Happy Sheep restaurants, which used to be the Little Fat Sheep restaurants in Southern California before they changed the name and sold some of the locations.

He had seen my post on Happy Sheep Cafe Shabu & Grill - San Gabriel and wanted to thank me.

Aww! How nice!

Free meal? Gift certificate?

How 'bout a blogger meal I suggested instead. That way, hopefully it can get the word out to others. So I invited some blogger friends and totally forgot that it was Easter Sunday. Doh! So even though a lot of people couldn't make it, I still got lots of FoWCs (that's Friends of Wandering Chopsticks). ;) Like, Gourmet Pigs, Tony of SinoSoul, Meowmi whom I met on Biggest Menu years ago, Jeannie of The World is My Oyster, Abby of Pleasure Palate, cousin Q's older brother and his wife and baby Pablo, and my friend Don. Thirsty Pig got thrown into the mix since he had blogged about Happy Sheep too.

The Rowland Heights location of Happy Sheep Cafe is to the left side of the HK2 Food District supermarket, all the way in the back of an alley. Look for the Hong Kong Fishball House, the notorious fried pork rectum I remembered from Kirk of Mmm-yoso's post, and keep going. Don't worry, the smell of the stinky tofu will dissipate once you get to Happy Sheep.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Fleur De Lys Patisserie - Monterey Park (Closed)

Fleur De Lys Patisserie - Monterey Park 1

Lil' sis, our oldest nephew, and his childhood friend came into town recently to visit my brother's new baby. While I was having brunch at Mike and Anne's Restaurant | Bar - South Pasadena, lil' sis took them to Pho Filet Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte for breakfast, so they were still pretty full after our visit. Nephew's friend asked if I could take them out for dessert instead.

I finally noticed Fleur De Lys Patisserie had taken over the old hair salon or was it a realtor's office? The sign, cute awning, very French. And located in Monterey Park definitely made it a must-visit place for me.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Mike and Anne's Restaurant | Bar - South Pasadena

Mike and Anne's Restaurant  Bar - South Pasadena 1

Shortly after my house was broken into, my childhood friend talked me into getting out instead of staying in and stewing in my own sadness. We weren't hungry, just looking for a place to chill late at night in the San Gabriel Valley that wasn't a Hong Kong cafe.

I mentioned that there were some wine bars in South Pasadena. Of course, the names of the wine bars I wanted to try were bookmarked on a laptop I no longer had. So we drove along Mission Street, figuring we'd stop in at whatever looked appealing. That's when we saw the twinkling lights and decided to check out Mike and Anne's Restaurant | Bar.

The space was rather inviting, holiday lights twinkling outside and a good number of people quietly talking and drinking inside. Perfect for a low-key evening.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Com Chien Toi Trung (Vietnamese Garlic Fried Rice with Eggs)

Com Chien Toi Trung (Vietnamese Garlic Fried Rice with Eggs) 1

One of the ways in which my cooking differs from my mother's is in how much I love garlic. The more the merrier I say. Baked Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Lemon, and Rosemary? Braised Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic? If I wasn't so set on that magic number of 40, which equivocates to about three heads of garlic, I'd go for a even 50.

So when Christine of Kits Chow, host of last month's onion round-up of Weekend Wokking, announced GARLIC as this month's secret ingredient challenge, I wanted to make something in which garlic wasn't just an ingredient, but a starring role.

Com Chien Toi Trung (Vietnamese Garlic Fried Rice with Eggs) takes me back to my college days when fresh fruits and vegetables weren't available within walking distance. Luckily, eggs and garlic lasted much longer. On days when I didn't feel like hopping on the train or felt particularly poor, this dish was always satisfying.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ga Ro Ti Xa (Vietnamese Roasted Lemongrass Chicken)

Ga Ro Ti Xa (Vietnamese Roasted Lemongrass Chicken) 1

Since I bought the lemongrass from the little old lady in front of Thanh Tam Bakery - Garden Grove (Little Saigon), I didn't want to use it on just any old recipe.

I've been cooking a bit extra to help out my brother with his new baby. When my parents were in town, I'd bring food over when I took them to visit. It's so sweet to see them both fussing over their first grandchild. On this particular day, my oldest uncle's wife had a get together so there was plenty of food. My brother said he'd come over to pick it up and run errands at the same time. I was in the shower when he came, but I told him I had a chicken in the oven if he wanted to run errands and come back in half an hour. He didn't want to miss out on fresh roast chicken. And garlic fried rice too! They ate my chicken and rice right away, while saving my aunt's food for later. Yes!