Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce)

Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce) 1

I've said before, that when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, cooking with dill is something that is more common in the north. It's most well-known in Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill), but I also encountered Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce) when I was in Hanoi in 2005.

It was on a boat trip down the Red River with stops at a few temples along the way, including Tien Dung Chu Dong Tu Temple, also known as the Temple of Love. There's a great story about Princess Tien Dung, daughter of Hung Vuong III, who wasn't all that interested in marriage and amused herself by exploring the countryside with her entourage.

Chu Dong Tu was a poor fisherman, who took turns sharing one loincloth between him and his father. When his father died, he borrowed clothes for the funeral and buried his father with the only loincloth. Since he had no clothes, he fished at night and during the day, he stayed in the water when selling his fish in order to conceal his nakedness.

Then one day, the princess approached his riverbank and decided it was so pretty that she wanted to bathe there. He dug a hole in the sand and attempted to hide behind some cattails, whereupon he was discovered by Princess Tien Dung. I guess she liked what she saw, decided fate had sent this man to her, and married him there and then. The long addendum to the story includes her being disinherited by the king, him becoming a Taoist monk and then a saint, a magical palace made of jewels that was whisked up to the heavens, and a temple built in its place to honor their love.

A boat cruise, a temple, a love story, and lunch was included! I don't remember what else was served, and honestly, the dish wasn't even that memorable, but the fantastic love story and the idea of braised fish with tomato dill sauce stayed with me.

If you like Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce), then this dish will be familiar. I used salmon, since it's often paired with dill in Western dishes. I pan-fried the salmon steak first so it would hold its shape better in a quick braise. A few tomatoes, shallots, garlic, dill, and fish sauce gets simmered until it thickens. The dill is cooked with the sauce; not tossed as a garnish at the end.

I can't promise that fate will throw true love your way if you make this dish, but hopefully my little anecdote amused you enough to try making it?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bun Ca Ngu (Vietnamese Tuna Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup)

Bun Ca Ngu (Vietnamese Tuna Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup) 1

My mom used to make a simple soup of just boiled tuna fillets and rice vermicelli noodles. Best enjoyed when we've visited the Oregon Coast and can buy fresh tuna right off the fishing boats. I had nearly forgotten about this fish noodle soup until I saw it on the menu at Quan Mien Trung Vietnamese Cuisine - Rosemead. You can add fish patties and fish balls like the restaurant version if you'd like.

I kept my version of Bun Ca Ngu (Vietnamese Tuna Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup) fairly basic with a focus on the tuna. Made a broth with chicken bones and added the tuna steaks near the end so they didn't overcook. If you can't find any fresh tuna, I think king mackerel would also work well. You want a meaty and firm fish, something that will remain intact while simmering. The pineapples help to offset the fishiness. Some tomatoes would work too if you have any on hand. Top with a sprinkle of cilantro, green onions, or Vietnamese coriander.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine Giveaway

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine Giveaway

Mmm. Doesn't that chocolate lava cake look scrumptious? The desserts were the only things I liked from my visit to Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine - Newport Beach four years ago. I'd love a chance to revisit Roy's myself, but instead, you get to go.

That's right!

The PR folks at Roy's are generously giving me a $50 gift certificate to give to you so that you can experience chef Roy Yamaguchi's Hawaiian fusion cuisine for yourself.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park

Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 1

Shortly after the '88s and lil' sis graduated from college, the youngest cousin also graduated from high school. I totally forgot about his graduation ceremony, but a few cousins reminded me in time to join his family for dinner afterward at Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park. And isn't that the best part anyway?

I've blogged Ocean Star's dim sum before, and had remarked that the old school seafood/dim sum restaurants mainly rested on their laurels. Nonetheless, for family gatherings, they're still pretty popular.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Brodard Chateau Vietnamese Cuisine - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)

Brodard Chateau Vietnamese Cuisine - Garden Grove (Little Saigon) 1

After lil' sis's graduation, we toyed with various locations in San Diego for dinner, Chinese family-style or fancy steak house? As circumstances dictated, I alerted oldest nephew to a last-minute deal on JetBlue from Long Beach to Portland so he could come home for his brother's graduation, we ended up in Orange County for dinner. Since it was a special occasion, I suggested Brodard Chateau Vietnamese Cuisine. That was just as well since the number of people attending grew from our immediate family to more than a dozen people.

Brodard Chateau is from the same family as the original Brodard Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon), but fancier. The restaurant's facade is a Swiss? French? chateau-like building. According to The Orange County Register article I read in 2006, the 8,000-square foot chateau opened with 25 employees and operating costs of $100,000 a month. Pretty pricey by anyone's standards, but for a Vietnamese restaurant, unheard of. Was Little Saigon ready for an upscale Vietnamese restaurant?

I think the fact that it's still around four years later says so.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 10

UC Irvine Commencement

Congratulations to the two '88s and lil' sis who graduated from college this month! The youngest cousin graduated from high school too. I feel so old. I remember when they were all babies!

After the older '88's graduation, we went out for Korean barbecue at Seol Ak San - Stanton. It was my parents' and her parents' first time eating Korean barbecue and they quite liked it, especially the variety of panchan (Korean side dishes) and the kimchee fried rice at the end.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Foo Foo Tei Noodle House - Hacienda Heights

Foo Foo Tei - Hacienda Heights 1

Back in October 2009, shortly before Keizo of Go Ramen left to pursue his ramen dream in Japan, his friends and some food bloggers gathered to wish him well and good-bye. He chose Foo Foo Tei Noodle House in Hacienda Heights, where he once accomplished the "Foo-Foo Challenge," eating there every day for a month because the restaurant boasts 31 flavors of ramen.

I had only been to the knock-off Foo Foo Tei Noodle House in Monterey Park, which has since closed. I thought it was just OK, and had been meaning to try the original. So, this was the perfect opportunity for comparison.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Torigara Shoyu Miso (Japanese Chicken Soy Sauce Bean Paste) Ramen

Torigara Shoyu Miso (Japanese Chicken Soy Sauce Bean Paste) Ramen 1

While my favorite ramen is tonkotsu, for that rich milky porky broth, it takes a lot of skill and labor to make. I'd rather go to Daikokuya Original Noodle and Rice Bowl - Monterey Park to get my fix. But chicken bone-based ramen with soy sauce and miso paste to add that oomph of flavor seemed much more doable.

This recipe isn't that different from my Torigara Shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce Chicken) Ramen, except with the addition of miso paste, of course. You can add the miso paste at the end if you wish, but I added a large dollop while the broth was boiling to infuse more flavor. Unlike Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup), in which the broth is kept on low for clarity, the key to a good ramen broth is to keep the broth at a roiling boil to extract as much from the bones as possible. A thick, milky broth is a good thing when it comes to ramen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec)

Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec) 1

Shortly after dining at Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose, I was in the mood to recreate one of my favorite dishes from there, Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec). Unlike the more popular Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp), the version from Sa Dec, a city in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, also features ground pork in tomato sauce and a disc of shrimp tempura.

So who is Mrs. Five? Vietnamese often refer to people by their birth order. Since parents are always no. 1, the first child is no. 2. Ba Nam (Mrs./"auntie" 5) is the fourth-born in her family. Or her husband was fourth-born if she adopted his birth order salutation status after marriage. According to Tin Tuc (Vietnamese news), ba Nam was born in 1907 and her name was Nguyen Kim Chung. She had some fame singing Vietnamese opera, and not to be confused with another singer who was also ba Nam, but from Can Tho, she went by ba Nam Sa Dec.

In 1973, after some financial difficulties, she supplemented her income by venturing into the restaurant business, selling her version of hu tieu with the ground pork in tomato sauce and shrimp tempura. As word spread, people would mention hu tieu ba Nam Sa Dec when talking about it. After the Vietnam War ended, ownership of the shop changed. Her adopted child ended up in Sweden, where her photo is displayed at the restaurant that bears her name.

Vung Tau Restaurant is the only place I've eaten that has hu tieu ba Nam Sa Dec on the menu so I've based my recipe off its version. Instead of boiled pork, which is also used to make the broth, I salted and pan-fried mine. The shrimp can be boiled, grilled, or as I did, quickly sauteed. The real key is to add some tomato sauce to the ground pork and to fry up some shrimp tempura. If you don't want to, you could substitute by adding a shrimp to a potsticker wrapper and fry up that. Hu tieu can be served dry or with broth on the side.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tasty Garden - Alhambra

Tasty Garden - Alhambra 1

Hong Kong cafe fare is comfort food for me, but I have to admit that I always gravitate to the same places. I've been going to Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie - Alhambra since it opened in the late 90s. It's still my favorite cafe for the larger portions and unlimited refills. Every once in a while, I might visit Garden Cafe - Alhambra, which I'd been eating at since the mid-90s, but it only offers one refill.

So in May 2007, lil' sis and I decided to try Tasty Garden. Well, I think I was with lil' sis. It's been so long that I can't remember with whom I was dining, but the dishes we ordered were our favorites.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chinese Deep-Fried Pork Chops with Spicy Salt

Chinese Deep-Fried Pork Chop 2

I'm reaching back to August 2008 for this one. Actually, I don't know why I haven't made this dish since! It's so simple and so good. This recipe really deserves better photographs, but I think even taken with my old point-and-shoot, the pork chops look pretty yummy. And sometimes, I just feel like being contrary. As if I want to prove that good recipes don't need a fancy camera.

Chinese Deep-Fried Pork Chops with Spicy Salt is a staple at Hong Kong cafes. Serve it without the minced jalapenos and garlic and it's a staple at Taiwanese restaurants too. I didn't go off of any recipes, but used what I like in typical Chinese marinades. For the spicy salt, instead of adding MSG to the salt like some restaurants do, I did a mixture of minced garlic and jalapenos with just a dash of salt.

I cut the pork chops into two-bite-sized pieces, roughly about 2-inches. Marinated them with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a bit of Chinese 5-spice powder. Then coated them in a mixture of flour and corn starch, and deep-fried them until crispy. And finally, I tossed the pork chop pieces with minced jalapenos and garlic. The result was layers of flavor and texture. Delicious.

Was it like what I ate in Chinese restaurants? Even better! And it only took me half an hour from start to finish.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hong Kong-Style Baked Pork Chop Rice

Hong Kong-Style Baked Pork Chop Rice 1

One of my and lil' sis' favorite dishes is the Hong Kong-Style Baked Pork Chop Rice at Baccali Cafe and Rotisserie - Alhambra. We first ordered it because it was one of the cheaper meat options on the dinner menu, but continue to order the baked pork chop rice because it's just one of those unexpected fusion dishes that make Hong Kong cuisine so great.

My college friend's mom loved Baccali's menu the first time I introduced her parents to the restaurant several years ago. So now, whenever they, and my friend, are in town at the same time, that's often where we meet up. Once, her relatives were visiting from Canada and joined us. They loved everything so much that they ordered more dishes just to try more of the menu. Her uncle proclaimed, "It's like Chinese American food, but good!" Umm, not quite. It's Hong Kong cafe food. Chinese fusion that works.

Such is the case with this pork chop rice. More deliciousness underneath each layer as you dig in. Melty cheese over tomato sauce makes you think of pasta dishes. Vegetables below that for your daily vitamins. Crispy Chinese fried pork further down. And then the rice to balance out all that meat and sauce. A complete meal in one bowl.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Hong Kong-Style Macaroni Soup with Spam

Hong Kong-Style Macaroni Soup with Spam 1

Before I started blogging, my Chinese restaurant visits were pretty much limited to dim sum houses and Hong Kong cafes. The latter is great for late night eats and the odd Chinese/Western fusion dish.

So back in May 2009 when I bought my used-new camera, I drew upon one of those quick fusion recipes to test out some shots. Not that such a simple recipe really needs much direction, but just in case you've never heard of such a dish. You can even top it with a fried egg if you'd like. Needless to say, this is one of those dishes that's more appreciated in the late night hours.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Claypot Rice with Chinese Sausage

Claypot Rice with Chinese Sausage 1

As I said, the Sichuan Celery Salad is great paired with fatty meats, in this case, Chinese sausage. While I normally put Chinese sausage in fried rice, I was inspired by the claypot rice with frog legs and Chinese sausage that I once ordered at Macau Street - Monterey Park.

Since this is such a simple dish, make sure the lap xuong (Vietnamese/Chinese sausage) that you buy is good quality. My family prefers the Chinese sausage from Quang Tran, Inc. - Rosemead. It's a little pricier than what you find in the supermarket, but it's the best.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Sichuan/Szechwan Celery Salad

Sichuan Szechwan Celery Salad 1

This Sichuan celery salad is my riff off of the complimentary appetizers I'd get while dining at Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel and Luscious Dumplings, Inc. - San Gabriel. I've omitted pressed tofu and tofu noodles from my version, but feel free to add them if you wish. I think celery is great for offsetting the heavy feeling after eating carbs like dumplings and noodles, or fatty meats.

The key is to blanch the celery, just enough to soften its harsh edges while retaining its tender-crisp crunch. You can omit the Sichuan peppercorns, but I find its numbing spiciness a welcome contrast to the blandness of the celery. Toss with a dressing of vinegar and sesame oil. Sometimes, during hot weather, I crave this salad as a meal because it doesn't leave me feeling too weighed down.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Chinese Celery and Chicken Stir-Fry

Chinese Celery and Chicken Stir-Fry 1

With the exception of Celery, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Salad or Sichuan/Szechwan Celery Salad, it's not often that celery takes center stage in a dish. More often, celery is lost amongst the onions and carrots that form the base of most soups and stews. As a side, it's a cooling contrast to fiery Sriracha Buffalo Wings.

Chinese celery, which seems to be even more concentrated in celery flavor, can be a bit much all on its own. Used as a garnish, it offers a nice bite to Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp). But if you're in the camp that more celery flavor is a good thing, then this Chinese Celery and Chicken Stir-Fry is just for you.

The natural sweetness of the chicken pairs well with celery so there's little else needed except a bit of oyster sauce to add some savoriness. Obviously, if you can't find Chinese celery where you are, substituting with regular celery is just fine.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Sanbeiji (Chinese Three-Cup Chicken)

Sanbeiji (Chinese Three-Cup Chicken) 1

Sanbeiji (Chinese 3-Cup Chicken) is a braised chicken recipe that uses equal portions of soy sauce, sesame oil, and Chinese rice wine. Not quite one cup of each though, unless you're making a very large pot.

According to Wikipedia, the dish originated in Jiangxi province in southern China, but has become popular in Taiwanese restaurants, which is where I've encountered it. The chicken is quickly browned on high heat and then simmered on low heat until the sauce is reduced. Ginger and basil round out the flavors of the three cups of sauces. I added some shiitake mushrooms too since they stand well to a long braise and will absorb the sauce.

I used my Chinese Clay Pot to cook the three cup chicken, but any heavy pan, such as a dutch oven, will do.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Middle '87's Ninja Quilt

The Middle '87's Ninja Quilt 1

With all this quilt talk, I thought I should show you the Ninja quilt that the middle '87 made. Isn't it so cute?

My cousin said she found a picture of the ninja online and traced it. It took her 10 days to do the appliques, sewing one per day. Then several weeks of machine sewing the pieces together.

Here's a close-up of the ninjas.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Canh Tan O (Vietnamese Chrysanthemum Greens Soup)

Canh Tan O (Vietnamese Chrysanthemum Greens Soup) 1

This isn't really a recipe as much as it's a suggestion for what to do when you've boiled pork and shrimp to make Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Salad Rolls) or for any number of Vietnamese salads.

What do you do with the leftover Canh (Vietnamese Soup Broth)?

You toss in some greens and make soup.

A typical Vietnamese meal would include a meat dish, a vegetable, and a soup. Each component doesn't have to be heavy or a full meal. You could have a simple stir-fry, boiled vegetables, and a light, brothy soup like this.

Use up the ingredients while cooking and get multiple dishes. Nothing particularly revelatory, but these photos have been sitting around since February 2008 so I figured I might as well blog it.

Chrysanthemum leaves are one of my favorite greens. They can be added to hotpots, used to flavor soups, or stir-fried. They're very high in vitamin K, as well as manganese, beta carotene, and B9.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hot Stuff Cafe!!! - San Gabriel (Closed)

Hot Stuff Cafe - San Gabriel 1

I try to visit local restaurants at least twice before I blog about them. To be fair, but also because showing two or three dishes doesn't make a very interesting post. So we're going pretty far back to my early blogging days for this one. Back in September 2007, I checked out Hot Stuff Cafe!!!

Partly spurred by a Los Angeles Times article that mentioned chef and owner Jimmy Wang was a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who once worked at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey. I'm not sure if the owner is Chinese-Burmese? Old reviews of the former incarnation, Romantic Steak House, indicated so, but there was only one Burmese item on the menu, tea leaf salad. The rest of the menu was a blend of Chinese cafe classics and some fusion dishes.