Thursday, June 09, 2011

Five Things I've Learned From Five Years of Blogging

Five Years - Top 9 Wandering Chopsticks Recipes

Five years ago, I started Wandering Chopsticks.

I had no idea then that my blog would last longer than any job or relationship I've ever had.

Who knew time would pass by so quickly these days? Or does it seem like time passes by so quickly because I've been photographing and writing about the past half-decade of my life?

This blog has evolved quite a bit since its inception. And on such anniversaries, I guess it's expected to do a bit of a retrospective. So these are the five things I've learned from blogging.

Five Years - Vietnamese Embroidered Purses 1

1) Write from the heart.

When I started, I just wrote. Some of those early pictures and early posts were rather cringe-worthy, and I've been updating them when I get a chance.

I've been reading personal and craft blogs far longer than I've been reading food blogs. Two blogs that I've been reading through the years, that I still read on a regular basis, have been Alicia's Posie Gets Cozy, about her life and crafting in my hometown, Portland, Oregon, and Corey's Tongue in Cheek, about her expat life in the south of France and her visits home to rural Willows, California. I peek into their homes, their families, their lives. Oh dear, that sounds a little too voyeuristic. By that I mean that they share the mundane and the not so ordinary moments of their lives, and I get pulled in by the world around them, their surroundings, the people, who they are.

Like an old fogey lamenting about the good old days, I wish that blogging these days wasn't so much about trying to be a business, but about writing from the heart. It seems like more and more blogs are about getting noticed, more self-promotional. Honestly, it's turned me off of reading many blogs, especially many new ones. I wish bloggers would be less concerned with numbers than simply sharing because they have something to say, whether it's through food or crafts or their lives.

Five Years - Vietnamese Embroidered Purses 2

2) Good, useful posts will give you sustained, repeat traffic.

I didn't start counting visitors until more than half a year into blogging. (Or I did, but that was with a stat counter that had some issues and I lost that data.) And I didn't start using Google Analytics until May 24, 2009. So the numbers game has always been in the backburner when it comes to blogging for me.

Just write, take photos, blog and readers and Google will sort out what's popular. The #1 post that gets the most hits on the blog is my Vietnamese recipes index, which was back-posted to June 2006, followed by my 100 Vietnamese Foods to Try post, which was published in 2008.

This tells me that it doesn't matter when something is published, just the what. A good, useful link will have people clicking on it again and again.

Five Years - Vietnamese Embroidered Purses 3

3) Fancy photos are nice, but not necessary.

Except for the middle three pictures in the food mosaic on top, and that's only because those were updated pictures, my most popular recipes were photographed using my old Canon SD110 and SD1000 point and shoot cameras.

The top 10 recipes on Wandering Chopsticks (shown in the photo above) in descending order are:

Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) 2008
Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 2009
Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) 2007
Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup) 2007
Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls) 2007
Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 2007
Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) 2007
Nem Nuong and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls) 2007
Bun Thit Heo Nuong Tom Cha Gio (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork, Shrimp, and Egg Rolls) 2008

And the 10th recipe (because I like round numbers but couldn't fit it into the 9-photo mosaic),
Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup) 2006

Things I've learned from this?

Longevity matters. Quality of the recipe matters. Showing a final product that looks decent matters. A fancy camera does not matter. The newer photos might make the recipes look nicer now when you stumble upon them, but the traffic to those posts was established long ago.

Five Years - Vietnamese Embroidered Purses 4

4) Cumulative overall quality drives traffic.

My #1 recipe gets three times as much traffic as my #10 recipe. Which means that most of my recipes don't really get much traffic at all. It's the cumulative effect of the blog that drives the visits. On that note, if you want traffic from food blogging, restaurant posts don't generate that much traffic. Out of my top 100 most popular posts, the only restaurant to make the list was Banh Mi Che Cali Restaurant - Alhambra at #37.

My 2008 posts get more combined traffic than 2007. Followed by 2009, 2006, 2010, and 2011. Most of that can be attributed to my blogging having dropped a lot in recent years so there are less newer posts that get hits. But also, sustained traffic on old posts means that I can take a bit of time off when needed and those older posts will still hold down the fort, so to speak.

Also, edit, edit, edit. I still catch typos all the time, and gladly welcome comments clarifying measurements or ingredients in my recipes.

Respond to comments. I learned this from Kirk of Mmm-yoso and I try to stay on top of comments, but sometimes am not able to do so. But I do eventually respond to every comment, even on old posts. Why? Because I don't get an insane amount of comments, so the people who do take the time to respond should be acknowledged.

The cumulative effect is that when you come here, you know to expect a blog that's somewhat useful, that's written with few errors and that what you have to say matters.

Five Years - Vietnamese Embroidered Purses 5

5) Be yourself.

From the beginning, I've photographed and written my own recipes. If I've adapted or been inspired by another recipe, I've always acknowledged it and written it in my own words. I don't understand why that's so difficult for people to understand. Or why people feel the need to steal another's photos or words. Why would someone bother to read your copied post when they could just read the original? Also somewhat related, if you've picked up a tip from somewhere else, acknowledge where it came from. I sprinkle bits of cooking advice all throughout my recipes, tips from my mom or other family members, so it bugs me when other bloggers post about my recipe and include those tips as if they came up with it themselves. Give proper credit where it's due.

Time and again, readers have emailed me to ask for my recipes. There are plenty of cookbooks and other bloggers making all kinds of recipes. Some of those recipes may be similar, maybe not. Some of the readers said they tried recipes on other blogs with poor results. Some of them discovered we have the same tastebuds. Some of them just like the way my recipes have turned out for them. So stop copying someone else's style or someone else's recipe and just do it your way.

I have posts that don't get many, or any, comments. I still write them anyway. I've said that restaurant posts don't get much traffic. I still write them anyway.

Because there are things I want to write about and share.

Because if blogging were about how many visitors I got or how many comments I received, I would have stopped blogging a long time ago.

People become invested in you, whether it's you as a person or your recipes or what have you. Not everyone is going to love you and that's OK. I don't force people to follow my blog or to become a Facebook fan or whatever new social media hits. So those of you who read, who visit again and again, who comment, who check in when I'm off the grid for a while, who try my recipes and give me feedback, you're the reason why I keep blogging.

What began in isolation has connected me to more people than I ever thought possible. And I thank you so much for being there from way back when and for continuing to read, even when my blogging is in fits and starts.

I compiled my five year summary on the actual day, not when I got around to hitting publish, and it still boggles my mind there are that many of you reading and commenting.

Total recipes: 496
Total restaurants: 367
Total posts: 1309
Total comments: 11,282
Total visits: 4,853,733 Although, I didn't start counting until seven months after I started blogging.

Five Years - Black Cherries

I meant to make you some Ukrainian cherry vareniki or perhaps a gateau Basque. Because cherries were in season and I wanted to try out and share some new recipes, but I got tired and never did get around to making the dough part of the desserts.

And then I thought, well, enough about me! I mean, after so many years, I'm stumbling over new things to say because the old stories keep repeating themselves. So do the recipes. I mean, how many different versions of mac and cheese do you really need to see? :P

So tell me about you. I've surveyed my readers before, but that was three years ago. Have you been reading since then? Are you new? Have I taught you how to cook or become better in the kitchen? Why are you here? I'd really love to know.

Five Years - Vietnamese Embroidered Purses 6

Who are you? (If you're another blogger or regular commenter, you obviously already have a name. If you're de-lurking to answer this survey, you may use your real name or make up one. Are you Vietnamese? Half-Vietnamese? Married to a Vietnamese? I'm always pleased to hear from people rediscovering their roots or trying to learn more about their significant other's food and culture.)

Where are you from? (You may answer this in however much detail you wish ie. your ethnicity, the country where you were born, the country and/or city you live in now, or all of the above.)

How did you find my blog? How long have you been reading? How often do you check the blog? (Were you searching for a recipe online? Clicked over from another blog? Read me every day? Several times a day? Do you check every morning or every night?)

What do you like? Don't like? Want to see more of? Less of? (I make no promises to change the blog because of your answers. Just wanted to see what items were and weren't popular. Want more Vietnamese recipes? Less? More restaurants? Less? What do you feel about the non-food stuff like traveling, gardening, quilting, random musings?)

Have you made any of my recipes? Or visited restaurants because of my blog? Which ones? (If you have cooked my recipes, which ones did you make? What made you decide to try it? Did you have to make any adjustments to the recipes?)

What would you like to say that I haven't asked? (Say anything you wish. Really!)

If you don't want to comment below and have your answers be public, please feel free to email them to me at wanderingchopsticks (at) gmail (dot) com .

This survey is purely for my own edification. The answers are not being used for marketing purposes or sold to anyone or anything like that. I just want to know more about you!

Five Years - Vietnamese Embroidered Purses 7

Oh, and about the embroidered purses. Lil' sis was helping me clean out my house (an endless task to be sure) and came across these souvenirs I bought her on my last trip to Vietnam. As far as I can tell, they're all made of silk and hand-embroidered. The black purse is about 12 inches long with hand-embroidered lotus blossoms. The blue bag is kind of fun with three rings made from coconut shells and you pull the strap through all the rings to close it. The pale green wallet is made of very soft, delicate silk. They were purchased in Hanoi and Saigon, Vietnam, although I can't remember now which was bought where. Lil' sis has never used them. They've just been sitting in storage this whole time.

So instead of letting them continue to languish, I thought they'd make the perfect giveaway since my blog was borne out of my reminiscing of that summer in Vietnam.

Just leave a comment telling me which item you'd like, in descending order, if you win. So for instance, you could say black purse, blue purse, green wallet. Or if you don't like all three purses, just tell me which one or two you'd like. Hopefully, this way you'll get your first or second choice if you win. If you don't specify any purses, I'm assuming you're just commenting and don't want to enter the giveaway.

And it's definitely not required, but if you chose to answer my survey questions, leave the purse preferences as a separate comment so you have two chances to win. If you email me answers to the survey, please be sure to leave a second comment here telling me you've done so and under what name so I can cross-reference. And men, feel free to enter if you'd like to give the purses as gifts, or for yourself (I don't judge!).

Giveaway entries end at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, July 25. I'll draw three winners from and update this post. If I don't hear from you after three days, I'll pick another winner.

And yes, I'll mail worldwide. Yay! So everyone is eligible. You're responsible for any customs fees if you choose to accept this.

I know it's not much, and I really don't want my personal giveaways to be used as a promotion. It's just my little way of saying thank you so much for reading.

July 26, 2011 update:

Congratulations to #18 Canine Cologne, #22 Unique Schmuck and #17 Scrapper Al. Please email me your mailing addresses so I can send you your prize.

1 year ago today, Hong Kong-Style Macaroni Soup with Spam.
2 years ago today, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant Giveaway.
3 years ago today, terrible twos!
4 years ago today, Wandering Chopsticks turned 1 and I posted about how and why I started blogging.
5 years ago today, because I was too embarrassed to take out my camera, my sad little first post about Claro's Italian Market - Upland.


  1. hi wc -
    first of all, happy 5 year blogaversary! that's amazing! your blog is one of my favorites!!!!

    to answer your q's:
    I started reading your blog in early 2008. In fact, I won a pink scarf from you (a contest) mid year and you were worried when i didn't respond immediately. it turned out i was in the hospital and didn't have access to the internet.

    I've learned some of your recipes and they were always a hit (crock pot bo kho, nuoc cham, caramelized pork, jackfruit and shrimp salad, fessenjan, and a few others i can't remember).

    My ethnicity is Filipino American (2nd generation - of Filipino descent but born and raised in San Diego, CA (with short stints in the Philippines and Bremerton, WA) - some people erroneously think that "American" tagged onto the first ethnicity mean's I'm half white or Caucasian but it does not). I still live in SD, CA.

    I don't even remember how i found your blog - might have been through kirk's or figs with bri. i've been reading your blog for at least three years.maybe more. i am a dinosaur - i don't have those rss feeds that tell me when a new post is up, so i check your blog everyday. i will sometimes check more than once if there's a certain recipe i want to see again or a restaurant i plan to visit. i usually check in the morning.

    i like your blog the way it is. i like the mix of recipes, personal posts, gardening, travel, and restaurants. i like the recipes and travel posts the best.

    As mentioned earlier, i have tried making your recipes. i wanted to try making them because it was a challenge for me to learn something new and also because i had the ingredients readily at hand.

    thanks for our correspondence over the years. i really enjoyed meeting you (2x) last year during our visits with my family and my friends. i consider your blog my "go to" blog for vietnamese food as well as restaurant recs. you've helped me over the years, especially during my vacations (chicago, wisconsin, portland). you are a very generous person in all ways and i'm glad that we have kept in touch.


    last thing - black purse, blue purse, green wallet. :)

  2. Meghan. Newbie blogger. My lai (I don't know if that is even spelled correctly.) Born and raised in Texas.

    I found your blog searching for Vietnamese recipes on Google way back in 2009 and since then your blog has been a daily read in my Google Reader. I would really love to see more Vietnamese recipes if possible. My ba ngoai used to take care of me when I was little and I miss her food. When she passed away in 2006, I have been trying very hard to recreate her food from memory. (I didn't have much luck.) With the exception of one aunt, no one else in my family knows how to make any Vietnamese dishes. Honestly, I feel like you inspire me to learn how to cook. Thank you. =]

  3. Happy 5th!! Thanks for sharing recipes, I've tried a few (I think it was the bánh mì thịt nướng or the đô chua that first brought me here) and still have yet to try chaò gà. My friend puts green onions in hers. Oh and tried your chè bắp. YUM. Ok, I'm getting hungry. I have to stop now. :-D Again, Happy 5th!!

  4. Five years already -- congratulations! I completely agree with you that the more commercial blogs kinda turn me off. I don't mind a product review now and again, but when the blog's main purpose is generating views/clicks...

    It's interesting to see your stats on the recipes. I can see why your bun bo hue is a popular one -- not many good quality sources out there outside of yours! I remember thinking that once my mom was gone, I would no longer have home-cooked Vietnamese foods. She never kept any recipe books and she built most of her cooking skills after coming to the U.S. So I was especially grateful for the rise of food blogs, especially nicely detailed ones like yours with recipes.

    Anyway, I'm not sure you need me to fill out your survey -- don't you already know all that stuff about me? Just kiddin'. I tend towards your recipes more than the restaurants mainly because I'm so rarely in those neighborhoods. I'm in the food desert that is North OC, y'know, and prefer not have to drive far for food (hate parking in Little Saigon). So there you have it. Thanks for your consistency and work to post this terrific body of recipes.

  5. Who are you?
    I'm a 22 year Chinese-American girl living in Florida. I love cooking in any cuisine, and I love trying out new ingredients! I read a lot of food blogs but do not have one of my own. I think it would be too much work, and I wouldn't be as committed as I should be!

    How did you find my blog? How long have you been reading? How often do you check the blog?
    What do you like? Don't like? Want to see more of? Less of?

    I was looking up recipes for biscuits and came across your strawberry shortcake recipe and lavendar biscuit recipe on Google! I feel I've been reading 1-2 years and it's on my Google Reader, so it checks it automatically. I really get excited to see when a new post comes up though! My personal favorites on the site are recipes and restaurant reviews. I also really like the vignettes about your family, especially if there was a great feast involved!

    Have you made any of my recipes? Or visited restaurants because of my blog? Which ones? I believe I've made the strawberry shortcake before, and I always utilize tips you write in the recipe. I love getting food ideas from your posts. The latest thing I made was your Peruvian roast chicken (made it a couple times now!). I'll adapt recipes depending on availability of ingredients/personal preference.

    Please keep posting! I would be very sad if you don't! ;)

  6. Just wanna wish u happy 5th bloggoversary! I started reading your blog about 3 years ago I think, learnt a lot abt Vietnamese cuisine (and even the fact that the Vietnamese zodiac animals differ from the Chinese ones). I have been to that restaurant in HCMC which you introduced to me via email, and it was great. Here's wishing you many more great years of blogging to come :)

  7. Happy 5th anniversary!
    I'm a Franco-Vietnamese living in Paris, and have always been faintly embarrassed by the fact I couldn't cook Vietnamese food to save my lie. I googled Vietnamese recipes a couple years ago, found your blog, and picked out a recipe to try--and it turned out fabulous, so I'm still around :) Your blog is on my google feed, so I check out new posts. I also dip into the archives (I really love that you sort recipes by Vietnamese names, because that's really the only reference I have when looking for something in particular).
    I particularly like the posts you have about basics like making dipping sauces and preparing some "exotic" vegetables (I've lost count of how many times I came home with something picked from the Vietnamese shop, and looked at it wondering what the heck you were meant to do with it).

  8. Thanks so much for the blog!

    I'm an American living in the Netherlands, and I've been reading since 2008 when I found your blog looking for a bun bo Hue recipe. I was craving Vietnamese food after moving to the Midwest from San Francisco, so I decided to learn to cook it myself. And the food situation in the Netherlands is even worse!

    I have cooked quite a few other recipes of yours, including some of the non-Vietnamese ones like bibimbap. The recipe I make the most often is probably the banh mi xiu mai. The only thing I won't try is the oc buou, because I used to have pet apple snails. :)

    I'd love to see more recipes posted, when the inspiration strikes!

  9. Hello WC!

    Happy 5th Anniversary! I'm also Viet living in So. Cal but was originally from the bay area. I love following your recipes and they are so easy to comprehend. Its nice to have a step by step with pictures to get a better grasp of the recipe. I really appreciate it. Many thanks!

    Last but not least... Black purse, blue purse and then green wallet.

  10. I am a Japanese American in Seattle who has been reading your blog for at least 2 years maybe more. I don't comment much, that's not who I am. I found you looking for a recipe and stayed for your unique voice. I've learned so much about Vietnamese cooking from your blog and it has become my primary resource for Vietnamese cooking. I have even upgraded my fish sauce because of you (Thank you!) I use 3 crabs now and love it!

    I have made: nem nuong, braised pork with egg, ribs with cola, amaranth w/fermented bean curd, eggs w/tomato and shrimp, cabbage rolls, and others which I cannot remember off the top of my head. I regularly make the pickled daikon and carrots and dipping sauce.

    I am planning on making Bun Thit Heo Nuong Tom Cha Gio and the rice paper spring rolls and I want to make the Shaking Beef soon as well.

    You can tell I am a fan of your recipes.

    I enjoy reading snippets of your life mixed with the recipes. It creates a fuller experience to cook and share stories about the food. Something I do with my own extended family.

    You definitely don't need to change your blog. I love to read about your quilts and crafting, family (oh the babies!) and food. Even though I don't live in the area, I like to see food photos from your reviews. I've actually learned from reading about the different pho restaurants.

    Oh, I check the blog every day for new posts. I know I could do a "feed" but why. Sometimes, I am inspired to go to the recipe index and do research.

    Happy Anniversary! :O) Lori

  11. Hi,
    Congrates on your 5th anniversary!
    I'm a big fan of your blog, and thank you for the advise you've given above. They are really helpful for me, as I've just started a blog of my own, mainly for recipes. I stumble onto your website one day a few years back when I was searching for a Bun Bo Hue recipe. I really like that recipe and I still use it everytime I make bun bo hue.
    Love your blog and your recipes!

  12. I'm a bit late, but I wanted to wish you a happy anniversary. Five years is a long time and you've retained your grace and humor through it all.I hope to be reading you for at least another five years. Have a great day.Blessings...Mary

  13. Happy 5th Anniversary! I figure after lurking for the past couple of years I should do this survey. Also, thank you so much for this blog. It has always been and always will be a very helpful and interesting read for me.

    Who are you? My name is Jennifer. My parents are Chinese, but grew up in Vietnam so when I was growing up I ate more Vietnamese food than Chinese.

    Where are you from? I grew up in SGV and currently in Korea teaching abroad.

    How did you find my blog? How long have you been reading? How often do you check the blog?
    I honestly can't remember how I found your blog since it was so long ago. I've been reading for at least 4 years since I started when I was in college homesick for Vietnamese food. I used check the blog once a week, but since I get you on my Google Reader I just check once you update nowadays.

    What do you like? Don't like? Want to see more of? Less of?
    I always love your posts of eating in San Gabriel because they are my old stomping grounds, especially now since I am in Korea. Your family posts are also always very sweet because your huge family reminds me of my own. I can't say that I particularly care for the Oregon waterfall post or the posts about your cousin's fashion line, but those were one time posts so I don't really have any dislikes about your posts.

    Have you made any of my recipes? Or visited restaurants because of my blog? Which ones?
    I have made the Canh Chua Ca and the Thit Kho Trung. I didn't make any changes to your recipes, but I have to say I don't measure a lot when I cook so I use your recipes more like a guideline than actual directions. Growing up in SGV, I have been to many of the restaurants and stores you frequent but I can't say that I was strongly motivated by your blog to do so.

    What would you like to say that I haven't asked?
    Your posts are awesome and I hope to continue to read your blog for a long time to come. Also, sorry for being such a lurker. Thank you for everything and congratulations on the new addition to the family!

  14. Congratulations on hanging in there for five years! I think I must have found your blog through Weekend Herb Blogging and have been reading ever since.

  15. Hi WC!
    Just wanted to wish you a happy blogaversary! Five years...that's quite an accomplishment. I may have started reading your stuff about a year after you started.
    I love the recipes (even tried a few) and the family stories.
    Thanks again for doing the food tour last year, I had a great time and learned lots.
    Take care and keep on bloggin' !!
    Mary (Where's the Bubbler?)

  16. Happy blogiversary! I think I've been subscribed to your blog for at least three years. I can't remember how I found you, but it was probably a search for "dim sum." I recommend your blog to my friends in the area who are looking for new restaurants to try. I remember your helpful series on becoming a food blogger; thank you for being so generous with your knowledge.

  17. Oh, and blue purse, green wallet (the black purse is beautiful, but I don't think I would use it and I'm not sure who I would gift it to).

  18. meant to put the purse preference as a separate comment - so black purse, blue purse, green wallet. i would totally use the black purse!!!!

  19. Congrats on it being your 5 year blogversary!

    Who am I?
    I can't remember what name I normally use when I am commenting but it is probably Angel Van

    Where are you from?
    I am originally from New Orleans, LA but now reside in North Carolina. 1st generation Vietnamese on both sides of the family.

    How did you find my blog? How long have you been reading? How often do you check the blog?
    I have no clue how I found your blog. It has been so long ago that I can't remember anymore. I think I may have been around from the inception of your blog. But I know it has been at least from 2008. For the longest time I was checking your blog every day but now I am down to only checking the blogs twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays since those are the only days I have free time to check all the blogs.

    (What do you like? Don't like? Want to see more of? Less of?Have you made any of my recipes? Or visited restaurants because of my blog? Which ones?
    I like everything that you post. It has given me a lot of insight on your life and things going on. I wish there were more Vietnamese food bloggers like you. I haven't made any of the recipes yet because I still live at home, so I don't have to cook Vietnamese food on my own yet. But I know I have many of them bookmarked. Sadly, I have not been able to visit any of the restaurants you have been to because I am on the other side of the US but hopefully that will change soon because I would love to see what CA has to offer.

    What would you like to say that I haven't asked?
    You are an awesome blogger! I am so glad to have found this blog! Thanks!

    The purses I am not too interested in but if I win, it will be a nice present for someone else.

  20. Congratulations on your 5th anniversary of your blog. I must have been reading your blog for about three years or so. My niece told me about your blog. I read your blog every time it is in my gmail box. I learn so much about Vietnamese cooking even though I am a Vietnamese one. I don't know which posts I don't like. I like some more than the others, as I am not a dessert eater, so I don't spend too much time on those recipes. I am in Chula Vista, a city next to the border of Mexico in San Diego county.

    Keep up the good work, WC. I rarely read any other blog on cooking, so yours is my best source of recipe. Thanks for sharing other things about your family too. I just had to put my beloved dog of 16 years to sleep, so your blog about your parent's dog really touched me deeply. You can tell that I am a "dog" person. Look forward to your future blog entries.

  21. By the way, I am not the "unknown". My computer crashed, so whatever happened, it showed me as "unknown". I am Toan, and now you know who I am and who my niece is!!!

  22. Five years? That's astounding! Well done and thank *you*.

    I had a check and it appears, good golly gosh, I never answered your survey three years ago. Why not? I am bad. So I answer now!

    Who am I?
    Sometimes, I wonder the same :-) You know all about me already.

    Where am I from?
    Well, that's getting more complicated by the month. I grew up in Brisbane, Australia and that is where I most frequently answer that I'm from. Currently in Melbourne, Australia; previously in the UK and all around the place in Europe-land.

    Ethnically, as you know, I'm Viet. My family left VN when I was two, arrived in Aus when I was three. We are from way down south.

    How did I find your blog?
    Um, I do not remember! Did you find me? Did I find you? Probably I was searching for a recipe for something Viet I wanted to cook and did not know how, or was not sure.

    How long have I been reading?
    When I found you, I never let go :-)

    How often do I check?
    As often as I have connection to the internet, though I don't always read as soon as I know you've updated. I go back and read whenever I have the time.

    What do I like / don't like / want more of?

    Everything :-) Hope that helps.

    No, seriously, I do love everything but I don't tend to read your restaurant reviews too often because it is highly unlikely that I'll be using them, but I still often skim them for fun :-) But the reviews themselves are still an awesome part of your blog, so keep it up!

    Oh, actually, I'd love to see more craft stuff! And garden stuff!

    Have I made your recipes?
    Yes! Pho, of course (though with my own modifications) and ca ri ga and probably other things too but I don't remember. You might be interested to know that I have made ca ri ga in many strangers' kitchens as a thank you meal for putting me and Partner up during our bike tour. I've made it so often, I don't check your recipe anymore but it was pretty much your recipe that started me making it, despite having eaten it a lot as a child. And I made it for my crazy food-fussy family and they all loved it.

    Anything else?
    Nah. Except for, again, *thank you* and wow! five years!

  23. oh, and

    that sounds like a bruise :-)

  24. 1. blue purse
    2. green wallet
    3. black purse

    Congrats on 5 years!!!

  25. Who are you?
    ** Michelle aka MankyCat.

    Are you Vietnamese? Half-Vietnamese? Married to a Vietnamese?
    ** Nope.

    Where are you from?
    ** East Coast, USA.

    How did you find my blog? How long have you been reading? How often do you check the blog?
    ** I probably found your blog while searching for asian recipes. If I remember correctly, it was several years ago, and the search was for Korean food in specific. I check your blog every week or two.

    What do you like? Don't like? Want to see more of? Less of?
    ** Recipes are always great, but so are personal experiences.

    Have you made any of my recipes? Or visited restaurants because of my blog? Which ones?
    ** I don't think I have made any of your recipes yet. Mainly, they are references, as many of the other recipe sites are for me.

  26. Hi, ya! I'm Biki a blogger. I "discovered" Vietnamese food when the story I was reading kept going on about banh mi sandwiches. Made 'em and fell in love! Im an adventurous eater and cook, and will try almost anything once. My white bread and mac n' cheese eating hubby has been pulled into the sunlight of food with flavor since we married. Neither of us is Vietnamese.

    We are both originally from Indiana but have lived in Alaska for eons.

    About 2 years ago, I wandered across food blogs, and started clicking from one to another, and thats how I found you. I still remember the first post of yours! You were talking about lil sis running some marathon with her weak ankles. Something about your storytelling style really caught me, and I've read you ever since. I have you in my blogroll, so I know straight away that you have posted. There are times I read you right off, and others I savor for later that day. I have been known to keep a post of yours unread for a "treat" for later.

    What do I like? I LOVE your blog. I enjoy reading about what ever you post about. Food, family, sewing. The only thing? I do wish you wouldn't just tell us that you had finished such and so project, please show us! Oh! And if you could, would you please explain some of the people in your blog? Like the '88's?

    I've made a few of them, and so far everything has turned out perfect! I made the crab rangoons, and a soup…but cant now remember which one…sorry. As for the restaurants? Haven't yet made it to California, but when we do, man o' man are we ready!

    oh and my blog addy is

  27. Congratulations on your 5-year anniversary!

    1. My name is Alice. I'm 3/4 Vietnamese and 1/4 Chinese on my dad's side. My significant other Martin is full Vietnamese.

    2. I'm from Orange County but my parents immigrated from Saigon in the 70s. Martin and I now live in West Los Angeles.

    3. I found your blog through a fortuitous Google search years ago. I felt bad pestering my mom to measure out her recipes for ca kho tho (Vietnamese braised catfish), so I tried to see if anyone else had gone through the trouble of itemizing the ingredients for me to try at home. I honestly don't read your blog as often or regularly as I should, but I very much appreciate the comfort in knowing that it's out there as a resource.

    4. I actually love the photos and the authenticity. The collection of recipes reminds me of home and I think that's what I love most.

    5. I bookmarked that sushi restaurant you reviewed a while back! Your photos and the story of the evening were captivating. I haven't made any of the recipes yet (sometimes I just go home... haha) but I'm sure I will sooner rather than later and will let you know how they turn out!

    6. I love the clever name as well. From a marketing perspective, what made you decide to stay with the domain rather than purchasing

    Take care and here's to many more years of food blogging!

  28. The embroidered purses are lovely! My favorite is the blue one.

  29. Hi WC!

    My computer has been possessed by the devil. It's the only explanation I have. You see, I like to periodically check in on your updates, have for a long time now, only every time I checked lately, I would only see your May 08 entry. June turned into july, and I thought, well, she's really taking some time off the grid good for her (but daggonit, I miss her!). Today, I checked in on you from an iTouch, and lo and behold, ALL these posts were here all along! I'm now writing from someone else's laptop, and yep, you're up to date here, too. All this to say I am late to the game, but you have my sincere congratulations on your five year landmark. Blogs are fun to maintain, but they're work too. And we can see the work you've put into yours all this time. I am proud to be a WC reader!

    I tend to check in a few times a week, when I have a bit more time. At a minimum once a week. I LOVE the photos of night-blooming cereus, which make me dream. I love the recipes, and though I don't make them all that often, they do make me sweetly nostalgic. I also love when you choose to write about your visits to national parks; the west coast has so much to admire in terms of natural beauty. Oh, I've also taken your restaurant advice in Westminster and been most pleased with the results. So really, thank you for all sorts of reasons!

  30. Hey WC - Man, five years sure have gone quickly! Congrats!!!

  31. I want that blue purse :)
    I think you know about me already ... but no, I have not made any of the recipes hehe. One of these days I'll cook. Maybe.

  32. I emailed my response. Thanks for your dedication!

  33. Hi Chi (or Em)! I am Vietnamese, having emigrated here from Saigon in 1975 when I was almost 7. I've lived with my family in Illinois, Northern California, and Oklahoma. I currently reside with my American husband in Tennessee. As my parents are now deceased, I find myself rediscovering my roots largely through your blog.

    I first found your blog when I was Googling tia to, my favorite herb from childhood. I learned from your blog that its English name is Vietnamese Perilla (I had previously been told that it was called Purple Ruffle Basil by an American foodie, but that never seemed right to me). One of my favorite dishes of my Mom's was ca bung, a soup made with eggplant, tomato, and fried tofu, and garnished with lots of tia to. Are you familiar with this dish? I have not been able to find a recipe or any mention of it online. I'm working on a blog entry of my own on this dish, although my blog ( is mainly about garment sewing. It's a sewing blog sprinkled with bits about cooking, gardening, and travel, as opposed to your food blog, with bits about travel, gardening, and sewing.

    I found your blog about a year ago, and I have been reading your posts ever since. I usually check for updates each morning at work.

    The only thing that I would like to change with the blog is to maybe have more evenly spaced updates. Sometimes it seems like feast or famine in that there will be no posts for a long time, and then a whole slew of them show up all at once; it's a little disconcerting.

    The last recipe I tried was the lettuce wraps, since my husband had just started a low-starch diet at that time. I left out the water chestnuts since I don't care for that texture, and it turned out great. In fact, my husband said he could eat that all the time, which he has never said about any dish before.

    I would like to thank you for the quality of the writing in your entries. I can tell that you spend a lot of time composing (and probably editing) them and I really appreciate it. Congrats on the 5 years and keep up the great work!

  34. Purse preferences:


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