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Monday, June 30, 2008

Figs With Bri Fundraiser Winner

As you know, I'm technologically challenged. Ordinarily I just write names on slips of paper and toss them into a bowl. But since my Figs with Bri Fundraiser involved people buying virtual raffle tickets, I wanted to be fair and impartial about selecting the winner.

I assigned each person a "raffle number" based on the order they contributed to the fundraiser.

#1 Hong P. of Secret Garden Studios
#2 Priya of Live to Cook
#3 Canine Cologne of Pink Candles at Ridgemont High

I used Random.org's random sequence generator.

Figs with Bri Fundraiser Winner 1

And here's the order Random.org selected of who won 1st, 2nd, 3rd place.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lil' Sis's 21st Birthday Bash

While dining recently at The Boiling Crab - Alhambra, I mentioned to lil' sis and her best friend that I saw crawfish for $4.99/lb and rock crab for $1.89/lb at the San Gabriel Superstore. So cheap! So tired of paying $14.99/lb for Dungeness crab, and because my last two visits have been rather lackluster, I said we should try making it at home.

Because lil' sis was turning 21, it would be a big seafood birthday bash. Unfortunately, on the day of the event, when I went to the store, there were no crawfish to be found. :( So I bought 8 crabs (Only $14.27!), 5 lbs of shrimp (I only cooked 3 lbs.), and 20 oysters (.49 cents each).

Lil Sis Birthday Bash 1

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Bird in the Bush is Worth Two in the Hand?

Errr, well, because I obviously don't have one bird in the hand to have two in the bush. :P Or should I have called this a pigeon(?) in a camellia tree? I don't know if I want two turtle doves?

In all seriousness, does anyone know what kind of bird I've got in my tree?

A Bird in the Bush is Worth Two in the Hand?

Occasionally when I water my plants I also spray the leaves on the trees to clean them. One such time, a bird literally flew out of my camellia tree. Odd. That's never happened before.

Then the next time I watered my plants, again a bird flew out.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Only Knit Scarves

Last winter after completing my Sushi and Dim Sum Quilt and my Granny Square Blanket, I reverted back to a familiar craft favorite - knitting scarves. Luckily after-Christmas sales were on my side so I could indulge in this lovely wool yarn with twists of color that thickens and thins as it meanders along.

Scarves 1

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lomo Saltado/Thit Bo Xao voi Khoai Tay Chien (Peruvian/Vietnamese Beef Stir-Fry with French Fries)

Lomo Saltado Thit Bo Xao voi Khoai Tay Chien 1

Remember when I said in my Inka Trails Restaurant - Claremont post that Peruvian lomo saltado was amazingly like Vietnamese thit bo xao voi khoai tay chien? Except for the addition of bell peppers, everything else in a lomo saltado recipe is what can be found in a thit bo xao voi khoai tay chien recipe. I'm sure if colorful bell peppers were commonly found in Vietnam, they would have been added too. The main difference is that in lomo saltado, the meat, fries, and veggies are all cut to be relatively the same shape.

So let's get started shall we?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bamboe Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) and Aik Cheong Instant CoffeeTea 3 in 1 Mix

Bamboe Nasi Goreng and Aik Cheong CoffeeTea

I had leftover chicken and rice from several restaurants outings and the thought of eating them again just wasn't very appealing. Luckily I remembered I had a packet of Bamboe Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) from Asian Supermarket 365. The mix sells for $1.59. The ingredients listed were simply shallots, garlic, chili, salt, tomato, and vegetable oil.

Hmm. Seems so simple. Couldn't I just do this at home?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ChanHong Penang Asam Laksa Noodle Instant Sauce and Ayam Brand Sardines

Penang Asam Laksa 1

One of the items I requested and the first paste that I tried from the box of goodies I received from Asian Supermarket 365 was asam laksa, a Malaysian hot and sour fish noodle dish. Obviously, if you're the so-very-talented Bee of Rasa Malaysia you would make Penang assam laksa by scratch. :P But, even Lily's Wai Sek Hong used a mix when she's not in Malaysia. So that's good enough for me.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mieng Kham (Thai Leaf-Wrapped Snack)

Mieng Kham Thai Leaf-Wrapped Snack 1

This isn't technically a citrus recipe, but it does have Meyer lemons in it. :)

Back in January, shortly after I made Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves), I was trying to think of another way to use these oh so fragrant leaves.

La lot (wild betel leaf (piper sarmentosum)) is a bushy carminative plant, helping to cure dysentery or to ease toothaches. It should not be confused with la trau (betel leaves (piper betle)), a climbing vine, which is often chewed with the areca or betel nut and lime.

While Vietnamese clearly distinguish between the two leaves, wild for cooking and non-wild for chewing raw with betel nuts, I'm a little confused by which one is used for mieng kham (Thai leaf-wrapped snack). In Cathy of Gastronomy's photos of her snack in Bangkok, Thailand, I could see clearly that the leaf was the shiny wild betel leaf. But in Cee of Real Thai Recipes, the leaf was duller. She said the plant was almost like a vine, indicating it was betel leaf (the non-wild kind). So I'm still confused! Perhaps either variety may be used for this snack?

This is one of those dishes where the individual components don't seem like much, but combined, it packs a whole lot of flavor. I was too lazy to power up my laptop and was going on memory of the ingredients in the sauce so I mistakenly added tamarind. I liked it so much though that I'm sticking with it. Also, I substituted walnuts for peanuts since I'm not a big fan of the latter. I also used Meyer lemons instead of limes for that slightly sweet sour taste. Since I hardly ever have galangal on hand, I omitted that and used ginger. I replaced the palm sugar with brown sugar. And finally, I toned down the spiciness by replacing the raw chili with dried chili peppers and added that to the sauce instead. Hmm. I'm sure some purist will be appalled with all my adjustments but I thought the end result was still very tasty.

My only complaint? The wild betel leaf was pretty tasteless when eaten raw. I was really disappointed because when I make bo nuong la lot the extraordinary fragrance is just so intoxicating. So if you can't locate any wild betel leaves where you are, I would suggest substituting with butter lettuce or even baby spinach since it's healthier.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Open Mouth, Insert Citrus

When Susan of Open Mouth, Insert Fork mentioned that her trees were laden with fruit and she had invited people to do some picking, I immediately chimed in. She generously gave me her last pomelo, grapefruits, Meyer lemons, oranges, plums, and an avocado.

Open Mouth, Insert Citrus 1

Such bounty! She had a bag already filled for me when I got to her house. Then we walked around her backyard while she cut fruit from her tree and filled up another bag for me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale - Altadena

Let's take a little departure from frozen yogurt for a bit.

Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale - Altadena 1

A few years ago when I first read Jonathan Gold's mention of Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale in LA Weekly, I mentally added it to my "to-try" list. After all, how much more authentic can you get than a gelato-maker who hails from Rome? But it wasn't until I read in the LA Times that Bulgarini only uses pistachios from Italy (because California pistachios are too bland), roasts, grinds, and churns them to make a truly nutty pistachio gelato that it moved up higher on my list. Then my brother mentioned that he ate their pistachio gelato several times and that it really was the best pistachio he'd ever had.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Peach House - San Gabriel (Closed)

Prior to the opening of Nubi Yogurt, my favorite frozen yogurt place in the San Gabriel Valley was Peach House.

The decor is a bit stark, space age-y even. The white panels on the side actually have bands of color which you can't see unless you're on the inside facing out. On the side, there's a small flat screen TV with music videos, a variation of the mash-up since the videos don't coordinate with the music.

Peach House - San Gabriel 1

Part of the reason why I like Peach House is not just because of the fresh fruit toppings but the quality of the toppings have almost always been good. It's not enough just to have freshly diced mangoes, their mango chunks are sweet and juicy. The raspberries have never been mushy or bruised. Small differences but it adds up.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nubi Yogurt - San Gabriel

After our dinner at Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park, I promised my cousin's cousin's kids I'd take them out for frozen yogurt.

Nubi Yogurt - San Gabriel 1

Nubi Yogurt, located inside Focus Plaza in San Gabriel, opened about a month ago. If you haven't heard about the SoCal fro-yo craze, you can catch up by reading my Pinkberry - Los Angeles (Koreatown) post. Ever since I read Elmo of Monster Munching's post on Yogurtland in Fullerton, which charged 30 cents an ounce, I've been eagerly anticipating a similar place to open in the San Gabriel Valley.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park

If we're going to talk about Chinese and Vietnamese food prepared by Chinese-Cambodians in the San Gabriel Valley, cousin Q's older brother's friend recommended Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant in Monterey Park. Though the restaurant specializes in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, because it's owned by Chinese-Cambodians, my cousin's friend says he can order Cambodian dishes off-menu. So I added it to my mental "to-eat" list for the next time he was in town.

But my cousin's friend hasn't been back in town in months and my cousin's cousin invited me out to dinner at Kim Tar. So of course I went. I called my cousin's friend to get recommendations for the Cambodian off-menu items, but he didn't call me back until after we had already ordered. So next time perhaps?

Of course, no seafood restaurant is complete without live fish tanks. Notice in the bottom right corner? They were filling jars and jars of fresh jalapenos for the tables.

Kim Tar Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 1

We went in the late afternoon, around 4 p.m. so there were only a few other diners. They offered us the lunch menu which had some good deals, but my cousin's cousin wanted to order a special squid dish that her kids liked. Unfortunately, the dinner chef hadn't started yet. Seems obvious but just so you know, there is a different chef for lunch and for dinner, with different specialties.

My cousin's cousin ordered the 4-course $48.95 family meal that included sauteed clams, fried shrimp, deep-fried fish, and sour fish soup.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dutchman's Pipe Cactus/Night Blooming Cereus

Shortly after midnight, cousin Q called and asked if I wanted to take a picture of the flower that's blooming beside his garage. What? He couldn't wait until morning? What's so great about this flower?

Oooh. It's a Dutchman's pipe cactus, also called a night blooming cereus. It only blooms once, and at night. The blooms fade in the morning. If you're really patient and have about 5 hours, you can sit there and watch it slowly bloom.

Cousin Q nicely moved the flower onto a table so I could take better pictures.

Dutchman's Pipe Cactus 1

Dutchman's Pipe Cactus 2

This shot reminds me of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)

Bun Bo Hue 28

Now I finally get to the recipe that started the whole Cambodia series, and the Cambodian vs. Vietnamese food tangent. I was tickled pink when Oanh of Halfway Between Ca Mau and Sai Gon quoted my mini-rant on her post about bun bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup). Hmm. Is it too much to quote someone else quoting me? :P

Yeah it is, but since this is my recipe post, I'll expand on this topic. Like Oanh, I've also come across several blogs and Chowhound posts with people referring to bun bo Hue as "spicy pho" or "pho gone wild" or some such approximation. This needs to stop. Look, I get that if you're not Vietnamese you may not understand all the nuances of the many noodle soups that Vietnamese cuisine has to offer. But to a Vietnamese, pho and bun bo Hue are such completely different dishes that calling bun bo Hue "like pho" sounds ridiculous.

Let's break it down shall we?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Orange and Fennel Salad

Orange and Fennel Salad 5

While rooting around my fridge recently, I came across a small bag that had lain forgotten. It was leftover from my dad's last visit, when I had unpacked his carry-ons. My mom had packed him some food for the plane. When I picked him up, dad said he wasn't hungry, that he had eaten some apples. What remained was an orange (Texas because my mom likes their sweetness.) and two small packets of sesame cookies. Notice that my mom had cut off the ends of the orange for him, and scored the sides for easy peeling?

Orange and Fennel Salad 2

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Teh Tarik (Malaysian "Pulled" Milk Tea) and Pandan Kaya (Malaysian Screwpine Leaves and Coconut Jam)

When the folks at Asian Supermarket 365 asked if there were any products in particular that I wanted to try, I had some idea in mind based upon what I had read on various food blogs. I first heard of kaya spread from Tigerfish of Teczcape, who made a kaya and butter sandwich. She said it's a common breakfast or snack in Singapore too. Coconut jam spread on toast sounded intriguing. So I definitely knew I wanted to try some when given the opportunity.
Teh Tarik and Kaya Spread 1
So I had a nice afternoon tea for one with a packet of Aik Cheong brand Teh Tarik, $5.99 for 15 sachets, and ChanHong Pandan Kaya-Coconut Spread, $3.39 for a 400 g jar. The tea, a blend of black tea with non-dairy creamer and sugar, was very smooth. Each packet makes a big cup of tea, I just poured half into a smaller teacup for a prettier photo. The pandan kaya spread tasted like sweet eggy coconut milk. I think when I make the pandan chiffon cake, this will make a nice filling between layers.
Teh Tarik and Kaya Spread 2
I was trying to figure out where to categorize my posts from the bounty of Malaysian and Indonesian goodies I got from Asian Supermarket 365. I do think they do provide a valuable service for many people who might not have access to such products. I think the best way is to simply include links to the posts when I prepare a package, like this one, but on that list in my Terrible Twos post since I already had each product typed out. Blah. Blah. Blah. You wanna hear who won right? The winners of the three $10 vouchers from Asian Supermarket 365 are: Vicki of A Work in Progress Ning of Heart and Hearth and Hong P. of Secret Garden Studios And the winners of one item from my "backlist" of recipes are: Hong P. (What can I say, he literally paid to double his chances. Thanks for the donation to my Figs with Bri fundraiser!) Jonathan of Days of the Dragon Hedgehog of Diary of a Novice Cook Please email wanderingchopsticks (at) gmail (dot) com so I can send you the online code for your vouchers. Of course, you are under no obligation to blog or write about their products, but the folks at Asian Supermarket 365 would appreciate it if you do. For the winners of my prize, please send me your mailing address, the item of your choice in case you changed your mind from what you commented on before, and I'll send it off when I get a chance. If you didn't win, for a $10 donation to my Figs with Bri fundraiser, you can get a chance at 5 items of your choice. Deadline is June 30. For those of you who didn't win the vouchers, the folks at Asian Supermarket 365 have nicely offered a 3% discount to Wandering Chopsticks readers, just enter code "WC30608A" at checkout. Expiration date is June 30, 2008. If the discount is popular with my readers, they said they might extend the expiration date. ***** 1 year ago today, and we had a winner at last year's drawing too. 2 years ago today, still my favorite Hong Kong-style cafe, Baccali Cafe & Rotisserie - Alhambra.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Vietnam House Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel

On the same day we had dinner at Battambang Seafood Restaurant, we also went out for lunch at Vietnam House Vietnamese Restaurant in San Gabriel. It was me, my brother, cousin Q, his older brother's Cambodian friend, and two other cousins. Can you tell what drink we all ordered? :) Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese Milk Coffee Iced) for $1.60.
Vietnam House 1
Vietnam House is located on the corner of Las Tunas and Mission Drives in the same strip mall as Luscious Dumplings Inc., and catty corner from Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant. The original owner of Vietnam House opened Vietnam Restaurant, just a little further down on Las Tunas. Vietnam House is currently owned by the original owner's brother-in-law. Some people say the quality at Vietnam House has gone down since, but as I don't think Golden Deli is worth all the hype anyway, I'd say they're about the same. Confused? Vietnam House is no longer affiliated with the family. The original co-owner of Vietnam House now owns Vietnam Restaurant. His nephew owns Golden Deli and his sister owns Saigon Flavor. The menu and food is pretty much the same at all those places, except I think Vietnam Restaurant is slightly better in quality. Vietnam House and Vietnam Restaurant also offer bo bay mon (Vietnamese 7 courses of beef). Vietnam House is a larger restaurant so there's no wait. It's also open year-round. Golden Deli shuts down during the month of August. I ordered com tam suon cha gio (Vietnamese broken rice with pork chop and egg rolls) for $4.95. Overall it was good, but the rice was clumpy and mushy at parts, and the pork chop wasn't as juicy as at Com Tam Thuan Kieu. The egg rolls were wrapped with banh trang (Vietnamese rice paper) for that crispy outside, chewy inside.
Vietnam House 2
Cousin Q ordered bun thit nuong cha gio (Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles with grilled meat and egg rolls) for $4.95.
Vietnam House 3
One of my cousins ordered com tam cha bi thit nuong chao tom (Vietnamese broken rice with omelet, shredded pork skin, grilled meat, and shrimp paste) for $6.25. I like my chao tom grilled, not steamed and deep-fried. But aside from that, the plate was good.
Vietnam  House 4
Everyone else at the table ordered other rice plates too. And because evidently I have way too many posts in my queue, the rest of my photos from Vietnam House were from slightly over a year ago when I had lunch with Henry Chan's Food Videos and his friends. We ordered an appetizer plate of cha gio for $4.75. As you can tell, these are pretty substantial in size.
Vietnam House 5
The egg rolls came with the requisite plate of Vietnamese herbs and lettuce.
Vietnam House 6
Henry ordered bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew) for $4.95. I think he ordered these with rice noodles. You get a choice of two kinds of rice noodles, egg noodles, bread, or rice. Although the flavor was good, the beef wasn't as tender as he liked.
Vietnam House 7
I ordered hu tieu tom cua thit (Vietnamese clear noodles with shrimp, crab, and barbecued pork) for $5.50. The noodles came dry on a bed of lettuce with broth on the side, limes, and jalapenos.
Vietnam House 8
Here's a close-up of the chew hu tieu noodles.
Vietnam House 9
Considering most dishes are still within the $4 to $5 range, I think Vietnam House is very reasonable. Wanna hear a random anecdote about Vietnam House? When one of my Oregon cousins was in town last year, her uncle took her to dinner here. He asked her if she can get food like this in Oregon. Dude! He used to live there, did he forget? Maybe not in the boondocks but my family lives in Portland. According to the 2000 census, there's almost 19,000 Vietnamese in Oregon, the 12th largest population of Vietnamese in the country. Sheesh. Who else ate at Vietnam House? Cousin Q posted about our lunch and his bun thit nuong cha gio and ca phe sua da. Henry Chan's Food Videos filmed his 7 course beef dinner. Also on Main St./Las Tunas Dr.: Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel Luscious Dumplings Inc. - San Gabriel Pho Super Bowl Vietnamese Cuisine - Alhambra Vietnam Restaurant - San Gabriel Vietnam Restaurant (Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef)) - San Gabriel Vietnam House Vietnamese Restaurant 710 W. Las Tunas Dr., #5-7 San Gabriel, CA 91776 626-282-6327 or 626-943-9743 Open Monday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Wednesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Firday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. ***** 1 year ago today, I asked what should I do with this case of mangoes?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Battambang Seafood Restaurant - San Gabriel

Battambang 1

On the day that led to my series of Cambodia posts, I was thinking of a recent discussion with Oanh of Halfway Between Ca Mau and Sai Gon about the similarities and differences between Vietnamese and Cambodian food. You can visit Oanh's blog for more info, but part of that discussion was a Cambodian woman's assertion that pretty much all Vietnamese food was Cambodian in origin. She claimed that Vietnamese not only stole Cambodian land (the Mekong Delta used to belong to Cambodia), but that Vietnamese also stole Cambodian food and renamed it.


With more than half a million Vietnamese living in Cambodia, and a million Cambodians living in Vietnam, I think it's much more likely that there was a lot of cultural exchange, including of cuisine. I have no problems acknowledging other cuisine's influence on one another. For instance, xa xiu is simply the Vietnamese phonetic spelling of Chinese Char Siu (Chinese Barbecued Pork). And yet, she asserts that the Chinese also stole it from the Cambodians. Ummm, when one of the key ingredients is Chinese 5-spice powder, I highly doubt that's the case. She also lays claim to everything from Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) to Bun Rieu (Vietnamese Crab-paste Noodle Soup in Tomato Broth) to Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-style Beef Noodle Soup).

I found her blog very divisive. I think she missed an opportunity to educate many people about what is unique about Cambodian cuisine. For instance, it's commonly acknowledged that the popular southern Vietnamese hu tieu nam vang (Vietnamese Phnom Penh-style noodle soup) is Cambodian in origin. And yet, on the flip side, few Cambodians wish to acknowledge that their beloved beef lok lak dish is actually Vietnamese in origin. According to Phnomenon,
"Loc Lac comes to Cambodia via Vietnam where it is named bo luc lac (literally, “shaking beef” in Vietnamese) and was most likely brought to Cambodia with the French colonisers rather than with the Vietnamese. At some point within the last 50 years, Cambodia has wholly claimed it as part of Khmer cuisine - so much so that it would be literally unimaginable for most Cambodians that the dish was originally Vietnamese."
Loc lac/lok lak means absolutely nothing in Khmer. It's simply the phonetic approximation of luc lac, which does have meaning and gave name to the dish Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese "Shaking" Beef). So why is it so difficult for Cambodians to acknowledge that one of their beloved dishes originated in Vietnam? Why is there such enmity?

Dith Pran explained in his article on "Return to the Killing Fields," in the New York Times on September 24, 1989.
"Because of Kampuchea Krom, generations of Cambodians were taught to hate the Vietnamese. My generation was told in school that our ancestors who fought and lost the war were tortured by the Vietnamese. The majority of Cambodians still do not trust the Vietnamese, even though they realize the Vietnamese saved them from the Khmer Rouge, who killed more than a million of their own people."
I've only eaten Cambodian food a few times and prior to blogging didn't pay nearly as much attention to nuances as I do now. My only memory of the food I ate while in Cambodia was a beef and green bean stir-fry and sauteed frog legs in peanut sauce. Even longer ago, at Angkor Wat on Geary Street in San Francisco, I remember liking the food and the funny "The pope ate here" (That would be the late John Paul.) signs, but that restaurant has since closed down.

So, since my cousin's friend, the Chinese-Cambodian we consider an honorary family member, was in town that weekend, I suggested dinner at Battambang Seafood Restaurant, just a little down the street from the San Gabriel Superstore. I had driven past it many times and had always meant to go in. Then recently, LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold had recommended it. While I've liked his Chinese restaurant recommendations, I've been mildly to very disappointed with his other choices.

Named after Battambang, Cambodia's second-largest city, the restaurant has very, very few Cambodian dishes on the menu. In Vietnamese, the sign outside proclaims Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cambodian food. The huge mural of Angkor Wat inside the restaurant would seem to indicate it was a Cambodian restaurant though.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

San Gabriel Superstore - San Gabriel

While I love exploring new places, for some things I am entirely a creature of habit. This is especially true when it comes to grocery shopping. I like to wander each aisle, taking my time to peruse various items. Or if I'm in a hurry, I like knowing precisely where to go to grab what I need. Once I settle upon a store that I like, it's very hard to convince me to switch. So, would you like to go grocery shopping with me?

San Gabriel Superstore 1

The San Gabriel Superstore is part of a chain of Chinese Vietnamese grocery stores. But unlike some of the other locations, the San Gabriel store features stalls with merchants selling everything from clothing to CDs to make-up to jewelery.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Click! Yellow for Bri and Win 5 Food Items of Your Choice or a Handmade Scarf

Mango Chicken 1
The vivid yellow in my mango chicken recipe from four days ago makes it eligible for this month's Click! theme of Yellow for Bri. I normally don't submit to photo contests because I don't take pictures with anything fancy, just a Canon SD 1000. I have terrible lighting in my home. I shoot pictures on my dining table, in a tiny kitchen with one small window. But I really liked the colors, the brilliant yellow of the mango, the jewel-like tones of the red and green bell peppers. But mainly, I'm writing about this so you'll know about Bri of Figs with Bri. I've never met Bri. We've only commented a few times on each other's blogs. What you should know is that she is battling Stage IV breast cancer. Two-and-a-half years ago, at the age of 28, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy. After two years of relatively good health, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body -- lungs, lymph nodes, and bones. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. You can read more of her story on her blog. I also include more info below about the fundraiser set up by Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi for Click! June 2008 Yellow for Bri. October 27, 2008: Briana Brownlow passed away in her sleep at 3:20 a.m. Rest in peace dearest Bri. Bee of Jugalbandi has written a lovely tribute to her memory. First, I want to discuss my fundraiser for Bri. Remember the Malaysian and "backlist" goodies I mentioned in my Terrible Twos post? Here's your chance to get double entries. You can double your chances for $10 vouchers so you can select anything from this array of Malaysian and Indonesian mixes or one item of your choice from my backlist of recipes.
Asian Supermarket 365
AND you're also eligible to win 5 food items to fill this box.
Fundraiser for Figs with Bri 1
Food item choices must be within reason and I reserve the right to reject anything, but I pulled a few things from my pantry to show you. For example, you can request my favorite American cookies of Pepperidge Farm Mint Brussels, a jar of my preferred brand of curry paste to make Vietnamese chicken curry, rice vermicelli noodles, rice paper, and coconut cream powder. Or of course, any other pantry items of your choice.
Fundraiser for Figs with Bri 2
And if none of the food options tempt you, perhaps you'd like a handmade scarf, knit by me? I thought pink for breast cancer seemed appropriate.
Fundraiser for Figs with Bri 3
You may choose this wool handknit pink and grey scarf. The scarf is approximately 5 feet long and about 6 inches wide. The yarn is thick and thin as it meanders for a wonderfully textural effect. I used two balls of yarn. Knit with 13-gauge bamboo needles. Handknit by yours truly over the course of several weeks.
Fundraiser for Figs with Bri 4
Here's a close-up so you can see better.
Fundraiser for Figs with Bri 5
Or if you live in a warm climate and a wool scarf is just too much for you, I'm currently crocheting this scarf. It's made from a thin acrylic yarn intended for babies so it's lightweight. This is so you get a general idea of what it'll look like. If you choose this as your prize, you'll have to wait until I finish it. No idea of when though.
Fundraiser for Figs with Bri 6
So here's how my fundraiser for Bri is going to work: For each $10 donation you make to Bri, you get an extra name added to my current Terrible Twos random drawings for $10 vouchers from Asia Supermarket 365 and one item from my backlist of recipes. If you didn't fill out the survey, I am making an exception if you make a donation. You may only win once from each drawing, but your chances are greater with each $10 donation. So if you donate $20, you get three chances to win for each drawing. Your comment gets you one chance, and $20 gets your name added two more times. You may donate more if you wish. I will be selecting the winners for these drawings on Saturday, June 14. In addition, each $10 donation gives you a virtual raffle ticket to win my fundraiser for Bri in which you may choose among any 5 items of your choice to fill that box, or either one of those pink scarves. Deadline for this drawing is June 30. I will pick a winner after that date and announce it on the blog. You can then tell me whether you would like the box of food or a scarf. Please go to either the Jugalbandi or Figs with Bri websites, scroll down to the Chip In box and click through to make your donation. Then forward a copy of your receipt to me at wanderingchopsticks (at) gmail (dot) com so that I can put your name down for the drawings. You must tell me whether you live in the US, Canada, or Bermuda and would like to be entered into the Asia Supermarket 365 $10 vouchers drawings. And whether you would like to be entered into the one item of your choice drawing. Otherwise, I will assume that you only want to be entered into the drawing for this fundraiser with a choice of 5 items of food or a scarf. I will ship worldwide. The raffle prize code for this is "Wandering Chopsticks." Read my San Gabriel Superstore post so you can get an idea of where I will be buying those 5 food items. And if that still doesn't tempt you, there's a whole bunch of other raffle prizes that other bloggers are donating. Below, I've included info from Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi, who are organizing the event.
This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri. Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she’s waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here. She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills. The team organising the JUNE edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organised a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet her out-of-pocket medical costs for ONE YEAR. CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is: YELLOW for Bri Yellow is the color of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer. The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008. The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise. There’s a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site. Your donation can be made securely through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri’s account. This month’s photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE. You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK: the photo event, and by publicizing this campaign. ***** 1 year ago today, the queen of fruits - mangosteen.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Terrible Twos!

Wandering Chopsticks turned two today!

Thankfully, the blog, and I, are fully potty-trained. I make no promises about temper tantrums though. ;) Last year, I reflected upon how and why I started blogging. This year, I feel like I should write something deep and meaningful, but I'm really not in the mood! Maybe I'll be reflective later, maybe I won't.

Instead, I'll quickly point out some of the changes I've made to the blog in the past year. I finally created a "proper" About and FAQs page so please read that if you haven't yet done so or if you're a new reader. On the top of my sidebar, you'll find the "Directory" with links to all major categories. The top of the sidebar also includes links to the Recipe index with (as of now anyway) more than 250 original recipes by yours truly. The recipes are arranged by category, cuisine, and Vietnamese recipes now also have a separate page of Vietnamese recipes by category, which you can also find at the top of the favorite recipes list.

The Restaurant index, with more than 140 posts, is separated by city, county, and cuisine. Random musings are separated by thoughts on blogging, family, food, and travel. Coupons and Discounts contains special discounts for Wandering Chopsticks readers. Gardening, is broken down by month with a list of what's growing in my garden or my uncles' gardens. I also recently created Weekend Wokking, so come play if you're a blogger. The main directory link, however, also includes other categories such as Copyright and Attribution Requirements, Explore SoCal, Fun Food, Guides and How To's, Quilting (and Some Crocheting and Knitting Too), and Readers Cook Wandering Chopsticks' Recipes. I literally spent months and months organizing everything so please have a look around.

Now, on to the festivities, yes? Afterall, it is my blog-birthday. And coincidentally, I got two packages in the mail today! How did they know? First, Christine of Holy Basil sent me some of her candied tangelos and pomelos. These are really yummy so head over to her blog for the recipe because I'm not sharing. :P Thanks Christine!

Holy Basil's Candied Tangelos

Second, the good folks at Asian Supermarket 365 sent me a whole slew of Malaysian and Indonesian goodies to try out!!! Just look at what they sent me!!!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Chong Kneas Floating Village - Tonle Sap (Great Lake) - Cambodia

When I was on the subject of boat people and the Vietnamese diaspora, I had meant to finish up my Cambodia series. As is my wont, I went off on many other tangents and forgot to return back to the original point. I think part of the reason why I've put this last post off is because I was struggling with some of my thoughts about being a tourist in a third world country and contributing to the degradation of the very site I was visiting by being said tourist.

After squeezing in Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom: Victory Gate, Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Prasats Suor Prat, and Phimeanakas, and Ta Prohm all in one day, my friends and I were all "ruined" out. So for our second and last day, we opted to visit a floating village on the edge of Tonle Sap (Great Lake), that vast body of fresh water in the middle of Cambodia.

Chong Kneas Floating Village 5


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Are You a Vietnamese Blogger?

Vietnamese wooden dolls in a display case at Thuong Xa Tax (Saigon Tax Trade Center), Saigon, Vietnam, summer 2005.
Full, 62.5 (That's me!), half, quarter, .001. If you consider yourself Vietnamese, you blog, and you'd like to be added to the list, just let me know. This list is not meant to be comprehensive. I'm not including non-Vietnamese who blog from Vietnam for instance. Also, I know there are personal diary-like blogs out there written by Vietnamese, but I don't want to invade their privacy by listing them here. However, if you'd like to be added, just leave me a comment. Please tell me what city and country you're blogging from. Inspired by Santos of The Scent of Green Bananas' list of Asian women bloggers, I thought this list might be of interest to Vietnamese or others who would like to explore blogs written by Vietnamese. Blogs do not have to be about food, but they must be current. Are you a VNese Blogger? Say it proud! Say it with this handy-dandy little button I generated courtesy of Adam Kalsey. Thanks Adam! Choose whichever one you'd like. Please don't link to the button, save the button to your computer and have that button link back to this post. I'm not sure how to do that in other blogging platforms... ...but in Blogger, click-through to the image only, and save the button to your computer. Then create a post and upload the button to your blog, then right-click and highlight the whole button and link it to this post. Then go into "Edit HTML" mode and copy the whole HTML. Then go into "Layout" and choose "Add HTML/Javascript" and paste the whole code there. You can then discard the post. Voila! The "VNese Blogger" button should appear on your sidebar. After that, you can move it around wherever you wish.Take a look at the bottom of my sidebar to see the button. Click on the button and it should take you directly to this post. Drop a comment if you'd like to be added to the list. As is my wont, organized alphabetically, first by country and then by blog name. If you move, please let me know so I can update the list.
AUSTRALIA Food Lover's Journey - Melbourne
I So Hungry - Brisbane CANADA Miss.Adventure @Home/Miss.Adventure in Vietnam - Hamilton, Ontario FRANCE La Vie Cevenole - Languedoc Roussillon ITALY Cooking Practice - Ferrara SWITZERLAND Mon Memento en Ligne - Neuch√Ętel UNITED KINGDOM Diary of a Novice Cook Unique Schmuck/Halfway Between Ca Mau and Sai Gon UNITED STATES Angry Asian Creations/I Wonder as I Wander/Kitchen Doorknobs - Baltimore, MD Bolinao 52 Brand Eating - SoCal Budding Cook - SoCal Caroline Tran - SoCal
Carrot Love - Northern Virginia Christine||enitsirhC - Columbus, OH Flavor Boulevard - NorCal and Houston, TX Fooding 411 - San Diego, CA Furey and the Feast - SoCal Gastronomy Blog - SoCal Guilty Carnivore - Portland, OR Holy Basil - Ann Arbor, MI i cannot focus - Boston, MA I (Heart) Food 4 Thought/I (Heart) Cuppycakes - SoCal I Nom Things - SoCal Kiki Rice - Dallas, TX Lunch with Front Studio/Viet Club - NYC The Maltese Bacon - NYC MidnightMare Apparel - SoCal Monsoon's A-Commin' - NYC Nikki Polani: As It Happens - SoCal No Tables/From South of Los Angeles to New Orleans, Louisiana - New Orleans, LA Oishii Eats - SoCal Orange County Vietnamese Restaurant Guide - SoCal Passionate Eater - NorCal Peachy Mango Delight - Washington, D.C. Playing with My Food/Ao Dai Project - Seattle, WA Ravenous Couple - SoCal Shaved Ice Sundays - SoCal Sunday Nite Dinner - NorCal Tia Nguyen - Boston, MA VietMom/Mama Lounge - NorCal Viet World Kitchen - NorCal Wandering Chopsticks - SoCal White on Rice Couple- SoCal World is My Oyster/Life Thru Lenses - SoCal VIETNAM Saigon Blues Vietnamese God ***** 1 year ago today, frozen yogurt at Pinkberry - Rancho Cucamonga.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Mango Chicken

OK, the long-awaited mango chicken recipe.




Initially, I was inspired by the jeweled tones of the mango chicken with green beans and red bell peppers I saw on Biggest Menu. And while mango chicken with just plain old chicken and mangoes tasted fine, it didn't look nearly as pretty as it could have. It took me nine months later. Well, I had to wait for mangoes to come into season again.

Mango Chicken 1

Since mangoes pack plenty of flavor, I kept the seasoning of the chicken to just a few dashes of fish sauce. If you don't like fish sauce, use soy sauce or just add a few pinches of salt. Go light because you don't want to overwhelm the flavor of the mangoes. The red and green bell peppers are just for color. No alliums as I think either garlic or onions would be way too overpowering for this. Perhaps some minced ginger for next time though?  

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How to Peel and Cut a Mango

I've been in eating heaven since Diane of White on Rice Couple gifted me with a whole box of mangoes. A mango seed is long and thin, so you'll want to slice off both fat cheeks.

How to Peel and Cut a Mango 1

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Weekend Wokking #1 (Asparagus)

Sup Mang Tay Cua 2
Hello, Weekend Wokkers! :) I feel so loved. I cobbled together an event at the last minute and half a dozen of you, representing four countries, joined me. Yay! I was so worried this would be a party of one. I thought I was being clever by picking asparagus since it was in season. I didn't realize my little event would actually garner interest from bloggers in other parts of the world, where asparagus is unfortunately very expensive or not available. And yet, some of you, like Ning of Heart and Hearth in the Philippines, bought asparagus anyway. Thank you so much for that! And after reading how much Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok loves her cast iron wok, I came up with a new category - We Wok! (I know! I come up with cheesy names.) So if you've got a wok that you'd like to show off, just post about it, send me the link, and I'll add you to the list. We Wok! will also be found at the end of the main Weekend Herb Blogging page for easy viewing. One of the reasons that led to the creation of Weekend Wokking was seeing the same fruits or vegetables popping up again and again on various food blogs. I was curious to see how different the preparations could be if we all used one ingredient. Well, even though this round-up included two stir-fries and three rice dishes, the end results were all very different. Isn't that great? The entries are in alphabetical order, based upon the name of the recipe.
Asparagus and Prawns in XO Sauce by Ning of Heart and Hearth from Manila, Philippines. Asparagus is one of the more expensive vegetables in the Philippines so Ning doesn't cook with it very often. So when she found fresh asparagus, still in their delivery bags, at her neighborhood grocery she bought some without even checking the price. She said it was worth it since it's difficult to find fresh asparagus, her kids and husband love it, and it's nutritious. Ning decided to make her asparagus with shrimp stir-fry even more special by adding XO sauce. XO sauce, which got its name from XO Cognac to connote luxury, is a spicy, flavorful Cantonese sauce with dried seafood such as scallops and shrimp.
Asparagus Risotto by Prof. Kitty of The Cabinet of Prof. Kitty in New England. She has been making and tweaking this risotto recipe for years and it seemed like a good one for her first blog event. Prof. Kitty says the key is to cook the asparagus separately and to cut off the heads for garnishing at the end.
Asparagus, Mint, and Lemon Risotto by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen in London, Ontario, Canada. After making an asparagus and mint frittata, Lisa realized she was quite taken with the combination of asparagus and mint and Googled for another idea. Whereupon she discovered a Jaime Oliver recipe for asparagus, mint, and lemon risotto.
Red Rice Asparagus Salad by Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple in Southern California. In the midst of planning a party for 60 guests, Todd and Diane decided to add asparagus to their minted red rice salad. Mint brings out the nutty flavor of red rice. They decided to replace the cucumbers they usually add to their recipe with asparagus.
Sup Mang Tay Cua (Vietnamese asparagus and crab soup) by Wandering Chopsticks in Southern California. This is one of my favorite soups. Although typically made with canned white asparagus, I decided to replace with fresh asparagus since they're in season.
Thai-Style Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry by Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok from my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Darlene says she likes asparagus so much she even eats it raw. In stir-fries, the asparagus stays crisp-tender. She used a Thai seasoning paste called naam prik phao, a chili paste with shallots, tamarind, dried shrimp, fermented shrimp paste, and sugar. The result is a little spicy, a little sweet, and a whole lot of flavor. I know her stir-fry looks awesome, but I'm eagerly waiting for her homemade naam prik phao recipe! This recipe was so tasty that she made it twice in three days. Also, check out her post so you can admire her cast iron wok.
Weekend Fry-Up with Vege Sausages, Asparagus, Grilled Tomato, Eggs Over-Easy, and a Kohlrabi and Snow Pea Salad by Oanh of Halfway Between Ca Mau and Saigon. Phew! And I thought her blog title was already long! :P Included in her organic vegetable home delivery was asparagus. She cooked the asparagus every so slightly to enjoy its fresh, full flavor and served it alongside a full English breakfast.
Thanks again to everyone for participating in my first ever blog event. I loved seeing the varieties of dishes. Since asparagus was so difficult for some of you to participate, let's go in the opposite direction and pick something I think everyone can work with. So the "secret ingredient" for July's Weekend Wokking will be... the ever so humble... easily attainable... ... POTATO!!! Weekend Wokking hosts for July are Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple. Please send entries by 11:59 p.m., Sunday, June 29 to td (at) whiteonricecouple (dot) com. Round-up on Wednesday, July 2. For rules on how you too can participate, please read Weekend Wokking. ***** 1 year ago today, coffin bread, dumplings and other Taiwanese street food at Pa Pa Walk - San Gabriel.