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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Free Concerts: Summer Jubilee - Alhambra

I was 100 feet away from John Stamos! OK, maybe not that close since I can't gauge distance. So from the point wherever this photo was taken to the stage was how far I was from John Stamos, who performed with the Beach Boys last weekend at the Summer Jubilee in Alhambra.

Summer Jubilee - Alhambra 1

Wasn't he a musician on Full House? I vaguely recall an episode where the Beach Boys guest-starred, I just didn't know they were tight. And ladies, he was hooooooot!

A girl walking by squealed and screamed his name when she saw him on the big screen. The guy she was with rolled his eyes and tugged her to move on.

Another woman suggestively said, "He can be my "uncle Jesse" any time."

"Ewww," said her male companion. "Wouldn't that be kind of incestuous?"

Hahaha! I'm guessing the men aren't big fans.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pho Ap Chao Bo (Vietnamese Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef)

This time it's the same beef stir-fry but atop rice noodles. I think most people are familiar with rice noodles in soups or in stir-fries. Ap chao means both pan-fried and sauteed. And indeed, these noodles get double treatment. The noodles are pan-fried first, then sauteed second for a crispy and chewy noodle that soaks up all the beefy juices.

Pho Ap Chao Bo 1

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra

Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra 1

So if you don't want to make your own Crispy Chow Mein...

Or you're just too lazy to cook in general...

Or you're just too lazy to blog even...

What can I say about Sam Woo? If you're too intimidated to try semen tea, stir-fried milk, goose intestines, duck chins, chicken knees, and frog fallopian tubes, then basic Cantonese fare of roast pork or duck, Char Siu / Xa Xiu (Chinese Barbecued Pork), or Fried Rice Yang Chow-Style should be easy enough to get started.

I frequent the Alhambra location when I'm in the mood for quick and easy take-out. If you dine-in during lunch or after 10:30 p.m., they have many dishes for $3.50 and $3.95.

Roast ducks are now $15.95. You can order a half. I think Sam Woo's roast duck is too salty and not crispy enough. I prefer the slight honey flavor of the roast ducks at Capital Dim Sum & BBQ - Monterey Park.

Can you spot the half roast pig, squid, and chicken wings in the photo?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mi Xao Don Thit Bo (Vietnamese Crispy Chow Mein with Beef)

Ah, you've all been waiting so patiently for the beefy chow mein recipe.

This version was made with beef, onions, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, and oyster mushrooms.

Mi Xao Don Thit Bo 1

This was an earlier version with just beef, bok choy, and shiitake mushrooms.

Mi Xao Don Thit Bo 2

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Southern Baked Beans and a Tribute to Sher of What Did You Eat?

Southern Baked Beans

Last Sunday, July 20, Sher of What Did You Eat? passed away from a sudden heart attack. When I heard the news, I initially thought that I probably didn't know her. There are so very many food blogs after all. But her name was unusual and I wracked my brain trying to remember.

Then it came to me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Free Movies: Old Pasadena Film Festival - Pasadena (Old Town)

So as I was saying, while my siblings and I were chillin' on the patio of Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, they were setting up the chairs for that evening's screening.

Free Movies - Pasadena 1

Tonight's the last night, so in case you missed the Old Pasadena Film Festival, you can bookmark the information for next year.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant - Pasadena (Old Town) (Closed)

Lil' sis and I met up with our brother at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Old Town Pasadena for happy hour. I know, all you care about are the happy hour deals right? $1 off Gordon Biersch lagers, $2 off all wines by the glass, and $5 martinis, margaritas, and mojitos. And half a dozen appetizers for $4.95. Specifically we were there so lil' sis could get some garlic fries.

We sat on the patio, which faces the One Colorado courtyard overlooking Johnny Rockets and Il Fornaio. Notice the giant movie screen above Crate and Barrel? Free movies!

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant - Pasadena 1

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blog My Blog 1

Phew! Have ya'll been feeling the summer doldrums? Still too lazy to really cook. Rather too lazy to eat even. Although I get huuuungry, I really don't have much of an appetite. :(

Anyway, here's two pictures of the beefy version of crispy chow mein. I'll post the recipe when I get around to blogging about it.

Mi Xao Don Thit Bo 1

Mi Xao Don Thit Bo 2

Since I'm butting up against my monthly limit on my free Flickr account, which means I have to be a little more judicious with photos, I figured now would be as good a time as any to play "Blog My Blog." I got this idea from Michelle of Bleeding Espresso, who got it from Kailani of An Island Life.

I've modified the rules a bit for my blog. So basically, it works like this:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mi Xao Don Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Crispy Chow Mein)

Independence Day 1

Let me go back to my previous discussion about Chinese Black Bean, Hoisin, and Oyster Sauces and Indonesian Kecap Manis. I had a lot of sauce leftover from making Steamed Oysters with Black Bean and Scallion Sauce so I made Mi Xao Don Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Crispy Chow Mein) that I had brought to my cousins' July 4th barbecue. This was a little bland for some people, so I doubled up on the amount of black bean sauce. Don't worry carnivores, I've got a beefy version too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mi Hoanh Thanh (Vietnamese Wonton Noodle Soup)

The other night while I was at Kang Kang Food Court - Alhambra, I noticed that the lights were off at Won Ton Time. Actually, I've seen the closed sign for a while so I guess it's a permanent closure? Anyone know what happened? No more $4 bowls of golf ball-sized shrimp wontons. :(

Anyway, it just reminded me that I've had this recipe sitting in my queue for a while. Ha! I say that every time with almost every post. :P

Mi Hoanh Thanh 1

Last fall, one of my cousins asked if I would make her wonton noodle soup. Sure, I said. Just come over whenever. And whenever she did, dropping in on a random evening, so this soup had to come together fairly quickly. This broth is a bit on the bland side, if you've got time, I'd recommend making a proper Canh (Vietnamese Soup Broth).

I set her to work washing the bok choy and soaking and cutting the shiitake mushrooms, while I quickly stuffed the wontons.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ca Chua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes)

Updated from the archives February 6, 2012:

Ca Chua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes) 14

For my friend E(L)'s bridal shower gift, I promised her a cooking lesson. We shopped her local farmers' market and grocery store and assembled a handful of dishes that she could make with the overlapping ingredients. One of her and her husband's favorite dishes that afternoon were these Ca Chua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes) so I figured this old post deserved an update with some better photos.

Original post, with a bit of intermixing of old and new photos, below.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Helsinki - Finland: A Two-Night Cruise and One Day

My weekdays in Stockholm were spent wandering cobblestone streets, jogging along the water, eating ice cream on freshly made waffle cones, exploring touristy sites, and shopping (H&M mostly with stops at Mango and Kookai, where I bought one of my favorite sweaters which crosses over at the collar to close with a wooden chopstick).

Are you a Rick Steves fan? His books have come in handy many a time during my travels in Europe. It was his Scandinavia guidebook which pointed me toward overnight cruises from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland.

Helsinki, Finland 1

On a whim, I called Silja Line to inquire about the cruises and managed to score last-minute discounted tickets for a two-night, one-day cruise. Total cost? About $62 USD per person for a round-trip ticket for a two-person cabin. Score! I immediately booked the tickets and told HH that I made weekend plans for us. Haha. I'm not that arbitrary. I had mentioned the possibility of a cruise, HH said he would be interested, and we agreed to go if the costs were reasonable. (Oh, whoa! I just checked to see what the going rate is for 2008, it would cost $288 for the same round-trip ticket now!!! Even back then, it would have cost $114 off-season weeknights so I totally got a deal.)

The cruise left at 5 p.m. from Stockholm, arriving the next morning in Helsinki. Normally, it leaves again around that same time, but there was a marathon that weekend in which many of the people from Stockholm were competing so our day in Helsinki extended until 9 p.m. Yay! Extra hours in a new city and country and discounted tickets.

Since Stockholm is in the middle of an archipelago, passing scenic little islands at sunset was one of the best parts of the trip. We grabbed seats on the deck to admire the view before heading inside for dinner.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Greek Salad

As I said, use only a little bit of feta cheese for the Watermelon, Feta, and Basil Salad, and used the rest to make a Greek Salad.

Greek Salad 1

I have been known to sometimes add iceberg lettuce to my Greek salads. As I was making this though, I could just hear Peter of Kalofagas, in Mr. Hyde mode, chiding me that adding iceberg wouldn't be considered "authentic."

I would argue that "traditional" might be the better word. Although a Greek salad doesn't "traditionally" include iceberg lettuce, I ordered Greek salads several times while in Greece and they did indeed add iceberg lettuce. Was it because I was a tourist, or could it be that the "traditional" Greek salad had evolved?

I think the crispness of iceberg goes well with the rest of the ingredients. Rather than dwelling on what is or isn't perceived as "authentic," I simply worry about taste. I think we can debate endlessly about "authenticity" when it comes to cuisine. But cuisines, like cultures, are fluid, incorporating new ingredients and influences along the way.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Watermelon, Feta, and Basil Salad

On a recent visit to the South Pasadena farmers' market, I bought a bunch of basil with the intention of making Insalata Caprese (Italian Capri Salad - Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella). But the cost of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella were double what they used to be when I stopped off at the store. Instead, I decided to make a watermelon, feta, and basil salad. I do love my basil.

While lots of feta is wonderful in a Greek salad, paired with the sweetness of watermelon and basil, a little goes a long way. So crumble just a little, and save the rest for either a Greek salad or Feta Cheeseburgers with Baked Garlic Fries.

Watermelon, Feta, and Basil Salad

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bo "Ne" Bit Tet (Vietnamese "Stand Back" Beef Steak)

Back in February, after I had posted about Banh Mi Hot Ga Op La (Vietnamese French Bread with Sunnyside-Up Eggs), I received an email from a reader asking for a dish of sunny-side-up eggs served with Vietnamese French bread on a small metal plate with a bit of broth, diced tomatoes, and a few meatballs.

I thought he might have been describing Bo "Ne" Bit Tet (Vietnamese "Stand Back" Beef Steak). The "stand back" is my rough translation of ne. Anyone got a better translation for this dish? Miss.Adventure in Vietnam simply calls it bo bit tet and ate it in Saigon. I've only seen and eaten this in the South Central coast of Vietnam. My relatives called it bo ne because you have to ne when the sizzling hot cast iron plate comes out to the table.

Bo Ne Bit Tet 2

The photo above was from my last trip to Vietnam. I think of it as the Vietnamese equivalent to the American steak and egg breakfast. Bo ne was a frequent breakfast item. On the South Central coast, it was priced between $7,000 to $8,000 VND, or the equivalent of $0.40 to $0.50 cents USD. Ah, see, that was prior to blogging. If it were now, I would have taken a closer picture of the whole breakfast, showing the head of the cow cast iron plate. Anyway, what you see is a Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatballs), a small piece of beef steak, the remnants of a fried egg, a lone French fry, homemade mayonnaise, and lots of beefy juices. Served with a loaf of Vietnamese French bread to sop up all that juice, of course.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatballs)

I think most people think of Chinese dim sum when they think of siu mai. Vietnamese xiu mai, however, simply means meatballs. There are many versions of xiu mai from rather sauceless meatballs with a few carrots and peas to xiu mai in a light tomato sauce. I recalled my mom's braised meatballs with lots of meaty juices. So yummy that I'd dunk the bread to sop up the juices. You could also eat these with rice and spoon the sauce over the rice. These freeze really well. And if you spoon some of the juices into your freezer bag, they'll retain their juiciness upon reheating.

Xiu Mai 1

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pate (Faux Gras with Chicken Livers)

You know, there just is no way to nicely photograph liver. No matter what I do, it just looks like grayish-brown mush. Fortunately, pate tastes way, way better than it looks. Also fortunately, by cleverly staging a glass of wine and a crusty baguette, you'll start thinking of French food and be distracted from the grayish-brown mush? :P

Pate 1

I hadn't really planned on making my own pate, but when I saw a half pound container of chicken livers on sale for only 50 cents, it was just too good of a deal to pass up. I also knew that I wanted to make a savory pate with a Vietnamese flavor since I wanted to add it to banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches). So that meant omitting the usual French seasonings of thyme and other herbs.

I soaked the chicken livers overnight in soy milk (although regular milk would work fine too) to cut down on the liveriness, if you will. I added a stick of butter to mix with the cooked livers to cut down even more of the liveriness. The result was a nice, buttery smooth flavor.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich)

Remember six months ago when I said I had a series of banh mi posts? This was supposed to be the third recipe but I sort of left it languishing in my draft pile. :P

Banh Mi Xiu Mai 1

I was reminded of this when Hilton of Inkwatu emailed me recently to ask about banh mi before he embarked on his very first Vietnamese sandwich. You can click on the link to read his story.

It's Bastille Day, which means little to me except for the French contribution to Vietnamese cuisine.

This particular sandwich was made by adding more vinegar to my four-color carrot salad and with baguette bread from Lee's Sandwiches - Rosemead, when they sold two loaves for $1. No more. :(

I made this when my brother and cousin Q's little brother were over. We sat on my porch to eat them so the crumbs could easily be washed away later. It reminded me of Sunday mornings when my mom made savory braised meatballs with lots of juice. My dad would go to the Vietnamese bakery to buy fresh Vietnamese French bread. The sauce was so yummy that we'd dip the bread into the pan. Sadly, the restaurant versions of banh mi xiu mai have always been rather dry and bland to me. Or maybe not sad because I think my version is loads better!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori-Shabu Shabu - Monterey Park

For cousin Q's birthday we opted for a quick late dinner at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori-Shabu Shabu in Monterey Park. We're not really big on birthdays in my family. We usually just take each other out to eat. This particular location is in the same strip mall and downstairs from Empress Harbor Seafood Restaurant.

Ah! Whoa! What big man-boobs do I see inside the entrance?

Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori Shabu Shabu - Monterey Park 1

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bun Cha Hanoi Nem Ran (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork Patties and Egg Rolls)

After the flurry of various curries and cooking from Malaysian food packets, I had a serious craving for good old Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce). I made Nem Nuong and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls), but thought I'd turn it into Bun Cha Hanoi Nem Ran (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork Patties and Egg Rolls) since I haven't posted that recipe yet.

Bun Cha Nem Ran 1

This isn't so much a recipe as an assembly list.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chinese Black Bean, Hoisin, and Oyster Sauces and Indonesian Kecap Manis

After posting my recipe for Steamed Oysters with Black Bean and Scallion Sauce, I realized it was about time I discussed some of the thick black sauces I have in my kitchen.

Hoisin, Oyster, and Black Bean Sauces

According to Wikipedia, Chinese black bean sauce is "made by fermenting and salting soy beans. The process turns the beans black, soft, and mostly dry. The flavor is sharp, pungent, and spicy in smell, with a taste that is salty and somewhat bitter and sweet."

I have to admit, I cook the least with black bean sauce. I use it in addition to other sauces, and usually when I'm marinating meats. It's the saltiest of the three sauces, with hoisin sauce tasting a tad sweet. My favorite of the three to cook with is oyster sauce.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Meet Cute" Stockholm - Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden 1
Drottingholm Palace, built in 1662, where the Swedish royal family has resided since 1981.

That's screenplay speak for the point in the movie when two characters "meet cute." An infinitely shorter title than "How I ran off to Sweden because a fortune teller said I was supposed to meet my future husband." For the record, the plane ticket to Stockholm was purchased before I even heard the fortune teller's prediction. But yes, there was a man involved and we had met twice before (He's my friend's friend's friend.) so I guess technically it wouldn't have been the first time we saw each other for the real "meet cute," but who wants to be technical? You want to hear a good story right?

According to Wikipedia, movie critic Roger Ebert explains the "meet cute" as a scene "in which somebody runs into somebody else, and then something falls, and the two people began to talk, and their eyes meet and they realize that they are attracted to one another."

So do I start my story at the "meet cute"? Or do I give you the background story that led to the "meet cute" in the first place? Well, since I don't want to get too personal, I will tell you quickly that the fortune teller was accurate about his age and height, but I've told you that before. She said I would meet him in mid-August, which was the date on my plane ticket. I can't remember what else she said about him, although I do have it written down somewhere. She was also right about several other things that weren't related to him, but that would require too much background story.

And because a girl can't spill all her secrets online, that's all the personal details I tell you. ;)

Recently, when I told my friend I was going to blog about Sweden and asked if he wanted a nickname, he chose "HH." For "handsome hero," he said. Ha! "Hapless hero" more like, I replied. But very well, henceforth, he's HH.

Of course, as you know, I went.

And fell immediately in love at first sight with...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Malaysian Mango Chicken Curry

Malaysian Mango Chicken Curry 1

I think the line between products I review and when they become recipes depends on whether I followed the directions on the back of the package or did my own thing. Or maybe I make an exception for curries? Because Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) is the only Vietnamese curry recipe I know and the curry powder comes from a jar. I did attempt Gaeng Kiaw Waan (Thai Green Curry with Thai Eggplants) with good results. But that's because lemongrass was an ingredient I was familiar with and could adjust according to my taste.

Anyway, after having made and eaten several Malaysian dishes in the past few weeks, I felt more confident in my abilities. A quick phone call to my cousin to get generalities of a Malaysian mango chicken curry she had recently and I was ready to experiment.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Old Town White Milk Tea (3 Dalam 1 Teh Tarik)

I've got several Hong Kong cafe posts that I'm just too lazy to get out. The great thing with the Hong Kong cafes in the San Gabriel Valley is their breakfast or afternoon tea specials. For about $5, you get a small entree, sometimes a side or dessert, and a drink. For $5! Unfortunately, the specials are usually between 3 or 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., when everyone is at work.

So I made a quickie Hong Kong cafe-style afternoon tea for one.

Ham and Egg Sandwich and Old Town White Milk Tea

Monday, July 07, 2008

AA1 Instant Seafood Curry Mix (Rempah Kari Segera)

Is it just me? Are ya'll feeling the summer doldrums too? Too lazy to cook. Too lazy to go out. Definitely too lazy to post. :P

I'm slowly eating my way through the box of goodies from Asian Supermarket 365. I've been trying out various packets whenever the mood strikes me. On this particular night it was seafood curry. Don't ask me why I got a craving for seafood curry, I just did.

AA1 Instant Seafood Curry Mix

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I am quite boring when it comes to cookies. I like Nestle Toll House morsels and shortbread. I might doctor them up by adding spices or oats, but the basic cookie dough has always pleased me just fine.

Oh? Did you think I had a super-secret recipe for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies? Nope. I decrease the sugar and salt from the original recipe but that's about it. I ran out of brown sugar so these cookies are looking a little pale with just white sugar. They were still very good though!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Cajun Vietnamese Shrimp Boil and Musings on American Cuisine

Cajun Vietnamese Shrimp Boil

Yesterday I indulged my American side and had hamburgers and hot dogs. This morning I had Vietnamese pho.

Lil' sis came back from breakfast at Pho 79 Restaurant - Alhambra with a to-go container for me.

"I brought you pho," she said before hopping into the shower.

I opened the container and dumped out the noodles only to find Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup). To borrow one of her phrases, doesn't she know me at all? I don't like pho ga. :( I mean, I'll eat it, but I'd rather have Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup).

Lil' sis came out of the shower and wondered why I was so quiet.

"How come you got me pho ga?" I asked mournfully, while staring at my bowl of half-eaten noodles and debating whether to finish it.

"I didn't," she said. "I got you pho dac biet." (Vietnamese special beef noodle soup.)

Oh. Lil' sis does know me after all.

It was Pho 79 who screwed up. Hmph! The pho ga had small strips of white breast meat and two quail eggs, but overall it was rather bland. Lil' sis ate some, and I tossed the rest.

In "Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom: Excursions into Eating, Power, and the Past," anthropologist Sidney Mintz argues that there is no such thing as an American cuisine. We either mention regional specialties such as Cajun or Creole dishes, or hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizzas. Mintz does credit the African influence on American cuisine in the creation of Southern dishes like gumbo. But a national cuisine, one in which everyone cooks, eats, and talks about doesn't, or has yet to, exist. He claims this is one of our country's strengths, a reflection of our democracy and ethnic diversity.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

My cousins and I drove to five different supermarkets today on a hunt for oysters to grill. I guess everyone else had the same idea because each store had a pretty pitiful selection. We ended up buying them from the San Gabriel Superstore, but the oysters that were left were much smaller than the ones I recently got for lil' sis's 21st birthday bash.

I quickly made mi xao don chay (Vietnamese vegetarian crispy chow mein noodles) using the leftover black bean sauce from the steamed oysters with black bean and scallion sauce.

Independence Day 1

Cousin Q and his brother were already grilling steaks, oysters, and corn on the cob.

Independence Day 2

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Chinese Steamed Oysters with Black Bean and Scallion Sauce

Steamed Oysters with Black Bean Sauce 1

When lil' sis's best friend and I were trying to decide on the menu for lil' sis's 21st birthday bash, he requested Chinese steamed oysters with black bean sauce. Done! Simply because this recipe is so quick and easy.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Cua Rang Muoi Tieu, Me, Gung, Hanh, Toi (Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Crab with Tamarind, Ginger, Scallions, and Garlic)

Cua Rang Muoi 1

Normally I prefer Dungeness crabs since that's what I grew up with. I think they're meaty and juicier than any other kind. But rock crabs were only $1.89/lb at the San Gabriel Superstore. So cheap! I bought 8 good-sized crabs for lil' sis's 21st birthday bash and they only cost me $14.27!

Does everyone know how to pick and prepare crabs? If not, here's a primer.