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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fulfilled - Beverly Hills (Closed)

As I said, several weeks ago, I received an invitation to a pre-grand opening free tasting of Fulfilled, a Japanese imagawa-yaki pastry shop in Beverly Hills. Since I didn't want to go alone, I asked the owner if I could bring a guest and invited Cathy of Gastronomy along. So after grabbing some lahmajoun from Abraham Partamian Armenian Bakery, I picked her up from work.

Notice it's just a few doors down from Pinkberry? Think Japanese stuffed pancakes will take off like tart frozen yogurt? It's at least situated in the right zip code. 90210!

Fulfilled - Beverly Hills 1

In the front window, you can see them making the "imas" as Fulfilled likes to call them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Abraham Partamian Armenian Bakery - Los Angeles (Mid-City)

Several weeks ago, I received an invitation to a pre-grand opening tasting of Fulfilled, a Japanese imagawa-yaki pastry shop in Beverly Hills. Go outside of the San Gabriel Valley? Ack! Because I had to drive so far, I wanted to make it worth my while. So I decided to detour to Abraham Partamian Armenian Bakery in the Mid-City neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Abraham Partamian Armenian Bakery - Los Angeles (Mid-City) 1

I was searching for an Armenian bakery in a neighborhood that's now half Latino because it supposedly offers the best lahmajoun in town. Lahmajoun/lahmajune/lahmacun, however you spell it, according to Wikipedia is an Anatolian dish of very thin dough topped with minced lamb, tomatoes, and spices. It's sometimes referred to as Armenian or Turkish pizza.

Earlier in the spring, I was inspired by this Los Angeles Times article about how Leon Partamian, Abraham's son who never married or had children, left the bakery to his two Mexican workers. Francisco Rosales and Jose Gonzales had been with him for more than 35 years. That two Mexican Americans make the best, and bake upwards of 500, Armenian "pizzas" a day definitely goes on my list of things that are "Sooo SoCal." Not that I'm suprised since I've often seen Mexicans working in the kitchens of Little Saigon restaurants.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup)

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup) 1

After a lot of heavy eating, I needed something light.

A canh is a light Vietnamese soup. It's not really meant to be a full meal but eaten as an accompaniment to an entree and a vegetable side dish. A light, flavorful broth and a few greens are all that's really needed. Sometimes, I'll even add some rice into the soup to soak up the flavors.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with an Asian Fusion Twist

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite American holiday. I think it's less commercial than some of the other holidays. Except for the mad rush for turkeys, what you're really left with is a holiday that pays homage to being thankful and to gathering with family. And of course, the food. Can't forget about the food.

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with an Asian Fusion Twist 1

This is the fourth time I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner. As we've gotten older, there's less and less occasion for the cousins to gather. This year, I fed 18 people. So despite the full day of cooking that usually entails, I actually enjoy hosting. I usually make one or two turkeys, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing. Other dishes might vary from typical American sides to ethnic ones. Someone usually brings a pie or two to finish off the meal.

Really, all my cousins want are the core dishes -- the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie. After all, Thanksgiving really is the only time of year we eat all of the above. But this year, I decided to mess around a bit with tradition.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Charlie's Trio Cafe - Alhambra

In trying to clear up some of the pictures that have been sitting in the queue too long, I had forgotten about my lunch last summer when Norwegian cousin was visiting, she and her friend had wanted salad or something light for lunch. After running through various options, I don't remember exactly why I settled on Charlie's Trio Cafe in Alhambra.

Charlie's Trio Cafe - Alhambra 1

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lasagna with Meat Sauce

When I made my Vegetarian Lasagna with Broccoli, Kale, and Zucchini, I had lightly boiled the noodles. After baking in sauce for 45 minutes, the noodles got mushier than I'd like. I know I've heard before that you don't have to boil the noodles first because they'll absorb liquid in the sauce while baking. So I decided to give it a try and make lasagna with dried noodles. Not the kind that's advertised as no-bake, just straight-from-the-box regular old dried lasagna noodles.

I couldn't wait for the lasagna to cool down before cutting (or eating!), but somehow I think the gooey cheese and unstructuredness of this piece looks infinitely more appealing.

Lasagna with Meat Sauce 2

This piece was cut the next day, and the pasta had absorbed even more sauce overnight so it's not as saucy as I generally like, but still perfectly good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vegetarian Lasagna with Broccoli, Kale, and Zucchini

Vegetarian Lasagna with Broccoli, Kale, and Zucchini 2

Broccoli. It's the vegetable that everyone loves to hate.

When my cousins were little, I used to sneak broccoli into lasagna by chopping it into small pieces and thoroughly mixing it into the tomato sauce. Even though they eventually found the pieces, they still liked the lasagna too much and continued eating it anyway, broccoli and all.

Cue evil laugh. *Bwahaha.*

That's one way to get kids to eat their vegetables.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Broccoli Bacon Pasta

This recipe was created when I dug through my freezer to use up leftovers. The frozen broccoli was already soft, and after being boiled and tossed with the noodles, took on an almost pesto-like quality that ended up working really well. Of course, you can certainly use fresh broccoli instead, but lil' sis really dug the pesto-like consistency of this dish.

Broccoli Bacon Pasta

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Rose Garden) (Spring) - San Marino

The Rose Garden at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. Unfortunately, both of us forgot to charge our camera batteries. So we had to try to sneak in a few quick photos, let the battery recharge, take another photo. I'll have to come back to get more photos some day.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Rose Garden) (Spring) - San Marino 4

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Japanese Garden) (Spring) - San Marino

When I last left off, HH and I had walked around the Chinese Garden at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. We then continued on to the Japanese Garden.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Japanese Garden) (Spring) - San Marino 2

Rather than go into a spiel about the history of Japanese gardens, you can read the Wikipedia article. And Discover Nikkei has an article about the inconsistencies.

Since the Japanese garden was completed in 1968, it has a much more settled feel than the Chinese Garden.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Regional Recipes #2 (Japan)

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Japanese Garden) (Spring) - San Marino 3

Japanese cuisine has always been a bit intimidating for me. While I love to eat sushi, making it always seems so difficult. Fortunately, Japanese food is about so much more than sushi. It's about presentation and delicacy and ... Ack! That's even more intimidating!

Luckily, I can always depend upon other food bloggers to make cooking look easy. The recipes submitted for the Japanese round-up of Regional Recipes showcased the diversity of the cuisine with fried, simmered, soup, and dessert dishes.

The recipes, in alphabetical order...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My House Was Broken Into And My Laptop Was Stolen

Dear readers,

My house was broken into and my laptop was stolen tonight. :(

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thit Bo Kho Mang (Vietnamese Braised Beef with Bamboo Shoots)

Thit Bo Kho voi Mang (Vietnamese Braised Beef with Bamboo Shoots) 1

Dried bamboo provides an earthy component to this braised dish. While I would normally use pork, I happened to have beef on hand and it worked just fine.

Making caramel sauce is a must for this dish to provide color and flavor to the meat. If you're not going to do this step, then skip the sugar in the recipe as the coconut juice will provide plenty of sweetness on its own. The coconut juice will mostly cook off, leaving behind a slight sweetness to add depth. If you don't want any coconut juice at all, then simply substitute with water.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Make Nuoc Mau (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce)

Nuoc mau (Vietnamese caramel sauce) is an essential component to many braised dishes. The direct translation is "colored water" and it adds deep color as well as a slightly sweet, deeply rich flavor to a dish. It takes only about 10 minutes to make, yet time and again, I hear how people are afraid to make it. It's just burnt sugar.

How to Make (Nuoc Mau) Vietnamese Caramel Sauce 11

The only tricks are to use a heavy-bottom pot (I'm using my enameled cast iron pot) and to monitor and make sure there's enough liquid to burn the sugar, without scorching it. If it seems too dry, simply add more water and stir again.

Just regular white sugar works best so there's no need to get fancy. After the caramel sauce darkens, add the meats and stir to let the sauce color the meats. Then add water and braise.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bamboo Shoots

Bamboo shoots are one of my kitchen essentials because they're so versatile. They can be braised, stir-fried, and made into soups or curries.

I have yet to try the really fresh bamboo shoots, this kind that look like they were cut from the forest floor.

Bamboo Shoots 5

So what I usually buy are bamboo shoots in brine, pickled, canned, or dried. You can find them in most Asian grocery stores.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Let's Talk Turkey!

So while I was in line at the Yum Cha Cafe side of the San Gabriel Superstore, waiting for my half-duck to get cut up for my Thai red curry with roast duck recipe, I noticed a sign for turkey with free sticky rice for $35. So that's what I'm doing this year.

Thai Red Curry with Roast Duck, Bamboo Shoots, Eggplant, and Pumpkin 2

You'll have to check back in to see what I'm going to do with the turkey. I think it's supposed to be cooked Peking duck-style. Other barbecue places will do this same thing, but you have to bring in a turkey. Here, they provide the turkey for you. (Much thanks to the super-nice random Chinese guy who helped translate and asked the cashier the exact details for me!) Anyway, so it'll be an 8 to 12 lb turkey with a side of sticky rice.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thai Red Curry with Roast Duck, Bamboo Shoots, Eggplant, and Pumpkin

Thai Red Curry with Roast Duck, Bamboo Shoots, Eggplant, and Pumpkin 1

As I said, I had a curry craving. Since I was already at the San Gabriel Superstore, I figured I'd experiment and make a red curry with roast duck. I think that's also because I had a weird craving for roast duck. Weird, only because I hardly ever eat roast duck.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai Red Curry Paste 1

Recently, I had a major craving for Thai curry, red curry in particular. And as I stood there in the aisle at the San Gabriel Superstore reading the ingredients of the canned curry pastes, I decided I could make my own for better and cheaper.

The main reason why I prefer to make my own Thai curry paste is because I don't like the taste of galangal. I know purists will say it's essential, but the taste is so overwhelming in packaged pastes that I just don't like it. And actually, even though it's not "authentic," I much prefer the taste of ginger. I also sub regular lime peel for kaffir lime peel since the latter is harder to find.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Base Stew)

Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Base Stew) 1

According to Wikipedia, Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Base Stew) was invented as a way to use up surplus products from U.S. army bases after the Korean War ended. It is similar to Soon Dubu Kimchee Chigae (Korean Soft Tofu Kimchee Soup) with the addition of Spam or hot dogs. I usually make this when my Baechu Kimchee (Napa Cabbage Kimchee) is getting too ripe and/or I need to clear out the fridge.

Start with the kimchee base and toss in anything you wish. This particular evening, I added tofu, cabbage, onions, Spam, Ggakdugi Kimchee (Korean Pickled Radish/Daikon), fish balls, tiny dried fish, ramen, and half a can of beans (I had half a can leftover, it's a common army product, and Wiki even said it could be included).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Foo Foo Tei Noodle House - Monterey Park (Closed)

Since I'm on the subject of ramen, a while back I had tried Foo Foo Tei Noodle House in Monterey Park. I had dined here based upon seeing it repeatedly on Biggest Menu, and because Henry Chan's Food Videos said it was one of his favorites.

Foo Foo Tei Noodle House - Monterey Park 1

The caveat here is that it seems to be a knock-off of the original Foo Foo Tei Noodle House ramen shop of the same name in Hacienda Heights. It's not bad. Which isn't to mean I'm singing high praises, but it could be a lot worse, ya know?

Foo Foo Tei is located on the far right of the same strip mall as Elite Restaurant. Even though there are designated parking spaces, you'll still have to deal with a crowded parking lot on weekends.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Buta No Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly)

As promised, fall-apart tender Japanese braised pork. So tender that I had difficulty slicing without the meat falling apart.

Buta No Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork) 3

While serving ramen with char siu (Chinese barbecued pork) was tasty, I wanted to go all-Japanese the second time around when I made shichimenchou (Japanese turkey) ramen. I remembered Kirk of Mmm-yoso's recipe for buta no kakuni (Japanese braised pork). It's apparently based on the Chinese version, and looked amazingly similar to thit kho (Vietnamese braised pork). Even down to the hard-boiled egg.

So I decided I would largely cook the buta no kakuni the same way I would the Vietnamese version, subbing out such Vietnamese ingredients as the caramel sauce and fish sauce for Kikkoman soy sauce and grated daikon. Kirk's use of the grated daikon was ingenious. The meat was so incredibly tender.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fried Rice with Pork, Corn, and a Ladle of Ramen Broth

I know this goes against every rule about keeping fried rice dry so it doesn't become mushy, but when I go to the trouble of making homemade ramen broth, I'm going to extract as many uses for it as possible. Just look at how a ladle of ramen broth makes the rice grains glisten.

Fried Rice with Pork, Corn, and a Ladle of Ramen Broth 1

Last year, when I posted my recipe for Fried Rice with Bacon, Corn, Eggs, and Green Onions, I mentioned that I was inspired by seeing Henry Chan's Food Videos' brief clip of the Daikokuya Noodle & Rice-Bowl folks ladling a spoonful of their fabulously porky ramen broth into the fried rice just before serving. That spoonful of broth added just at the end gives so much flavor to the fried rice that I just had to try it myself.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Shichimenchou (Japanese Turkey Bone) Ramen

Shichimenchou (Japanese Turkey Bone) Ramen 1

Last Thanksgiving, I made a Salt Rub and Butter Turkey. If you're searching for a simple recipe that yields the most flavorful results, I highly recommend it. Actually, I don't know if using any old turkey recipe will give you the same result. So make my turkey recipe and then make this! :)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Shio (Japanese Salt) Ramen

After eating at Santouka - Costa Mesa and Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl, I really wanted to try making my own ramen.

Shio (Japanese Salt) Ramen 1

I mean from scratch, not the instant packets. Now, my version is nowhere near as good as either of the ramen shops, but I think I did pretty well for my first attempt. I couldn't really find any recipes online, so I made this up on my own. I tried to keep it really simple by just making a salt pork broth. Next time, I think I'll experiment a bit and add dried tiny fish, seaweed, daikon, and ginger.

From what I remember of the ramen shops, they all had huge vats and kept the liquid at a roiling boil. Unlike Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup), where the bones are kept at a low simmer for a clear broth, the turbulent liquid for ramen turns the broth milky. Get double the size of pot that you'll need because you'll lose a good portion of broth to evaporation.

I garnished the ramen simply with a hard-boiled egg and bamboo shoots. I decided to just use my standard Char Siu (Chinese Barbecued Pork) recipe, although later I experimented and made fabulous fall-apart tender Buta No Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork).

Final verdict? Not bad for homemade ramen, but nowhere near as good as the pros. As it should be, for if making real ramen was simple, then they'd be out of business. ;)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Chick-fil-A - Upland

There was a Chick-fil-A in the food court at the mall where I grew up, but I never really thought much of it. Cousin Q, however, makes it a point to know the ins and outs of fast food. So when he touted that Chik-fil-A's founder created the chicken sandwich and that he made his brother bring back one after a business trip to Texas, I was curious to try.

There are no Chick-fil-As in the San Gabriel Valley. The closest is either La Habra or Upland. Take your pick. It's a long drive either way. We opted for Upland.

Chick-fil-A - Upland 1

Cousin Q got a chicken sandwich. Supposedly pickles are the only adornment because they were the only thing available when the sandwich was invented. It doesn't look it, but the sandwich was incredibly juicy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

IKEA - Covina

I meant to publish this when I started posting about Stockholm - Sweden months ago. As with so many pictures, they got lost in the queue and posting this now seems like suddenly laughing a full minute after someone told a joke.

In the midst of blogging about my adventures in Sweden, I had wanted to include something about the cuisine. Except, I mainly dined at ethnic restaurants and I didn't take photos of the few Scandinavian dishes I did eat. So what's a food blogger to do except dine at everyone's favorite Swedish furniture store. :)

IKEA - Covina 1

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Banh Nam (Vietnamese Steamed Flat Rice Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp)

I learned to cook by wiping banana leaves in the kitchen of my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother). Actually, I think every grandchild (all 20 of us), had at one time or another been given that task. Her specialty was banh nam (Vietnamese steamed flat rice dumplings with pork and shrimp). Sometimes I would help her put the meat on the dough and wrap the banana leaves to make these flat rice dumplings. While I helped, I never did learn her recipe.

Banh Nam 1

Ba noi passed away nearly six years ago. I still can't eat banh nam without crying so I often avoid it at family gatherings. Also, my aunts don't make it quite the same. The dough isn't as tender. The dumpling sometimes a bit too thick. It just wasn't the way grandma made it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Longan Chicken Radicchio Wraps

Longan Chicken 1

This recipe was actually inspired by this head of radicchio. I've only eaten small pieces of radicchio in salads so when I saw a whole head at the Farmers' Market - Alhambra, I couldn't pass it up.

Radicchio has a slightly bitter taste, so I needed to pair it with something sweet. As I peeled off one leaf at a time, I decided they would make great wraps. I'd been wanting to make lychee chicken after seeing Tigerfish of Teczcape's version, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to experiment.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Longans are now in season! This is the longan tree in my backyard.

Longans 1

Longans 2

While you can find fresh longans at some Asian supermarkets, it just can't compete with the beauty of picking them straight from the tree. The fruit tastes much firmer this way.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cranberry/Pumpkin Butter/Walnut Filling and Maple Icing

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls 1

All these pumpkin recipes must have been sitting in my queue waiting and waiting for the PUMPKIN edition of Weekend Wokking! Pumpkin is the secret ingredient as picked by Ivy of Precious Pea, host of the coconut round-up.

Pumpkin cinnamon rolls with cranberry/pumpkin butter/walnut filling with maple icing.