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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Xanh Bistro - Fountain Valley (Little Saigon) (Closed)

After dinner at Nhu Y Ca 8 Mon (8 Courses of Fish) Restaurant - Fountain Valley, I pulled the group nearby for dessert at Xanh Bistro.

But let's backtrack to August 2008, shortly after it opened, when my friend DP took me to dine here. Xanh Bistro is opened by Haley Nguyen, who teaches at the food and nutrition department at Saddleback Community College and before at the Art Institute of California. She's often quoted in the Orange County Register for her knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine and culinary tours of Little Saigon.

Xanh Bistro - Fountain Valley (Little Saigon) 1

I loved the decor and the little details -- the cupboard in the back, the artful chairs, the flowers in bud vases, and the green and blue pottery. After all, xanh is the Vietnamese word for both green and blue.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nhu Y Ca 8 Mon (8 Courses of Fish) Restaurant - Fountain Valley (Little Saigon)

There are restaurants that I used to dine at when I lived and worked in Orange County that I just don't get to much any more. In part, it's because so many Vietnamese restaurants have opened in the San Gabriel Valley in the past decade that I don't need to go so far to get Vietnamese food any more, but I do miss some of the more novel restaurants such as Nhu Y Ca 8 Mon (8 Courses of Fish) Restaurant in Fountain Valley.

Nhu Y Ca 8 Mon (8 Courses of Fish) Restaurant - Fountain Valley (Little Saigon) 1

I've done Vietnamese 7 courses of beef a time or two, and even Vietnamese 7 courses of goat. So let's add another multi-course, single meat meal into the mix with 8 courses of fish, a decidedly healthier option.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pagolac Restaurant Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef) - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Shortly after I posted about Vietnam Restaurant's 7 courses of beef, Clara of I Heart Food 4 Thought and I Heart Cuppycakes offered to take me to her family's favorite, Pagolac Restaurant in Westminster. While I didn't need an introduction to Pagolac, it's been a Little Saigon staple for years, I welcomed the chance to meet up with her anyway. I invited Gourmet Pigs and Ila of I Nom Things to join us.

Pagolac Restaurant Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef) - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thach Che Hien Khanh - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)

Thach Che Hien Khanh - Garden Grove (Little Saigon) 1

I've been getting my che (Vietnamese pudding) at Thach Che Hien Khanh for a long time. Well before they expanded the restaurant. Well before they opened a second Thach Che Hien Khanh in Westminster on Bolsa Avenue. Well before they even had a rope to make people form some semblance of a line.

Two people were needed in order to get any che. Back then, I usually went with my friend DP, who introduced me to the restaurant and to a lot of other Little Saigon eats. One of us would wait in the car (because there were never any parking spaces), while the other fought through the crowd to score some dessert. Then we had to do a fast getaway because the cars still kept coming.

This was, and still is, the place to go in Little Saigon for che.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Whiffies Fried Pies (Food Cart) - Portland - Oregon (Closed)

15 Whiffies Fried Pies (Food Cart) - Portland - Oregon 1

One late night, we're talking around 11 p.m., I asked youngest Argentinian cousin if he wanted to join my siblings and me on the corner of SE 12th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard.

Umm. What are we doing hanging around street corners, he asked?


There's a food cart there with fried pies that I've been meaning to try, I said.

Mmm. Pie. You know how I feel about pie.

At that hour, most of the businesses in the area are closed. So it's a little weird to see this food cart pod so happening. But, most of the food carts here look like they're open until 3 a.m. so I guess that works for them.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 4

After Christmas eve happy hour at Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen for pastrami cheeseburgers, pastrami on rye, and Reuben sandwiches, lil' sis, my four nephews, three of their friends, and I trekked over to Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon for some photos.

Christmas at Pioneer Courthouse Square - Portland - Oregon

A Christmas tree had been installed in the center of the square and was all lit up for the holidays. As I snapped photos of the kids doing one goofy pose after another, I couldn't help but think of when they were little and how quickly time has gone by.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sauteed Bok Choy with Garlic

Right after lil' sis's best friend finished making the Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage, Eggs, and Lettuce, I decided we might as well cook the bok choy since it was already on the counter.

Quick and easy.

As if you really needed a recipe!

Bok Choy Sauteed with Garlic 1

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage, Eggs, and Lettuce

Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage, Eggs, and Lettuce 1

Don't be put off by the lettuce in this fried rice recipe. The crisp, coolness of iceberg lettuce is a perfect contrast to the fatty Chinese sausage. Other than that, it's a pretty basic fried rice recipe.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chinese Tomato Egg Shrimp Stir-Fry

Chinese Tomato Egg Shrimp Stir-Fry 1

The peeled and deveined shrimp were part of a Chinese tomato egg shrimp stir-fry dish. This simple, slightly sweet dish is best enjoyed during the summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Nonetheless, the tomatoes are cooked enough in this dish that, even in the middle of winter, they provide a nice burst of freshness.

Chinese tomato egg can be as simple or as complicated as you'd like. Here, lil' sis's best friend adds shrimp for natural sweetness. The tomatoes do release quite a bit of liquid, but that's OK. The extra sauce was perfect spooned over white rice. It was even good eaten cold as leftovers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How to Devein Shrimp With a Toothpick

How to Devein Shrimp With a Toothpick 1

While lil' sis's best friend was occupied cooking Chinese Spare Ribs with Coke and Soy Sauce, he put her other friend to work peeling and deveining shrimp.

It was too "eww" and "squicky" a chore for lil' sis's fastidious other friend, he of the Alexander McQueen scarf incident.

So I showed him my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother)'s trick to devein shrimp quickly with a toothpick. After peeling the shrimp, just slide the point of a toothpick in the middle part of the shrimp (I do it after the third "section") underneath the vein. Then gently pull the vein out.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chinese Spare Ribs with Coca Cola and Soy Sauce

Photos updated from the archives, October 2, 2014:

Chinese Spare Ribs with Coke and Soy Sauce 8

"Honey, I'm home!" I quipped as I walked in the door.

The best sight for a woman to come home to after work?

Not one, but TWO men in her kitchen cooking dinner. Ooh, yeah! :P

Shortly after my Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) dinner, lil' sis's best friend asked if he could make dinner for both of us.

Someone wanting to cook for me?

Like he had to ask!

He said he wanted to make up for all the times I cooked for him. Hey, I don't need any justifications. Lil' sis's other friend joined him in the kitchen too. The boys were cooking us a four-course meal of Chinese spare ribs with Coke and soy sauce, Chinese tomato egg stir-fry, fried rice with Chinese sausage, eggs, and lettuce, and sauteed bok choy with garlic.

The spare ribs with Coke and soy sauce was a quick and easy recipe that lil' sis's best friend got from his mom. The only difficult part was that my stove is so old that it literally doesn't boil water. Poor guy. He got so frustrated waiting for the sauce to reduce. What should've taken 20 minutes took nearly an hour. Meanwhile, the boys were busy slicing and sauteing. Lil' sis eventually joined in to help. I just sat back and snapped lots of photos. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Star Trek: The Exhibition (Hollywood & Highland Center) - Los Angeles

Star Trek The Exhibition (Hollywood & Highland Center) - Los Angeles 1

I won a pair of tickets to see Star Trek: The Exhibition on Twitter from @HandHCenter, the Hollywood and Highland Center, when I correctly answered that the USS Enterprise 1701-D had 42 decks. No, I'm not nearly that nerdy. I had to Google the answer. Still! I won tickets! Worth about $16 each.

Of course I had to take my brother with me. Only he would truly appreciate the experience. Speaking of the experience, long ago, I got a hotel package from the Las Vegas Hilton that included two tickets to Star Trek: The Experience. Can you believe no one else in the family wanted to duke it out with us for them? :P

Anyway, The Exhibition was chock full of memorabilia that would satisfy any Trekkie.

C'mon, I'll show you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

LudoBites 3.0 at Royal/T (In Bed Together) - Culver City

Since I had such a great time when Gourmet Pigs took me to Ado Ristorante - Venice for my birthday, I wanted to take her out for a nice dinner for hers. As luck would have it, LudoBites 3.0 at Royal/T was extended for several weeks and I managed to snag a reservation. While LudoBites is really quite a bit more than I would spend on a meal, I was very curious about this pop-up restaurant that had been hyped so much, especially the way Ludo Lefebvre, who was on "Top Chef: Masters Seasons 1 and 2" in case you didn't know, is reported to combine unusual ingredients. Since reservations are nearly impossible to get, I didn't want to pass it up.

LudoBites 3.0 at Royal T (In Bed Together) - Culver City 1

I experienced literally two bites of Ludo's food at Hello Kitty's 35th Birthday celebration in collaboration with the "In Bed Together" exhibit that would replace it, so this was all new to me.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bun Rieu Cua Tom Oc (Vietnamese Crab and Shrimp Paste Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Snails)

Bun Rieu Cua Tom Oc (Vietnamese Crab and Shrimp Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Snails) 2

As I said, Bun Rieu Cua Tom Oc (Vietnamese Crab and Shrimp Paste Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Snails) was the beginning of a furious week of cooking. Bun rieu is one of my favorite Vietnamese soups. It's also the most laborious on account of shelling the crab. It's also one of the most expensive meals I've made as I spent about $30 on ingredients. Ironically, it wasn't the fresh crab that was so expensive as I went with the cheaper rock crab that are usually $1.99/lb at the San Gabriel Superstore. The tomatoes, especially out of season, were almost the same price as the crab. But a proper bowl of bun rieu cua tom oc also includes a pound of shrimp, periwinkles, curled rau muong (Vietnamese water spinach) stems, sliced banana blossoms, pork spare ribs, fried tofu, and more. Yes, there are a lot of components to bun rieu, but made properly, it will also be one of the most satisfying of Vietnamese soups.

As with a lot of my cooking, I had a craaaaving. A craving in which I knew I would not be satisfied with a restaurant version of bun rieu. This is not a recipe I would have attempted until now. One of the benefits of blogging is that I recall flavors of dishes much better than I have in the past. Before, I would have been satisfied thinking something was "good" or "good enough." These days, I find myself picking apart the flavors and textures and ingredients of favored dishes. Am I turning into my momma? Ack!

Unfortunately, bun rieu is one of those soups with which people often take short cuts. Every recipe I stumbled across online used canned crab paste. I used to think my second-youngest uncle's wife's bun rieu was great. And while it still is, I was disilllusioned when I saw her open a can of bun rieu crab paste. *Sniffle.* Even a consultation with my favored "Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart" cookbook turned up the use of canned crab paste. Nooo!!!

No canned crab paste for me! I was on my own with this one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peruvian Roast Chicken

Peruvian Roast Chicken 1

I had been craving Peruvian roast chicken like crazy lately. I wavered between going to my favorite Pollo Mania - El Monte or trying to make my own.






So I did both!

Bought, so I could dissect the marinade and made, since I had a lot of Aji Verde (Peruvian Green Chili Sauce) leftover from Thanksgiving. I ate it with Guamanian red rice before I re-cooked it with annatto seed powder to make it redder.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guamanian Red Rice

Guamanian Red Rice 1

The Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) was just the tail end of a week of furious cooking. So I'll just blog backwards.

A while back, Canine Cologne of Pink Candles at Ridgemont High had posted a recipe for Guamanian red rice. I've never eaten Guamanian food before and was intrigued by the use of annatto seed powder to color the rice, rather than tomato paste like my Com Do Ca Chua (Vietnamese Tomato Paste Rice). Her secret ingredient, that she learned from an older Guamanian woman, was the use of roasted chicken base paste. Since I couldn't find the chicken paste, I had forgotten all about the recipe until Canine Cologne mailed me a tub. So nice and so unexpected! She had earlier generously sent me gourmet chocolates and handmade earrings!

Canine Cologne used celery leaves and chicken paste in her version. I didn't have any celery on hand, but, since I knew Santos of The Scent of Green Bananas lived in Guam, I checked her blog to see if she had another version. Sauteed bacon and onions, no celery. I had that. So I combined a bit of both recipes for my version. Since the chicken paste can be hard to find, I'd say it's optional. Or you could just roast a chicken and take a spoonful of the congealed juices, which is what it seems like to me. I bet the paste would be great with rice pilaf too.

When I originally made this, I added 2 tblsps of annatto seed to water and microwaved it to get the liquid red like I did with my Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew). Unfortunately, the rice turned out golden, and not red. So I added 2 tblsps of annatto seed powder and cooked it again and it came out reeeed! Use less if you don't want such a vibrant color.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

While dining at Little Fat Sheep - Monterey Park recently, lil' sis' best friend whined, "Chi (older sister in Vietnamese), when are you going to make me pho?"

Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) 1

Feeling guilty since they've been friends for more than four years, and since he's pretty much a fixture, I agreed to cook pho for him and a few friends. Then, right afterward, I remembered I had made pho for him more than two years ago, when I originally blogged my pho recipe. And made Sinh To Bo (Vietnamese Avocado Shake) afterward since he had never had any before.

Lil' sis said I was such a sucker, but I figured it would give me a chance to revamp the recipe.

My Crock Pot philosophy (not that anyone necessarily needs one for the Crock Pot) is that when I cook with it, I want a recipe in which I can dump in ingredients and then forget about it until it's time to eat.

While I normally use beef marrow bones, parboil the bones to remove excess impurities, simmer for hours, refrigerate to remove excess fat, and then simmer again, I wanted to cut out all those steps. So I used less fatty, but more expensive oxtails. I also skipped charring any of the spices. I dumped everything into the Crock Pot and went to work. When I walked in the door later that evening, the best beefy, spicy scent filled the air. Now, I understood the appeal of Crock Pot cooking!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Banh Pho (Vietnamese Flat Thin Rice Noodles)

Banh Pho (Vietnamese Flat Thin Rice Noodles) 1

While most non-Vietnamese associate the word pho with Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup), banh pho actually refers to the flat, thin rice noodles. There are two types of banh pho noodles, which are sometimes called rice sticks (I have no idea why.).

Friday, December 11, 2009

San Ya Restaurant Korean BBQ & Noodle - Los Angeles (Koreatown)

Before our dinner at Little Fat Sheep - Monterey Park, the boys had asked me to take them out for Korean barbecue.

Restaurant San Ya Korean BBQ & Noodle - Los Angeles (Koreatown) 1

Yup. That sign was the dinner price.

A while back, Tony of SinoSoul told me he stuffed himself on $9.99 all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue with a choice of eight meats. Whoa! That beats the $9.99 all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue with a choice of four meats offered at Hwang Hae Do Korean BBQ - Artesia.

So I mentioned it to my trusty Korean barbecue sidekick, the oldest '87, and off we went to check it out.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little Fat Sheep - Monterey Park (Closed)

After I told lil' sis's best friend and her other friend about how much I liked the new Jazz Cat Restaurant - San Gabriel, they immediately went that evening. As typical, it was at least a 45 minute wait. So I suggested Little Fat Sheep in Monterey Park.

Little Fat Sheep - Monterey Park 1

This time, I remembered to bring along my camera, I just forgot to put the memory card back inside.


So lil' sis's other friend and their friend, Nick (who reads my blog and has been in suspense waiting to see himself mentioned (Hi, Nick!)), offered to take photos for me with their cell phones. Lil' sis's other friend won out since I see him more often and it was less of an imposition. I must say, his iPhone photos came out pretty nice!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Jazz Cat Restaurant - San Gabriel

I was sad when the original Jazz Cat Cafe - Alhambra stopped letting us cook hot pots table side. Then, they stopped serving hot pots at all. Then, they closed down completely.

Because they had opened a new location in San Gabriel.


Jazz Cat Cafe - San Gabriel 1

The grand opening was in late October. I tipped off Tony of SinoSoul so he could be my guinea pig since he likes to be first. Ha! He complained about the long wait and disproportionately high counter to chair difference at the bar.

But for lunch time with Gourmet Pigs, we only had a slight wait and were seated in a booth. That makes all the difference in my enjoyment of Jazz Cat.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy Sheep Cafe Shabu & Grill - San Gabriel

Since Larkin's wasn't open the day we ended up at The Oinkster, we went back the next day. And it was closed again!


I just wanted to point out that I make a pretty good Southern fried chicken and cream gravy and I am not driving out to Eagle Rock unless it's really worth it.

Happy Sheep Cafe Shabu & Grill - San Gabriel 1

Mrs. SinoSoul and I were craving hot pot, so we ended up at Happy Sheep Cafe Shabu & Grill in San Gabriel. This used to be Little Fat Sheep, but I guess they've split from the main branch in China?

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Oinkster - Eagle Rock

When I first started blogging, I was sad if a restaurant didn't live up to expectations or felt I had to justify if I didn't like a popular restaurant. I guess I still feel that way because I really don't enjoy lambasting non-chain restaurants. When I like something, it's fairly obvious. There are few places that are so awful that there's nothing to recommend them. Rather, I think most of my dining falls in a huge gray area -- not horrible but not great either.

Oinkster - Eagle Rock 1

And yet, even with all the delays in posting, my blog has been a way for me to document where and what I've eaten. So although nothing compels me to blog the lackluster meals, I do so anyway. Or maybe I'm jinxed with restaurants I eat at right before Thanksgiving? I felt that way last year when I revisited and still felt "meh" about Charlie's Trio Cafe - Alhambra.

And I felt that way about The Oinkster.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Lil' Sis' Pumpkin Marbled Cheesecake

Lil' sis doesn't cook very often when she comes home.

"Do you really want to eat my cooking?" she says.

Sure! Why not? Especially if she makes pumpkin marbled cheesecakes. :)

Lil' Sis' Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Pate Chinois (Canadian "Chinese" Cottage Pie)

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 1

I've always loved English Cottage Pie. Who doesn't love baked mashed potatoes on a bed of ground beef and vegetables? I've usually stuck with peas and carrots, so when I saw Miss.Adventure @Home's variation of pate Chinois with corn, I was intrigued with the French Chinese name.

According to Wikipedia, the French Canadian dish may have originated with Chinese cooks during building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century. The Chinese cooks probably made it for their English railway bosses, substituting creamed corn for the gravy in a shepherd's/cottage pie. French Canadian railway workers brought the recipe back home and it spread throughout Quebec and the Northeast U.S.

Another possible explanation for the origins gives credit to Lionel Guimont, a linguistics student at Laval University. Guimont met someone from Maine, who was visiting Canada, and referred to the dish as "China pie." "China pie" could have been a popular dish in lumber camps and mills kitchens in China and South China, two towns in Maine with a large population of Quebecois forestry workers. Workers returning to Quebec translated it into French as pate Chinois, instead of pate de China.

Either way, I find both explanations give an intriguing glimpse into how food and its name have been adapted from its origins.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Triple-Deviled Eggs with Black Pepper, Paprika, and Sriracha

Triple-Deviled Eggs with Black Pepper, Paprika, and Sriracha 1

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I saw in the Oregonian's FoodDay years and years ago. I've long lost the original recipe, but remembered the addition of Sriracha and the "triple-deviled" part. Unfortunately, the original recipe was not available online. Not that it matters since I probably would have made my own variation anyway, but I do try to give proper credit where I can.

Anyway, I haven't made this recipe for years. Not because there was any reason to or not to make it, but sometimes I need a little incentive.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Homemade Turkey Gravy

Homemade Gravy 1

I thought everyone knew how to make gravy? Just add milk and flour to meat drippings and whisk.

Lil' sis had three Thanksgiving dinners and during one of them, she text messaged me to ask how to make gravy.

Add milk and flour.

I guess she figured it out because she didn't ask me more questions.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 1

With a turkey in the oven and space on the stove needed for cooking other dishes, I turned to my Crock Pot to free up some room. I had resisted buying a large Crock Pot for a while. I was perfectly content to let my stews simmer on the stove top for hours. I didn't need yet another appliance clogging up my limited kitchen space. And yet, the bright red pot went on sale again and again. It was calling to me, I tell you.

So I finally gave in.

My attitude with the Crock Pot, and hopefully some adaptations of my usual recipes with it, is the same as most of my cooking -- to wash as few dishes afterward as possible. While I could have browned the beef on the stove and added it to the Crock Pot, that really wouldn't have done much to adapt the recipe. Instead of frying the annatto seeds to release their color, I decided to try heating it in water in the microwave with good results. Colors were released without the use of oil. After simmering all day, I didn't really think skipping the browning made much difference to the beef, in the end.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Turkey Liver Pate

Normally, I toss out the liver when making my turkey for Thanksgiving. But this year, when I was about to do so, I saw how nice the liver looked. (Well, as nice as liver can look anyway.) And because I had baguettes on hand for my Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew), why not some pate to go with it?

Quick and simple recipe that yields about two ramekins. After all, how much pate do you really want anyway?

Turkey Liver Pate 1

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers Afternoon Tea

Thanksgiving Leftovers Afternoon Tea 1

A few days after Thanksgiving, since I had plenty of Turkey Liver Pate and baguettes leftover, I invited the girls over for a tea party. But really, it was just an excuse to use my new tea cups, two-tiered tray, and deviled egg plate.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Royal/T Cafe (Three Apples: An Exhibition Celebrating 35 Years of Hello Kitty/In Bed Together: Art & Bites from Ludo Lefebvre) - Culver City (Closed)

Royal T (Three Apples - An Exhibition Celebrating 35 Years of Hello Kitty and In Bed Together - Art & Bites from Ludo Lefebvre) - Culver City 1

The first weekend after "Three Apples: An Exhibition Celebrating 35 Years of Hello Kitty" opened at Royal/T Cafe in Culver City, my friend DP and I decided to stop by. She even "dressed up" for the occasion, wearing her Hello Kitty watch. :P Alas, it was not to be as the lines went out the door and down the block, on both sides. Insane!

Later that week, I came back with Weezer Monkey and her friend Glam. The "Three Apples" refers to Hello Kitty's weight.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fried Rice with Apples and Cubed Beef

Fried Rice with Apples and Beef 1

Yes, it sounds a little weird. I thought so too when I encountered fried rice with apples and beef on the menu at Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine - Monterey Park. But I ordered it out of curiosity and it was seriously good.

Apples aren't too sweet and when charred, added a nice contrast to the beef. Hey, if pork chops and applesauce can be paired together, why not apples and beef?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 3

Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast or lunch are fine, even welcomed, but by dinner time, my taste buds want something new. So when my youngest aunt told me to come over for dinner, I happily went.

Oooh! Lau (Vietnamese hot pot)! Or more specifically, cu lao. According to my youngest aunt's husband, who hails from Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta, cu lao is named after the ringed brazier in which coal is placed in the middle of the hot pot. Although lau and cu lao might appear similar, cu lao is a dish that originated with the ethnic Chinese in the Mekong Delta and requires certain ingredients and presentation.

My Youngest Aunt's Husband's Cu Lao (Vietnamese Hot Pot) 1

There is a layer of cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and carrots underneath all that meat. There should be a mix of seafood and pork. There are king crab legs, my aunt's homemade shrimp balls, and squid. Dried squid was soaked for several days to soften and reconstitute before being sliced into diamond patterns and added to the pot. The pork includes sliced pork meat, hearts, and rinds. There should also be part of the pork stomach or intestine too, said my uncle.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 1

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

This year with my brother and several cousins out of town, I ended up feeding only a dozen people. Haven't had a family gathering that small in quite a while.

Lil' sis and I started cooking around 1 p.m. for dinner at 6 p.m. I didn't even do the Salt Rub and Butter Turkey Dry Brine until 1 a.m. the night before and the turkey still came out perfect.

Going from the top of the table on down: lil' sis made pumpkin marbled cheesecake this year, along with the mashed potatoes and stuffing. She brought home leftover yams from her earlier Thanksgiving dinner with her friends. I told her best friend to bring the green bean casserole because I had a weird craving for it. My oldest uncle's wife sent over Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rosemary Olive Oil Turkey Marinade

The last of my revisiting Thanksgivings past recipes is the rosemary olive oil marinade. This was also brined in the Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine. The rosemary and olive oil gave it more of a Mediterranean flavor so I served up two distinctly different turkeys in 2005.

Rosemary Olive Oil Turkey Marinade

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Butter, Maple, and Orange Juice Turkey Marinade

Ah, my first turkey.

They say you always remember your first, right? :P

Butter, Maple, Orange Juice Turkey Marinade 1

The butter, maple, and orange juice turkey marinade went with the Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine, not that you necessarily have to pair it that way. Use my preferred Salt Rub and Butter Turkey Dry Brine if you wish.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Juice and Red Wine Turkey Brine

Apple Juice Red Wine Turkey Brine

In Thanksgiving 2006, I made two 18-lb turkeys. This turkey had a simple apple juice red wine brine, while the other was the Salt Rub and Butter Turkey Dry Brine that became the keeper.

The red wine gave it nice color, and maybe the turkey would have fared better if it didn't have to compete with the salt dry brine. But this recipe is super simple if you're not in the mood for measuring or anything.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine

Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine

I started hosting Thanksgiving dinners in 2005. Years ago, one or another of my aunts would cook and sometimes everyone would congregate at one place, other times we'd eat at one house and again the next day at another house.

I moved away for a while and after my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) passed away, I guess the large family gatherings kinda petered out, except for big anniversaries. One year, some of my aunts and uncles had gone to Vegas, and other cousins cooked a pre-made turkey dinner purchased at one of the grocery stores. It made me sad to see the family split up.

So that year, I invited everyone and made two 13-lb turkeys.

The top one in the photo had a Rosemary Olive Oil Turkey Marinade. The bottom turkey had a Butter, Maple, Orange Juice Turkey Marinade. Both were brined in a mix of orange juice and brown sugar. I know the photo isn't the best, this being prior to blogging and all. I've included the recipe on the blog before, but it was buried in another post so I figured it was a good time to break it out separately.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

UCC Cafe Plaza - Walnut (Closed)

After dinner at Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights, we literally went across the street to UCC Cafe Plaza in Walnut for dessert. The UCC, which stands for Ueshima Coffee Company, is a pretty nice Japanese cafe located in a strip mall that also sells Rolex and Cartier. Pretty nice indeed!

UCC Cafe Plaza - Walnut 1

The first time I visited was back in November 2007. My dining companion and I had seen the many, many photos that CrazyPooh had uploaded onto Biggest Menu and wanted to check it out. Leather sofas. Quite a step up from the normal coffee shop.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights

After picking up that ratty armchair off the street for me to DIY later, cousin Q and I headed to my brother's house. I forgot why because these photos have been sitting around since April 2008.


That's what happens when things sit too long in the queue. I just forget everything if the photos didn't remind me it happened.

Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights 1

This was the second visit to Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ in Rowland Heights. The first time was a few years back when cousin Q's older brother suggested it for a big cousins' meet-up. I enjoyed it for the variety of side dishes and because it worked out to be pretty economical for a big group. My cousin says it like what it looks like in Vietnamese. Swap the E with a Y and in Vietnamese, "Ong ga nay" is "This old chicken man." :P

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Before and After: Wooden Arm Chair

I've been in a fit of house cleaning and reorganizing in the past week. The problem with living in an 85-year-old house is that there is very little storage. My bedroom closet is literally the size of a hallway closet. I don't have a hallway closet for any spillover either. After more than two years of shifting my clothes from one pile on the floor to another, I finally moved my vanity table and storage bench into the shed and bought a cheap wardrobe.

With my clothes pile taken care of, I decided to repaint a bookcase I had been using on my porch as a plant stand so I would have more storage space in my kitchen. While I was at it, I decided to finally finish revamping this wooden arm chair.

Look at the before and after photos.

Before and After Wooden Arm Chair 1

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jones Coffee Roasters - Pasadena

Jones Coffee Roasters - Pasadena 1

Somehow cousin Q and I found ourselves in Pasadena, where my brother took us to his favorite coffee shop, Jones Coffee Roasters. He likes the cappuccino and that they grind 1/4-lb bags of coffee.

The outside is rather industrial-looking, across from a public storage. But the inside is pure coffee house.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Park's Barbeque - Los Angeles (Koreatown)


So I teased about Park's Barbeque back in March 2008, which was when I dined here with my high school friend, her husband, and his brother. We didn't know it at the time, but Jonathan Gold had just reviewed it in LA Weekly so the place was packed. Still, it wasn't too long of a wait before we were seated.

Park's Barbeque - Los Angeles (Koreatown) 1

In contrast to many of the other Korean barbecue restaurants I've dined at, the waiters here wore all black and looked hip. There were also pictures on the wall of Korean baseball players who had dined here. Oh dear, you know me and trendy places.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge - Culver City (Closed)

Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge - Culver City 1

When I was invited to dine at Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge in Culver City, I was a little wary. I'm used to going to Los Angeles' Koreatown to get my fix. I wondered how good the restaurant could be when I noticed that the menu featured "Seoulful" dishes combining Korean and Southern cuisine designed by "The Next Food Network Star" season 5 finalist Debbie Lee. Hmmm. That intrigued me enough to try it out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hwang Hae Do Korean BBQ - Artesia

Back in January 2008, I had met up with one of my college friends who was in town. It had rained all day so we decided to meet each other halfway in Artesia. Unfortunately, all the restaurants I could think of in the area were Indian (It is Little India after all.), which was too spicy a cuisine for her.

A quick Google search for Korean restaurants in Artesia turned up an article by Linda Burum in the Los Angeles Times on Hwang Hae Do. She wrote about their dumplings and how they were the best around. Hmm. I've never had any mandu that really knocked my socks off, so if these were the best, I had to try.

Hwang Hae Do Korean BBQ - Artesia 1

The article was in 2004, so I called to confirm that the restaurant was still in business and tried to ask what else they served besides dumplings, but couldn't really understand what the person on the phone said. So it was quite a surprise when I pulled up and saw the Korean BBQ sign. It was an even better surprise when we were told there were three tiers on the all-you-can-eat menu.

The $9.99 option included beef brisket, pork belly, and Daeji Bulgogi (Korean Spicy Pork). Add marinated chicken for $11.99. And six meats including Galbi (Korean Marinated and Barbecued Beef Short Ribs) is $14.99.

$9.99 Korean barbecue? For dinner? Pretty awesome deal, yeah?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Eggs, and Pork)

Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Egg, and Pork) 1

Blame it on the cold November winter, but I started thinking of chicken noodle soup. No, not the American chicken noodle soup, nor the more popular Vietnamese version -- Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup). I wanted the "other" Vietnamese chicken noodle soup -- Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Egg, and Pork), mostly because I didn't want to wait forever for the broth to be just right.

Bun thang is a Northern Vietnamese noodle soup, which never really caught on as far as I could tell from the dearth of it on Vietnamese restaurant menus. Ack! For all my professions of being a South-Central Coastal girl, more and more Hanoi dishes keep creeping into my repertoire. Don't worry, I can't speak Vietnamese with any ZZZs to save my life. :P (Hehe. Inside joke for Vietnamese. Northerners pronounce one of the D's, and their G's, R's, and TR's like Z so hearing them speak sounds like ZZZ to me.)

Actually, calling it the "other" chicken noodle soup is a bit of a misnomer, bun thang uses a combination of chicken and pork for the broth and in the soup. Ideally, I'd use pork spare ribs for the best flavor, but only had some boneless pork on hand that evening. I boiled the pork with some chicken thighs, furiously on high heat to extract maximum flavor as quickly as possible. Then shredded the chicken meat. Made a super thin omelet. Sliced some of my mom's homemade cha lua (Vietnamese steamed pork loaf). Chopped some herbs on top. Snapped a few quick, boring shots of the same bowl in the same position, with no food props, and I was good to go. Oh dear. That was supposed to be my version of a quick weeknight dinner. :P It really was. I promise.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Longan Blossoms & Fruit

11.13 Longan Blossoms & Fruit 1

It's always a mystery to me how these blossoms can become...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hot Vit Lon Long An - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Did you get drinks? the middle '87 asked when we met up after I bought Vietnamese sandwiches at Banh Mi & Che CALI Bakery and she bought banh cuon (Vietnamese rolled rice noodles) at Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon.

I looked back at the strip mall and saw a huge sign for nuoc mia (Vietnamese sugarcane juice).

Hot Vit Lon Long An - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

And water.

And fro-yo.

And Hot Vit Lon (Vietnamese Fetal Duck Eggs).

Haha. Gotta love Vietnamese industriousness. It must work because they've been in business for years and years.