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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Triumphal Palace Chinese Cuisine (Dim Sum) - Alhambra (Closed)

Triumphal Palace Chinese Cuisine (Dim Sum) - Alhambra 1

I had eaten dinner at Triumphal Palace Chinese Cuisine in Alhambra several times actually before I ever went there for dim sum. The first dim sum visit was May 2008, when cousin Q's older brother was in town with his wife (then girlfriend) and her sister, Salah Jonger. That's when I found out she reads my blog!

Anyway, as I said before, Triumphal Palace joins Elite Restaurant - Monterey Park and Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant - Rosemead as the new wave of smaller dim sum houses with nicer decor and no pushcarts.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Elite Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Monterey Park

I sit on restaurant posts way too long. The first time I visited Elite Restaurant was back in November 2007. I've eaten there several times since, just hadn't gotten around to blogging it.

Elite Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Monterey Park 1

I met up with one of my college friends, whom I only see when he's between girlfriends (she being the one whose father bribes the hostess for a table at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant) or on my birthday. The latter was the reason for this visit.

Elite Restaurant used to be called New Concept. I had been scared to try because before the changeover, I heard cousin Q's older brother's friend once spent $1,600 for dinner!!! It was a full table and he ordered dishes such as shark's fin and lobster, but still... Insane, right? Elite also has one of the most expensive wedding packages I've ever seen. While some tables were in the hundreds, there were packages of $2,000 a table.

Since Elite was relatively new at the time, even though we got there around 10 a.m., we waited 90 minutes for a table. A group of four girls gave up and left and we still waited. Large tables were seated before us. The problem was that there were only a handful of two-person tables, so we had to wait specifically for those tables.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Rosemead

My childhood friend had the day off for the lunar new year and asked if I wanted to go out for dim sum. Since it was a special occasion, more or less since any new lunar new year is supposed to be special, I suggested Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead.

Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant - Rosemead 1

Out with the old, large, cheap dim sum houses. Dim sum has gotten so ridiculously cheap that there's not much lower they can go. So they've been going upscale with better quality ingredients and innovative dishes. Making way were restaurants such as Sea Harbour, Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park, Lunasia Chinese Cuisine (Dim Sum) - Alhambra (which used to be Triumphal Palace Chinese Cuisine), and Mission 261 in San Gabriel (which is supposed to reopen after renovations).

The lines for Sea Harbour have always been super long on the weekends so I've never bothered to go. But recalling that one of my college friends said his ex-girlfriend's family swears this is the best dim sum in town made me suggest it to my friend. His ex's dad apparently slips a nice bribe to the hostess to get seated right away. My childhood friend and I were less stealthy and waited about half an hour, I think?

No push carts here. Order off a menu. Small plates were $2.28, medium $3.50, and large $4.25. Special plates were $5.80 to $6.66. Tea was $1 per person.

Talk about fancy! The "executive lunch for four" was a 7-course meal for $238 and included lobster, a shark's fin casserole, and braised sea cucumber with shrimp roe.

We decided since it was the new year and all, that we'd splurge on some fancier dishes and balance it with typical dim sum dishes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Monterey Park

Speaking of old school Chinese dim sum/seafood restaurants resting on their laurels, last summer I joined lil' sis and the oldest '87 for dim sum at Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant. Like NBC Seafood Restaurant, which is just down the road, the restaurants are huge, designed for large wedding banquets for about 500 people. Nonetheless, I've always had to wait for a table at NBC, not so with Ocean Star.

Ocean Star Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Monterey Park 1

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NBC Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park

This was actually the Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) banquet for the Year of the Rat in 2008. The Chinese association from my hometown in South-Central Vietnam holds a banquet each lunar new year to award 6th to 12th graders who received good grades. I know! So Asian of them!

NBC Seafood Restaurant - Monterey Park 1

When I first moved to Southern California, most of my cousins were still little and it was fun to see them on stage receiving their awards every year. Now, the youngest cousin is almost done with high school and few of my cousins attend the banquets any longer.

My oldest uncle invited me to attend since he was at a table with his in-laws. When you're from a small town, almost everyone knows each other. Add in the fact that the ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese were all pushed out around the same time and the world gets even smaller.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Year of the Ox!

Happy Year of the Ox! (I need to get this out before the Year of the Tiger sneaks upon us...)

The 2007 Lunar New Year post where I mentioned that I loved how banks in California offered red money envelopes.

Happy Year of the Ox 1

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Ate What? 2008 Eating Out Roundup

After looking at my, 2007 Eating Out Roundup, I realized I did far more cooking posts in 2008 than I did restaurant posts. No wonder my restaurant queue is so long.

Sadly, I was hard-pressed to find worthy mentions. When I wrote up the 2007 list, I had decided it was far easier to limit myself to what I actually posted that year, rather than what I had eaten. Mainly, because I am such a laggard when it comes to putting up posts. Heck, I still have 2007 restaurants I haven't written up! Nonetheless, for those of you who like lists, have a gander.


The Cravery - Tustin 2 Angriest. Because the wrong directions to The Cravery - Tustin on the Live on the Go website sent lil' sis on a wild goose chase and caused us to fight. :(

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine - Monterey Park (Closed)

Since we were meeting up to swap apple butter for chili sauce, Susan of Open Mouth, Insert Fork asked if I wanted to try a Chinese restaurant that someone had recommended to her.

Even with the address in hand, the restaurant is located so far inside the strip mall that it took a few turns before I could find it. We went at night so I had to take a photo of the outside during the day time so others would have an inkling of where to find it. Look for the driveway between the hair salon and post box businesses.

Bon Marche Bistro B Village Cuisine - Monterey Park 1

Then drive all the way to the back where you'll find Bon Marche Bistro aka B Village Cuisine. The waitress insisted the restaurant was simply called "B," named after the owner/chef. The menu simply has a "B." Signage declares it Bon Marche Bistro and B Village Cuisine. So I'm just calling it by all names in case there's any confusion.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chai Black Tea

Chai Black Tea 1

I had a bag of cardamom pods sitting in my spice drawer for nearly a year that just begged for me to do something with them. When I had decided to make pumpkin pie from scratch for my Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with an Asian Fusion Twist, I figured I'd add some Indian spices. The only dessert-like Indian spice I could think of was cardamom. Which then led me to consider throwing the pods into some soy milk to make chai black tea.

Do you like my attempt to make the cardamom pods look arty? I snapped various pictures of my tea cup and it just looked so boring. Then I remembered Diana of Appetite for China's pretty photo of her kashmiri chai. So that's my attempt at food styling.

My method is pretty simple. I just added black tea, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom to soy milk and let it steep for a few minutes. The cardamom and ginger were very strong, so I suggest going easy on those ingredients.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mandarin Orange Peel Tea

Mandarin Orange Peel Tea

My mom makes my dad drink orange peel tea to help lower his cholesterol. Did you know orange peels also help fight diabetes and heart disease?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to Dry Orange Peels

During the orange edition of Weekend Wokking, I had high hopes of making Chinese orange peel chicken (which is actually made from mandarin orange peels, by the way). I never did get around to it, but since I'm already talking about oranges, I might as well finish it.

How to Dry Orange Peels 1

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bo Tai Chanh (Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio with Lemon)

Bo Tai Chanh (Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio with Lemon) 1

When I compiled my list of 100 Vietnamese Foods to Try, even though I listed #28 Bo Tai Chanh (Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio with Lemon), I realized I hadn't eaten this in a really long time.

Luckily, my youngest aunt was awesome enough to give me a hunk of filet mignon. Oh. My. God. It was so incredibly tender. I cut it up into smaller steaks and lil' sis and I savored it over the course of several days. I saved one small portion in order to make bo tai chanh. You don't have to use filet mignon, a good sirloin or eye round will work as well. Typically, the beef is completely raw, then marinated in lemon juices in order to "cook" it. I decided to quickly sear mine, just enough to brown the outside, while keeping the inside still raw. After the beef is "cooked" to your liking, it's tossed with herbs and Hanh Phi (Vietnamese Fried Shallots).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Banh Phong Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp Chips)

Banh Phong Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp Chips) 1

Not a recipe post but an FYI for people who aren't familiar with shrimp chips. Hmm. Who doesn't know what these are?

OK, you caught me. It's a lazy post.

Anyway, the shrimp chips above came from frying these poker-like chips below.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Goi Buoi Tom (Vietnamese Pomelo Salad with Shrimp)

Goi Buoi Tom (Vietnamese Pomelo Salad with Shrimp) 1

The last time I met up with Susan of Open Mouth, Insert Fork, she was kind enough to give me a whole bounty of citrus fruits, including her last pomelo.

Pomelos have very thick rinds with mild, not so juicy flesh. Think of grapefruit but with less juice and much sweeter. The membranes around each segment are thick too, so you'll want to discard that. The pomelos in Vietnam are much larger than I've seen here, sometimes weighing up to to 1 or 2 kg. Their tops are also oblong, so the pomelo is a bit pear-shaped.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hanh Phi (Vietnamese Fried Shallots)

Xoi Bap Hanh Phi (Vietnamese Sticky Rice with Corn and Fried Shallots)

Hanh phi (Vietnamese fried shallots) are used to top sticky rice (like in the photo above), added to salads, or cold noodle dishes. They taste milder than regular onions and lend a smokiness and crunch to many dishes. While you can buy them already fried and bagged at some Asian grocery stores, I usually make them fresh when I need them. You can also make larger batches and store them in the refrigerator.

When my aunts dug up shallots from the yard, they left behind a whole bunch of smaller ones. Not one to waste any food, I decided to fry them up.

Hanh Phi (Vietnamese Fried Shallots) 1

Friday, January 16, 2009

Apple Butter from Open Mouth, Insert Fork

Apple Butter from Open Mouth, Insert Fork

I few months ago, I won a pint of apple butter from Susan of Open Mouth, Insert Fork. I was so excited because the apple butter has been made by the Allen family in Sardis, West Virginia for more than 150 years. Every fall, over the course of three days, they make 150 pints of apple butter in the same copper cauldron that's been in the family for seven generations. Now that's tradition!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chickpeas with Sausage, Raisins, and Walnuts

Chickpeas with Sausage, Raisins, and Walnuts 1

On the same day I had planned to make my Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew), I also saw BB of Eat. Drink. Think. post about his trip to La Boqueria, a marketplace in Barcelona, Spain and the chickpea dish he ate each day from Pinotxo. I love chickpeas so discovering a new preparation for them was good enough for me. But BB's post also involved a chance encounter with... Well, I won't spoil it for you by telling his story. So you'll just have to visit his blog to get the story and to see pictures of the market.

Suffice it to say, the chickpea dish lingered in his memory and BB gave a bottle of St. Innocent pinot noir as a bribe in order to get the recipe.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

If I counted which recipe I get the most requests for, it'd probably be bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew).

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 1

I've received several emails asking for a recipe, but hadn't felt like making it. One month, I got 25 searches on the blog for bo kho. Once, in regards to my Pho 79 Restaurant - Alhambra post, someone emailed me to suggest I try the Vietnamese beef stew there. It's not like American beef stew, he said. Umm, yeah, I think I know all about Vietnamese beef stew. ;)

It's not that I dislike bo kho. It's that I'm incapable of cooking in small quantities. So I have to be in the mood for a whole lot of bo kho. In college, I used to make a pot of soup and eat it all week long. Soup seems to be the only thing I don't mind eating again and again. And if it's a tomato-based soup with oxtails, I relish eating each bowl.

But it wasn't until after the break-in, when my aunt brought over a bowl of bo kho and some sliced bread, that I was reminded of just how much comfort a bowl of Vietnamese beef stew provides.

Bo kho's distinct taste comes from the use of lemongrass, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, Vietnamese Indian Madras curry powder and Chinese 5-spice powder. The deep red color isn't just from tomato paste but also the use of annatto seeds. The stew needs to simmer for at least several hours to maximize flavor and for fall-apart tender beef. I prefer using a combination of beef stew meat and oxtails. The oxtails will result in a much deeper, richer flavor. You could certainly add tendon as well. Add the vegetables in the last hour of stewing so they don't become mushy.

And like most stews, it's even better the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. I Facebooked (Yeah, it's a verb now.) my cousins and friends to offer them some bo kho, but none took me up on it. So I ate it all by myself. It took me a week. And it was good every single time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vintage Napkin Holder from Tongue in Cheek

Last month, Corey of Tongue in Cheek, held a guessing game on her blog. For several years, I've enjoyed reading stories about her family in California and France, and looking at her gorgeous photos. I can't describe just how lovely her blog truly is so you'll just have to visit for yourself. Thus, I was very excited to check my mailbox and see a package from France. Inside was a vintage handmade embroidered napkin holder. Oooh.

Vintage Napkin Holder from Tongue in Cheek

Her note said it dates around the 1900s and was used to hold napkins between meals, and often for one week. Back then, napkins weren't washed after each meal. Eek!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Clafoutis aux Cerises (French Cherry Clafouti)

I first heard of cherry clafoutis several years ago when Amy of Nook and Pantry made one with Bing cherries and almond extract. Later Wok and Spoon made a dairy-free version with soy cream. By the time Dhanggit's Kitchen made hers, I knew it was time to finally try making a clafouti myself.

Clafoutis aux Cerises (French Cherry Clafouti) 1

The opportunity finally came last spring when I bought a batch of cherries that weren't particularly sweet. Rather than make another batch of Cherry Cinnamon Jam, I decided to bake them into a clafouti.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pho Minh Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte (Closed)

After a night of clubbing and *ahem* being slightly hungover, the oldest '87 suggested we go out for pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup). Perfect! Because I'd been meaning to explore some of the pho restaurants that I haven't dined along Garvey Avenue in El Monte and South El Monte.

Pho Minh Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte 1

Now here's where it gets a little iffy for me. While I'm somewhat aware of what Jonathan Gold or Chowhounders or Yelpers or other food bloggers write about, I really don't go anywhere based on any one particular recommendation. Sometimes, it's a general buzz that makes me curious, until something propels to me eat it right then and there. Pho Minh Vietnamese Restaurant fits right into that because well, while it seems to get some online lovin,' I have yet to hear it strongly recommended by a Vietnamese person.

As I drove along Garvey, I passed Pho Filet and wondered if it'd be good enough for me to skip the filet mignon pho since I was already in the neighborhood. Pho Minh is located deep inside a strip mall, literally just a block from Pho Huynh. That makes it nestled between two of my favorite pho restaurants, both of which feature filet mignon pho.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pho Filet Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte

Last spring after I posted about Pho Huynh Vietnamese Restaurant in South El Monte, WC reader Yum Cha Girl mentioned another filet mignon pho restaurant just down the street.

Pho Filet Vietnamese Restaurant - South El Monte 1

So last summer, despite the heat wave, the minute I said, "Filet mignon," lil' sis decided she wanted some too. I happened to catch Henry Chan's Food Videos online and asked if he wanted to join us for dinner. He said no because he was planning to go to the gym. When we were halfway to the restaurant, he called and said he was going to come after all. Ha! I think it was the mention of filet mignon that did it. ;)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Dining - Pasadena (Old Town)

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Dining - Pasadena (Old Town) 1

It goes without saying that hanging out with the guy cousins and their friends is very different from hanging out with the girls. With the girls, we're more conscious of getting the most bang for our buck. That usually means Korean barbecue or cheap eats. With the guys, it's about getting the best alcohol deals. And the buy-one-get-one-free Kirin and Sapporo beers in frosty mugs definitely fits the bill.

Actually, the guys had taken advantage of Gyu-Kaku's happy hour drink and appetizer specials several times. What? Without me? :(

Just guys, my brother said. But I didn't want to go to hang out with them... I just wanted to see what Gyu-Kaku was like since they sometimes mentioned it.

Luckily, cousin Q's older brother's friend isn't so exclusionary. So when he was in town for his birthday, he invited me along. Yay! I get to play with the boys.

Gyu-Kaku is a chain of Japanese barbecue restaurants. This location was in Old Town Pasadena, one block off the main strip on Green Street, next door to Bucca di Beppo Italian Restaurant.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pho Super Bowl Vietnamese Cuisine - Alhambra

I wonder if other people eat like I, or my family, do? That's not to say we don't set up dates to go out. More often than not though, what usually happens is I, or they, get hungry, and depending on the craving or the time, call up various cousins or friends. They do the same. Occasionally, if someone comes into town, we do a round-up and see who's available. Sometimes it's just a few people, or four, or six, or a dozen.

Pho Super Bowl Vietnamese Cuisine - Alhambra 1

Such was the case a few days after cousin Q's older brother's wedding. He was leaving for his honeymoon late that evening. Cousin T and her husband were flying back up to Oregon that afternoon. So we decided on Pho Super Bowl Vietnamese Cuisine in Alhambra since we were converging from three different places. After splitting up the calls to round-up the clan, we ended up with a dozen people.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Vietnam Restaurant - San Gabriel

So last summer, cousin Q's older brother's college friend (He was one of the groomsmen in the wedding.) was in town with his girlfriend, whose sister also joined us. Then there was me, my brother, cousin Q, and the younger '88's oldest brother.

Vietnam Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel 1

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Vietnam Restaurant (Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef)) - San Gabriel

After lunch at Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina - San Diego, I definitely needed a nap. By the time I got home, I was starving for some comfort food. Luckily, cousin Q's older brother and his wife were starving too. When I mentioned seven courses of beef at Vietnam Restaurant, that clinched it.

But the photos from this post aren't from my dinner with them. My cousin wanted to get three orders for the four of us. I said one order was enough to feed two people. It's because the bo 7 mon (Vietnamese 7 courses of beef) was $13.95. He said the same meal costs around $20 in NorCal. That night we only managed to finish one order.

Vietnam Vietnamese Restaurant (Bo 7 Mon (7 Courses of Beef)) - San Gabriel 1

Monday, January 05, 2009

Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina - San Diego

Since my cousin's wedding reception at Pearl Chinese Cuisine lasted pretty late, my siblings and I opted to spend the night in San Diego. We slept in so by the time we got to the house, we missed cousin Q's French toast. Apparently, he had all the burners going for hours so breakfast would be fresh for everyone.

After tossing around various ideas, we settled on Old Town San Diego because lil' sis said she remembered seeing handmade tortillas.

Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina - San Diego 1

I really wanted to see the Hotel del Coronado because it was constructed entirely of wood and was the inspiration for Richard Matheson to write "Somewhere in Time." (The "Somewhere in Time" movie, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, was filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan.) Lil' sis said it was better to save it for summer. So perhaps I'll be back.

It was a bright, sunny day, although a bit breezy and chilly. The main street had plenty of tourist shops and Mexican restaurants.

Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina - San Diego 2

We were lured into Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina by seeing these tortillas being handmade. According to the website, they make 7,000 corn and flour tortillas a day. Actually, many of the restaurants featured handmade tortillas.

Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina - San Diego 3

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Mi Vit Tiem Chay (Vietnamese Egg Noodle Soup with Chinese Five-Spice Vegetarian "Duck")

Mi Vit Tiem Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Chinese Five-Spice Duck Soup with Egg Noodles) 1

Mi Vit Tiem is a Vietnamese egg noodle soup with duck that's been seared and cooked with Chinese spices. It's not terribly difficult to make, although it does take a while to simmer until the duck is tender.

I made a quick vegetarian version instead. Mi Vit Tiem Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Chinese Five-Spice "Duck" Soup with Egg Noodles). But wait, did I forget I was making a vegetarian soup? It looks like I have duck in my bowl?

Actually, it's vegetarian duck.

What's that you ask? Look closely at the picture below.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Dragon Fruit Literally Blooms in Hours

As if you didn't have enough, I give you the photos of the flowers on the vine who didn't make it into the life cycle of dragon fruit set. Dragon fruit flowers will literally bloom in a matter of hours so if you're patient, you can witness the entire process.

Last September, I noticed this flower getting ready to bloom. The first photo was captured at 7:45 p.m.

1.3 Dragon Fruit Literally Blooms in Hours 1

Friday, January 02, 2009

Life Cycle of Thanh Long (Vietnamese Dragon Fruit)

On August 18, 2008, I noticed these dragon fruit buds on my vine. I decided to photograph their growth.

1.2 Life Cycle of Thanh Long (Vietnamese Dragon Fruit) 1

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Pearl Chinese Cuisine (Wedding Banquet) - San Diego

Cousin Q's older brother got married!

And why does marriage give you 525,600 calories?

Pearl Chinese Cuisine (Wedding Banquet) - San Diego 1

This story started back when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area during cousin Q's older brother's first year of college. Cousin Q's older brother's wife's sister, Salah Jonger (Ha! Did you follow all that?), during her maid-of-honor speech at the wedding reception, told the story of how they met. It was her first year of college too and in an effort to meet other people, cousin Q's older brother's wife took her around the dorm, knocking on various doors and introducing themselves. Cousin Q's older brother happened to live across the hall from Salah Jonger's high school friend.

Unbeknownst to me, sometimes when she asked my cousin to go eat, cousin Q's older brother said I had already fed him or took him grocery shopping. I met her a few years after that, when they were still just friends, during one of our family snowboarding trips. "Just friends" huh?