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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rose Suckers

3.31 Rose Suckers

I dug up my roses over the course of several months. Imagine my surprise when these rose suckers grew out of the former dug-up spots.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry

Recipe and photos updated from the archives June 7, 2014:

Chinese Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry 1

I messaged lil' sis the day she was coming home for spring break to tell her I was making Chinese beef and broccoli stir-fry for dinner.

"Yay!!!" she said. "But I'll be home kinda late. :( Like 11 p.m."

No matter. She'll eat it whenever. I wasn't cooking so that we would have a sit-down dinner. I was cooking one of her favorite dishes because she was coming home.

Beef and broccoli stir-fry is a standard item on Chinese restaurant menus in America. But, it's not even a Chinese dish, or rather, it's a Chinese American invention. That's because broccoli is an Italian vegetable. And if the Chinese did have beef and broccoli, it would involve Chinese broccoli AKA gai lan.

Chinese food is such a part of American culinary culture that there are about 40,000 Chinese restaurants, more than McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Wendy's combined, said Jennifer 8. Lee, author of "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food," at a TED Conference. I highly encourage you to watch Lee's speech on youTube. At the 4:24 mark, she mentioned that beef with broccoli was invented in the 1800s, but didn't become popularized until the 1920s and 1930s.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Afternoon Tea in the Garden with Portland from Glendora and Angel Face Roses

Afternoon Tea in the Garden with Portland from Glendora and Angel Face Roses 1

Recently, while I was tending to my roses, the middle '87 walked by with her dog, Kujo, the "killer" golden retriever. :P

I had finally gotten around to setting up my garden space -- potting my roses and putting together my patio table. It's not quite there yet, I still have a few plants that need proper pots and it's not quite blooming season for the roses. I let Kujo go off-leash in the yard, where he promptly rolled around and then proceeded to eat tufts of grass.

My cousin asked about the roses and I pointed them out by name.

"You gave them names?" she asked, slightly amused, especially since all she could see were thorns and leaves.

No. I don't give them names, they already have them.

"Oh. How can you tell them apart?"

Growth habits. Types of stems. Types of leaves. It's easier after they've bloomed.


Then she put the leash back on her dog and took him home for a bath. And that was that.

Until lil' sis said my cousin strongly hinted that she ask me if I would do a barbecue in the yard. Specifically, if I'd make Carne Asada. I said there wasn't time for a barbecue, but I could defrost my last container of Chicken Liver Pate and we could do an afternoon tea in the garden. My cousin brought over half a loaf of thick, dense Albertson's French bread. I deigned it unworthy of my pate and she tucked it back into her purse.

With one thing or another, spring break flew by and lil' sis went back to school. So on my cousin's last day in town, after work, I ran to Kiki Bakery - Alhambra to buy a chocolate swirl bun and a mini chocolate cake, and Banh Me & Che Cali Restaurant - Alhambra for a proper baguette. I caught her while she was out walking Kujo again and invited her over for afternoon tea. She rounded up her youngest brother and the older '88 and we had an impromptu afternoon tea, in the garden, amongst Portland from Glendora and Angel Face roses.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon (French Beef Burgundy Stew)

Boeuf Bourguignon (French Beef Burgundy) 1

When Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok , host of the almond round-up of Weekend Wokking, said she had an *ssload of BEEF, she needed to find recipes for, I took her at her word.

Oxtails are one of my favorite parts of the cow. But gosh! They're so expensive these days. When did this throwaway part become so popular?

Maybe around the same time that boeuf bourguignon (French beef burgundy) became haute cuisine?

Friday, March 27, 2009

MidnightMare Apparel Fashion Show at Project Ethos Presents: Culture Shock

The closest I'll ever come to a red carpet. ;)

MidnightMare Apparel at Project Ethos Presents - Culture Shock 1

I know you've been waiting eagerly, eeeeeagerly I tell ya, for an update of my cousins' MidnightMare Apparel fashion show that I teased you about previously.

All of the designers had tables featuring their wares. Some of the MidnightMare shirts for sale. Sorry, my photos were pretty bad so you should check out the MidnightMare website to see real pictures of the collection. All hand-drawn designs, 100% organic cotton and dyes, and locally made.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Introducing MidnightMare Apparel

MidnightMare Apparel 1

I'm gazing at a clothing rack filled with faux fur, feathers, and pleather. Rows of large black scallops are waiting to be stitched onto a skirt. Stacks of clothes are scattered throughout the room.

It's only one day before MidnightMare Apparel launches at Project Ethos Presents: Culture Shock on Friday night at Club Vanguard in Hollywood. The event features eight fashion designers, three musicians, and eight artists. Sure, MidnightMare has wearable clothing made of 100% organic cotton and dyes, with unique hand-drawn graphic designs, but when you come to see a fashion show, you want to see a SHOW!

And I'm only concerned with one designer, or rather four, the sibling team of Phong, Donna, Tony, and Judy, otherwise known as MY COUSINS!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Japanese Flavored Salts

Japanese Flavored Salts 1

The oldest '88 returned from studying abroad in Japan and brought me these flavored salts. How nice of her to remember me! She said she figured I'd want something food-related. But ummm... what do I do with them?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Costa Rican Guava and Passionfruit Chocolates

My brother brought back these guava and passionfruit chocolates from his recent vacation to Costa Rica.

Costa Rican Guava and Passionfruit Chocolates 1

Monday, March 23, 2009

Eclipse Chocolat and Handmade Earrings from Pink Candles at Ridgemont High

A few months ago, Canine Cologne of Pink Candles at Ridgemont High emailed me to ask if she could send me a present. She makes earrings and she'd like to give me some. Gosh! How nice is she? And wouldn't it be nice to have a pair of earrings from an online friend?

What I got was a very heavy BOX! And inside were these artisan chocolates from Eclipse Chocolat in San Diego. You can read about Eclipse Chocolat's chocolate cupcakes and drinks in her post. I'm totally going to visit if I'm ever back down there. They have dessert platters with chocolate cake, fruit, cheese, and drinks too!

Eclipse Chocolat and Handmade Earrings from Pink Candles at Ridgemont High 1

The chocolates were:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rosebuds and Waiting...

Look Nikki Polani! I haven't killed your roses yet. :P

When I last left off, I had vigorously pruned and then potted five rose bushes that Nikki was generous enough to give me. They took a little while to settle in, but are now giving off new shoots and budding.

Portland from Glendora rosebuds waiting to bloom. How apropos! A rose named after my hometown (Good old PDX, not Glendora.) and in my favorite shade of fuchsia.

3.23 Rosebuds and Waiting... 1

Snowbird waiting too.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

Day 4.4 Horsetail Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

We backtracked a bit and headed back east again past Multnomah Falls, to start at Horsetail Falls, which is viewable from the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Just pull over, snap a few photos, and continue on your way west again. I know, my sense of direction was terrible. But without the map that we got from the Multnomah Falls Visitor Center, I got all confused about where to start our trip. We skipped over Elowah Falls since it would have required too much backtracking.

Why the name? From certain angles, where the waterfall seems to veer off a bit, the cliff can look like a horse's rump and with the stream of water coming out from in between the two sides of the cliff, well...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Regional Recipes #6 (Mexico)

Before I moved to California, the majority of my experience with Mexican cuisine was in the form of Taco Bell. I know! I know! Tacos, and burritos -- such was the extent of my knowledge of Mexican cuisine. Fortunately, with the abundance of authentic and inexpensive Mexican food around, my culinary horizons have expanded.

Also, luckily for me, the culinary skills of the participants in the Mexican round-up of Regional Recipes goes way beyond tacos and burritos. There are 10 recipes ranging from beef to soup, salad, seafood, and even dessert.

In alphabetical order, we start with...
Adobo Braised Beef by Regional Recipes creator, Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok in Portland, Oregon. Darlene's recipe starts with memories of when she lived a few blocks away from the Mission District in San Francisco, where the weather was always sunny and the Mexican food was tasty and abundant. Nowadays, she prefers to cook Mexican food at home using ingredients that she previously overlooked such dried chilies.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scentimental Rose

Scentimental rose is one of my favorites for its red and white stripes, and slightly spicy fragrance. This is one of the few blooms in my garden, most of my roses are still buds.

3.19 Scentimental Rose 1

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grape Hyacinth

3.18 Grape Hyacinth 1

You know my penchant for re-purposing glass vinegar bottles and Coke bottles to serve as vases.

This Spega la Natura yogurt jar is perfect for short-stemmed flowers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chimichurri (Argentinian Green Sauce)

Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce 1

Gosh! How old has this been sitting in the queue. July 2008!

No story. Just a recipe I've played around with through the years for when I want something to dip my steak into. I like curly parsley for this, but flat-leaf parsley works well too. Normally a diced red bell pepper is used, but I didn't have any on hand and figured a carrot would break the color green a bit. I just like how the greenness of it makes me feel like I'm getting my vegetables, even when I'm eating a steak.

Chimichurri works with grilled chicken too. Or grilled vegetables. This recipe makes quite a bit, so dip it into anything you want. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

Day 4.3 Multnomah Falls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

When I was at that first job in the Bay Area that made me so miserable, there was another co-worker who was an Oregonian too. When he got transferred to another office, we started commiserating about our homesickness through interoffice emails. Then we started quizzing each other on random factoids.

What is Oregon's most visited tourist area?

Too easy.

Multnomah Falls, of course.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bun Nuoc Leo Soc Trang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup in Savory Broth with Fish, Roast Pork, and Shrimp)

Bun Nuoc Leo Soc Trang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup in Savory Broth with Fish, Roast Pork, and Shrimp) 1

After making Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill) with that big hunk of sturgeon that my oldest aunt gave me, I ventured to the opposite end of Vietnam for a recipe for the other half of the fish.

I had just finished preparing the fish and had marinated it for cha ca Thang Long when youngest aunt called me to come over for Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp). I wasn't about to pass up hu tieu, plus it gave me the chance to ask my uncle how to make Bun Nuoc Leo Soc Trang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup in Savory Broth with Fish, Roast Pork, and Shrimp). Youngest aunt's husband is from Soc Trang, in the Mekong Delta, so he would know.

What makes the nuoc leo (Vietnamese broth) distinct in this dish is the use of mam ca sac con (Vietnamese gourami fish sauce). No, other fish won't do, uncle says because the taste just wouldn't be right. But I guess if you can't find this particular type of fish sauce, then make fish broth instead. Galangal and lemongrass also add nuance to the broth and help cut some of the fishiness.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill)

Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-style Turmeric Fish with Dill) 1

I'm not sure what took me so long to finally blog my recipe for Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill). I like to think that I was trying to perfect it as I've made this numerous times before settling on this version.

The recipe and restaurant recommendation requests from family and friends motivated me to start the blog, but this dish was how I discovered food blogs in the first place as I searched for a recipe.

It wasn't that I was feeling particularly nostalgic for Hanoi as much as I was thinking of that summer in general. As I said, I didn't really get into this dish until I ate at the famous Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi. I had eaten it before in America, but eating cha ca at the restaurant that invented the dish more than a century ago, which is so famous that the street is named after the dish, was a whole 'nother experience. Sure it cost 10 times more than what I normally paid for a meal in Vietnam, but some things needed to be experienced. Even if it's just once.

Cooking with dill is a uniquely Northern Vietnamese ingredient. The unfamiliarity of this herb to most Vietnamese makes this dish less popular than it could be. It was hard for me to disassociate dill from pickles, but once I did, it became a lovely foil for fish. Sure I've had dill with salmon, but dill in Vietnamese cooking, especially in such copious amounts, was a new one for me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) - Hanoi - Vietnam

I've mentioned before that I discovered food blogs while searching for a recipe for Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill). I can't remember why I was craving those particular flavors at that time. It's not a dish I grew up eating as dill is mainly used in northern Vietnamese cooking. Besides, for me, since cha ca literally means fish paste, I think of my mom's fish paste patties.

Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) - Hanoi - Vietnam 1

Unless you're Vietnamese, the nuances of regional differences won't make much sense to you. No more is that clear than when it comes to speech. There are six tones so just a different inflection will be a different word. Throw in three A's (a, ă, and â), two E's (e and ê), one I but sometimes Y, three O's (o, ô, and ơ), and two U's (u and ư). The accents are on top of each of the vowels. There are also two D's (d and đ).

I remember reading once that when you're young, you learn languages on one side of the brain. While my Vietnamese isn't as fluent as my English, I can still navigate Vietnamese pretty well. Or rather, I should say South-Central Vietnamese. Northern Vietnamese with its ZZZZ sounds for the letters D, G, and R completely throw me for a loop. I can feel the other side of my brain shifting as it takes several seconds to translate the Northern dialect into South-Central before I can understand what someone is saying. In some cases, with the completely different vocabulary for some simple objects and I can't understand at all.

For me, being in Hanoi was akin to the time I lived in London. Technically, we were speaking the same language, but the different pronunciations and vocabulary often left me blank.

Granted, I wasn't at my best my first day in Hanoi. I was fighting a cold that had me alternately dizzy and sniffling. I thought Saigon was hot, but Hanoi was an absolute sauna. And the very first place my Vietnamese teachers/tour guides took us to was to you-know-who's mausoleum and museum.


Then we had an extremely overpriced (by Vietnam standards), but very delicious lunch of the aforementioned cha ca Thang Long at the restaurant that invented the dish, Cha Ca La Vong.

Afterward, I pleaded off from the rest of the day's tours because I was simply too sick to push on through. So I missed the trip to Van Mieu (Temple of Literature).

By the end of the month, Hanoi had grown on me a little bit. On my last day, I woke up super early and started at Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword Lake) to catch people exercising around the lake.

Then, I hailed a xe om (motorbike hug), Vietnamese slang for a person who hires out their motorbike like a taxi, to take me to Van Mieu. While I'm much more comfortable in Saigon, I can appreciate Hanoi for its centuries of Vietnamese history.

Built in 1070, Van Mieu was erected as a Confucian temple. In 1076, it housed Quoc Tu Giam (Imperial Academy), Vietnam's first university, educating bureaucrats, nobles, and other members of the elite until 1779.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Columbine and Hollyhocks

3.12 Columbine and Hollyhocks 1

For Pam of Sidewalk Shoes who wanted to see my columbine and hollyhocks.

I bought a six-pack of columbines about three years ago. This was the only one that made the move with me. It's yellow though, and I much prefer blue or red columbines. The pack only ended up growing white and yellow.

Like my gazing ball? It glows in the dark.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sugarloaf Pineapple

The sugarloaf pineapple I got in a plant swap from a reader about 18 months ago has pretty much stayed the same, only increasing in size.

3.11 Sugarloaf Pineapple 1

He said it would take about 18 months before it started bearing fruit. So imagine my eagerness when I saw this tiny shoot.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Prepare Sturgeon

Sturgeon is a firm-fleshed white fish. To me, they taste similar to ca loc (Vietnamese snakehead fish). My mom likes to use sturgeon in cha ca (Vietnamese fish paste) because the meat is already firm so no worries about it turning mushy when it gets ground into a paste.

Day 4.2 Bonneville Hatchery - Cascade Locks - Oregon 4
Sturgeon at Bonneville Hatchery, Cascade Locks, Oregon.

They are very large fish and if you find any in the store, it would probably be already filleted. But, on the off-chance that you have an oldest aunt like I have, who gives you a huge chunk of sturgeon every time you come home, you'll probably want to know what to do with it.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bonneville Hatchery - Cascade Locks - Oregon

Inside the same area as Bonneville Dam, lays the Fish Hatchery. When I was little, I remember coming here to feed the trout and visiting Herman, the sturgeon.

Day 4.2 Bonneville Hatchery - Cascade Locks - Oregon 1

I keep wanting to call him Sherman the sturgeon. Seems to have a better ring to it. But no, he's Herman.

Day 4.2 Bonneville Hatchery - Cascade Locks - Oregon 2

Sturgeon are part of an ancient group of fish that haven't changed much since they appeared 200 million years ago during the Jurassic era.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce)

Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce) 1

Every time I come back from visiting my parents, they always give me tons of frozen fish. Most of it is fish my dad caught, but sometimes it's fish my mom bought on sale. It doesn't matter that I can buy fish down here. Attempts to stop my parents from sending frozen love are always met with guilty reprimands. It's not always all for me. I dole out portions to my aunts and uncles down here too.

Anyway, this recipe has been sitting in the queue since May 2008. Hmm. I need to get better at blogging my recipes or remaking them because I realized that I don't eat fish as often as I should. I know! So bad of me!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bonneville Lock and Dam - Cascade Locks - Oregon

I've shown you the pioneers and the Oregon Trail, the other part about growing up in Oregon was having trees and mountains everywhere and spending summers on the coast. The outdoors we'll get to in a bit, but fish are plentiful.

When Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok and I met up, I suggested visiting Multnomah Falls and driving the back roads of the Historic Columbia River Highway to see more waterfalls. But first, we started at Bonneville Dam.

Day 4.1 Bonneville Lock and Dam - Cascade Locks - Oregon 1

Bonneville Dam spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. According to Wikipedia, the dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was named after Army Capt. Benjamin Bonneville, an explorer who charted a lot of the Oregon Trail.

Construction started in 1934, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal projects to provide jobs during the Great Depression. In non-stop, 8-hour shifts, 3,000 workers were paid 50 cents an hour. The dam was completed in 1937.

Although the dam generated electrical power and helped navigate the river, it negatively impacted Native American populations whose villages were flooded and white sturgeon whose upstream spawning was blocked.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Los Cinco Puntos - Los Angeles

Los Cinco Puntos - Los Angeles 1

Cousin Q asked if I wanted to try a place that made thick handmade tortillas for their soft tacos.


What's los cinco puntos? The five points as the market is located at the intersection of five streets.

Los Cinco Puntos - Los Angeles 2

You can see them making the tortillas.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tacos Baja Ensenada - East Los Angeles

I've been sitting on this post so long that Tacos Baja Ensenada is now just Tacos Baja. The cement patio tables and benches are long gone. But the fish tacos are still just as good as ever!

Tacos Baja Ensenada - (East) Los Angeles 1

Back in August 2007 (I told you I've been sitting on this post for a long time!), Henry Chan's Food Videos decided we should venture off from our usual Valley Boulevard lunch routine.

The self-serve bar of sliced radishes, chili-roasted chilies, and limes was definitely a good sign.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

King Taco Restaurants #11 - El Monte (Garvey Ave.)

King Taco Restaurants - El Monte (Garvey Ave.) 1

During one lazy summer night when lil' sis's best friend was over and I think one or two of my girl cousins (I don't even remember which ones!), we did a late night taco run. My family's preferred restaurant for Mexican tacos and nachos is Carnitas Michoacan - Los Angeles (Lincoln Heights), but on this particular night, we decided to go somewhere I hadn't blogged yet.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Roasted Pineapple Tomato Salsa

This recipe came about during a tomato recall when I could only find one small package of grape tomatoes at the store. And even the grape tomatoes were getting all cleaned out. June 8, 2008? Was there a sporting event on that day?

Roasted Pineapple Tomato Salsa 1

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup 1

My first experience with Mexican chicken tortilla soup was in college, during my dorm's Sunday dinners. It was the only meal the dining halls didn't serve, so we either went out to eat or someone cooked and we all chipped in $5. The proceeds went to charity and the meals were usually planned around a theme in order to explore a country's culture and cuisine.

One night, the professor, affiliated with my dorm, decided to make chicken tortilla soup. What? I thought tortillas were only eaten with salsa or as part of nachos. And avocado in a soup? So strange. But the crispy/creamy combo of tortillas and avocado won me over.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Monterey Park

Daikokuya Original Noodle and Rice Bowl - Monterey Park 1

Whenever cousin Q's older brother's friend comes into town, he always invites me to hang with the guys. Yippee! I get to play with the boys. My brother sometimes pulls the "guys only" thing on me, but cousin Q's older brother's friend never does. He's nice like that. :)

Do you want to eat or drink, I asked?

Not terribly hungry?

We could do yakitori and beer at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Shabu Shabu? His friend perked up at the mention of yakitori so that's where we ended up. Except the little skewers of meat weren't really filling him up that night. Hey! He said he wasn't hungry.

So when cousin Q strolled in later and mentioned that Daikokuya Original Noodle and Rice Bowl had literally just opened up in the same strip mall where we were already dining, I had never seen the guys guzzle their beers so fast.

We walked on over and were told they were completely out of ramen that night. :(

We ended up at JJ Hong Kong Cafe instead.

The next day, cousin Q called me up to see if I wanted to try again for lunch.

Only to find...

...they're only open for dinner.

*Cue sad face again and violin music.*

So a few days later, cousin Q's older brother's friend came back and we were ready to try again. A few months back, he was driving around the San Gabriel Valley and called me to ask for ramen suggestions for lunch. I said if he's willing to drive, he should just go to the Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. He did and loved it.

But when I visited the original location recently with cousin T and her husband, even though they thought it was excellent (and far better than anything that could be found in Portland), I found the broth quite bland. Oh no! I've heard others say the broth has been inconsistent but that was the first time I experienced it myself.

So would this newest location equal the original? Or would it bomb like Elmo of Monster Munching's experience with the Costa Mesa Daikokuya?