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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Autumn Sunset Climbing Rose

4.30 Autumn Sunset Climbing Rose

Autumn Sunset Climbing had sprawled up and over the corner of my gazebo. I didn't want to leave it behind when I moved so I hacked off most of its canes and potted it. I was worried it wouldn't transition well, and truthfully, it struggles. So I was quite happy to see even one bloom!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

St. Patrick-ish Rose

4.29 St. Patrick-ish Rose

When Nikki Polani gave me this rose, she said she bought it as a miniature at the grocery store and didn't know what kind it was, but that it resembled St. Patrick. So it's St. Patrick-ish since I'm not certain.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Peace Rose

4.28 Peace Rose

Peace rose is looking decidedly yellow instead of its usual light yellow/light pink color.

Both Peace and Chicago Peace roses were purchased by my mom for the old house. When I dug them up, the roots were so huge that I took half and left the other half in the ground. My half seems to be growing just fine.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Iceberg Rose Again

4.27 Iceberg Rose

The Iceberg rose is so common in Southern California, but I like its pure white blooms anyway.

Especially because my brother had left this bush to overgrow to be even taller than me. I had to hack off basically all of its branches in order to transport it. I worried that it wouldn't revive since I had cut off so much. But sure enough it eventually grew new shoots and bloomed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Potted Rose Garden

4.26 Rose Garden 1

Sometimes I miss my old garden.

A lot.

A lot of sweat and money went into creating it. I had a dry riverbed that meandered throughout. Nice paths to walk along each section. An edibles and herb garden on the side. A trellis of climing roses. And even though the soil was hard-packed clay, my roses seemed to like it.

In pots now? Not so much.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Vietnamese Goat in 7 Courses (De 7 Mon) at Binh Dan Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Thirty-four years ago, the Vietnam War ended when Saigon fell on April 30. Little Saigon in Orange County, California is the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. There are now more than 11,000 Vietnamese-owned businesses in Orange County offering almost every kind of service and serving almost every kind of dish.

In a non-descript strip mall in Westminster lies Binh Dan Restaurant. The specialties at Binh Dan (Vietnamese for commoner) are mon nhau (Vietnamese for drink-friendly food) and de 7 mon (Vietnamese goat in 7 courses). Nothing fancy here. Basic working-class food.

Binh Dan Restaurant (De 7 Mon (Vietnamese Goat in 7 Courses)) - Westminster (Little Saigon) 2

Goat can be an acquired taste for many people. At Binh Dan, the goat is locally sourced, coming from the owners' father's farm in Riverside County. The cooks are known for removing the gamey taste from the meat. I've been curious to try this restaurant ever since reading Kirk of Mmm-yoso's visit. With Foodbuzz's 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Posts to foot the bill, I invited a few of my more adventurous eating friends - kevinEats, Pepsi Monster, Danny of Kung Food Panda, and Aaron of Destination Eats, who specifically said he likes gamey meats. I told them the 7 courses of goat was on the menu, with perhaps a side order of de vu nuong (Vietnamese grilled goat breast/udder).

My main concern when introducing others to unfamiliar dishes or cuisine is that the person doesn't balk at trying anything, including udders. I said it! Well, technically breast is a correct translation too, but if they're game when I utter "udder" and "blood pudding" then they can hang with me. ;)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wandering Chopsticks Header Courtesy of MidnightMare

Wandering Chopsticks Header Designed by MidnightMare

Did ya'll notice my awesome new header? I don't even remember asking my cousin for it, but I'm glad I did!

He said he couldn't sleep one night and started surfing online before landing on my ramen pictures of Aji Man Japanese Restaurant.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chocolate Ginger Cookies So Easy Even a 2-year-old Can Make Them

"Auntie, play pasta," baby M asked recently.

I can do better than that! As I got out the ingredients to make sugar cookies, she flipped the page to ginger cookies and was enthralled by the white icing and candied fruit toppings.

"Oooh," she looked at me imploringly. OK, guess we're making ginger cookies then. When you let a 2-year-old handle the measuring spoons, she gets a little heavy-handed measuring out the cocoa. Chocolate ginger cookies it is then.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies 1

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Make Homemade Play Dough

"Pretty soon, all your friends will be married with kids and the only friend you'll have left is your cousin's baby," said my mom, who was giving me one of her many old maid lectures.

Homemade Play Dough 1

And literally right then and there, in strolled baby M, cousin t's daughter. (Cousin t, lower case, is not to be confused with Oregon cousin T, upper case.) The oldest '87 had a lunch date and figured baby M would want to play with me, or maybe she just didn't feel like babysitting?

Baby M immediately headed into my kitchen, where I kept my mini pots and pans set. Yes, it's mine! I only let baby M play with it when she comes over. ;)

Instead of pretending to eat tasty "air," I decided to make her some play dough. I halved the recipe and divided it into two for two colors. I also didn't have any Kool-Aid on hand so just ordinary food coloring was fine. Boiling water wasn't needed either.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Homemade Laundry Detergent

With the rising costs and smaller packaging of almost everything these days, I decided to try my hand at making my own laundry detergent. There are a slew of homemade detergent recipes out there, some involved cooking soap flakes until they gelled. Eh, too much work for me. My preferred brand is Arm & Hammer laundry detergent anyway, so adding actual baking soda to the mix made sense. Add a few bars of grated laundry soap and washing soda and it seemed simple enough.

Homemade Laundry Detergent 1

Monday, April 20, 2009


Because the word columbine shouldn't always conjure memories of tragedy...

4.20 Columbine 1

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden

You can get a Danish father-in-law to build you proper raised beds for your garden like what Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok did. Or you make a ghetto-tastic raised bed garden out of discarded kiddie pools. :)

How to Make a Kiddie Pool Raised Bed Garden 1

One of my neighbors threw out a stack of rigid plastic kiddie pools. If you're not lucky enough to stumble upon some free kiddie pools, you can find them for pretty cheap at most stores. These kiddie pools are about six inches deep and three feet in diameter -- big enough for a good-sized crop, small enough for me to reach across and garden.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth Machine Compost Bin

Let's talk about composting. Yes, it's related to food. Think of all the peels, roots, and other fruit and vegetable scraps you discard in the kitchen. I always felt guilty about wasting food. Now, I still feel guilty if I waste food, just slightly less so.

Considering Earth Day is coming up, I think compost talk is fitting.

Earth Machine Compost Bin

I use an Earth Machine compost bin. I've seen them on eBay for about $75, but you don't need to pay that much. I bought mine for $20 from the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. They sell compost bins twice a month to Los Angeles city residents. They also sell a stackable version for $45. I, obviously, went with the cheaper model.

Check with your city to see if compost bins are sold at reduced cost. Portland Metro sells them year-round for $39. My parents had one so that's why I'm used to this type of composter.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel (Closed)

Aji Man. From the name and the logo featuring a cute old man, I thought Aji Man Japanese Restaurant in San Gabriel was a copycat version of Ajisen Ramen, a world-wide chain with a logo of a winking little girl.

How wrong I was.

Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel 1

Imagine my surprise when I read in Around Alhambra (Click on the April 2009 edition, section B, page 11.) that Aji Man is actually owned by a Japanese family, Osami Sasaki, his wife, Mieko, and their son Takatumi. Osami grew up in Kobe, Japan and was trained as a sushi chef before switching over to ramen.

His ramen is Hokkaido-style, a lighter and clearer stock than the milky Kyushu-style tonkotsu broth that's popular at restaurants such as Daikokuya and Santouka. At Aji Man, the ramen is cooked at a lower flame for a clearer broth, and combines pork bones and fish.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Gardena

Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Gardena 1

The first time I tried Shin-Sen-Gumi's Hakata-style ramen was at the Fountain Valley location when it first opened about a decade ago. I thought it was fine, but nothing revelatory. I also tried ramen at this location and at Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Rosemead. Again, all good, but nothing special.

That didn't happen until I tried Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo).

Somewhere along the way, I must have rejiggered my tastebuds. That, or I learned the nuances of porky tonkotsu-style broth.

So when cousin Q's college friend was in town and he didn't want to drive down to Gardena alone, I tagged along.

The difference with Shin-Sen-Gumi versus the other locations is that you can choose soft, medium, or hard noodles and light, medium, or heavy broths. Hakata-style is tonkotsu broth, pork bones that have been boiled for hours to release the creamy appearance, but also with thin, straight ramen noodles, so says Rameniac, and I figured he would know best.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

STK - Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

STK, is a fancy schmancy steak house in West Hollywood that apparently is popular with the celebrities. Teri Hatcher, celebrated her 44th birthday here. Courteney Cox and David Arquette supposedly liked to move to the central atrium for after-dinner cocktails.

STK - Los Angeles (West Hollywood) 1

Much fancier than the restaurants where I usually dine, so when Abby of Pleasure Palate courtesy of Emily Olsen, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the One Group, invited me to a blogger dinner here, I was curious to check it out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Snowbird Rose

4.14 Snowbird Rose 1

Snowbird rose was one of the five roses that I received from Nikki Polani. It looks pure white, but when fully blossomed has a nice creamy center.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Heirloom Rose

4.13 Heirloom Rose 1

I've always thought Heirloom rose was aptly named. The smoky grey-ish pink rose looks so old-fashioned to me.

The pinks give way to lavender when it's fully bloomed.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spaghetti alla Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese 1

I've made plenty of spaghetti through the years. Chopped an onion, diced some garlic, sauteed in olive oil, added in ground beef, and then dumped in a jar of pasta sauce. Basic. Filling. Good.

Sometimes, if I wasn't feeling too lazy, I'd make Spaghetti and Meatballs instead of a big pot of sauce.

And recently jazzed it up with the Chinese version, Zha Jiang Mian (Chinese Fried Sauce Noodles aka "Chinese Spaghetti").

But what I really wanted was something more-ish. Time to make a proper spaghetti with bolognese sauce. No more jars of pasta sauce. Well, there is a large can of whole tomatoes in the recipe, which I then crushed by hand, but bolognese sauce has less liquid than you might think. What stands out for me is the addition of bacon and red wine, and the finely diced vegetables. Can't resist how those peas just pop out at me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Zha Jiang Mian (Chinese Fried Sauce Noodles aka "Chinese Spaghetti")

Recipe and photos updated from the archives June 19, 2014:

Zha Jiang Mian (Chinese Fried Sauce Noodles ie. Chinese Spaghetti) 3

This is another quick and easy recipe using those lovely fresh noodles from Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel. You can also use spaghetti noodles for this dish if you don't have any fresh Chinese wheat noodles available. In fact, Zha Jiang Mian (Chinese Fried Sauce Noodles) is often nicknamed "Chinese Spaghetti" because of the similarities in appearance. Definitely not similar in taste though.

The sauce on these noodles comes from equal parts Doubanjiang (Chinese Broad Bean Paste), and Chinese Black Bean, and Hoisin Sauces. And like Italian spaghetti, you can doctor it up with minced garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Traditionally, ground pork is used, but I've substituted with ground turkey just fine. If you don't have any fermented broad bean paste available, you can substitute with Doenjang (Korean Soybean Paste). If you really can't find either broad bean pastes, you can also use Chao/Doufu Ru (Vietnamese/Chinese Fermented Bean Curd). This recipe is very forgiving so feel free to make additions or substitutions.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chinese Noodle Soup with Ground Turkey and Pickled Mustard Greens

Chinese Noodle Soup with Ground Turkey and Pickled Mustard Greens 1

Since I bought those lovely noodles from Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel, I couldn't let them go to waste. With fresh noodles, the rest of the ingredients take a backseat so the noodles can really shine.

This soup was inspired by the pork and Szechuan pickles at Luscious Dumplings, Inc. - San Gabriel. I didn't have any pork on hand so I substituted with ground turkey instead. Chopped up some Chinese pickled mustard greens and I was good to go.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel (Closed)

When I first saw Bamboodles Restaurant replace the Chinese ramen restaurant, I figured it was along the same lines and didn't pay much attention. Then via Pleasure Palate, I saw Exile Kiss's post about how the noodles were kneaded by a man bouncing on a big bamboo pole.

Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel 1

Err. That sounds a lot dirtier than it actually is.


Man bouncing on bamboo pole.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Palms Thai Restaurant - Los Angeles (Hollywood)

Back in September 2008, my brother and his wife, cousin Q, his older brother and his wife, and I dined at Palms Thai Restaurant, home of Thai Elvis.

Don't be cruel. Surely you've heard of Thai Elvis?

Palms Thai Restaurant - Los Angeles (Hollywood) 1

Unfortunately, the acoustics in the restaurant were absolutely retched. I couldn't even tell you what Thai Elvis was crooning that evening. Nonetheless, where else can you get pad Thai with a side of "Love Me Tender"?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Songkran (Thai New Year) Festival - Los Angeles (Thai Town)

Did you know that Los Angeles has a Thai Town? So designated in 1999. And that it is America's first and only Thai Town? L.A. is home to 80,000 Thai Americans, the largest community outside of Thailand.

Songkran (Thai New Year) Festival - Los Angeles (Thai Town) 1

I remember the neighborhood designation being big news back then. Though I've eaten at some restaurants in Thai Town, I hadn't really taken the time to explore it. So Gourmet Pigs and I decided to attend the 6th annual Songkran (Thai New Year) Festival on Hollywood Boulevard, between Western and Normandie Avenues.

The Songkran Festival in Thai Town takes place the first Sunday in April. It was soooo hooot! I had to park several miles away up in the hills. Sweltering and long walk, I got my exercise in for sure.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

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

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Japanese Garden) (Spring) - San Marino 1

From the Chinese Garden, we made our way to the Japanese Garden. The wisteria were no longer blooming when I visited the Huntington Japanese Garden in May 2008. So if you love wisteria as much as I do and want to catch them in bloom, April is definitely the month to visit. Again, read the previous post for some background info on the Japanese Garden, otherwise, mostly pictures.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Liu Fang Yuan (Garden of Flowing Fragrance) Chinese Garden) (Spring) - San Marino

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Chinese Garden) (Spring) - San Marino 1

After leaving the greenhouse, my cousin and I made our way to the Chinese Garden. The garden has settled in a little more since my visit to the Huntington's Chinese Garden in 2008. Less bare spots. More info about the garden in my previous post. So just mainly pictures here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

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

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Spring) - San Marino 1

I managed to score tickets to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens on their first Thursday free day so my third-cousin came up from Orange County to hang out. After a quick dim sum at Elite Restaurant - Monterey Park, we dashed over to the Huntington Library to get in before our time slot was up.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sunday Bistro - Alhambra

Given that my attempts to explore new cuisines at Uzbekistan - Los Angeles and Tagine - Beverly Hills were such let-downs, by the time lil' sis's best friend asked where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner, I opted for the comfort of a Hong Kong cafe.

My, and lil' sis's, favorite Hong Kong cafe is still Baccali Cafe & Rotisserie - Alhambra, but we figured we should try somewhere new.

Sunday Bistro - Alhambra 1

Sunday Bistro is located on the far left edge of the same strip mall as Top Island Seafood Restaurant. The parking lot is generally pretty crowded so the hassle of finding a spot makes it fall off my radar.