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Monday, August 31, 2009

Ca Hap Gung Hanh (Vietnamese Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions)

Ca Hap Gung Hanh (Vietnamese Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions) 1

I'm not much for fussing with fish dishes. In my family, we either fried fish and served it with Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce) or steamed it with ginger and scallions.

I'd eat a lot more fish if it weren't always such a pain to gut and scale. Unfortunately, or is it fortunately, my daddy is an avid fisherman and he keeps me well supplied with perch, catfish, and sturgeon. *Sigh.* I can't avoid gutting and scaling fish forever. So when Yasmeen of Health Nut, host of last month's Weekend Wokking cheese roundup, announced GINGER as this month's secret ingredient challenge, I figured this simple preparation was easy enough to do.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Station Fire Over Downtown Los Angeles

Station Fire Over Downtown Los Angeles 1

On our way to the Malibu Wine Classic, I shot these photos of the Station Fire over downtown Los Angeles.

Four area wildfires have burnt more than 100,000 acres so far. I live far enough inward that I don't have to worry about my home being on fire, but I've been limiting the amount of time I spend outside because it's been such a struggle to breathe. Ashes dust my car. Ashes in the air. Oy. And it's not even wildfire season yet.

Stay safe everyone!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

7th Annual Malibu Wine Classic - Malibu

My friend DP asked if I wanted to go out for dumplings Saturday.

Mmm. Luscious Dumplings. She hadn't been in a while. I was just there again earlier this week.

But, when I mentioned I had received an invite for a free press pass with a +1 via E*starLA to the Malibu Wine Classic, dumplings were promptly forgotten.

7th Annual Malibu Wine Classic 1

The 7th Annual Malibu Wine Classic features 60 wineries from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, along with 20 restaurants from Malibu and Los Angeles such as Water Grill, STK, and SaddlePeak Lodge. $50 of each ticket goes toward ChildHelp, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse.

Drink, eat, perhaps catch sight of a celebrity or two. It seemed simple enough, except that everyone wanted to hit up the beach that day. It took us an hour just to crawl the few miles from Santa Monica to Malibu.

Friday, August 28, 2009


8.28 Pomegranates 1

A few months after the pomegranate tree blossoms, of course, you get pomegranates.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tom Nuong Hanh Ngo (Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp with Scallion Cilantro Sauce)

Tom Nuong Hanh Ngo (Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp with Scallion Cilantro Sauce) 1

I had so much Chinese Scallion Cilantro Dipping Sauce left over that I decided to add fish sauce and make it into a marinade for grilled shrimp. Sure the base recipe might be Chinese, but if I add fish sauce, that makes it Vietnamese, right? :P

Like the Thit Nai Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Venison), the plating for these photos took place several days after my dinner party since I was far too busy then to do any styling. That night, my friends and I had wrapped the shrimp up in rice paper, but you could also serve this with cold vermicelli rice noodles and Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Stuff ie. Carrots and Daikon) for a nice summer meal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bun Thit Nai Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Lemongrass Venison)

Bun Thit Nai Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Noodles with Grilled Lemongrass Venison) 1

I guess I shouldn't have invited people over after I had just got back from NorCal, but I had some more venison after just coming back from Portland too, and Gourmet Pigs wanted to try some. I invited Tony of SinoSoul and his wife to round out our group.

Venison tastes like beef to me so you can easily substitute beef in this recipe. Doesn't it look like beef too?

The actual plating for this took place a few days after our dinner because we were too busy eating for me to make things look pretty. Not that I think this looks all that great because I had only had my camera for about a month at this point so I was still trying to figure things out. Still am. :P

Anyway, Vietnamese cold noodle dishes are great to eat during the summer because the only heating up is the meat. The crunch of Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Stuff ie. Carrots and Daikon) and the fresh veggies make a wonderful contrast.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dragon Fruit Blossom Extreme Close-up

8.25 Dragon Fruit Blossom Extreme Close-up 1

I'm quickly running out of ways to photograph dragon fruit blossoms so I thought I'd start with the extreme close-up and gradually retreat outwards.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dragon Fruit Bud

8.24 Dragon Fruit Bud

Not much. Just really liked my photo of this little dragon fruit bud.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sangria with White Wine

White Wine Sangria 1

I found this lovely pitcher at the thrift store when I was in Portland visiting my folks. Loved the silver filigree design. Only $2.95!

On a later visit, I saw it with a cap and on a pedestal that looked like it would hold a tea light. Anyone know what these pitchers are used for? Just to keep your coffee hot? Mulled wine perhaps? I was tempted to buy another, but I already had this one and just use it for juices and sangria.

Not that anyone really needs a recipe for sangria...

But hey, it's Regional Recipes time and we're celebrating Spain!

I'll let you in on a little secret though. My red wine sangria and my white wine sangria? The same thing! Bwahaha. I'm so lazy. The only variation is the color of wine and what fruit I have on hand.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tres Generaciones Tequila Tasting (W Hotel) - Los Angeles (Westwood)

Tres Generaciones Tequila Tasting (W Hotel) - Los Angeles (Westwood) 1

I don't drink that often these days so drinking events aren't usually on my radar. But, when Matt of Dig Lounge, courtesy of Jennifer Grunstad of the Zocalo Group, sent me an invite for molecular cocktails with light appetizers held at a poolside cabana at the W Hotel in Westwood? And my valet parking was covered too? It was enough to convince me to drive to the westside.

Tres Generaciones, which means three generations in Spanish, is named after Don Cenobio, Don Eladio, and Don Francisco Javier Sauza, the three heads of the Sauza family. The tequila is 100% Weber blue agave. Don Cenobio created his Sauza tequila in 1873, his son and grandson followed in his footsteps in leading the family company.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chinese Scallion Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Chinese Scallion Cilantro Dipping Sauce 1

Remembering the great scallion dipping sauce I so recently had at Pho Ga Huong Que Cafe - Oakland, I added cilantro to make a Chinese Scallion Cilantro Dipping Sauce to go with the Chao Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Rice Soup) I made for lil' sis.

You can either dip the chicken pieces into this sauce, or swirl a dollop into your rice porridge. And instead of porridge, this sauce would go really great with Ga Hap (Vietnamese Steamed Chicken).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Chao Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Rice Porridge) and Whether Food Equals Love

Chao Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Rice Porridge) 1

Toward the end of our trip to the Bay Area, lil' sis got sick. The night we got in, I doused her with Theraflu and Airborne. The next morning, she was still feeling sickly, so I made her chicken soup, the Vietnamese version of course. By late afternoon, the combination of medicine and Vietnamese chao ga did its trick and I declared her fit enough to drive to Vegas to celebrate her birthday with the girls.

I had a much more pedestrian evening, inviting a handful of friends over for dinner.

Later that night, my friend caught me online and after our usual pleasantries veered into a discussion about whether food equates to love. For me, the answer is rather obvious. For him, decidedly the opposite.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant - Coalinga

17 Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant - Coalinga 1

I've driven past the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant in Coalinga countless times during trips up and down the West Coast. Since we already took a detour to visit the Centennial Light, I figured we might as well take another detour for food as well.

Since lil' sis was sick, I figured a bowl of soup would do her better than an In-N-Out burger, our usual stop-off food.

Harris Ranch is a ranch, so expect the requisite cow smells when nearby. At least it didn't smell like that inside the restaurant. Various cuts of beef, in case you didn't know.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Centennial Light (World's Longest Lasting Light Bulb) - Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department Station 6 - Livermore

16 Centennial Light (World's Longest Lasting Light Bulb) - Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department Station 6 - Livermore 1

On our way back down to SoCal, I wanted to stop off in Livermore to visit the Centennial Light, the world's longest lasting light bulb. It's been burning continuously since 1901!

Lil' sis, used to my oddities, agreed to the slight detour, but since she was feeling poorly, decided to stay in the car.

The centennial light bulb has been burning continuously since 1901! It's in the Guinness Book of World Records. It even has a 24-hour webcam focused on it at all times. We're already here, does she really want to miss out on this chance to see it?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tastebook Steals Bloggers' Recipes and Pictures

Does the photo look familiar? The writing should look familiar too.

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 3

That's because it's my Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) photo and recipe. Reprinted without my permission.

Last week, Sis of The Cast Iron Kitchen made my recipe and in her search came across the stolen version. She quickly alerted me, unsure whether that was the right thing to do. Of course, it was! Thank you again so much for telling me.

So I followed user Robert's page and found a dozen of my recipes and/or photos that were stolen and reposted on Tastebook's site without any credit given. GRRR!!!

I promptly made copies of all the pages and emailed Tastebook support, feedback, and PR to remove the copyrighted material. All I got back was a generic auto-reply, and then once an email from support saying they're asking the user to delete the content. Not that they deleted the content immediately when it was obvious to anyone, comparing my blog post and what was submitted, that the content was stolen.

A week later, I checked and the previous links were gone. But, I found 10 more of my recipes and/or photos stolen by Serenity and Mimi. GRRR!!! I also found stolen content from several other blogs.

Why does this matter?

First and foremost, I spend a lot of time cooking, photographing, editing, and writing content for my blog. That another website allows users to steal my content is completely reprehensible. Since Tastebook is a user-submitted site, then it needs to police its content. Period.

Each of my recipes have had hundreds of pageviews on their website. In simplest terms, that means people are not looking at my website but theirs in order to get the recipe. In many cases, without attribution, people even think my recipes and photos are Tastebook's. In other cases, since the whole point of their website is for people to pay to collate the recipes into a book, then Tastebook is literally making money off my work.

This needs to stop now. It's not just Tastebook, other aggregate sites do the same thing and I'm sick and tired of it. They're all violating bloggers' copyrights and they all need to police their content.

You wanna know why I've lost energy to blog? This is why. Keep scrolling down. There's a damn lot of my recipes that were stolen.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Manna Korean Restaurant - Rosemead (Closed)

Manna Korean Restaurant - Rosemead 1

Not to be confused with the other all-you-can-eat Manna Korean BBQ - Los Angeles (Koreatown). I had driven past this Manna several times and only noticed it because it was a little unusual to have a Korean barbecue restaurant on this lonely stretch of road.

I finally tried it out when I joined the oldest '87's family for dinner to celebrate her oldest sister's birthday. I told them to start without me since I was coming from work and would be late. My cousins said they were in a private room inside.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sura Korean Cuisine - Oakland

15 Sura Korean Cuisine - Oakland 1

The middle '87's oldest brother had come home from work a little early to take us out for dinner. How nice! He mentioned once that the Korean barbecue restaurants in LA don't give us as many banchan (Korean side dishes) as his favorite place, Sura Korean Cuisine in Oakland, so that's where we decided to have dinner.

I think this has to be the most colorful array of panchan I've ever had.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Imperial Tea Court (Ferry Building) - San Francisco (Embarcadero)

14 Imperial Tea Court (Ferry Building) - San Francisco (Embarcadero) 1

While lil' sis and the middle '87 were enjoying cocktails and oyster shooters at Butterfly Restaurant, back at the Ferry Building, I met up with Chuck of Sunday Nite Dinner and FoodGawker. He had to finish up some work and then rushed over in a taxi so I wouldn't have to wait long. How nice! And really, it was great to finally meet up and find out that he was just as nice in person as I thought.

I opted for Imperial Tea Court since a tea house seemed like a relaxing place to sit and chat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Being Sick, Being Thankful, and Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

"You finally started blogging again," said the middle '87 during an early dinner of dumplings last week at Dean Sin World - Monterey Park. Just a few months ago, she had nagged me about updating the blog. "You have fans, you know," she said after checking and yet again seeing no new post.

"If you don't update, your fans will go away," said her oldest brother, who told me he stopped checking every day too.

OK. OK. Yes, in fits and starts, I've started blogging regularly again. Did you miss me? Did you notice?

On Being Sick, Being Thankful, and Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 1

And no, I really can't eat chao (Vietnamese rice porridge) with chopsticks. I updated the photos in my old post and forgot to use a spoon for the picture. No wonder I needed a break since I was that scatterbrained. :P What can I say? I see rice bowl, I automatically think chopsticks.

This post has been long, long overdue. After more than three years of blogging, I just needed a breather. I was sickly off and on all winter. I was frustrated and angry with my content being stolen again and again and again. I was out of town for most of June. My internet kept going out last month. But really, it started last November after my house was broken into and my laptop got stolen. They took my laptop case, which had my important papers including my citizenship certificate, which costs $380 to replace by the way! Grr!

There's a vast difference between choosing not to blog and having that choice taken away from me. Every once in a while, I see that someone searched for "what to do when my house gets broken into" to land on my blog and I always feel a little sad all over again. It took months and months before I stopped being so paranoid in my own house.

And it's taken that much longer to pick up the blogging momentum again. The funny thing is that it is actually easier for me to blog every day than to do so sporadically. The comments pile up. The emails remain unanswered. The queue gets longer and longer. For that, I must apologize. I either have to stay on top of the blog, or I get buried under. And well, for the past year, I've allowed myself the latter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Butterfly Restaurant (Pier 33) - San Francisco (Embarcadero)

After eating clam chowder in a bread bowl at Fisherman's Wharf, lil' sis and the middle '87 walked back to the Ferry Building. Along the way, they stopped off at Butterfly Restaurant at Pier 33 for the happy hour specials.

12 Butterfly Restaurant (Pier 33) - San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf) 1

Cherry blossom cocktail, $5, Effen black cherry vodka, lemon, bradied cherries.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Miette Patisserie (Ferry Building) - San Francisco (Embarcadero)

After lunch at Jovino - San Francisco with my college friends, one of them dropped me off at the Ferry Building so I could rendezvous with lil' sis and the middle '87.

9 Miette Patisserie (Ferry Building) - San Francisco (Embarcadero) 1

I was drawn by the display of pastries at Miette Patisserie and the giant glass jars of macarons.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jovino - San Francisco (Marina / Cow Hollow) (Closed)

8 Jovino - San Francisco (Marina  Cow Hollow) 1

The next day, I met up with two of my college friends at Jovino - San Francisco for lunch since one of them worked in the area.

To be honest, I don't really remember anything about the food. We ordered a few sandwiches and a burger, and shared everything as usual. In fact, during our senior year on a cruise from Miami, Florida to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico, we would coordinate who ordered what for dinner each night so that we could try everything. Because if they were truly my friends, wouldn't they order what I liked? :)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Banh Mi Thit Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork and Egg Sandwich)

Banh Mi Thit Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork and Egg Sandwich) 3

I told you I was going to steal the idea of a Vietnamese braised pork and egg sandwich after having eaten one at Quan Mien Trung Vietnamese Cuisine in Rosemead, CA.

And so I did.

This is one of those brilliant ideas that I wonder why I hadn't thought of it before. Seriously, the unctuousness of braised pork with sliced hard-boiled eggs, stuffed into toasty Vietnamese French bread.

Sooo good!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Quan Mien Trung Vietnamese Cuisine - Rosemead (Closed)

Quan Mien Trung Vietnamese Cuisine - Rosemead 1

Sometimes I get a little frustrated trying to explain the regional nuances of Vietnamese cuisine. Most people know, or at least have heard of, the differences between North and South, or if they know of Central cuisine, they usually think of Hue. So it seems like I'm always asserting the South-Central Coastal differences.

Hey, we're a different breed you know! Honestly, we all have our biases of how we think food should be, mostly based upon how it was prepared in our homes. And while I don't think anything will ever taste as good as my momma's home cooking, it's nice to stumble upon a restaurant where a lot of my regional foods can be found. Where I don't have to explain that Central-style banh xeo (Vietnamese sizzling crepe) is different -- smaller, no coconut milk, no turmeric. Where they make the pulverized shrimp on top of banh beo (Vietnamese steamed rice discs with shrimp) exactly like how my family makes it -- not quite fresh, but not super dry.

About six months ago, while grabbing a chocolate croissant at Mr. Baguette, I noticed that the Banh Cuon So 1 & BBQ across the street was going out of business. In its place was a Central Vietnamese restaurant, the literal translation of Quan Mien Trung. Yippee!

So when my childhood friend had a craving for Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup), we decided to check it out. Turns out, the owners are from Qui Nhon, just an hour north of our hometown. That's pretty much the same thing, said our waiter, and indeed we had a lively discussion of our regional foods.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Banana Leaf Restaurant - Milpitas

After third lunch at House of Nanking - San Francisco, the plan was to drop lil' sis and the middle '87 off at my cousin's place since lil' sis wasn't feeling well, and then go meet up with my high school friend. But we got caught in traffic and I took the wrong freeway, thereby missing the exit to my cousin's condo. Instead of making me turn around, lil' sis nicely offered to sleep in the car while I met up with my friend. Awww. So sweet of her. And my cousin decided to meet up with a friend who lived nearby.

7 Banana Leaf Restaurant - Milpitas 1

The only place I knew of in the South Bay and had recommended to my friend long ago was Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose. She loves it and has pretty much eaten everything on the menu so she wanted to try a new place. Ila of I Nom Things recommended Banana Leaf Restaurant in Milpitas.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

House of Nanking - San Francisco (Financial District)

6 House of Nanking - San Francisco (Financial District) 1

After a bit of shopping and walking around, we weren't particularly hungry, but wanted to take advantage of being in the city. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and wanted some Americanized Chinese food from House of Nanking.

Way back when I lived in the Bay, and before everything was readily available online, I bought a Zagat guide that was on clearance to discover new places to eat. House of Nanking was one of them. During peak dinner time, double lines would extend down the sidewalk. Mostly tourists and white people, who'd whisper about the anticipated rude service, almost as if to survive such an ordeal meant that the restaurant must be "authentically" Chinese indeed, a place that only locals or Asians knew about. My friends and I would get odd looks from the staff, as if they wondered what we were doing waiting in line too.

Honestly, I couldn't really remember loving anything in particular, and was more curious than anything else to see what had become of my old haunt.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Eastern Bakery - San Francisco (Chinatown)

5 Eastern Bakery - San Francisco (Chinatown) 1

Parking in Chinatown was just another excuse for me to visit The Wok Shop - San Francisco (Chinatown) and check out their housewares.

Afterward, I went next door to Eastern Bakery. I wasn't really hungry at all, but was planning to meet up with my high school friend later that day for dinner and figured I'd bring her some barbecued pork buns.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Chinatown - San Francisco

After second lunch and ice cream at Fentons Creamery & Restaurant - Oakland, lil' sis and the middle '87 and I finally made our way across the bridge and into the city.

4 Chinatown - San Francisco 1

Our first stop was Chinatown. Mostly because the Kearny Street parking garage has reasonable rates (for San Francisco anyway) and is within walking distance of Union Square.

Just sharing some scenes around Chinatown.

I love the lanterns and architecture.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Korean BBQ Corner (Farmers' Market) - Alhambra (Closed)

Recently, I was browsing the Farmers' Market - Alhambra when I noticed a new stall. Korean BBQ Corner. BBQ ribs. BBQ beef. BBQ Chicken. Wait, pitas? Wraps?

Curious, I came closer and saw...

Korean BBQ Corner (Farmers Market) - Alhambra 1

Whoa! Korean/Middle Eastern fusion. Pitas and lavash wraps stuffed with Korean barbecue. Genius!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Indocart Indonesian & Dutch Groceries - Duarte

Indocart Indonesian and Dutch Groceries - Duarte 1

After lunch at Pondok Kaki Lima (Indonesian Street Food) - Duarte Inn, Gourmet Pigs and I stopped into Indocart to check out its Indonesian and Dutch groceries. Even though I knew Indonesia was a Dutch colony, this was the first grocery store that I've seen with such a large selection of Dutch products in such a tiny space.