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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.

On Being Sick, Being Thankful, and Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 2

The sky last fall after yet another one of Southern California's fires reminded me of the previous year and another set of fires. A reader asked if I would just let them know whether I and my sister were OK.

On Being Sick, Being Thankful, and Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 3

There's a very real connection that's possible even when one chooses to blog semi-anonymously. I could crank out one recipe after another with no context and while that might garner me more hits, they wouldn't necessarily be the type of readers I want. I'm touched that someone, not knowing where I was in SoCal, but knowing that it was being ravaged by fires, cared enough to ask that I was OK. I hate thinking about the break-in, but I get choked up reading the concerned comments in that post.

I started the blog at a very stressful time in my life. Always the perpetual procrastinator, the blog kept me from doing what I should have been doing, but it reminded me of what I've loved doing all along -- sharing stories and sharing food. Some of my early posts have the worst pictures, which I've slowly been updating by the way. Some of my early posts didn't even have the greatest directions either. But some of you made those recipes anyway. Those of you who've commented or emailed to tell me you made my recipes, letting me know if you stuck to my directions or made adjustments, have helped me improve the writing of later recipes.

Sometimes, repeated requests get me to thinking about certain dishes. I mainly cook what I feel like. I was never a big beef stew person. But the night of the break-in, my oldest uncle's sister-in-law brought over bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew). I love how very Asian it was to serve it in a re-used plastic container and with ordinary sliced bread.

On Being Sick, Being Thankful, and Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 4

It was good and so very comforting at the time, but honestly, I like my bo kho with more spices, and with potatoes and tomato paste.

On Being Sick, Being Thankful, and Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 5

Which is why I finally got around to making it my way and posting my recipe.

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 1

While I certainly cook from cans and boxes like the next person, when I give you a recipe, for the most part, I believe in doing it properly. (Well, except for my 5-minute tiramisu, but I told you it was a non-recipe. I'll have to wow you with my 2-ingredient faux beignets next. Ha!) Yes, you can use a spiced bouillon cube to make your bo kho, but that's not the recipe I'm going to give you. And when a reader asked how to fix it because her bo kho didn't taste right when made from a spice mix, well, that's why. I believe in knowing the basics of each recipe so you can freely make your own adaptations.

Similarly, I try to visit restaurants more than once, or at least have sampled enough of the menu, to reach a conclusion. Dining out for me is not about following famous chefs and trendy hot spots. Nor is it about being the first to post about a particular place. It's really not even about pointing out what I think is best, or telling you where to go. Dining out for me is about spending time with family and friends, and encouraging me, and you, to explore what's available around us.

Cooking and blogging, done properly for me, is not a rush process. Yes, sometimes I do quick meals and quick posts, but for the most part, I try to serve up a bit of a story, or information, or instruction. And in order to do that, I had to give myself the freedom not to have to crank out posts day after day. But if I wait for the right inspiration, the recipe, the photography, and even the writing, all turn out much better. I think of my bo kho as a testament to that.

Thank you to my lovely reader in Houston who thanked me for my "impeccable grammar." Ha! It's not always perfect, and I always appreciate when typos are pointed out, but I do try, and I do appreciate when it's noticed. What it comes down to for me are the details. There are literally millions of blogs, and thousands of food blogs, so thank you dear readers for stopping here and staying a while. Thank you to those of you who've made my recipes and commented or emailed me to tell me so. Thank you to those of you who've ventured out of your comfort zone to explore new dining options. Thank you to those of you who've kept checking in to read, to check up on me. And most of all, thank you to the online friends who've become real-life friends.

I think I've neglected my blog long enough?

The queue gets longer and longer. Heck, restaurants have opened and closed in the meantime. So as is my wont, it'll be a bit of back and forth. New posts will show on top. Updated backdated posts (I've got a few lingering November and December ones will be published on their original dates and then republished to show on the opening page. That means once they disappear from the opening page, they'll be reshuffled back to where they belong. It makes sense for me organizationally, but all you need to know is that they'll show up on the opening page. Unless you're reading through a reader, then the URL stays the same when you click over. Apologies to those who subscribe through a reader, I had to discontinue full-feeds because entire posts were being scrapped and republished on other sites. It's supposed to show partial feeds, so I have no idea why only titles are being published.)

And thank you once again for reading and continuing to read.

1 year ago today, "Fruit-shi" ie. Dessert Sushi.
2 years ago today, semen tea, horoscope drinks, and ice snowflakes at 85 Degrees C Tea House - San Gabriel. (Closed)


  1. Glad to see you back! I'm one of those RSS subscribers, and will gladly click over to see what tasty goodness you've included.

    I've made several of your recipes for my family, and we all love them. So far, I think the biggest hit was bo tai chanh.

    Thanks for helping this white girl (and family) satisfy her craving for SE Asian cuisine at home! You're awesome!!!

  2. I didn't realize some of the circumstances that caused such a break in your posts, but yes, I did notice! I figured you needed a break after such long and consistent posting about food of all kinds (made at home, brought, restaurant, etc.). And I was surprised at your aplomb after the break-in. You seemed to take it in stride after the initial indignance and kept on blogging. I'm sorry it still gives you that sick feeling. I have some experience with that and it's not nice.

    It's a shame what the poachers have made you do in your blog because they insist on stealing your content. I guess it's a trade-off for being "found" by real readers.

    Hopefully, with the summer and your recovery from being unwell and your blog break, you are feeling more rejuvenated.

    You have my good wishes for your well-being, my friend.

  3. I missed you too, WC! I come back here every once in a while to get some recipes and I was wondering why you hadn't made too many new posts. I'm glad things are calming down for you and I hope you continue to feel better.
    It must have been something in the blogosphere--I would say at least half (or more) of the blogs I read faithfully have stopped, suspended, or really cut back in the last 3 months or so--me included. I got buried at work and just am too brain-dead to make a decent post when I get home.

  4. I noticed you were gone and missed you! So, glad you are back.

  5. WC -

    You WERE missed and it's good to have you back.

    Go to Fosselman's, have a big bowl of something - and know that you touch many lives.

  6. WC,
    Certainly missed you during the period where you were not blogging! I definitely noticed the lack of posts from you when I checked my Blogger Dashboard where I then click to read posts. I am happy to see you back :).

    Keeping up with my blog has been a bit difficult too. Too much work to do right now and not a whole lot of time! But I know I will be able to put in my first Weekend Wokking entry this month :). That is my next post!

    Speaking about stealing content I found out that someone was using my photo inappropriately. And it was in fact a large advertising by word of mouth company called BzzAgent! Luckily they followed suit and switched out my photo :). It is difficult following these people to budge them to do something about it...

  7. Hi WC, nice to see you back. Even if you proscrastinate for a long period of time I wouldn't stop coming by because I simply love your blog. My commitments at the moment are keeping me away from blogging but my hubby said that you would be a very rich woman if you get a penny every time I cook something using your recipe :) Hope you get better with your health and if you want something British that you can't get in the States just let me know I'll send it over. Lots of love.

  8. Very happy to have you back and hope you are rejuvenated from your break.

    A pox on those cursed content stealers and a pox on the house-break-inners.

    Look forward to the new content - including all that stuff that makes me miss my family and jealous about SoCal (I've stopped commenting along those lines because I found myself getting repetitive ...) - but will always be here waiting whenever you take a break!

  9. I missed your wonderful posts, but am glad you took the time you needed for yourself and to recover from the breakin (I can't even imagine how horrible that must feel). I am loving the recipes that you are updating. I'm already looking forward to trying the coq au vin and the cabbage salad. :)

  10. girl, i noticed. i just figured you'd back to us in due time. :)

    i love your bo kho recipe and will bust it out again when the weather turns. and you're so right, it's so comfortingly asian to receive a meal in a reused plastic container and sandwich bread. i have plenty of these plastic containers hanging out and i'm sure my roommate things i'm odd.

  11. I have been a lurker for several years and follow the RSS feed. I have definitely noticed and missed the great stories and recipes. Glad to have you back.

  12. Hi WC - I for one am glad to have you back and posting again. I had thought about emailing you, but just thought that you were off on one of your fantastic trips. I'm glad you're feeling better.

  13. You were definitely missed, but you owe no apologies for taking the time you need. You were one of the first food blogs I stumbled across and I have been amazed that you have been able to create so much content that is of such high caliber. You were helpful to me in explaining what to do to take part in the Weekend Wokking challenges, and your information on managing a blog is very valuable.
    I'm not so sure that I would agree that it's particularly Asian to serve the bo kho in a re-used plastic container with plain old sliced bread--I think that's just family, people comfortable enough not to worry about presentation.
    Anyway, it's nice to see you're back. I hope things continue to get better for you.

  14. Yes I noticed and along with everybody else, do understand. Everyone needs a break sometime or another. I'm glad you're back, though. :)

  15. I'm so sorry to hear you have been sick and had been feeling a little overwhelmed. Don't apologise for being away, I personally felt that it should be an "own time, own target" thing. A rest now and then is good to find new inspiration too. Having said that, I'm so glad to see you're back in action! :)

  16. Yaaay! Welcome back! I've also been wondering where you went. I understand blogging is a full time job (in my case, quite literally), so I'm glad you're getting back in the swing of things. But seriously, take a step back when it's not fun anymore. It's not worth your health if it is affecting it.

    I still remember when you posted about your house being broken into. I cringe everytime I think of it, so I can just imagine what it's like for you.

    By the way, I don't always comment nowadays, but I always try to read.

    Also, thanks again for your help on the Little Saigon intel you gave me a while back.

  17. WC, you've been on my google reader for the longest time and one of the earliest blogs i started to read, not to mention of the the oldest blogging friends i've ever interacted personally with...when you were away, you've been missed ^_^

    we blog with so much passion and sometimes it did make it kinda feel a little like a full time job eh? don't get too stressed out though...loyal (crazy) fans such as moi will always wait for your come back. blogging...don't force it as we might lose our joy in doing it.

    there seem to be so many things going on in your life, enjoy every moment with a grain of salt (balance it out with sugar and a lil lime juice), and take a special care ^_^

  18. I came across your blog last night while I was looking up some stuff, and I want to say that your efforts at blogging all your precious recipes are very much appreciated. I'm sorry to hear about your break-in, and the blog-content stealing but I just wanted to say thank you for putting up everything you have up till now.

    Will continue reading; I love cooking and learning new things, and I've learned a lot just by browsing your blog in the past 24 hours.

  19. Amber,
    Thanks it means a lot that you'll click over anyway. Ah, you did not tell me you made my bo tai chanh recipe.

    Weezer Monkey,
    I still have posts from November 2007 that I never got around to blogging! With the exception of that, I'm now working on January. So you're way ahead of me.

    I did need a break, technical and health difficulties just made it easier to justify the doing so. I still have rods in all my windows and don't open them at all anymore. :( Thank you for hanging in there.

    I think summer doldrums hit everyone too. We all need a break now and then.

    Aww, so sweet you noticed.

    Thank you so much. That's so sweet of you to say. Fosselman's can cure many blues.

    Thanks for participating in Weekend Wokking. It's always fun to see participants and what they've created. Trying to keep on top of content thieves makes it hard too. Just too many things that get in the way of blogging.

    Haha. It's nice to hear from you. And glad to know hubby is enjoying your cooking.

    I thought you stopped commenting because you were off hiking and traveling all over the place. ;) Besides, you see me online elsewhere all over the place. :)

    I still get a sick feeling if I think too much about it. If I had time, I would update all those old recipes immediately. But I have to re-cook them and re-photograph them. And sometimes re-write them too!

    You noticed? But you see me on Twitter allll the time. We can't get away from each other. ;)

    Thank you. You should comment! It's way more fun than being a lurker!

    I still have to catch up on your blog too! My trips are not nearly as fantastic as yours.

    Thank you so much. You've been so complimentary, but I just do what I can. I also like your explanation about family being comfortable enough not to worry about presentation. My mom is a bit of a perfectionist and growing up, food was always nicely presented, even to family. So it's odd when I my friends say their moms would give them the bad parts and save the good for company. Wouldn't family be worthy of your good parts too?

    Thanks. I always appreciate your feedback on recipes too.

    Yes, I do think everyone should go at their own pace. We're not machines. Or for you, I should say, we're not hamsters running in our wheels. :P

    I'm guilty of the same. I try to read, but it seems like I'm horrible at staying on top of things and commenting back.

    Honey, I don't know how to maintain two blogs and blog every day! Chocolate mochi! That's how we met! :) Thank you for the encouraging words.

    Thanks and I hope you continue reading.

    Silver Aria,

  20. Thank you for the wonderful stories and recipes and restaurant reviews. It's great that you are feeling better. Hope you will be enjoying life and feeling good always! Chuc mung nam moi va chuc suc khoe! Ellen in Maryland


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