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Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers Afternoon Tea

Thanksgiving Leftovers Afternoon Tea 1

A few days after Thanksgiving, since I had plenty of Turkey Liver Pate and baguettes leftover, I invited the girls over for a tea party. But really, it was just an excuse to use my new tea cups, two-tiered tray, and deviled egg plate.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Royal/T Cafe (Three Apples: An Exhibition Celebrating 35 Years of Hello Kitty/In Bed Together: Art & Bites from Ludo Lefebvre) - Culver City (Closed)

Royal T (Three Apples - An Exhibition Celebrating 35 Years of Hello Kitty and In Bed Together - Art & Bites from Ludo Lefebvre) - Culver City 1

The first weekend after "Three Apples: An Exhibition Celebrating 35 Years of Hello Kitty" opened at Royal/T Cafe in Culver City, my friend DP and I decided to stop by. She even "dressed up" for the occasion, wearing her Hello Kitty watch. :P Alas, it was not to be as the lines went out the door and down the block, on both sides. Insane!

Later that week, I came back with Weezer Monkey and her friend Glam. The "Three Apples" refers to Hello Kitty's weight.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fried Rice with Apples and Cubed Beef

Fried Rice with Apples and Beef 1

Yes, it sounds a little weird. I thought so too when I encountered fried rice with apples and beef on the menu at Bon Marche Bistro/B Village Cuisine - Monterey Park. But I ordered it out of curiosity and it was seriously good.

Apples aren't too sweet and when charred, added a nice contrast to the beef. Hey, if pork chops and applesauce can be paired together, why not apples and beef?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 3

Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast or lunch are fine, even welcomed, but by dinner time, my taste buds want something new. So when my youngest aunt told me to come over for dinner, I happily went.

Oooh! Lau (Vietnamese hot pot)! Or more specifically, cu lao. According to my youngest aunt's husband, who hails from Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta, cu lao is named after the ringed brazier in which coal is placed in the middle of the hot pot. Although lau and cu lao might appear similar, cu lao is a dish that originated with the ethnic Chinese in the Mekong Delta and requires certain ingredients and presentation.

My Youngest Aunt's Husband's Cu Lao (Vietnamese Hot Pot) 1

There is a layer of cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and carrots underneath all that meat. There should be a mix of seafood and pork. There are king crab legs, my aunt's homemade shrimp balls, and squid. Dried squid was soaked for several days to soften and reconstitute before being sliced into diamond patterns and added to the pot. The pork includes sliced pork meat, hearts, and rinds. There should also be part of the pork stomach or intestine too, said my uncle.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 1

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

This year with my brother and several cousins out of town, I ended up feeding only a dozen people. Haven't had a family gathering that small in quite a while.

Lil' sis and I started cooking around 1 p.m. for dinner at 6 p.m. I didn't even do the Salt Rub and Butter Turkey Dry Brine until 1 a.m. the night before and the turkey still came out perfect.

Going from the top of the table on down: lil' sis made pumpkin marbled cheesecake this year, along with the mashed potatoes and stuffing. She brought home leftover yams from her earlier Thanksgiving dinner with her friends. I told her best friend to bring the green bean casserole because I had a weird craving for it. My oldest uncle's wife sent over Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rosemary Olive Oil Turkey Marinade

The last of my revisiting Thanksgivings past recipes is the rosemary olive oil marinade. This was also brined in the Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine. The rosemary and olive oil gave it more of a Mediterranean flavor so I served up two distinctly different turkeys in 2005.

Rosemary Olive Oil Turkey Marinade

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Butter, Maple, and Orange Juice Turkey Marinade

Ah, my first turkey.

They say you always remember your first, right? :P

Butter, Maple, Orange Juice Turkey Marinade 1

The butter, maple, and orange juice turkey marinade went with the Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine, not that you necessarily have to pair it that way. Use my preferred Salt Rub and Butter Turkey Dry Brine if you wish.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Juice and Red Wine Turkey Brine

Apple Juice Red Wine Turkey Brine

In Thanksgiving 2006, I made two 18-lb turkeys. This turkey had a simple apple juice red wine brine, while the other was the Salt Rub and Butter Turkey Dry Brine that became the keeper.

The red wine gave it nice color, and maybe the turkey would have fared better if it didn't have to compete with the salt dry brine. But this recipe is super simple if you're not in the mood for measuring or anything.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine

Orange Juice Brown Sugar Turkey Brine

I started hosting Thanksgiving dinners in 2005. Years ago, one or another of my aunts would cook and sometimes everyone would congregate at one place, other times we'd eat at one house and again the next day at another house.

I moved away for a while and after my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) passed away, I guess the large family gatherings kinda petered out, except for big anniversaries. One year, some of my aunts and uncles had gone to Vegas, and other cousins cooked a pre-made turkey dinner purchased at one of the grocery stores. It made me sad to see the family split up.

So that year, I invited everyone and made two 13-lb turkeys.

The top one in the photo had a Rosemary Olive Oil Turkey Marinade. The bottom turkey had a Butter, Maple, Orange Juice Turkey Marinade. Both were brined in a mix of orange juice and brown sugar. I know the photo isn't the best, this being prior to blogging and all. I've included the recipe on the blog before, but it was buried in another post so I figured it was a good time to break it out separately.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

UCC Cafe Plaza - Walnut (Closed)

After dinner at Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights, we literally went across the street to UCC Cafe Plaza in Walnut for dessert. The UCC, which stands for Ueshima Coffee Company, is a pretty nice Japanese cafe located in a strip mall that also sells Rolex and Cartier. Pretty nice indeed!

UCC Cafe Plaza - Walnut 1

The first time I visited was back in November 2007. My dining companion and I had seen the many, many photos that CrazyPooh had uploaded onto Biggest Menu and wanted to check it out. Leather sofas. Quite a step up from the normal coffee shop.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights

After picking up that ratty armchair off the street for me to DIY later, cousin Q and I headed to my brother's house. I forgot why because these photos have been sitting around since April 2008.


That's what happens when things sit too long in the queue. I just forget everything if the photos didn't remind me it happened.

Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights 1

This was the second visit to Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ in Rowland Heights. The first time was a few years back when cousin Q's older brother suggested it for a big cousins' meet-up. I enjoyed it for the variety of side dishes and because it worked out to be pretty economical for a big group. My cousin says it like what it looks like in Vietnamese. Swap the E with a Y and in Vietnamese, "Ong ga nay" is "This old chicken man." :P

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Before and After: Wooden Arm Chair

I've been in a fit of house cleaning and reorganizing in the past week. The problem with living in an 85-year-old house is that there is very little storage. My bedroom closet is literally the size of a hallway closet. I don't have a hallway closet for any spillover either. After more than two years of shifting my clothes from one pile on the floor to another, I finally moved my vanity table and storage bench into the shed and bought a cheap wardrobe.

With my clothes pile taken care of, I decided to repaint a bookcase I had been using on my porch as a plant stand so I would have more storage space in my kitchen. While I was at it, I decided to finally finish revamping this wooden arm chair.

Look at the before and after photos.

Before and After Wooden Arm Chair 1

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jones Coffee Roasters - Pasadena

Jones Coffee Roasters - Pasadena 1

Somehow cousin Q and I found ourselves in Pasadena, where my brother took us to his favorite coffee shop, Jones Coffee Roasters. He likes the cappuccino and that they grind 1/4-lb bags of coffee.

The outside is rather industrial-looking, across from a public storage. But the inside is pure coffee house.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Park's Barbeque - Los Angeles (Koreatown)


So I teased about Park's Barbeque back in March 2008, which was when I dined here with my high school friend, her husband, and his brother. We didn't know it at the time, but Jonathan Gold had just reviewed it in LA Weekly so the place was packed. Still, it wasn't too long of a wait before we were seated.

Park's Barbeque - Los Angeles (Koreatown) 1

In contrast to many of the other Korean barbecue restaurants I've dined at, the waiters here wore all black and looked hip. There were also pictures on the wall of Korean baseball players who had dined here. Oh dear, you know me and trendy places.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge - Culver City (Closed)

Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge - Culver City 1

When I was invited to dine at Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge in Culver City, I was a little wary. I'm used to going to Los Angeles' Koreatown to get my fix. I wondered how good the restaurant could be when I noticed that the menu featured "Seoulful" dishes combining Korean and Southern cuisine designed by "The Next Food Network Star" season 5 finalist Debbie Lee. Hmmm. That intrigued me enough to try it out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hwang Hae Do Korean BBQ - Artesia

Back in January 2008, I had met up with one of my college friends who was in town. It had rained all day so we decided to meet each other halfway in Artesia. Unfortunately, all the restaurants I could think of in the area were Indian (It is Little India after all.), which was too spicy a cuisine for her.

A quick Google search for Korean restaurants in Artesia turned up an article by Linda Burum in the Los Angeles Times on Hwang Hae Do. She wrote about their dumplings and how they were the best around. Hmm. I've never had any mandu that really knocked my socks off, so if these were the best, I had to try.

Hwang Hae Do Korean BBQ - Artesia 1

The article was in 2004, so I called to confirm that the restaurant was still in business and tried to ask what else they served besides dumplings, but couldn't really understand what the person on the phone said. So it was quite a surprise when I pulled up and saw the Korean BBQ sign. It was an even better surprise when we were told there were three tiers on the all-you-can-eat menu.

The $9.99 option included beef brisket, pork belly, and Daeji Bulgogi (Korean Spicy Pork). Add marinated chicken for $11.99. And six meats including Galbi (Korean Marinated and Barbecued Beef Short Ribs) is $14.99.

$9.99 Korean barbecue? For dinner? Pretty awesome deal, yeah?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Eggs, and Pork)

Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Egg, and Pork) 1

Blame it on the cold November winter, but I started thinking of chicken noodle soup. No, not the American chicken noodle soup, nor the more popular Vietnamese version -- Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup). I wanted the "other" Vietnamese chicken noodle soup -- Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Egg, and Pork), mostly because I didn't want to wait forever for the broth to be just right.

Bun thang is a Northern Vietnamese noodle soup, which never really caught on as far as I could tell from the dearth of it on Vietnamese restaurant menus. Ack! For all my professions of being a South-Central Coastal girl, more and more Hanoi dishes keep creeping into my repertoire. Don't worry, I can't speak Vietnamese with any ZZZs to save my life. :P (Hehe. Inside joke for Vietnamese. Northerners pronounce one of the D's, and their G's, R's, and TR's like Z so hearing them speak sounds like ZZZ to me.)

Actually, calling it the "other" chicken noodle soup is a bit of a misnomer, bun thang uses a combination of chicken and pork for the broth and in the soup. Ideally, I'd use pork spare ribs for the best flavor, but only had some boneless pork on hand that evening. I boiled the pork with some chicken thighs, furiously on high heat to extract maximum flavor as quickly as possible. Then shredded the chicken meat. Made a super thin omelet. Sliced some of my mom's homemade cha lua (Vietnamese steamed pork loaf). Chopped some herbs on top. Snapped a few quick, boring shots of the same bowl in the same position, with no food props, and I was good to go. Oh dear. That was supposed to be my version of a quick weeknight dinner. :P It really was. I promise.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Longan Blossoms & Fruit

11.13 Longan Blossoms & Fruit 1

It's always a mystery to me how these blossoms can become...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hot Vit Lon Long An - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Did you get drinks? the middle '87 asked when we met up after I bought Vietnamese sandwiches at Banh Mi & Che CALI Bakery and she bought banh cuon (Vietnamese rolled rice noodles) at Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon.

I looked back at the strip mall and saw a huge sign for nuoc mia (Vietnamese sugarcane juice).

Hot Vit Lon Long An - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

And water.

And fro-yo.

And Hot Vit Lon (Vietnamese Fetal Duck Eggs).

Haha. Gotta love Vietnamese industriousness. It must work because they've been in business for years and years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon - Westminster (Little Saigon) 2

As I was getting the sandwiches at Banh Mi & Che CALI Bakery for our picnic, I sent the middle '87 off to buy banh cuon (Vietnamese rolled rice noodles) at Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon, which is located a few doors down in the same strip mall. I had stopped by here, and next door at Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon, when Lan of Angry Asian Creations was in town, but she had only wanted mangosteens. Obviously, I couldn't blog about Thai Son Lo Banh Cuon when I hadn't tried the banh cuon.

As you can see, they do sell plenty of jackfruit and other tropical fruits.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Banh Mi & Che CALI Bakery - Westminster (Little Saigon)

I have a soft spot for the original Banh Mi and Che CALI Bakery on the corner of Bolsa Avenue and Magnolia Street in Westminster.

Banh Mi & Che Cali Bakery - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

Before Vietnamese sandwich shops became so ubiquitous, there were specific places I'd always go. Well, I still do but I hadn't visited this location in a while. When I used to work in Orange County, whenever cousin Q came home from college, his mom would give me $3 and ask that I buy him sandwiches on my way home. Buy 2, get 1 free on sandwiches and desserts. So three Vietnamese sandwiches were only $3. I'd end up buying a set for me too and often gave one to whichever homeless person was waiting in front.

I was always amused that white homeless men chose to park themselves in front of this very Vietnamese strip mall in the heart of Little Saigon. I guess they liked their banh mi! Once, one of them specifically asked me to get him the #4. I can't remember if it was the Banh Mi Xa Xiu (Vietnamese Barbecued Pork Sandwich) or Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich). The menu board has changed since then, but I was still tickled that he had a preference.

It was also here that on another visit, when I asked yet another white homeless man if he'd like a sandwich, he said someone already bought him one, but he'd like a Che Dau Trang (Vietnamese Pudding with White Beans and Sticky Rice in Coconut Milk). I hadn't planned on getting dessert, but how could I resist not buying him one?

Sure it can be a madhouse. You have to fend off older Vietnamese people selling plants and herbs from their backyard or various magazines and newspapers. Once inside, no one seems to know how to line up so it's a free for all. During peak times at this location, don't even bother being polite. The person who shoves herself to the front of the line gets her order.

Besides sandwiches and desserts, there's the usual assortment of Vietnamese snacks and pastries. But on this day, it was just three sandwiches for $5 for me. Yeah, the price has gone up a little since then, but it's still a great bargain. I usually just default to the Banh Mi & Che Cali Restaurant - Alhambra these days because it's closest, so I had forgotten how good these sandwiches could be.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Tip Top Sandwiches - Garden Grove (Little Saigon)

On our way to see the Great Balloon, I decided to stop off for some Vietnamese sandwiches for an impromptu picnic. My first choice was Banh Mi & Che CALI Bakery - Westminster (Little Saigon) for their constant "Buy 2, get 1 free deals," but at the last minute decided to veer off from my usual to try Tip Top Sandwiches.

Tip Top Sandwiches - Garden Grove (Little Saigon) 1

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon - Westminster (Little Saigon)

After picking up xi muoi (Vietnamese preserved plums) from Kum Lee (Kho Bo Mut) - Westminster (Little Saigon), Lan of Angry Asian Creations and I still had some time to kill. So we decided to look for some fresh mangosteens for her.

Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

We had stopped at the nearby grocery store but couldn't find any fresh mangosteens. So I texted my friend, DP, who directed us toward several fresh fruit shops on the corner of Bolsa Avenue and Magnolia Street. There have been a few of these fruit shops cropping up lately in Little Saigon and the San Gabriel Valley, specializing in tropical fruit such as rambutans, jackfruit, and mangosteens. Selection and price seemed to be the same at each location.

Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon - Westminster (Little Saigon) 2

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Thit Suon Kho Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Preserved Plums)

Suon Kho Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Preserved Plums) 2

Mouth-puckering Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Preserved Plums) makes a great sweet and sour sauce.

Yeah, I know, these photos aren't up to par. In my defense, this recipe has been sitting in the queue for more than a year, and I'm sure you'd rather I post this than wait for me to get around to cooking and then re-photographing it again.

Besides, tell me the sauce on the pork chop doesn't make you salivate already?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Soda Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Preserved Plum Drink)

On a hot day, nothing beats the refreshing sweet-sour tang of a Soda Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Preserved Plum Drink). The recipe is so simple that it really isn't even a recipe.

Soda Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Preserved Plum Soda)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Preserved Plums)

Xi Muoi (Vietnamese Preserved Plums)

Not much to say about xi muoi (Vietnamese preserved plums). I used to treat them like candy, sucking on the puckering sour-sweetness until every last bit of flavor was extracted. Then I kept sucking on the seed until every last bit of flavor was gone from that too.

Cooking with them, however, I know of two uses: as a drink or as a plummy sweet and sour sauce. The flavor is so distinct that there really is no other substitute.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kum Lee (Kho Bo Mut) - Westminster (Little Saigon)

My day with Lan of Angry Asian Creations wasn't quite done. After our lunch at Quan Vy Da Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon), she wanted some xi muoi (Vietnamese preserved plums).

We could have hit up one of the many locations of Vua Kho Bo, but I decided to go the mom and pop business route and took her to Kum Lee (Kho Bo Mut), located in the Asian Village Mall.

Kum Lee (Kho Bo Mut) - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

Vast selection of beef, venison, squid, and fish jerky in the back. Dried and preserved fruits along the walls.

Kum Lee (Kho Bo Mut) - Westminster (Little Saigon) 2

Red watermelon seeds. Dried mangoes.

Kum Lee (Kho Bo Mut) - Westminster (Little Saigon) 3

More dried and preserved fruits that I can't remember.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Quan Vy Da Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Earlier this summer, I was lucky enough to meet up with Lan of Angry Asian Creations while she was in town for a family reunion. It's not always the case, so I love it when I meet a blogger in person and she turns out to be just as awesome as her blog.

To quote Lan, "Don't be jealous." :)

Quan Vy Da Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

After I picked her up from the airport, of course, we had to decide on lunch. Little Saigon was a natural choice but what type of Vietnamese food? I decided on Quan Vy Da Restaurant simply because I was thwarted in a previous attempt since it was closed on Mondays.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup)

I had made these Vietnamese stuffed cabbage rolls a while back, but again, was dissatisfied with the original photos.


I foresee a lot of recipe re-dos if this keeps up.

Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Soup) 1

My mom used to make Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Soup) a lot when I was little. Instead of wrapping a scallion to hold everything together though, she shoved a toothpick through each roll. Now that my parents are older and more conscious of their health, they eat a lot more fish and fewer pork dishes. Perhaps she still makes this, but when I'm home, mom cooks more elaborate dishes.

I had forgotten how much I liked the simplicity of this dish until I made this recipe again.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies 1

I've said before that I am very boring when it comes to cookies. I take the basic Nestle Toll House dough, decrease the sugar, and add in variations. In this case, leftover Halloween candy. I call these my everything but the kitchen sink cookies because it's a good time to clear out the pantry of leftover candy, nuts, dried fruit, and coconut flakes.