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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena

Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena 1

In March 2008, cousin Q suggested we try Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta in South Pasadena for lunch. I'm rather indifferent to most pizza, except for the occasional nostalgic pangs for Giordano's Chicago-style stuffed spinach deep dish and Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana - Monterey Park if I want something more gourmet. Not to say that I don't like pizza, just that I'm pretty easy to please.

The mamma in the name is not the original mamma of the restaurant. Cousin Q told me there was a bit of controversy with the restaurant. A quick Google search after I got home turned up several Chowhound posts about a dissolved partnership, rumors of embezzlement and sabotage, and dueling pizza parlors. But since I'm not in the habit of writing about rumors, I will point to this Pasadena Weekly article that indicates it wasn't all speculation.

The current owners, a husband and wife team, bought the business from the original partners, one of whom named the restaurant after his Italian mamma. The pizza recipes were supposed to be handed over with the sale, but the new owners were given faulty recipes instead. It took weeks for the other partner to sneak out the original recipes, but by then, the new owners had hired a pizza consultant and the restaurant's new recipes were supposedly better than the originals. Pretty crazy, right? It gets crazier, the not-so-stellar partner's daughter, granddaughter of the mamma in the name, then opened a pizza restaurant on the same street, the next block over and named it Nonna Pizzeria - South Pasadena, after her grandmamma.

Now, it's really crazy! And competitive!

Or is it?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2006 Recipes: Picture Index

2006 Recipes Picture Index

More lists. I've long wanted to have thumbnail images of each of my recipes. But since I have to manually cut and paste each link, in alphabetical order, into my recipe index, and considering there are now more than 400 recipes, it gets a little unfeasible. So, this is a picture index of all the recipes I've posted for that year, in chronological order. A picture menu for you, a visual reminder for me?

When I get caught up, other years will be added to the Recipes: Picture Indexes page.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 5

Gosh! Has it been five months since I started my open question period? Crazy! How come time goes by so quickly?!

This photo hasn't been doctored in any way. The gloaming yesterday really was that gorgeous. A few minutes after I snapped some shots, the sky turned deep blue and then night.


Hmm. Let's see. In terms of announcements, I've been updating my lists so if you've wondered which recipes have been the most popular each year, they're now compiled on my "Recipes: Best of" page. Memorable dining out posts can be found on "Restaurants: Best of." 2009 entries will be added when I'm caught up.

I've slowly been adding thumbnail pictures to my Vietnamese Recipes page since that seems to be what people want. *Sigh.* Such a pain! I hope ya'll appreciate it!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Indonesian Beef Rendang

Indonesian Beef Rendang 1

I've been eating a lot more Indonesian food in the past year than I have ever before. Largely because of Gourmet Pigs, of course. So it was inevitable that I eventually tried my hand at cooking something. I asked her to ask her mom for a beef rendang recipe, a sort of dry curry if you're unfamiliar with Indonesian food.

GP said I needed more chili peppers to my recipe, which makes it perfect for this month's Weekend Wokking CHILI PEPPER edition, as chosen by last month's hostess, Marija of Palachinka. I had most of the ingredients already at home, except for candlenuts and galangal, which I substituted with walnuts and ginger. I also added ground nutmeg and cinnamon, which were not part of her mom's recipe.


WC: What do candlenuts do for recipes? I've seen them in other Indonesian recipes but haven't tried.

GP: Hm. Oil? Or texture.
Nice aroma.

WC: I saw some at the San Gabriel Superstore. Haven't bought any yet because no recipe.

GP: The candlenut also gives it that yellowy color.

WC: I'm thinking the oil and aroma sounds right.
No turmeric huh?

GP: Not according to this recipe.

WC: My aunt makes something similar with lemongrass and coconut juice, not milk.
And only 1 stalk of lemongrass? Think, I'll have to adapt and add another. Bwhaha.

GP: Hahaha. Sure.

WC: I have everything except candlenuts and galangal. I don't much like galangal though. Maybe just stick to ginger.

GP: I've heard the next best thing to candlenut is cashew.
But I don't know... That just won't be rendang...

WC: 2 tblsp candlenuts. Think I can sub with walnuts?
Aroma? Oil? Smoothness?

GP: But... but...

Well, I completely bastardized GP's mom's rendang recipe and maybe my flavor is off, but I still liked it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Gratin with Fennel, Onion, and Sweet Potato

Fennel, Onion, and Sweet Potato Gratin 1

Another recipe that's been buried in the queue too long is a fennel, onion, and sweet potato gratin that I made back in October 2007. A gratin is a French dish of shallow vegetables baked in a cheese sauce and broiled until crisp on top.

I wanted to do a variation of the more popular potatoes au gratin by adding in the fennel and sweet potato. The licorice flavor of the fennel is vastly muted once it's baked, but it lends another flavor component to this dish. Making it is simple as it's mostly a matter of slicing all the vegetables and layering them before pouring on the milk and cheese to bake into creamy goodness.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pear, Radicchio, and Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese

Pear, Radicchio, and Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese 1

In trying to clear out old pictures from my queue, I stumbled upon this recipe which dates back to August 2007. After using several of the leaves for my Longan Chicken Radicchio Wraps, I chopped up the rest, added a sliced pear, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese dressing to make this salad. The sweetness of the pear offset the bitterness of the radicchio. Walnuts and blue cheese were a favorite pairing ever since I discovered Celery, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Salads.

I'm loathe to toss out old photos, but then hesitant to blog them since my plating and photography skills are slightly better these days. But then, waiting around for me to remake and rephotograph everything will take forever too. Yet, despite my reluctance, within hours of uploading these photos on Flickr, they've already received more than a hundred views. Go figure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens)

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens) 1

When I originally blogged Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) long ago, I also included a suggestion for adding in Cai Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens). Then I retook the photos and in updating the recipe, decided to make this variation a separate post. I've been meaning to make this again to re-do the photos, but it's been sitting in the queue since October 2008 so I might as well just get it out there. It seems silly since I've blogged other versions including Thit Heo Kho Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu) and Thit Heo Kho Mit (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Jackfruit).

While some Vietnamese serve pickled mustard greens as a side dish to cut the fattiness of the braised pork, I like how the tartness adds another dimension to the savory sweetness of the thit heo kho.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nai Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Venison)

The last entry/entree in this dinner in late October was nai luc lac (Vietnamese shaking venison), which really is just Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) made with deer meat.

Nai Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Venison) 1

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties)

My Nem Nuong and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls) has long been one of the most popular recipes on the blog. Just basic meat patties the way everyone makes it in my hometown. No food coloring to make it pink. No baking powder to make the meat bouncy. Just slightly sweet mini hamburgers really.

I've never thought of, nor wanted to, change the basic premise of the recipe until I came across the idea of adding lemongrass to the meatballs in "Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart." I used my recipe instead, of course. Then I remembered Kirk of Mmm-yoso's Tamarind Cooking School pictures from his trip to Luang Prabang, Laos.

Lemongrass pork-stuffed lemongrass skewers!

Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties) 2

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sup Ca Chua Dau Xanh (Vietnamese Green Bean and Tomato Egg Drop Soup)

Sup Ca Chua Dau Xanh (Vietnamese Green Bean and Tomato Egg Drop Soup) 1

The Baked Goat Cheese on Pesto was to hold off my friends' hunger as I quickly prepared the rest of dinner. I was making Nai Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Venison), Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves), and Nem Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork Patties).

I used ground pork for the soup since I already had it on hand for the nem nuong xa, but normally would make this with ground shrimp, using the shells for the broth. Either option works just fine.

Dinner was a cold, rainy night in late October, this quick and warming soup seemed to hit the spot with everyone.

I first came across the idea of a Vietnamese tomato egg drop soup in "The Best of Nicole Routhier." While her version used kaffir lime leaves and galangal, I kept mine simpler by skipping the extra aromatics and adding sliced green beans for a burst of color contrast with the tomatoes. I call my version the oh-so-creatively-named, Sup Ca Chua Dau Xanh (Vietnamese Green Bean and Tomato Egg Drop Soup). ;)

Unlike my favorite Sup Mang Tay Cua (Vietnamese Asparagus and Crab Soup), tomatoes and green beans are far cheaper and readily available year-round. Even in the off-season when tomatoes are often mealy, this preparation disguises many sins.

I don't know why it's been so long since I've made this soup. Once, when one of my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother)'s friends had come visiting, while they chatted at the kitchen table, I busied myself slicing and boiling. To their amazement, this pretty soup was ready in minutes, before the conversation had turned cold even.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baked Goat Cheese on Pesto and Tomato Sauce

Baked Goat Cheese on Pesto 1

One of the restaurants I used to frequent in Chicago was Cafe Iberico. The waits were long, sometimes horrendously so, but that was because the tapas were generously-sized and mostly priced between $3 to $5.

The restaurant had a small plate of queso de cabra (Spanish baked goat cheese with fresh tomato basil sauce). The dish only had a few slices of goat cheese though so I've adapted this version to bake the whole goat cheese log. Plenty enough for a party.

I didn't have time to have this with pesto and tomato sauce, so just pesto had to do, but you can certainly add it if you wish. I had blogged the recipe before, but it was added after my recipe for Insalata Caprese (Italian Basil, Mozzarella, and Tomato Salad) so I decided to give the baked goat cheese its own post.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Best of: Top 10 Recipes of 2006

The last of my "Best of" series of recipes until I catch up with 2009 posts.

Since my blogging was in fits and spurts in the beginning, there weren't that many posts. And when I did blog, my photos left much to be desired. I was using a Canon SD110 and had yet to care about plating or angles. I've tried to update photos of these recipes when possible. The main thing that stands out is, with the exception of the first two, most of the recipes had very, very few hits. It was a stretch to make a top 10 list, but I did anyway.

Best of: Top 10 Recipes of 2006

Again, the numbers after the recipe name reflect the number of hits from May 24, 2009 to January 11, 2010.

Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup) 8Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup) 3,905

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Best of: Top 11 to 20 Recipes of 2007

Just a few more posts left in my "Best of" series. Did you miss part one? Best of: Top 10 Recipes of 2007. This, obviously, is part two.

Best of: Top 11 to 20 Recipes of 2007

The farther back I go, the worse my photography looks. So thanks everyone for making my recipes anyway. Again, surprised that one non-Vietnamese recipe snuck into the list - Kimchee Pajeon (Korean Pancake). This half seems overwhelmingly of the basic Vietnamese recipes: the easy recipes as I started blogging and the easy recipes that most people unfamiliar with associate with Vietnamese food.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Best of: Top 10 Recipes of 2007

Continuing with my "Best of" series, I present the

Best of: Top 10 Recipes of 2007

I must say, a lot of these older recipes didn't necessarily have the best photos, but they continue to come up in searches. I've redone a few of the photos this past year such as the Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) and Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup) because the original versions just didn't do it for me. I was surprised that I get so many hits for my Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls) recipe since I figured there were already so many other versions out there. And two non-Vietnamese recipes made it into the top 10 including Chinese Hot and Sour Soup and Aji Verde (Peruvian Green Chili Sauce).

Again, the numbers after the recipe name reflect the number of hits from May 24, 2009 to January 11, 2010.

Thit Kho Trung  (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) 1Thit Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) 6,564

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Best of: Top 11 to 20 Recipes of 2008

These dishes didn't make my "Best of: Top 10 Recipes of 2008" list, but I thought they were worthy of mention? So I present to you my

Best of: Top 11 to 20 Recipes of 2008

Again, the numbers behind each recipe represent the number of hits each recipe received from May 24, 2009 to January 11, 2010.

Surprises? That a non-Vietnamese recipe made the list and that more of my personal favorites were on this half, including Nuoc Rau Ma (Vietnamese Pennywort Juice), Sup Mang Tay Cua (Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup), Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Catfish in a Claypot), and Tuong Ot Xa (Vietnamese Chili Lemongrass Sauce).

Pumpkin Ravioli 1Pumpkin Ravioli with Browned Butter Sage Sauce 2,789

Monday, January 11, 2010

Best of: Top 10 Recipes of 2008

I've been tidying up things around the blog. Still have a lot of catching up to do.

When I originally created my "Best of" lists of recipes for 2006 and 2007, they were created arbitrarily. Luckily, I finally managed to figure out how to add Google Analytics earlier this year. When strolling through tonight, I checked out the "drill down." So I went through each year, then wrote down the top recipes and the number of hits each recipe received in order to compile this list.

How do I know people love lists? Because, even though it's not a recipe, my

Vietnamese Top 100 Foods to Try 1100 Vietnamese Foods to Try list garnered 16,505 hits.

So here you go, my

Top 10 Recipes of 2008

The recipes are presented in order of which one is most popular. The numbers behind the recipe represent how many page views each recipe received from May 24, 2009 up to tonight.

This is purely meant for fun, in case you wanted to see which recipes are popular with others too. I was actually pretty surprised with some of the results. For instance, I knew my Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) was popular because I get hits for it every day, but I didn't expect my Bun Thit Heo Nuong Tom Cha Gio (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork, Shrimp, and Egg Rolls) to be #2. Go figure.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Caesar Salad with Chicken and Croutons

Caesar Salad with Chicken and Croutons 1

Caesar salad was something that I never thought much about until one day long ago, back when I used to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I met up with a friend at a pub in the Piedmont area of Oakland. A bit of Googling turned up Cato's Ale House, which claims to be the only pub in Piedmont, so that must've been it. I haven't been back since, and the salad may well have been spectacular only in memory, but I can still recall that it was served with whole leaves with a knife for me to cut into. The dressing was made in-house, garlicky and salty and just right.

Years later, I adapted a recipe from Allrecipes that reminded me of that salad. At 588+ reviews, Karen Weir's Caesar Salad Supreme had to be good. Now, I know some people insist on anchovies (I'm one of them.), but did you know that according to Wikipedia, the original Caesar salad didn't have anchovies? The slight anchovy flavor came from the use of Worcestershire sauce. The other flavor that comes through Worcestershire sauce is tamarind so when MomGateway, host of the apple roundup of Weekend Wokking, chose TAMARIND as the secret ingredient, it was time for me to dust off my old recipe. The other must, raw or coddled egg yolks, I prefer to replace with mayonnaise for the creaminess without the salmonella scares.

I had thought Caesar salad was an American invention. Later, I found out its creator, Caesar Cardini was an Italian-Mexican, who made up the salad in Tijuana, Mexico. I bookmarked the location for a future visit, but the poor economy forced the restaurant's closure last year. :(

I guess my version will just have to do.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Chinese Claypot Rice with Thit Suon Kho Ngu Vi (Vietnamese Braised Spare Ribs with Five-Spice)

Chinese Claypot Rice with Thit Suon Kho Ngu Vi (Vietnamese Braised Spare Ribs with Five-Spice) 1

OK, so now you know how to cook rice on the stove top. If you've done it in a claypot, you can keep the rice cooking a little bit longer if you want a nice crispy crust. But even better is if you combine it with seasoned spare ribs. Obviously, I go with the Vietnamese version, Thit Suon Kho Ngu Vi (Vietnamese Braised Spare Ribs with Five-Spice).

So good that the day before lil' sis and I left for a long drive up to Portland, when our brother said he'd take us out for lunch, I mentioned making claypot rice with spare ribs and he opted to come over instead.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

How to Cook Rice on the Stove Top

How to Cook Rice on the Stove Top 1

After I wrote my post about "How to Cook Jasmine Rice" years ago I figured that should suffice, but I've noticed a lot of hits from people searching for how to cook rice on the stove top. Since I made a pot on the stove in order to season my claypot, I might as well blog it. I mean, in case you really need that kind of help or you don't own a rice cooker.

Monday, January 04, 2010

How to Season and Care for a Chinese Clay Pot

How to Season a Chinese Claypot 1

I'm a big fan of low-tech kitchen equipment. There's something to be said about how the tried and true methods that have been popular for generations still work well today. And so after using regular pots to make Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Clay Pot-Braised Fish), I wanted a proper to (Vietnamese clay pot). Actually, it's a Chinese clay pot, but Vietnamese cook with it too. :)

The first step is choosing the right pot. I opted for a 9-inch clay pot since it was roughly the size of my 2-quart cast iron enameled tomato pot that I use quite often. This size can hold several fish filets or a couple of pounds of meat. I purchased mine for $6 at the San Gabriel Superstore, although any Asian grocery store should have it.

It goes without saying that you should select a pot with no visible cracks and as tight-fitting a lid as possible. My clay pot even came with brief instructions on how to care for it so I'll pass it along to you.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Thit Suon Kho Ngu Vi (Vietnamese Braised Spare Ribs with 5-Spice)

Thit Suon Kho Ngu Vi (Vietnamese Braised Spare Ribs with Five-Spice) 7

I often cook multiple dishes with overlapping ingredients at the same time for ease. So while the Chinese Braised Oxtails with 5-Spice and Hoisin Sauce were simmering away, I also made a pot of Thit Suon Kho Ngu Vi (Vietnamese Braised Spare Ribs with 5-Spice).

This is another classic Vietnamese recipe, along the same lines as Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs), but I elevated it just a bit with a little Chinese 5-spice powder. The key, though, is the caramel sauce, which provides a slight sweetness and depth to the dish, as well as all that lovely color.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Chinese Braised Oxtails with 5-Spice and Hoisin Sauce

Chinese Braised Oxtails with 5-Spice and Hoisin Sauce 1

I had been meaning to make Chinese braised oxtails after eating this dish at Savoy Kitchen - Alhambra long ago. Winter was the perfect time for a long, slow braise.

No story here. Just an easy, comforting recipe.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup)

Recipe and photos updated from the archives November 13, 2014:

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 6

Several years ago, one of my readers asked for a recipe for Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup). I made Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup) instead since I couldn't eat bitter melon.

I tried it again last April (Ha! As if it's a surprise that it takes me forever to post recipes.) and found out that I still can't eat bitter melon. Too bad for me since I vowed to eat more healthy in the new year and bitter melon has tons of purported health benefits.

As an aside, does anyone else call bitter melon o qua, not the more popular (in online search terms anyway) kho qua? Seems those who call it the latter often eat it for the lunar new year since they want the kho qua, which can be translated to mean "hardship over" in Vietnamese. But since my family calls it o qua, we don't dwell on hardships, nor serve it up for new year's, my mama says. Ha!