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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grey Scarf for Lil' Sis's Other Friend

Lil' sis started this scarf years ago. She crocheted about a foot and left it to languish in my yarn pile. I recently picked it up again with no plan in mind.

Gray Scarf for Lil Sis's Other Friend 1

Her other friend said once that he wanted a scarf that he could wrap around and around and around his neck. So when he came over recently for tea and sympathy, I offered up the scarf.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 6

Femme Noir by Phong Hong Finalist for Oscars Designer Challenge 2010 5

Earlier this week, it was announced that my cousin, Phong Hong was a finalist in the Oscars Designer Challenge 2010. If he wins, the "trophy girl" will be wearing his design to present one of the Oscar statues to one of the winners at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Femme Noir by Phong Hong Finalist for Oscars Designer Challenge 2010

Femme Noir Finalist for Oscars Designer Challenge 2010 1

Isn't the dress positively gorgeous? If you've been a fan of my cousin, Phong Hong, since his Femme Noir Collection debuted at Los Angeles Fashion Week last fall, then please, please, please vote for his design to be the one the on-stage statuette handler ie. "trophy girl" wears at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony.


As in the red carpet gold statue OSCARS!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Il Sole Restaurant - West Hollywood (Closed)

Il Sole Restaurant - West Hollywood 1

While I'm not one to chase after celebrities, every once in a while, I end up dining at some of their hangouts. And so it was that when I was invited by Kelsey Beniasch of Wagstaff Worldwide to dine at Il Sole Restaurant in West Hollywood, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

After all, Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Orlando Bloom, Cameron Diaz, Courteney Cox-Arquette, David Arquette, Rod Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Robert Downey, Jr., Jerry Seinfeld, Brooke Shields, Lisa Kudrow, Sharon Stone, Sheryl Crow, and Sting have all been photographed here.

The restaurant welcomed back Executive Chef Issac Rivera, who worked at Il Sole almost a decade before, and who recently came back from traveling and working throughout Italy. Rivera brought with him some new recipes and a Sunday prix-fixe menu; the restaurant wasn't open on Sundays before.

Since Il Sole was small, dark, and intimate (probably why it was popular with celebrities), joining us were just two others, Gourmet Pigs and SinoSoul.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bolivian Tomato and Onion Salad

Bolivian Tomato Onion Salad 1

One last tomato recipe from that box of 40 heirloom tomatoes I bought for $5 at the Alhambra Farmers' Market. Gotta eat all the tomatoes before they go bad!

So I asked on Twitter if anyone had tomato recipes, Jin suggested a Bolivian Tomato and Onion Salad. Slice the tomatoes and onions into thin strips and sprinkle salt and pepper on top, she said. That's it! Simple enough. So I did.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hong Kong-Style Tomato Borscht

Hong Kong-Style Tomato Borscht 1

The last recipe left to blog of the dishes served at this baby shower was a Hong Kong-Style Tomato Borscht. On account of me having so many tomatoes on hand, some of which were already quite soft, but also because I just love tomato-based soups. I've blogged Beet Borscht before, the gorgeously pink-hued Ukrainian version. But I've been familiar with the tomato-based version for much longer as it's a staple at Hong Kong cafes in the San Gabriel Valley.

It's pretty simple, a basic beef stock with tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, celery, carrots, and onions with some tomato paste added in to deepen the tomato color. Let it simmer for a while until ready to eat.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tomato Asparagus Feta Phyllo Tart

Tomato Asparagus Feta Phyllo Tart 1

This tomato tart came about because I bought a box of 40 heirloom tomatoes from the Farmers' Market - Alhambra for only $5. Since I had yellow, orange, and red tomatoes, I had to show them off.

I originally wanted to use puff pastry, but it was more expensive than the phyllo. Plus, the phyllo could also be used for the Mushroom Cream Cheese Phyllo Bundles. In the end, I think the phyllo was a nice crispy contrast to the softness of the tomatoes. The asparagus I also had on hand because I made Bacon-wrapped Asparagus for the baby shower. And lastly, a bit of feta cheese crumbled on top and a dash or two of dried thyme rounded everything out nicely.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mushroom Cream Cheese Phyllo Bundles

Mushroom Cream Cheese Phyllo Bundles 1

I know it was cheesy, but making "bundled" food for my brother's upcoming "bundle of joy" was just too apropos to ignore. Besides, since I bought phyllo instead of puff pastry for the Tomato Asparagus Feta Phyllo Tart, I needed to come up with something to use up the extra.

Since the big ole ham, that I bought on sale, provided plenty of meat, I decided to make the appetizers mostly vegetarian. I love mushrooms so putting them into a pastry bundle sounded good to me. I added in a small dollop of cream cheese to make the filling creamy. And tied it all together with a green onion. Quick and easy. The only tip is to make sure you squeeze as much liquid out of the mushroom filling as you can because they release a lot of moisture and will dampen the phyllo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Baby Showers and Onesies

The day before I headed up north for my college friend's wedding, lil' sis and I hosted a baby shower for our brother. We had no plans in mind except eating, opening presents, and decorating onesies (You'll see! Way better than baby shower games!).

I bought a 9-lb ham on sale at Fresh & Easy for only $3.47! I normally don't eat ham, but couldn't resist such a bargain. I figured the easiest thing to do was to buy baguettes and let everyone make sandwiches.

On Baby Showers and Onesies 1

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thien Long Restaurant - San Jose

Thien Long Restaurant - San Jose 1

First lunch at Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose down, second lunch to go. My high school friend had requested that I take her to a new Vietnamese restaurant for her to try so she could come back with her husband after I'm gone. She says I know what to order. But I don't, really! I just go by what sounds good.

She wanted to find a broken rice place closer to her because one of her favorite places to go when she visits me is Da Nang Com Tam Tran Qui Cap - Westminster (Little Saigon), but the place I bookmarked was closed. So I decided to try Thien Long Restaurant in San Jose because they had Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill) and Bun Thit Heo Nuong (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork) combined into one.

How awesome is that?! Since most places have Cha Ca Thang Long as a large serving for two people, you can just order an individual serving of grilled pork and turmeric fish in one bowl.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose

Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose 1

The day after my college friend's wedding at Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant - Emeryville, I met up with my high school friend again for lunch before heading back down south. Funnily enough, the first time I ate at Vung Tau Restaurant was more than three years ago after my other college friend's wedding, again on my way back down south.

I was visiting the friends whom I had met on the plane during my last trip to Vietnam and who ended up being from my hometown. In fact, the husband's parents ended up literally being in the same boat with me. Small world, yeah? Especially if you're from my hometown and also Hainanese. :) Anyway, they took me here for lunch and I had the best ever banh khot (Vietnamese savory cupcakes with shrimp). The filling was so luscious with coconut milk and a crispy outside. No wonder since the restaurant named itself after the seaside town where banh khot were invented. Other versions of banh khot that I've had tasted like mini banh xeo (Vietnamese sizzling pancakes), but these were distinctly different.

Shortly after that, my high school friend moved to the South Bay. After a rather disappointing vacation in Hawaii, she desperately wanted good food when she got back. I offered up the only place I knew -- Vung Tau Restaurant. Despite the jet lag, she immediately drove here and it remains her favorite Vietnamese restaurant. She's tried their other locations and swears by this one. She's tried almost every item on the menu and has liked every dish. She has a vegetarian friend who conveniently forgets he doesn't eat meat when the Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls) come out. :P

So even though she wanted to try a new restaurant with me, she also really, really likes Vung Tau. We compromised. First lunch at Vung Tau followed by a second lunch somewhere else. Insane! And why is it that my friends are so dependent upon me to try new places?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Emeryville

On Valentine's Day/Lunar New Year, I found myself up in the San Francisco East Bay for a college friend's wedding.

Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Emeryville 1

A dozen years ago, when I lived up here, Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant was my and my childhood friend's dim sum restaurant of choice. It was pretty decent dim sum and had the added benefit of us not having to cross over the Bay Bridge. (Can you believe the bridge toll is now $4?!) The restaurant is located at the very end of the Emeryville pier so we dined while looking at expansive views of the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Year of the Tiger and Banh Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year Sticky Rice Cakes)

Banh Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year Sticky Rice Cakes) 1

Since this year's Tet (Vietnamese lunar new year) coincides with Valentine's Day, I'll just have to wish you a Happy Year of the Tiger first because I've got a lovely post for Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Banh Bot Chien (Vietnamese Fried Rice Flour Cake)

Banh Bot Chien (Vietnamese Fried Flour Cake) 1

Last summer, when I was up in Oakland, I passed a Vietnamese restaurant with a huge sign declaring that they had banh bot chien (Vietnamese fried rice flour cake). Huh! I had never heard of such a dish before.

A bit of Googling turned up a post from Noodlepie about banh bot chien on the streets of Saigon and a recipe from Houston Wok. So the dish looked like simply steamed rice flour, cut into rectangles, pan-fried, then stir-fried with eggs and scallions. Seemed simple enough, but I knew I wanted to make it with banh cu cai/lo bak gou (Vietnamese/Chinese pan-fried turnip cake) for more flavor. I had made turnip cakes once before, but hadn't gotten around to making it again since.

One of students' fathers gave me an entire pan of turnip cake for the lunar new year. It was heavenly. So tender and flavorful with chopped bits of dried shrimp and Chinese sausage. I ate most of it plain since it was so good that it needed little else, but I did save a bit to make banh bot chien.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ultimate Stir-Fry Sauce

Ultimate Stir-Fry Sauce

The ultimate stir-fry sauce is about using the sauces in my pantry for a quick meal with lots of oomph in flavor. On the left are the umami flavors of Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce) and Chinese oyster sauce. In the middle are the sweeter black sauces of Indonesian Kecap Manis and Chinese hoisin sauce. I've covered all the black sauces in my post: Chinese Black Bean, Hoisin, and Oyster Sauces and Indonesian Kecap Manis. Then on the far right is Huy Fong's Sriracha chili sauce.

Adjust according to your taste, but the perfect ratio for me is 2 tsp each of the fish, oyster, kecap manis, and hoisin sauces and 1 tsp of the chili sauce. I sometimes add 1 or 2 tsp of rice wine or vinegar.

Mix and add to any stir-fry or use as a quick marinade. Double or triple the recipe for larger batches.

I know it sounds simplistic, but that's why it works.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Banh Uot Xao Bo (Vietnamese Wet Rice Noodle Sheet Stir-fry with Beef), Bok Choy, Broccoli, Bean Sprouts, and Spinach

Banh Uot Xao Bo (Vietnamese Wet Rice Noodle Sheet Stir-fry) with Beef, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Bean Sprouts, and Spinach 8

There are the text messages I keep because they make me happy. Like when lil' sis declared that I was the best sister in the entire world. Or when she said she loves me more than I'd ever know, even when she's acting mean or cranky.

And then there's the text message I keep because I get a good chuckle every single time I see it.

August 12, 2008, 12:56 p.m.

"Hey CB what are some other veggies I like besides bok choy that I can stir fry?"


So I texted back and told lil' sis that she also likes bean sprouts, broccoli, and spinach. And so when she was home during Thanksgiving weekend in 2008, I made her a stir-fry of her favorite noodle banh uot/ho fun (Vietnamese/Chinese rice noodle sheets) with beef, broccoli, bok choy, bean sprouts, and spinach. Darn that spinach or it'd be a veritable feast of BBBBBs.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

Banh Cuon Xao Thap Cam (Vietnamese Combination Rolled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry)

More uses for my Ultimate Stir-Fry Sauce! "Thap cam" means combination or a bit of everything in Vietnamese, which I took as an opportunity to clear out my fridge. I cut up plain banh cuon (Vietnamese rolled rice noodles) and stir-fried them with some of my mom's cha ca (Vietnamese fried fish paste), eggs, onions, tomatoes, and green beans and ground pork that had been left over from my Lumpiang Prito (Filipino Fried Egg Rolls).

Banh Cuon Xao Thap Cam (Vietnamese Combination Rolled Rice Noodle Stir-Fry) 9

Make it with anything you wish! That's the whole point of "thap cam." :)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Laura Ingalls Wilder Collection (Pomona Public Library) - Pomona

After lunch at Pollos KiKiRyKi Peruvian Restaurant - Claremont, my friend and I went to check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder Collection at the Pomona Public Library. Clara Webber, the Pomona Public Library's children's librarian from 1948 to 1970, struck up a correspondence and friendship with the author. When the library was remodeled and the children's room was named in Wilder's honor, she donated the handwritten manuscript to "Little Town on the Prairie" to the library.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Collection (Pomona Public Library) - Pomona 1

Also included in the collection is the original typewritten manuscript of "By the Shores of Silver Lake" and "Remember Me," one of the scripts Michael Landon wrote for the television series of "Little House on the Prairie."

She had wanted to check out the Gingerbread Sociable, an event the library hosts the first Saturday of every February since 1967 to celebrate Wilder's birthday. Sadly, it was over by the time we arrived. I still enjoyed looking at the Little House artifacts anyway.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Pollos KiKiRyKi Peruvian Restaurant - Claremont

Pollos KiKiRyKi Peruvian Restaurant - Claremont 1

Since my friend and I were going to be in the area to check out the Pomona Public Library's annual birthday celebration for Laura Ingalls Wilder, I suggested trying Pollos KiKiRyKi Peruvian Restaurant in Claremont. I remembered she once mentioned craving Peruvian roast chicken. I stumbled upon a mention of Pollos KiKiRyKi on David Allen's blog and was intrigued because I've been to the strip mall a time or two and wondered how it escaped my notice.

Why KiKiRyKi?

Apparently, that's the Spanish version of "cock-a-doodle-doo."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Mexican Nutella Hot Chocolate with Chilies

Mexican Nutella Hot Chocolate with Chilies 1

It's been an incredibly busy week with stuff going on all over the place. I haven't had a moment to think about what to make for this year's World Nutella Day.

Then, while writing up the Weekend Wokking round-up #21 (Chili Pepper), I was saved by Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf's recipe for Mayan hot cocoa. I could do something similar, but swap out the cocoa in her recipe with Nutella.

Read the Wikipedia entry on hot chocolate for background information on how the drink evolved from what the Mayans and Aztecs drank hundreds of years ago. Chile was definitely an ingredient.

If I had time, I would have simmered whole ingredients, but perhaps there's something to be said for super simple as well?

On a cold, rainy night, an individually-made mug of hot chocolate with a few pinches of cinnamon, chili pepper, and nutmeg, along with a generous dollop of Nutella, was just what I needed.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Weekend Wokking #21 (Chili Pepper)

Tuong Ot Toi (Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce) 3

It's no secret that I cook lots of CHILI PEPPERS, the secret ingredient for this month's Weekend Wokking challenge, as chosen by last month's host, Marija of Palachinka. It's not so much for me, but because my family can't get enough of my Tuong Ot Xa (Vietnamese Lemongrass Chili Sauce).

Youngest aunt was just telling me that she was on the phone with oldest aunt, who raved about the jar of chili sauce I gave her for Christmas. Youngest aunt then strongly hinted that she needed some more too.

Cousin T was quite happy when I gave her a jar during Christmas. Apparently, her parents refused to share any of the chili sauce I had given them the year before. :P

But obviously, the chili pepper has a lot more uses than simply in sauces. The half dozen recipes for this month's challenge in alphabetical order are...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Farmers' Market - South Pasadena

While my preferred farmers' market is the one in Alhambra, sometimes I don't make it before it closes. So in July 2008, I checked out the South Pasadena market since it's held in the early evenings on Thursdays.

Farmers' Market - South Pasadena 1

Lots more people, that's for sure. I had to circle a few times to find a parking spot.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Nonna Pizzeria - South Pasadena

To be fair, the day after eating at Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena, cousin Q and I went to Nonna Pizzeria, which supposedly features the recipes of the original owner of Mamma's Brick Oven, to compare differences. The nonna (Italian grandmother) featured in this restaurant used to be pictured in the original Mamma's Brick Oven logo. Nonna Pizzeria is owned by the granddaughter of the nonna pictured, and is the daughter of one of the original owners of Mamma's Brick Oven, the one who gave allegedly sabotaged recipes to the new owners of Mamma's Brick Oven. Got all that?

Nonna Pizzeria - South Pasadena 1

I don't know if the current owner of Nonna Pizzeria was mixed up in the whole Mamma's Brick Oven fiasco or not, so I tried to keep an open mind when we dined there. The menu was similar with pizzas by the slice, pizza rolls, and garlic knots.