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Monday, May 31, 2010

Rau Den Xao Chao (Vietnamese Amaranth / Chinese Red Spinach Sauteed with Fermented Bean Curd)

Rau Den Xao Chao (Vietnamese Amaranth  Chinese Red Spinach Sauteed with Fermented Bean Curd) 1

When I first blogged about Rau Den (Vietnamese Amaranth) back in October 2008, I boiled it, the way my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) taught me. I had tried sauteing it once, but there wasn't enough moisture for it to work. Or perhaps, my limited cooking skills weren't able to make it work back then.

Then in March 2009, while having dinner at my brother's house, I tried sauteing it again with good results. Actually, he had invited me and lil' sis over because he had bought some fresh smelt that he wanted to batter and deep-fry. We showed up and he hadn't even started cooking yet. I even brought over the oil, but he still had to run out to buy more. Before he ran to the store, he showed me a bag of rau den that he had bought at the farmers' market and asked if I could do something with it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Barbecue

Memorial Day Weekend Barbeque 1

I asked cousin Q's older brother if he was going to throw a Memorial Day barbecue. It's tradition! I said.

Since when?

Since he hosted last year's Memorial Day barbecue! And every other year, right? I have proof! I can go back through the blog and prove it, I insisted. Except, umm, when I did go back, I realized 2008's Memorial Day barbecue was hosted by my brother and 2007's Memorial Day barbecue was held at my oldest uncle's house.

Oops. :P

Maybe I confused it with when cousin Q's older brother hosted the July 4th barbecue?

So let's make it a tradition! Yeah? :P

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Xa Lach Thit Bo (Vietnamese Steak Salad)

Xa Lach Thit Bo (Vietnamese Steak Salad) 1

Most of the time when I make a steak these days, I usually just eat it with an iceberg lettuce salad and ranch dressing or rice. My quick and lazy meal. But earlier this week when I did that, the simple dinner just didn't satisfy me.

I started to remember the Vietnamese steak salad my mom used to make when I was young. I know she used some of the extra marinade for the dressing, but remembered it tasting, well, more. So I called up my mom and asked her.

Ah, soy sauce, vinegar, and oil. Salad dressing of course, but a brothy, beefy salad dressing to complement the steak salad. Mmm. That salad was good, mom said, and wondered aloud why she hadn't made it in a long time either.

But, but, making a proper salad takes so much work. Not the cooking of the steak, but slicing all the vegetables. I mean, that is why I default to the iceberg lettuce salad as an accompaniment. But my cravings would not be assuaged by anything less. So I got off my lazy butt, and started slicing and dicing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 9

What's up? says my adorable little niece. :)

I smile every time I look at this picture. She's soooo cuuute!

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 9

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sushi Komasa - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo)

Sushi Komasa - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) 1

Forty-five minutes after we left our cell phone numbers and we went across the street to Matsumoto's 2nd Street Jazz - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) for some drinks, two spots finally opened up for us at Sushi Komasa.

By then, it was 9:30 p.m. and the lines out the door had disappeared.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Matsumoto's 2nd Street Jazz - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) (Closed)

Matsumoto's 2nd Street Jazz - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) 1

Back in April 2008, I met up with my childhood friend for dinner in Little Tokyo. We were planning to eat at Sushi Komasa, but the line was out the door. We were told it was about a 45-minute wait. So we left them one of our cell phone numbers and went across the street to grab drinks while waiting for a table. I like this sign of our times! No waiting around to make sure our buzzer was within range or listening for our names to be called.

Matsumoto's 2nd Street Jazz is located next door to Izakaya Haru Ulala - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo). The bar is owned by my friend's former sensei. She bartended for a while there too so we had a bit of an advantage in terms of service and knowing which drinks were best.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Yoshida Restaurant and Sushi Bar - San Marino

Yoshida Restaurant and Sushi Bar - San Marino 1

I realized after uploading these pictures, and linking to other Japanese restaurant posts, that I eat a wide swath of average sushi. Not that there's anything wrong with that. We can't all dine at high-end restaurants or order the most expensive sushi. Sushi is expensive, yo!

It's like what one of my college friends said while we were eating dim sum at Elite Restaurant - Monterey Park, he can taste the difference between really good and really bad dim sum, but otherwise, most of it is just good. Which is probably why this visit to Yoshida Restaurant and Sushi Bar in San Marino dates to September 2007. I know! I keep meaning to revisit every time I go past it on Huntington Drive, but there are so many other restaurants to try.

So here you go, in case you're in the neighborhood and don't want to drive to Alhambra or Pasadena to get your sushi fix.

During the dinner rush, the sushi bar was full, with a line forming (always a good sign), so we opted to sit at a table.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pink Night-Blooming Cereuses, Amaryllis, and Tomatoes

On May 8th, I noticed my pink night-blooming cereus was about to bloom. It took five years, but I finally got two blooms out of my night blooming cereus last year. I was excited this time to see about half a dozen buds.

5.24 Pink Night-Blooming Cereuses, Amaryllis, and Tomatoes 1

It opened a few days later.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

White Bean and Bacon Soup

White Bean and Bacon Soup 1

I much prefer soup to salad. I think in the case of the former, it takes a lot of artful chopping and mixing to create a really good one. As for the latter, it's my lazy meal when I just want to toss in everything I can find in my refrigerator or pantry. Such was the case in this White Bean and Bacon Soup from September 2008.

There's something about a big bowl of veggies that makes me feel like I'm eating healthier, even if I did add bacon. :P

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Zuppa Toscana (Italian Tuscan Soup) alla Olive Garden

Zuppa Toscana (Italian Tuscan Soup) alla Olive Garden 1

Is Zuppa Toscana a real Italian soup from Tuscany? Or an Olive Garden creation? I suspect the latter since Google turned up pages and pages of copycat recipes.

In any case, it's a simple soup that I've made many times through the years, but evidently not since January, when the last set of these photos were taken.

Not that I really needed to consult any of those recipes since there are so few ingredients: Italian sausage, potatoes, and kale in a lightly creamy broth. I've substituted the kale with collard greens sometimes with good results. I like red potatoes best for this, but ordinary russet potatoes are fine too. Replace the cream with milk if you want it to be less fatty. Heck, I've even substituted bratwurst for the Italian sausage. At the core, if you keep the basic ingredients of sausage, greens, and potatoes, this recipe is very adaptable to whatever you have on hand.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Canh Cai La Xanh (Vietnamese Collard Greens Soup)

Canh Cai La Xanh (Vietnamese Collard Greens Soup) 1

If you know the basics of how to make Canh (Vietnamese Soup Broth), then this Canh Cai La Xanh (Vietnamese Collard Greens Soup), or pretty much any Vietnamese green leafy soup should be quick and easy.

Usually, when I boil pork to make Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Salad Rolls), I use the resultant broth to make soup. Then it's a simple matter of adding in fish sauce for flavoring. This type of soup isn't meant to be a meal, but is served in addition to a meat and a side dish.

Incidentally, does anyone have a better translation for collard greens? I went with cai la xanh as in leafy green cabbage.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Green Broth)

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Green Soup) 1

I first heard of Caldo Verde (Portuguese Green Soup) from Rita of Pink Bites, who's Brazilian but because of colonialism, this soup has become popular far beyond its borders. She made it with lots and lots of collard greens. Since my youngest uncle grows them in his garden, and I have access to lots and lots of them for free, it was definitely a soup I wanted to try.

Especially since collard greens are high in vitamins A, C, and K. Huh! According to Wikipedia, 100 g/3.5 oz of collard greens supply 594% of your recommended daily vitamin K. Learn something new every day. Vitamin K is important in maintaining bone growth and density, so eat lots if you want to grow tall or stave off osteoporosis.

I do always feel like I'm extra healthy when I make this soup. It's like eating a bowl of chlorophyll.

Normally I stir-fry collard greens or I just have them in a simple broth Vietnamese-style, Canh Cai La Xanh (Vietnamese Collard Greens Soup). Caldo Verde differs with a potato-based broth, sometimes onions are added, and finished off with lots of olive oil and Portuguese sausage.

Since I haven't found any linguica, I've often substituted with Polish smoked sausage, or leave the meat out entirely and this soup is easily vegetarian. I've tried both mashing the potatoes in the soup and pureeing them, and prefer to dice the potatoes small and mash them so that the soup is more brothy and less like eating liquid mashed potatoes. Also, while I like olive oil as much as the next person, spooning extra olive oil on top is a bit too much for me, but if you want to be authentic, I leave that up to you. If you don't like collard greens, you can easily substitute with kale or Swiss chard, just as long as the overall result is green. After all, that is the key name of the soup.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Taste of Brazil - Los Angeles

Taste of Brazil - Los Angeles 1

Cousin Q first mentioned Taste of Brazil to me long ago as a non-churrascaria Brazilian restaurant in case I wanted to try it. Last September, I finally went with Tony and Mrs. SinoSoul and their friends.

I did not realize there would be live music that night. And two big tables celebrating a birthday. All Asian people too. In a Brazilian restaurant? What was going on? The combination of live music and raucous eaters meant WE HAD TO TALK LIKE THIS TO BE HEARD. And I did not like that.

Taste of Brazil - Los Angeles 2

Nonetheless, we persevered.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Brazilian Papaya Creme

Brazilian Papaya Creme 1

This recipe is so ridiculously simple that I feel like I should just call it one of my "non-recipes," except this really IS the "recipe" for Brazilian papaya creme!

Earlier this year, I received an email from Lauren who does PR for the Texas de Brazil Churrascaria restaurants. It was a bunch of suggestions for Carnivale, including the recipe for Brazilian papaya cream. The ingredients? Papaya and vanilla ice cream with creme de cassis, a black current liqueur. I was sure it was a super-cheat recipe, but saved the email anyway.

A month later, I dined at Fogo de Chao - Beverly Hills. When it came time for dessert, the waiter recommended their papaya creme, which was a blend of papaya and vanilla ice cream with creme de cassis.

Wait a minute!

That's really the recipe!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Crock Pot Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)

Crock Pot Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) 1

Several months after making Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) and then Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup), I experimented with cooking other Vietnamese dishes in the Crock Pot. Actually, I'm surprised it didn't occur to me to make Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) in the Crock Pot first since the thick stew was perfect for the slow cooker.

I didn't make very many changes to the recipe since, as I said, it's pretty much made for tossing all together in a slow cooker. I used a 4.5-quart Crock Pot, so I reduced portions a bit and changed the sequence of some steps. But mostly, just let it all simmer on high for four hours, or on low for eight hours, and you've got a meal by the time you walk in the door after work. I didn't even defrost the chicken beforehand and the curry came out just fine. My guests even had seconds. And thirds.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Red Velvet Crackle Cookies

Red Velvet Crackle Cookies 1

After christening the new old stove by boiling water for the noodles for my Crock Pot Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup), it was time to bake something special in the oven. While the red velvet cake trend might be overhyped, red velvet cookies were another matter.

A chocolatey red velvet cream cheese cookie with a crackly powdered sugar crust. Just decadent and special enough for the new old oven. Obviously, you can make this from scratch, but it'll involve a lot of red food coloring. Or just use boxed cake mix, like I did. I added a block of cream cheese for flavor since these cookies aren't iced. Then rolled in powdered sugar and pressed flat to create that lovely crackled crust.

I baked half the batch and the cookies had a lovely red velvet color. I saved the other half in the fridge and made them again several days later. The cookie dough had gotten much wetter over time, the red was more pronounced, the cookie became more cake-like. It was still good, but I liked the crispness of the fresh batch better.

If you like red velvet cake, then you'll definitely like eating it in cookie form.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Crock Pot Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)

Crock Pot Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) 1

My most popular and most commented recipe on the blog is Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup). I'm not going to rant again about how bun bo Hue is not Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) because with different noodles, different broths, and different meats, you obviously know that by now, right? If you don't, I'll wait while you click over before coming back.

Bun bo Hue is a bit more laborious to make, what with the beef and pork bones, pig's feet, and lemongrass to give the soup its depth of flavor. Not to mention the kick of chilies for spice and shrimp paste for savoriness. So how to squeeze all that into a 5-quart Crock Pot? Obviously, I couldn't use beef or pork bones because that would take up all the space. So I decided to go with a combination of pig's feet, pork spare ribs, and beef shank meat. I reduced the portions of the other ingredients accordingly.

The test came on May 15, 2010. That was a big day in the Wandering Chopsticks kitchen! Tony of SinoSoul was getting a new oven and giving me his old one. It's hard to believe, but for three years, my old oven literally could not boil water. It's a wonder I've been able to cook as I have. I mean, I still cooked noodles, it just took longer until they were done. We were so excited to see the water boiling that we even took pictures! This momentous occasion deserved a corresponding recipe.

In the morning, I prepped the meats for the stock and put them in the Crock Pot on high heat. While the stock was cooking, I prepped the garnishes -- the steamed pork loaf, blood cubes, bean sprouts, onions, and mint leaves. Normally, I'd slice some banana blossoms, but a simplified recipe meant a simplified garnish platter as well. I shoved everything into the refrigerator until it was time to eat.

Nearly four hours later, after picking up my new-used oven and swapping the old one out, and obviously, testing that new-old oven could boil water for the noodles, we sat down to eat the Crock Pot bun bo Hue. Hey! Pretty good! Now, I will admit that the broth isn't as full-bodied as it could have been via the traditional method, but the bones in the pork spare ribs and pig's feet added some heft to the broth. And when it came down to it, the convenience of a Crock Pot bun bo Hue outweighed the few cons. So if you don't have time or are too intimidated to try making bun bo Hue the traditional way, do give my Crock Pot bun bo Hue a try. Like I've proven with my very popular Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) recipe, Vietnamese tradition can be updated for modern convenience without sacrificing authenticity or flavor.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Penang Asam Laksa (Malaysian Penang-Style Tamarind Fish Soup)

Penang Asam Laksa (Malaysian Penang-Style Tamarind and Fish Soup) 1

After recently eating Penang Asam Laksa (Malaysian Penang-style Tamarind and Fish Soup) at Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant in Alhambra, and last summer at Banana Leaf Restaurant - Milpitas, and making asam laksa from a package, I figured I was finally ready to try making it myself.

I knew there was tamarind, lemongrass, galangal but you know I prefer ginger, belachan (Malaysian shrimp paste) which I usually substitute with Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste). MalaysianFood.net had a pretty adaptable recipe which confirmed which ingredients I thought I needed for the soup.

I think it's the combination of tamarind and shrimp paste that makes me liken asam laksa to a cross between Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup) and Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup), which makes it understandable why my Vietnamese palate had a craving for it one cold and rainy night.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant - Alhambra (Closed)

Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant - Alhambra 1

Along with giving me the calamansi, when I met up with Pink Candles at Ridgemont High I suggested Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant in Alhambra because I knew she liked to try new cuisines. Also, it gave me a chance to revisit the restaurant and to finally blog it.

So I'll start back in June 2008 when I first went to Yazmin with cousin Q and his younger brother.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Calamansi Juice

Calamansi Juice

Why yes, it is a lazy "recipe" post. :P

Earlier this year, I met up with Pink Candles of Ridgemont High who was nice enough to bring me a bag of calamansi, these tiny sour citruses that are popular in Filipino cuisine. Calamansi are sour, really, really sour. In a pinch, my mom uses it in place of lemons or limes in Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce).

I don't cook much Filipino food, so the easiest thing for me to do was to juice them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve 1

Recently, Gourmet Pigs and I went to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve because I've lived in California too long not to have done this.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve 2

I know it's California's state flower, but the California poppy is just a "meh" flower for me. But field after field and hill after hill of them and the California poppy is really something else!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Orange Dust from Angry Asian Creations

Speaking of oranges, or rather citrus, recently Lan of Angry Asian Creations sent me a container of the orange dust she made and blogged about.

"It's magic," she says.

Orange Dust from Angry Asian Creations

And indeed it was.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Grapefruit-sized Shasta Gold Tangerines

Last week, while at the Alhambra Farmers' Market, I thought I saw ugly oranges and asked what kind they were. Turned out, they weren't oranges, but super large tangerines. Shasta Gold tangerines.

Grapefruit-sized Shasta Gold Tangerines 1

How large?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

How to Decorate a Onesie with an Appliqued Patch

How to Decorate a Onesie with an Appliqued Patch 1

Finally finished sewing the dim sum patch onto the onesie that I started at the baby shower for my little niece. Since I've been getting hits for decorating onesie ideas, I figured I'd show you how I went about this.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Don't Fence Me In Quilt

Dissatisfied with my Frowsy Flowery Quilt, I brainstormed for another design. Since my first log cabin quilt was a little uneven at spots, I wanted to do another log cabin, but more orderly. Or maybe my libra brain wanted something more structured?

So on January 6, 2008, I started again. I dubbed this one my "Don't Fence Me In" quilt.

Don't Fence Me In Quilt 1

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Frowsy Flowery Quilt

Frowsy Flowery Quilt 1

Right after I finished my Sushi/Dim Sum Quilt on December 16, 2007, I started combing through my stash of floral fabrics to start another quilt. I know! It has been a while. I just wasn't feeling this one.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Finishing Your Quilt: Basting, Quilting, and Binding

Presenting... My Sushi and Dim Sum Quilt 6

When the older '88 was finishing up her "Happy Sailing" quilt, she said she couldn't find my info on how to finish it. That's because I never blogged it. :P

And gosh, it's been more than two years since I've quilted anything! I took a little more care to baste, quilt, and bind my sushi/dim sum quilt than I did with my previous ones so I think it looks much better.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Older '88's "Happy Sailing" Quilt

The Older '88's Happy Sailing Quilt 1

It only took three years, but the older '88 finally finished the quilt she started long ago. She dubbed it "Happy Sailing."

So cute, yeah?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Dau Hu Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Tofu with Tomato Sauce)

Dau Hu Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Tofu with Tomato Sauce) 11

I've always thought it odd when people cook tofu as a meat substitute. Sure. Sure. Tofu has lots of protein. But I'm talking about the taste here. I like the taste of tofu. I like it plain. I like it fried. I like it added to meats, not in place of, but simply because tofu soaks up the flavor of so many sauces.

So when Sijeleng of Javaholic, host of last month's Weekend Wokking garlic round-up, chose TOFU for this month's challenge, it was time to do this simple dish.

Last March, as in '09 and not two months ago, one of my readers asked for a recipe for tofu with tomatoes. Tomatoes or tomato paste? Fried or not? How can he recreate his mom's cooking?

Umm. He knows I'm not his momma, right?

All last week, someone kept searching for Dau Hu Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Tofu with Tomato Sauce). Well, sure, I've got a recipe for Dau Hu Chien (Vietnamese Fried Tofu) and another for Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce). An industrious person would cobble the two recipes into what he or she needed.

But I know how lazy you guys are. So I give you two fried tofu versions -- lightly battered in rice flour and deep-fried, and unadorned and pan-fried. Gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly too, just use all rice flour without corn starch and substitute vegetarian "fish sauce" or soy sauce.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Minx Restaurant and Lounge - Glendale (Closed)

Minx Restaurant and Lounge - Glendale 1

I've seen the white sails of Minx Restaurant and Lounge from the freeway many times and wondered what the venue was like. Was it a restaurant? A club? Turns out, it's both.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Portland From Glendora Rose

5.1 Portland From Glendora Rose

My poor garden has been so neglected this year. I need to take better care of my roses. This is the only bloom I can remember snapping of Portland from Glendora rose. And it's not even that nice of a picture. She's had much better days.