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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Behind the Scenes: House Foods America Corporation - Garden Grove

Behind the Scenes - House Foods America Corporation - Garden Grove 1

I've long-known of House Foods as the purveyor of tofu and instant mixes like Japanese curry and Chinese Mabo Tofu Sauce, but I had no idea that its House Foods America Corporation was based in Garden Grove. House Foods Corporation started in Osaka, Japan in 1913. Its first American branch, to mainly sell curry mixes, opened in Los Angeles in 1981; the tofu manufacturing facility opened a few years later.

The tofu-manufacturing branch in Garden Grove opened in 1997. It takes 20 minutes to make a block of tofu here; and 55 million pieces of tofu are made a year! The soybeans used to make the tofu are grown in North America and are not genetically modified.

House Foods America Corporation has three parts: making and selling tofu and tofu-related products, importing House Foods' products, and managing the chain of Curry House restaurants.

House Foods America Corporation recently installed a $1.65 million 213kW photovoltaic solar electric system, which will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 527,861 pounds per year, or the equivalent of planting 6,139 trees. I was invited to tour the facility by Milena Perez Schmidt and Vladimir Lapin of Dentsu Communications.
And while solar power is good and all, you know I really just wanted to check out how they made the tofu!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

From How to Cook Jasmine Rice to Happily Ever After

How to Cook Rice 12

Two years ago, I had written what I thought was a rather ho hum post on "How to Cook Jasmine Rice." Who knew that it would be so useful? With more than two dozen comments, I guess rice resonated with many of you too.

Shortly afterward, I received an email from Robin, who lives, as she calls it, in the heart of Cajun country -- south Louisiana. She was dating a Vietnamese man at the time and had been searching for recipes to cook for him.
"I was in desperate need of a lesson on how to cook jasmine rice, since my three attempts were a disaster! ... Now, I know what I was doing wrong. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It came out perfect that evening."
She told me the blog was useful to help her cook some of the foods her Vietnamese boyfriend liked, and seeing the various steps, and knowing what the dish was supposed to look like, helped her cook Vietnamese food more confidently.

I replied that if any of my recipes helped her to woo her man and got her a marriage proposal, I wanted to know about it. :P

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pork Ribs with Coca Cola and Strawberry Jam

Pork Ribs with Coca Cola and Strawberry Jam 1

Three years ago, when I moved closer to family, my oldest uncle knocked on my door bearing two full racks of pork ribs. They were on sale, he said and advised me to split them up to store in the freezer. I made Kalbi (Korean Ribs) and Char Siu/Xa Xiu (Chinese/Vietnamese Barbecued Pork) with them.

Two years ago, around the same time, he came knocking on my door again with another rack of ribs. Since I had already made and blogged two rib recipes, I wanted to come up with something special to go along with the image of my uncle on my doorstep gifting me with racks of ribs.

I just played around in my kitchen, adding in ingredients that I thought would go well together. Using soft drinks on my ribs is nothing new. In fact, this recipe preceded lil' sis's best friend's Chinese Coca Cola and Soy Sauce Spare Ribs by several years. The carbonation in soda helps tenderize the meat, and the sugars give it a nice glaze. The addition of strawberry jam was my variation from remembering a Saveur Magazine barbecue recipe long ago that included blackberry jam.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 12

Qingdao Wonton Soup

The first day of August started off so great. I was inordinately happy that morning, for reasons I won't get into on the blog. Won a bet against Gourmet Pigs so she treated me to a very nice brunch at Taste. Crab cakes eggs Benedict! Stopped off at Scoops - Los Angeles for a couple of pints of gelato to-go (jasmine pistachio, brown bread, Guinness coffee, corn) for sister-in-law's birthday and to visit with Tiberia, who giggled uproariously when I played "Peek-a-Boo" with her.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Huntington Memorial Hospital Cafeteria - Pasadena

Huntington Memorial Hospital Cafeteria - Pasadena 1

I never intended the blog to be a personal one. I figured I'd concentrate mainly on food. But as more and more of my family started reading it, the blog served to document, well, my family -- weddings, births, and milestones -- all through the lens of food. And yet, there were some posts that I couldn't write. Not then.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dragon Fruit Blossom Abundance

8.25 Dragon Fruit Blossom Abundance

Oooh! Soooo many blossoms this year!

I can't wait until they all ripen. And I thought last year's dragon fruit bumper crop was pretty darn amazing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pork Ribs with Korean Gochujang and Indonesian Kecap Manis

Korean Gochujang and Indonesian Kecap Manis Pork Ribs 1

This is my newest rib recipe. Well, not in terms of being posted, because it always takes me forever to get around to anything, but newest in creating the recipe. I made these ribs in April and even got around to blogging it before the year is up! What is the world coming to?

And can I say, these are the best photos yet? My ribs are almost always succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender, but these photos really, really show it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chinese Five-Spice and Honey Ribs

While I enjoy a healthy slather of sauce with American barbecue, when I cook ribs at home, I generally prefer far less.

Last August, I wasn't in the mood for all of the ingredients in my usual Char Siu/Xa Xiu (Chinese/Vietnamese Barbecued Pork), but I still wanted Chinese flavors. So I kept it very, very simple -- salt, soy sauce, honey, and Chinese five-spice powder. Simply perfect for what I wanted that evening.

Chinese Five-Spice and Honey Ribs 1

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Phil's BBQ Restaurant - San Diego

While I was vegetating on the couch eating my mac and cheese, lil' sis asked me to check the Phil's BBQueue Cam before heading out for dinner. Hehe. I love clever play on words.

Phil's BBQ Restaurant - San Diego 1

I could smell the barbecue when we pulled up. At 9 p.m. the line was still around the corner.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken 1

Somehow I got talked into helping lil' sis and oldest nephew move. Or rather, they needed my car since it's much more spacious than theirs. They didn't really need my help because I'm wimpy and of little use.

After work, as I gathered up the stuff she wanted me to bring down -- shoe blackening pen, my tool kit, her toaster oven, my oldest uncle called inviting me over for his mother-in-law's death anniversary luncheon. I totally should've brought my camera because my aunt had a really nice vegan spread of egg rolls, noodles, dumplings, and curry. Anyway, I stuffed myself on Vietnamese dumplings and played with my cousin's cousin's kids for a bit.

The kids asked me if we could bake cookies again since they had such fun making cookies with me during the holidays. I said I hadn't left the butter out to soften at room temperature (a must for the best texture), but they could help me make mac and cheese to bring down to lil' sis if they'd like. Yay! So my cousin's cousin's daughter and my cousin's other cousin's son came over to help me cook.

Their enthusiasm was sweet. They were so excited just to be in the kitchen. I set them to work shredding leftover rotisserie chicken and grating cheese, while I started the water boiling and sliced an onion.

This spicy mac and cheese with chicken is my interpretation of Le Bistro Montage - Portland's "Spold" Mac and Cheese, with Cajun spices and chicken, and combined with my usual Macaroni and Cheese recipe. Yes, I told you in that recipe that you could add chicken and spices, but I know how lazy you are! Or how lazy lil' sis is. She likes very specific directions when she makes my recipes and says I confuse her if I assume or skip steps.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar - Los Angeles (Downtown)

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine  Bar - Los Angeles (Downtown) 1

For lil' sis's belated and my brother's birthdays, he chose Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in downtown Los Angeles at LA Live, where Staples Center and Nokia Theatre are located. Does anyone remember when venues weren't all corporate names? :/

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower 1

So now that you know How to Fry the Perfect Steak and you've made Pan Gravy to go with it, what else are you going to pour that gravy on?

The standard answer would be mashed potatoes, Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes even, if you like.

The non-standard answer, which you can obviously see by the title of this post, is mashed cauliflower. Perfect for low-carb eaters. For people who like cauliflower in general. Or for people who like the texture and flavor of mashed potatoes, but don't want that heavy feeling in the belly afterward. I discovered the wonders of mashed cauliflower years ago during an experiment with Atkins, but still make it today because it just tastes good.

I mean, c'mon. Look. Can you really see a difference between mashed cauliflower and mashed potatoes? It tastes pretty similar too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Make Pan Gravy

How to Make Pan Gravy 1

So now you know How to Fry Perfect Steak. While it's resting, you can make pan gravy to go with the mashed cauliflower.

Quick and easy. Not terribly different from my previous recipe for Homemade Turkey Gravy, but I know how specific you like me to be with the recipes and how lazy you are at figuring it out for yourself. :P

Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Fry the Perfect Steak

How to Fry Perfect Steak 1

While, I won't claim that this method will make the best steak you've ever had, frying a good, basic steak shouldn't be difficult. Except, I have a friend who literally can't ever fry a steak right. And at least one reader who asked how because she couldn't either.

Lil' sis and I, we like our $2 steaks. Yeah, yeah, you can get all fancy schmancy and stuff with better cuts and free-range and all that, but I have pedestrian tastes and a small budget. Steaks make a quick dinner when I'm feeling lazy. They're great on salads when I want to eat less meat or to stretch out a meal.

I rarely let my steaks marinate for more than 10 minutes. Quick meal, remember? If you have a particularly tough piece of meat, my mom's trick is to lightly dust it with baking soda and let it rest for a few minutes. Then rinse thoroughly or else leftover baking soda will taste very bitter. Then marinate the steak and cook as usual. But as I said, a cheap steak and no marination time is my usual method.

This isn't so much about how to cook steak as it is to know what to look out for so you know when it's done.

No, this method won't result in steakhouse steak, but it will get you a perfectly decent dinner in less than 10 minutes.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Xa Lach Thit Bo Rau Muong (Vietnamese Steak and Water Spinach Salad)

Xa Lach Thit Bo Rau Muong (Vietnamese Beef and Water Spinach Salad) 1




Raw curled water spinach stems perfectly complement warm steak in a light fermented tofu dressing. Think of it as a steak salad version of Rau Muong/Ong Choy Xao Chao (Vietnamese/Chinese Water Spinach with Fermented Tofu). I used red fermented bean curd, which gave the dressing a nice pop of color. Tossed some pickled onions on top.

I first encountered another version of this salad, with lightly stir-fried water spinach at Xanh Bistro - Fountain Valley several years ago. When I tried recreating it at home, just sauteed water spinach didn't seem special enough for me. I then tried lightly sauteing the curled water spinach stems, but they rapidly wilted.

The lovely part about curled water spinach stems, and really why they're popular as a garnish in soups, is because they stay crisp when warm ingredients are added. So for a summer salad, even as leftovers, the water spinach stems stay nice and crunchy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Season Black Steel Pans

How to Season Black Steel Pans 1

Yay! I hardly ever win anything! I was sooo excited. Dinnerware sets, ice cream makers, Le Creuset, I couldn't decide on what to get when I won the $80 gift certificate to CSN Stores from Gourmet Pigs several months ago.

Half of the prize went toward the Cuisinart ice cream maker, which was also available on Amazon for a few dollars more, so I knew the price was good. Of course, I have to eat down my fridge before I have any room to try it out.

But what else could I get to fill my basket? I kept adding and deleting items. Le Creuset was tempting, but just too expensive when my non-brand name cast iron enamel works fine for me. When it came down to it, I really needed new frying pans. I have a Teflon-coated 10-inch one purchased right after I graduated from college, a 10-inch Lodge cast iron pan that gets a fair amount of use, and a 12-inch Circulon pan that is sometimes too big to be practical.

Which is when I stumbled upon these Paderno World Cuisine black steel pans, also available on Amazon for several dollars more, if you're so inclined. If you like the qualities of cast iron, but don't like the weight, then black steel pans are the way to go.

Monday, August 09, 2010

How to Make a Homemade Cake Stand

How to Make a Homemade Cake Stand 1

It's been several months since I promised a tutorial on how to make a homemade cake stand. I finally got around to doing it when I made a cake stand as a bridal shower gift for my friend E(L).

(Look away E(L) if you don't want to see how little I spent! Actually, we've been friends for so long I know she doesn't care about things like that. Besides, the cooking lesson is worth waaay more. :P)

Anyway, the plates were finally washed and the photos are somewhat styled so you should get a better idea of the possibilities. Think of how pretty afternoon tea can be!

This was the cake stand I made for E(L). I figured simplicity was best so I chose a plate with silver trim and silver leaves on the inside rim. Glued onto a glass candlestick.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

My Friend E(L)'s Bridal Shower

My Friend E(L)'s Bridal Shower 1

I, like, totally, had to go to the "valley" for my friend E(L)'s awesome bridal shower. It was, like, the raddest ever! :P

Gah! She lives in the middle of nowhere. Well, nowhere when it comes to food anyway, I thought as I drove past Encino and Van Nuys and all these other cities that I only knew about through movies or as addresses for television stations before I moved to SoCal. And even after I moved to SoCal, I still have yet to go to the San Fernando Valley for any restaurants.

I've mentioned my friend E(L) before once or twice on the blog. Most of the time, OK, almost every time, we get together, she comes to me so she can get her fix of Chinese and Vietnamese food. If you want to be mentioned on the blog, we have to either try a new restaurant or it has to be a special, bloggable occasion. Ordinary dining excursions to places I've already blogged about won't get you mentioned. Ha!

Anyway, E(L) and her fiance recently bought a new house, and what a house! Take lots of pictures she said after I walked through the door.

As if she had to ask!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sebastien and Adopted Uncle


Sebastien, one of my parents' chihuahuas, died today. :(

He was 14 years old.

My mom said in the morning he went outside as normal, but when she had returned from work, he was gone.