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Thursday, September 30, 2010


9.30 Begonias 1

I've shown you my begonias before.

After a bit of neglect, and moving them to the same shadier spot as my desert rose, they're growing and blooming again.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Desert Rose

9.29 Desert Rose

This desert rose grew from a cutting I got from my cousin's plant and brought back from Vietnam.

It had been woefully neglected -- no flowers, few leaves. I moved it to a shadier side of my patio and within two months, it grew glossy green leaves and flowered.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sinh To Thanh Long (Vietnamese Dragon Fruit Shake)

Sinh To Thanh Long (Vietnamese Dragon Fruit Shake) 1

So what else does one do with a bumper crop of dragon fruit after making Dragon Fruit Granita, but make a Sinh To Thanh Long (Vietnamese Dragon Fruit Shake)?

There's not much to the recipe, puree dragon fruit with ice cubes and pour into a glass. I just really liked my photos. Not that it had much to do with me since dragon fruit is naturally arresting all on its own. These photos aren't all the same! The top photo featured the glass more centered. This bottom photo shows slightly more dragon fruit.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dragon Fruit Granita

Dragon Fruit Granita 1

This year's crop of thanh long (Vietnamese dragon fruit) haven't ripened on the vine yet, but triple-digit temperatures means I long for something cold and soothing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quiche with Bacon, Fennel, Leeks, and Onions

Quiche with Bacon, Fennel, Leeks, and Onions 1

So you rushed immediately to make the Pluot Apple Galette, what do you do with the other frozen pie crust?

This quiche with bacon, fennel, leeks, and onions was actually made in May 2009. Again, if you use pre-made dough, it's so much faster. It's just a matter of slicing the vegetables and beating in eggs, and then pouring it into the pie shell.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pluot Apple Galette

Plum Apple Galette 1

I didn't really feel like cooking and didn't leave enough time before work to make something to bring to my oldest uncle's house for my ong noi's dam gio (Vietnamese paternal grandfather's death anniversary). But I had a bunch of dinosaur egg pluots in the fridge, one apple, and frozen pie crust.

A French galette with its freeform crust was perfect for a hurried dessert. I quickly heated the oven, sliced up about three pluots and my one apple, tossed in some sugar and cinnamon, layered the fruit slices on the pie crust, and popped it into the oven for about half an hour. I left the tart in the oven  and heated it up again when I got home from work before bringing it over to my uncle's house.

Sure you can make your own pie dough, and I have when I'm in the mood for it, but sometimes there just isn't time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 13

My Ong Noi's Dam Gio (Vietnamese Paternal Grandfather's Death Anniversary)

The spread at my oldest uncle's house last night for my ong noi's dam gio (Vietnamese paternal grandfather's death anniversary). (Although, technically my ong noi is Chinese. :P)

I'm rather exhausted so I don't really have much to say for this month. Just my usual spiel about trying to catch up on the blog and life in general.

I have two giveaways that I'd like to point out though.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pasadena Wine Festival Giveaway

Recently, I was contacted by Nick of the Pasadena Wine Festival who asked if I would like to attend and to give away some tickets to my readers.

The Pasadena Wine Festival, which takes place from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on October 9, features more than 125 wines, food samples, and live music, all underneath the towering trees of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

I have to admit, admission to the arboretum and a tram tour of the 127 acres were the biggest draws for me. But I figured some of my readers might be like some of my friends, who immediately clamored to be my +1 because they were more interested in drinking wine, eating food samples, and listening to live music. Check out the video on their website for highlights of last year's event.

According to the organizers, what can you expect at the Pasadena Wine Festival?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oh! Nuts and "Life as We Know It" Giveaway

I was recently contacted by Sam of Oh! Nuts, who asked if I'd like to sample some of their nuts and dried fruit products. I chose pinenuts, pistachios, and cashews, and dried cranberries.

Oh! Nuts and Life as We Know It Giveaway 5

I've always wanted pinenuts to make Italian pinenut cookies or even to top a Korean persimmon drink, but could never justify the expense for myself. So yay! Be prepared for some recipes.

Anyway, so since I got something, I decided you should get something too.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Traditional and Piggy Mooncakes

Isn't it so cute?

Pig Mooncake 1

I forgot that I had taken these moon cake pictures last year and since it's Mid-Autumn Moon Festival time again, figured I might as well share.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gui Il Bun Ji BBQ Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown)

Gui Il Bun Ji BBQ Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown) 1

I felt like I did so much that day after making Feta Cheeseburgers for breakfast for oldest nephew and then departing from San Diego, I stopped off to see the "Images at War's End" exhibit at Camp Pendleton, then lunch with my friend at Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4 - Westminster (Little Saigon) and drinks at TeaZone Lollicup - Westminster (Little Saigon), then work, then I met up with WeezerMonkey and Starchy Marie at Gui Il Bun Ji BBQ Restaurant in Koreatown. All in one day! Really!

We had been meaning to get together for a while and were trying to decide between an all-you-can-eat or regular Korean restaurant. I suggested Gui Il Bun Ji after seeing Christine of Folie a Choisauce tweet about it. The Yelp reviews seemed pretty good and $16.99 for a choice of more than a dozen meats, plus tons of panchan (Korean side dishes) seemed good to me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pho Ga Vietnam Kitchen - San Gabriel (Closed)

Pho Ga Vietnam Kitchen - San Gabriel 1

In July 2008, I dined at Pho Ga Vietnam Kitchen with cousin Q's older brother. He had been in Singapore for business that year and tried the Hainanese chicken rice there. Though the Singaporean version was quite different from our family's version, he quite liked it and searched for a similar chicken rice here.

After trying out the usual suspects: Savoy Kitchen  (Blech!) and Dong Nguyen Restaurant and Banh Cuon Hai Nam Saigon (Tastes similar to our family's version.), we ended up at Pho Ga Vietnam Kitchen in San Gabriel because I noticed the huge sign that proclaimed they served Hainanese chicken rice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dong Nguyen Restaurant - Alhambra

Dong Nguyen Restaurant - Alhambra 1

In August 2008, shortly after our failed attempt to dine at Dong Nguyen Restaurant because it was closed on Thursdays, and where lil' sis and I ended up at Banh Cuon Hai Nam Saigon, we came back again so she could get her fill of their cubed beef and tomato paste red rice.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Banh Cuon Hai Nam Saigon - Alhambra

Banh Cuon Hai Nam Saigon - Alhambra 1

Back in July 2008, lil' sis and I decided to go to Dong Nguyen Restaurant - Alhambra for dinner because she was craving Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) with their Com Do Ca Chua (Vietnamese Tomato Paste Red Rice).


They were closed that day.

But we saw the flashing neon "OPEN" of Banh Cuon Hai Nam Saigon and we were huuungry, so we decided to check it out.


Hainanese written Vietnamese style? Were they Hainanese Vietnamese too? As it turns out, they weren't Chinese, but they were from our hometown.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

TeaZone Lollicup - Westminster (Little Saigon)

After lunch at Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4, we headed across the street to TeaZone Lollicup for a few drinks for dessert.

TeaZone Lollicup - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

I know Lollicup is a chain, but the matcha green tea snow bubble here is seriously the best I've ever had. It tastes like real matcha green tea, without any weird sweetness or after taste.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4 - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4 - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

After I left the "Images at War's End" exhibit at Camp Pendleton, I was making pretty good time and realized I could squeeze in a quick lunch. I messaged my friend DP to see if she was free since she said recently that there were a few restaurants she wanted me to try. But after we saw that one of them was closed, and because I hadn't blogged it yet, we ended up across the street at Banh Cuon Tay Ho 4.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meal, Ready-to-Eat: Chicken Cavatelli

Meal, Ready-to-Eat Chicken Cavatelli 1

One of my dad's customers gave him a bunch of MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat), field rations used by the American military. My dad said he remembered the rations tasting better, having traded for them during the Vietnam War so he could try American food. I don't know how much of that was nostalgia or truth. What my dad ate were either MCIs (Meal, Combat, Individual rations) or LRP (Long Range Patrol rations) which were replaced by the MREs in the early 1980s.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Images at War's End: Refugee & Marine Images from Col Waterhouse Collection & Marine Staff Photographs from Camp Pendleton Archives - Camp Pendleton

After making a quick breakfast of Feta Cheeseburgers to a wide-eyed oldest nephew who was excited at the prospect of anyone cooking for him, I headed off to Camp Pendleton, the reason why I went down to San Diego in the first place.

I had a later shift at work that day and had been meaning to check out the "Images at War's End: Refugee and Marine Images from the Col. Waterhouse Collection and Marine Staff Photographs from Camp Pendleton Archives" exhibit before it closes at the end of this month.

Images at War's End - Camp Pendleton 1

Camp Pendleton might not mean much to you unless you're military or Vietnamese-American, in which case, I suggest reading my post on Little Saigon and Vietnamese American history first to get you acquainted.

On April 28, 1975, General Paul Graham was told that Camp Pendleton was one of four military bases in the United States that would receive and house refugees from Vietnam. The other bases were Fort Chaffee, Arkansas; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; and Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. The refugees were then dispersed across the country, into every state and as many as 813 zip codes.

In 36 hours, the marines worked around the clock to build eight tent cities and to provide water, food, clothing, medicine, electricity, power, and security for the first 18,000 refugees. By October, Camp Pendleton had been home to more than 36,000 refugees.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Extraordinary Desserts - San Diego (Little Italy)

Since I brought dinner, I asked lil' sis where she was going to take me for dessert. :P

Extraordinary Desserts - San Diego (Little Italy) 1

She suggested Extraordinary Desserts. And after looking at their website, I started whining,

"When are we gonna go get dessert?"

"When are we gonna go get dessert?"

"When are we gonna go get dessert?"

Oooh! What desserts indeed!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese with Beef and Tomatoes

This one's quick and easy. I accidentally poured a little too much milk into the mashed potatoes that I was making for the English Cottage Pie so I ended up with a milky, starchy mess. I scooped out the potatoes with a slotted spoon and set the mashed potatoes aside to thicken, boiled three more potatoes to correct my error, then turned the soupy milk into macaroni and cheese with beef and tomatoes.

I meant to do that all along. Uh huh.

Macaroni and Cheese with Beef and Tomatoes 1

Thursday, September 09, 2010

English Cottage Pie with Ground Beef, Peas, and Carrots

Cottage Pie 1

Mmm. I love pie, whether it be the kind with a flaky crust or the kind with a mashed potato crust. And lil' sis loves mashed potatoes, whether it be from real potatoes or from a box. She even prefers gravy from a package. I know!

After washing the dishes and digging through my fridge to see what I had to use up, I realized that I had bought a bunch of food over the weekend to cook for lil' sis, except that she decided to leave early. Since I was feeling stir-crazy, I decided I would cook it all and surprise her that evening. I made Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes with gravy from a packet (I know!), Feta Cheeseburgers (or rather I did the meat mixture and figured I'd shape them into patties at her place), Macaroni and Cheese with Beef and Tomatoes, and this English Cottage Pie. I've always called it Shepherd's pie, but apparently that requires minced lamb. We, Americans, don't really differentiate though, but I do try to be accurate when I can.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles - Pasadena

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles - Pasadena 1

Before oldest nephew and lil' sis left to go back, we met up with my brother and his family for a late lunch at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles in Pasadena.

Roscoe's is a small chain of five restaurants that's been an L.A. institution for decades. It's been mentioned in several movies and rap songs, but my first introduction to Roscoe's was actually more than a decade ago through a college friend's friend. We alternated entertaining duties, and while I can't remember if I took her anywhere interesting, I do remember that her friend introduced me to Versailles' lemon garlic roast chicken and Roscoe's chicken and waffles (the location on Pico Boulevard though).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cinespia Cemetery Screenings - Hollywood Forever Cemetery - Los Angeles

Cinespia Cemetery Screenings (Casablanca) - Hollywood Forever Cemetery - Los Angeles 1

At the beginning of the summer, when oldest nephew came up for a visit, I talked him and lil' sis into seeing a movie with me at the cemetery. Yes, if you've seen "Valentine's Day," that's exactly what I'm talking about.

It was one of those L.A. things that I've been wanting to do since I first heard about the Cinespa Cemetery Screenings last year when E*starLA and Caroline on Crack tweeted about lobbing water bottles at an obnoxious guy who came 10 minutes before the movie started, plopped down on a tall chair, and refused to move. Man! Those ladies were serious! I made sure not to bring any chairs at all! :P

The cemetery screenings started a decade ago and my excuse for not knowing about them before is that I'm old and just don't get out as much as I used to. :P The movie was a classic so my third cousin came up to join us for the occasion.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Boiling Crab - Alhambra (Main St.)

A few months back, I noticed The Boiling Crab coming soon sign had replaced Angelina's Southern Cuisine on Main Street in Alhambra. It's been three years since The Boiling Crab - Alhambra (Valley Blvd.) opened and lines are just as long as ever.

Startlingly, I realized it's been more than two years since I've dined there. So when my brother suggested dinner at Boiling Crab the evening after lil' sis ran the Disneyland half marathon, we were all looking forward to it.

Boiling Crab - Alhambra (Main St.) 1

This Vietnamese-American-owned Cajun crawfish chain has now grown to 10 locations in Texas and California. The new Alhambra location is slightly larger and just as popular. Get there before 6 p.m. or wait with everyone else in the patio area.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Lil' Sis Ran the Disneyland Half Marathon!

Discouraged from the job hunt after lil' sis finished school, she decided she needed a goal. I thought she was crazy when she told me she signed up to run the Disneyland Half Marathon.

Lil' sis has weak ankles! She'll fall down! She doesn't run! Much less run for 13.1 miles straight!

Week by week, I watched as she added mile after mile to her routine.

Lil' Sis Ran the Disneyland Half Marathon 1

I can't see!!!

After all that hard work, I have to see and photograph when lil' sis crosses the finish line!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

So-Yah! Creamy Coconut Curry Tofu Shirataki Noodles

So-Yah! Creamy Coconut Curry Tofu Shirataki Noodles

One last item in the goody bag from my Behind the Scenes: House Foods America Corporation - Garden Grove tour was this package of So-Yah! Creamy Coconut Curry Tofu Shirataki Noodles. After being underwhelmed with the So-Yah! Red Vindaloo Curry Tofu Shirataki Noodles, I wasn't too excited to try the coconut curry noodles.

Like the vindaloo noodles, these shirataki noodles were made from yam flour and tofu. They're low-carb at 3 g of carbs and 20 calories per 4 oz serving.

Even though the ingredients were the same as the red vindaloo curry: tofu, yam flour, coconut cream, tomato paste, garbanzo beans, red bell peppers, carrots, and spices, the taste was quite different.

How different?

Friday, September 03, 2010

So-Yah! Red Vindaloo Curry Tofu Shirataki Noodles

So-Yah! Red Vindaloo Curry Tofu Shirataki Noodles

Part of the goody bag from my Behind the Scenes: House Foods America Corporation - Garden Grove tour was this package of So-Yah! Red Vindaloo Curry Tofu Shirataki Noodles.

The shirataki noodles are made from yam flour and tofu so they're low-carb. Only 20 calories and 3 g of carbs per 4 oz serving.

This package was 10 oz, so still very low-carb if that's what you're looking for.

Besides tofu and yam flour, ingredients also included: coconut cream, tomato paste, garbanzo beans, red bell peppers, carrots, and spices.

But how did it taste?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Mapo Tofu Ramen

Mapo Tofu Ramen 1

Mapo Tofu Ramen is one of those curious fusion dishes that takes a dish of Chinese origin, in this case Ma Po Doufu (Chinese Pockmarked Old Lady's Tofu), as a topping for traditional Japanese ramen.

On the other hand, one could argue the whole dish is technically Chinese, as Japanese ramen noodles were Chinese in origin. Ramen has been such a part of Japanese cuisine that no one knows exactly when the noodles made their way over from China, but several theories about the name can give a hint to its origins. According to Wikipedia, one theory is that ramen is the Japanese pronunciation of lamian (Chinese hand-pulled noodles). Another, is that the word ramen came from lomien. Lomien. Ramen.

In any case, adding the spicy tofu and ground meat mixture atop ramen noodles ended up with a tasty new dish. Since the Mapo Tofu is so flavorful, I made a quick ramen broth instead of the more complicated hours-long simmering that I usually do. Of course, you could totally cheat and use an instant ramen packet and instant House Foods Chinese Mabo Tofu Sauce and it's even faster.

But homemade is always much better.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

House Foods Chinese Mabo Tofu Sauce

House Foods Chinese Mabo Tofu Sauce 1

Part of my goody bag from my Behind the Scenes: House Foods America Corporation - Garden Grove visit was a package of House Foods Chinese Mabo Tofu Sauce. Just add meat and tofu, it says.

How does it compare to making homemade Ma Po Doufu (Chinese Pockmarked Old Lady's Tofu)? Not bad. Not bad at all.

The homemade version doesn't take long to prepare, however, if you don't keep Chinese black bean and fermented soybean sauces in your pantry, this was actually quite a good alternative. The ingredients list fermented soybean paste, so you're getting similar flavors. No Sichuan peppercorns though, so you'll miss the numbing sensation, or maybe that's a good thing? There is black and red pepper as the replacement. And tomato paste, which was unusual for me, but the flavor didn't really come through so it was fine.