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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hae Jang Chon Korean Barbecue Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown)

Hae Jang Chon Korean Barbecue Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown) 1

On my actual birthday, I opted for a tried and true favorite, Korean barbecue with the oldest '87 and her middle sister at Hae Jang Chon Korean Barbecue Restaurant in Koreatown. The photos for this post were actually taken back in February, during my first visit when my dad's friend's daughter was in town.

I guess it does pay to advertise. I noticed the restaurant's ad on LA Weekly's website and clicked over. All you can eat Korean barbecue, including 19 items, for $16.99? And open until 2 a.m. every day? Definitely worth checking out.

So on my dad's friend's daughter's last night in town, we decided to go there for dinner. When I got there, I realized that I actually had tried to go once before with lil' sis, after noticing it during a visit to Kyochon Chicken - Los Angeles (Koreatown). But the restaurant looked empty so early in the day, so we defaulted to Tahoe Galbi Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown) for lunch.

It was an hour wait on a Saturday night, but we stopped off at Scoops - Los Angeles for gelato beforehand so we didn't mind.

Part of the reason I wanted to try Hae Jang Chon was for the rock slab grill. You'll see why later in the post. The waiter immediately started bringing out all the panchan (Korean side dishes). The Baechu Kimchee (Korean Pickled Napa Cabbage) and the Kong Namul (Korean Seasoned Soy Bean Sprouts) were the overly fermented kind intended for the grill.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cafe Bizou - Pasadena (Old Town)

When lil' sis told our brother that she was coming up to take me to "Phantom of the Opera" for my birthday, he wanted to take us out for dinner beforehand. He suggested choosing from the Pasadena restaurants that were participating in DineLA. I quickly scanned the lowest-priced tier and chose Cafe Bizou because it seemed to give us the best food options.

Three courses with steak and lobster for $26!

Cafe Bizou - Pasadena (Old Town) 1

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 14

Busy, busy month! My Octobers are always like that though. A while back, lil' sis told me to save October 6 for my birthday surprise. But that's not my birthday, doesn't she know me at all? :(

She wouldn't tell me what it was, but told me to dress nice, ie. no flip-flops. That Wednesday, she drove up right after work and surprised me with tickets to "Phantom of the Opera" at the Pantages Theatre. Aww, how nice!

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 14 1

Monday, October 18, 2010

Paella Valenciana (Spanish Valencian Pan Rice)

Paella Valenciana (Spanish Valencian Pan Rice) 1

It's a thank you paella. Well, technically it's paella Valenciana, but it was made as a gesture of appreciation. Unlike seafood paella, the Valencian version is land-based so there's chicken, sausage, snails (supposedly the garden variety, but I had big sea snails on hand for Vietnamese snail noodle soup), artichokes, green beans, butter beans, and peas.

And of course, all cooked together in a pan of saffron rice.

As I was saying, I injured my foot earlier this month. I stepped on something in my kitchen, and you know how you place one foot on top of the other to dislodge it? Well, without looking to see what it was, that's what I did. All of a sudden, I felt something wet, looked down, and saw a big pool of black. I stupidly stared as it got bigger and bigger, wondering how I spilled soy sauce, when I realized that I had cut myself with a jagged piece of glass. I had recently broken a jar and apparently missed a piece in the clean-up. And in attempting to dislodge it from the the bottom of one foot, I had jabbed the glass deeply into the top of the other foot.

Luckily, I had just washed my kitchen towels so I wadded up a dishcloth to staunch the blood. It soaked up fast! So I folded up another dishcloth for padding, then rolled a third to tie into a makeshift tourniquet. That seemed to do the trick and the blood stopped gushing out.

I hobbled over to my living room and sat there with my foot elevated on the arm of the sofa. A few minutes after I sat down, my youngest aunt knocked on my door with my youngest Argentinian girl cousin. Oh, was she in town visiting, I asked? Nope. She and her husband had enough of Michigan's cold winters and decided to move to SoCal two months ago. Huh?! Sooo random!

After my aunt and cousin left, I messaged Tony of SinoSoul because freak accident + unexpected visitors = randomly weird evening. Instead, he freaked out himself, so he and the missus left the movie theater, and promptly appeared on my door step with hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic cream, and butterfly bandages.

Awww. With friends like that, obviously I needed to thank them with something special.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

TC Donuts - Alhambra

TC Donuts - Alhambra 1

The next morning, oldest nephew's childhood friend said he was craving some sweet pastries for breakfast so I suggested doughnuts, thinking that there would be Danishes or something like that at the shop. What we found was even better.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chao/Congee/Jook Thit Heo Bam Hot Vit Bac Thao (Vietnamese/Chinese Rice Porridge with Ground Pork and Preserved Duck Egg)

Chao  Congee  Jook Thit Heo Bam Hot Vit Bac Thao (Vietnamese  Chinese Rice Porridge with Ground Pork and Preserved Duck Egg) 1

After I got back from the Pasadena Wine Festival, oldest nephew's childhood friend was camped out in my living room, catching up online and doing laundry. Lil' sis and oldest nephew weren't coming to pick him up until the next day since we were going to Fogo de Chao - Beverly Hills for DineLA. A few hours later, jetlag finally caught up with him and the snores were so loud that I couldn't even hear the television, so I retreated to my bedroom.

I figured he'd probably wake up in the middle of the night hungry, so I decided to make rice porridge for him. I've never met anyone who likes rice porridge as much as he does. He likes bland foods he says and can happily eat rice porridge every day for every meal. In fact, I made a 5-quart pot, left a note beside his glasses telling him there was rice porridge on the stove, and went to sleep. At 1 a.m., he woke up and ate three big bowls. He then ate another bowl for breakfast. And happily took home the quart-sized container of leftovers.

I've made Chao Hot Vit Bach Thao (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Preserved Duck Eggs) before, but it's been three years and this recipe has ground pork added. So, you know, a new post is required, right? :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pasadena Wine Festival (Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden) - Arcadia

 Pasadena Wine Festival (Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden) - Arcadia 1

When I queried my Facebook friends to see who wanted to be my +1 for the Pasadena Wine Festival, my friend Don got first dibs. Actually, he was supposed to be my +1 for the 5th Annual AltaMed's East LA Meets Napa event, but he got held up at work and couldn't make it. Too bad because that was my favorite food and wine event. Nonetheless, he was excited at the thought of any wine festival. I warned him to keep his expectations low since I anticipated long lines and wasn't sure whether I was getting general admission or VIP tickets.

Earlier that day, I picked up oldest nephew's childhood friend from the airport and we stopped off for a late lunch/early dinner at Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel. Don joined us at the tail end of our meal so we filled up on green tea pork noodles, spicy beef stew spinach noodles, and spicy wontons before heading out to the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

Most people parked across the street at the mall and walked over, but I had injured my foot earlier this month and was still hobbling around, so Don offered to spring for parking at the arboretum. $13! We met up with the middle '87 and older '88, who decided at the last minute they wanted to go.

After checking in, I found out that I got complimentary VIP tickets after all. Thanks Nick and the folks at Pasadena Wine Festival!

We got there around 5 p.m. and the lines were already pretty long. But early October in Southern California is usually so nice -- still warm, but cool and in the shade of the arboretum's trees, the Pasadena Wine Festival looked to be a pretty popular event.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to Eat Dragon Fruit

How to Eat Dragon Fruit 1

With all the dragon fruit pictures I've been posting, I realized that I've never shown you how to eat one. Not that you couldn't have figured it out on your own. OK, it was just an excuse to post more pictures. :P

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Whoa! Dragon Fruit!

10.13 Whoa! Dragon Fruit! 1

After photographing my dragon fruit flower abundance in August, I forgot all about them.

On October 2, I noticed that the fruit were almost ripe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kangkong Belacan (Malaysian Stir-Fried Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste)

Kangkong Belacan (Malaysian Stir-Fried Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste) 1

Salads are all well and good, but most of the time, I prefer my greens sauteed. I love rau muong/ong choy/kangkong (Vietnamese/Chinese/Malaysian water spinach), but mostly eat it as Rau Muong Xao Toi Chao (Vietnamese Water Spinach Stir-fried with Garlic and Fermented Bean Curd). So recently, I decided to change things up a notch and make it Malaysian-style with Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste). If you have blocks of Malaysian belacan, then by all means use that, but I've found the Vietnamese version just fine for substitution.

The fermented shrimp paste and dried shrimp are incredibly pungent, so make sure you have a good exhaust fan or air filter turned on high. And for some weird reason, this recipe is all in portions of two. You'll see what I mean.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wilted Arugula Lettuce Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Wilted Arugula  and Lettuce Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing 1

Lately, I've noticed a steady increase in hits for my recipe for Iceberg Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing. While it's one of my favorite salads, and I think the photos are pretty darn nice even taken with my old camera, I think its recent popularity is because of all the Mad Men love? I don't watch the show myself so someone will have to tell me how the salad features in the series. Does Don Draper eat a lot of it or something?

I love mixed lettuce salads, but they can be pretty expensive. So recently when Fresh&Easy had a sale, two bags of arugula lettuce salad for $3, I bought two. I ate one bag with my usual balsamic vinegar/olive oil dressing, but then figured maybe I should gussy up the other for the blog.

I last made this wilted lettuce salad three years ago, but that early photo just wasn't up to par. Of course, I also have a bad habit of hanging on to too many photos anyway so there it sat in my queue year after year after year. You can see how horrendous that photo looks at the end of this post. While updating the photos for my Angel Hair Pasta with Balsamic Chicken, Bacon, and Diced Tomatoes recipe, I figured it was time I finally blogged this recipe too.

You could use this same dressing for a baby spinach salad too. The key is to use a few tablespoons of bacon grease to make into a vinaigrette and then to quickly toss while it's still warm. The vinegar and brown sugar nicely mellow out the fattiness of the bacon grease. It's obviously not something you want to eat on a regular basis so once every three years sounds about right. :P

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Berry Bible by Janie Hibler and Giveaway

Berry Bible by Janie Hibler 1

Earlier this summer, I was contacted by Sarah at AmazonEncore, who asked if I would like to review a copy of “The Berry Bible: With 175 Recipes Using Cultivated and Wild, Fresh and Frozen Berries” by Janie Hibler. She won the James Beard award for a single subject for her other cookbook, "Wild About Game: 150 Recipes for Farm-Raised and Wild Game - From Alligator and Antelope to Venison and Wild Turkey."

I love berries so I was quite excited there was a whole book on just berries. In “The Berry Bible,” Hibler talks about picking berries after she moved to Oregon, which immediately reminded me of my childhood when I sometimes tagged along as my parents picked berries on weekends to supplement their income. Hibler traveled the world to learn about all kinds of berries from the Saskatoon berry found on the Canadian prairie to the best strawberries at markets in Europe.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins 1

As I said, once I get stuck on a particular recipe for something, that's it. And really, after looking at the golden crust and juicy blueberries in this recipe for blueberry muffins, why try another? This recipe for blueberry muffins is so good that I only waited five months to share it, as opposed to my usual two years+. :P

Friday, October 08, 2010

Strawberry Banana Bread

Strawberry Banana Bread 1

All these bakeries posts reminded me that I had a few baked items in the queue. I don't do much baking and as you know, once I discover I like a baked good in a certain way, that's it. I might make variations here and there, but essentially it's the same recipe. And so it is that all sweet bread recipes are variations of my basic Banana Bread. I mean, I already know it'll produce moist, slightly sweet bread, so I'm hard-pressed to try something new?

I went a little overboard with the strawberries because I wanted the burst of pink to show in the photos, but that really made the bread too soggy. I halved it for the recipe because you really don't want to make my mistake. I held off on blogging this because I kept meaning to make it again and take nicer photos, but I'll never slog through my queue at that rate. These photos and this recipe have languished since April 2008.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Kiki Bakery - Monterey Park

Kiki Bakery - Monterey Park 1

Back in April, shortly after Kiki Bakery in Monterey Park had just opened, I stopped in with my third cousin who wanted some nice bread and rolls to take back with her to Orange County.

This location was pretty spacious, with a boba shop inside.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Kee Wah Bakery - Monterey Park

Kee Wah Bakery - Monterey Park 1

Past Wing Hop Fung, and on the other side of Capital Dim Sum & BBQ, lies Kee Wah Bakery. The first time I stopped by in the late afternoon, I saw a bunch of Chinese customers grab trays so I dutifully followed suit.

They were loading up on freshly baked rolls, which were still warm from the oven.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Patisserie Philippe Macarons - San Francisco From Gourmet Pigs

Patisserie Philippe Macarons - San Francisco From Gourmet Pigs 1

Last April, after a trip back from San Francisco, Gourmet Pigs brought me a present! A box of half a dozen macarons from Patisserie Philippe in San Francisco.

So pretty!

Patisserie Philippe Macarons - San Francisco From Gourmet Pigs 2

Monday, October 04, 2010

Wing Hop Fung - Monterey Park

Wing Hop Fung - Monterey Park 1

Three years ago, I attended a traditional Chinese medicine luncheon hosted by Wing Hop Fung. While, the luncheon was certainly an experience, I was more interested by the Wing Hop Fung story. What began as a mom-and-pop shop in Chinatown in 1985 has grown into an operation with two stores of 20,000 and 18,000 square feet selling Chinese medicinal products, teas, gifts, and fine wine.

The children of the original owners gradually took on their parents' business. The daughter works out of the Chinatown location, while the son is often in the Monterey Park store. He was interested in wine and thus began acquiring it to sell. A store selling traditional Chinese medicine side-by-side with fine wine? This I had to see. Especially, when I read that they also hold wine tastings.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Capital Dim Sum & BBQ - Monterey Park

Capital Dim Sum & BBQ - Monterey Park 1

Tired of the lackluster roast pork and roast duck at Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra and looking for alternatives, I checked out Capital Dim Sum & BBQ in Monterey Park last summer.

Capital Dim Sum & BBQ, serves the same dim sum as Capital Seafood Chinese Restaurant, but is a separate take-out shop next to Wing Hop Fung.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Happy Bakery - San Gabriel

Three years ago, Happy Bakery - Alhambra burned down. :( After several years of seeing nothing going up in the old location, I figured the owners decided to retire. So, tipped off by the Two Hungry Pandas, I was sooo excited to see them reopen last November.

Happy Bakery - San Gabriel 1

I had been going to Happy Bakery for more than a decade, getting small orders of dim sum to-go or an occasional Chinese barbecued pork bun. A small box of various pastries always made great presents for a co-worker's birthday or to thank a friend for driving me to the airport.

The old location, with its handmade "Se Habla Espanol" sign because the Chinese owners once lived in Venezuela, was worn and tired. The owners often looked it too, but that was part of its charm. No frills, but I knew that the Happy Bakery was a real mom-and-pop kind of place.

Once, I stumbled upon the owners' son's blog post linking to my post about the fire. He said people kept asking his parents whether they were going to reopen. He said he was "bakerysick" in the way that some people get "homesick."

So happily filled with nostalgia, I mentioned all that to the owners when I first stopped in last December. She seemed happy to hear that people were talking about their reopening, excited to have them back. I asked her why they took so long?

She said they wanted to find the right location and they took a vacation. After so many years of working ungodly hours, the bakery opens at 6:30 a.m., I smiled at the thought of them needing and taking a vacation.

Welcome back, I said, and proceeded to order up a storm.

They still offer a variety of dim sum to-go.

Friday, October 01, 2010

CBS Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Los Angeles (Chinatown)

CBS Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Los Angeles (Chinatown) 1

Earlier this summer on the same day that I noticed my desert rose and begonias were blooming again, I had met up with a college friend who was in town. Because of logistical reasons, we decided to meet up for dim sum in Chinatown. Everyone knows all the best Chinese restaurants are in the San Gabriel Valley, including dim sum, so I was at a loss as to where to go. I asked the Twitterverse and Christine of Folie a Choisauce suggested CBS Seafood Restaurant.

It's a bit old school with pushcart-style dim sum, but it has a free parking lot next door, which is always helpful. I also found a restaurant.com coupon ($25 off $50 coupon for $10, but I had an online code for 70% off so it only cost me $3.) so that decided it. Her parents and grandparents were also joining us, otherwise we would have never been able to eat $50 worth of dim sum.

I got there first so I ordered tea while I waited for my friend. See the pushcart in the back? I was pretty surprised actually because the restaurant is quite small and the newer, smaller dim sum houses have done away with the pushcarts, opting for taking orders off the menu.