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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Canh Ga Chien Nuoc Mam Kieu Pok Pok (Vietnamese Pok Pok-Style Fried Fish Sauce Wings)

Canh Ga Chien Nuoc Mam Kieu Pok Pok (Vietnamese Pok Pok-Style Fried Fish Sauce Wings) 2

After trying the much-hyped Vietnamese fried fish sauce wings at Pok Pok - Portland - Oregon, I knew I could re-create a similar version at home, but tone down the amount of fish sauce used. The first few wings I ate at Pok Pok were pretty good, but then the saltiness of the fish sauce became really apparent as I kept eating. The Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Stuff ie. Carrots and Daikon) that were served with the wings were supposed to balance out the saltiness and spiciness, but I didn't find the wings very spicy, just very, very salty. Anyway, the good thing about making this at home is that you can adjust the fish sauce and chile peppers to your liking.

Pok Pok's wings are addictive because of the double marination, before and after frying. I marinated the wings in fish sauce, salt, sugar, and garlic. I used mostly the same ingredients, but added vinegar and chile peppers, like I would with Nuoc Mam Cham Ngot (Vietnamese Sweetened Fish Dipping Sauce) and simmered it on the stove top to thicken. The wings were only lightly battered, so I used a combination of rice and tapioca flours, and only one coating before frying. If you want to eat low-carb, you can skip the coating and just fry the wings after marination if you wish. Then the wings were tossed in the sweetened fish dipping sauce afterward.

I served up my version at Christmas dinner with my siblings, and again later with friends, and they found them pretty addicting. But then, who can resist fried chicken wings that are crispy, salty, sweet, and spicy?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mimosa LA Nursery - Los Angeles

Mimosa LA Nursery - Los Angeles 1

The day before Thanksgiving, my mom said she wanted to buy a Meyer lemon tree for the house. We have plenty of fruit trees given by my uncles, but none of them were lemons. My youngest uncle's Meyer lemon tree isn't producing as much as it had in the past and my parents wanted to plant one in the front yard. Less likelihood of anyone stealing our fruit since so many people in SoCal have lemon trees in their yards you see.

So I took my mom to Mimosa LA Nursery, where lil' sis had purchased the persimmon tree for my parents' garden the year we drove up in 2008. It's also where my uncles bought their fruit trees until they started grafting or planting seedlings from existing stock.

Mimosa Nursery is owned by a Vietnamese-American so there is a pretty large selection of tropical fruit and flower trees spread across three acres.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jicama Slaw with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

Jicama Slaw with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette 1

Inspired by the jicama slaw I got as a side with the spicy smothered hot wings at Gus's Barbecue - South Pasadena, I finally got around to making my own. I figured the Sriracha Buffalo Roast Chicken was the perfect pairing to experiment with this recipe.

I kept it pretty simple, julienned jicama tossed with salt, sugar, dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and mayonnaise. It's best to let the jicama slaw chill in the fridge for a bit before serving to allow a chance for the dressing to absorb. It's a nice cool contrast to a spicy dish.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sriracha Buffalo Roast Chicken

Sriracha Buffalo Roast Chicken 1

Considering that my Sriracha Buffalo Wings recipe is one of my older recipes on the blog, and considering how many roast chicken recipes I've already featured, I'm surprised I hadn't made the leap to this Sriracha Buffalo Roast Chicken recipe sooner.

I mean, I dip chicken in Sriracha all the time, but using it as a marinade is different. I used half a cup of Sriracha for a 5-lb chicken; obviously, you'll want to use less if you can't handle the heat. But as the Sriracha is mixed with butter and vinegar and sugar, and will mingle with the chicken juices as it cooks, the chicken actually won't be very hot, if at all, after it's done.

Like traditional Buffalo wings, I served the chicken with celery and carrot sticks and ranch dressing, although Blue Cheese Dressing is preferred. I also experimented with a Jicama Slaw with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette, but that recipe's for another post.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Planting Pennywort and Harvesting the Last Figs

Not much going on in the garden in September. I brought down some pennywort and flat-leafed chives from my mom's garden in Oregon that needed to be planted so I finally started working on the narrow space outside my kitchen door. The row of amaryllises are along the wall on the opposite side of the steps. I'm leaving the amaryllises there, but the space is really too narrow to plant other flowers.

9.18 Planting Pennywort and Harvesting the Last Figs 1

There's another dirt strip opposite that, and then these two long narrow dirt strips, which seemed ideal for me to plant herbs. Right outside the kitchen door so I could cut a few herbs when cooking and the contained space would keep the them from spreading too much.

But first, I needed to pull all those weeds.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Umami Burger - Anaheim

Umami Burger - Anaheim 1

After finishing the Disneyland Half Marathon, I was staaarving. While racing, I teased Valerie Chinn and her husband about taking them to Quan Hy Vietnamese Restaurant - Westminster for the best banh beo (Vietnamese steamed rice discs with dried shrimp) in town. But Little Saigon was too far away when they still needed to get back to their hotel to get ready before check-out.

Then I remembered that Umami Burger opened in Anaheim last year and a bit of Googling turned up that it was only 1.1 miles away. The clincher was when I told them that the burgers were made with Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce) and that people waited for three hours for tables when Umami Burger opened this summer in New York City.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Disneyland Half Marathon - Anaheim - Part 2

When I last left off, the official half marathon pacer was passing me by (See the tiny orange flags in the center of the photo below?) If I was behind the required pace, I could be picked up by the sweeper vans at any time and driven to the finish line, which meant no medal.

Disneyland Half Marathon - Anaheim 52

I had sent my friends, Valerie Chinn and her husband, on ahead and now ran alone. Despite being behind the orange flags, there were still a good three or four dozen people behind me.

I wasn't last!

Just barely.

I briefly chatted with a woman who came out from Florida to run the half marathon until she ran ahead. Then another woman, who said she always walked behind the orange flags, but hadn't been swept up yet. And she had completed seven of them! So feeling a little encouraged, I figured as long as I stayed within sight of the orange flags, I would hopefully avoid the sweeper vans.

Except the orange flags were moving farther and farther away, until I couldn't see them at all.

With no one else to talk to, I finally put in my earphones and continued my run/walk. If I make it, I make it. If I don't, I can always try again. Now, I know 16-minute miles aren't extraordinary, but I'm slooow. My high school days of running crosscountry and soccer were looong behind me. My usual runs these days are around 18 minutes. I can do 15 minutes, but that's if I'm only running a mile. I'd already done five miles, which was the most I'd ever done at one time.




Did I mention it was 90 degrees that day?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Disneyland Half Marathon - Anaheim - Part 1

Disneyland Half Marathon - Anaheim 2

At the beginning of the year when I was back in Portland, I met up with my friend, Valerie Chinn, who happened to be in town too. (I recounted the story before of how her dad, who went to high school with Bruce Lee, saw the one-inch punch in person.) While catching up, she mentioned that she and her husband were planning to run the Disneyland Half Marathon and asked if I'd be interested in joining them. Ever since I went to see lil' sis finish the Disneyland Half Marathon, I've had it in the back of my mind as something to do one day. Valerie's husband is a serious racer though, having run half a dozen half marathons and almost as many full marathons in the past few years. But when she mentioned that she mostly walked the races, I figured I could do that.

She alerted me when the registration opened a few weeks later. This was the eighth year for the half marathon and the first year Disneyland was offering a 10K as well. Doing both, back to back, was called the Dumbo Double Dare. The 10k and the Dumbo Double Dare sold out within hours. The Disneyland Half Marathon sold out the next day. So just a heads up that if you want to do this, be prepared to pony up a chunk of dough and to do it fast. Registration was $175 for me. When lil' sis ran it three years ago, it was $150. *Gulp.* That was a lot of money, but it'll only get more expensive each year, so I bit the bullet.

My plan was to run three days a week -- two short runs on weekdays and a long one on weekends, adding a mile every other week. I figured it was doable if I trained for nine months. Ha! With my dad in town for several months at a time to work on the house, a sprained ankle, and just life in general getting in the way, I ran a few times a week, but never more than 5 miles at the most.

All too soon, race day drew near and I was woefully unprepared.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Media Preview: L.A. County Fair Food - Pomona

Media Preview Los Angeles County Fair Food - Pomona 1

Gourmet Pigs invited me to be her +1 at a media preview for the LA County Fair.

Deep-fried foods? Sure!

Unlike the LA County Fair media preview we went to two years ago, there were no food trucks in sight. It was a return to basics. Well, basics as far as county fair food goes, which meant deep-fried, artery-clogging goodness. Deep-fried Twinkies. Bacon-wrapped pickles. Krispy Kreme burgers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

IKEA (Swedish Crayfish Party) - Burbank

IKEA (Swedish Crayfish Party) - Burbank 1

The first time I heard about IKEA's Swedish Crayfish Party, I was going out of town to Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado. The subsequent years, it's either been sold out or I forgot about it entirely. I was determined to go at least once!

C'mon, $9.99 (with my IKEA family member discount) for all-you-can-eat crawfish? I'm sooo there!

Now, y'all know I love my crayfish, but what exactly is a Swedish crayfish party? According to the official Sweden site, crayfish were eaten in Sweden since the 1500s by the aristocracy. In the mid-1800s, it became more widespread, but it wasn't until the 1900s that the tradition, as it is now, started. Because of concerns about overfishing, catching crayfish was limited to a few months from August onward. Therefore, a Swedish crayfish celebration heralds the end of summer. Decorations might include paper lanterns depicting the man in the moon, bibs, and paper hats.

Unlike the overly spiced Cajun version, Swedish crayfish are simply boiled with salt and crown dill. No matter, I love crawfish in any form!

I ended up inviting one of my long-time students, who was pretty excited about all-you-can-eat crayfish. You have to go with someone who loves these little mudbugs too, otherwise, you're just eating boiled seafood and Swedish cafeteria food and that's no fun.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Banh Mi Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup-Spiced Sandwich)

Banh Mi Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup-Spiced Sandwich) 1

Since my brother said I was overthinking the Pho Burger with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices by making noodle "buns," I also sliced some beef and seasoned it with Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) spices and made a Vietnamese sandwich. Added the usual pho garnishes of cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, and scallions, drizzled some Sriracha and hoisin sauce, and it was pho bo in a banh mi.

Since there was plenty left after dinner with my brother's family, I figured lil' sis and oldest nephew would like to try too. So I packed everything up and drove down to San Diego to share. The verdict? Everyone liked it and I had no leftovers.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pho Burger with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices

Pho Burger with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices 1

After Keizo of Go Ramen moved to Japan to pursue his ramen dream, he apprenticed at several ramen shops before moving back to the United States and inventing the ramenburger. The ramenburger! Seasoned meat sandwiched between ramen noodle "buns." Needless to say, the ramenburger instantly caught the country by storm. I haven't been to New York City to taste the ramenburger from Keizo himself, but it got me thinking...

What if, instead of a ramenburger, I made a Pho Burger with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices? I could grind star anise, cinnamon, and cloves, add some minced garlic and ginger, to ground beef. The pho noodle "buns" would be a bit of a challenge, but as rice noodles tend to clump anyway, I could use that to my advantage. Topped with basil, cilantro, scallions, and bean sprouts and a couple of squirts of sriracha and hoisin sauce. It was literally Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) in a burger.

The only problem was that while I got the rice noodles to clump into "buns," they fell apart when holding them to eat like a burger. Pan-frying the noodle "buns" held them together, but was greasy. My brother and his wife and kids came over to test my experiment. They liked it! They liked it! My brother said I was overthinking. I already had good flavors, why didn't I just do the obvious and put the pho-spiced meat in a hamburger bun? Of course! I had also spiced some sliced beef, to see if ground beef or sliced beef was better, and he suggested making a Banh Mi Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup-Spiced Sandwich), but that's saved for another post.

I've included directions for making the pho noodle "buns," but ordinary hamburger buns work just fine for this recipe.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes)

Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes) 1

The green beans the niece grew from seed in preschool yielded a handful if I saved the harvesting for about once a week. Not really enough for a stir-fry, but just enough green beans to supplement something. Just enough for a batch of Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes).

Remembering that Shaved Ice Sundays' in-laws are Thai, I consulted her recipe since I remembered liking her use of red curry paste in the recipe. The chopped green beans I've encountered in versions of Thai fish cakes I've eaten before, adding both color and texture. Unlike her recipe though, I minced my own fish instead of purchasing store-bought fish paste. If you buy fish paste instead of making your own, then you can probably omit most of the seasonings in my recipe since store versions already have plenty. Finally, the baking powder in the recipe helps lighten up the texture of the fish. The fish cakes will puff up a little when frying, and then shrink down in size when cooled so don't be alarmed when that happens.

These can be eaten as an appetizer or a side dish, served with a light fish dipping sauce.

Monday, July 22, 2013

AltaMed's 8th Annual East LA Meets Napa & Beyond (Union Station) - Los Angeles

AltaMed's 8th Annual East LA Meets Napa & Beyond (Union Station) - Los Angeles 1

It's that time of year again for my favorite food and wine event, AltaMed's 8th Annual East LA Meets Napa & Beyond. The "Beyond" is a new addition to the title since the event now encompasses more than just East LA and Napa, but the focus has always been on Latino food and wineries. I wasn't able to make the previous year's event, but did attend the media preview for AltaMed's 7th Annual East LA Meets Napa. The highlight for me was when Chef John Sedlar took small groups of people on the roof of Playa Restaurant to check out his garden.

You can see previous posts of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Annual East LA Meets Napa events since offerings vary each year. With 60+ restaurants and wineries, all included in the ticket price, there is always so much to try. I noticed a lot more wineries this year too.

Dessert first! I couldn't resist the gorgeous display and had to check out Flantastic. I can't remember all the flavors I tried, but they truly were "flantastic"!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Corned Beef Pot Roast in Red Wine with Potatoes, Carrots, and Cabbage

Corned Beef Pot Roast in Red Wine with Potatoes, Carrots, and Cabbage 1

I like corned beef well enough, but will choose pastrami over it any day. Smoked or roast meats trump boiled meat says I. Of course, I'm not Irish, so there's no nostalgia factor in a boiled corned beef and cabbage meal for me. And even better is after St. Patrick's Day, when corned beef gets marked down to 99 cents per pound.

So, I bought a few briskets and boiled one per the directions on the package. The other I roasted low and slow, until the meat was fall-apart tender, with a cup of red wine to maximize the flavor of the gravy. I tossed in some potatoes from the garden, some carrots and cabbage, and enjoyed a wonderful corned beef and cabbage pot roast meal.

It couldn't be easier, especially since most corned beef comes with its own seasonings. You just have to be patient. I roasted the beef for about 3 hours in a Dutch oven so the meat would be moist and tender, adding in the vegetables about 45 minutes before the meat roast was ready.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken 1

I think there's a misperception that Chinese dishes that are popular in the United States aren't "authentic." Or maybe the misperception is that they aren't tasty? I have to admit, the overly battered and goopy dishes can be a bit much, but a light touch with the batter and the sauce and you can get an "authentic" and tasty dish. I think "authenticity" is debateable anyway.

Even though it is very popular, Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken is an authentic Chinese dish. It's best eaten fresh, of course, when the sauce isn't so heavy that it makes the crispy fried chicken pieces soggy. The "sweet" is achieved with fresh pineapples and orange or pineapple juice and ketchup in the sauce; the "sour" is through the use of vinegar. A bit of soy and Worchestershire sauces round out the flavors.

I marinated the chicken pieces before dipping them into the batter and deep-frying so there is flavor throughout the dish, and not because of the sauce. While you can certainly skip the batter and deep-fry and make this a sweet and sour chicken stir-fry, it's the crunchy sweet sour chicken that's the whole point, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Red (Lingonberry), White (Brie), and Blue(berry) Puff Pastry Tarts

Red (Lingonberry), White (Brie), and Blue(berry) Puff Pastry Tarts 1

My patriotic dessert for America's birthday were these red, white, and blue puff pastry tarts. The red was lingonberry jam, although strawberry or raspberry jams would work too, white brie, and fresh blueberries.

I was inspired by the apricot brie bites I saw on Old Town Home, but wanted to use fresh puff pastry and Independence Day seemed like the perfect time to get a little creative.

The sweetness of the fruit paired perfectly with the salty cheese, and who doesn't love anything baked in puff pastry? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nabeyaki Udon (Japanese Hot Pot Thick Noodle Soup in a Metal Pot)

Nabeyaki Udon (Japanese Hot Pot Thick Noodle Soup) 1

I have a soft spot for Nabeyaki Udon (Japanese Hot Pot Thick Noodle Soup) since it's the first udon I ever tried long ago. Who can resist thick slurpy udon noodles in a warm savory broth with crispy tempura shrimp?

I picked up this 1-quart Dutch metal pot at the thrift store several years ago and knew it was perfect to keep the nabeyaki udon hot. After all nabe means metal pot.

The versions I've eaten frequently featured chicken, mushrooms, spinach, an egg, and tempura shrimp. The only item missing from my version is the sliced Japanese fish cakes.

While it looks like there are a lot of ingredients, this really isn't a difficult recipe at all. I crave a piping hot bowl of nabeyaki udon during the winter, but it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Goi Bi Soi Tom Thit Heo (Vietnamese Spaghetti Squash Salad with Shrimp and Pork)

Goi Bi Soi Tom Thit Heo (Vietnamese Spaghetti Squash Salad with Shrimp and Pork) 1

Before Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad), there was actually this savory version I made back in February with shrimp and pork. I initially encountered Vietnamese spaghetti squash salad more than a decade ago, when I was back in Chicago for a visit and staying with a college friend. I had just flown in that day, and was taking a brief nap before a potluck my friend was throwing that evening, when her mom woke me up to help in the kitchen. Still a little groggy, I vaguely remember her fishing the spaghetti squash out of a pot of boiling water and being instructed to separate the strands. I've long since forgotten what my friend's mom included in the spaghetti squash salad, just the sense of urgency as she hustled me to finish before guests arrived.

Now, of course, in the privacy of my own kitchen, the only urgency was trying to cook before darkness set in so I could photograph the dish in daylight. I didn't make it. Not that the recipe is difficult, just that it takes a bit to wait for the spaghetti squash to steam and for the pork and shrimp to boil. I didn't add the thinly sliced cabbage or pickled onions like I did to the vegetarian version so that the shrimp, pork, and spaghetti squash would get central play, although you could certainly add some if you'd like. Just added some chopped herbs and tossed with fish sauce dressing. It's best served warm, as cold, congealed pork fat doesn't taste very appetizing. Though if you omit the pork, a cold spaghetti squash shrimp salad is quite crunchy and refreshing the next day.

Incidentally, when I was looking up how to translate spaghetti squash into Vietnamese, a light bulb went off when I made the connection between soi as the classifier for fibers, such as thread, string, etc. Huh. Learn something new every day.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thit Suon Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops)

Thit Suon Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops) 1

While grilling up Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers) for my Memorial Day luncheon, I decided I could toss in a few pork chops into the marinade and re-do the photos for my Basic Vietnamese Marinade for Chicken and Pork. Well, I re-did the chicken pictures several years ago by making wings, my favorite meat for the recipe, but never did get around to making pork chops.

I ended up leaving the pork chops to marinate overnight, although you can get away with doing it for only about an hour or so. You can also cook them in the pan, like I've done many times before in the pictures with the basic marinade recipe. They grill up rather quickly if you choose pork chops that aren't too thick.

I served the pork chops simply with rice, steamed cabbage, and an egg doused in soy sauce and Sriracha chili sauce.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad)

Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad) 2

I wanted vegetables to serve alongside my Memorial Day luncheon of Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers) and this Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad) was the perfect complement. Crunchy, light, and flavorful. The spaghetti squash strands stay crispy even heavily doused with a fish sauce dressing. The Vietnamese vinegared onions provide a nice tart contrast.

If you cook the spaghetti squash ahead of time and have the vinegared onions already marinating, the whole salad comes together in minutes. In fact, I deseeded the spaghetti squash, separated the strands, sliced the cabbage and herbs, and dressed the salad while Jin of Seeking Food skewered the meat. She finished her task, turned around and wondered when I had made the whole thing.

Ha! Cooking with me is magic. :P

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers)

Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers) 1

For months, Jin of Seeking Food and I had been trying to meet up, but couldn't get together until Memorial Day. Of course that meant I had to barbecue. Well, I didn't have to barbecue, but no Memorial Day is complete without one!

I found a one pound chunk of pork shoulder in my freezer, leftover from when I made Thit Heo Kho Cu Cai Trang Cu Sen (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Daikon and Lotus Roots. The pork made me think about reshooting my Bun Thit Heo Nuong (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork) recipe long ago. Even though I said grilled in the initial recipe, I didn't have one at the time and just cooked it in my kitchen. Jin was eating low-carb though so the rice vermicelli noodles were out. I had spaghetti squash on hand, but instead of making a rice noodle bowl with spaghetti squash, which would have been a good idea actually, I made Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad) to serve on the side since I was pairing it with pork skewers.

She liked the Vietnamese spaghetti squash salad so much that I sent her home with some. As for the pork skewers, I was only making lunch for two, so you can easily double or quadruple the recipe if you're making them for a party.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Angel's Knoll and Angel's Flight - Los Angeles (Downtown)

Angel's Knoll and Angel's Flight Railway - Los Angeles (Downtown) 3

After leaving The Last Bookstore - Los Angeles, we headed up Bunker Hill to Angel's Knoll. Otherwise known as Angelus Plaza (no idea why they called it thus in the movie) or the park with Tom's bench in "(500) Days of Summer."

There used to be a plaque on the back of the bench commemorating the movie, but I guess someone stole it. You can just barely see someone sleeping to the right of the bench, so we wandered around the park to other benches to take pictures, but it just wasn't the same. This really was the best bench for views!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Last Bookstore - Los Angeles (Downtown)

The Last Bookstore - Los Angeles (Downtown) 1

After a quick snack at Sarita's Pupuseria Salvadorean Food - Los Angeles and quick snaps around Grand Central Market, we walked over a few blocks to The Last Bookstore for some more pictures. Specifically upstairs, where there were several book sculptures that I'd been wanting to photograph.

The Last Bookstore is huge, with aisles of new and used books, and records. While it's no Powell's City of Books - Portland - Oregon, it's the largest and nicest bookstore I've encountered in my years in SoCal.

Love the antique-looking globe and chair. You can see a hint of the records area in the back.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bong Bi Nhoi Ca Tom Chien (Vietnamese Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Fish and Shrimp)

Bong Bi Nhoi Ca Tom Chien (Vietnamese Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Fish and Shrimp) 1

I love when squash blossoms are in season. I meant to update the photos for my recipe for Bong Bi Nhoi Tom Chien (Vietnamese Shrimp-Stuffed Deep-fried Squash Blossoms) when I decided to tweak it a little bit instead.

I added minced fish to make it a little healthier, and added chopped cilantro for a bit of freshness. Otherwise, the recipe is pretty similar to what I originally made long ago, fresh squash blossoms stuffed with shrimp, lightly dusted in rice flour, and fried crispy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amaryllises, Blueberries, and Night-Blooming Cereus

5.23 Amaryllises, Blueberries, and Night-Blooming Cereus 1

May is quite a lovely month in the garden. The amaryllises in the side yard were in peak bloom. The amaryllises were there when I moved in so I can't take any credit for them.

A few weeks later, most of the blooms had faded.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sam Woo Crisp Fish Skin Laver Flavour

Sam Woo Crisp Fish Skin Laver Flavour 1

While at Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra recently to pick up a to-go order, I saw a young couple in front of me buy a bag of Sam Woo Crisp Fish Skin. Huh! I've never seen this before.

Is it good? I asked the cashier.

She said it was, and at $2 a bag, not too bad of a price to experiment. They had regular and laver flavor. I opted for the seaweed, thinking just plain fried fish skin didn't sound very flavorful. I thought maybe it'd be like the salmon skin in salmon skin rolls at Japanese restaurants?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thai Basil Beef Stir-Fry

Thai Basil Beef Stir-Fry 1

A 5-minute meal for when you're starving and want a yummy homemade dinner right away.

OK, I lied.

It technically took me six minutes, but that wasn't nearly as catchy. I needed that extra minute to slice the shallots and mince the garlic.

That's not counting the cooking time for the rice, but if you have leftover rice that you could quickly zap in the microwave, then you're good to go. If not, this Thai Basil Beef Stir-Fry goes great in lettuce wraps for those who want to eat right away or are watching their carbs.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Amok Talae (Cambodian Steamed Seafood Curry)

Amok Talae (Cambodian Steamed Seafood Curry) 1

A few weeks after making Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry) (Twice!), I decided to switch it up a bit by adding shrimp and clams to the fish, swapping out the wild betel leaves for Thai basil leaves, and adding Thai red curry paste.

You can opt to use all of the modifications, or just one, but it's nice to vary the recipe a bit just to keep it interesting. If you're feeling lazy and don't want to slice and dice, you can skip adding all the aromatics and just do a big spoonful of Thai red curry paste instead.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Com Chien Ca Man (Vietnamese / Chinese Salty Fish Fried Rice)

Com Chien Ca Man (Vietnamese  Chinese Salty Fish Fried Rice) 1

One day while stopping off at my youngest uncle's house to borrow some tools for my dad, his wife sent me home with several pieces of dried salted fish.

"So you can make salty fish fried rice," my aunt said.

My uncle said it wasn't the "right" kind of salted fish, but my aunt insisted I could still use it to make salty fish fried rice if I wanted to.

So I did.

Actually, it was their oldest son, cousin Q's older brother, who turned me on to salty fish fried rice from Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra. How come his parents didn't give him any salted fish, my cousin asked. I dunno? But he could come over to my house for some if he wanted. And even though my uncle said it wasn't the "right" kind of salted fish, it tasted good to me!

I'd been on the lookout forever for the "right" kind of salted fish for fried rice and had no idea which to choose from the varied selection at the Asian grocery stores. Too many kinds of salted fish! Anyone have any idea which is the "right" kind? Perhaps I was making it too difficult and should have just taken my aunt's attitude of using any type of salted fish I like.

You don't need much salted fish for this recipe. Salted fish is salty! So I save the soy sauce for drizzling at the end if I decide the rice needs a little more, instead of stirring it into the fried rice while it's cooking. And like Sam Woo, I also paired it with some sauteed lettuce to cut the fishiness factor down a notch.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry)

Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry) 1

I was brainstorming ideas to make use of my new grill, thinking of Otak Otak (Indonesian Spiced Fish Paste Grilled in Banana Leaves), but I haven't located my food processor from the move (I know! It's been nearly a year! Still unpacking!) and didn't want to mince fish by hand. The Malaysian version, which is of Nyonya origins is more of a steamed curry, and similarly named because the mixture resembles brains. Hmm. Other versions include, Hor Mok (Thai Steamed Fish Mousse) which uses pureed fish and Mok Pa (Laotian Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves) which has dill, but it was the Cambodian version, Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry) that held my interest.

Perhaps it's because the few Cambodian dishes I was aware of or had eaten before, were actually Vietnamese or Chinese in origin. And while the above-named Southeast Asian fish custard dishes seemed similar to each other, with some minor variances, they were quite different from anything I could think of in Vietnamese cuisine. I wanted to try making something Cambodian.

The steamed curry is more like a light custard or mousse than the soup-based curries that I'm used to. The recipe uses Kroeung (Cambodian Spice/Herb Paste) that varies from each cook, but includes lemongrass, kaffir lime zest and leaves, galangal, turmeric, garlic, shallots, and chilies. Rather than buying a packaged kroeung mix, I used those basic ingredients in the amount of spices and herbs that I prefer in my cooking. I substituted the galangal with ginger as I don't care much for the former. And lastly, I used Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste) instead of Prahok (Cambodian Fermented Fish Paste). I guess Mam Nem (Vietnamese Fermented Anchovy Sauce) would have been a closer substitute, but I do love my fermented shrimp paste.

The result was a savory, fragrant dish that paired perfectly with plain jasmine rice. I mistakenly wrapped it completely in banana leaves the first time, but it was so good that I made it again the next day to photograph it properly. Even my dad, who hates curries, ate a bowl of this steamed fish curry. If you're not so concerned with presentation though, I'd recommend wrapping it completely in banana leaves as they impart more flavor to the curry custard while it's steaming. If banana leaves aren't available, then just use oven-safe bowls.

It does take a bit of work mincing the various herbs and spices, but trust me, it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Thit Heo Kho Cu Cai Trang Cu Sen (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Daikon and Lotus Roots)

Thit Heo Kho Cu Cai Trang Cu Sen (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Daikon and Lotus Roots) 1

My dad was in town last month to work on the house again. He can be very difficult to cook for. My dad doesn't like spices or curries, both of which I love. Since my parents have become much more health conscious these days, a lot of Vietnamese comfort foods like Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) aren't made often, if at all anymore. But after too many meals of fish or venison, my tastebuds were craving pork or chicken, the latter of which my dad doesn't like either (I told you he was difficult!).

When I spotted fresh lotus roots at the Asian grocery store, I started to brainstorm for recipe ideas. I've made Canh Cu Sen (Vietnamese Lotus Root Soup) before, but that was too simple for what I was craving. Perhaps I could replace the hard-boiled eggs in the usual braised pork recipe with lotus roots? I spotted daikon radishes on sale too and it seemed like the perfect foil, the freshness of the radish to balance the earthiness of the lotus root. The daikon also helps tenderize the meat. I used a relatively lean cut of pork shoulder for this recipe to keep it healthier, but feel free to use a fattier cut or even pork belly if you wish. I think a bit of Chinese five-spice powder would be lovely as well, but as I said, my dad doesn't like spices so they were omitted.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Italian Clam and Shrimp Fettuccine

Italian Clam and Shrimp Fettuccine 1

I still had a few cups of leftover broth from making Moules Frites (Belgian Mussels with Fries) that I didn't want it to go to waste. The flavor was so tasty that I decided to turn it into a pasta dish, and added shrimp and clams.

Of course, if you didn't make mussels, you can still make this Clam and Shrimp Fettuccine. Just use chicken broth or wine instead. A quick and easy dinner in the time it takes for the noodles to boil.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Moules Frites (Belgian Mussels with Fries)

Moules Frites (Belgian Mussels with Fries) 1

While grocery shopping at 99 Ranch Market in Monterey Park, I saw fresh black mussels on sale for $2.99/lb, or $9.99 for 5 pounds. Remembering how much the niece loved eating mussels at Bistro De La Gare Restaurant & Wine Bar - South Pasadena, and because you know how much I love bivalves myself, I decided to go whole hog and buy the 5-lb bag.

While Googling to make sure I spelled the dish correctly, I found out that moules frites is actually Belgian. Huh! I always thought mussels with fries were French, and while they are quite popular in northern France and I've seen them on the menu in French restaurants, their origins are actually Belgian according to Wikipedia and Saveur. Learn something new every day.

They say to plan on about 1 pound of mussels per person. The 5-lb bag fed three adults and one mussel-loving toddler. Not bad for $10. As for the frites part of the recipe, you can fry your own, or cheat like I did, and stop off at McDonald's. :P

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Banh Pa Te So (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie))

Banh Pa Te So (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie)) 1

I'm not sure why I haven't posted a recipe for Banh Pa Te So (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie)) before. Perhaps I was overthinking it and wanted to wait until I tried my hand at making puff pastry. Or maybe I veered the other direction and thought it was so basic that it didn't need a recipe. I admit, I don't often make a filling specifically for banh pa te so. Rather, if I'm making Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls), I use the leftover filling to stuff them or any other leftover filling or meat.

My mom buys frozen puff pastry in bulk and cuts them into squares and brings them down to me. So I almost always have some on hand. They make a great light breakfast or quick snack. But, since one of my readers requested, and in case you wanted to specifically make banh pa te so, here's my recipe.

By the way, I always knew that banh pa te so is the Vietnamese phonetic equivalent of pate chaud (French hot pastry pie), but according to Wikipedia, apparently it's an outdated 19th century term. Blame it on colonialism. Learn something new every day!

With my love for pot pies, well, really, any savory filling in pastry, it's a wonder I haven't posted about this before.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Lavender-Grilled Steak Fettuccine

Lavender-Grilled Steak Fettucine 1

A few days after my Easter barbecue, I wanted to try using my Saber Grill on my own since my brother and cousin had done all the grilling that day. I knew just the recipe I wanted to experiment with for my first time. Tony of SinoSoul dropped off some lettuce, cilantro, and lavender from his garden. I vaguely remembered coming across a recipe long, long ago for lavender-grilled steak. I don't remember any pictures accompanying the article so I don't know what it was supposed to look like, rather the writer focused more on waxing poetic about the aroma of lavender on the grill. Lavender in desserts I was used to, but paired with steak was something that never occurred to me before.

I tend to prefer French lavender for cooking, but I'm not one to turn down any type of free lavender. In the end, I think the muted fragrance of the Spanish lavender that I used nicely complemented the steak without overpowering it. I sliced the lavender-grilled steak and tossed it with some lavender fettuccine from Pappardelle's Pasta that lil' sis brought back for me from a trip to Seattle's Pike Place Market. I kept the pasta simple and just drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

If you don't have lavender fettuccine, obviously, just regular pasta will do. And if you don't have fresh lavender on hand, you can add dried lavender to the steak rub, or use herbes de Provence.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Skewers

Grilled Asparagus Bacon Skewers 1

The last recipe from my Easter barbecue is really more of an update. Or rather, more of an update in technique. I've blogged Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus before, but grabbing bacon-wrapped anything can be a bit greasy. Obviously, with chicken and ribs on the menu, hands were already going to get greasy, but I wanted to wrap the bacon around each asparagus spear and then skewer them like I've seen the chefs do at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori-Shabu Shabu - Monterey Park.

Luckily, the older '88 showed up just in time to help me finish prepping. I tried wrapping bacon around an asparagus spear and scallion, and while tasty, it was more difficult to make it look nice. The bacon didn't go as far as I thought. Despite using a pound of bacon and making a giant platter, these pretty much all disappeared by the end of the evening.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Grilled Coca Cola Fig Jam Ribs

Grilled Coca Cola Fig Jam Ribs 1

No barbecue is complete without ribs. I was planning on making Pork Ribs with Coca Cola and Strawberry Jam, but didn't have any strawberry jam in my refrigerator. No problem, the Coke was the more important part of the recipe anyway. A little digging around my condiment shelf and a jar of fig jam seemed like the most likely substitute. I made a few modifications to the other recipe, adding in fish sauce and Sriracha for more savory and spicy notes.

Can you believe all that was just one rack of ribs? I had the butcher cut it length-wise. I then cut each side in half, and used one quarter to make a soy sauce and spicy free version for the kids.

Again, I also cooked the ribs in the oven for half an hour to tenderize the meat and speed up grilling time. You can either cook these completely in the oven, which I've done plenty of times before, or cook them on the grill.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Ga Nuong Me Cam (Vietnamese Grilled Tamarind Orange Chicken)

Ga Nuong Me Cam (Vietnamese Grilled Tamarind Orange Chicken) 1

I was planning on making Ga Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Chicken) for my Easter barbecue. But earlier that week, I had stopped off at cousin Q's older brother's house after grabbing some 99-cent fish tacos to-go from Tacos Baja - East Los Angeles. By the time I left, my cousin sent me off with a bag of semolina flour and a small jar of tamarind paste. I haven't figured out what to do with the former yet, but the latter was quickly incorporated into a new marinade.

I originally thought of mango juice since the tropical flavor would pair better with the tamarind, but didn't have any on hand. No orange juice either. So I rooted through my refrigerator and stumbled upon a jar of orange marmalade, which made the chicken skin sticky, crispy and oh so yummy on the grill.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Robin's Egg Nest Easter Cupcakes

Robin's Egg Nest Easter Cupcakes 1

Robin's nest egg cupcakes for Easter. I was inspired to make these cupcakes after spying robin egg Whoppers at the store. Dyed coconut flakes green for the grass. German chocolate cupcakes since I figured the coconut in the frosting was already a present flavor. That's it!

Although, I did vary it a bit by adding Target Market Pantry brand Chickadees crackers to create love bird cupcakes.

So simple. As if you really need a recipe.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Barbecue to Break in My Saber Grill

Like my fancy new grill?

Breaking in My Saber Grill with an Easter Barbecue 1

It is niiice! Way nicer than anything I could afford on my own. So I leapt at the chance when Monique Moffit, Director of Public Relations at The Sales Factory, asked if I would like to try the Saber Cast 500 grill. I glanced at the website to read about the grill's features: an infrared cooking system for even temperature cooking, no flare-ups, and less gas usage; all commercial kitchen grade stainless steel; three independent cooking zones; and 24,000 BTUs grill and 10,000 BTUs side burner. Sounds pretty awesome!

I decided to throw an impromptu barbecue for Easter to break in my new grill ie. to rope my guests into helping me assemble the darn thing. Luckily, my brother and cousin Q's older brother, the two grill aficionados in the family, were available and willing to help. So how does the Saber grill compare to their fancy schmancy Weber grills?

Well, let's back up a bit. That all commercial kitchen grade stainless steel that sounded so awesome? That meant a package that weighed more than 200 pounds! The grill was delivered on a pallet and required a mini forklift. This was serious business!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bistro De La Gare Restaurant & Wine Bar - South Pasadena

Bistro De La Gare Restaurant & Wine Bar - South Pasadena 1

Before my mom left town, my brother wanted to meet up for a family brunch at Bistro De La Gare Restaurant & Wine Bar in South Pasadena. So called because it's next to the gare ie. train station in French, the Mission Street Gold Line stop. The restaurant is nestled between Nicole's Gourmet Foods and a nursery so plenty of potted plants and trees abound. Very cute.

The interior, with its red walls and French posters, gave a very bistro-like feel.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chinese Chili Wontons

Chinese Chile Wontons 1

So let's say you have no skills in folding dumplings, don't worry because these Chinese Chili Wontons are dead simple to make. You're not supposed to fold them prettily because the whole point of these wontons is light on the filling to enjoy the doughy wrappers, which have absorbed all the delicious sauce.

I had a craving to make these recently after missing the chili wontons I used to order at Mandarin Noodle Deli - Temple City before it closed, and then at Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel before it closed too. Not that I couldn't find another restaurant to order them, I just haven't yet. And definitely not eight wontons for $1.95. Wah! Wah! Why do all my favorite cheap places close?

If you're tired of making Siu Mai (Chinese Meatball Dumpling) look pretty, just use the leftover filling from that.

Otherwise, it's a simple enough pork and shrimp filling. Boiled wontons. Topped with chopped greens. Dressed with a chili, sesame oil, soy, and vinegar sauce. Since the wontons are sparsely filled, a little filling makes dozens and dozens.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shu / Siu Mai (Chinese Meatball Dumpling)

ShuSiu Mai (Chinese Meatball Dumpling) 1

I brought Siu Mai (Chinese Meatball Dumplings) to my brother's lunar new year dinner. I know, siu mai are usually eaten in the mornings for dim sum, but I needed something quick and easy. And while I'm perfectly happy getting my fix at dim sum restaurants, there's something to be said about making siu mai at home and eating it late at night.

I'm not so skilled with the shaping. The dumplings waffled to and fro in the steamer. After a few misses, I found it easiest to steam them in a mini cupcake pan. It's cheating for sure, but they come out much nicer if you're not so skilled in shaping them either.

Make them for breakfast, if you want Chinese dim sum at home. Or make them for a late night snack.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Ate What? 2009 Eating Out Roundup

I started off 2009 posting about my cousin's wedding, which really occurred near the end of 2008, but when I started my Dining: Best Of lists, it was too confusing to mention meals I ate that year if I hadn't blogged about it yet. Plus, since it's now taking me years to catch up, not to mention revisits, it's easiest to confine this list to memorable meals that I've blogged about that year. I do try to keep events somewhat in the proper timeline though, even if it takes me a while to write about it. So looking back at the meals I ate in 2009 was also a look back at where I went and what I ate and with whom. There were three trips to Portland (Actually, the first is a belated post about a 2008 visit), two trips to the San Francisco Bay Area, and a trip to the Southwest to see cliff dwellings.

I also ate seven courses of beef twice, filet mignon pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup), fancy dim sum, at my favorite ramen place which opened a location closer to home, a hamburger taco and stuffed sopaipillas, Navajo fry bread, and eight courses of fish. So all in all, not a bad year of eating.

But then there were the highlights. So in no particular order, except chronologically as I come across the posts:

Pearl Chinese Cuisine (Wedding Banquet) - San Diego 16 Most heartwarming has to be cousin Q's older brother's wedding at Pearl Chinese Cuisine (Wedding Banquet) - San Diego. I'd known my cousin's wife for a quite a while before they got married, before they started dating even, back when they were just friends. Since he's one of my closest cousins, it was just a fun wedding to attend. Since then, they've spawned Pablo and Johannes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

2009 Restaurants: Picture Index

Top 9 2009 Most Popular Restaurants
Top 9 2009 Most Popular Restaurants

While my restaurant posts don't get nearly as much traffic as the recipe posts, I always find it interesting which ones you find interesting. A while ago, in an effort to be more organized, I started keeping track of all my recipes and restaurant posts by year. I still need to watermark 2006 to 2008 restaurant pictures, and still need to catch up on 2010 to 2012, so 2009 is the first year that I can actually check to see which restaurant posts were most popular.

Even though I eat much more than just Vietnamese food, out of the top 10 (only 9 would fit in the mosaic picture) restaurant posts, seven of them were Vietnamese. The secret club at Disneyland, Club 33 - Disneyland - Anaheim, snuck in at #2. My cousin's wedding banquet made it to #5, Pearl Chinese Cuisine (Wedding Banquet) - San Diego. And lastly, $9.99 all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, San Ya Restaurant Korean BBQ & Noodle - Los Angeles (Koreatown), just barely managed to make the list.

What do you think these results mean? What restaurants do you look for when you read my blog? I'll save my most memorable meals for my I Ate What? 2009 Eating Out Roundup, but here you go, a complete index of dining out in 2009. And all I can think is, do I go out to eat that much?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Year of the Snake!

Happy Year of the Snake 1

Happy Year of the Snake everyone!

A few days before the lunar new year, my oldest uncle's wife called to tell me to come pick up a banh tet (Vietnamese sticky rice cake). She also gave me some dua mon (Vietnamese pickles) and mandarin oranges.

My friend DP gave me the Girl Scout cookies and a banh chung, the northern Vietnamese version of the lunar new year sticky rice cake. Banh tet is the central and southern version.

I'm pretty bad about the gift exchange this year and am still working on my half.

This morning I met up with my childhood friend for our annual lunar new year meal. I decided to keep it simple and cheap this year, so we went to my favorite, Luscious Dumplings, Inc. - San Gabriel. We got the beef stew noodles, pork and Szechuan pickles noodles, soup dumplings, and three orders of potstickers. We got the regular pork and the pork, sole, and cabbage potstickers. My friend's friends liked them so much that we got a third order. Mmm. Gotta love starting off the new year with a tried and true favorite.

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Original Tops - Pasadena

While chatting with the owners of Gus's Barbecue - South Pasadena, I found out that their father opened The Original Tops in Pasadena in 1952 shortly after immigrating here from Greece. He was only 19 years old at the time! How cool is that?!

The Gus's Barbecue owners said their father used to make them work at Tops as punishment. And yet, they decided to go into the restaurant business... Up until a few years ago, their father was still working at the restaurant every day. I love a hard-working immigrant story.

The Original Tops - Pasadena 1

Other Tops locations that have spun off from this one were all sold off and are no longer affiliated. So if you want the original owner, go to The Original Tops.

The only nod to their heritage is in the Greek Salad, otherwise, the menu is all American comfort food. The 100% Angus chuck ground beef is fresh, never frozen. The French, sweet potato, and zucchini fries are cut by hand and fried in small batches throughout the day. The pastrami is made in-house. And the kobe beef burger is just as delicious as it sounds.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fried Onion Strings

Fried Onion Strings 9

After eating Fried Onion Strings at Gus's BBQ - South Pasadena, I was reminded that I never blogged my recipe. Just one of those basic recipes that slipped through the cracks because it wasn't anything particularly special. Then again, the last time I made this, my cousin's cousin's kids were over and they gobbled up all of the fried onion strings.

They make a great snack, dipped in either ketchup or ranch dressing, or as a garnish atop steak. Eat them fast though because they don't keep well and get soggy quickly.

Ready for some vintage photos from March 2008? Of course I had to make these again for a newer and better photo, but the rest of this set, let's just say I'm glad my photography has improved. They still tasted just as good before though!

If you've made my Southern Fried Chicken, then you can make this.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gus's Barbecue - South Pasadena

Gus's Barbecue - South Pasadena 1

I've eaten at Gus's Barbecue in South Pasadena four times over the past few years so I figured it was about time to finally blog it. The first visit was back in July 2010. Actually, it was on Independence Day. No one around me was throwing a barbecue that year, and you can't have a Fourth of July without barbecue! So my brother asked if I wanted to check out Gus's with him and his wife.

The atmosphere is pretty classic American. Red stools at the counter. Scenes of old South Pasadena on the walls. We sat at a booth in the far back.