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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.