Home | Directory | Contact | FAQ | Recipes | Restaurants | Vietnamese Recipes | 100 Vietnamese Foods | Subscribe

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Taiwanese Minced Pork Rice

Taiwanese Minced Pork Rice 1

On days when I'm too lazy to cook much, but I want something comforting, I often turn to a quick rice bowl for dinner. I almost always have ground pork in the freezer for just such instances. Whenever I go to the Asian grocery store, I buy a pound of ground pork, and if I don't have any plans to cook with it immediately, just stick it in the freezer. Ground pork is a staple in my kitchen since I frequently use it for dumplings, egg rolls, stir-fries, noodles, or as a main dish like this Taiwanese Minced Pork Rice.

Though the preparation is quick and easy, the taste is similar to a braised pork dish because of the caramelized slightly sweet soy sauce flavors. I added just a touch of Chinese 5-spice powder to add some nuance. Instead of just ground pork, you could also use finely diced pork belly or shoulder.

Taiwanese minced pork rice is often serve with a hard-boiled egg and some mustard greens, but I made due with a fried egg for a quick dinner.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Easiest Moist Turkey Crispy Skin Recipe - Salt Rub and Baking Powder Turkey

Easiest Moist Turkey Crispy Skin Recipe - Salt Rub and Baking Powder Turkey 1

This year, with both siblings out of town, I only had eight guests so I decided to splurge and bought a freshly slaughtered turkey from Chinese American Live Poultry - Rosemead, where my family buys fresh chickens for Hainanese chicken rice. The shop ordered 350 turkeys this year, which came in the Monday before Thanksgiving. By the time I made it to the store on Tuesday afternoon, nearly half the turkeys had been processed and sold. I grabbed the last one of the day. A 20-lber for $50! The most I've ever spent on a turkey so it better be good!

I've made my usual Salt Rub and Butter Turkey every Thanksgiving since 2007. (Well, with the exception of Thanksgiving 2008 when I ordered from the Chinese barbecue place, only for the family to be up in arms because my homemade turkey is much better. I haven't repeated that mistake.) Sometimes I add spices into the turkey salt rub, but otherwise I stick with what's tried and true.

Then this Thanksgiving, while skimming this Serious Eats post about brining, there was mention of adding baking powder to the salt rub for crispier skin. Can my already awesome turkey get even better?!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wynotts Wands - Salem - Massachusetts

5 Wynotts Wands - Salem - Massachusetts 1

While on our loop around Salem, second-oldest nephew pointed out Wynotts Wands, makers of fine wands since 1692 (not really). After all, if Salem is capitalizing on its notoriety for witchcraft, stands to reason that someone would cash in on wizardry and Harry Potter.

Butter beer anyone? Actually, it's Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer, neither it, nor Wynotts Wands, is affiliated with Harry Potter. Not that anyone really pays attention to that disclaimer.

Because really, when you have a wand shop, it better look like Ollivanders! (And like Ollivanders, there is no apostrophe in Wynotts.) The shop limits the amount of visitors inside at one time, which was actually refreshing to escape the crowds during October in Salem, but meant a brief wait before being allowed to enter.

Not affiliated with Harry Potter, although the Deathly Hallows logos on the wand boxes in the window contradict that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ye Olde Pepper Companie (America's Oldest Candy Company) - Salem - Massachusetts

4 Ye Olde Pepper Companie (America's Oldest Candy Company) - Salem - Massachusetts 1

After grabbing a quick breakfast at Red Line Cafe - Salem - Massachusetts, second-oldest nephew and his friend and I headed to the waterfront. After a spin around the House of the Seven Gables and the house in which Nathaniel Hawthorne was born, we headed across the street to Ye Olde Pepper Companie, which opened in 1806 and is America's oldest candy company. A chance to get some edible souvenirs with a side of history? Can't pass that up!

According to their website, Ye Olde Pepper Companie began after Mary Spencer sailed from England to Salem and was left destitute by a shipwreck. Her neighbors donated supplies, including a barrel of sugar when they found out she was a confectioner. She made lemon and peppermint Gibralters, which are initially hard but then soften after several weeks and taste like an after-dinner mint. She first sold her candies on the steps of church and then with a horse and carriage. After she passed away in 1835, her son, Thomas, took over the business, but shortly afterward, he inherited a title in England and sold the business to fellow confectioner, John Pepper. Thomas and Pepper had worked together to create Black Jacks, molasses stick candy that would appeal to more masculine tastes to contrast with the feminine Gibralters.

Pepper's son, George, took over until selling his business at the turn of the 20th century to George and Alice Burkinshaw, who were, respectively, assistant candy maker and candy packers for Ye Olde Pepper Companie. The fourth generation of Burkinshaws still operate the candy shop today.

The left side of the building is where the candy is still made by hand today. The right side is the candy shop. October's high season in Salem meant a very packed store. There was basically only room to enter, walk around the center table, choosing wares along the way, exiting after a loop.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Red Line Cafe - Salem - Massachusetts

3 Red Line Cafe - Salem - Massachusetts 1

Why are you waking me up at 6 a.m.? I groaned to second-oldest nephew when he asked what time I wanted to get up. Still operating on West Coast time, he had plugged the meter for the car when I had promptly turned off my alarm and continued sleeping.

By the time I finally got up, the breakfast restaurants that I had bookmarked had lines out the door. It's high season in Salem! Tons of people were already walking around in costume, and all the sit-down restaurants were mobbed. So after striking out at a few places, nephew suggested Red Line Cafe for some sandwiches.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Bewitched" Statue - Salem - Massachusetts

2 Bewitched - Salem - Massachusetts 1

As second-oldest nephew and I walked back from Lobster Shanty - Salem - Massachusetts, we passed by the "Bewitched" statue of Elizabeth Montgomery. There had been a steady line of people all evening, waiting to take pictures with the TV witch, but at this bewitching hour, no one was around.

A statue of a fictional witch in a town known for executing real-life "witches"? Tacky and insensitive or kitschy tourist draw?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Lobster Shanty - Salem - Massachusetts

1 Lobster Shanty - Salem - Massachusetts 1

I had a bunch of miles that were expiring soon and with an open invitation from Gourmet Pigs to come out for a visit, decided to do just that for my birthday since I hadn't gone on a big trip in a while. Five days after I booked my flight, she received a media invite to Sacramento to tour a cattle ranch.

Could I change my ticket?

Not without incurring a hefty change fee. Plus, I wanted to go to the Keene Pumpkin Festival that weekend.

Would I mind if she went? She could leave her car for me if I wanted?

Well, sure, in that case, that actually worked out better because I could go up to Salem and spend time with second-oldest nephew.

Evidently, Salem is more happening than I realized. Since my flight came in late, I Googled around for some options and saw that The Lobster Shanty was open until 1 a.m.

Doh! October. Salem. Witch trials. Halloween. It's Salem's high season.

According to the T-shirts, which said, "The Lobster Shanty -- warm beer, lousy food, surly waitresses, rude bartenders, cranky cooks," I think it's supposed to be a dive, but service and food were just fine.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lagman (Uzbek Lamb Noodle Soup)

Uzbek Lagman (Lamb Noodle Soup) 1

My first encounter with Lagman (Uzbek Lamb Noodle Soup) was at the now defunct Uzbekistan - Los Angeles. At the time, I dismissed it as a basic beef stew with similar Chinese noodles. Seven years later, after having explored other Central Asian cuisines, I hope I've become less cavalier of other cuisines in general, but of Central Asian cuisines in particular.

I try to place new cuisines into what's familiar, and would describe Uzbek and other Central Asian foods as a cross between Chinese Islamic and Middle Eastern cuisines. Which, if you think of the former, is already a confluence of two different cuisines.

If lagman seems familiar, that's because the word is derived from lamian (Chinese hand-pulled noodles). The Uzbek version is thicker, similar to Japanese udon, but much more tender. I stumbled upon a package of Shanghai home-style noodles at the grocery store, which looked so very homemade that I couldn't resist buying it so I could experiment. If you can't find Chinese hand-pulled noodles, then I'd suggest substituting with udon or even fettuccine.

Now, as for the lamb or beef stew portion of the soup, I knew there was an undefinable something that made Uzbek lagman stand apart. A little Googling and I found a lagman recipe from Bois de Jasmin that mentioned kala jeera (Indian black cumin). I debated whether to be lazy and substitute with regular cumin, but hauled myself off to Bhanu Indian Grocery & Cuisine - San Gabriel and luckily found a package in stock. One whiff of the smoky aroma and I knew it was worth the trip. No, regular cumin is not remotely similar to black cumin. I would omit it if you can't find any, but if you can, oh, does it add that something.

I find lamb to be quite gamey, unless it's rack of or thinly sliced for hot pot. So I used a combination of the latter with some venison my dad had shot. Regular beef is perfectly fine to use in this soup as well. The lagman I had at Varzoba Kafejnica - Riga - Latvia was described on the menu as a tomato soup, of which I had plenty from my garden. You can cut the vegetables into a thick julienne or dice them as I have. And lastly, as these are fresh noodles, don't add the noodle to the soup. Rather, boil the noodles separately, and spoon the stew over the soup.

I looked through my photos of the lagman I ate at Varzoba Kafejnica and was struck by the artful plating of the bright blue bowl atop a blue plate. Rummaged through my kitchen cabinets for something similar and I have to say the plating made my Uzbek lagman look so much more tempting, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mi Xao Toi Bo (Vietnamese Noodles with Garlic Butter) Maggi Seasoning Sauce

Mi Xao Toi Bo (Vietnamese Noodles with Garlic Butter) Maggi Seasoning Sauce 1

Shortly after getting back home, I was still thinking of the simple, but oh so good garlic noodles that I ate at Swamp - San Francisco. Years ago, when I first heard about Crustacean's garlic noodles, I quizzed my friend DP who had eaten there and asked her what she thought was in the dish. Garlic and butter were a given. The saltiness, could it be Maggi Seasoning Sauce, the not-so-secret favorite for Vietnamese kitchens? She said possibly, but it was creamy too, and suggested Parmesan cheese.

Since Crustacean is so expensive, I tried making a version at home and thought the garlic butter noodles were rather ho hum. But paired with Vietnamese Cajun seafood like I had at Swamp, or any other seafood dish with sauce, and the simple garlic butter noodles really shine through.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hong Galbi BBQ House - Los Angeles (Koreatown)

Hong Galbi BBQ House - Los Angeles (Koreatown) 1

I had driven past Hong Galbi BBQ House many times and mentally made a note to check it out some day. So, when Jin of Seeking Food uploaded some yummy-looking pictures of Korean pork ribs, I insisted we go for lunch next time she had a craving. This was not one of the ubiquitous all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurants dotting Koreatown. Not that there's anything wrong with that; as you know, I'm a frequent customer at such establishments.

Hong Galbi BBQ House specializes in broiled pork ribs. Lunch specials feature the ribs with rice pots or stew for about $30. Not all-you-can-eat prices, but enough to feed two people so it evens out.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Dib Iab Ntim Nqaij Hau Ua Kua (Hmong Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup with Ground Pork, Cilantro, and Scallions)

Hmong Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup with Ground Pork, Cilantro, and Scallions 1

In my experiment to Make Bitter Melon Less Bitter, the last recipe I made was Hmong Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup with Ground Pork, Cilantro, and Scallions. Most of the steps were the same as Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup), except I used cilantro and scallions in place of the vermicelli noodles and tree ear fungus. I also added a few stalks of lemongrass to the broth.

The cilantro, scallions, and lemongrass gave the Hmong bitter melon soup a fresher, "greener" flavor, if you will. I love finding variations for familiar dishes and discovered this version in "Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America" by Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang. The dish is called Dib Iab Ntim Nqaij Hau Ua Kua in Hmong.

The original recipe seemed pretty bland (only 1/2 tsp for six bitter melons), had no fish sauce (which I think the Hmong in Vietnam would have used), and suggested MSG (which I don't add to my cooking). So obviously, I made adjustments and scaled down the recipe. Still, this version was a lovely variation to add to my collection of bitter melon recipes.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Ground Pork and Black Bean Sauce

Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Ground Pork and Black Bean Sauce 1

While experimenting with several ways to reduce the bitterness of bitter melon, reader Gabriel Ocasio suggested on my Wandering Chopsticks Facebook page to salt the bitter melon and then stir-fry it with black bean sauce. So that's what I did.

Perhaps I've been going about this all wrong? Instead of making bitter melon the star of a dish, if I just treated it as any other squash and stir-fried it with meat and sauce, the bitterness wouldn't be so prominent? Because this recipe was my favorite of the four bitter melon recipes I cooked that day. The salting reduced the bitterness so there was just a slight tinge, which was balanced by the sweetness of the smidgen of sugar and the saltiness of the black bean sauce.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

O/Kho Qua Xao Trung (Vietnamese Bitter Melon Egg Stir-Fry)

O  Kho Qua Xao Trung (Vietnamese Bitter Melon Egg Stir-Fry 1

Since I was on a quest to find ways to reduce the bitterness of bitter melon, I remembered that my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) had taught me to do just that long ago. At the time though, I didn't realize it was to reduce the bitterness, I just figured it was another step in cooking as she instructed me the kitchen. Afterward, she taught me to stir-fry the bitter melon with eggs.

For this version, I added the fish sauce to the eggs first, like I do with my Scrambled Egg Omelet recipe since the flavor would be retained more in the eggs than in the bitter melon. The bitter melon was still crunchy, only slightly bitter, a perfect foil to the soft, saltiness of the scrambled eggs.

Monday, August 04, 2014

How to Make Bitter Melon Less Bitter

How to Remove the Bitterness from Bitter Melon 1

Every few years, I attempt to eat Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) again, hoping that this time, it'll grow on me. And every other time, the bitterness of bitter melon is just too much, but I keep trying because it's pretty much the only Vietnamese food that I can't eat.

So I thought I'd try to lessen the bitterness. Not remove it completely, but at least tone down it enough that I can eat it. I figured if I parboiled the bitter melon and dumped the bitter brew before making it into soup, that might reduce the bitterness a little.

I turned to my Wandering Chopsticks Facebook page to ask if any of my readers had tried that and whether it worked and received another tip to salt it as well. So here you go, two ways to lessen the bitterness of bitter melon.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Japon Bistro - Pasadena

Japon Bistro - Pasadena 1

A week after making my own Hawaiian Salmon Poke and Spicy Tuna Poke, I was still craving poke. It was the tail-end of DineLA and while perusing the list of restaurants, I saw that Japon Bistro in Pasadena offered a three-course lunch set for $15 that included poke.


Or so I thought.

But, let's backtrack to my first visit in June 2010 with Gourmet Pigs.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hawaiian Spicy Tuna Poke

Hawaiian Spicy Tuna Poke 1

I wanted to stick to a pretty typical Hawaiian poke for the sashimi-grade tuna that I picked up from Yama Seafood - San Gabriel. So it was the usual seasonings of soy sauce and sesame oil, with the addition of chili sambal and Sriracha to kick it up a notch.

I looove spicy tuna, and while cheaper cuts are often used in the rolls, I can't stress enough that you should really splurge on sashimi-grade tuna for poke. Freshness makes a big difference, especially when you're eating raw fish.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yama Seafood L.A. - San Gabriel

Yama Seafood - San Gabriel 1

I don't know how many times I've driven past Yama Seafood L.A. on Las Tunas Drive in San Gabriel and not really noticed this rather non-descript Japanese grocery store. Until March 2008 (I know, going a ways back for this one). How could I have missed the large "Sushi Takeout" and "Sushi" and "Sashimi" signs?

Sometimes, I'm not in the mood for a whole sit-down sushi restaurant experience. Sometimes, I just want a few sushi rolls, and you know the American grocery store versions are not gonna satisfy that craving!

Parking is around the back. I ducked in to see what Yama Seafood had to offer that day and have been happily indulging in freshly-made and inexpensive sushi and sashimi at this little mom and pop shop for years.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hawaiian Salmon Poke

Hawaiian Salmon Poke 1

While catching up with my friend Ivan at Snow Monster - Westminster (Little Saigon), I asked him what foods he'll miss in SoCal after he leaves. He mentioned North Shore Poke Co. - Huntington Beach, specifically that he could get poke made with salmon instead of the usual tuna poke. Mmm. Poke. I haven't had poke in forever and the Hawaiian places around me usually just have the typical cooked dishes.

The next day, I couldn't get poke out of my mind. I bought half a pound of sashimi-grade salmon from Yama Seafood - San Gabriel. Since salmon is more delicate than tuna, taste-wise I mean, I opted to use Korean chili flakes for the spice portion instead of Sriracha. A little bit of grated ginger seemed appropriate. And a small tomato, diced, to make it more salad-like and add a little color.

Totally satisfied my craving. I even sent a photo to my friend to show him what he started. Was it really only two years ago that he moved here? And while saying our good-byes, we realized it's been 10 years since we met that long-ago summer in Wisconsin. Time flies when you're old!

One last word about poke, since you're eating the fish raw, it really is worth the splurge to buy sashimi-grade salmon. Pick up some ready-made seaweed salad to add to the mix and the dish comes together as quick as you can chop the ingredients.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Snow Monster - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Snow Monster - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

After dinner at Da Nang Com Tam Tran Qui Cap - Westminster (Little Saigon), my friend Ivan and I went across the street for dessert. Actually, I was heading toward TeaZone Lollicup - Westminster (Little Saigon) for their matcha green tea snow bubble when we spied this crowd from across the street.

Ah! So that's where Snow Monster is located! In February 2013, I received an email from someone from Snow Monster who mentioned that she was a fan of the blog "for many years now" and inviting me to try a "fairly new dessert called Taiwanese shaved snow."

"Fairly new"? Really? Because I first blogged about shaved snow back in 2007. She wasn't sure if I had "tried or heard about it." I think I have when I've blogged about shaved snow not once, but twice, thrice, and a fourth time.

Look, I don't expect everyone to remember every blog entry I've ever written, but I do clearly state on my contact page to use my searchbar before emailing me. Don't pretend to be a fan or try to sell your product as something I don't know about when I've blogged about it multiple times and years ago. A simple search before contacting me would have cleared that up. She offered a large shaved snow and a Belgian waffle sundae, and asked that if I had anything negative to say to tell them in person. And to blog within two weeks after my visit. Geez, I can buy my own shaved snow, thank you very much! Pet peeves aside, at least the Snow Monster name was now on my radar?

Anyway, I wasn't going to hold that minor annoyance against them, especially since shaved snow sounded like just the thing on a hot summer evening.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Roasted Radishes with Salt and Pepper

Roasted Radishes with Salt and Pepper 1

This recipe is so simple that I'd hesitate to even call it a recipe, except that it's so delicious, it needs to be shared. Well, that's if you love radishes as much as I do.

While I generally just eat radishes plain, dipped in a bit of ranch dressing to soften their harsh bite, cooked radishes are totally different in flavor. No harsh bite. Almost buttery in flavor even.

I trimmed off the tops and ends and any dirt spots, then drizzled a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Baked until crisp-tender. These roasted radishes make a great side dish, or a full meal if you wish.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lasagna with Salmon and Spinach

Lasagna with Salmon and Spinach 1

I've made regular Lasagna with Meat Sauce and Vegetarian Lasagna with Broccoli, Kale, and Zucchini. I got a little more creative with Vegetarian Lasagna with Feta Cheese, Spinach, and Tofu. I've even blogged Pastitsio (Greek "Lasagna").

This Lasagna with Salmon and Spinach is more of a Swedish/Italian fusion. Not that I came up with it on my own. I actually saw it on the menu at IKEA - Covina, and mentally made a note to try making it at home. I used cheap frozen salmon filets, because the good stuff I save for eating fresh.

I prefer to bake the salmon first using my go-to Baked Salmon with Lemon Pepper Seasoning to bring out the flavor. Baking also makes sure the salmon flakes easily before adding it into the lasagna. A nice bechamel sauce and spinach goes far in disguising mediocre salmon so the final result was mighty tasty. Of course, if you want to splurge and use fresh salmon, by all means do so, but just a little suggestion with the frozen salmon so you can save your pennies.

I actually made my version at the beginning of the year, when I was thinking of recipes for Lent. Then on a recent visit to buy tickets for the IKEA (Swedish Crayfish Party) - Burbank, figured I should order it for comparison.

The verdict?

My version is much better.

Of course. ;)

Friday, July 04, 2014

Red, White, and Blue Sangria

Red, White, and Blue White Wine Sangria 1

With temperatures hovering above 90 degrees for most of the week, I really wasn't in the mood for cooking, much less baking. I debated whether to make something to bring to Johannes' third birthday party, and while blogging the Red (Lingonberry), White (Brie), and Blue(berry) Puff Pastry Mini Tarts I made the previous year, got me thinking about what else I could with patriotic colors. I'd have to run to the store for strawberries and blueberries though and was feeling decidedly lazy. Plus, the party was in the early afternoon; too early to start drinking perhaps? It was just as well I came empty-handed as my cousin ordered quite the Armenian spread.

I couldn't get the thought of a red, white, and blue sangria out of my head so afterward, I stopped at the store to get the needed strawberries and blueberries. My neighbors invited me to a barbecue later that day and a pitcher of sangria was just right for sipping beside the pool.

Of course, you're not limited to strawberries for the red, watermelon or raspberries would work too. I used a pear and an apple for the white. And there's really few other readily available substitutes for blueberries, but if you can get your hands on some huckleberries or salal berries or Oregon grapes, those would work too.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Singaporean Roti John with Sardines

Singaporean Roti John with Sardines 1

Considering how much I love the Banh Mi Ca Moi (Vietnamese Sardine Sandwich), when I came across mention of a sardine sandwich in Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan's "A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family," I knew I had to try making it. Her friend, who is a chef, suggested cutting the fishiness of the sardines with sesame oil. I don't know if it really made that much of a difference for me since I like sardines, but you could certainly try that if you wish.

Read my recipe for Singaporean Roti John with Beef which includes the background history of the British, Malay, Indian, Singaporean influences that went into the creation of this sandwich. Since the sardines are already cooked, this version is a little quicker since you don't have to cook the meat before adding the eggs. I removed the bones and mashed the sardines with the eggs, scallions, and chili paste. Drizzled sesame oil to cook the mixture before placing the toasted bread on top. If you really want to cut the fishiness of the sardine sandwich though, I'd suggest stuffing it with slices of cucumbers and tomatoes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chinese Corn and Imitation Crab Egg Drop Soup

Chinese Corn Imitation Crab Egg Drop Soup 1

It was one of those nights. I wasn't feeling particularly hungry, but wanted something to tide me over. Didn't want to go out. Didn't want leftovers. So I started combing through my freezer and pantry.

There was a package of imitation crab that I had intended to make Crab Rangoons with, except the cream cheese went bad before I could get to it. The pantry yielded a can of corn and some seafood stock. I almost always have eggs on hand. All the makings for Chinese Corn Imitation Crab Egg Drop Soup, enough to fill me up without making me feel stuffed.

It was late at night and I honestly hadn't planned on blogging this recipe. But while eating the egg drop soup, I was thinking it was mighty tasty and asked my Facebook group if anyone wanted the "recipe." Several people mentioned they wanted a quick recipe for when they're in the same predicament too, so here you go.

The egg drop soup was still good the next day, when I re-heated it to take better pictures.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Singaporean Roti John with Beef

Singaporean Roti John with Beef 1

"Food -- or makan, as we call it -- is a national obsession," said Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in "A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family." "In the fifteen years that I've lived in the United States, I've often said to American friends that, when it comes to Singapore, I miss the food first and then my family. They think I'm joking."

(Tan is a former classmate, although Facebook and food have brought us closer that four years of undergrad ever did.) In the first chapter of her food memoir, Tan waxed nostalgic about bak kut teh (Chinese pork bone tea soup), Hainanese chicken rice, ice kacang (Malaysian shaved ice), Singaporean Chilli Crabs, and Singaporean roti John.

Most of the dishes I'm familiar with, but the last was new to me.

"The influence of the British -- whom the locals called Johns when Singapore was a colony -- inspired the Malay dish of roti John, which features a baguette topped with beaten eggs, minced mutton, and onions that's then quickly panfried and served with a spicy tomato dip," Tan described.

That sounded delicious, as did her descriptions of making kaya jam and pineapple tarts. But, as I wasn't about to make 100 pineapple tarts or 60 mooncakes or 80 otak (Singaporean spiced grilled fish paste), the recipes in her book weren't quite feasible for me.

A bit of Googling and I came upon this YouTube video by the Singapore International Foundation about roti John at the Shukor Stall Makanan Istemewa featuring Sufiah Nordiyana, granddaughter of the hawker who invented and/or popularized the dish in 1976.

I've changed the methodology a little bit, to scale down for cooking for one as opposed to hundreds. I used Vietnamese-French bread and substituted the mutton with beef, but kept the egg and onion. I also added a chopped scallion for some color and a dash of curry powder and garam masala as a nod to the Indian origins of the dish. Since I wasn't quite sure what the tomato chili sauce tasted like, I drizzled Thai Shark Sriracha, which is sweeter than the Huy Fong Foods, Inc. version.

British, Malay, Indian, Singaporean, the various influences that went into creating this dish, resulted in a delicious sandwich that was perfect for lunch. And again for dinner.

Friday, June 06, 2014

General Tso's Chicken

General Tso's Chicken 1

In May, while waiting for an oil change, I offered my seat to the little old Asian lady coming towards me with a walker. She opted to sit next to me instead. She remarked about the weather (98 degrees that day, 100+ for the next three days) and mentioned that she'd take the heat over the tornadoes she had growing up in the Midwest.

Which led to fascinating stories about her father opening a Chinese restaurant in 1920 (!!!) in Omaha, Nebraska. All the decor was imported from China, which made eating at the restaurant quite an adventure for many people back then. Her family was one of only two Chinese families in town.

She came out to Los Angeles before WWII to work for the Air Force (which was still part of the Army at the time and didn't become a separate service until 1947). She talked about encountering racism when she tried to rent an apartment as a newlywed. A landlord said he decided to rent to his nephew instead and another landlord said the apartments were all taken but if there was an opening he'd call her. She credited Miiko Taka's 1957 appearance on the Ed Sullivan show to promote "Sayonara" that changed one landlord's mind about renting to Asians. Immediately after the show, she got a call saying the spoken-for tenant decided not to take the apartment and it was available after all.

And then my car was ready and I had to go.

Monday, June 02, 2014

King Hua Restaurant - Alhambra

King Hua Restaurant - Alhambra 1

It started out as a Twitter conversation when David Chan (who has eaten at 6,297+ Chinese restaurants) mentioned the crispy deep-fried milk at King Hua Restaurant in Alhambra. One More Bite said she loved the dish. I haven't had sauteed milk since Macau Street - Monterey Park closed a while back and a deep-fried crispy version sounded intriguing.

We made plans to meet up and Gourmet Pigs decided to make King Hua one of her going away dinners before she moved to Boston. Well, I don't know if she picked the restaurant in particular or was more nudged in that direction, but it helped me achieve Cantonese seafood restaurant trifecta (dim sum, wedding banquet, and regular dining at one location). Not that that should be a goal, mind you, just happenstance.

A few years ago, I blogged King Hua Restaurant - Alhambra for dim sum and later that year, attended a wedding banquet so I knew it was a solid Cantonese restaurant. Part of the reason Gourmet Pigs chose it was for some fresh Chinese seafood since she doubted her options in Boston would be as good.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Chinese Bok Choy Char Siu (Barbecued Pork) Wonton Noodle Soup

Chinese Bok Choy Char Siu (Barbecued Pork) Wonton Noodle Soup 1

Since I used the leftover Char Siu/Xa Xiu (Chinese/Vietnamese Barbequed Pork) to make Chinese Char Siu (Barbecued Pork) Bok Choy Chow Fun (Rice Noodle) Stir-Fry, I needed another batch for this Chinese wonton noodle soup with barbecued pork and bok choy. Considering it's one of my favorite noodle soups, I was reminded that I hadn't blogged a recipe until a Wandering Chopsticks reader (Thanks Tu Anh!) mentioned on my Facebook page that she was making my barbecued pork recipe for just that purpose.

For the wontons, I used the Hoanh Thanh Thit Heo Bam, Dau Hu, Hanh La (Vietnamese Wontons with Ground Pork, Tofu, and Green Onions) that I recently made with the niece and nephew, but feel free to use any wonton recipe of your choice. Then it's just a matter of making a broth, boiling some egg noodles, and blanching some bok choy.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Canh Ga Xa Xiu (Vietnamese / Chinese Char Siu-Style Barbecued Chicken Wings)

Canh Ga Xa Xiu (Vietnamese  Chinese Char Siu-Style Barbecued Chicken Wings) 1

Lazy post. Lazy recipe. :)

Unless you specifically want to make Chinese barbecue-styled chicken wings, the easiest thing to do is to toss in a few pounds of wings in the same pan that you're making Xa Xiu/Char Siu (Vietnamese Chinese Barbecued Pork).

I mean seriously, why make more work for yourself than necessary?

But just for you, I've included the recipe for the marinade below in case you love wings that much, or don't eat pork, or what have you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chinese Char Siu (Barbecued Pork) Bok Choy Chow Fun (Rice Noodle) Stir-Fry

Chinese Char Siu (Barbecued Pork) Bok Choy Chow Fun (Rice Noodle) Stir-Fry 1

At my mom's request, while she was in town recently, I made some Char Siu/Xa Xiu (Chinese/Vietnamese Barbecued Pork) for dinner and had about a quarter pound's worth of leftovers.

I had a good amount of sauce leftover too. I was debating whether to buy some more pork and bake it in the sauce, when I decided that it would make the perfect stir-fry sauce. Just add some fresh rice noodles and bok choy and it won't even look like you're trying to use up leftovers. Of course, you're welcome to make Chinese barbecued pork if you especially want to make this recipe. If you want to cheat and buy some pork from the Chinese barbecue shop, you can use oyster sauce in lieu of excess marinade as the stir-fry sauce. Caution: make sure you use the excess marinade that has already been cooked with the pork, don't use marinade from raw pork.

Since lil' sis loooves bok choy and rice noodles, this dish would have been right up her alley. Except she had a stomachache and wanted to just lay in bed. The lure of chow fun called to her though, so she crept out to the kitchen to pick at the wok for a bit. Then a little while later when her stomach had settled down some more, she came out to eat some more. And more. Now, I'm not saying this dish cures stomachaches, but I swear lil' sis felt much better after eating it! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trung Hap Va Chien Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs with Fish Dipping Sauce)

Trung Hap Va Chien Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs with Fish Dipping Sauce) 1

I was introduced to fried hard-boiled eggs when I made a Burmese Golden Egg Curry last year. I knew about the general idea of deep frying hard-boiled eggs from a Thai Son-in-Law Eggs recipe in one of my cookbooks, but hadn't actually tried making it until that point.

The Burmese egg curry was followed by Indonesian Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs Sambal that I ate at my neighbors' twins' birthday party, which prompted me to attempt an at-home version.

Then came the Thai version with tamarind sauce and fried shallots.

So I figured I should come up with a Vietnamese version. Nothing fussy. No curries or difficult sauces, just deep-fried hard-boiled eggs with chili fish dipping sauce. I did borrow the Burmese trick of adding some turmeric to the frying oil to turn the eggs this gorgeous golden color. My trick for easy hard-boiled eggs is to put them in my electric steamer for about 12 minutes if I'm going to further cook with them, or 15 minutes if I want them harder-steamed to eat immediately. Seriously so easy.

And if you're an egg fan like my brother's wife is, she couldn't resist asking if she could try a bite before I had finished making Hoanh Thanh Thit Heo Bam, Dau Hu, Hanh La (Vietnamese Wontons with Ground Pork, Tofu, and Green Onions) for dinner.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hoanh Thanh Thit Heo Bam, Dau Hu, Hanh La (Vietnamese Wontons with Ground Pork, Tofu, and Green Onions)

Hoanh Thanh Thit Heo Bam, Dau Hu, Hanh La (Vietnamese Wontons with Ground Pork, Tofu, and Green Onions) 1

If I could impart only one kitchen wisdom, it would be this: have fun.

Sure presentation matters since a dish that is visually appealing makes you more likely to eat it. And of course, there are ingredients and preparation and all that.

But what it really comes down to is that familiarity in the kitchen, working with ingredients, preparing food to feed your loved ones, none of it happens really if you don't enjoy yourself first. My favorite childhood memories in the kitchen were spent listening to my Ba Noi (Vietnamese Paternal Grandmother) tell stories while wiping banana leaves for her famous Banh Nam (Vietnamese Steamed Flat Rice Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp). As I got older, she'd assign more tasks, teaching me little tricks along the way, such as deveining shrimp with a toothpick or adding salt to kill any bugs when I rinsed herbs. When I cooked, she always praised what I made, no matter how simple.

In contrast, my mother was very exacting about presentation without a lot of explanation about the process. And while there are lessons to be learned there too, I found this method makes cooking seem more like work. Through the years, I've heard from friends and readers who hated being in the kitchen for precisely that reason, that cooking seemed like drudgery, that they were rebelling against the expectation that women had to do the cooking. Or since cooking, especially Vietnamese food, seemed like such a vague process, with instructions being to add a little bit of this and that, that they didn't know where to start. Or that the slicing and folding they did wasn't pretty, so they were shooed away from preparation. All of which makes being in the kitchen no fun at all.

I've been cooking with my niece for a while, and also now with my nephew since he turned 2 years old. I hope they're enjoying themselves as much as I am teaching them. While we've made plenty of baked goods, the niece's favorite foods are noodles and dumplings. I make the filling and separate the wonton skins, but leave the folding all up to them. Sure, their technique needs a bit of work, but after being boiled, you can't even tell.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Roast Pork Loin with Garlic and Rosemary

Roast Pork Loin with Garlic and Rosemary 1

For Easter luncheon, since it was just family, I imagined an all-American Sunday supper sort of meal -- pot roast, baked chicken, macaroni and cheese. Despite the lack of color, which really gives credence to the slogan of pork being the other white meat, the roast pork loin was quite juicy and flavorful. I cut half a dozen slits on each side of the pork loin and shoved garlic and rosemary into each slit so that they could flavor the meat while it was baking. Since pork loin is very lean, I left the fat on and baked it fatty side up. I figured it was far better for guests to not eat the fat than to have dry pork.

Leftovers were great thinly sliced for a sandwich or served with a simple salad.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chinese Crackled Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs 1

The two previous Easters, I made Vegetable-Dyed Crackled Eggs and while they were fun for the kids to peel and to look at, they rarely wanted to eat the hard-boiled eggs afterward. However, Chinese Tea Eggs, seasoned with soy sauce and spices, are way tastier.

I had a packet of tea egg spices in the pantry that I opened with the intention of using them, but the package had a very strong Chinese herbal medicine smell, which I didn't want to flavor the eggs. So I put the package back in the pantry and decided I would just use some of my favorite spices instead.

This recipe is easily adjusted with whatever spices you prefer, the only constants are soy sauce for savoriness and tea for aroma. I used a mix of loose leaf black tea and bagged black tea with orange peel. If you don't have the latter, just toss in a dried orange peel. I added some Saigon cinnamon bark, star anise pods, and a black cardamom pod. The last may be harder to find, so I've listed it as optional.

I prefer to soft-boil the eggs since they'll be simmered for a bit in the spiced tea mixture, so that the eggs won't be rubbery. Crack the shells without peeling them, simmer, and let them soak in the flavorings overnight.

The result is a marbled hard-boiled egg redolent with the aromas of tea and spices. A great snack at any time, but for Easter, I let the kids peel the shells so they can unwrap each egg's unique crackled effect for themselves.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lobster Roll with Sriracha Butter

Lobster Roll with Sriracha Butter 1

A while back, Albertson's had a sale on lobster tails for $3.99 apiece. Granted, they were pretty small, but I couldn't pass up that price and purchased three of them. I froze the lobster until I could come up with a good recipe. Not that lobster needs a good recipe. I like lobster plain, grilled or boiled, and dipped in butter sauce or even, mayonnaise.

Which then got me thinking. If I'm perfectly happy with plain lobster and butter, then I might as well keep it simple and make a lobster roll. I'm always tempted to order one when I see it on the menu, but at upwards of $12, I haven't been able to justify spending that much for a sandwich. Even though my version cost the same, I got two lobster rolls for that price. And because lil' sis doesn't like lobster (I know!), she only had one bite and the rest was all for me.

The recipe is really simple. Baked lobster tails lightly sprinkled with salt, tossed in Sriracha butter, served on toasted hot dog buns. So if you love lobster and Sriracha, this recipe showcases both ingredients wonderfully.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Banh Pa Te So Nhan Banh Mi (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie) with Sandwich Fillings)

Banh Pa Te So Nhan Banh Mi (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie) with Sandwich Fillings) 1

Shortly after trying the special at Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie - Westminster ( Little Saigon), basically a Banh Pa Te So (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie)) with Vietnamese sandwich fillings, I knew I would recreate this at home. Such a brilliant idea!

I made my usual Vietnamese puff pastry pies, then stuffed them like Au Coeur De Paris does with homemade Xa Xiu (Vietnamese Chinese Barbecued Pork)Cha Lua (Vietnamese Steamed Pork Loaf), and Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Stuff). Tucked in a few sprigs of cilantro and little hand-sized snacks were perfect.

I was trying to come up with a name to call these, but couldn't come up with anything shorter than what they are Banh Pa Te So Nhan Banh Mi (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie) with Sandwich Fillings). Ha! If you're in the Little Saigon area, I highly recommend checking out Au Coeur De Paris' specials, but otherwise, they're easy enough to make at home, they just have a lot of components.

Hot flaky puff pastry stuffed with three kinds of meat and pickles? Perfection.

Friday, February 14, 2014

You Are the Sriracha to My Pho

You Are the Sriracha to My Pho

Isn't it awesome?

I was admiring the Hong Kong food-inspired Valentine's Day illustrations from Mochachocolata-Rita when it occurred to me to make a Vietnamese one. Well, except my drawing skills are limited to stick figures, and pretty sad stick figures at that.

So I asked Rita if she could draw an illustration for me that said, "You Are the Sriracha to My Pho." She came back in less than an hour with the above. I looove it!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. - Chula Vista

Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. - Chula Vista 1

The Banh Pa Te So Nhan Banh Mi (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie) with Sandwich Fillings) and other pastries I brought from Au Coeur de Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie - Westminster (Little Saigon) were great, but by dinner time, we were all hungry. So lil' sis, oldest and second-youngest nephews, their friends, and I all piled into our cars and drove nearly to the Mexican border in Chula Vista.

When we pulled up, the parking lot of Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. was packed; always a good sign. I was also amused by the signage that said, "Now in California." Tijuana-style tacos for which I don't have to wait hours to pass through border inspection? Score!

The taco selection was pretty awesome too - cabeza (beef cheeks), lengua (tongue), sesos (brains), Asada (steak), tripas (tripe), suadero (brisket), and adobada (spicy pork) and buche (stomach) for about $2 each. The mulas, sopes, and quesadillas were $3.75. The mula was new to me. It's basically another tortilla on top.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Au Coeur de Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Au Coeur De Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie  - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

This story is a bit rambling, so bear with me. It starts several decades ago, when I was in high school and attended a weekend retreat sponsored by the Rotary Club. Our guest speaker was Bob Farrell, co-founder of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurants, who sold the chain and became a consultant and motivational speaker. He talked about customer service.

The story goes that a man, who wasn't dressed so finely, walked into a bank to cash a check. He asked the bank to validate his 50-cent parking ticket. The teller refused. He asked to speak to a manager. The manager backed up the teller and also refused to validate the customer's parking ticket. So he said he wanted to withdraw all his money and close out his account.

Sure. Because how much money could this scruffy customer possibly have?

The teller's face paled.

Apologies were rendered.

And refused.

The customer withdrew $1 million.

He promptly took his money and deposited it in the bank across the street.

Decades later, the story stayed with me. I thought it was just a story. Turns out, the story is true -- in October 1988, John Barrier, who made his money renovating houses, went into Old National Bank (now U.S. Bank) in Spokane, Wash. to cash a check and had his 50-cent parking validation refused. So he withrew $1 million. He took his money across the street to Seafirst Bank, who made it a point to treat Barrier well. But whether he had $1 or $1 million, was charging 50 cents for parking worth losing any customer? Farrell's pickle principle is about businesses doing what they can to make things right for the customer. Don't be so tight-fisted about the small stuff, that you lose loyal customers.

Now, my story is on a much, much smaller scale.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Seattle (Cream Cheese) Hot Dog vs. Denver (Omelet) Sandwich

Seattle (Cream Cheese) Hot Dog vs. Denver (Omelette) Sandwich 1

I don't watch football, and don't generally go to Super Bowl parties, so when asked for ideas, I default to my Sriracha Buffalo Wings recipe and call it a day.

But with the Seahawks playing the Broncos, I actually had an idea for the Seattle snack -- hot dogs with cream cheese. Oldest nephew and his best friend, who both went to college in Seattle, introduced the dish to me several years ago during a Memorial Day barbecue.

I admit, the thought of adding cream cheese to my hot dog was weird to me so I didn't try it then. I did now though and thought the creaminess of the cheese paired well with the grilled meat. Huh! Who would have thought?

So that left me brainstorming for what to do for a Denver-based snack. What food is Denver known for? Rocky Mountain oysters? Heh heh. Obviously, I went with a Denver Omelet Sandwich.

Which would you rather eat? Yeah, I meant to blog this before the game, but the outcome of my culinary NFL was the same as the real game -- Seattle all the way.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Lasagna with Pumpkin and Spinach

Lasagna with Pumpkin and Spinach 1

I didn't have time to make a proper bechamel sauce for the pumpkin spinach lasagna I served at my holiday Sriracha party so it was a bit dry. Everyone ate it, but my ego was affected. I knew I could do better!

A fall squash lasagna didn't quite fit with nephew's luau-themed 2nd birthday party, but I can't eat a whole pan of pasta by myself! I have to make it when there are plenty of people to finish it. Except, the pumpkin spinach lasagna was sooo good, I kind of wish I saved it all for me.

I chose to include pasta sauce in my version to lighten the heaviness of all that bechamel sauce and cheese. Otherwise, I think just pasta and squash and cheese may be a little one note? It's one thing to eat smaller portions of Pumpkin Ravioli, but another thing entirely when eating lasagna. The squash, pasta sauce, cheese, spinach, and Italian sausage all worked together to create a lasagna that was perfect for the cold winter months.