Apr 182014
 

Three-cup chicken is a classic Taiwanese dish and one of my favorites! Actually, I did some fact-checking about this dish, and turns out, it originated from Jiangxi Province in China. In the original rendition of the dish, the “three cups” referred to 1 cup each of the following ingredients: lard, sweet rice wine, and soy sauce. There’s actually even a legend relating Three-Cup Chicken to a Chinese historical hero, Wen Tianxiang. Apparently the legend goes, Wen lived in the last years of the Song Dynasty and fought against conquer by the Yuan. However, he was eventually captured, and an old lady from his village visited him in prison with a live chicken. She asked a sympathetic guard to help her find ingredients to cook the chicken, and the only thing he was able to procure was three cups of rice wine. So, she cooked the chicken in the three cups of wine and served it to Wen as his last meal. After he died for his country, the old lady prepared the dish everyday as an offering to his spirit. She replaced the three cups of wine with one cup each of sweet rice wine, lard, and soy sauce, which are the ingredients we see today.

Yup, Chinese people love stories… I think there’s probably a story behind every single dish in Chinese cuisine.

Source of story: Baidu Baike (Chinese).

Anyway, eventually, this dish made its way to Taiwan, where it was modified to be cooked with regular cooking oil instead of lard, and incorporated sugar and regular rice wine as sweetened rice wine became less common. In addition, the Taiwanese added a special ingredient – Thai basil, which adds a truly aromatic flavor to the dish. (There’s another story about the basil, too… But I’ll spare you of that.) The usage of Thai basil is so iconic now that I can’t imagine Three-Cup Chicken without basil.

Okay, that was a lot of rambling and story-telling… All this to say, I love this dish, and I love making it at home, so I wanted to share the recipe with you!

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(I only snuck in one quick photo of the dish before S and I started eating it… Oops. I’ll try to be better next time about taking photos!) Continue reading »

Apr 162014
 

When I first heard about Maruhide Uni Club, I immediately added it to my “Restaurant Bookmarks” list since I love uni (sea urchin), and this is a whole restaurant dedicated to it! On a recent trip to LA, I finally got the chance to try it out.

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I heard that the lines for dinner can get pretty long, but I visited for a late lunch (around 1:30pm, half an hour before they stopped serving lunch), and there were plenty of available seats and tables.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to order, and a quick glance at the menu confirmed my selection: the Nigiyaka Bowl, served with four preparations of uni.

Salad

Salad

Soup

Soup

I was brought some soup and salad to start… the salad was a little sad as you can see – a few pieces of iceberg lettuce and a wedge of tomato, with barely any dressing. I think there was uni incorporated into the dressing, but there was so little of it that it was hard to tell. The soup fared slightly better – there was a sizable piece of uni in the soup, but the overall flavor was quite mild.

My disappointment about the soup and salad quickly faded, though, when this arrived:

Nigiyaka Bowl [$23.95]

Nigiyaka Bowl [$23.95]

Continue reading »

Apr 152014
 

When I was in Encinitas for some errands a few weeks ago, I decided to check out a highly-rated bakery nearby, VG Donut & Bakery.

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At first, I thought that the name stood for something like “Vegan/Gluten-Free”, but it turns out that it’s actually for “Very Good”, haha.

The place was quite busy, but the line moved pretty quickly.

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Bread

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Pastries

Cookies

Cookies

They had all the classic cookie flavors, and in gluten-free variety too.

Continue reading »

Apr 142014
 

Gonna wrap up my Taiwan travel posts now with a couple more restaurants, and some miscellaneous photos of cutesy things…

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Chun Shui Tang (春水堂) is purportedly the originator of the now-famous bubble milk tea. Apparently this is a topic of hot debate in Taiwan, so I’ll try to stay out of the controversy, haha. But the story goes, the product development manager, Ms. Xiu-Hui Lin, created the combination of adding tapioca pearls to iced assam tea just on a whim at a corporate meeting, and it has become the ever-popular bubble tea drink that we know and love today.

Actually, I don’t really like the tapioca pearls. Haha. I just like milk tea.

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The milk tea from Chun Shui Tang is actually better than most others – with the price to reflect its quality. The thick layer of foam that you see at the top is a result of the tea being vigorously shaken, and the foam provides a pleasantly airy texture to the tea.

We also had some dinner here…

Kung-Fu Noodles

Kung-Fu Noodles

Kung-Fu noodles is basically noodles with minced pork sauce. As you can see, portion sizes in Taiwan area quite small compared with U.S. – but that was great for me because I could try more things, haha.

Oolong-Flavored Tofu Curd and Pork Blood

Oolong-Marinated Tofu Curd and Pork Blood

Turnip Cake

Turnip Cake

Taiwanese-style turnip cake is a little different from the Cantonese-style – there’s usually very little filling in the Taiwanese turnip cakes, whereas the Cantonese ones have Chinese sausage, mushrooms, etc.

Taiwanese Sausage

Taiwanese Sausage

Mmm… grilled Taiwanese sausage is so yummy. Continue reading »

Apr 112014
 

Matcha Love is a Japanese café that opened up in the Mitsuwa grocery store. I first saw the signs for the store about a week before the grand opening, which took place on March 28. Well, I couldn’t pass up anything matcha, so on the second day, I gathered up a few friends to check it out.

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Erm, sorry for that ginormous glare spot… Here’s a better photo of the menu prices:

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The offerings here are quite simple: ice cream, hot tea, hot latte, shakes, and boba tea.

Matcha Shake [$3] and Matcha Ice Cream [$3]

Matcha Shake [$2.80] and Matcha Ice Cream [$3]

The Matcha Shake was actually not a milkshake, like we all thought it would be. Continue reading »

Apr 092014
 

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a food truck lunch… As I’ve mentioned in some of the previous reviews, there was a good variety of food trucks that stop by near my workplace. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that some of my old favorites are either gone or have gone down in food quality. Sad. But when Devilicious started coming around my workplace, I was really excited because I love grilled cheese sandwiches, and I had heard good reviews of the food here. 

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The truck itself is pretty adorable (there were too many people around and I didn’t want to take a picture), thanks to the devil logo:

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For my first visit, my labmate and I split two sandwiches (cell phone pics here):

Butter-Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese [$12]: butter-poached lobster tail meat, melted jack & cheddar cheeses, caramelized onion, roma tomatoes on sourdough bread

Butter-Poached Lobster Grilled Cheese [$12]: butter-poached lobster tail meat, melted jack & cheddar cheeses, caramelized onion, roma tomatoes on sourdough bread

Duck Confit Grilled Cheese [$10]: shredded duck confit, caramelized red onions, gruyere & mozzarella cheeses, honey port reduction on sourdough bread

Duck Confit Grilled Cheese [$10]: shredded duck confit, caramelized red onions, gruyere & mozzarella cheeses, honey port reduction on sourdough bread

The bread was grilled to a perfect crisp and quite buttery. Continue reading »

Apr 072014
 

I’ve been thinking about mini donuts for a while – they’re super adorable, and since each one is so tiny, it can’t be all that bad to eat one… or two… or maybe ten, right? Well, my dear sister gifted me with a mini donut pan a while back, and I finally put them to good use and match a batch of cinnamon sugar donuts!

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I had never made donuts before, either baked or fried, so I turned to my trusty blogger buddy’s recipe on Kirbie’s Cravings for the donut base. I had cinnamon on my mind, though, so I dipped them in cinnamon sugar as a topping. 

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I was really surprised at just how many donuts the recipe made! I didn’t read it super carefully because I was so excited to be making donuts, haha. I was thinking that I really needed another mini donut pan so that I could bake more at once. The recipe below made about 48 mini donuts, which meant 4 rounds of baking in my 12-cavity pan

I didn’t mind too much, though, because these were so delicious – especially when they were hot – so I kept sneaking freshly-baked donuts while I was waiting for the pan to cool for the next batch! I hope you enjoy them as much as S and I did!

Continue reading »

Apr 042014
 

Amardeen is a Lebanese restaurant in the Towne Center plaza in UTC. Honestly, even after living in UTC for so long, I only had a vague idea that this little plaza existed… haha. My friend I.F. is a big fan of the place and has been asking S and I to try it, and on a recently Sunday, we went to check it out for lunch.

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The place was pretty deserted for Sunday lunch, but I.F. says that some days it can get crowded. 

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The interior was quite bright and clean, and I really enjoyed the simple but cute decor.

The menu was quite extensive (available online) and we had a hard time deciding what to order. S and I were both quite surprised at how pricey some of the entrées were.

Lamb Kebab [$20]: two skewers of marinated cubes of lamb, served with basmati rice, hummus, tomatoes, green pepper, and onions

Lamb Kebab [$20]: two skewers of marinated cubes of lamb, served with basmati rice, hummus, tomatoes, green pepper, and onions

After debating for a long time, S chose the lamb kebab plate. I thought the lamb tasted a little too gamey for my liking, and the meat wasn’t really flavorful. In contrast, I liked the grilled pepper and onions much more than the meat itself. The hummus was quite tasty, too – I guess I liked everything on the plate besides the lamb itself, haha.

I must admit that even though it’s pricey, the portion size was quite generous – in addition to all that’s pictured above, he also had a choice of French fries, salad, or soup. Guess which one he picked?

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French Fries

The French fries were served in a really cute cone Continue reading »

Apr 022014
 

Here’s another easy weeknight dinner recipe – cold sesame noodles! This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes, and I’ve ordered it before at Yes! Pingo and Infini Tea. However, I wanted to try making my own version, and it turned out to be super simple and delicious.

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 For the main ingredients, I used shredded chicken, sliced cucumbers, and sliced carrots – but you can use whatever you like. Some ideas for my next batch are spam, tofu curd, mung bean sprouts, and shredded cabbage.

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The shredded chicken took the longest to prepare. While it was poaching, I also cooked the noodles and put the sauce together. I think it took just over 20 minutes from starting my prep to calling S for dinner – now that’s what I like for my weeknight dinners.

One of the key components in the sesame sauce was rice vinegar – it adds a touch of acidity to brighten up the dish, and also thins out the sesame sauce so that it can coat the noodles evenly. After adding the vinegar, you can actually see the sauce going from pasty to really smooth.

I was fortunate enough to receive a couple of samples of Marukan Rice Vinegar, a premium vinegar brand. Marukan vinegar is slow-brewed for maximum flavor and less acidity, and uses all-natural ingredients. I found out that the company has actually been around since 1649! Crazy. Well, you know their product must be good if it’s withstood the test of time – in this case, centuries of time.

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I was sent both their original rice vinegar and the seasoned version. For this recipe, I simply used the original. I’ll be featuring the seasoned gourmet rice vinegar in a future post! Definitely try out Marukan rice vinegar if you haven’t before! It has a really nice taste compared with other brands that I’ve tried before, much less pungent. In fact, S – who is normally really sensitive to the acidity of vinegar – said that he really enjoyed the flavor and said that I could use even more vinegar next time, haha. Well, maybe I will try it out for the next recipe, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy these cold sesame noodles!

Continue reading »

Mar 312014
 

‘Lette Macarons is a popular macaron chain shop based in Los Angeles. Recently, they opened a stand at the UTC Westfield Mall. I have been really happy with the changes that have taken place in UTC throughout the past couple of years – new shops such as Free People and the Sony store, and even a Tesla showroom, restaurants like Craft Pizza Company and Tender Greens, and dessert shops, including Bottega Italiana and now, ‘Lette.

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I’ve had ‘Lette macarons once, when a friend brought them back from LA. My initial impression was that they were quite sweet, but I only had a couple of flavors wanted to try some more.

I felt really shy about taking photos of the stand, but they had some really adorable macaron display stands. You can see more photos of them on Kirbie’s Cravings.

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An individual macaron is $1.95, and a box of six is $11.

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Salted Caramel; Coffee; Lemon; Earl Grey; Sweet Almond Wedding; Pistachio

Sadly, as you can see, the Sweet Almond Wedding macaron cracked a bit in the box… sob. Continue reading »

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