san diego adventures and my mama's birthday part 1

For our mom's 50th birthday, N and I flew down to LA from the Bay Area to surprise her. My dad drove us to San Diego for a weekend filled with beach! Fun! And most importantly, food. This topic will take several installments, so I will start with the birthday dinner. N and I yelped and found a French cafe called Cafe Bleu. We went because it got good reviews, but more importantly, they had a coupon for a 3 course prix fixe meal with choices for only $15.99. What a good deal!

Alright onto the important stuff, what we had:

Ahhh yes, the quintessential mussel dish. And they did not disappoint. Delicious, delicious broth to sop up with crusty bread, juicy, succelent mussels...mmmm.

Now this was...a bit strange. It was a trio of...something. As you can tell, not memorable. But not bad either. Some kind of ceviche maybe? And bruschetta?

My mommy got the coq au vin, which is a French chicken dish cooked in wine and other good stuff until the meat just falls off the bones. Accompanied with a delicious potato gratin. Mmm.

I got a pork loin chop with a delicious mango chutney and demi glaze. My mom actually liked this better than hers, I think because of the subtle sweetness of the sauce. And the fact that it was pork. No Taiwanese person can resist pork. Trust me.

Mine also came with a gazpacho, which is a chilled tomato based soup. It was...not good. Enough said. Too strong of an herb taste, but not salty enough...and chilled soup? Ugh. I thought I would try, but never again.

My dad got the salmon. It was also just okay, nothing really stood out about it. At least it was good.

Oh, but then his came with a french onion soup that was just divine. The cheese was melty and gooey, and the soup was deeply beefy and flavorful...So, so good.

N got the scallops, also a letdown, simply because it didn't stand out. I mean, how can you mess up bacon and scallops? You can't! but that means it's hard to make it good. Should've gotten the Bouillabaise.

Overall, it was a wonderful meal, nice ambience, good service (everyone had a French accent! Super quaint). I would stop by if you get the chance to go to SD.

Cafe Bleu
807 Washington St.
San Diego, CA 92103

Next up, dessert in San Diego!



Peek-a-boo. You can't really tell what it is but it was super exciting to make. I've actually always wanted to make this. Yupp it's PAELLA!! I finally got the courage to try something super exciting.

Meet saffron. Guess how much it costs? MORE THAN GOLD! YEAH!! Ridiculousness! And for that amount...but so worth it. It is a must, for sure, not just for the color (you could use yellow food coloring) but for the special taste.

I was super excited also cause I was going to use seafood! Yay for clams and scallops. Very exciting indeed. You can use practically any seafood like mussels, shrimp, etc but scallops are my favorite and even though I personally do not like clams, M likes them.

My attempt at step by step photos. I had to make the stock first in which I slightly failed, but it still worked out. Had to saute the bell peppers, onions, garlic first. Once they were done, I added in chicken apple sausage (supposed to use chorizo or something Spanish, but I love chicken apple sausage). After that was the arborio rice and to that I added some of the stock that covered just over the rice. Cook on medium low heat. You're not supposed to stir the rice or you'll lose the yummy crispiness on the bottom which is typical in a paella. Unfortunately... I did not have a paella pan and used a cast iron skillet instead so I did not get crispiness. Anyways, wait for the liquid to be absorbed and add more of the stock until the rice is almost cooked (al dente). Be patient!! Let the paella be and cook or your rice won't cook if you keep uncovering the lid (Haha, I am definitely not patient). Once the rice is mostly cooked, toss in the seafood!

MMMMMM....look at that yummyness. Mix it around so that the seafood is evenly distributed and pour in rest of stock and cover with the lid. Cook until seafood is done...you can tell when clams start to open and there you have it!

So I actually took several recipes and kinda went along with what I thought would work. So I guess you can look up paella on foodnetwork.com (I forgot which one I used...I can't find it) and I also kinda used this recipe. Yeah its not completely right and yes it's a little winged. But I believe that if I can randomly make it happen... it's very possible.

- n


sue's baby shower

Our pastor and his wife are having a baby and he (his name is Matthew!) is due next week! It's so exciting. We had a baby shower for them at Christie's house. We had food, played games, opened presents and there was even a pinata!

Measuring Sue to see how wide she is (41.5 inches! Justin won that game).

May made this amazing cheesecake, topped with blueberries! I don't normally like cheesecake, but I ate some of this one--it was delicious.

Harmony made chocolate cupcakes with a meringue topping. Mmmm.

N made brownies and her signature oatmeal butterscotch cookies--but I'll leave it to her to tell you about those.


bacon bar

This girl, like everyone else who knows me, knows that I love bacon. It's really too bad that I have high cholesterol--not that it stops me from eating bacon (even when it's tempura'd! N will tell you all about that experience).

So imagine my delight when she hands this to me one day:

Is that what you think it is? Why yes, it's a bacon chocolate bar.

Vosges concocts all sorts of exotic chocolate bars, specializing in self-titled "haut-chocolate." (There was one chocolate bar that boasted wasabi that we considered buying for this guy, but we thought better of it.)

The bacon bar works only because people like savory and sweet. I mean, salted caramels (salted caramel ice cream! mmmm), sea salt and chocolate and a dash of oil on bread, this is what's in, in the sweets world. Otherwise, the bacon bar doesn't really have much bacon taste...it's just salty. And maybe that's for the better.

We were excited to see an actual Vosges store in Cesar's Palace at Vegas, and we walked in and sampled caramel barks and truffles--all very good. They even had ice cream! We weren't buying anything, so I felt bad about sampling things, but if you get the chance, definitely stop by and treat yourself to their chocolate.

They also keep a really interesting blog called Peace Love and Chocolate, where they put chocolate on all sorts of things!


chinese new year

This is what my mom and aunt made for our Chinese New Year party:

Rice cakes, hardboiled eggs, squid, vegetable, pork, fish, chicken...and intestine soup. Now I could detail them all and gush on and on about how delicious everything was, but that would take much too long. So I will leave it at that. There was a lot of food. And it was delicious.

(The post you should all be waiting for is N's paella. So. Good.)


chinese new year highlights

Fried fish. And--

Silky tofu pudding with boba (tapioca pearls)! So delicious. More on Chinese New Year later--for now, know and fear my mom and aunt, for they are awesome cooks.


blueberry + almonds = yummyness

one of my staples for sure.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar [i use less than a cup and i like to use brown sugar for half]
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract [i always use more ...mmm vanilla]
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups blueberries (15 ounces)
  • 1/2 large egg white [i take some of the egg white from one of the two eggs cause i don't like having an extra yolkness chilling around]
  • 1 cup sliced almonds [i use toasted whole almonds and coarsely chop this, i definitely use more than a cup cause i love almonds and its so delicious and gives it texture]


1. Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a 2- to 2 1/2-quart (2 1/4 inches deep) ceramic or glass baking dish.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. [i'm lazy so i don't do it]

3. Beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. [i do this by fork but electric mixer is probably lots faster, but this is my workout :)]

4. Beat in whole eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla.

5. Alternately add flour mixture and milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating on low speed after each addition until just incorporated.

6. Fold in berries.

7. Spoon batter into baking dish, spreading evenly. [somehow my mixture is pretty thick and sticky, but it still turns out fine, probably overmix and berries not defrosted all the way]

8. Lightly beat egg white with a fork and add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and almonds, stirring to coat. [this is a must!! super yummy!]

9. Spoon topping over batter and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

10. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes.

this is really easy to make and so good!

blueberry-almond coffeecake recipe courtesy of epicurious

- n

crixa cakes

I mentioned Crixa Cakes in my post about Masse's Pastries, but aside from being bakeries, the two are quite different in terms of the types of cakes they churn out. Crixa is a Hungarian bakery, and their baked goods have a type of home, country feel to them, especially when compared to Masse's sophisticated and refined pastries. Even the decor of the two is quite opposite; Crixa's is dimly lit, with wooden furniture while Masse's is bright and furnished more modernly.

In terms of menu, they also serve savory Hungarian and Russian goods, like pirogs and zagoras. But today's post is about cake.

(From top to bottom)

Tiramisu: a bit too rummy for me, but the cake was moist and crumbly, and the cocoa powder added a nice taste.

Amaretti: by far, their best cake. Seriously. It's a vanilla sponge cake with hazelnut liquor, but what really sells it is the marscapone cream. Mmmm. Some alcohol overtones, but not too much.
Rigo Jancsi: It's a chocolate sponge cake with a layer of mousse in the middle, and a great story behind it! But this was my least favorite of the three; I think Masse's handles mousse much better.

(Yes that is Korean tea in the back. Korean corn tea I believe.)

(From left to right)

Amaretti again.

Carmella: This is a chocolate chiffon cake with lots of cream and caramel. Too sweet for me.

Lemon Cream Cake: I got this because I thought it would be similar to the Amaretti cake, but unfortunately, the added lemon flavor to the marscapone didn't really work for me...

I've also tired their more homey cakes, like the apple cake (so delicious!) and the pave vergiate, a flourless chocolate cake (which I would skip actually). Overall, it's a cute, rustic bakery--definite must visit!

Crixa Cakes
2748 Adeline Street
Berkeley, CA 94703


tea and crumpets!

For my friends birthday, she had a tea and crumpet and Pride and Prejudice party. Why, what are tea and crumpets? I had no idea... Haha, nevertheless what a perfect opportunity to bake! For some reason I had this idea that crumpets were small cute dessert things and I've been dying for another opportunity to use my mini muffin tins. So I made bakewell tarts...or the closest I could get them.

I actually forgot which site I got the recipe from...but I kinda adapted from several. Also a big difference was that I used puff pastry instead of making my own dough. Yes lazyness also wins...plus I had some in the fridge.

So I didn't know what to put it in...I think normally they have fruity things so I made blueberry jam. I basically heated up brown sugar and when it was mostly melted, I dumped my thawed blueberries in. I cooked that until the blueberries were almost no more and it was thick. Half of the tarts had blueberry and the other half had nutella. I topped the ones with nutella with sliced almonds. I forgot to take pictures of the process once again... but I took pictures of the results.

Nutella filled tart.
Inside nutella filled tart
Inside blueberry jam filled tart

My little platter of goodies :)

To end, in the words of Mr. Darcy: I love you....most ardently. [only for Tammaymay]



making maki

Growing up, one of n and my favorite meals was making maki sushi. A maki is a type of sushi, a hand roll in a cone shape. Kind of like ice cream. Except the cone is nori, or dry roasted seaweed. (Of course, back then, our maki rolling skills were next to none, so we ended up making cylindrical sushi most of the time.)

The way we make the sushi isn't exactly traditional--being Taiwanese, we had to put add things like pork sung (which is a Taiwanese dry shredded pork with a savory sweet taste--we love this stuff! We put this in everything! N even has a humongous jar of it in her apartment!). My mom also likes to put salmon skin and imitation crab.

We were ambitious one day and decided to make this together with our friends, with limited resources. This is what we included:
  • Rice (look below on how to make sushi rice!)
  • Nori sheets, halved
  • Masago with mayonnaise (salmon roe mixed with mayonnaise. Mmm cholesterol.)
  • Shredded carrots
  • Shredded cucumbers
  • Tamago (Japanese sweet egg omelet; I will also detail how to make this!)
  • Spam (this girl insisted on putting spam haha)
  • Sriracha (a Vietnamese chili sauce--also her idea)
  • Fish sung (I didn't have pork sung at the time--n was quite disappointed)

To make sushi rice (a lot of it is trial and error, taste and season. This is how my mom taught us):

  1. Make short grain, white rice in a rice cooker! (I don't know how to make it any other way...sorry!)
  2. Take out the rice, and preferably outside, add some white granulated sugar and rice vinegar and stir in the wind! (I think the reasoning behind stirring in the wind is to cool the rice down as you mix the ingredients; I do have fond memories of my mother yelling at us that we didn't have enough wind in our rice.)
  3. Taste. If it's not sweet or vinegar-y enough, add more! Always start off with just a little bit (relative to how much rice you have)--you can always add more later!

To make tamago:

  1. Beat however many eggs you want until they are well mixed and fluffy (don't overbeat!).
  2. Add some sugar (some is also relative to the number of eggs you have) and mix again.
  3. Add oil to a hot pan, swirl, and turn the heat down to medium.
  4. Pour in some of the mixture.
  5. As it starts to cook, push it to one side of the pan and add more of the mixture.
  6. Repeat until it's cooked!

As with the other ingredients, you want to make sure the egg is cut into medium size strips, so it can fit in your maki!

Once the ingredients are assembled, you can start making your maki! Take a sheet of nori, put a small ball of rice on the sheet and carefully spread it. You don't want to put too much, or your maki won't roll! Then add small amounts of whatever else you want. Then roll!


Edit 3/11:

Here's another picture of a time we were more ambitious--we mixed imitation crab with Kewpie, a Japanese mayonnaise (I totally recommend buying this) and also added takuwan, a Japanese pickled radish.


ajisen ramen

During Thanksgiving break, my family and Woolie's family went to eat at Ajisen Ramen cause apparently they had this special that was their 'Ajisen ramen' was only $6.95 or something like that. I forgot. So all of us ordered that cause this place is actually pretty pricey. That is me and 姊 with chopstick and napkin. Yes we are silly.

Anyways, we also ordered the fried tofu which was not bad. Crispy and not soggy. The ramen itself was very salty and the noodles were not really ramen noodles. I guess its cause they're Chinese and not Japanese.

Sorry Ajisen, I think I've had better.

18253 Colima Road, Unit #104
Rowland Heights, CA

peace all
- n


yay for harvest thanksgiving! gave me reason to bake :)

i had leftover cranberries... so i decided to make cranberry almond tartlets! i could not find a 9-inch tart pan so i bought 6 4-inch tart pans. they're very cute! having a food processor makes things so much easier. i made this over the course of 3 days since there wasn't enough time. i made the crust first and supposedly it makes 12 4-inch but i only got 6. i must've done something wrong but it turned out alright...

blind baking is scary and the crust slightly shrunk, but it was fine. then i made the filling. caramel is not really my friend. the caramel seized when i added the butter and cream mixture and i heated it, but it was stuck...but most of it was still fine. i mixed it with the frozen cranberries and almonds.

then fill it in the pre-baked shells and bake! as you can see, i overfilled the filling cause there was extra...but its okay...

so overall, i think it turned out right. i liked the tartness of the cranberries against the caramel and the nice crunch from the almonds and the flakiness of the crust. a little complicated and time consuming but good!

cranberry almond tart, recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen

i love tarts. no fear of tarts anymore :)

- n