Ratatouille (Confit Byaldi)

Originally a rustic French summer dish of stewed vegetables, ratatouille is perfect for combating the autumn chill.

Soon Dubu Chigae (Korean Soft Tofu Stew)

There's something incredibly homey about a big, earthenware bowl filled with clams, tofu, beef, and broth.

Smoked Cha Shao (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Normally found hanging in the windows of Chinese delicatessens, cha shao is a marinated, slightly sweet, slow roasted pork with a deep crimson color and radiant finish.

Niko Niku Ramen Recipe

A meaty, braised pork ramen in soy broth that puts on smile on everyone's face.

Smoked Salmon Tarragon Pasta

A refreshing pasta of summer herbs and smoked salmon, perfect for staying cool during summer.

3/30/2008

Red Mango - Irvine, CA

(Pictures for this review taken with my Canon PowerShot SD800is.

This is my monthly contribution to Orange County Food Blogs.)


-=Begin Excerpt=-


I'm a culinary skeptic. Whenever I hear about a new food fad, Sprinkles, Pinkberry, South Beach, or Atkins to name a few, my gut reaction is doubt. As the frozen yogurt craze that swept Los Angeles trickled into Orange County, I was determined not to be taken in, resisting cajoling, bribery, and other forms of peer pressure. However, I was eventually lured to the Dark Side through the clever application of a 50%-off coupon by family-run Beach Cities Yogurt & Gelato in Huntington Beach. Curse my Taiwanese penny-pinching genes!



When friend, OC Weekly columnist, and fellow Orange County Food Blogs contributor Elmomonster broke the news that the Red Mango yogurt chain had arrived in Irvine, I knew I had to pay them a visit. A Korean franchise business, Red Mango was purportedly the inspiration for the first Pinkberry operation in LA. Pinkberry went on to spark a frozen yogurt fad that, as the LA Times quipped, launched 1,000 parking tickets.

-=End Excerpt=-


Read the rest of the article, Red Mango - Irvine, CA, on OC Food Blogs!


Red Mango - You can really taste the quality. However, with comparable quality tart frozen yogurt being offered for a fraction of the price at Beach Cities, and with Yogurtland's vast selection, I find it hard to justify paying almost $1 per ounce.


Bill:

4oz Green Tea Frozen Yogurt w/ toppings - 4.75


Flavor: A
Ambience: B-
Service: B
ROI: D+

Overall: B-


Red Mango
17595 Harvard Ave
Irvine, CA 92614
1-949-955-0333
Red Mango USA website

3/25/2008

Thai Princess - Westminster, CA

(Pictures for this review taken with my Canon PowerShot SD100 and Canon PowerShot SD800is.)

It's hot. The sun beats down on my head like a smith in his forge, rhythmic hammer strokes sending sparks flying through my consciousness with each measured swing. The dry air wheezes through my parched lungs. I shade my eyes, soothing cracked lips with a tongue leathery from the lack of moisture. My throat works for a few moments as I try to swallow. Coughing, I spit out dust and pollen. Some days, Ultimate Frisbee can be damn brutal.


(Combination Seafood Soup)


There are times when food needs to refresh both the body and the spirit, to offer more beyond simple nourishment or pleasure. There are times when you need to be renewed. After a hard workout, I turn to Thai cuisine. With its emphasis on blending multiple flavors and textures, Thai food can clear the mind and return strength to weakened flesh. The key is, as with all good food, a sense of balance.



Unobtrusively located in a shopping center at the corner of the 405 and Beach, Thai Princess is easily overlooked amongst the popular chain restaurants that surround it. However, Thai Princess' refined dishes and peaceful ambiance make it the oasis of choice for the discerning diner. Located near my old office, it's where I dine when I'm in the mood for Thai.



Start your rebirth with a steaming bowl of Tom Kah Kung, a deceptively simple soup of shrimp, mushrooms, coconut milk, and spices that epitomizes the gastronomic harmony displayed in Thai cuisine. The heat of the chilies is tempered by the gentle coconut milk. The herbal aroma of lemongrass, brassy freshness of coriander, and sweet burn of galangal entwine with each sip.



To cool the bodies of those suffering from the heat, order Thai Princess' Papaya Salad with dried shrimp. The innocent-looking shreds of unripe papaya, lettuce, and other vegetables are laced with a fiery blend of fresh capsicums barely kept in check by the sweetness of the crushed peanuts, sugar, and dried shrimp sprinkled over the top. One bite is enough to make strong men sweat flames and weep blood. Yet after the initial sear, the effects of the salad can be appreciated. The sweat cools the body while the intensity of the chilies clears the mind.



Satay chicken, marinated before being grilled over high heat, is probably one of the most popular Thai dishes in the States. The peanut sauce served with the chicken is even more popular. However, don't ignore the small salad of cucumber, red onion, fish sauce, and chilies that's also included. Meant to cleanse the palate between bites of rich peanut sauce and meat, the cucumber salad is the key to deriving maximum enjoyment from your Satay Chicken.



The principle of harmony in all things is also employed with Thai Princess' Stuffed Chicken Wings. Entire chicken wings are laid out and generously filled with a mixture of glass noodles, meat, and vegetables, then breaded in Japanese panko crumbs and deep-fried. While the dish was undoubtedly created for the American palate, the sweet, sour, and spicy sauce is intended to cut the heaviness of the fried wings and prevent your sense of taste from being dulled.



Once you understand the undercurrent running through all Thai cuisine, the balance in each dish becomes apparent. Kana Moo Krob is a dish of stir-fried Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce with chilies and deep fried pork belly. The heat of the chilies is tempered by the sweetness of the oyster sauce. The fried pork belly lends flavor and body to the crisp Chinese broccoli. It all fits.



The same interplay is evident in Thai Princess' Roasted Duck. The Chinese-style roast duck is served over stir-fried bok choy and garnished with fresh coriander. The dipping sauce is a mixture of fresh chilies and kecap manis, a type of soy sauce thickened with molasses.



Although the concept behind the food seems simple, the complexity of the flavors produced shouldn't be underestimated. Take the Stuffed Calamari. Baby squid are stuffed with a seasoned mixture of ground chicken, lemongrass, ginger, and other spices to create chicken sausages with squid skins. The tender little nuggets are stir-fried with fresh Thai basil, onions, and bell peppers in a sweet sauce. The flavor? Indescribably good.



Spicy Catfish w/ Chili Paste is an eye-watering dish of deep-fried catfish slices stir-fried in a fiery sauce. I have no idea what all goes into that crimson elixir, but the resulting combination is sex on a plate. The sweep bell peppers? Think of them as a barely effective prophylactic.



However, the best dish in the entire restaurant is the Plar Dook Yang, a whole steamed catfish so fresh it threatens to leap off the plate and smack you with its tail for trying to eat it. The delicate green sauce served with the fish perfectly encapsulates the harmony in Thai cuisine between salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and bitter. Simply sublime.



(Roasted Duck Fried Rice)


Thai Princess - I know a number of enthusiasts, many of them friends of mine, are at this point jumping up and down and hollering "Thai Nakorn" at their computer screens. Yes, Thai Nakorn is the undisputed king of Orange County Thai restaurants. Given that, Thai Princess is, obviously enough, the princess.


Bill:

Combination Seafood Soup - 12.95
Tom Kah Kung - 7.95
Papaya Salad - 6.95
Satay Chicken Wings - 6.95
Stuffed Chicken Wings - 6.95
Kana Moo Krob - 6.95
Roasted Duck - 8.95
Stuffed Calamari - 7.95
Spicy Catfish w/ Chili Paste - 8.95
Plar Dook Yang - 25.95
Roasted Duck Fried Rice - 7.95


Flavor: A-
Ambience: B
Service: B
ROI: A+

Overall: A-


Thai Princess
16338 Beach Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683
1-714-841-7935

3/23/2008

Smoked Salmon & Tarragon Pasta - [Cooking]

(Pictures for this recipe taken with my Canon Rebel XTi.

I see a lot of strange and/or cool things when I'm out exploring. While some are food-related, most aren't. I've decided to start posting the more interesting or scenic of my non-food photos to my LiveJournal for anyone who's interested. Please stop by.)


Happy Easter everyone! With spring finally upon us, all this sunshine has caused an explosion of growth in my herb garden. After spending the weekend putting everything in some semblance of order, I was left with a mound of fragrant clippings to "dispose". Most of them ended up in a tasty salad, but I also found some time to throw together a light pasta dish I thought you might enjoy.



My Smoked Salmon & Tarragon Pasta recipe was inspired by a similar dish I found in Diane Worthington's Cuisine of California, which I picked up at a bargain price from my local Borders Books. It's a great book for anyone interested in the California or New American style of cuisine that really took off in the 1980s. I highly recommend it.

Smoked Salmon & Tarragon Pasta


Gear:

1 chef's knife, Santouku knife, or Chinese cleaver
1 cutting board
1 zester or microplane
1 mixing bowl
1 large pot
1 colander
1 blender or food processor



Ingredients:

1 large bunch of fresh tarragon (~1/4 cup removed from stems)
4oz smoked salmon (~112g)
1/4lbs English peas (approx. 1/2 cup shelled)
4oz of dry spaghetti (~112g/2 servings)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large lemon
2 tbsp caviar (I used whitefish, but salmon and flying fish will works as well.)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper



Prep work:

  1. Wash the tarragon. Dry thoroughly. Remove leaves from stems and separate.

  2. Discard any woody tarragon stems and finely mince the remainder.

  3. Wash the lemon. Using the zester or microplane, remove the zest and set aside.

  4. Juice the lemon, removing any seeds or pulp.

  5. Shell the peas.

  6. Slice the smoked salmon into thin strips.



Instructions (Sauce):

Using the blender or food processor, blend together the minced tarragon stems, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil. Start with the tarragon, zest, and juice first, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Near the end, add a little Kosher salt. You want just the slightest hint of salt, since the caviar and smoked salmon also contain salt. Any sauce not used can be kept in the fridge for up to a week and also makes an excellent salad dressing.



Instructions (Smoked Salmon & Tarragon Pasta):

  1. Bring a pot of water and a teaspoon of salt to a roiling boil. Drop the peas in for one minute, strain, rinse under cold, running water, then set aside.

  2. Cook the spaghetti following the instructions on the package. I like mine al dente, but use whatever level of tenderness you prefer. Rinse under cold, running water and drain thoroughly.

  3. Toss the cooled spaghetti in enough sauce to lightly coat the noodles. The noodles should be slippery, but no sauce should pool on the bottom of the mixing bowl.

  4. Add the peas, smoked salmon, and tarragon leaves. Toss again to evenly distribute.




Plate and garnish with a tablespoon of caviar. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Good eating!

3/18/2008

Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie - Garden Grove, CA [Supplying]

(Pictures and video for this review taken with my Canon PowerShot SD100.)


(Taken December 2006.)


Mr. Big has been my friend, comrade-in-arms, and sometime flatmate for close to ten years. His birthday is actually in December, which was when I first threatened to do this post. However, we were both feeling pretty down from the then recent collapse of our company, so I decided to wait. I heard from Mr. Big today that he was just hired by a very well-known company in Aliso Viejo. Congratulations, buddy! It's birthday post time! ... I'm an evil panda.


(Mr. Big)


Special occasions call for extravagant treats, and nothing quite fits the bill like a birthday cake from Pierre Boulangerie & Patisserie in Garden Grove. While the Nerf firing squad costs extra, I always picked up birthday cakes for friends and co-workers from this delightful little gem. It never failed to impress.


(Left: Master Chief)


I was first introduced by Pierre Boulangerie & Patisserie by Master Chief, my friend and mentor in all things Vietnamese. Although he lives in Irvine, Master Chief is a minor celebrity in Little Saigon, having once run for public office there. Well-connected, he seems unable to step into a restaurant without needing to shake the hands of a few well-wishers, and he always knows the good places to eat.


(At the counter, Xiaobai, another friend.)


Resting unobtrusively in a strip mall at the corner of Brookhurst and Hazard, Pierre Boulangerie & Patisserie epitomizes the main reason I love Little Saigon. Although there's nothing to distinguish is from its neighbors, the bakery is one of many hidden and unique food treasures scattered throughout the cities of Westminster and Garden Grove. What's more, it's not even Vietnamese. It's French. An authentic French bakery in Little Saigon. Who would even suspect?



The locals, that's who. They flock to this place by the dozens, snatching up cakes and gobbling the delectable pastries.



The fully operational kitchen in the back, run by a French patissier and his Mexican helpers, cranks out tray after tray of fresh treats well into the afternoon to keep up with the demand.



The counter staff is predominantly Vietnamese, fluent in Vietnamese, Chinese, and French. English, on the other hand, can sometimes be a problem...



Even with the kitchen baking away, the popular items still run out early. Get there before if you're planning on getting any of the good stuff.



While their cakes and tarts are almost always in stock, pastries like the Pain Chocolat (Chocolate-filled Croissant) are usually gone by 2pm. Many a time I've walked out with the last ones and the fiery eyes of the women in line behind me carving brands in my back. It's wickedly pleasing. The funny thing is, I'm usually buying them for Cat. I'm more of an Almond Croissant kind of guy.



Then again, I also enjoy dishing out delectable portions of public humiliation in a friendly, loving way. Here's Mr. Big's birthday barrage by Nerf firing squad. We had some great co-workers and friends at that company. I miss each and every one of them.



Here's Mr. Big opening his prezzie. Awww... We decided to help him end the Nerf arms race. The loud, cackling voice is mine, which I apologize for in advance.




Pierre Boulangerie & Patisserie - Forget the grocery store bakeries and chain patisseries that are pretenders to the throne. Pierre Boulangerie & Patisserie is an authentic French bakery offering French cakes and pastries at prices that can't be beat.


Boulangerie Pierre & Patisserie
14352 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
1-714-418-9098


Read these review by my food blogging friends:

3/10/2008

The Olde Ship - Santa Ana, CA

(Pictures for this review taken with my Canon PowerShot SD800is.

I'd like to thank my friend Jpathomas a.k.a. Stitch of Living in the Cloud for this great tip.)



(A Black & Tan with Guinness and Bass.)


The air is warm, thick porridge that oozes into my lungs with each gasping breath. In my head, a manic band of hobgoblins marches to God Save the Queen as a color guard of twirling pink elephants plays merry havoc with my optic nerves. My right temple pulses in time with the beat. My eyes water, the room swims. A voice cuts through the foggy haze swirling around my misfiring synapses and asks, "Would you like another pint, luv?" Too right I would.


(Christmas at the pub.)


The Olde Ship in Santa Ana is, as Cat says, aggressively British. Founded by ex-pats sick for a taste of home, and possibly sick of what we bloody colonials consider an acceptable pub, this temple to the gods of barley and hops delivers a much-needed weekly injection of alcohol to my hemoglobin infested veins. It also dishes up heaping servings of hearty English fare not for the faint of heart.



From oft-maligned fried-things-with-burnt-crunchy-bits to stick-to-your-ribs-for-a-week-stews, the offerings at the Olde Ship symbolize everything great and grand from the cook pots of our former imperial masters. Take the Cottage Pie, for example. Once an imaginative way to use up leftover meat and potatoes, this rich stew of ground beef and vegetables is tucked under a browned blanket of mashed potatoes and served as a bubbling, crusty plate of pure comfort.



Their Cornish Pasty takes it to the next level with tender chunks of beef baked in buttery pastry, then smothered with beef gravy. Craving mashed potatoes? Don't worry, they're on the plate and smothered in gravy as well.



The key to the Olde Ship's wonderfully heart-clogging meals seems to be a well-balanced blend of the three greatest food groups; fat, salt, and starch (often more than one), accompanied by an almost apologetic side of boiled peas and carrots. However, there's nothing bashful about anything they serve. Their roasts are particularly bold. Available for dinner during the weekends and holidays, their Roast Duck has a depth of flavor that belies the simplicity of its preparation. Once you bite into its moist meat and feel the crisp skin shatter under your teeth, you'll be hooked for life.



If you're unfortunate and the roast is already gone that evening, only Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding packs the meaty chutzpah needed to assuage your carnivorous frenzy. Be careful with the Yorkshire pudding. It's powerful juju. While it may look light and airy, it'll stay with you for the rest of the weekend. This is the stuff that gave Churchill the strength to hold back the Nazis.



However, if you're planning on hitting Disneyland afterwards, as Cat and I often do, and don't want to tip the boat for the Jungle Cruise, there are "lighter" options that will still provide a buffer against the warming goodness of beer. The Ploughman's Lunch, served with four different English cheeses, pickles, chutney, preserves, and all the bread you can eat, is a meal for two or hefty appetizer for four. One of their cheeses has pineapple chunks actually inside of it, hiding like tart little frontiersmen ready to scalp your Redcoat taste buds.



A side of Blood Sausage; dark, mysterious, and ruggedly sexy. The earthy combination of spiced blood and grains will get you through the hour wait for the Indian Jones ride.



There is no better drinking companion than the Scotch Egg, a hard boiled egg surrounded by a cricket ball-size lump of sausage, breaded, and deep fried. Served cold, sliced, and with pickles, it somehow makes sense. I salute the magnificent London bastard who invented it.



Cat pines for the flakey, moist sausage rolls served at Ren Faire, which are wholly different from the ghastly things they actually serve in the UK. The Sausage Rolls at the Olde Ship help assuage her cravings.



Mushy Peas are essential to keeping heartburn at bay when eating all those heavy, fried foods. Made with dry, not fresh peas, this soothing porridge gets its frighteningly vivid color from sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The only way to eat it is with your eyes closed, otherwise you'll find yourself mesmerized.



Did you think I was done? Oh no no no. What about dessert, the most feared of British fare? The undisputed king at the Olde Ship is the Sticky Toffee Pudding, which, as the name states, is a steamed toffee bread pudding served with condensed milk. It's amazingly good.



The English Sherry Trifle is a familiar friend with a different look. Baked berries, cake moistened with sherry, and whipped cream, it's new yet not, and is related to some British favorites already popular in the States; cobblers and crumbles.



Spotted Dick, a boiled bread and current pudding with custard, is a misunderstood classic that perfectly encapsulates the prevailing American attitude towards British food. The dessert's unfortunate name has led to much lampooning in American media, most memorably in the 1990 John Goodman film King Ralph. The few Americans aware of Spotted Dick see it as dense, bland, and stodgy, indicative of a boring and retroactive culture we rebelled against, rejected, and outgrew. Yet, bread pudding with custard is a basic comfort food, delicious and simple, which Americans might enjoy if we'd only give it a chance.




The Olde Ship - As authentic a British pub as we bloody colonials are likely to find on this side of the pond. It's a little kitsch and just a wee bit trite, but good fun nonetheless. While most pubs in Britain aren't really like this, the Olde Ship is a spot of delicious fun in an otherwise dreary part of town.


Bill:

Cottage Pie - 13.95
Cornish Pasty - 13.95
The Roast - 23.95
Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding - 15.95
Ploughman's Lunch - 14.95
Blood Sausage - 4.95
Scotch Eggs - 6.95
Sausage Rolls - 6.95
Mushy Peas - 3.95
Spotted Dick - 7.95
English Sherry Trifle - 7.95
Sticky Toffee Pudding - 7.95


Flavor: B
Ambience: A
Service: B
ROI: B

Overall: B+


The Olde Ship
1120 W 17th St
Santa Ana, CA 92706
1-714-550-6700
Restaurant website


Other locations:

The Olde Ship
709 N Harbor Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92832
1-714-871-7447

3/03/2008

New York Pizzeria - Irvine, CA

(Picture for this review taken with my Canon PowerShot SD800is.

I've been fighting off the flu for the past two weeks. Here's a little quick bite to ease me back into the swing of things.

The first introductory paragraph is the same in all articles in this series. Please feel free to skip it if you've already read it.

Read the rest of my Soul Pizza Series.)


My wife, Cat, is a staunch proponent of what she calls "soul pizza". It's her name for the type of unabashedly Italian-American pizza found in little neighborhood joints across the States. American GIs who returned from World War II had acquired a taste for Italian pizza during their tours on the European front, and made Italian-America pizza popular in the 50's as they sought out at home a dish they'd so enjoyed in Italy. Every city has one of these culinary time capsules, usually family-run and dishing up this simple, all-American favorite at very affordable prices. Timeless and comforting, these are local, mom & pop institutions with deep ties to the surrounding community. As Cat says:
Soul pizza is by definition not corporate pizza. Someone IN THE SHOP decided what the food was going to be like, and probably had to eat a lot of it if it wasn't very good at first. Having strict rules other than the one above regarding what can and can't be considered soul pizza seems inappropriately dictatorial, but the following are at least general tendencies of the species.

  • The owner is around pretty often, and is likely to be doing some cooking/cash registering/schmoozing.

  • The menu is straightforward and doesn't change much. No fad toppings and no side dishes with cutesy names. You can't get Cin-a-Min Curls or Fiesta Veggies at a soul pizza joint. You can have Sausage and Mushroom Pizza with Salad.

  • The decor is somewhere between minimal and haphazard. If everything matches, it's because the owner just hasn't collected enough stuff yet.

  • Somewhere in the place is a picture of the owner's kid, a picture by his kid, or his kid.





Located behind a church at the corner of Walnut and Yale, New York Pizzeria fits her definition of soul pizza to a T. It's a family-run neighborhood joint in the truest sense. Service is polite and friendly, but minimal. The decor is utilitarian at best. Yet, the restaurant gets regular business from a stream of local children on bikes, parents picking up a dinner for the family, and my wife and I.



What keeps us all coming back is the quality of the pizza. This place has the most ethereal pies in all of Irvine, with delicate, blistered crusts surrounding chewy, cloud-like interiors. The ratio between bread, cheese, sauce, and toppings is harmoniously balanced, each bite Zen-like in its simple perfection. However, the true mark of pizza mastery is the utter lack of grease. Unlike certain mass-market chains, New York Pizzeria's pizzas don't turn their cardboard boxes translucent and you won't need to blot up pools of lurid orange oil before venturing a bite. It's comforting, healthy food made fresh with care, and it shows.


New York Pizzeria - A delicious alternative for families on the go. Cat and I like going for lunch on the weekends. We order up one of the hefty medium pizzas and spend a relaxing afternoon reading the paper at one of the tables outside.

As a side note, the restaurant was recently robbed. Although the robber was caught, it's unlikely that they'll recover any of the money he took. Times are tough enough as it is for family-run small businesses. I urge all of my Irvine readers to stop by sometime this month and give New York Pizzeria a try. Support our local restaurants and help keep this great community establishment alive.


Bill:

Medium Pizza - $12.00


Flavor: A
Ambience: C
Service: C
ROI: A+

Overall: B+


New York Pizzeria
13925 Yale Ave., #135
Irvine, CA 92620
1-949-733-3434
Order online