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.


Yong Chen and Clarissa Wei on CCTV

It's always a bit of a kick when you see someone you know on TV. It's exponentially more awesome when it's two unrelated people you know. Long-time readers of this blog will be familiar with the close relationship I have with Yong Chen, Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, and my mentor in all things food. Some of our past is detailed in:
I'm also a huge fan of Clarissa Wei, Chinese American food blogger and freelance journalist. So, I was blown away when both Yong and Clarissa popped up in this CCTV America segment on Chinese culture and heritage that aired in February. While Yong and Clarissa only had enough time to cover the topic of Chinese food as cultural identity in broad strokes, they did a really fine job of condensing a complicated discussion into digestible tidbits.

To learn more about Chinese cultural identity in America, read either of Yong's fine books:
I highly recommend both. Also, please check out Clarissa's website, ClarissaWei.com.


Tacolandia 2016 Exclusive Pre-Sale Code!

(Get your tickets a whole week before everyone else at Ticketfly using presale code TACOPANDA.)

It's coming...
It's coming...

That magical, lime and chili infused wonderland where Taco Spirit Guide Bill Esparza leads me on a kaleidoscopically gluttonous dreamwalk. Of the 7 major events in my annual epicurean cycle; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chinese New Year, 626 Night Market, Irvine Global Village Festival, LA Weekly's Burger and Beer, and LA Weekly's Tacolandia, Tacolandia is King.

GENERAL ADMISSION tickets to LA Weekly's fourth annual Tacolandia are $40 and include entry into the event, entertainment, access to the cash bars, and tacos from over 100 vendors curated by Bill Esparza.

VIP ADMISSION tickets are $60 and add a VIP gift bag, access via a VIP entrance, and access to an exclusive VIP lounge with its own bar!

Tickets go on sale Monday, March 14th, 2016. However, Chubbypanda.com readers can use our exclusive TACOPANDA presale code at Ticketfly.com to start buying your tickets on Tuesday, March 8th, 2016. Tickets, especially for VIP ADMISSION, go quickly every year.

Participants this year include:
A full list of Tacolandia participants can be found HERE.

This year's charity beneficiaries are the El Pueblo Park Association (EPP) and Food Forward.
El Pueblo Park Association (EPPA) was founded in 1982 to foster public interest in, and good will for, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument (El Pueblo). They are a volunteer group dedicated to promoting the historic plaza and its historic buildings. In addition, they are devoted to expanding El Pueblo’s use as an educational and cultural facility by: raising funds for the restoration, conservation and promotion of El Pueblo as a unique gathering place for the celebration of the historical and multicultural heritage of Los Angeles and sponsoring exhibitions and special events at El Pueblo.

Food Forward rescues fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same. HARVEST FOOD • FIGHT HUNGER • BUILD COMMUNITY They are a volunteer-powered group of Southern Californians who are passionate about making change around hunger in our community. Food Forward convenes at private properties, public spaces, and farmers and wholesale markets to recover excess fruits and vegetables, donating 100% to local direct-service agencies who feed our community’s most vulnerable. Combined, theirr diverse distribution partners provide food to over 100,000 clients a month across Southern California.
Don't miss out! Get your tickets before the rest of the taco-loving public at Ticketfly TODAY. Use our exclusive TACOPANDA promo code to unlock the tickets. Tickets go on sale to the general public next Monday, March 14th, 2016.

Tacolandia 2016 - Saturday, June 11th from 3 to 7 p.m. at El Pueblo de Los Angeles in DTLA.


Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival This Weekend!

Newport Beach's second annual Wine & Food Festival runs this Friday, October 2nd, through Sunday, October 4th, at the Newport Beach Civic Center. Tickets are still available.

The main event is the Daytime Festival from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday, October 3rd, and Sunday, October 4th. Cooking demonstrations, book signings, and tastings will be hosted by a distinguished lineup of local and celebrity chefs, including Rick Bayless of Red O, Brooke Williamson of Hudson House and the Tripel, Andrew Gruel of Slapfish, and Yvon Goetz of the Winery. Williamson is a personal favorite, as her restaurants are part of my regular lunch rotation.

30 of Orange County's hottest restaurants will be offering tastings throughout the afternoon in the Grand Tasting Pavilions. Different restaurants will be participating on different days, so check the schedule.

Proceeds from the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival will go to benefit the Project Hope Alliance, which aims to free homeless children from the limitations of their circumstances by assisting with education, transportation, and after school programs.

Tickets are available HERE.
A chefs attending is available HERE.
A list of participating restaurants is available HERE.


Mid-Autumn Festival Dumpling Feast

(Home made dumplings with pork, Napa cabbage, and shrimp.)

Growing up, the Mid-Autumn Festival was a low-key affair for my family. Since it often happened during a school night, my mother would buy mooncakes from a local Chinese bakery and make us a hot pot or dumplings. When my siblings and I were younger, we'd sometimes go out to the backyard to look at the moon while she told us stories about the rabbit who lived there. As we got older and more busy with school, the specialness of the holiday faded. But, we always ate mooncakes and we were always together.

As part of a mixed marriage hundreds of miles from my family, I've gotten used to celebrating many Chinese holidays on my own. My wife, Cat, is always happy to join me and very open to new cultural experiences. Yet, while she intellectually understands our traditions, she feels no more of an emotional connection to them than I do to the Christmas or St. Patrick's day celebrations I participate in with her Scottish-Irish family.

(Kraig's Smoked Beef Short Ribs.
You celebrate the Moon Festival your way, we'll do it ours.)

This year, @losangelesfoodiegirl, @kraigescobar, and I were blessed with an invitation join our friends William & Kelly, and their lovely family, for a home made dumpling feast. William's parents, on a visit from Hangzhou, China, cooked dish after dish of his childhood favorites. Far from my family and their own Mid-Autumn meal, it was indescribably comforting.

(Home made dumplings with pork, chives, and egg.)

The centerpiece of the festivities were dumplings made by William's family. Plump, juicy, and perfectly seasoned, they were served with a little Chinese black vinegar and sliced garlic as accents. Unlike the dumplings made in many restaurant kitchens and factories, which use industrial food processors and mixers, the fillings in William's dumplings were chopped and mixed by hand, resulting in an unmistakeable texture and mouth-feel.

A regional specialty I'd never tried before, and one that William has never seen outside of Hangzhou, a paste of seasoned pork was spread onto gossamer thin "crepes" of fried egg, rolled, steamed, chilled, and sliced. The time intensive preparation yielded a delicate flavor that enveloped the tongue like an edible hug.

Another fine example of Chinese charcuterie, carefully selected cuts of beef containing both meat and tendon were braised in a spiced, soy-based stock, then chilled in to a toothsome, beefy jello. A mainstay of Chinese banquets and feasts, it was served thinly sliced.

A hung over Pitmaster Kraig contributed his signature dish of beef short ribs seasoned simply with salt and pepper, and slow smoked for over eight hours. The flavors were carefully balanced, with gently yielding meat that practically melted away.

The indisputable winner of our feast was a deceptively simple plate of cucumbers marinated in salt, garlic, and sesame oil. Crunchy and light, it helped cleanse our palates of the other rich dishes. The key, according to William, is knowing how to pick the cucumbers. They have to be fresh.

There were an assortment of desserts that most of us were too full to eat, including watermelon, a chilled soup of lotus seed and white fungus, mooncakes, egg tarts, and these cupcakes I picked up from Layer Cake Bakery in Irvine. I cannot repeat enough how thankful we are to William & Kelly for welcoming us into their home and sharing these special dishes with us.

That evening, Cat and I found a spot in our neighborhood to watch the lunar eclipse. I shared with Cat a story I'd heard about the blood moon as a child. That every few decades the wolf who lived in the sky would try to hunt and kill the rabbit that lived on the moon. The moon would turn red, and the people would set off fireworks, bang their pots and pans, and yell to scare the wolf away. We held hands and wished the rabbit luck.

Later, once Cat had been driven inside by the chill night air, I texted my siblings a reminder about the lunar eclipse. My sister texted back that they were going outside to try to spot it. Maybe, for just a moment, we all looked at the same moon from different places under the same sky and remembered the same story.

(Pictures taken with my Canon Rebel XTi and iPhone 5s.)


LA Weekly Burgers & Beer 2015 Buddy Pack

The LA Weekly has been on a tear over the past year with food festivals like Tacolandia, Pancake Breakfast, Sips & Sweets, and the Essentials. This Saturday's Burgers & Beer at the LA Coliseum is shaping up to be amazing, with burgers from headliners like Thomas Keller's Bouchon, the infamous Hawkins House of Burgers, Belcampo, and Vaka Burger. The artisan brewer lineup is equally exciting, with some of my personal favorites, including Beachwood Brewing, the Lagunitas Brewing Company, Eagle Rock Brewery, and Telegraph Brewing. Shout out to the El Segundo Brewing Co!

Tickets are still available, with three options:
  • Burger Only ($55) - Unlimited food samples from over 35 burger vendors and access to the Vendor Village.
  • General Admission ($75) - Unlimited food samples, craft beer samples, and access to the Vendor Village
  • VIP ($100) - Early entry, VIP gift bag, and all General Admission benefits.
For a limited time, LA Weekly's Burgers and Beers is offering a Buddy Pack of 4 General Admission tickets for $199. It's a great way to save some money if you're going with friends.

Get your tickets today!