Korea Garden on Long Point Road

We were looking for a get-together location on New Year’s Eve, when we decided that since both of our families like Korean food, it’d be good to let Ms Baker try it for the first time too. Houston’s West side houses many a place for a good bulgogi, concentrating on the section of Long Point that’s sandwiched between Gessner and Blalock, but we set our mind on Korea Garden. Half of us had been here several times, and we didn’t want any adventure on Ms Baker’s first impression, she’s a conservative. 🙂 It turned out her very first impression was curiosity: how did they manage to section 7 equal slices of the haemul pajeon (해물 바전)? It was a good jeon, however lay on the soggy side if compared to pancakes at Secret Garden and Casserole House. The banchan selection included some of our favorites: potato, seaweed, and sliced eomuk (어묵), although none appealed to the Americans at the table. The kimchis had quite a bit of chili, though. So did the dak bokgeum (닭 볶 음 stir-fried chicken) that […]

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Spicy balls of fruit and salt

Let’s make it clear: ô mai |oh mai| is not xí muội |xi mui| (huamei), even if Wikipedia says so. The former is a cooked mixture of cut-up fruits, ginger, licorice and spices, the latter is a whole plum dried and salted. Now that’s settled, I got a bunch of ô mai from Vua Khô Bò & Ô Mai a while ago, all homemade or so the lady told. Guava, rose buds, sấu (no English name, it seems), mango, kumquat, cóc (golden apple), tamarind, and 5-fruit combo, 2 balls each at $6.99 per half pound. Sweet, spicy, chunky, velvety, gingery, tart, salty, it’s all there. The downside: they all have the same wrapper, so except for the guava one which is extra chunky, I can’t tell which is which if my life depended on it. Continue reading Spicy balls of fruit and salt

My first taste of Battambang

It happens on Broadway Street, Oakland. Dishes with names so hard to pronounce, ingredients and tastes so similar to Vietnamese food. I learn of the second largest city of Cambodia, smaller only than Phnom Penh. I share my first simple Cambodian dinner, complete with a salad, a meat, and a dessert. Here’s a little language snippet: to Vietnamese people, salad is called “gỏi” |ghoy| in the South and “nộm” |nom| in the North. To my surprise, “nhorm” is its romanized name in Cambodia. Listening to the other customers at Battambang, Mudpie comments that Khmer and Vietnamese sound similar, to which I first protest, but perhaps it holds a grain of truth after all. Here we have nhorm lahong. If there’s any salad that never goes wrong, it must be this green papaya salad of Southeast Asia. Delicate, raw, and soaking fruit shreds retain nothing but a tightening chew, the sweet lime dressing sends a quiet smell of fish extract. Battambang’s batch is a drop more watery than Dara’s som tum/tam mak hoong, on the plus side there’s plenty of sauce to make rice go quickly down the pipe. Continue reading My first taste of Battambang

Red Pier on Milam Street

Among the countable Vietnamese restaurant owners that ever bother to make their menus available on the web, Kim Châu and her husband put together quite a decent site for their Red Pier: black background, colorful foods, dazzling images of the bar and the walls, names and prices of 166 dishes minus dessert. Red Pier is a go-to when you work in the ‘hood, have an hour for lunch, and just want some normal noodle soup or vermicelli at a reasonable price. Or when you crave something sweet and cold and nutty, like a chè ba màu (trichromatic bean and tapioca ice). Don’t drive too fast down the one-way Milam, you’d miss the restaurant for sure. It took us a few loops around until we pulled into the right parking lot, just across the street from the proprietors’ other business, Kim Châu Jewelers, on the left side. Also, don’t order Cơm Tôm Rim (rice with caramelized shrimp), unless you’re having salt-deficiency. If you must, Chè Ba Màu proves to be a comforting three-buck companion. Do order #1: Gỏi Sứa Tôm Thịt (jellyfish salad with shrimp and pork), […]

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Casserole House – Jeongol in Oakland

If you’ve had Vietnamese hot pot and liked it, you’d like the Korean hot pot better. If you haven’t had Vietnamese hot pot, try it, and then try jeongol (전골 Korean hot pot), and then you’d like jeongol better. There goes my motherland loyalty, but Vietnam has bánh cuốn and gỏi cuốn, so I’m not too worried. Lots of beef, lots of mushroom, green onion, bean sprout, tofu, cucumber, cabbage all snuggling in a pasty sunny broth. The pot is more like a deep tray on a gas stove, and the bubbling conglomeration is like a spoiled teenager threatening to run away from home. The bulgogi junggol comes to us wild and daring. We ladle right in. Casserole House has these big bright pictures on the wall of beef, spam, vegetables, and seafood neatly arranged in a round dish or bobbing in broth. The real stuff in action also hides some tteokbokki (떡) for chew and dangmyeon (당면) for engtanglement with the enokitake that just wait to drip the broth between the plates or fling a fortunate dot onto your shirt. I don’t know why they would call jeongol […]

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Delicious Vietnam #10 – February Essen

This month sees some of us travelling and visiting families for the Lunar New Year, so thank you all for spending time to write up your delicious pieces, which surprisingly comprise a very balanced and harmonious mix of courses, recipes, and reviews. Appetizers From Los Angeles, California: Hong and Kim, the Ravenous Couple, slices out a beautiful assortment of papaya, carrot, daikon, garden herbs, and (my personal addiction) dried anchovies, in the name of Green Papaya Salad (Gỏi Đu Đủ) Continue reading Delicious Vietnam #10 – February Essen

Sandwich Shop Goodies 13 – Bánh xu xê (couple cookie)

Vietnamese When you reach(ed) mid 20s, don’t you just hear all sort of marriage announcements popping up among your social circle? By the time of college graduation, half the girls I know have gotten their wedding registry up on Facebook, and I thought okay it’s just an American thing (the wedding I mean, though the registry is American too). Then this past Christmas my best college friend missed our annual reunion for his big day in India, and another pal who I thought was still wandering the streets of Chengdu dropped the bomb that he’s engaged. Then I got news that two of my eleventh grade buddies in Vietnam are going to say the vows (not to each other) within this year. Then it really hits me. I haven’t written about any wedding party food, even though I’ve been to many weddings :D. So why not celebrate this year’s Valentine’s day with a Vietnamese confection whose name derives from the main characters of any wedding: bánh xu xê, originally called bánh phu thê, or “husband (and) wife”? My translation “couple cookie” is for the sake of consonant concordance. They are similar to […]

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Kim Son’s Tet in woven baskets

Vietnamese *Guest post in Vietnamese by my Mom, translated by me* Back in the day, I seldom ate from street stalls or vendors’ baskets, my conscience imprinted with my mother’s unmovable doubt on the street food’s cleanliness. Nonetheless, I scurry with no hesitation to make it to Kim Son for lunch today, just because the TV news last night showed that Kim Son has a 9-day New Year food festival where the goodies are sold in baskets, mimicking the vendor stalls in Vietnam. Like usual, the display is a buffet style, but this week the dining hall is decorated with flowers, fruits, and Tet greetings, the food selection is also larger and more interesting than normal days. I notice thịt kho and dưa giá (slow braised pork and pickled bean sprout, two traditional Tet savory dishes), bánh xèo (sizzling crepe), bánh bèo (water fern banh), bánh bột lọc (translucent banh) bánh cống (mung bean fried muffin). In the baskets lie a few types of xôi, bánh tét, and mứt. A tightening mix of homesickness and […]

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Chè chuối chưng (banana tapioca pudding)

Every once in a while when the planets align the right way with the constellations, I get into cooking mode. Then I ask my mom how to make certain things, usually easy stuff, spend at least an hour at the grocery, another half a day in front of either the sink or the stove, washing, churning, tasting, sprinkling, and tasting again. Saying that I like to cook would be like saying students hate holidays, but somehow the little accomplishment at the end of a cooking session always makes me glee, partly because I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner in the few days after. (Since the first day I had a kitchen(ette), I’ve only made savory dishes.) This time is special: I didn’t spend half a day in the kitchen, and the little accomplishment is a dessert. Now this might actually means I have che instead of rice for dinner in the next few days :-P, but all is well as my banana che is not in the least coyingly sweet like che from sandwich shops. Recipe adapted from Mom’s instruction: Continue reading Chè chuối chưng (banana tapioca pudding)

Family meal from Thanh Đa Quán, Houston

Vietnamese *Guest post in Vietnamese by my Mom, translated by me* There are two places with the name Thanh Đa in Bellaire. One is Bún Măng Vịt Thanh Đa (Thanh Đa vermicelli soup with bamboo shoot and duck), and the other is Thanh Đa Quán. We happen to choose Thanh Đa Quán for lunch today, partly because they have the family dining option, which is rare in the States. The reason, I can only guess, is that most people who eat out like to pick their own items, or go to buffets if they don’t know what to pick. Family style lies between these two options, where the restaurant decides for the diners a fix menu (for example, Thanh Da Quan gives 4 dishes for 2 people, 5 dishes for 4 people, or 6 dishes for 6 people). The total bill for family dining usually comes out higher than a buffet ticket but lower than a combination of single plates. Today, it is boiled duck with ginger dipping sauce, lotus stem salad with pork and shrimp, sour catfish soup, and claypot catfish, all for $21.6 (after tax, with […]

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