Little Texas Cookbook


Found this little guy on a bookshelf at home. I couldn’t sleep last night and was browsing the shelves for something to read (which is obviously a great idea to cure insomnia – the more I read the more awake I am, unless it’s a physics book). As a pâtissière friend says, recipe books are only for ideas, so I never read them (I hardly even look at them at bookstores). My mother, like all Vietnamese mothers, never uses recipes either, so I was confused for a second of where this came from. Then I found my host mom’s writing on the inner cover – it was a new year gift from her and my host dad. I lived with them in Texas during my year of exchange study. That year was filled with corn bread, lima bean soup, baked beans and sausage for dinner, pecan pie and Blue Bell ice cream for desserts, and my host dad’s cheese balls for snacks. When I opened the first page of this Little Texas Cookbook, there it was, a recipe for Spicy Cheese Balls. This recipe is completely different from my host dad’s recipe (if he uses a […]

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Tinh Luat restaurant – thoughtful vegan food


In this unassuming restaurant, I found the best sugarcane juice I’ve ever had. When the waiter asked if we would like three glasses of fresh-squeezed(*) sugarcane juice for the table, only my dad was persuaded. The waiter was quite earnest too, he insisted that it was good and that it would induce no extra cost (the meal is buffet-style for a modest $8.99/person, roughly the cost of a bowl of pho in Berkeley). However, the sugarcane juices I’d had before, although good, were soon too sweet, and for a hot summer day I find sugar particularly less appetizing than plain water, so I declined. Immediately after I took a sip from my dad’s glass, I changed my mind. I asked the same waiter for a glass, he laughed at me of course, “Told you it was good!”. It was not sugary, but sweet in a vegetal way, somewhat like an intensified goji berry tea. My dad ordered a second glass for himself. Continue reading Tinh Luat restaurant – thoughtful vegan food

Revisit Gather


Let me first get this off my chest: I hate restaurants with low lighting (e.g., Burma Superstar and Bistro Liaison), red lights (e.g., Thanh Long and Mission Chinese), and yellow lights (Gather). Why can’t we have nice white neon lights? I don’t go there to film romantic dinner scenes or deal drugs under the table. I go there to eat food, I want to be able to see the true colors of what I’m eating, and I want to take good pictures of them. Is that really too much to ask? Okay. On to the next business. A lot of people ask me what my favorite restaurant in Berkeley is. I can’t answer that. It’s like asking me who’s my favorite friend. But if you ask me where I would take someone out to dinner, I have a few cards to deal depending on what that person likes. If they like grilled meat and interesting food, I recommend Ippuku. If they’re vegetarian, I take them to Gather. That said, unlike the consistently good Ippuku, Gather gives me ups and […]

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One shot: Avocado smoothie


This post is for the Vietnamese expats in particular and anyone who thinks of the avocado as a fruit (to be eaten as a fruit, not a vegetable). In America, people tend to think of avocado in guacamole terms or as a meat substitute in sandwiches. If you think avocado for dessert is weird, shall we talk about your pumpkin pie? 😉 Ever since the day I saw the option of “avocado smoothie” at UCafe, I’ve had 3-5 avocado smoothies every week. Drinking each smoothie with boba was like looking through old photographs and reliving the beautiful days. The avocado is healthy, but that’s not why I like it. It’s the best option when I’m too tired to chew, want something mildly sweet and cold, and when the weather is too hot for meat and carbs. It replenishes my soul and keeps me alive through the summer humidity that accumulates in my tin-roof office building. I regret that I had not eaten more avocados in Vietnam, where the fruit is as big as my whole hand from wrist to middle finger tip and as luscious as molten chocolate cake. Continue reading One shot: Avocado smoothie

Two scientists take on all Indian restaurants in Berkeley

Hull and Surendranath examine the inscription on a spoon at Bombay Cuisine.

Hull and Surendranath examine the inscription on a spoon at Bombay Cuisine. What do grad students do? Some of us write, some of us teach, most of us don’t sleep, all of us eat. For Astronomy PhD student Chat Hull and his friend Yogesh Surendranath, a Chemistry postdoctoral fellow, eating at every single Indian restaurant in Berkeley and writing about it is high on the priority list. Berkeley has no shortage of Indian restaurants for the duo to review. “We stay within the city limit”, said Surendranath. Their blog, Masala Chaat, has been regularly updated for roughly a year. When I meet them in the office, they seem like the normal physicists: friendly, calm and full of physics. When I joined them in a trip to Bombay Cuisine, the restaurant-reviewing mode was turned on full-force. The inner comedians were revealed. Continue reading Two scientists take on all Indian restaurants in Berkeley


Many of my food-loving friends don’t consider themselves foodie. Many of my food-loving friends do consider themselves foodies. Restauranteurs hate foodies. My cousin hates foodies. I asked him why. – They don’t cook and they sit around discussing how the food should be done. He hit the nail on the head right there. I don’t cook, and I sit around saying this needs more salt and that needs less sugar. Does that mean I’m a foodie? I’ve always thought that anyone who loves to eat as a hobby is a foodie. But apparently the term has grown to encompass more meanings, like the city of Houston that keeps annexing its neighbors. Here’s the list of reasons that Michael Procopio of Food for the Thoughtless does not consider himself a foodie: Continue reading Foodie

B-Dama – Taste fresher than fresh


Why don’t I like spicy food? For the same reason I don’t like cupcakes, Chicago pizza or anything that has too much of something for me to taste anything else. For the same reason I shunned sushi for almost 10 years: the first time I had sushi I scooped a spoonful of the lovely green paste into my mouth. Those were 10 years that I could have enjoyed so many hamachi nigiri. It’s sad. But that aside, for the same reason that I dislike spicy food, I like B-Dama so much more than I expected. It’s a tiny tiny Japanese restaurant in Piedmont. Its menu doesn’t boast anything particularly breath-taking to draw me out of the comfort of my home, except that I once saw Kristen post on Facebook a picture of the ankimo (monkfish liver) from B-Dama, and Kristen and I have had more than two failed attempts to eat there together just because the restaurant was either closed or too busy when we popped in. When you can’t have something, you want it more. Then the day finally arrived. My friend and I tried the ridiculously popular Geta […]

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