one shot: Clay pot rice and beef


This is Vietnamese clay pot rice at Saigon Express. The pot comes sizzling hot, and after 5-10 minutes, we have a nice rice crust at the bottom, while the top is flavored with the sauce from the meat and vegetable. I wish there were more rice just because the sauce is so good, but I already get quite full with this portion every time. The closest resemblance I can think of is the Korean dolsot bibimbap. In this Vietnamese case, there’s no kimchi, no gochujang, you don’t have to add anything to the already well seasoned toppings. I like this completeness of the rice bowl, as they say about the donburi (watch this Shokugeki no Soma episode for the donburi reference – ignore the sexy stuff, though, just focus on the food). It’s amazing how much a restaurant can change over the years, or how much dining with a companion can change your perception of the restaurant (did they even have this clay pot rice back then?). I was not so impressed before. This time, it’s a change for the *much* better. Continue reading one shot: Clay pot rice and beef

one shot: Pluots in season


Years of slouching at the computer and frozen pizzas have finally shown in my belly. The realization came when I bought a dress the other day without trying on, and if I grew just another quarter of an inch, the button would fly (… could it just be poor design? T__T). In any case, midnight pizza will have to go. The problem: when you know you shouldn’t have something, you want it more. Every night, the hunger looms over me like a bright full moon…. The solution (maybe): pluots are in season again! YAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!! Pictured is 4 point something pounds of pluots. From darkest to lightest color: Flavor Royal, Eagle Egg, Tropical Plumana, and Golden Treat. (づ ̄ ³ ̄)づ

Dimsum lunch at Koi Palace


There are a few unexpected things for me about Koi Palace. I didn’t expect it to be in the middle of PetSmart, Ross, 24 Hour Fitness, Outback, and CVS. Nor could I fathom why it was completely full at noon time on a Wednesday. People in Daly City don’t have to work on weekdays? What about schools? (plenty of school-age glanced at me mid-bites when I tried to spy the food on their table…) Inexplicable. Perhaps the food here is really so good that work is meaningless without it? Among the things we got, a few really gave us that instant burst of satisfaction like when you pop a bubble-wrap bubble and made me forget work for a second. Such as the grilled chive and shrimp dumplings. Each ball plops into your mouth and fills the void so perfectly, you sink into a plump piece of shrimp every time you move your jaw. It takes some time to chew, and you kind of wish it would last even longer. The espresso coffee ribs are another. You can definitely taste the coffee in that succulent, rich piece of meat. This is […]

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Tycoon Thai, and memories of Mama Lan’s


Living in the Westbrae area of Berkeley, I used to drive past Mama Lan’s daily. In its heyday Mama Lan’s was a great example of a neighborhood cafe – terrific dishes that satisfied with affordable prices. Mama Lan passed away before 2000 and her son took over the shop, keeping it open for a few years after. During Mama Lan’s time in the kitchen, the Vietnamese/Thai menu skewed French in an elegant way – she had a light touch with the hot peppers and garlic and her dishes often had a sweeter, more herbaceous profile. Seafood (crab!) was her specialty, coupled with rich chicken or pork – based broths, rich in ginger, cilantro, lemongrass, lime and coconut milk. A version of the Thai coconut milk and chicken broth soup with mushrooms and vermicelli noodles, and all the aforementioned seasoning (tom kha) was served piping hot and super thick from the noodles. I LOVED that soup. Green papaya salad containing both shrimp and julienned pork was tangy with lime, not hot, and umami- rich from the pork- it was addictive. After Mama Lan died, the dishes were substantially changed: the tom kha mainly tasted of evaporated milk […]

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Kaze: the place to go when you crave ramen in Berkeley

Tonkotsu ramen with a side of gyoza. ($10.99)

Kaze, Berkeley: tonkotsu ramen with a side of gyoza. ($10.99) This little shop opens sometime last winter, it looked unassuming then, but now it is packed every time I come, so I think it’s safe to assume that it’s packed almost everyday if not always. People on the East Bay think of The Ramen Shop when they think of ramen, simply because until now there has been no other shop that really specializes in ramen. There’s ramen at sushi places, izakaya places, and some random places that should have nothing to do with ramen. Hence, the consistently ridiculous 2-plus-hour wait at The Ramen Shop. Now, let’s do a check-and-compare list between Kaze and The Ramen Shop (TRS): Continue reading Kaze: the place to go when you crave ramen in Berkeley

Stuffed chicken at Yum’s Bistro

While turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (which I haven’t had in years and REALLY want some) make up the traditional Thanksgiving feast, I will keep up the tradition of posting something different for Thanksgiving (like duck and avocado pie). Not necessarily better, just something different, because no Thanksgiving dinner is the same, right? 🙂 So here it is: the fried chicken stuffed with fried sweet rice at Yum’s Bistro in Fremont. Known on the menu as “crispy chicken with flavored sweet rice”. The sweet rice (sticky rice) with diced bits of Chinese sausage, chicken, shrimp and mushroom are made into fried rice the normal way, then stuffed into the chicken skin – a fully intact continuous chicken skin from head to leg – which is then fried or broiled. How they skin the chicken, I’m not too sure, this dish may only be feasible to make at home if you’re a chef… but it looks interesting, and it tastes GREAT. Continue reading Stuffed chicken at Yum’s Bistro

Oregon Wine Adventure dinner at Bay Wolf

Clockwise from top left: "Oregon finger food", smoked trout salad, fava bean cannelloni, Liberty Ranch duck. Image courtesy of Nancy Togami.

Clockwise from top left: “Oregon finger food”, smoked trout salad, fava bean cannelloni, Liberty Ranch duck. Image courtesy of Nancy Togami. Hi! I’m Nancy, one of Mai’s intrepid partners in food and tea adventures. I’m guest blogging about a wine dinner that I enjoyed not too long ago… Baywolf on Piedmont Avenue is well known in the Bay Area for its duck dinners (Nov 2012). An opportunity arose last month to indulge in the duck again, along with some mighty fine Oregon wine. Of course, this is where Mai and I part ways, as I usually enjoy a glass or two of fine wine with a special meal. We agree to disagree 😉 A treat for the evening included appearances from Dick Ponzi from his eponymous winery and Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Wines. Continue reading Oregon Wine Adventure dinner at Bay Wolf

one shot: Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled-pork sandwich, beans and sweet tea. Image courtesy of bnibroc.

Pulled-pork sandwich, beans and sweet tea. Image courtesy of bnibroc. Big Pine has few options for dining out, but what it has leaves little to be desired. “Adam’s Favorite Pulled Pork” sandwich ($8.25) with cole slaw is the definition of juicy pulled pork on a burger bun, despite the scorching 105 F heat in the desert that sucks the life out of our dry throats. It’s become our favorite, too. (To maintain some hydration, we got a glass of sweet tea with special High Sierra crushed ice. Highly recommended.) Continue reading one shot: Pulled Pork Sandwich

Seoul Gomtang in Oakland


This restaurant… The plus: 1. their steamed dumplings, despite being stuffed with 95% tofu and 5% unidentifiable substance (probably also tofu, but Cheryl and Eric hoped it was pork, so let’s go with pork), were big and well seasoned; 2. their kimchi seems homemade and tastes fresh. The minus: well… where should we start… Continue reading Seoul Gomtang in Oakland

Danh’s Garden – Vietnamese pub foods


Pub foods for Vietnamese are pretty diverse (**). The menu at Danh’s Garden in San Jose is basically a book, plus some handwritten ones on the wall. I single-handedly narrowed down our choices by a page when I refused anything goat or lamb (I often wonder why my friends can be so kind and still go to eat with this oddball). We picked 5 dishes at first, thinking it should be enough for a party of 5 – Vietnamese pub foods are no tapas or izakaya, things are not served in dainty palm-sized saucers, they’re entree-portion. With them come a plethora of dipping sauces and salt-and-pepper mix for who knows what. Honestly I don’t think we even used all of those sauces. The food were plenty seasoned already. Mực dồn chạo tôm – squid stuffed with shrimp paste. Light on the seasoning. Rating: 8/10. (It’s tasty and I can’t think of any flaw, but will I crave it? Probably not.) Continue reading Danh’s Garden – Vietnamese pub foods