The macaron that keeps you wanting for more


What defines a good macaron? I googled, but found only “10 signs of a bad macaron“. My pâtissière friend Hanna Lim told me a few criteria: a good macaron should look smooth on the surface, crunchy (but not crumbly) on the outside and a little chewy(*) inside, it should not fall apart when you take a bite, it should be a clean bite – no crumbs, no cream spewing out on the side. Looking through the Facebook page of The Pastry of Dreams, I see gliding smooth macarons and beautiful cookie-to-cream ratio. Visually, they are perfect. But what impresses me most is their taste. These almond cookies reflect what real fruits and nuts taste like in a cookie. Instead of being masked by sugar, the flavors that each cookie is supposed to contain shine through. “There are no shortcuts in our pastries,” says Liz Laval, the chemist-turn-pastry-chef who started The Pastry of Dreams. For something as simple as vanilla, she uses special vanilla beans imported from Madagascar to France and shipped to her by family living in France. “The one from here and the one that people […]

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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

Andy Warhol, kokeshi dolls, and oden


In Europe the royalty and the aristocracy used to eat a lot better than the peasants – they weren’t eating the same things at all. It was either partridge or porridge, and each class stuck to its own food. But when Queen Elizabeth came here and President Eisenhower bought her a hot dog I’m sure he felt confident that she couldn’t have had delivered to Buckingham Palace a better hot dog than that one he bought for her for maybe twenty cents at the ballpark. Because there is no better hot dog than a ballpark hot dog. Not for a dollar, not for ten dollars, not for a hundred thousand dollars could she get a better hot dog. She could get one for twenty cents and so could anybody else. – Andy Warhol Why is that ballpark hot dog the best hot dog? Because the ballpark hot dog seller sells nothing but hot dogs. You can’t beat someone who does it day in and day out, a thousand times and another thousand times more often than you. Continue reading Andy Warhol, kokeshi dolls, and oden

New lunar year, new me


Yesterday was Flavor Boulevard’s 3rd birthday. Today is my nth birthday. Back in 2010, a good friend of mine used to give me a ride to San Jose at least once every other month, sometimes more, when I got cravings for Vietnamese food, and especially when the Lunar New Year approached. When Flavor Boulevard was about one year old, things got complicated. Long story short, I hadn’t been back to San Jose for two years. – Why? You couldn’t rent a car? – Well… you know the stereotype that Asian girls can’t drive? It’s true for this one. It’s embarrassing. People, even those who don’t like driving, feel much more relaxed when they drive me than when I drive them. I’m also used to driving in Houston, where signs are helpful and people are friendly. Driving in California scares me. I’ve been here for 4 years, driven here twice, and both times reaffirmed my scare. So Vietnamese food cravings are satiated with the places in Oakland, where I can reach by bus. I don’t remember what I did for the 2012 Tet (Vietnamese lunar new year), and there seems to be no record of it on Flavor […]

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One shot: Goma ice outside Ippuku


The latest addition to my dream house: a wooden platform to put in the garden where we can sit cross-legged, eat, drink tea, lie down while listening to the birds and wind chime. That platform, we call it phảng |fang|, but I don’t know the Japanese or English word for it :-/ It came about when Kristen and I sat on that wooden thing outside Ippuku tonight. It was outside outside, not a patio sitting, no chairs, no tables, just a platform like a wide bench. We came for their goma ice cream, and the wait for a table was super long so ordering at the bar was the best idea. You’d think it’d be cold, but there was the heater lamp hanging off the roof to warm us. My face was so warm I thought I was gonna get sunburn at 9 pm. It was so relaxing. Sit cross-legged, savor sesame ice cream, sesame cracker and a mochi, watch the street and the boys goofing off on it, and be watched by people waiting for a table. Come to think of it, we weren’t any less goofy than those boys. 😀 Continue reading One shot: Goma ice outside Ippuku

Following the trend: Super Sweet Blogger Award

Heloise from Eating Modern voted me for the Super Sweet Blogger Award. Thank you, Heloise. 🙂 I did some quick Google search and this game seems at the very least a nice way to know who (besides myself) reads my blog and whose blog I read. So, I’ll treat it the same way I treat food: if someone tells me to try something, I’ll try it (except balut, dog meat, bear paws, and so on). Here goes the meme (it’d be nice to know who started it maybe…): There are three rules to follow: -The nominees have to thank the person that nominated them. -Answer the 5 Super Sweet Questions — See below -Nominate a bakers dozen of other Super Sweet Bloggers and let them know. Continue reading Following the trend: Super Sweet Blogger Award

Vegan out at Cha-Ya

Summer Green Roll – avocado, cucumber, kaiware sprout, wakame and hijiki. Alissa scooped wasabi like it was green tea ice cream, but I like this one just as it is: plain, fresh and light. It’s been a long time since I last either wrote about food or ate anything that I could write about. The occasional rainfalls during the drought of takeout Chinese are so-so hu tieu and com suon somewhere in the Ranch 99 complex, and homemade soups, lovely but no hot news. Vegetable intake has been limited to shibazuke from Berkeley Bowl, homemade kimchi, and toasted seaweed (seaweed counts, doesn’t it?). Before leaving for her trip, Cheryl fed me her black chicken soup, brown rice, tau yew bak (similar to thit kho but with soy sauce instead of fish sauce) and, like a loving sister, concerned looks and advice on how I should feed myself healthy meals. I agree with her one hundred percent, but all planned menus for the next day fluttered their wings away as I run from class to class and get home only wishing to relax. […]

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Seven flavors of mochi ice cream

One very cold Saturday afternoon in Oakland. Darren: Normally I don’t like fruit flavored stuff, like watermelon candies you know? Mai: Yeah, like cherry candies… Darren: But this mango ice cream is really good! Mai: It is! I like the green tea the most though, it’s so refreshing. What about you, Kristen? Kristen: I usually don’t like strawberry flavors, but this strawberry one is so good… Good thing we each had a different favorite. Continue reading Seven flavors of mochi ice cream

Recipe for bánh dầy đậu – Vietnamese mung bean mochi

When I’m home, Little Mom pampers me with her food and sweeps me out of her kitchen, except when I open the fridge to snack, because her mind fixes on the idea that if she lets me touch the stove, I only make a mess. She’s right. Not to toot my own horn but when I’m home, I’m a lazy mess. So when I said Mom, let’s make bánh dầy đậu, she threw her hands up, said oh my sky there’s no more room in the fridge, made the bean paste herself, and only let me play with the dough. 😉 The mung bean paste filling is really the most important part of the Vietnamese mochi (similar to the Japanese mochi, but it’s 100% Vietnamese): you want it slightly savory, slightly sweet, and mashed. Little Mom is the queen of seasoning, so that part was flawless. My job was to knead the dough and roll up them balls. At least I didn’t have to pound steamed sticky rice into oblivion. I was kneading while watching TV with Mom. I was kneading when she sectioned her bánh bao dough into balls. I was still […]

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Party like spring harvest time

And eat an amazing cream puff. (Cream puffs >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Cupcakes) Click to see my post on the Spring Harvest Tea Party at Teance tonight. We drank some eye-opening teas, literally and figuratively.