Eating LA #weekendcooking

One great thing about Los Angeles is all that amazing food that’s on offer. I always feel like the Bay Area is so far behind LA when it comes to food trends and such.

So when in LA, it’s important to do lots of eating.

Of course we were also there for Universal Studios but that’s another story.

Mama Lu’s Dumpling House in Monterey Park

153 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park

Confusingly, there are two Mama Lu’s close to each other. You want the one on East Garvey, not West. They’re known as a dumpling house but personally I thought the dumplings were just average. Instead, their other cooked dishes were really tasty (and cheap). We had beef chow fun, pork ribs with Peking sauce, garlicky pea sprouts, salted fish vermicelli and more.

Also, please don’t ask me about Singapore noodles, which sadly, yes, this place offers. Singapore noodles may exist around the world, but we Singaporeans do not eat vermicelli with curry powder. So please don’t go to Singapore and expect Singapore noodles!

 

Thai Patio in Thai Town

5273 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027

We were staying at a lovely vacation rental in the Hollywood Hills, and not far from there is Thai Town. I’d never been before and was pretty excited as I LOVE Thai food. A friend had recommended a place but we were unable to find parking close by. But we did grab a street lot outside Thai Patio, which is located in a small strip mall full of other Thai eateries. Ruen Pair has lots of great reviews and 4 stars on Yelp but there was a wait so we decided to just try Thai Patio which had open tables. But I figured that whatever we ate at Thai Town would probably be better than anything in our own city, which has a few Thai restaurants, but nothing like this.

These fish cakes were the spiciest I have ever had, and they were really good!

The papaya salad was nice and refreshing. I would have preferred it more spicy but we had to keep it to medium heat for my in-laws’ sake.

Tom Kha (like Tom Yum but with coconut milk)

 

Bhan Kanom Thai

5271 Hollywood Blvd

Next door was Bhan Kanom Thai, which specializes in Thai desserts. I really wanted to come here after seeing that they have Khanom Buang, a crispy pancake filled with coconut cream and grated coconut.

It was crispy and coconut-ty and so delicious. The last time I had this was in Bangkok and that was years ago, so I was delighted to be able to eat this again.

 

Ttu-Rak

125 N Western Ave, Los Angeles

Woah the spiciness level here is high. We ordered the octopus galbi stew with a level 3 spiciness and it was definitely spicy. I don’t think I could go to a level 4 and eat it comfortably…but it was just really tasty (and still spicy) at level 3.

 

This was probably the first Korean restaurant I’ve been to that didn’t serve kimchi, instead there was pickled cabbage that wasn’t spicy. How odd.

After you’re mostly done with the stew, they will make a fried rice with your remnants! You can add vegetables or cheese. Of course we had to pick cheese. It was so tasty!

 

 

Exploring the nearby Korean supermarket – a banchan bar!

 

Mimimyunga

450 S Western Ave, Los Angeles

On our last night, we headed back to Koreatown, this time for soba. I’ve only eaten soba at Japanese restaurants so was curious when I found this Korean soba place.

Everyone ordered a cold soba and I wanted to try one hot one just to see what the soup would be like. So this is the mackerel with hot soba.

Tempura cold soba was refreshingly delightful. Unlike Japanese soba where you are given the dip on the side, this soba was immersed in the cold broth. It was really very tasty.

Don’t worry, they also have udon and ramen if that’s what you prefer. Turns out Mimimyunga is the first US outpost of a Korean chain.

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

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Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park

We just returned from a stay in Palm Springs and it was such a change from the Bay Area.

We did some sightseeing, lots of relaxing and the kids were in the pool every single day.

Golden Barrel Cactus at The Living Desert zoo.

We had several ice creams at Lappert’s including Dole Whip and an amazing flavour called Kauai Pie, which is coffee ice cream with coconut flakes and macadamia nuts.

The vacation rental was quite lovely and had a nice pool and hot tub!

The best part of our trip was getting to Joshua Tree National Park. As you may know, the government shutdown meant that the National Parks employees weren’t working, but the locals were devotedly helping maintain restrooms and taking out the trash!

Facilities aside, it was a chilly and windy morning out there in the desert. We started from the northern entrance near the visitors center and slowly wandered our way down south, stopping to climb boulders and take lots of photos. It was amazing to see the Joshua trees and all the strange rocks and boulders around, many of which had rock climbers ascending them.

As we made our way further south, the landscape changed quite a bit as we left the higher elevation Mojave Desert and entered the lower Colorado Desert. No more strangely cantilevered boulders and magical Joshua Trees, instead grasslands and Cholla Cactus.

Newport Beach roadtrip

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/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/70a/10455688/files/2014/12/img_4219.jpgI never thought of making Newport Beach a destination, but I’m glad we did! It was a delightful, relaxing four nights away from home, at a sprawling hotel/timeshare resort – so big it has a shuttle service, three big pools, tennis courts, playground, basketball court and more.

Holidaying with young kids is never easy – getting them to sleep at the usual time never happens, and with the younger one sleeping in our bed (the grandparents got the three-year-old), I got jabbed and kicked and edged out of bed. And because he’s 19-months-old, sleeping in means 645am – even after sleeping an hour later than usual! And of course as they always do, they fought over the same few toys and books that we brought with us, ate far more snacks than usual, and had themselves a ball of a time running around the hotel. But I managed to finish a book, get halfway through another, and even browse some magazines. So that was a great holiday!

 

 

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There was all kinds of Christmassy things to set the mood. A walk in the lovely Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona del Mar found us among a garden of poinsettia and the rest of the gardens were decorated for Christmas! A cute little gem in this elite town. The kids also sat the reindeer carousel at South Coast Plaza and we managed to finally catch the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, which was in its 106th year. We had tried – and failed – to find a place to park on Balboa Island the night before. And it was getting late and we were all hungry and tired after a long day so we skipped it. The next day, Sunday, parking was still tough but we persevered, parked so very far and walked and walked and walked to get to a viewing spot and got to see some wonderfully decorated boats, including a fire-breathing dragon! Wee Reader was so thrilled.
 

 

 

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And of course plenty of eating! A one and a half hour wait for Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza! Was it worth it? Well, it’s Din Tai Fung, and they make good xiaolongbao. And there isn’t a branch in the Bay Area! 😦

 

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And I must say that I had some rather delightful salads. From top left, the husband’s bison burger with sweet potato hash and kale at True Foods Kitchen, lemon tart and spinach and prosciutto salad at The Sliding Door Cafe at Balboa Peninsula. Some fun drinks – pomegranate limeade and a cranberry-tea-pomegranate soda at True Foods.

 

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One of the best things was taking in the beauty of sunset from the hotel.

Oh Singapore

So here’s the main reason I haven’t been blogging. I was away. As in physically away from the computer.

Ok that’s not really the truth.

The Macbook Air got dragged along in our carry-ons to Singapore. With five of us flying there (two kids, the husband, my mum who had been visiting us, and I), we had plenty of things to carry on board the plane and as we are a very gadget-y family, plenty of electronics: iPad, iPhones, Macbook Air, husband’s work computer, his Nexus, my Kindle. But with a toddler and an infant, there’s so much else that fills the bags, allergy-free snacks (Singapore Airlines while accommodating nut allergies with nut-free kids meals, does serve nuts on board, so in order not to risk it, we had to pack snacks galore, from crackers to cookies to applesauce), baby formula, changes of clothes for everyone, toys, diapers and all kinds of other amenities for two young travelers. It was a long long flight after all (14+ hours from SF to Hong Kong, a quick transit – same plane but having to reboard and go through customs etc again, then nearly 4 hours to Singapore)!

Luckily it being a 1am flight (the choice was taking off at 1am or arriving in Singapore at 1am!), things went pretty well. Wee Reader was up way past bedtime, all excited about the flight, but conked off for quite a few hours not long after taking off. Wee-er Reader didn’t do too badly either, dozing off in the rather roomy bassinet, squawking now and then when he wanted to be held, but he’s not the screaming type, thank goodness.

Well we made it to hot muggy Singapore. The doors of the airport glided open and bam, we stepped into the sauna that is Singapore.

Heat and humidity aside, it was good to be back. To see my parents and sister, to meet up with friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in two years. To see the numerous changes in this constantly changing, constantly moving city-state. To marvel at the traffic, the malls that seem to have popped up everywhere (unfortunately with mostly the same stores), the construction sites and heavy machinery that my boy couldn’t help but stare and point out: “cement mixer! excavator!”.

We were all well fed, from my mum’s homemade quiche and kong bah, my uncle’s cold crab, my mother-in-law’s kueh pie tee, to Hainanese chicken rice, roti prata, horfun, orhnee. And plenty of flat whites for me.

Of course there were foods I missed out on – Tong Heng egg tarts, muahchee, kueh tutu, where were you?

We hit the touristy spots: the zoo, the Bird Park, Sentosa and its gorgeous brand spanking new aquarium, the Botanics.

But it was the simplest things that Wee Reader marveled at: double decker buses, the MRT trains, playing with the dog, and thunderstorms (we live in California, it seldom rains and never do we hear thunder).

So as you can imagine, the computer was seldom turned on, but the Kindle was put to very good use (thank you Alameda County library system for having Kindle e-books!). And hopefully I will have a post about what I read soon.

Oh and I bought books! Singapore is expensive compared to the US, not just cars, houses, food, clothing, but books are too. Still I made sure to visit bookstores and get my hands on some local works for myself and the kids. And plenty of kids books in Chinese too. It was a sizable haul! Friends and family added to the kids’ book collection!

All holidays must come to an end and it has been a struggle getting into a routine, especially with a baby still on Singapore time and waking several times at night! Wee Reader took a couple of days to adjust and is still a bit unhappy about sleeping by himself again (bedtime is a bit of a struggle). And we are all trying to get used to the dry and cold (yes, the Bay Area doesn’t really get THAT cold but it’s a huge change from temps in the higher 30s C!). Creams are smothered, baths taken to keep the eczema at bay.

And things are still waiting to be put away.

It has been that kind of week.

So while I tidy up my life and ignore this blog again, here are pictures!

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Wee Reader digs for gold at East Coast Park

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A very boozy sundae at Udders (Orange Chocolate Bitters is the flavour for me! Dark chocolate spiked with triple sec!). A lovely flat white at Melbourne-originated Brunetti. And a chocolate souffle from Bakerzin.

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We had all kinds of sushi, sashimi, seafood! Perfect for the hot climate.

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The number of indoor playgrounds (top left) in Singapore is mind-boggling. Just two years ago, I don’t think I remember hearing about any! And they aren’t exactly cheap, especially on weekends when the rate can be $20 for 2 hours (this small one at Changi City Point was I think $16 for unlimited play on a weekday). But with Singapore’s heat and humidity, and constant rain, sometimes indoor playgrounds are your best bet for entertaining a young one.

Top right: The fish tanks at Ah Yat Seafood at Turf City. Pick your seafood, watch them catch it, pay for it, and head back to your table for some tasty fresh treats. The prawns were simply cooked but their freshness just shone. Brilliant!

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The hipster enclave at Tiong Bahru. Old-school buildings, new-school shops (with prices that fit today’s pricey economic climate).

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Books Actually in Tiong Bahru. Pretty pretty books for hipster shelves. But they do have also publish local works via Math Paper Press. Of course the books they publish are good lookers too.

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The SEA aquarium in Resorts World Sentosa was just gorgeous. While I will always be fond of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, for being one of the first aquariums to blow my mind, this brand-new aquarium in Singapore is just beyond compare. From the way they flow the pedestrian traffic through the building, to their perfectly clear glass, to the many lovely displays both of the sea-creature kind and the historical sea routes kind, it was an exceptional visit.

The lories were part of our trip to the Jurong Bird Park.

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Ah the wonders of Singapore food. Top left: kueh pie tee (a crunchy little shell filled with a mixture of cooked daikon and carrots, topped with chili sauce and sweet sauce, prawn and coriander. A mix of spicy, sweet, savoury and herby). Top right: Starfruit! I miss tropical fruits like mangosteen, starfruits etc. Bottom left: Orh Nee. A sweet sticky paste made of yam, coconut milk. This one has pumpkin and gingko nuts. Bottom right: Ang ku kueh. The sticky exterior is made of rice flour. And the filling inside can be peanut or mung bean or red bean.

Since this is a rather food-related post, I guess it works for a Weekend Cooking post too.

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Weekend Cooking: A trip to Sonoma County

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Sonoma County (like nearby Napa Valley) is all about wine. But on our three-day trip, we didn’t visit any of its lovely wineries, nor drink any wine. But we did eat and drink (I just had a few sips! Sad!) at two breweries – Half Moon Bay Brewing Company in Half Moon Bay and the Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa. Russian River Brewery is known for its Double India Pale Ale called Pliny the Elder which has won several awards and which my beer-drinking father-in-law enjoyed, but I really liked their Irish stout called O.V.L. Stout, which had a velvety chocolatey finish. I never quite understood how a stout could taste ‘chocolate-y’ (not chocolate) until I tried this one. Dark and just gorgeous. I wish I could have had more than a few sips!!

 

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The Russian River Brewery also has a mean list of pizzas but this Omni pizza we ordered was a bit too salty for me. I actually preferred their gorgonzola salad.

 

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The food at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company was better (it was more of a restaurant than a pub). I had a nice Dungeness crab roll with a side salad (didn’t photograph well) but the husband really enjoyed his fish and chips (well, it was garlic fries – but so so good!).

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Besides all that eating and hanging out at the hotel (unfortunately it was a bit more chilly than we anticipated and only managed to swim once), we hit Howarth Park, a lovely community park in Santa Rosa for Wee Reader to sit the miniature train, the old carousel and just to run around the playground. He declared it “fun!”. So it was a lovely couple of days out with the family, despite not having any wine in wine country!

 

 

 

 

 

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

It’s Monday! What are you reading (June 18 2013)

itsmonday“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at Bookjourney to share with others what we’ve read the past week and planning to read next.

Ok so it’s Tuesday. But I have a good excuse!

The five of us (two wee readers, my mum, the husband and I) hopped down to Monterey and Carmel for a one-night holiday on Sunday.

It was my mum’s last weekend here with us as she’s flying back to Singapore on Saturday. She’s been here since late March, celebrating wee reader’s second birthday with us, helping out with the baby who arrived in late April and just being an awesome mum and grandmother. We could not have done it without her help and wanted to thank her (and celebrate her birthday very early) with a little trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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The place sure was crowded! But wee reader and grandma (wee-er reader slept through most of it) managed to check out most of the sea creatures big and small. Unfortunately it turns out that the huge sunfish, which was one of the things I remembered the most about the aquarium when I visited more than ten years ago, had to be put down in 2008.

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My favourite was the very cute Jellies Experience. I like how they did up the whole exhibit area, like these lights! Fun!

Anyway, so although it’s no longer Monday, I am currently…

Reading:

tinybeautiful

Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
Oh I am loving this. And reading it slowly so as to make it seemingly last longer

 

endlifebookclub

The End of Your Life Book Club – Will
Also an amazing read so far. But one with a tinge of sadness.

breasts

 

Breasts: A natural and unnatural history – Florence Williams
This continues to be a fascinating and kind of terrifying read. Now I’m reading about toxins in breastmilk!

Eating: Olallieberry pie from Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville. We always stop here on the way back for some yummy pie.
English breakfast tea.

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(Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture so here’s one I took of a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie with fresh strawberry ice-cream – so good! I’m not a fan of strawberry ice-cream but this was yummy – that we ate at the farm itself)

Looking forward to: Picking up library books later this week!

What I read last week

mylifefrance

My life in France – Julia Child
I’ve never actually read a Julia Child cookbook or seen her cooking shows. Now I have to. She’s quite fascinating.

Words of wisdom from the book:

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as “Oh, I don’t know how to cook . . . ,” or “Poor little me . . . ,” or “This may taste awful . . . ,” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, “Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!” Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed—eh bien, tant pis! Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile—and learn from her mistakes.

 

speakingfrombones

Speaking from among the bones – Alan Bradley

Flavia is always a fun read. And this time it ends with an exciting discovery that makes me want to read the next book. Very clever, Mr Bradley.

So what are you reading this week?

SoCal again!

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There was snow on the mountains as we drove south on the 5, luckily this wasn’t reflective of the weather to come! It was indeed warmer in San Diego and Anaheim than in the Bay Area.

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All that sugar was making my hand tremble…. Haha, not really, but these tiramisu pancakes from Cafe 21 (which I shared with the husband as well as a prosciutto omelette) in downtown San Diego was awesome! Sinfully so!

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Another sinful treat (not on the same day that is) from Azucar in Ocean Beach, a Cuban-influenced patisserie which we first visited in November and which I was determined to return to, because it was just that good (so is their coffee). This was chocolatey and crunchy and just a delight to savour.

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Did you guess it yet? We went to Disneyland! It was wee reader’s first visit and I had been worried. Worried that it would be too much for him, that it would be too crowded, too tiring. I am a worrier.

But it turned out great! The first ride he sat was Dumbo and he loved it so much he didn’t want to get off. He loved pretty much everything that went round and round, like the rocket ride pictured above (he rode it twice), and clapped and laughed during It’s A Small World (which was Christmas-themed!). But his favourite ride was interestingly enough, the train that goes around Disneyland. He sat it three times! Of course he cried when getting off some rides and wanted to be carried when waiting in those long queues. But at least there were none of the tantrums and screaming incidents that we spotted throughout the park.

And since we had grandparents in tow, the husband and I were able to pop over (having first collected FastPasses) to sit the more adult rides like Star Tours (we are big Star Wars fans) and Indiana Jones (we are also big fans). I wasn’t really supposed to sit these rides, since they do say ‘expectant mothers should not ride’, and at 21 weeks I am indeed expecting (due in early May). But these weren’t exactly Six Flags upside-down and head-spinning rides so they were fine, and fun!

It was a great week-long trip, and made for great memories and photos. I don’t expect wee reader to remember much (or any) of this in the future, but I’m sure the rest of us will!