Jeni from Oishii Eats inspired me to create a new section dedicated to videos, particularly in the realm of cooking. This first clip is one of many Japanese instructional tips and tricks. Enjoy.
How to Peel A Cooked Potato
(1) Score potato with paring knife and boil till desired doneness.
(2) Shock in cold, icy water for 10 seconds.
(3) Slowly pull apart the skin. Voila. Read more!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
It’s been nearly a month and a half since my last catering event. I had never felt so much pain after my careless finger incident, so it took me quite a while to get accustomed to the knife again. Not just a cut, a CLEAN chop off the tip. Like starfish, we have the amazing ability to regenerate. This past weekend was definitely a fun and special event – Kristy of Best of LA asked me to cater her friend’s bridal shower in LA. Mos def.
From the last event, I learned that although you can count on your two loving parents to help out as sous chefs, prepping/cooking food the same day of an event is pure madness and sheer irresponsibility. This time, I called upon my good friend CK to lend a fine and skillful hand. CK recently got into cooking and holds bi-monthly dinners at his apartment. And he is proof that when you give 110% towards something you love, you can truly excel. His food looks great.
Me: “Hey I need your help for a catering event.”
CK: “What? I won’t know what to do.”
Me: “You’ll be fine. I won’t yell at you like I did with my parents haha.”
CK: “I’m down. You want me to make anything?”
Me: “Your heavily sought after crabcakes.”
CK: (Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers) “Crabcakes?! I love crabcakes!”
CK headed down on Friday night all the way from behind the Orange Curtain, equipped with gear for the next day. I had already told him that we’d be up all night prepping and that it would make things way easier for the day of the event. Most importantly, you’d reduce the risk of losing a part of your finger. As soon as he got to my place at 9:30, we chopped, minced, diced, and boiled the food away. At about 2:30, we were finally done with prepping and a little bit buzzed. Some people, and midgets, whistle while they work, I prefer to drink while I work in the kitchen with some beats. Makes everything go by quickly. If we hadn’t taken so many cigarette breaks and drank glasses of wine, we probably would’ve been done at around 1 am. Oh well.
Fast forward 5 hours. Snore snore snore ramble ramble snore snore snore random noise #1 stretch snore snore nigtmare flip flip dream of a hot chick twist flip random noise #2,3,4 flip twist snore snore snore yawn.
Rise and shine. You ever get so little sleep that your eyes sting like lemon juice has been wrung over them? It’s what a poor snail probably feels when he gets the Deadly Kosher Salt storm. Well that was me, and I hate that. I used to get that every time I had to take a fucking midterm or final back in college. We both got up right away and loaded up the car with all the food and equipment. Drove over to Western Bagel on Santa Monica Blvd. for some delicious garlic bagels and headed out to K-town.
We got lucky this time because the bridal shower was held at the bride’s parent’s Korean pre-school – so we had access to a commercial kitchen. I thought about the food that I ate back in elementary school and wondered why they would need such a fully-equipped kitchen. After all, it was canned Sysco food that needed a simple re-heating. The kitchen had a four-burner Imperial stove with a large griddle, which was probably only used to fry Sysco burgers. There were also three, sub-zeros used to store Sysco milk. Behind me were three other standard refrigerators. I took a peep to find a nice supply of kimchi and dokpokki, a popular dish consisting of fish cakes, spicy red bean paste, green onions, carrots and rice cakes. Maybe Sysco should consider making instant dokpokki for the little munchkins instead of the Mac n’ Cheese.
About 20 minutes into cooking, a Korean woman entered the kitchen and immediately froze. CK and I both stopped in our tracks and stared at her. We all looked like deer in headlights.
Chinese Deer: "Uh...."
Korean Deer: "Uh..."
Say something, say something before she calls 911. I figured she was the bride's mom, the pre-school owner. Great, did Kristy not tell her that I would be utilizing her kitchen? She was probably thinking, "the hell are these guys using my kitchen for???"
Chinese Deer: "Hi, I'm Kristy's friend."
Korean Deer: "Ohhhhhhh! Ok! Hello!"
*Whew, she left. I made the stupid mistake of buying an ‘As-Seen-On-TV’ product from Costco: The George Foreman BBQ Grill. It was in fact – not a grill, but a hubcap with a power outlet. It seemed promising to me initially because my friends had used the Foreman grill to make Korean bbq ribs. Tasted great. After about 20 minutes of heating, the grill was still not hot. Piece-of-motherfucking-shit. I immediately jumped over to the griddle which resolved my problem instantly. At around 1:30 pm, CK and I brought the food up to the room and were greeted by eight, hungry women. Here’s what we served:
A. Korean Pear, Goat Cheese and Candied Walnut Salad - I initially wrote down on the menu card that I would be using Bosc pears, which are delicious, but I forgot to get them. I figured, Hey, it's a korean party, why not use Korean pears, which are even juicier. I dressed these mothers in a Lemon & Honey vinaigrette.
B. Retarded Spring Rolls - When it comes to rolling up anything, I'm lowsy at it. These were rolled with Vietnamese Nem Nuong pork, basil, romaine and served with sweet n' sour sauce. Light and healthy.
C. Hawaiian Poke with Avocado Mousse on Wonton Crisps - After my trip to Hawaii, I fell in love with poke, which is basically a tuna sashimi salad mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil and Maui sweet onions. These had three different textures which I thought went very well together.
D. Roasted Spring Vegetables - I have no idea if these are in fact Spring vegetables; they are most likely year-round. I figured that since they were roasted this day in Spring, the most sensible name was "Roasted Spring Veggies". Requested by Kristy.
E. CK's Crabcakes - These delicious Tater-Tots-of-the-Sea were a hit according to Kristy. We served it with a roasted red pepper and caper remoulade. We even gave some of these to the janitors working that day. They devoured them. Oops! Sorry Kristy.
F. Grilled Shrimp with Thai Sauce - As I spent the good hour skewering these prawns, I pondered their method of a 'second' death. If I were a shrimp, would i rather...
(1) Be impaled on a stick from Point A to Point B WITHOUT a head
(2) Be mashed into an unrecognizable pulp and be used for Thai papaya sald
(3) Be breaded in a Sysco italian bread crumb mix and then be frozen in a -30 degree refrigerator of the local Applebee's, ready to be eaten by the next fratboy?
I don't know, but it sucks to be delicious shrimp.
G. Portobello Mushroom Ravioli in Butternut Squash Sauce - This was good but so ugly that it didn't deserve a photo. Even my camera refused to snap away at it and said "siccccckkkkkkkkkk".
As soon as we left the room, CK and I headed back to the kitchen and we popped open the bottle of Chandon champagne I bought. I thought to myself, hey maybe Charles Shaw should make a $1.99 champagne. Poured ourselves a nice 6 oz. cup of Chandon in Sysco styrofoam cups. CK did a killer job for his first under-pressure culinary event and I decided to make him my Sous chef haha. I let him keep his coat that I got from Surfas and he agreed to work with me on the next few events. At about 3:30, we finished packing and cleaning. My reward for CK: a nice copy of the great, Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon and a tasty Japanese-tapas dinner at Musha's in Torrance. We got pretty trashed, naturally. Thank you to Kristy for giving me the opportunity to work her friend's bridal shower and of course, thank you, to my Sous chef CK. A job well done buddy.
Thanks for reading. Read more!
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
One of the best discoveries for me this year was the office time-killer, YouTube. I found this great clip on there. Definitely SNL's greatest spoof commercials. Why is this funny to me? Because it's an honest sketch of America's tendency to gluttonize. In America, everything has to be pushed to the limits. Bigger, faster, meatier, fatter, crunchier, etc. Will there be an end to everything we obsess over? I've watched this over 30 times and I'm still not tired of it. Here's the link.
Taaaacccoooooo Tooooooooowwwwwwwnnnnnnnn Read more!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
BR and I love Souplantation. Why did we frequent such a place when we had all the good restaurants in the Wilshire/La Brea area? Simply because you can get a decent variety of things to eat. I actually like their macaroni and cheese. With virtually no meat available, this is heaven for vegetarians and anyone that has a double-digit balance in their checking account. Sadly, this holds true for the both of our poor souls. On our Nth visit to Souplantation for lunch, we decided to entertain ourselves and take things to another level.
Me: “You know what would be funny?”
Me: “We should do an Iron Chef battle at Souplantation, using all the crap ingredients they have.”
BR: “I can easily beat you.”
Me: *Scoff. “It’s on, you punk. Presentation, plating and taste are all accounted for.”
BR: “It’s on asshole.”
***Aaaaaaaairrrrrreennnnnnnn Keeeeeeeeeeetchuuuuuuuuuun*** (I think that’s what he says. Correct me if I’m wrong.)
As you can see, the tension was present even before we stepped foot into Craplantation. This was a serious issue. She had an advantage though. Her ex-bf, and my old co-worker at The Restaurant, had taught her some culinary skills. I, on the other hand, was basing all my creations on freaking Rachael Ray and Tyler Florence haha. Considering that most restaurants won’t give you access to the kitchen, this was going to be tough. No fancy German knives, no cutting board, no stove, no pots - nothing. At least give me a microwave oven. It was basically an episode of MacGuyver filmed at Souplantation.
Right after we entered we split off – giving each other dirty looks. She headed for the salad bar section on the left, and I headed for the right. I couldn’t let her see what ingredients I would use. I grabbed 4 or 5 plates and carefully examined my resources. I was really bent on the fact that we couldn’t use a stove and the only meat available was that rubbery white stuff they refer to as chicken. As for broth, I would only be able to use the salty chicken noodle soup broth. After about 45 minutes, we met back at the table and presented our best dishes. Keep in mind, nothing on here was bound to taste good so this was more about presentation and creativity. I’ve also included my own grades for each dish. Here’s what we compiled:
A. Iron Chef Dylan. Using that rubbery white stuff and Cream of Mushroom soup, I simply made a pasta dish wish the cold noodles and garnished it with green onions that I got from the employee ‘tossing salads”. This was headed for failure because I didn’t have anything to at least heat the noodles and sauce. Disgusting. D+
B. Iron Chef Dylan. Well if you’re gonna serve pasta, a nice sandwich will be a fine accompaniment. Or so I thought. I grabbed two slices of their dry-ass focaccia and slapped chicken meat in there that I had shredded. I also mixed some spinach, onions, olive oil and vinegar together for a little ‘health kick’. I think it’s hilarious that Souplantation even offers different types of vinegar. What are they trying to be? Gourmet? This wasn’t so bad but it was definitely on the bland side. C+
C. Iron Chef BR. What in the world is that you ask? Not even BR knew. This alien life form took shape after she cut a piece of cornbread in half and ‘garnished’ it with what looks like a fried chow mein noodle, baked yam and pineapple. And for extra presentation points, she added raisins and a few drizzles of olive oil. I don’t think either of us tried this out. F-
D. Iron Chef Dylan. I continued with my healthy-dish spree and took a bowl full of garbanzo beans. I smashed them with my fork and added salt, fresh ground pepper and olive oil. I was trying to make hummus but this looked more like freshly thrown-up apple sauce. You like how I garnished the focaccia bread with the green onions? The garnishing still didn’t do any justice for this piece of shit dish. G+
E. Iron Chef BR. As if she didn’t have enough of that alien life form, she resurrected it even after the busboy shook his head in disbelief. BR wanted to take a simpler approach and really emphasize the true taste of the foil-wrapped yam that tasted like Playdoh. She finely pureed the yam flesh with her fork and laid it over another piece of cornbread. And of course, drizzled it with olive oil. D+
F. Iron Chef BR. Instead of mixing yams with the frozen yogurt/ice cream like any of those Iron Chefs would do, she did a take on a classic American treat: the Candied Apple. She crushed some peanuts and placed them on top of the Granny Smith apples and added a mixture of chocolate and caramel syrup. This was by far, the most interesting looking dish and it tasted good. A
G. Iron Chef Dylan. Why can’t I stay away from the pasta. I spent a good five minutes fishing out the noodles from the chicken noodle soup. I had to hurry because people were behind me. Using the noodles, I again added the Cream of Mushroom soup over the noodles, with a garnish of parsley. This was good from far, but far from good. D+
H. Iron Chef Dylan. You know, maybe I should just work for Olive Garden. My pasta dishes aren’t that much different from OG’s current menu. Using the same noodles that I had fished out, I added tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and the only cheese in sight – cheddar. This looked like a dish from Acapulco. G+
So who’s cuisine reigned supreme in Battle Souplantation? I’d have to say that it was, unanimously, NO ONE’s. The fact of the matter is that Souplantation is pretty gross, and there isn't anything you can do to make it enjoyable. They keep everything bland to stay on the safe side. It’s up to you edit your food with their salt, pepper and fine selection of Sysco vinegars and oils. I am not going to Souplantation for a while. I’ll have to give credit to BR for her Candied Apple dish. Good job buddy.
Thanks for reading. You may throw up now.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Yoony over at Immaeatchu recently tagged me with the Four Things Meme. Before that, I had no idea what the hell a meme was. Here goes:
Four Jobs I've Had In My Life in LA:
*art director (advertising)
*art director (advertising)
*pantry cook @ a DT LA restaurant
*cook for a catering company
Four Movies About LA I Could Watch Over And Over:
... not sure if they are about LA, but they are based in LA
*boogie nights (torrance and chatsworth)
*heat (downtown LA)
*that's all i can think of
Four Places I've Lived All Over L.A. (With Food Memories of Each):
*irvine - college years, memories of awful dorm food
*SGV - valley blvd. is indispensable. i would fall into depression if valley blvd. was wiped out
*west LA - i love sawtelle blvd.
Four Places I Would Vacation At In LA:
*echo park/silverlake (yes, i don't mind)
*standard hotel either on sunset/dt la
Four LA-Based Websites I Visit Sometimes:
*the food bloggers on my blogroll
Four Of My Favorite Foods Found In LA:
*breakfast burrito without potatoes at Alberto's (chain)
*a heavenly bowl of pho from Golden Deli (san gabriel)
*shao loong bao dumplings from Ding Tai Fung (arcadia)
*dim sum (all over)
Four Places In LA I Would Rather Be Right Now:
*at my catering boss's place cooking
*my own kitchen
*eating outside of a restaurant on a nice, sunny day
*any dive bar @ 2 pm
Kristy of Best of LA
Jeni of Oishii Eats
Amy of Foodie Universe
Zteve of Gastrologica
Edwin of Elmomonster (just change it to OC)
Kirk of Mmm-Yoso (just change it to SD) Read more!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Starting a new job is always a good thing – the slate is immaculately clean. Those TPS reports you slaved all morning over dissipate into oblivion. Those superficial how’s-it-goings, how-was-your-weekend’s and have-a-good-evening’s to co-workers can finally be put six feet under. The obligatory ‘goodbye’ luncheons at piece-of-shit restaurants no longer need to be dealt with. Any beef you’ve had with the past workplace is gone. In addition to the wonderful feeling of leaving a workplace for a new job, is the nice salary increase. For some, it means more money for more toys, vacations, clothes, drugs, etc. As an aspiring caterer and epicurean, this new job meant more career opportunities and of course, more food for me.
I’ve been in West LA for nearly two years and have limited myself to the Sawtelle restaurant row. Obviously because of my last job working for a few pesos an hour. What about those places on Olympic, Wilshire and Pico? It was time to move on and feed my curious palate. On Tuesday, I met up with my friend’s EP, SJ and AF for dinner. We had originally voted on Ramenya but didn’t feel like eating bowls of 3,800 mg sodium-broth and noodles. You’ll know what I mean if you ever walk into a Nijiya, Mitsuwa or Marukai. Take a stroll into the colorfully-fun instant noodle aisles. Sure, the picture of the Chashu ramen looks good; it’s the information on the nutritional label that isn’t. I’ve seen some as high as 5,800 mg of sodium. No thanks.
EP/SJ: “Ramenya is too salty blah blah blah blah blah…”
Me: “Yeah I know. I want noodles though.”
EP/SJ: “How about soba at Yabu?”
Me: “Sounds good to me and the kidneys.”
***By the way, EP and SJ do not share the same body like conjoined twins nor do they speak in unison. I’m just abridging the email conversation.
We got to Yabu at around 7:15. We walked through the heavily-draped blue curtains, which I got tangled in, and were greeted immediately. The resturant holds maybe 40 people including the sushi bar and is staffed with 3 servers. I don't really know how to describe the look of the place. It didn't make me cringe nor did it dilate my pupils. It's just normal and clean, which is good enough for me. Although a few tables were open, we were pointed to the sushi bar due to some reservations. We could see directly into the kitchen and see the chefs at work. The kitchen was built on a lower level, so those chefs looked like midgets. Everybody loves midgets except for my friend SJ.
As we were given menus, the head midget gave us a treat.
Head Midget: “Ees on duh howsuh!” (It’s on the house.)
Nice. What I thought would be a yummy, complimentary treat turned out to be merely 6-7 pieces of bean sprouts mixed with sesame oil and wakame seaweed. I could’ve eaten the whole thing, but in the presence of three women, I’m going to take down my appetite level down a notch. It was good. Sparse, but good.
Besides the obvious sushi fare, Yabu is known for their hand-made soba noodles and selection of broiled fish entrees. Yabu also offers a nice section of appetizers and starters. Why those two weren’t combined puzzled me. I looked on the menu and caught on to the ‘Yabu Homemade Tofu’. Oh nice. I got a 220 over 200 result on my cholesterol test and this dish would prove beneficial. Yes, 200 is the cut-off – I am in trouble. After a few exchanges of ‘What are you gonna get?’, we all settled on soup noodles and appetizers for the cold weather. Here’s what we had:
A. Yabu Homemade Tofu - This cholesterol-lowering dish was served cold with a 'Wari-Shoyu' broth spooned on top. I thought this dish was nicely made. A subtle taste of dashi and shoyu in the broth, balanced by sweet ginger, pungent garlic and crispy/crunchy green onions. This could please the Iron Chef judges if some roe, caviar or sea urchin was added to it. This was too small of a portion for me though. $5
B. Nasu Miso Eggplant - Italicized on the menu as "Yabu's Most Popular", I gave in. The perfectly sauteed eggplant was served with a miso/sake/sugar sauce. The dish was sort of oily and it didn't help that I added a few drops of chili oil. Overall, a very tasty dish that I will order regularly. I wish they offered this as an entree with some rice. $5.50
C. Mystery Hand Roll - EP ordered this and I have no idea what it was. I think she mentioned something about mushrooms but didn't seem to thrilled about it. $?.??
D. Duck Soba - For any first timers at Yabu, I'd suggest giving their udon/soba a shot since it's their specialty. The soba buckwheat noodles are made fresh daily and you can watch the chef handle it delicately in the kitchen. Although it is handmade, I prefer the packaged kind. The noodles didn't have much of a bit and seemed a bit chalky b/c it was easily broken/cut by my chopsticks. Maybe soba noodles weren't met to have some al-denteness to it. Although the duck slices were tender, I probably should have taken them out so that the broth would not cook them any longer. Oh well, it was probably braised anyway. This dish was good, but not great and after about 10 minutes, the broth seemed to get saltier. I'd order this dish again, only with udon instead of the soba. This bowl of soba came from the recommendation of the waiter, and with good reason... $12.50!
E. Tempura Soba - SJ likes anything salty, so I didn't hear a single complaint about her food. You can't go wrong with salty broth and deep-fried vegetables. $9
F. Curry Soba - EP rolled her eyes as I asked her bowl of curry soba to pose for me. I took a taste of the sauce and liked it. It was sweet and creamier then say, Hurry Curry. She wasn't able to finish it b/c it was quite heavy for a girl of her stature. $9
I think everyone was content with the meal. I'll definitely be back here. For those interested in trying Yabu, go for the broiled Black Cod, sashimi and handmade soba. I think the Miso Black Cod is better than Beacon's by far.
Thanks for reading.
11820 W. Pico Blvd. (near Arsenal and Liquid Kitty)
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 854-0400 Read more!
Monday, March 13, 2006
Last week, I rented Waiting from Netflix. I don't know if it's suitable for everyone, but working in the restaurant industry, I found it humorous. The movie is about a bunch of employees that work at a Bennigan's-type restaurant, named Shenanigans. The funny part of the movie is that it's shot 98% of the time in the restaurant, and you get a feel for what it's like to make $7 hr at TGIF or Red Robin. If you remember Chotchsky's from Office Space, this is sort of what it's like. You get the angry customers, jokester employees, foul-mouthed cooks and lowlife manager.
Things to pay attention to in the movie:
"The Game" - I can't stop laughing about this
Anything Dane Cook says - great comedian
What the cooks do to your food - if you're a nitpicking foodblogger, you deserve this
I seriously thought this would be a stupid movie b/c I don't like Ryan Reynolds or Justin Long, but they did a good job making me laugh. DO NOT THINK OF ME DIFFERENTLY if you dislike the movie haha.
My lesson to everyone: be nice to the people that serve your food.
Enjoy. Read more!
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
When the oldest noodle, 4,000 years old to be exact, was unearthed in China, it was big news to a lot of people. Particularly Italians and Chinese, who have long debated the true origin of noodle and pasta making. Some archaeologists question whether or not Marco Polo even reached China since Chinese archaeologists have no records on his travels. It was possible that the Chinese were trading with the Middle-East long before Marco Polo reached China. Who knows, maybe noodles originated from Egypt. Well whatever the case, I thank China, Italy and the Middle East, for I love noodles to death. I eat them at least five times a week, preferably with soup.
To kick off a new category within my blog, I’ve decided to write about the ubiquitous Thai dish: Pad Thai, which literally means “Thai-style fried noodles”. Chinese cuisine was hot in the 80s, and succeeded by Thai cuisine in the late 90s. Even now, it’s very popular. I’m not really into this dish, but figured I should practice cooking all kinds of Thai food if I want to become a good cook. Even my dad, who speaks Thai, doesn’t care much for the dish. It might be safe to say that this is a totally bastardized dish like Kung Pao chicken, Egg Foo Young and anything from P.F. Chang’s menu. I have to say, I do like their lettuce wraps though.
This dish is very simple to make, and like most Asian dishes, relies heavily on prepping food beforehand and only a few minutes or so to cook it.
1 bag of fresh rice (pad) noodles (vacuum-sealed)
chicken or shrimp, or both
green onions (1” cuts or chopped)
tamarind chili paste/extract
ketchup (if you can’t find tamarind paste)
fish sauce (mmm)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
(1) I like to finish the eggs off first, and foremost. Scramble the eggs, and in a hot pan, medium heat, cook the eggs by swirling them in the pan till they are lightly cooked. Don’t overcook or burn it, you’ll be tossing them back in for a last re-heat. Set aside and chop the eggs however you like.
(2) Next, salt and pepper the chicken or shrimp and cook in the oiled pan over high heat with the minced garlic. You’ll want to par-cook them, because again, you’ll be throwing them back in for a last re-heat. Once the chicken or shrimp is cooked about 75%, take them out and set aside. If you really want to make a flavorful pad thai, marinade the chicken in a little bit of fish sauce, shaoxing rice wine, pepper, a little bit of sugar and corn starch (tenderizer). Let that sit for 30 minutes and get the Glade spray ready before you start cooking.
(3) Toss the noodles into the hot, oiled pan and start adding the fish sauce, tamarind paste or ketchup (for flavor and color) and sugar to balance out. Again, I don’t provide exact measurements because I’m an eyeballer cook. And also, everyone has his own preference. If you like it salty, add more fish sauce. If you like it sweet and sour, add more sugar and tamarind paste/ketchup. It’s that easy.
(4) Because most of us don’t own a Viking stove with a 15,000 BTU burner, it’ll take a long time to cook the noodles. It will also get very DRY. If it does, just add a little bit of water gradually to loosen up the noodles and get the fish sauce/tamarind paste/ketchup mixture to spread out more evenly.
(5) Taste the noodles to check for doneness. Once you’re happy with it, add the chicken or shrimp. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add bean sprouts (earlier if you don’t like them crunchy like I do), green onions, crushed peanuts and cilantro at the end.
(6) You’re ready to serve. Serve with lime and Sriracha hot sauce for heat.
Thanks for reading. Read more!