Wednesday, July 25, 2007

First Anniversary with Oishii Eats

Work has been nuts. And moving during this hectic month of work has proved that thing's couldn't be worse. But my highlight in July was cooking a dinner for our anniversary. I can't get into it, so I'll let J do the talking, or writing, that is. Congratulations J. This has been a frustrating yet rewarding year, and I thank you for being by my side.

***Note. If you start any more petty wars, like whether the overall tone of my photos is too yellow, your next anniversary dinner will be inspired by whatever coupons I find. Hehe.

Hama Hama Oysters with Mignonette

Crab Endive Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

Shrimp Ravioli with Salmon Roe and Mushroom Cream Reduction

Maine Lobster Crepe with Pancetta & Vanilla Bean Sauce

New Zealand Lamb Ribs with Lentil Quenelle and Mango Relish

Seared Duck Breast with Raspberry Guwerztraminer Reduction
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa, Alhambra - Pho Gone Wild

Phogonewild

Something happens to TV programming once the clock strikes 12. The programming is either syndicated re-runs of old shows like Married With Children or you get those 1/2 hour infomercials for some exercise machine that you'll probably never use. And advertising has taught me why this happens - money. To run a TV commercial on any of the big networks like NBC, ABC and ABC between the primetime hours of 7pm - 11pm, it'll cost you anywhere from $250,000 to $350,000 and even more during special events like NBA Playoffs. For superbowl, you're talking over $1,000,000 per spot because of the reach. Yes, not many clients can afford this sort of placement. Even if they could, they would probably be too unappropriate. After midnight, the freaks do come out... enter: Girls Gone Wild. If you were blind or half-asleep, you would still be able to tell what kind of product they are selling. Loud rock music, sorority girls screaming, dudes cheering and that ever-so-convincing voiceover guy.

As annoying as the commercials are, I find them hilarious. Imagine. You get married to the woman of your dreams and you have a baby girl. So angelic, so beautiful. She kisses you good night every night and tells you that your her hero. Next thing you know, she's 'developing' in jr. high and no longer hugs you anymore because she has a crush at school. Her nights are spent inside her room on the phone, and no longer in the living room. Then she starts going to dances and before you know it, she's on her way to college. Your sweet little girl is going to become a woman finally. But god forbid that one night, at around 2:43 am, you see your daughter taking a beer bong out of a halved sparkletts water jug on Channel 13 for what seems like a 'documentary' on college life. An office-size jug. God forbid. When we have children one day, we all just have to let go and pray that she stays on the right path.

And its the same way I perceive the Central Vietnamese noodle soup called 'bun bo hue', literally meaning 'noodles + beef + from the Hue region. We all know pho, the celebrated beef noodle soup from Vietnam. Pure in broth, flavor and texture... with simple additions that make this one bowl of heaven. But after one wild weekend in Hue, pho is no longer pho. She's lost a lot of beef and has grown other stuff, like braised beef, pork blood cubes, pork knuckles and pork sausage. Her hair is no longer a light yellow/brown, it's red. And boy has her attitude changed, no longer quiet and subtle with gestures, she's loud and not afraid to bite. Think of it as noodle soup gone wild.

In actuality, this soup has no resemblance to pho. The soup is completely different in taste because the predominant ingredient is lemongrass in a slightly spicy beef broth. Toppings usually consist of pork knuckles and pork blood cubes. For garnishing, bean sprouts, red cabbage, mint and lime are used. I searched the Chowhound boards and learned about a place in Alhambra called Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa, not to be confused with Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa in Rosemead.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Alhambra

Located on the far west side of Valley Blvd, still in the realms of Alhambra, you'll find NNKH situated in a small strip mall. Because of the bamboo trees by the window, it always looks like its closed but you'll be happy to know they close at 10 usually. Not sure about the Sunday hours. 'Nem Nuong' means charboiled pork that has been cured in fish sauce, oil, sugar with garlic, pepper and potato starch to bind the mixture. It is pink in color and looks uncooked but is indeed cooked. There's also another version where the pork is shaped into meatballs and skewered on sugar cane sticks. And this is exactly what NNKH is known for, their 'nem nuong'. More on that later.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue (Lemongrass-Flavored Beef Bone Soup with Noodles)
This comes with one large pork knuckle, pork blood cubes, braised beef shank slices and pork meatloaf (gia lua). If you don't want any of the above, simply let them know. The shank and meatloaf are good. You can buy your own meatloaf for only $2! The noodles are made with rice and as thick as spaghetti noodles (unlike the thin pho rice noodles) but go very well with the soup. The soup is so good that I'll actually doggy-baggy it and eat it the next day. Eat this with the fixings, the red cabbage, bean sprouts, mint and lime really take this dish to another level. If you want to spice this up, I suggest you use the sriracha chili garlic sauce (has seeds in it) versus the traditional non-seed chili sauce used for pho. No hoisin allowed in here!!! $5.25

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Bun Bo Hue Bone

Centerfold of the Pork Knuckle
Usually comes with the skin on, but once you get past that, the meat is very tender.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Pork Blood Cubes

Pork Blood Cubes
Not everyone will like this, but I think it's delicious. I think of it as chocolate and gobble it up.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Bun Bo Hue Fixings

Bun Bo Hue Fixings
Red cabbage, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno, mint and this one herb I can never identify. Wandering Chopsticks, Master of Vietnamese food, please identify this for me!

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Nem Nuong

Nem Nuong Rolls (3 for $3.75)
You can choose to order these pre-rolled or you can try and have some fun and get your hands dirty. These contain lettuce, a crispy shrimp roll, charbroiled pork and a chive. The sauce used is similar to nuoc cham, but is thicker because it has beaten egg and sometimes honey in it. The rolls are good, but not quite as good as Brodard in Little Saigon, Westminster. If you decide to order the nem nuong party pack, you'll receive a whole plate of various meats including the charbroiled pork, sour pork patties (good!) and crispy shrimp rolls. A bowl of hot water is provided for you to soak rice paper and roll your own joint up.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Nem Nuong Closeup

Centerfold of Nem Nuong Charboiled Pork Rolls
Cha gio egg rolls go well with pho, and these go well with Bun Bo Hue, in my opinion.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Shrimp Roll

Super Perverted Food Porn Close-Up
Notice the crispy egg rolls contain small pieces of shrimp. This is true dedication. It's like rolling a taquito within another taquito without making it big like a burrito.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa Nem Nuong Sauce

Special Nem Nuong Sauce
Wandering Chopsticks was helpful enough to explain the sauce to me. Check out her version of nem nuong on skewers.

Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
1700 W Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91804
(626) 943-7645
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Summer Supper: Braised Short Ribs, Seared Salmon Steak, Spot Shrimp and Tuna Tartare

Summer Supper

The summer heat is here and automatically converts J's 400 sq. ft studio into a 375 pre-heated oven. When I cook, I need to slap on my headband not because I'm a posing, rap-star or deviant NBA star – it IS ridiculously hot in her kitchen. For me, the dynamics of a meal evolve once you move to the outdoors, even if it's in a courtyard, where everyone can peek through the curtains at you or overhear anything said. It's time to eat outside.

This occasion was fitted perfectly for a post-poned birthday like a baby blue prom dress on a high school junior. We had missed my good friend's wife's bday and decided to make it up with a nice 4-course dinner. I had known LL since we were in 2nd grade, and only grew stronger in our friendship through the years. He ended up wedding his highschool sweetheart after nearly 11 years of screaming each other's heads off, tears, abrupt hangups on the phone – you know, the true acts of love.

They came over on a weekday to see the table already set with more cheese that J had hand-selected at the Silverlake Cheese store. As they sat outside munching on the cheese, they didn't see the headband-bearing guy running amok like Remy of Ratatouille. But in the end, it's always worth it to see a smile on anyone's face, especially if it's two people that mean a lot to you. After all, cooking for a friend is the tastiest way to say... "you're not bad, i like you guys."

Table Setting

The Setting
Cheese from the Silverlake Cheese store. Cheese platter from iGourmet.com. Plates from Crate & Barrel. And a plastic folding table from Costco. Pure class, I know. Call it a form of membership rewards.

Tuna Tartare with Apples, Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil

Tuna Tartare
I must have raw fish in any meal. I do this over and over again because it's simple and tasty. No need to suffer any burns or missing digits with this appetizer. A few drops of soy sauce, fresh apples and a dash of sesame oil and you have a take on a famous hawaiian poké dish.

Spot Shrimp with Tomato Confit

Spot Prawns in Tomato Confit
For the second course, we made some delicious spot prawns. This comes from the wonderful "Sunday Suppers" cookbook by LA chef, Suzanne Goin. After J made this for dinner one night, this one was tagging along with us for a while. After roasting some tomatoes in some garlic, basil and olive oil, they are then puréed and used a dipping sauce for large, succulent spot prawns and baguette bread.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasting Tomatoes
Tomatoes getting ready for a culinary MRI. You can't hear them, but they are screaming in joy.

Seared Salmon Steak with Artichokes and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Seared Salmon Steak in Thai Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Sautéed Artichokes
Third course. This was a favorite in the restaurant I used to work in. Salmon is seared skin-on and cooked to a medium consistency. The best part of the dish is actually the crispy salmon skin. The restaurant used piquillo peppers and chicken stock for the sauce. I did a take on it and roasted some red peppers and added Sriracha chili garlic sauce, créme fraîche, stock and butter. This was tasty, leaving a slight spice kick on the tongue. My friends ended up sopping up the rest of the sauce with the baguettes.

Braised Short Ribs with Daikon & Asparagus

Braised Sichuan Red Peppercorn Short Ribs, Daikon & Asparagus
For the main course, we served up a dish that J and I had at the wonderful Sona restaurant in West Hollywood. If you have not experienced David Myers' fine cuisine, close your laptop and go – I love it. I put it up there in my favorites along with Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 in New York. They are both masters of the kitchen. If you go into the restroom of Sona, you'll see congratulatory letters written to Chef Myers from notable-chefs like Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller and Tom Collicchio of Top Chef (recipient of FIVE James Beard awards). Anyway, I took his braised short rib dish and added some Chinese flavor to it by searing them in sichuan peppercorn/salt mixture. Thanks to the talented Jaden of Steamy Kitchen for her inspirational posting on flavoring salts. I braised the ribs in red wine, a mire poix, red peppercorns, ginger, soy sauce and a little bit of sesame oil. These turned out great. I would do this again and shred the beef for asian style tacos.

Scoops Ice Cream

Scoops Again!
This ice cream shop never ceases to amaze me with new flavors everyday. I believe this one was maple vanilla or something. I don't know, I just eat whatever J gets.

For Miles of Sideways, opening his bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc which values at $2,600, was a special moment... as with the opening of our 2005 Sea Smoke Southing. The Sea Smoke went very well with the richly braised short ribs. This was a good summer supper. Happy belated to IL.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Casting Call for Top Chef Season 4

If anyone is interested in displaying his/her skills on national television... click here. Go Yoony! Read more!

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