January 30, 2012

Kong Tofu and BBQ Korean Cuisine

There are many things that I love in the world including warm soup in your tummy on a cold rainy day.  And to give things a flair, add a little spicy to your soup and it can warm you up even more.  Oh, how I love you Korean tofu soup!  It was pretty gloomy the other day so we set out to get some hot food (both in temperature and spiciness).  We settled for Kong Tofu and BBQ Korean Cuisine because we heard from a few friends they had good tofu soup.

Korean Brown Rice Tea

Side dishes

 I think one the best things about eating at Korean restaurants is the side dishes!  And most of the times, they're unlimited which means even more happiness!  This place had amazing kimchi: slightly sweet and not overly spicy.  I think we ended up getting three more dishes of kimchi.

Their oh-so delicious kimchi!

Ddeokbokki -spicy Rice Cake with Fish Cake

Although I love spicy food, I'm kind of a wimp.  My tolerance of spicyness is about ten Hot Cheetos and I panting like crazy and running around. 

So when ordering our appetizer, ddeokbokki, I requested "less spicy" and from the looks of it, they just watered down the ddeokbokki sauce.  I think most ddeokbokki sauce is already pre-made so there isn't much they can do about the spiciness but theirs turned out pretty good!  The problem was the texture of the rice cake: it was much too soft.  Every time I took a bite, I had ddeokbokki stuck on the roof of my mouth.

Squid Soft Tofu Stew

The tofu soup came out hot and bubbling!  And just like people said, it was good.  Actually, it wasn't just "good", it was SMASHING GOOD!  The tofu soup was bursting with flavor and had just the right amount of saltiness.  A lot of the tofu soups I've had in the past were just spicy and skimped on the flavor.  Both me and my tummy were very content. 

I ordered "Mild" for the spiciness and is was still a bit too spicy for me.  Gosh, I really am too much of a wimp!  I need to start building my tolerance for spiciness.

The flavor was awesome but there wasn't enough squid in my "Squid Soft Tofu Stew".  Tofu ratio was perfect but I had to practically dig for the squid and I only found about six pieces.

One of the the few but precious pieces of squid I dug out

BiBimbab w/ Beef in a Hot Stone Bowl

My friend isn't a fan of Korean tofu soup which was kind of sad since we were at a tofu house.  So she ordered the beef BiBimbap and she enjoyed it!  Nothing amazing but the Korean beef was tasty.  I'd say that if you ever find yourself eating here, the tofu soup is the way to go. 

And you know how after you finish with your meal at Chinese restaurants they give you fortune cookies?  We got Korean yogurt drinks with our check!

Korean Yogurt Drinks

I was pleasantly surprised!  I have a bunch of these in my fridge back at home but drinking it in a restaurant makes them taste ten times better.  Especially when they're complimentary.

Eaten by Jocelyn.

Kong Tofu and BBQ Korean Cuisine
19626 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 863-0234

January 27, 2012

Nutella S'mores Sandwich

One good thing about college is that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.  I mean, at home, could you eat dessert for dinner? Nutella and marshmallows for dinner? OH BUT WE CAN!
We were actually craving s'mores, but we didn't have two of the key ingredients: graham crackers and chocolate.  So we decided to improvise and create our oh-so-delicious Nutella S'mores Sandwich!

Look at that rich, hazelnut-y spread!

Our marshmallows are lookin' pretty chubby!

How to make this delightful meal:

1.  Spread a generous amount of delicious Nutella onto a slice of bread.

2.  Split 2 marshmallows in half, and center them in the middle of your bread.  (We cut our bread slice in half.)

3.  Microwave on medium-high power for 25-30 seconds, or until your marshmallows become too big to fit on your bread.

4.  Remove them, and eat them while they're pipin' hot and at the peak of deliciousness! 

A bite out of the irresistible sandwich

Eaten by Jocelyn and Cathy.

January 23, 2012

Luscious Dumplings

Every time I go back home, there are a few restaurants that I must eat at, at least once.  Luscious Dumplings is on the list.  No surprise here, though.  Jocelyn has heard me rave about Luscious Dumplings countless times.  With a name like Luscious Dumplings, it's hard to forget.

People literally line up even before they open, so make sure you get there early.  They also run out of certain items toward the later hours (since they make their dumplings fresh everyday), so it's more incentive to get their early.  Early bird gets the dumplings!

I usually order the Noodle + Dumplings combo (Beef Noodle Soup + Shrimp/Cabbage Dumplings).

Shrimp and Napa Cabbage Dumplings

The skins of the dumplings have a nice chewy texture.  The filling is not too salty, so you can eat it with lots of spicy sauce if you like.

Spicy Sauce with Sesame Seeds

This sauce is so good.  It's actually not that spicy, so you can eat plenty of it.  Each table has a container of this sauce, so I just eat it by itself while I'm waiting for the food to come.  (It's that good.)  It has a very distinct texture with sesame seeds and chili bits, and with a gentle kick of spice, it is just perfect with the dumplings!

Beef Noodle Soup

Their beef noodle soup is pretty good too, even though they specialize in dumplings.  The soup is actually beef-flavored (unlike some that are just soy sauce and water).  The noodles itself, however, are not so good.  They are pretty limp, so I don't particularly enjoy eating them.  

Pan-fried Pork Dumplings

Now these are the real reason I make the hour-long trip to come here.  They really are pan-fried to perfection.  The crust is nicely caramelized, giving it a sweet crunch.  The inside filling is pretty juicy, and is the right balance of savory.  And of course, adding the spicy sauce makes it 10x better.
However, the last two times that I've eaten here, I have noticed that these dumplings have gotten a lot smaller and flatter.  Despite this, the flavor was still as good as before.

Eaten by Cathy.

Luscious Dumplings
704 W Las Tunas Dr
Ste 4
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 282-8695

January 20, 2012

Coffee Time at Cocola Bakery

Remember that box of Cocola Bakery French Macarons I bought from Costco?  Not exactly the best of memories.  So I decided to try the real thing in hopes of it being better!

The Cocola Bakery on Santana Row is constantly packed being such a tiny revenue and being so popular.  The line was quite long but it gave me all the time to drool over their display of desserts and pastries!

Their drool-worthy selection of desserts

Their drinks also seemed pretty popular so I went ahead and ordered a drink to accompany my dessert.  I don't know what it was that day, but I ordered everything banana flavored.

Banana Hot Chocolate

And I also wanted taste their coffee so I got a two-shot espresso.  It was alright.  The body wasn't thick enough and the flavor was a bit weak.  The Banana Hot Chocolate though, was delicious!  Plenty of banana taste and was not overly sweet.  Their hot chocolates are served in HUGE cups which made it all the more fun to drink!

Double-shot espresso and Banana Hot Chocolate.  Look at the size of that cup!

I was about to give their French macarons a second try until I saw a bunch of the same boxes of macarons I bought from Costco on display.  I was scared they just took macarons out of the boxes and sold them at the bakery.  So I asked an employee if they bake their macarons fresh at the bakery and sure enough, they didn't.  So I just skipped the macarons and went along with my banana craving.

Banana Crunchy Mousse

Banana Crunch Mousse hazelnut chocolate shell filled with banana milk chocolate mousses and almond chocolate cake

Oh, it was banana heaven!  The mousse was light, fluffy, and bursting with banana flavor.  A bite of the mousse with a sip of my Banana hot chocolate, mmm...

Eaten by Jocelyn.

Cocola Bakery
333 Santana Row Suite 1045
San Jose, CA 95128

January 17, 2012

Munching on Banana Island

Every time the topic of food is brought up, a friend of mine never fails to mention Banana Island so I of course I had to try it!  The menu has a mix of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thai food.  There were a lot of dishes to choose from so I just let my dear Banana Island expert do all the ordering.

Roti Canal

So the first thing that arrived on our table was the Roti Canal.  My friend told me this dish is probably what makes this place as great as it is.  The dish included Malaysian style Indian Pancake and curry dipping sauce.  The pancake was thin, crispy, a tad sweet, and simply delicious!  It was cool to learn they make it from scratch in the kitchen. The curry was bursting with flavor and went perfect with the pancake.

Malaysian style Indian Pancake

Next up was the Pineapple Fried Rice.  The display of the dish was wonderful!  It was served in a pineapple shell along with a tiny umbrella.  Quite adorable.  Although, I don't think it had enough pineapple to be called "Pineapple Fried Rice".  I practically had to dig and claim my pineapple chunks before my friend got to it.

Pineapple Fried Rice

I was more impressed with their Pad Thai.  The flavor was good and the noodles had a chewy texture that I loved!  A bit on the oily side but like Cathy said, I think Thai food is usually a bit heavier.

Pad Thai

Thai Iced Tea

We ended our lunch with Thai Iced Tea and just chatted over the drinks.  I think the best thing out of this meal was definitely the appetizer.  It was AMAZING!  I think I could have just eaten plates of Roti Canal for lunch.

Eaten by Jocelyn.

Banana Island
311 Lake Merced Boulevard
Daly City, CA 94015

January 14, 2012

Split Pea Soup on the I-5

If you've ever driven on the I-5, you know about this split pea soup.  Andersen's Pea Soup advertises hours away from its location.  It caters mostly to people driving between southern and northern California.  I mean, if you're hungry while on the freeway, you have the options of McDonald's, Burger King, gas station food....and then you have Andersen's Pea Soup,  a seemingly cute sit-down restaurant where you can take a break from being on the road!

This restaurant really attracts the tourists.  They even have a cut-out board where you can stick your head in and take pictures.  Plus, doesn't the big windmill makes it look like some kind of grand monument?

When I first walked in, I felt like I was entering a gift shop!  They had many different sections of items, such as cocktails, cheese, and trinkets.  You have to walk through this area to enter the restaurant section, where they make you wait ~5 minutes to "set up."  But we all know that they just want you to browse the store and buy some stuff.

You can even buy peas if you want to make your own split pea soup!

It was very comfy inside the dining area.  When we got there at 6:30 PM, most of the tables were already filled.  This made me even more excited to try the pea soup!

Now this is what I mean when I say Andersen's advertises like crazy.  On the placemat, there was a mileage chart, which showed how many miles away the restaurant was from various cities.  Some were up to 700 miles away!

Each table was served with the courtesy bread.  The poppyseeds in the bread added a nice texture to the chewy bread.

Split pea soup

Looks unappetizing, right?
Yup, you guessed it!

The split pea soup was very bland, yet salty at the same time.   The soup was so thick that it seemed like I was just eating mashed up peas + salt.  For a restaurant who has been splitting peas since 1924 and who has "pea soup" in their name, I was expecting much better.  All the hype made me even more disappointed.

After a few spoonfuls, I was about to give up on my soup.  I was in quite a dilemma because the Asian in me didn't want to waste ten bucks for soup, but my tastebuds were not happy.  I forced myself to eat some more, but in the end, I just couldn't do it...

To be fair, most of the people in the room seemed to enjoy their split pea soup, so maybe I'm just not a fan of mushed peas.

House salad with Italian vinaigrette dressing

I ordered the soup + salad combo.  The salad was also very sad, and the options for the dressing were very limited.  The salad was indeed "crunchy," as described in the menu, but it was just an ordinary salad.  

I was quite sad after this meal, since it was my Last Supper before going back to school.  After passing this restaurant so many times before and awe-ing from afar, the infamous split pea soup was a big letdown.  But although the food was not up to par, the environment was just lovely!  Both the insides and outsides of the restaurant were warm and inviting.  The next time I'm on the I-5, I might go back and browse around the gift shop area, but I'll just eat my McDonald's.

Eaten by Cathy.

Pea Soup Andersen's Restaurant
12411 State Hwy 33
Gustine, CA 95322
(209) 826-1685

January 9, 2012

How to Make Taiyaki

For those of you that don't know, taiyaki are Japanese cakes, usually filled with red bean, although there are a variety of fillings (chocolate, custard, etc.)  The outside cake part is similar to pancakes or waffles. What makes taiyaki special is that they are shaped like cute fish!

But that also means you need a special pan if you want to make them at home.  

Taiyaki pan

Here is the recipe I used for the batter:
1 egg
2/3 cup cake flour
1/2 t baking powder
1.5 T sugar
1/4 t salt
1 T oil
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water

For the red bean filling, I used 1 can of sweetened Azuki bean paste, and there was plenty left over.

Now, let's make some virtual taiyaki.

1.  In a bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Then sift through a sieve.

2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg.  Add the milk, water, and oil.  Slowly add to the dry bowl while mixing.

3.  Mix well, and make sure there are no lumps.  The batter should be pretty thin.

4.  Preheat the fish pan, using medium-low heat.  Use a brush to coat the inside of the pan with vegetable oil.

5.  Use a ladle and spoon some of the batter into one side of the pan.  Add a scoop of red bean paste into the wet batter.

6.  Add some more batter on top of the red bean paste, and then flip the pan.

7.  Cook for 30 seconds, and then keep flipping the pan to evenly brown both sides.  You can open the pan to check how your fish are doing.

8.  When both sides are golden brown, remove your fish from the pan.  They should easily slide out.

9.  Eat them while they're hot!  It's the best.


The recipe made 9 fishes for me, although they were really flat.  There is no such thing as beginner's luck when it comes down to making food!  Some of my fish were badly bleeding out red beans.  But they were still delicious, so no worries!

I happily ate them as a reward for my hard work.  It was actually quite stressful making these taiyaki, since the pan made 2 fishes at once.  I felt like I was in an Iron Chef marathon.  And I probably lost.  But that's okay, because I have my taiyaki.

Made by Cathy.

January 7, 2012

Taste-bud-tickling Handcrafted Ice Cream at Humphry Slocombe

I went to find the best ice cream in San Fransisco and I stumbled on Humphry Slocombe.  And I have to tell you, it was pretty close to perfection and it could possibly be the best!   Their ice cream is all hand crafted and their flavors are unique.  A perfect example would be their Salt and Pepper flavor.  It's not salt and pepper with vanilla ice cream, it's simply just salt and pepper making just one bite taste like BAM!  In fact, it was more on the savory side than it was the sweet which is ironic since it is ice cream we're talking about.  It was so good but also a bit too much for me...I don't think I could possibly finish a whole scoop of it. So good thing they have so many other fabulous flavors to choose from!

So after many used sample spoons and difficult contemplation, I finally decided on my scoops!

Jesus Juice Sorbet and the McEvoy Olive Oil

The McEvoy Olive Oil was so rich and had the perfect touch of sweetness!  I think one thing that sets Humphy Slocombe's apart from other ice cream is that theirs is not focused on the sugar content but rather on the flavor.

Jesus Juice Sorbet red wine + coca-cola

I have a thing for food made with alcohol.  I mean, I'm not an alcoholic (I'm also underage) but I like the scrumptious taste that only alcohol could bring out in food!  Whether that be in chicken thighs or chocolate truffles.

And that is one of the reasons I chose this sorbet.  The Jesus Juice Sorbet is made with the combination of red wine and coca-cola.  You could practically smell the wine if you take a whiff of it!  And not to disappoint, it also tasted just like it!  Well, you know, not saying I know how red wine tastes, just how I think it would...  The texture of the sorbet was not icy like a lot of other sorbets and instead more like a hardened slushy.  And again, it wasn't that sweet but it was bursting with an alcohol taste!  WOOHOO!

Taihitian Vanilla

The Taihitian Vanilla is made with hand-picked Taihitian vanilla beans.  Again, it was flavorful and rich.  One bite and you're in the world of vanilla!

My friend is more conservative when it comes to food. So all the wonderful exotic flavors that Humphry Slocombe offered were (sadly) not appealing to her .  She tried was the Chocolate with Sea Salt thinking it was going to be sweet.  But instead it was salty.  If only you could have seen the face she made!  And after seeing the uncomfortable/shocked expression of her's, the employee told her, "Oh by the way.  We added salt in it."  So in the end, she with a scoop of the Taihitian Vanilla.

I wanted to try all of their flavors!  They have about 50 amazing flavors but rotate day by day.  As I was devouring my ice cream, a idea popped my head.  If I moved in across the street from Humphry Slocombe, I could eat it everyday!  Which also means could try all the flavors!  What a genius plan! 

Eaten by Jocelyn.

Humphry Slocombe
2790 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 550-6971

January 6, 2012

Japanese Cuisine at Ojiya

One of my favorite restaurants!  Ojiya is the place to go to for authentic Japanese food.  They also have branches in Japan and Hawaii -- that's when you know it's legit!

From their sushi, to their combination boxes, to their noodles, they never fail to impress.


They have traditional Japanese decor, so right when you enter, you walk in through one of those wooden overheads. 
It's a pretty tiny restaurant, so it gets packed easily!  We came right when they opened for lunch, so it was still pretty empty.  When we finished eating, the room was packed, and many people were waiting outside.

Udon Noodles
Udon Noodle Soup

Usually I don't order udon at restaurants, but the special came with sushi (below).  The noodles were perfectly chewy, and the soup was light yet flavorful.  Ojiya has the best udon that I have tried so far.  No place else seems to be able to get the chewiness right!

Salmon Toro + California Roll

Isn't this pretty!  I always thought that if food were people, sushi would definitely be the fashion models of the world. 

3-Item Combo
3-Item Bento Box: sushi, tempura, and salmon cheek

So filling...the 3-item combo also comes with soup and salad.  The salmon cheek is the bomb!  Tender, juicy salmon!  Can't beat that.

3-Item Bento Box: chicken teriyaki, sashimi, and fish katsu

Bad communication with the waitress -- I had a suspicion that they would use tartar sauce for the fish (I don't like tartar sauce), so I asked for the sauce on the side..but she just brought me extra katsu sauce on the side!  Boohoo, so I had to manually scrape it off.

I was also sad that the sashimi looked dinky today.  But it was still mighty fresh!
I prefer cooked over raw fish, so I took my sashimi home and threw them into soup.  I could definitely taste the freshness of the fish even in the soup, so imagine eating it there!

Eaten by Cathy.

4183 Chino Hills Pkwy
Ste J & K

Chino Hills, CA 91709
(909) 606-8638