Monday, November 30, 2009

Laotian Beef Stew: Aw

The weather has gotten colder in the evenings here. It's perfect time for soups and stews. I'll be eating a lot of pho in the coming weeks. I decided to try (my first time) to cook Laotian Beef Stew. It's called aw (I'm not sure how it's spelled. Under Wikipedia it is called Or Lam, a spicy stew. I remember my mom and dad always cooking this. Dad loved soups and stews. Almost every meal started off with broth or soup. My parents always had a garden at every house we lived in. So all the ingredients were always available to make Or Lam, such as mustard green, long beans, egg plant, chili peppers, lemon grass, and herbs.

Before cooking the stew I needed rice powder. I've never made it before. After a frantic text message to my older sibling, I was brave enough to toast my rice. I took a handful of uncooked sticky rice and placed it in a frying pan and turned my burner to medium. Now you must watch it, don't walk away or you'll have blackened rice. I recall my mom toasting it until the rice was almost black and the house filled with smoke. The rice is then put in a mortar and pounded with a pestle into a powder (picture below).

I am only going to use 2-3 Tablespoons of this.

I don't have an exact recipe. I was trying to copy my mom's dish. I think I came close.
Or Lam:

1/2 lb. Beef
Beef Tendon (I have never seen raw beef tendon before I purchased them last weekend at the Asian market. I brought them home and washed them and wasn't sure how to 'clean them'. I took 2 pieces and cooked them on medium low heat with salt, ginger, lemon grass, and kiffir lime leaves for 2 hours.)

Flavoring: Chili peppers, garlic, lemon grass, kiffir lime leaves, red onion, and green onions. Fish sauce and toasted rice powder.
Vegetables: Mustard green, Thai eggplant, and ngo om (rice paddy herb).
Cooking: Ideally I would've wanted to take the first 6 flavoring ingredients and run them through a food processor. I don't have one so I used my mortar and pestle.
1. I heated up my pot. To it I added cooking oil and the mixture from the mortar. Then I added the beef and let it brown.
2. I then added a pinch of salt and 2.5 tablespoons of the toasted rice powder.
3. Then I added 1.5 C of water and covered the pot with a lid.
4. I let it cook for 5 minutes and then added my eggplant which has been quartered and the beef tendon. I let it cook uncovered until the stew got thick and the eggplant got soft. I was so excited about my stew turning out so good that I totally forgot about my greens and the herb. I had to add another 1/2 C of water because the stew had thickened too much and I worried my greens wouldn't cook down. So my finished stew is not thick like I normally like it to be.
5. I added the greens and the herbs and let the stew cook for a couple more minutes with the lid on.
I served the stew with steamed white rice.
Things I would've done differently: add more rice powder, not add more water. My stew tasted almost as good as my mom's. With more pratice I will get there.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Huynh Hoa Tuu

Huynh Hoa Tuu
4660 El Cajon Blvd.
San Diego

I needed to go to the Asian market to pick up some vegetables and beef tendon. While out, I decided to get some lunch on El Cajon Blvd. My first choice, which was next to the market didn't work out so I drove down the street and remembered the funny named restaurant near one of my sandwich shops (A-Chau). The name of the restaurant escapes me right now, but I want to say it was something like O-yea. I remembered it because when we parked in front of it one day, I noticed their menu was written all over the window. I had always wanted to try it for fun. To my surprise it was now a different restaurant.

As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by a nice gentleman. I think you are suppose to seat yourself and then the host/server brings menus and water to your table. I picked a booth. The restaurant itself was not 'brand new' inside. The tables were clean. No sticky booth seats or table tops. There were several flat screen televisions on the walls playing the Eagles game. There were only 2 other tables occupied when we first arrived but then business picked up during the middle of our meal.

As for the food, I wanted to try dishes I have never ordered before. The server was very nice and gave a few recommendations. We will be back to try the other dishes. His friendliness and polite manner was enough to get me to return again. We started off with the fresh rolls filled with bbq pork meat, vermicelli noodle, lettuce, and mint. It was served with a very tasty dipping sauce. The sauce was topped with peanuts and fried shallots.

Here is an inside picture of the fresh rolls.

Next we ordered the Crab noodle soup. I don't remember the names of the dishes. And I didn't see a take out menu to grab. This soup was wonderful. I loved the crab/seafood flavors, just the right amount of seasoning. The broth was thick (sort of like hot and sour soup). It had crab claw meat, straw mushroom, some kind of deep fried tofu/seafood, thick rice noodles and it was topped with green onion and more fried shallots.

The last dish was braised beef short ribs. This dish tasted like something my mom would cook for us when I was a kid. I think it was cooked with ginger, other than that I can't say what was used to season it with. I was expecting the meat to be more 'fall off the bones'. It was a little bit chewy. We ordered steamed rice to go with this dish. I thought it was a lot of food for $23 and we didn't even finish all of the soup, even though that was our favorite dish.

I will go back again to try more new dishes. I want to try the claypot dishes and the rice paper dishes. There is a private lot in the back, but we parked out on the street. There was a unisex bathroom (I think). I didn't look too closely at the menu but it seemed their prices for entrees ranged from $6.99-8.99 and there were whole sections of the menu that were $15 or $25.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Double Value Fine Burger

Double Value Fine Burger
6862 Mission Gorge Road

I noticed this place back during Halloween when I was shopping in Santee.

I thought the decor was very nice and it was clean.

Their menu consists of burgers, wraps, and smoothies. A very nice young man took our order. They were having a grand opening special where the fries came free with each burger. I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger and my companion got the Cailfornia Burger and a Strawberry smoothie. Now is it a smoothie when it doesn't contain dairy product? His smoothie looked more like a 'chiller or slush'. He enjoyed it very much.

Here is my cheeseburger. The bun reminded me of a kaiser roll. It was crusty on the outside but soft and chewy inside. It stood well against the grease and sauces in my cheeseburger. On my burger was cheese, bacon, red onion, pickle, tomatoes, lettuce and sauce (I think it was ketchup and mayo). I think the lettuce they used wilted too quickly. Unfortunately they don't ask how you want your patty cooked. I prefer medium/med-rare for my beef. You can't see the patty in my picture but it's a nice size. It's not like fast food burgers.

I liked the fries. They were perfectly cooked and freshly made. I have a bad habit of eating my fries during the drive home. I don't like soggy fries and that's how they turn out by the time I get home. My companion had the California Burger which I did not take a picture of. He said it had avocado in it and something else I think. He loved it. He's asking already when were are going back there. I think I will try a wrap next time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving has a special place in my heart. I love that it is a holiday about being thankful and being with our families. I have so many fond childhood memories of Thanksgiving with my family. I cherish those memories of my father preparing and cooking the turkey and my mom baking her famous vegetable casserole and pumpkin bars. And of course there would be Lao dishes in there along with egg rolls (I love egg rolls). We didn't have 'formal' family Thanksgiving dinners but we would always dress up for dinner. I miss cooking with my parents and sitting down for dinner with my family. I am thankful for all my loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tipping Etiquette

To Tip or Not To Tip:
I've always had a problem with knowing when to tip and how much to tip. I have always been uncomfortable getting haircuts because of this. I had a friend that would tip everytime she went to the florist (even if she just went in to pick up some carnations). Am I suppose to tip the guy that changes the oil in my car? How much do I tip at a buffet or do I even tip? Google wasn't much help in answering most of my questions.

Around the same time that Starbucks rose to popularity in the small town I grew up in, I started to notice tip jars popping up everywhere. I blame Starbucks for this. That is why I don't frequent them or coffee/tea shops. When I first moved out here I recall going to a Subway for some lunch. When I got to the cash register to pay, I saw a tip jar. Now I remember going to Subway a lot back in college and I don't ever remember there being a tip jar. What makes things different now? When did we start tipping for people to do their job? I've been to plenty of eateries where there isn't a tip jar (boy was I shocked), but I've been to even more that have 'tip jars' at the register.

My questions are:

1. When do you tip? For what services do you tip?

2. What is an appropriate tip for dine in service? Fifteen to twenty percent? What if the service was very poor? Do you tip at all?

3. My situation is I don't get much of a chance to 'dine in' anywhere. Usually I am eating alone and it's too awkward to sit someplace eating alone. So the majority of my meals are ordered and picked up. Most places I get food from aren't chain restaurants. They range from deli/sandwich shops, Panda Express-like places, and mom n pop restaurants. When do I tip? If I placed an order on the phone and went to pick up my food, do I tip? What if I placed the order at the restaurant and waited while my food was prepared, do I tip? What if I were picking up pizza?

I laughed at a lot of what people had to say about tipping on different forums. One person said that if you were picking food up and it was a bartender or server that 'packed' your food, you should tip. You should tip anytime where 'to go' is not an advertised service. So I shouldn't be tipping at Chili's to go window? I once orderd a pizza at Oggie's in Santee and it was an awkward situation. We went to pick up the pizza and my significant other took a long time at the hostess station paying for the pizza. When we got back in our car and were driving home, he said that the hostess was waiting for him to add a tip. She kept asking him was he sure he was done filling out the credit card slip. She kept handing it back to him. He was very confused. The pizza was made, put in the box by the cook. All the hostess did was pick up the box from the window and hand it over. So that entitled her to a tip?

I'm not against tipping by any means, just confused and unsure of when, where, and how much to tip. Any input would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Jeow Hed

I love mushrooms. And this is one of my favorite childhood dishes. My parents would make jeow hed and grill some kind of meat. My mom would usually grill soured pork (she would marinade pork belly with (a little bit of cooked sticky rice), garlic, and salt and let it sour for a couple of days then grill it). I cooked chicken drumsticks.

Jeow Hed:
16 oz Button Mushroom
3 large Jalapeno Peppers
6 Green Onions
Fish Sauce
Cilantro (chopped) for garnish

First I clean the mushrooms with a damp towel. I don't like seeing dirt on my food and my dad always told me not to wash the mushrooms in water. That's always my first impulse when I think of mushrooms. Then I clean and dry the peppers and onions. I think the best way is to grill the vegetables, but I didn't have charcoal and we aren't actually allowed to have grills at our place technically.

So I put everything on a aluminum foil lined cookie sheet in the oven at 400 until I feel that they are ready to take out. Everything gets chopped up and put in a mortar. Use the pestle utnil everything gets well incorporated but not mushy. Season it with a little salt and some fish sauce. Then garnish it with chopped cilantro.

For the chicken, I marinaded the legs over night with one packet of the Lobo chicken seasoning mix, 3 minced clovers of garlic, ginger, and lemon grass. And then I added it to the oven with my vegetables. I don't have exact times for the cooking. I served the jeow and chicken with sticky rice.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sab E Lee 2

Sab-e-lee 2
9157 Mission Gorge Road
Santee, CA
Daily 10:30am-9:30pm

I've been envious of fellow blogger (KirkK) over at mmm yoso!!! for all his posts about Sab-e-lee. I have yet to try it. Mostly since it's not in my area and I don't like driving much on the freeway. When I read about Sab-e-lee 2 opening up, I jumped at the chance to try since it was closer to where I live.

I believe this was the locatin of Thai Style Restaurant. I had only one experience with the food when it was Thai Style . I was disappointed that they didn't have sticky rice and their papaya salad was not what I had expected. I'm Lao and had never had the Thai style papaya salad.

So back to Sab-e-lee...this is what you see when you enter. I can't remember if the decor has changed since Thai Style. Looked the same to me. It was empty when we entered. I didn't expect any customers since it was 3pm.

This is the right side of the restaurant.

And this is the left side. Plenty of seating. We ordered our food to go.

We started off with the fresh rolls. They were filled with shrimp, glass noodles, lettuce, and bean sprouts. They were 'okay'. The dipping sauce was a bit too sweet for me. I guess I prefer the hoisin/peanut dipping sauce.

Here is the Thai Sausage. Nice presentation. I didn't eat the peanuts or the peppers. The sausage was slightly sour, the way my mom likes it. I've always preferred sweeter sausages.

Here is the portion of the sticky rice for carry out. Rather small.

This is the crying tiger. I will always eat grilled beef if it's not dry and served with some kind of jeow. This was filling.

I like pad thai, but am never at a Thai restaurant to order it. I like the combination of rice noodle, bean sprouts, and peanuts.

Overall, I thought the food was just 'okay'. My eating companion said the food was great. I guess I was expecting to have some kind of food epiphany, but I didn't. I'm not saying the food was bad by any means. I think maybe my expectations were too high.

I like the parking lot (lots of parking), good hours, large, clean restaurant, big menu with many dishes to try, and the folks there are super nice. Oh yes, they take credit cards!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

El Pescador Fish Market

El Pescador Fish Market
627 Pearl Street
La Jolla, CA

This past week I had a house guest visiting from Japan. My friend has lived in and visited San Diego for many years. He's very familiar with the area. I have never been to La Jolla, so he took me to La Jolla Cove.

The weather was just perfect. Sunny, light breeze and warm. The water was crystal clear.

My friend would swim here every chance he got.

After walking around and taking pictures, we decided to get some lunch. I love fish (grilled) so he suggested El Pescador. It's a tiny place in a small strip mall. It is very nice. I walked in and it didn't smell fishy at all (for it being a 'fish market'). There were all kinds of fresh fish and seafood. I guess their special is grilled fish sandwiches. I ordered the teriyaki salmon and my friend ordered the yellowtail and a cup of chowder.

There were only a few tables in the restaurant (a group of 4 tables). No outside seating. You basically just sit down where there is an open spot. So you sit with other customers. We sat with a man (named Mark) who is a general contractor. He was very friendly. He was eating 'the el pescador' which is a salad with crab, albacore, shrimp, and salmon. I will try that next time.

It was a bit of a wait for our sandwiches. I didn't mind. I was enjoying this new experience. I was really enjoying La Jolla. Our sandwiches were served on a soft, yummy bun with shredded lettuce, red onions, tomato, and mayo (I think). My salmon was cook perfectly. But I didn't taste anything (teriyaki) about it.