Bon Shabu | Koreatown

Eating out can be really difficult when you’re trying to lose weight. Shabu shabu or hotpot, however, is probably one of the tastiest ways to treat yourself in a healthier way. If you haven’t done shabu before, it’s a pretty easy concept. You get a pot of broth on a stove top as well as an assortment of raw meats, veggies or noodles to cook in it. Imagine fondue but clean and soupier. Typically, you can mix and match sauces on the side to add extra flavor. My personal favorites are a garlicky ponzu and goma, a deliciously creamy goma sauce.

Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of shabu places on my side of town. A quick 30 minute drive out to K-town though means plenty to choose from. My sister was in town visiting her boyfriend so they swooped up and we headed out to Bon Shabu!

They do a split pot, so we got half Organic Beef Bone Broth and half Spicy Original. The spicy one had a kick to start, while the beef bone was really light in flavor. We dropped in a bunch of crab to start though and by the end of the night, with all the meat dipped in, it was a slightly sweet, deep flavor. Yum!

It’s AYCE so we tried pretty much all of the meats minus the chicken and basa fish. Most of the cuts were really lean. If you want tender, fattier cuts, go with the pork collar, pork belly, or the chuck top blade. On top of that, there’s a shrimp, mussels, crab, crawfish, fish balls, squid, ramen, udon and an assortment of vegetables – all available salad bar style.

One of my favorite parts was that they offered a bunch of Korean appetizers on the side. My favorites were the tangy fried chicken and the tteokboki!

Shabu’s one of my favorite all-time meals and I can’t wait to go back again! Or maybe I’ll venture out to somewhere new. Where are your go-to spots?

Grits | Downtown Fullerton

Sisterhood is a love-hate kinda deal for sure, but most days, I wish I lived closer to my sisters. We did everything together growing up, for better or worse. One of the perks of living in different cities though is that we end up eating in these halfway places that I wouldn’t really go out of my way to visit otherwise. The hunt for the world’s best brunch continues! This time in Fullerton.

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Coffee first. The wait wasn’t crazy, but I’m usually early and the sister is almost always late. So I need the caffeine to entertain me. First thing she does when she shows up late too? Steal my coffee. Sisters, amiright?

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Bone Marrow with Cornmeal Waffles served with jam and thin apple slices in a pool of savory bone broth.

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Steak + Chimichurri, homestyle potatoes with a poached egg and an aioli. 

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Maple Bacon Pancake Balls. There used to be one on the menu with a fish sauce based syrup that I think would have been way more interesting to try.

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Full disclaimer, it’s been a while since we went here. Maybe even a full year ago. (Thank my brief distraction from food blogging for that delay lol).

But if time’s done anything, it’s definitely cemented the fact that the Grits menu wasn’t all that memorable. Solid brunch food, but I found all the flavors to be somewhat underwhelming. Food should always pack a punch in my book. Everything was quite mild. While the idea of waffles in a bone marrow broth sounds fun, it really just means soggy waffles.

Grits is a cool, desert-y themed brunch place out in a random lot just off the main street running through downtown Fullerton. Not my favorite though. If you never make it out there, you’re not really missing out. In fact, I just recently looked it up and it seems the location is closed. No tears here.

Have better Southern California brunch spots? Let me at ’em!

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Mee & Greet | Culver City

So I’m kind of a skeptic when it comes to Vietnamese food in Los Angeles. Best case scenario it’s just okay and regardless, it’ll be overpriced. Make the extra 40 minute trek down to Westminster or Garden Grove. It’s just so much more worth. Or for me, the hour and half drive home to my parents, where everything is delicious and free. When Mee & Greet opened, I was kind of cautiously excited. It’s fusion. Most Vietnamese fusion is a banh mi but with non traditional ingredients. Or pho, but not. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mee & Greet walked the fusion line pretty well. I apologize in advance for the terrible looking photos. I only had my phone with me and the restaurant is lit like a lounge with dim, neon lighting.

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First course we ordered was the Hainan chicken, served cold with garlic, soy and spicy dipping sauces. Not too much of a twist here, but also not a bad hainan chicken. The portion was pretty sad though.

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My favorite dish of the night – Bo Luc Lac Saltado. Traditionally, Bo Luc Lac is stir-fried marinated beef tips, usually served on a sizzling hot plate or on bed of lettuce with slices of tomato and cucumber. A simple salt, pepper and lime vinaigrette will either be used to dress the salad or left on the side to dip the individual tips into. On the side you’ll get a small bowl of a light clear broth and white rice. This was one of my favorite dishes growing up. What could make it even better? Turns out french fries will do the trick. Preparing the the dish Peruvian style, stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and french fries, was a brilliant idea. Everyone please put more french fries in everything, thanks.

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Tofu Family Style – prepared with serrano peppers, cilantro and spring onions. Silken tofu, deep fried and sitting in a light flavorful sauce. Yum! Pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this one.

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Turmeric Fried Chicken – These weren’t as exciting. One of my friends absolutely loved them, but I have a hunch she feels that way about all fried chicken.

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Mad for Garlic Noodles – Imagine a less greasy, less heavy-handed version of the garlic noodles you get at crawfish places like Boiling Crab. Not exciting, but when has the classic combination of carbs + garlic ever done you wrong?

I also ordered the grass jelly drink, which was basically the canned version I drank as a kid. Points for nostalgia, but negative points for having to pay LA drink prices for it. Overall, I actually really enjoyed the food. The prices were kind of unexpectedly high for the portion sizes though. I wanted more meat with all of the entrees we got. Especially the saltado. There were a few tiny tips of beef amidst all that onion and rice.

That being said, I liked the vibe of the place and the food was good. I would definitely go back for a snack and a drink or two.

Happy Eating!

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Brenda’s Soul Food | San Francisco

One of, if not the first place that pops when you yelp SF is Brenda’s Soul Food. It doesn’t matter how far out you are, Brenda’s will pop up. All those Southern Cajun flavors…it’s exactly what comes to mind when you picture comfort food. It’s also crazy popular. So we knew what we were getting ourselves into trying to get a table during peak Sunday brunch hours. Brenda’s isn’t exactly located in the most upscale part of town. There’s not a whole lot else on the street it’s on. Luckily, all that space comes in handy because the line to get seated will fill the whole damn block.

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Luckily, Brenda’s bought the small space next door and converted it into a small cafe, Libby Jane. You can get some of their staples (like their gumbo) to-go if you’re in a rush for a quick bite. Or if you’re just killing time until your table’s ready (like us), you can grab a seat at the counter and sip on coffee for an hour and half. They keep track of who’s chilling in there so no worries about losing your spot.

The restaurant itself is pretty snug. They’re definitely pushing max capacity. The ceiling’s are high and covered with plenty of art with that New Orleans vibe. It’s loud. Waiters are squeezing through tables with more people than they can hold. The air smells like butter and cheese and comfort. There was only three of us total, but we’d been waiting for a while and may have ordered a wee bit too much.

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The shrimp & grits were probably my favorite dish of the day. Tangy, salty, creamy, cheesy. It’s a hearty dish that packs a kick. This was the flavor I was expecting from the crawfish beignets. While I had probably been the most excited about those, they were honestly a little too….fishy(?) for me and not enough tomato-y cajun goodness. The texture of the dough outside was wonderful though. The gumbo and fried catfish benedict were both solid choices as well. Though nothing mind-blowing, I thoroughly enjoyed both.

So worth the wait? Ehhhh. But go on an off-peak hour and Brenda’s is definitely worth it.

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Vietnamese Braised Pork & Eggs | Recipe

My momma is probably one, if not the biggest, reason why I grew up to be such a food addict. Almost all my memories with her growing up took place in the kitchen or around food. She loves to cook. Sure, she had her traditional Vietnamese staples, but she also tried to recreate any dish she enjoyed or found intriguing (thanks Food Network). We had fish tacos every weekend for three months until she was satisfied with her recipe. Ha! But today’s recipe is not one of those. This is actually one of those aforementioned traditional Vietnamese staples. It’s something she would whip together on a regular ‘ole day and it was never a point of excitement as a kid.

Having grown up and moved out, it’s somewhat of a rarity to eat it now. It’s not commonly served in Vietnamese restaurants and definitely not at the trendy ones you can find on the westside. It’s a homecooked family meal through and through. Without further ado, here’s Mama Nguyen’s thịt kho trứng, or in other words, braised pork and eggs.

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lb. of fresh pork belly or pork ribs
  •  6 to 8 eggs
  •  1 can Natural Coconut Flavored Soda (COCO RICO)
  •  Salt
  • Sugar
  • Black pepper
  • Cooking oil

Directions

Let’s get cooking!

Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, but leave the eggs in the pot for another 5 minutes.  Then, place the eggs in a cold water to cool them down. Peel the eggs and use a tooth pick to poke a few holes all around each egg. We want all the delicious seasoning to be able to seep in.

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Next, rinse off your cut of pork and pat it dry with a paper towel. Cut the pork into approximately one and a half inch squares. Sprinkle with some salt and black pepper.

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Okay, so flip on your stovetop fans or open a window because it’s time to make our caramel! Which inevitably leads to some smoke rising off and if you’re in a teeny tiny Los Angeles apartment like me with the world’s most sensitive smoke alarm, you’ll want to pop a window or two.

Add 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of sugar to the dry pot and cook on high heat, stirring frequently until the sugar melts into a light brown liquid.

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Quickly, stir in all the meat so the caramel doesn’t burn on the bottom. Caramel goes from delightful to smoky burnt rather quickly, so if you think you’re going to be a bit slow with the meat, feel free to flip off the heat, stir the meat in, then turn it back up.

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When all the pieces of the meat turn light brown,  pour in the full can of coconut soda and two cups of water. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of black pepper and one tablespoon sugar. Cover the pot.

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As soon as the pot begins boiling, uncover it and skim away all the white foam off the surface. Add in the eggs and cover the pot once more. Bring the heat back down to low and let the dish simmer for about an hour, hour and a half – or until the water reduces almost to the bottom of the pot. This step largely depends on personal preference. If you like thicker sauce, allow it to cook for longer. Just know that leaner cuts of meat can dry out a little if you do. If you like a thinner, wetter sauce, take it off the heat sooner.

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As always, season to taste as you go! This usually is enough for our family of five, so share with friends or you’re set with meal prep for the week. Traditionally, this dish is paired with rice (Mama says nothing beats white rice) and a pickled vegetable dish. Recipes for how to make those coming soon! Until then, happy eating!

Modifications

Keto? Swap out all the sugar for stevia or erythritol and you’ll be good to go. Stick with the fattier pork belly to longer sustenance. You can get diet coco rico or maybe try a coconut flavored sparkling water instead, though you’ll have to up your other sweeteners to compensate for the sugar.

Want it even lower cal? Switch out pork belly for a much leaner cut like the rib or shoulder even.

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Want to bookmark on Genius Kitchen? Here you go!

Cafe Vida | Culver City

Cafe Vida | Black Coffee
Two coffees straight up!

I wish brunch was some hidden secret that only the lucky few got to know about. Unfortunately, brunch is pretty much a lifestyle for Los Angeles foodies and all the good spots are a far cry from secret. Cafe Vida is one of those places. Right in the heart of Downtown Culver City, this Latin-New American cafe always has a crowd. Expect at least a thirty minute wait even if you roll up in the earliest of brunch hours on a Sunday.

Their fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies are super popular menu items. They’re good, but honestly, a little overpriced. So I skip the blended greens and always start with black coffee. They keep you topped off all brunch (yay for being way too over-caffeinated) and give you two tiny thumb-sized muffin bites to go with it. They’re itty-bitty, but so sugar packed that they go great with a straight-up cup of joe.

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Passed on the powdered sugar & butter, that makes this healthy right?

Every time I come back, I tell myself I’ll try something further down on the menu. I never make it past the pancakes. Namely the brown rice pancakes. I’m a sucker for crispy, crunchy, warm your heart pancakes covered in berries. So my go-to is the turkey burger scramble (gotta get those ‘teins) with a side of brown rice pancakes. You can’t go wrong with their blueberry corn cakes either, a little grittier, just as tasty.

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The boyfriend, on the flip side, has never gotten the same thing twice. Though he never makes it down the menu either. He almost always orders whatever brunch special is available that week. Wet burritos, skirt steak benedicts, banana french toast… whatever the new shiny food is for the week. It’s usually a “latin” twist on a traditional brunch food or a brunched up version of a latin dish. I keep putting latin in quotes because this is hip LA latin-inspired more than it is a diverse array of latin food. We’re talking chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and some sort of taco and burrito. That’s about as far as it goes. Donde estan mis pupusas y ceviches?

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This week was the short-rib breakfast burrito. Delicious! I was spooning off some of that burrito sauce to drizzle all over my scramble.

Disclaimer! If you’re already miles beyond hanger though, skip Cafe Vida for the day. The kitchen can be pretty slow getting food out. Even just getting your coffee can take a good ten minutes. That being said, the waiters and hostesses are all friendly faces (even when you ask them for a fifth tiny pitcher of syrup – no shame).

TL;DR? 

Service: Attentive, friendly but slow.

Food: Not quite “latin”, but delicious nonetheless.

Parking:  Plenty of meters and paid lots within a five minute walk.

Wait: 25 min – 1 hour

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Oh, Hey Friends!

So this is blog #1000, I know. I have a bad habit of starting and stopping blogs and projects on a whim. I can’t help it. I have the attention span of a Labrador retriever in a squirrel park. That being said, I have a strong feeling that this is actually gonna be the one that sticks. I even bought the domain name and everything. That’s basically blog marriage.

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Somewhere at the end of last year/beginning of this one, I started making more of an effort to actually document the happy moments. My life is nothing but a triangle of food, fights and the friends I experience them all with. And let’s be honest, photo albums are dead and facebook is just the worst. So here’s my life. And here’s me.

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I somehow adopted the nickname “Little Foot” in college. Can you see why? Hint:

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I’m currently twenty-four, turning twenty-five. I suppose this is an ode to all the food and adventures I have on my way through a quarter-life crisis. What can you expect? Tons of food. Some of it good for the body, some of it good for the soul.
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There will be vlogs, places to eat, recipes, food recommendations, meal prep posts, cheat day posts. Who knows? If I can eat it, you’ll probably read it.

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So what else is there to say? Not much yet, I guess.

Double-cone, out!

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