Happy New Year | Crab Rangoon Recipe

Happy Lunar New Year! While this holiday isn’t nearly as celebrated in the States as it is over in the East, it’s still a huge deal in Asian-American communities. For my family, it means weekend-long get-togethers and a spread of way too much food for the number of guests in attendance. I’m pretty sure my mom only invites me home for the extra help in the kitchen (Kidding, my mom would kidnap me and keep me home always, if possible). That being said, I woke up at 7am last Saturday to help her churn out some apps for the family.

If you’ve ever been to a 3-star asian seafood buffet or picked up some Panda Express for a last minute meal, you are no stranger to the Crab Rangoon. Stuffed with a creamy fake crab filling, this is no fancy appetizer. Nonetheless, it’s always a party favorite. They’ve been mine since I was little and basically begged my mom to figure out how to make them. So we’ve been churning these out for every party since I was like ten.

It’s not a complicated recipe, but hand-folding all the wontons can take some time. Luckily, if you make an assembly line of your favorite sisters (or whoever you can rope into it), wonton making becomes a good hour of family bonding.

Ingredients

  • 16oz Imitation Crab
  • 16oz Cream Cheese
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Chives / Green onions
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Egg
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

1.Mark sure wonton wrappers and “crab” are fully defrosted. Set cream cheese out for a little bit to soften or blending will be quite difficult.

2. Finely chop up your chives or green onions. Enough to fill about half a cup.

3. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until the onions soften.

4. Add onions, “crab” and 8oz of the cream cheese into a food processor.

5. Pulse until everything is roughly chopped and mixed together. If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop up the crab and onions by hand then combine in with the cheese.

6. Pour out into a mixing bowl and fold in the remaining 8oz of cream cheese.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. Alright folks it’s wrapping time! Scoop about a teaspoon of cheese mix into a wonton wrapper.

9. Crack an egg into a bowl. Dip a finger or cooking brush into the egg and brush around the edges of the wonton wrapper.

10. With two fingers each hand, pinch four sides of the wrapper in to meet in the middle. You should end up with this little X shape.

11. Pinch the middle so the sides stick together, then work your way out along the edges of the X, slowly pressing all the gaps closed.

12. Voila! One wonton down, many many more to go. Keep folding until all your wontons are ready to fry!

13. Okay, frying time! Fill your fryer with your oil of choice and get the temperature up to about 425 to 450 degrees.

14. Pop your wontons in a few at a time and take them out with a slotted spoon once they’re evenly golden-brown. It’s important that they’re sealed really well or they’ll pop open at this step. Trust me, exploding wontons are much less tasty.

15. Set them on a rack to cool, letting the excess oil drip off the bottom.

16. Enjoy!

Hope your family loves these as much as mine! They’re great for little hands and disappear in seconds. Happy Eating!

Ramen in Santa Monica, Finally!

Let’s talk for a second about how deprived Santa Monica has been when it comes to really damn good asian food. I’ve worked there on-and-off for the past five years. While there’s no shortage of green juices, if you get bit by the noodle bug, you’re shit out of luck. Better make the drive out to Sawtelle or Venice because there’s no ramen here for you my friend. 

However, in the past year, SM’s finally got its act together and opened not one, but two new ramen spots right off the main promenade. 

Silverlake Ramen

Silverlake Ramen is a chain hailing from (yup, you guessed it) Silverlake, CA! From the chain itself: 

“Silverlake embodies the free-spirit & casual vibe of Los Angeles. An unpretentious, original way of thinking. Similar to the  environment in which ramen was invented. Now, we are taking that vibe and serving up bowls of it in locations across California.”

I haven’t tried the regular ramen because I will honestly always choose the thick noodles and rich broth of a tseukemen first if it’s on the menu. That being said, the tseukemen is delicious! Tsujita is the gold-standard in my book, but Silverlake Ramen comes pretty damn close. The broth is deep with flavor and tastes amazing with the huge slab of fried pork belly it comes with. I always ask for a side order of spicy paste to mix in, too. Fair warning, you’re in for a heavy, salty AF lunch with this one. 

Ippudo Ramen

Just a five minute walk away, you’ll find Ippudo Ramen tucked into a non-descript alleyway on second street. Look for the small square sign with the squiggles, that’s your cue that ramen time is near. This Japanese chain made the big move to the States in 2008 with its New York location, shortly followed by its San Francisco one. 

Their ramen is more Hakata style. While there are slight variations (vegan, spicy, etc), they’re all more or less the same.  Expect thin noodles, a somewhat lighter broth, but no less in flavor or oil.  They do appetizers too, but honestly, skip the buns. They’re not worth the money and your tummy space is better spent on Kaedama (extra noodles).  My personal favorite is the Akamaru Modern.

Which is better? Honestly, it’s impossible to decide. They’re different styles and both hit the ramen spot perfectly! I’m so sad I don’t work right on that corner anymore. Maybe it’s better for my blood pressure anyways.

Dessert Goals | Downtown LA

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.42.11 AM.pngThe Museum of Ice Cream. Candytopia. Smorgasburg. Dessert, food festivals and art exhibits are all the rage now. Anything for the gram, right? Dessert Goals was the latest addition to these growing foodstagrammable events. It’s been going on in New York for quite some time, but 2018 was LA’s first.

As usual, it looked much better on the gram than in real life. The event was basically one large floor in a building in Downtown. Dessert vendors lined the edges and there were cute photo op sets scattered in between. In the center, there were smaller booths with treats you could get to go, a few picnic tables with boardgames and some merch. The desserts weren’t actually that exciting though. Most vendors were ones that had already been around for a while and I had already tried. Or they just weren’t offering anything that exciting. Macarons and rolled ice cream are kind of old news, folks.

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We still treat ourselves to a few sweets and had plenty of fun in all the photo sets they have scattered around the room. It was getting pretty warm in there though so we eventually headed out after about an hour to go get our savory fix elsewhere.

It was a fun novelty thing to check-out, but one time seems to be good enough for this gal.

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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?

Royal Capital Seafood | Westminster

Royal Capital Seafood has been around for ages. Like so many other older asian restaurants in Orange County, they fly pretty under the radar on social media. Plus, their names, decor and styles of food are all so similar, it can be hard to stand-out. They’re not the cleanest of places. The service is pretty much guaranteed to be mediocre at best and some of the dishes will really just be subpar Chinese food. But! There’s always a hidden gem on the menu with places like these.

The first time I went to Royal Capital Seafood, I was ten years old and it was my great-aunt’s 80th birthday celebration. I remember nothing else from that day, but I remember the Lobster Noodles They were life-changing.

Fast-forward fifteen years and they are still life-changing. The stir-fried lobster is prepared in typical chinese fashion – savory, crispy goodness on the outside, sweet, juicy, tender lobster meat on the inside. Surround that in a bed of chewy, gummy egg noodles and you’ve got yourself a plate of heaven.

I wish I could have had this whole plate to myself. It was New Year’s Eve though so I figured I should probably share with my family.

Our other go-to dish is the House Special Fish. Dipped in batter, then fried in a buttery-garlic sauce, this flaky white fish is equal parts melt in your mouth and satisfying crunch. Eat this first and fast though. The sauce seeps through and the texture turns soggy if you try to take it to-go.

My family usually orders a couple other dishes as well because we roll out with at least five people at a time. But trust, if you’re going to get something, get those two. As with all Chinese special restaurants, you’ll get a soup to start and a sweet soup to finish. Both of which I’m always happy to gulp down.

Happy Eating! xo.

Met Her At A Bar | Miracle Mile

I was lucky enough to have a couple weeks off this holiday season – a rarity in the 9-5 office adult world. It was kind of surprise time-off so I didn’t have time to make any big plans. Instead I spent lots of time with family and peppered in one-on-one friend dates in between. Friend dates should be a more frequent and celebrated thing. I absolutely love them. Anyways, this particular day a friend and I opted for a morning hike through the Hollywood Hills followed by brunch. We were originally trying to go to République, but even on a Tuesday morning, that seemed to be impossible.

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Way too hungry to wait an hour or more, we went a couple blocks down to Met Her At A Bar. Honestly, I was so hungry I wanted literally everything. Figured I would settle for something a little savory, a little sweet and ordered the You Wake Me Up Happy.  As you can see above, that’s a classic waffle with maple syrup and berries and all the proteins on the side. Proteins weren’t mind-blowing, but that waffle was perfectly crispy on the edges and fluffy in the middle. I ate every bit of this.

My friend ordered the Bello Bello Wafflebello Sandwich, a portbello waffle sandwich with tomatoes, arugula and a side of syrup. I didn’t get to try hers because quite frankly, I had enough on my plate. She also ordered a Hibiscus Cooler, but didn’t seem too impressed with it.

It’s a tight space with communal seating and an order-at-the-counter style. I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to get there, but if you’re in the area, it’s a pretty great brunch option! There’s plenty of sandwiches and heavier lunch options as well.

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I felt obliged to provide some photo evidence to prove we somewhat earned our brunching that day, ha. The weather was perfect for this short hike up to Wisdom Tree and the Hollywood sign. Here’s to many more friend adventures!

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Boiling Crab Seafood Boil Recipe

If you’ve ever been to a Boiling Crab, Kicking Crab, The Crab Shack or any similar restaurants, you’re probably pretty familiar with the giant mess that is a cajun seafood boil. Funnily enough, despite being so heavily marketed as a Southern, Louisiana cuisine, these seafood shacks are very closely tied to Vietnamese American families. An influx of refugees ended up in the Southern states post-war. The social, hands-on casual style of the seafood boil is something that resonates quite strongly with the Vietnamese. We’re all about any type of finger food that you can slowly work through with a beer at your side surrounded by friends.

Ironically, I had no interest in Boiling Crab until college. (Too many shrimp heads, which baby Jeannie found gross). But then I tried it and went through a food phase where it was all I wanted every time I ate out. Unfortunately, the neighborhood I live in now doesn’t have a convenient one around for miles. Not even one close enough to deliver. So I had to make do. While this isn’t perfect, the recipe’s close enough to hit the spot!

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Ingredients

  • 1lb Shrimp shell-on
  • 1 Potato
  • 1 corn (I use the sweet frozen ones)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red curry
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • A little bit of louisiana hot sauce if you want it spicier. You can also just add more cayenne pepper.

Instructions

1.  Bring pot of water to boil.
2.  Throw potatoes in for 10 minutes.
3.  Add corn and a couple minutes later, shrimp.
4.  Once shrimp turns pink, immediately pour whole pot out into a strainer. If you overcook the shrimp, it gets really hard to peel.
5.  Add butter and garlic to pot.
6.  Once the butter is all melted and the garlic has gotten soft, mix in all your spices.
8.  Add extra seasoning to taste.
9.  Combine shrimp, potato and corn in a big bowl with the sauce.
10.  Shake it up and eat!
Happy Eating!
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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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