Sunday, December 31, 2006

Szechuan Chef

My friend has been telling us about this new chinese restaurant, Szechuan Chef, in Bellevue. We've had Hot Pot by its sister restaurant at the International District in Seattle. We finally made plans on Friday to check it out. It's located in a shopping plaza at the corner of NE 148th and Main St.

The restaurant was hard to spot from the road as the sign did not stand out as the other neon signs. When we walked in, we noticed how big the inside of the restaurant was with high ceiling and it was very busy.

We ordered 5 typical Szechuan dishes between the 4 of us. The portions were huge and I was quite amazed that we finished almost all of them. Each dish was wonderful and had distinctive flavor of its own. Enough heat but not so much that you can't taste.

Cold Szechuan Jellyfish -- Not too spicy and actually quite cooling. Both my friend and I loved this dish but our husbands prefered the cold noodles.

Cold Szechuan Noodles -- Spicy but not too hot and a little sweet & tangy from the vinegar.

Sour Potato - Now this was a surprise dish. It was not as sour as the name suggests but it was light and refreshing. Doesn't really taste like potatoes and definitely not starchy. A nice contrast in flavor to the other dishes.

Preserved Cabbage, pork and vermiceli soup -- This was a familiar soup as it was something my grandma made quite often (minus the chili pepper)Can't remember the actual name of this dish but it was number 51 on the menu. Spicy fried chicken with green beans. It had 5 stars -- suppose to be really spicy -- but it wasn't too bad. The chicken was nice and crispy -- so were the green beans.
Szechuan Chilli Crab -- I wondered if this was going to be similar to the chili crab in Singapore but it's not. It kind of remind me of the Pepper Crab. The spicy/salty crust made the crab really tasty.

Within 10 minutes into our meal, we looked over and saw a huge line at the front of the restaurant. I'm glad we made reservation as my friend said it gets really busy about 7 p.m. Lots of people there was having "Hot Pot". I was actually surprised to see so many non-asians there as I wouldn't think this type of cuisine would be within the American's taste palate. As soon as we paid our bill, the restaurant host kindly ask us to leave as they have people waiting for the table. At least they weren't rude about it.

I'm definitely going back there. There were a ton of other dishes I want to try and the Hot Pot.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Chicken Curry

The only curry I ever make is the Japanese Kare. I've always been a little hesitant to make Indian curry or Thai curry. All the spices makes the process seem so complicated. But I was really craving for curry on Tuesday night. I had left over chicken, potatoes, onions and carrots; plus I had time so I thought why not give it a go. I looked through my Indian cookbook (I've only made one dish from it). So I did a little online research on Food Network. Finally found an easy recipe by Rachel Ray - Chicken Curry in a Hurry - in her episode called "Lost in Spice". I liked the name and I had most of the ingredients needed for the dish.

I modified the recipe a little by adding potatoes, onion and carrots. I also added fish sauce to give it a bit more flavor. Can you tell I love fish sauce? However, I did not add the garnish she recommended.

It turned out better than I expected. I was a little concern when part of the ingredient was flour instead of coconut milk as thickner but it was good. The best part is since coconut milk usually makes me sick -- I think I'm allergic to it -- I now know that flour works just as well. The only thing I would change is only use 1 tbsp of curry paste instead of 2. I forgot my curry paste was on the hot side and while I LOVE spicy food, it was making me tear up a little. Plus my husband is not a big fan of spicy and kept saying that it's good but too hot to taste anything.
I'll probably use this recipe again with some modification. I think it'll be excellent with seafood.

~ Mina

Meatballs & Rice Noodles

I saw this recipe on another food blog ( and thought it looked really good. The recipe was simple enough so I gave a try.
It turned out great! The kitchen smelled so good I couldn't wait to eat it.

The broth was really flavorful from the sweetness of the nappa cabbage, dried shrimp and meatballs. The one seasoning I added to the broth that's not in the original recipe was fish sauce.

~ Mina

Christmas Dinner

This year we spent Christmas with our friends Rob and Kerry. Since Rob is allegic to cats we went over to their house to cook. They made the Roasted Turkey and Oyster Casserole. Yes, that's right -- Oyster Casserole. The first time we've ever had this dish was also at their place. It's the McDaniel's tradition. It's not the most appetizing looking dish but it's delicious -- full of flavors.

I made the 2 side dishes - Paul's Grandma's Yummy Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.

And for desert -- Pecan Pie. I made the pie crust from scratch but it didn't turn out as well as I would have liked it. The fillings was good though.

Potato Chip Cookies

The first time I've ever had potato chip cookies was at my husband's grandma's house. I thought I heard her wrong when she offered me the cookies. It was a great combination of sweet and salty. It was love at first bite. My sister-in-law gave me the recipe a few years back but I lost it. I was really in the mood for it this holiday so I did a little search online and found that Emeril had a recipe for it too. I thought I'd give his recipe a try. It was really easy - Butter, flour, sugar and potato chips.
Not quite the same taste...his version was a bit sweeter but it hit the spot.

Crepe Brunch

In the beginning of the year my husband made a New Year's resolution to cook more. It only took him another 11 months to actually make something. In his defense, it's been a busy year. So the last few weeks he has been making Sunday brunch.
I was quite impress when he attempted to make crepes. We bought all the ingredients from Wholefoods -- Canterbury natuals Classic Crepe Mix, Cibo Naturals' soft flavored cheese (basil roasted walnut), baby spinach, mushrooms and roasted chicken.

While Paul made the crepe, I helped shred the roasted chicken we bought. I love the pre-cooked chicken as I can make several different meals with one chicken - i.e. chicken noodle soup, quisadilla, etc. Okay...back to the crepe...After the crepe is done, Paul spread the flavored cheese, added the spinach and chicken. For his first try, I thought it tasted great. It got even better after the 3rd crepe. We were amazed by how many you can make with only 1/2 the mix.

~ Mina

Celebration dinner

In my family, steak always equals celebration. We have steak at least twice a year, once for birthday and once for christmas. So this year, when it's my turn to cook christmas dinner, I opted for a delicious flank steak. My in-laws were invited and I whipped up a simple and yummy meal.

Salad with sliced almonds, apple, and shaved parmesan. I was stumped by the dressing. Luckily, I caught the middle of "Every Italian" right when Giada was putting together a simple balsamic dressing: 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/3 olive oil, 1 sliced shallots, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon honey. It was divine! The side dishes were Autumn Succotash with edamame, corn and bacon; and Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese. I have a love affair with gratins. What's not to love? Cheese and cream =)

The Asian flank steak was marinated with soy sauce, ginger, mirin, garlic, shallots and sesame seed oil for several hours.

Here's the complete dinner. And the lovely pictures were taken by my husband.

p/s: Cooking IS a lot more fun with a good knife.


Christmas Loot

Santa got the word that cookware is what my little heart desired this year. In addition to a whole slew of products, my darling husband not only got me a Shun cook's knife, he also got me a utility and pairing knife. Cooking Christmas dinner was so much fun this year! Even Kevin got in on the action, helping with the chopping.


19 more days to go...

Like Ray, I've been looking forward to our trip home -- Singapore. In fact, the last time I was in Singapore was on my honeymoon, almost 5 years ago. Time sure flies by. Every time I go back to Singapore I feel like such a stranger in the country I grew up in. Granted, I left right after Secondary and don't go back as often as Ray. Everything seems so familiar but different at the same time. Singapore is such a fast growing country. I remember back when we only had 2 MRT lines going North, South, East and West. Now apparently we have several! Luckily it's hard to get lost in Singapore. I'm also looking forward to catching up with my friends -- it's amazing that we've been able to keep in touch after so long.
Gotta LOVE the internet!

A friend is joining us on this trip. It's her first trip to Asia so it will be interesting to see her perspective. I know my husband loved Singapore and finally understood my food obsession after his visit.

While Ray and my goal is to hit up as many food places as possible, I do want to get some sightseeing done since it is my friend's first trip. I know Night Safari is a must but love any other suggestions you might have. My husband LOVED Haw Par Villa (all I can say is he's an artist so he has weird taste) but not sure if I want to take my friend there. For one thing the last time I went, I couldn't wait to leave...mostly because it was so damn hot!

- Mina

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sardine Sandwich

In the U.S., there's peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In Singapore, we have sardine sandwich. I haven't thought of sardine sandwiches in years, until I read it on Sim Cooks ( I went to two different grocery stores just to find the right sardines. Add a little olive oil, chopped onions and lime juice (per Sim Cooks' instructions), and you have a warm, comforting sandwich. (Unfortunately, my husband is not a fan.)


Friday, December 22, 2006

Fred 62

Only in L.A. can you dine in t-shirts and flip flops in mid December. We had a lovely brunch at one of our favorite restaurant in Los Feliz, Fred 62 (1850 N. Vermont Avenue). It's the quintessential L.A. hipster hangout with frequent celebrity diners. Of course, the main reason we go there is the food.

I ordered an egg white scramble with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, avocados, onions and chicken sausage. My favorite part is the hash browns. Crispy and not too greasy. The egg whites were slightly over-cooked though. I like my eggs slightly runny =)

Kevin ordered the Fred McMurry--a breakfast sandwich with hash browns, sausage, scrambled eggs. Delicious!

Brooklyn had pigs ears (not on menu).


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Singapore Trip Countdown

Who should I blame? The helpful editorial assistant who sent me the link or author/chef/TV boyfriend Anthony Bourdain? I pick Mr. Bourdain and his delightful NY Time article about the food in Singapore. As soon as I finished reading the article online, I sent an e-mail to Mina that basically said, "Let's ditch our husband and go home--for food!" Imagine my surprise when she agreed. Thus, led to a long, agonizing three-month wait between the time we bought our plane tickets and the departure date. Now, we have 22 days left (reminds me of secondary school days when the teacher counted down to the O levels on the chalkboard) and we've started planning. I even created an excel spreadsheet of all the spots we have to hit. So, dear kind readers (if we have any), we're open to suggestions! We're skipping the curries (easier to get in North America) and concentrating only on Singaporean hawker food: kueh chap, chicken rice, mee pok, Ipoh hor fun, laksa, etc. We have very little time (6 full days) and lots of eating to do.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

X'mas Party

We were at Paul's company X'mas party on Thursday. It was held at the Seattle Aqurium which was really different. The cocktail was in the fish viewing area. It reminded me of being at the Seafood Chinese Restaurant where you get to pick the fish you want for dinner -- except of course we are not allowed to eat the fish at the Aqurium. hee...hee...

The dinner was held at the Coral Reef display area which was pretty cool. We got to touch the starfish and see the giant octopus.

While the venue was really cool, the food was just okay. The appetizers were good but the entrees was pretty average.

I had Beef Tenderloin with mushroom sauce.

And Paul had Halibut with mango salsa

Well, at least the deserts were yummy.

Thursday was also the night we had the really bad wind storm. We lost our power at home around midnight. Thank goodness we had already taken a shower. We spent Friday night at Paul's office building as they had power and we didn't want to be in our cold house. I forgot to take photos but we had really interesting dinner - we brought over some tater tots and vege bacon -- microwaved. Not great but we were hungry. Our power came back on today. Yah!!! Hot water for shower!!!

Easy Dinner

Made this easy rice dish a few nights ago. I needed a quick dinner that didn't take too long to make and with ingredients I have. I cut up some chinese Lup Cheong sausage, dried mushroom and put everything in the rice cooker with the rice. I also add the garlic chicken sauce. Turn the rice cooker on and waited for it to cook.

On the side I made pork rib soup with lotus roots and puffy tofu. Nice during the cold winter.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I've been looking forward to my company's Christmas party for weeks. It took place today at the esteemed Lucques (8472 Melrose Avenue). Suzanne Goin is a James Beard Award-winning chef who recently appeared on Bravo's Top Chef. Her dishes are quite remarkable--fresh ingredients and excellent execution.

Lucques' famous housemade olives and almonds. The olives are mild and not overly salty; the almonds are roasted perfectly and have a nice crunch.

Arugula and heirloom apple salad with romao, pomegranate and almonds.

Braised beef short ribs with sautéed greens, pearl onions and horseradish cream. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. It was amazing.

Grilled market fish with roasted baby carrots, house made yogurt and charmoula.

When it comes to hype restaurants, expectations tend to build up and, more often than not, it's easy to be disappointed. I'm pleased that Goin is a working chef (as opposed to the typical "celebrity" chef who hasn't been in the kitchen for years) and her reputation is well-deserved.


Seafood Pasta

Pasta is my safe food. It's like the Italian chow mein. I defrosted a bunch of frozen seafood (scallops, squid, shrimp), stir-fried it with garlic, spagetti, and pasta sauce. Grate some fresh parmasan cheese and it's done. Simple and quick.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bleach night

We get together with 2 of our good friends once a week for dinner and TV. It started with our love for this anime series Bleach. I was never really a huge anime fan but there are a few I like. Then my husband introduced me to Bleach and it's now one of my favorite show (

Well, this past Sunday, we had our friends over as it's our turn to cook. Most everything was store bought. We started with some Antipasto -- Mozzerella cheese, stuffed olives, roasted peppers, Italian spicy cipola and artichok.

Then I heated up one of my favorite Campbell Select Mushroom soup and drizzled truffle oil. Yum!

For the main entree, I baked Butternut Squash Lasagna that I bought from Wholefoods market. It's by a local brand called Red Ribbons. They were giving out samples at the market and it was delicious. The sauce was key to the dish. I have seen a few receipes for Butternut Squash Lasagna so I think I might try one of them and compare. More on that later...

- Mina

Saturday Dinner

We usually go out to dinner on the weekend but I decided to make dinner instead. I found this interesting seasoning for pork ribs -- Honey Garlic Glaze -- so I thought I would try it out. It turned out great. I had to fry the pork ribs in about 1 tbsp of oil and then add the glaze sauce after the ribs are done. For the side dish, I decided to stir-fry some lotus roots. It's one of my favorite dish that my mom makes. A little oil, salt, red chilli pepper (it's better with fresh chilli but I forgot to buy them), soy sauce and drizzle a little sesame seed oil. Very simple but tasty side. Instead of just steam rice, I decided to add 1 tbsp of the Hainanese Chicken rice sauce that I bought from our local asian market. It comes in a glass jar. Really handy if you want something more flavor. I should do this more often. I love to cook but during a busy season, I just get too tired.

I also made herbal soup with a couple of the remaining ribs, puff tofu and mushroom. Inspired by Rae's previous posting. :)

- Mina

Affogato Al Caffe

Who knew such a simple combination would create such a heavenly taste? Affogato Al Caffe is a shot of expresso poured over a couple scoops of vanilla gelato. I first heard of this Italian dessert on the blog. It sounded interesting enough, so when the waiter at Cube (615 N La Brea Ave., Los Angeles) recommended it, I was sold. And it did not disappoint. The slight bitterness of the expresso complements the mild sweetness of the ice cream. It's the first time I've seen it on a restaurant menu but it seems easy enough to make at home.


Thursday, December 7, 2006

steaming hot soup

Since I'm still just a beginner, I'm not opposed to using pre-made mixes. Right now, my goal is to re-create some good home cooking, even if it means "cheating" a little. Tonight, I made a big pot of bak kuh teh with some pre-packed herbs. All I did was add the pork ribs, some mushrooms, and dried tofu. It was highly satisfying on a cold night.


Monday, December 4, 2006


I have a really crappy knife that my aunt bought me almost 6 years ago. It's a dull and uninspired piece of metal. The other ones in my kitchen are from Ikea. *bleh* Many people have told me that having a good knife makes a huge difference in cooking. Feeling hopeful, I went on a knife-hunting quest to the closest Sur La Table. The options are overwhelming and I went away even more confused. Do I need a 10-inch or an 8-inch? Is a santoku really necessary? And where on earth would I store the one with the lethal length of a Samurai sword?

Today, I sought the advice of two very experience (and kind) co-workers who gave me the following advice:

1. Ask a store employee to show you the knives
2. Be sure to pick one that feels good in your hand, and make sure it's not too long (harder to control)
3. Find one that rocks a bit when you move it up and down, and that the blade doesn't lie flat.

The two they recommended are:

Furi Pro 11-Piece Knife Block Ultra Set

Shun Ken Onion Chef's Knife


Sunday, December 3, 2006


Cooking is a learning experience for me. Someday, I hope to be as good as my grandma or mom. In the meantime, there are a few dishes I'm actually good at. Gyoza is one of them. It's an easy, tasty treat. But beware of the dragon breath afterwards!

1 pound ground pork
1/2 pound shrimp, chopped
3 spring onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
A dash of soy sauce
A little sesame seed oil
1 packet gyoza skin

Mix first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Place desired portion of pork mixture in the middle of gyoza skin. Dab the edge of the gyoza skin with a little water, Fold and pleat. Heat skillet with vegetable oil. Place gyoza on one side fry until skin is golden brown. Flip over and fry for a couple more minutes. Once the other side is also crispy, pour 1/4 cup water in the skillet and cover. Turn heat to low and cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve with rice and dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce:
Mix minced garlic with some soy sauce.



Last night, I went grocery shopping with my lovely grandmother at the Ranch 99 chinese market. The goal of the trip was to stock up my pantry. Boy, am I excited to start recreating childhood comfort food with these goodies!