Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter Break LA: Food Summary

I spent a week in LA, which is the boba capital of the world (and pretty much all good Asian food in general). I've missed this since it's been years since I last visited, and hence I went wild. Here's what I ate:

Hokkaido milk green tea with bobes and popcorn chicken with plum powder at Tbay. The tea is covered in a thick layer of hokkaido milk cream, and gives you a mustache when you drink it. The popcorn chicken was perfect.

'Stache, tee hee.

Hot taro tea boba, buttload's fries with weak sauce, and something else Khoi got at Tastea. The weak sauce is just sweet chili sauce. I can't put my finger on what they put in their fries to make them so good (they're seasoned with something) but tis cray.

Sweet cream shaved snow with lychee, mochi, red bean, and condensed milk at Blockheads. I've been wanting to try shaved snow for the longest time and I was almost afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations, but it was everything I hoped it would be. The texture of the snow is so good, you gotta taste it to believe.

Moar shaved snow :D green tea snow with red bean, mochi, and condensed milk at Class 302. Blockheads was so good that I had to get more snow the next day...and this wasn't as good. But still good.

Individual lamb hot pot at Boiling Point. It tastes right and is so satisfying.

Tsukemen ramen and sashimi bowls at Tsujita. I think I like dippy ramen better than regular ramen, although what would take it over the top is if everything was piping hot since this was only lukewarm.

Sushi at home. We bought a bunch of sashimi grade fish from Super H-Mart and went ham.

Battered lobster tail on a stick aka the Lobsicle at Lobster ME in Vegas. It tasted as crazy as it sounds.

Other snack places visited: 85 Degrees Bakery, Half and Half Boba, Dollar Boba
Other restaurants: Gen Korean BBQ, Pho Banh Mi Che Cali, Sake House, Din Tai Fung
Other Vegas food: Bacchanal, Earl's, Pho Kim Long

Good thing it's New Year's resolution diet time... (╯︵╰,)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Asian Bakery Cake, Again

This cake is one of my most popular recipes on this blog, and also something I've made countless times so I'm pretty confident in it. I made it again a week ago for a holiday party, and it was my prettiest one yet (sho proud). I thought I'd post an update on my previous recipe since I've changed and simplified a few things. Keep in mind that from start to end, this recipe will take up a good afternoon of your time, so be prepared.

Recipes adapted from my previous recipe, plus recipe for custard and glaze from My Edible Memories

Chiffon Cake
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp cake flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 Tbsp cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • Tools: parchment paper, angel food cake pan, silicone spatula, electric whisk or stand mixer
  1. Preheat oven to 340F. Prepare your cake pan by cutting out a large donut shape with parchment paper to line the bottom.
  2. Separate eggs into two large large clean mixing bowls.
  3. To the bowl with egg yolks, add salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 6 Tbsp sugar. Beat well until mixture is pale yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk.
  4. Add 1/2 water and 1/3 cup oil to the egg yolk mixture, whisking well between additions
  5. In a separate small bowl, mix together cake flour and baking powder until well combined. Whisk into the egg yolk mixture until just blended.
  6. Clean your mixer, as you don't want to contaminate your egg whites with grease. Add cream of tartar and the remaining 6 Tbsp sugar into the bowl with egg whites. Beat until stiff peaks form.
  7. Gently fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the batter until well blended, then fold in the rest until just blended. Pour into your lined angel food cake pan and bake for 30 minutes until light golden brown. Let cool completely before removing from the pans and peeling off the parchment paper.

Custard - optional, you can also just fill with whipped cream frosting
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Mix sugar, flour, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in 3/4 cup of milk and mix until smooth. Bring to a boil at medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent clumps. Turn heat down once it boils and cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from heat or when dramatically thickened.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together an egg with the remaining 1/4 cup of milk, then combine with the mixture in the saucepan. Return to heat and cook until it starts to boil, whisking constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the custard to form a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.

Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting - doesn't collapse like regular whipped cream at room temp
  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 8 tsp cold water
  • 2 cup heavy whipping creme
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. To a bowl, add tsp gelatin and cold water. Let the gelatin bloom for about 5 minutes, then microwave for 10 seconds, at which point the gelatin should be melted (add another couple seconds if necessary). If any bits of gelatin are clumping together, remove it from the bowl before continuing. Allow gelatin mixture to reach room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, add 2 cups of cold heavy cream, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Beat at low speed until just thickened, then gradually pour in the gelatin mixture while continuing to beat slowly. Turn the beater to a higher speed setting and beat until stiff. 

  • 1 lb strawberries
  • 3-4 kiwis
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • Equal parts strawberry jam and water
  • Tools (not mandatory, but you'll have more professional results with these): sharp knife, cake decorating tips, frosting knife, strainer, small brush
  1. Slice cake into two layers (three if you're ambitious). Slice strawberries and kiwis prettily, and save even the oddly shaped pieces. Dry the cut fruit pieces gently with paper towels.
  2. Spread custard onto bottom layer of cake. Arrange ugly strawberries and kiwis on top of the custard layer, then spread more custard on top followed by the top layer of cake
  3. Smother whipped cream frosting over the whole thing, and decorate with kiwis, strawberries, blackberries, and pipe on frosting decorations as desired.
  4. For the glaze, add equal parts strawberry jam and water to a saucepan and boil gently until thickened, then strain into a cup and allow to cool. Use a small brush to glaze the fruit pieces.
  5. Stare at your masterpiece. It's hard work but you'll be so proud ^_^
This cake tastes the best when served the day that it's made, but can also be made a day in advance which is what we did. Khoi had to wait a whole day before he could eat it :(

Thursday, December 11, 2014

No-Bake Raspberry Goat Cheese Cheesecake

This was my first attempt at a no-bake cheesecake, and I definitely like baked ones better. However, they can be a pain to make and this is just so easy. I was inspired by this recipe from The New York Times but made a bunch of adjustments, based on user comments on the recipe and ingredients available in my kitchen. I didn't like it much initially when I served it after a big dinner, but I brought the rest of the cheesecake to class to share. I was ravenous and snacked on a huge slice, and it was really delicious. This is something that takes some getting used to, but it grows on you.

Inspired by this recipe for Double Strawberry Cheesecake

  • Store bought graham cracker crust
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1.5 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 2 packs of 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 oz goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I would increase this next time since it was a tad tart)
  • 1/2 lb of fresh raspberries, plus more to garnish

Measure out red wine into a small cup and add gelatin, then let sit for 5 minutes while the gelatin blooms. Once the time is up, microwave for 10 sec intervals until the gelatin is just dissolved and the mixture is liquid, but not hot.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, goat cheese, and sugar with an electric mixer. 

Add raspberries and continue beating until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours to set. See how easy peasy it is :)

I served the cheesecake as dessert for a dinner date at home, with bacon, mushroom, and spinach risotto and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Helen Asian Kitchen

I've been meaning to check out this place for the name alone. There's not many places in Columbus that have great authentic Chinese food (the best on my list, before checking this restaurant out, was Fortune). We were pretty skeptical initially since it's located in the same plaza as a Super 8 and a Waffle House, but once we parked and stepped inside, we knew we were in for a treat. 

The tasters. One of our friends who often eats with us but is deathly afraid of spicy food was out of town, so we didn't feel bad for coming here.

Dan dan noodlies. They did a great job with this, as the texture of the noodles was good and the sauce was authentic.

Pork lungs in chili sauce. This is one of those traditional dishes that's commonly ordered and hard to mess up, and their rendition did not disappoint.

Sichuan boiled fish. Really darn spicy (check out all that chili oil) -- the kind that makes your ears burn and your eyes water and your tongue wants to fall off. 

Sichuan dry fried pork intestines -- 'twas my favorite.

Dat expression (when the fried pork intestines arrived on our table). It really was that great, we were practically fighting for the final pieces.

Scallion pancakes. They were really light and flakey, and pipping hot when they arrived on our table. 

Soup dumplings. I'm not generally a huge fan, but they're good for soup dumplings.

Is this a metaphor?

1070 E. Dublin Granville Rd.
Columbus, OH 43229
(614) 987-5121

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hot and Hot Fish Club

I heard about Hot and Hot Fish Club in 2012, which was the year when their head chef Chris Hastings won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the South, and also the year when my parents first moved to Birmingham. I expressed to my parents that I really wanted to dine here at one point, but didn't think that it would actually happen and forgot that I had brought it up.

My parents did remember and made a reservation for Thanksgiving break, since it was a special occasion: I was visiting home for the first time in a year, Khoi was visiting for the first time, and my publication from undergrad finally came out -- lots of reasons to celebrate. We came here on a Wednesday evening at 6PM, and while it was a beautiful restaurant, the dining experience itself was disappointing.

Amuse bouche, some type of custard thing. I was neutral about this.

Oysters, my favorite part of the meal. They were very fresh and tasted great. We ordered one round and then a second.

Bone marrow in pine needle ravioli -- juniper, mushroom broth, chanterelle mushrooms, pea tendrils, and local chestnuts. I tried a bite and the flavors were okay, but the texture was strangely gritty as if there was sand in the ravioli. Also, one order only had a single ravioli...

Sausage, no longer on the menu online so I don't have the full name nor list of ingredients. I was indifferent to this dish but it was a tad too salty.

Variations of fall salads -- ruby streak mustard greens and persimmon, heron hollow Asian greens and black garlic, fall vegetables with arugula and rainbow chard. I did not appreciate this dish, as the textures and flavors didn't work well together. It was as if they threw together a bunch of cool ingredients for the sake of being cool, not because it would taste great.

My dad's dish. Fudge family farms pork -- loin, belly, and crepinette with apples, sea island red peas, sunchoke puree, roasted brussels sprouts, cipollini onions and sage. He seemed impartial to his dish but he ate most of it, leaving the pork belly untouched.

Khoi's dish. Barjack -- “chowder” with hominy, bacon, Snow’s Bend Farm fall vegetables, and pesto. He seemed to enjoy it. I tried a bite and the fish was well cooked, but nothing about the dish stood out to me.

My dish: roasted rabbit rouland and braised legs -- Anson Mills wheat berry risotto, heron hollow mustard greens, radish, and bacon sorghum vinaigrette. My dish was beautiful but tasted mediocre. The meat wasn't properly seasoned, the risotto was too tough (I understand wheatberries have this texture, but I don't think it pairs well with the dish). The heated plate dried out the cream sauce that decorated the plate, giving it a goopy texture. But it was still better than my mom's dish...

My mom really disliked her dish. It's supposed to be simple grilled tuna fish, also no longer listed online so I don't have the full name/ ingredients. We didn't realize from the description that the dish would be a seared tuna steak that's raw in the middle, which she greatly dislikes. The grilled outer part of the fish was too tough. Additionally, the sauce had the same goopy problem as my dish. She gave away bites of her food to all of us since she didn't want to finish it.

Overall, I was not impressed with this restaurant. I didn't feel like the flavors of the dishes were complex, as a lot of them were overly salted and lacked nuances that would make the dishes more interesting. The textures were strange -- the congealed sauces, the gritty ravioli, etc. The service was great and the restaurant owner even stopped by to thank us for dining with them, but my parents were too polite to say that they really disliked the food. Environment wise, it was pretty but also pretty standard for a New American restaurant and hence it wasn't special enough to be worth the price considering the quality of the food. I usually liked to order dessert when we eat out somewhere nice, but I opted out since I felt like I would be disappointed again. I disliked my dining experience here, felt bad that I chose this place, and would not return to this restaurant in the future.

2180 11th Court South
Birmingham, Alabama 35205
(205) 933-5474

Sunday, December 7, 2014

October and November Recent Eats/Updates

I feel guilty, it's been months since I last posted. This is probably the longest break I've taken since I started, but hopefully this won't happen again. I still take a ton of photos and have them organized by folders into pending posts, and at one point I started trying to figure out ways to condense multiple posts into just a few since there's been so much that's happened and so many delicious things consumed. I have a few more posts planned, and hopefully they'll be posted soon when I find the time.

Segment A: Life Events

I got my citizenship! And I changed my name legally to Helen.

We went apple picking. The orchard strangely also had Asian pears for picking, which was an unexpected finding for the middle of Ohio. 

We had the best group costume for Halloween! Our only shortcoming was that didn't recruit a sultan. Unfortunate :(

And we competed in a chili contest, although we didn't win any ribbons unfortunately. It's because the judges didn't award us cool points for our team name (, poster, costumes, or logo, all of which I'm pretty proud of. The chili recipe we used was pretty great too, hurumph.

(Chili contest logo)

I got to celebrate Friendsgiving with some of the best people.

We had not one, but two deep fried turkeys (although only one is pictured).

And Thanksgiving again for reals with my fam :)

And I got my first car! I bought a reindeer costume for her as soon as I got back to Columbus after Thanksgiving. Such a grown up I'm becoming.

Segment B: Delicious Things My BF Cooked For Me

Jamie Oliver's Pappardelle with Amazing Slow Cooked Meat, using lamb. He was trying to recreate a dish that he tried in Napa, and he said it wasn't quite the same. I thought it was amazing nonetheless.

Kombucha Japanese cheesecake, with my homemade green tea ice cream. He roasted the kombucha to make puree from scratch even.

Pan roast. He tried this dish at a restaurant in Vegas and tried to recreate it for me to try. We're stopping in Vegas over winter break, and hopefully I'll be able to compare how close his version is to the real thing. 

Segment C: My Fewds + Miscellaneous

White bean, chicken, and corn chowder. I love rich, pipping hot stews when it gets cold out so this was quite lovely. I was trying to be healthy, so I subbed in turkey bacon. I'm sure it'd taste even better if you used the real stuff. 

Pineapple fried rice and pineapple green tea boba. Fried rice tastes so much better when you eat it out of a pineapple. I have no idea why that is.

I took a free cooking class through school, and it was seafood themed so we made mussels and two types of fried fish. 'Twas all free -- sometimes being in school has its perks.

Wendy's BBQ fries. Cheese and bbq sounds weird and also tastes weird, but it grows on you after awhile. Also I've eaten too much fast food recently. Khoi and I actually stopped by KFC, Buckeye Fried Chicken, and Church's on the same day once. I get a strange satisfaction in telling people about this. 

Lastly, cat :D