Every time when I have high quality sushis like the above at a very affordable price, I feel so lucky to be living in Los Angeles. The above Bento (lunch) box is called the New Yorker, which has 4 pieces of California rolls, 2 pieces of grilled eel sushis, and 2 pieces of shrimp sushis. This beautiful lunch box with the beautifully packaged soy sauce pack is only $6.49, which is a bargain for fresh and high quality sushis like these. I can't say this Bento is the best sushi in the world or even the best in Los Angeles. But these are the best tasting sushis that are available in grocery stores. Yes, I had tried all sushis at all grocery stores here in the greater Los Angeles area. The above Bento is the only grocery store sushis I like, the only!!! The quality and the freshness of the above sushis is way better than a lot of sushis that are available in expensive restaurants in a lot of towns in other states. I went to this Japanese supermarket during lunch hour when there were a lot of Japanese executives and employees from Honda and Toyota who were also buying the sushis there. This is why this supermarket is "the place" to go for those of you who want to have a good taste of Japan here in the USA. In the evening, the sushis are all sold at a 20% discount. I think it's because they don't keep sushis overnight and they have to make them fresh everyday. I stop by there a whole lot after work because of the bargain. Be warned that once you have these sushis, you will not be able to go back to the typical grocery store bought sushis. These babies will make you want to stay here in LA forever and ever... But I am sure Plano Texas will have good sushis like these pretty soon, since Toyota is relocating there in 2017.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
Content contributed by: Jane Ong
I ate a lot of instant Ramen. Instant Ramen was the only thing I'm competent in cooking. It's easy and it's always tasty to me. I'm just addicted to Ramen. But I have to say I don't like the Nissan brand of Instant Ramen at American grocery stores. I would not be eating so much instant Ramen if only that were the only brand available. All my friends who had tried the Asian Ramen I recommended to them can't go back to the typical instant Ramen at the American grocery stores. The above Scallops Ramen Noodle Soup was made with one of my favorite brands of Asian instant Ramen.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Content contributed by: Jane Ong
I never had the discipline to take vitamins. I never had the taste for the gigantic vitamin pills either. I don't think I know how to swallow them without choking. Although I firmly believe in the benefits of vitamins, I'm not sure if the vitamin pills in the market really contain the vitamins their bottle labels say they have. After all, the label always have this warning that negates every benefit the label claims, "This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
So I never bothered to take vitamins. I rarely got sick anyway because I'm disciplined in always washing my hands and not touching door knobs and elevator buttons with my bare hands. I always carry a pack of kleenex to open doors and operate the elevators.
But last week, I had my first cold for years. It'd been so long that I didn't even remember how it was like to have a cold. The sore throat in the middle of the night woke me and reminded me how bad a cold felt. I think I got it because my colleagues at work were sick and they were coughing at my face literally. This is why I really appreciate the Japanese culture. Japanese who have a cold or flu often wear masks because they don't want to cough up into the air and infect others. But in other countries and America, sick people go to work, proudly cough up into the air as if it's their God given right. So, that's how I got my cold. I think my immune system had been pretty good all those years but finally there was this strand of cold that got me down.
Out of desperation for cold relief, I went to the drugstore to look for Vitamin C. I tried to look for a brand that claims to use all natural ingredients only, and a brand that is well established. My feeling was, if I were to take some magical supplements based on faith only, I should take one that is least likely to do harm to my body. That's when I discovered the above vitamin C gummies ($7.99 for a bottle of 80 gummies). I love candies anyway, so why not? I took two gummies for each of the 3 days I was suffering from my cold symptoms and I have been taking them everyday even after my cold symptoms were gone on day 4. It's because I enjoy candies and I want to finish up the whole bottle. These vitamin C gummies have good orange candy flavor with no after-taste at all. They taste pretty good to me for candies' sake. And if these candies actually have all the Vitamin C the label claims they have, minus all the artificial ingredients, then these are worth my jump of faith.
These vitamin C gummies are made in Columbia, not in the USA, so do I trust the manufacturing process in Columbia? And do I ever wonder why they can't be made in the USA but only in Columbia? Yes I do wonder and yes, my speculative answers in my mind for these questions cast certain doubts about the quality of these vitamin gummies. But I don't care, because to me, great tasting candies are always worth the risks of the lack of FDA evaluation and health benefits. Whether my recovery from my cold in 3 days was due to my own strong immune system or the help of the extra vitamin C I took from these delicious gummies, this vitamin is worth taking during the cold season. Life is a gamble and taking this vitamin C during my cold is a gamble I'm willing to take, even if it's only for the taste of it. But will I buy another bottle when I finish this one? No, not until I have another cold again. It's because I don't want to limit my consumption of snacks to just the candies manufactured in Columbia.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Content contributed by: Jane Ong
These muffins are the best Banana Nut Muffins I ever tasted even though I was very confused after watching Tyler Florence's demonstration on the video and reading the printed recipe. I was torn between using 1.5 cups of flour as told by the video and 2 cups of flour as written on the recipe. Also, Tyler said in the video he was using 1.5 cups of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extra, while the printed recipe instructs the use of 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extra. After a lot of head scratching, I decided to follow the printed recipe exactly. I'm glad I did because these muffins turned out to be very delicious with a great texture and a heavenly aroma. They aren't overly sweet like the ones in the grocery stores. To me, these muffins just have the right sweetness. The ingredients are just what I always have in my kitchen. I found this recipe when I was desperately looking for ways to use up the very ripe and spotty bananas. I love this recipe because unlike other banana muffin recipes, this one doesn't require a long list of special ingredients like special yogurt, flaxseed, banana pudding mix, bran, honey, and the list goes on and on . This is a short and simple recipe that produced super delicious and wholesome banana nut muffins. I made 12 this morning for breakfast and we only have 6 left. Next time I'm going to try to follow the video and see if the muffins will taste any different.
Friday, April 17, 2015
I always feel that I am a hot pot fanatic. Since I had tasted the first hot pot many years ago, I have felt that it's the most comforting of all comfort foods. Hot pot is a very popular type of table top cooking in China, Taiwan and Japan. I'm not sure if this is the case in Korea though. In Japan, this type of cooking is called Shabu Shabu. I think I like both the Chinese and Japanese hot pots equally. But today I realize I'm quite ignorant to believe that I love "Chinese" hotpot as if all the Chinese hotpots I had could represent all the hot pots in China.
Today, one of my clients in Torrance took me to a popular hot pot restaurant for lunch. This restaurant is called Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot Restaurant (2575 Pacific Coast Hwy, Torrance, CA 90505). My client took me there because he knew I was always craving for hot pots and he heard lots of good reviews on this restaurant. Adventurous as he is about food, he took me there because he wanted to experience what hot pot dining was like. In any kind of adventure, there is of course the risk of a bad ending. And that's exactly the case for us today. We didn't enjoy our lunch. There was the early sign that told me this restaurant wouldn't be my cup of tea. The decors are good and the restaurant appears to be clean, modern and spacious. But after I settled in my seat, I had been smelling some kind of weird smell that made me nauseous. At the beginning, I wasn't quite sure what it was. The smell was musty, gamy, and somewhat herbal (not the refreshing smelling type of herbal fragrance like our shampoos, but some very foul smelling herbs from some old Chinese grandma's herbal medicine pot that had been simmering on the stove for hours...)
Anyway, I thought after I started my hotpot, my table top cooking would generate such a nice aroma that I wouldn't notice the musty background smell anymore. So I ordered the $9.99 lunch special with the half and half broth bases (the house special broth and the house spicy broth at medium), which also included my choice of meat (US Prime with an additional $1.00) and a plate of mixed vegetables, tofu, four meatballs, and the buckwheat noodles.
When my hot pot arrived, that was when I realized the background smell that I disliked had become a lot stronger. It was coming from the pot of broth! But the broth looked very similar to the delicious ones I had tried at other hot pot restaurants that I love. I thought may be after the broths were heated up, the strange smell would change into the aroma I loved during the cooking process. So I waited anxiously for the arrival of my meat and veggies so I could dump them all in and start the cooking process. When the plate of food arrived, it was then I also noticed, the veggies were a little wilted. The tofu had a texture that was different from the kind I normally love. The mushrooms were also not fresh and firm. The meatballs and the meat didn't have the quality and freshness I expected either. May be I shouldn't expect so much from a lunch that cost only $ 9.99 when I normally paid the usual price of $20.00 at the other hot pot restaurants that gave me much fresher ingredients to cook with.
I really disliked the broths, both flavors generated the aromas that made me feel nauseous. The meat and meatballs weren't that fresh. The meatballs were not of good quality. I once had freshly made meatballs in one of my favorite hot pot restaurants, the good ones are always made of freshly minced meat that are hand molded into balls inside the kitchen. You can tell just by biting into them, they aren't the rubbery factory manufactured ones imported from China. If the meat and vegetables were disappointing, the broths certainly didn't make our lunch taste any better. I don't know what was put inside the broths that produced such musty and gamy aroma. May be it was the lamb bones? May be it was the medicinal herbs (not cooking herbs) they added to the broth (and you can see them floating in the above photo). I'm sure a lot of people like this kind of age old musty smell. But not me. I don't like the smell of Chinese medicinal herbs, and I don't like anything that smells gamy. But the sensation of smell is a subjective thing. May be this is just how the Mongolian hot pot is supposed to smell.
Both my client and I found this smell too foul for our taste and we had a hard time trying to get rid of it for hours... It stuck inside our mouth and our nose for the rest of the long day. It was rather unpleasant. So today is the day I finally realize that there is actually a certain style of hot pot that I can't stand.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
My sweet tooth had been working up this morning so I went to one of my favorite cafes (inside Barnes & Noble at Torrance, CA) to get a fix. This time I picked the decadent Chocolate Mousse. This ultra rich mousse was built on a base of crumbled oreo-like crackers, topped with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate. It's $3.50 per piece and it tasted so good with the regular latte. To me, reading a thriller while zipping latte and indulging in this dense and delicious Chocolate Mousse is money well spent on a leisurely Sunday.
Friday, April 10, 2015
We are often told that Chinese food are better the next day. Sorry, we can't agree with that. We think that fresh Chinese food is so much better than the leftover that had spent one night in the fridge. But if we have no choice but to live on leftover Chinese food due to certain logistical reasons, like when we have to pack our lunch to work; then Young Chow Fried Rice is the kind of Chinese food that we don't mind so much as leftovers. We actually often stock up on Young Chow fried rice during our dinner runs just so we can have extra to bring to work for lunch the next day. Young Chow fried rice stores very well in the fridge and it can be heated up easily in the microwave. For those of you who are talented cooks, we believe that you can easily make it yourself. After all, it's just rice stir-fried with green peas, tiny diced carrots, shrimps, leftover Cantonese style BBQ pork, diced green onions and scrambled eggs. It's very much like the combination fried rice but it's called Young Chow Fried Rice because it's named after the Chinese city where the inventor of this dish was a magistrate back in the 18th century. The name of the dish is spelled differently in different parts of the world, but it is simply the name of the city in China, which is Yangzhou in the Jiangsu Province.
Since we aren't quite there yet in terms of cooking skills, and we are having this sucky jobs that have long commute and long working hours, we always just go get the fried rice from the Chinese restaurants. We feel that different Chinese restaurants cook different tasting Young Chow Fried Rice. Essentially, we only like the ones in which the rice isn't soggy, or sticky, and that isn't too salty with too much soy sauce. In fact, there shouldn't be soy sauce in Young Chow Fried Rice. We also prefer the kind that is well balanced with the BBQ pork, shrimps and the veggies. We don't like our Young Chow Fried rice to have too much of any of the ingredients. We can't say we have already found the restaurant that makes the best Young Chow Fried Rice, but we think Nice China Cafe (2543 Pacific Hwy Ste B., Torrance, CA 90505) makes decent Young Chow Fried Rice for $8.25. We only go there for take-out because this is a tiny restaurant that is under staff. It is just too crowded during peak meal hours for dine-in. We usually split one order of the Fried Rice into two servings to save money. But the half portion is still very filling to us. We often order multiple orders and store them in single serving glass containers in the freezer for our last minute lunch packing. We've been trying to keep our lunch at under $5.00 per person....
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Content contributed by: Jane Ong
Ginseng Chicken Soup is one of Korea's most popular and famous dishes. We feel that it can very well be Korea's national dish. It's a must-try soup for tourists who visit South Korea. (We aren't sure about North Korea though.) We think it's also a must-try soup for tourists who visit Los Angeles. Ginseng is one of the power foods that has numerous health benefiting properties, and chicken is also a power food. So this is the "Double-Power soup" we have whenever we have a cold. But even when we don't have a cold, we still crave for it because it's just so good. Lucky for my family, we recently found this soup being sold frozen at Hannam Chain Supermarket (3030 W. Sepulveda Blvd, Torrance, CA 90505). The frozen soup weighs 2-pounds and costs $12.99. What's inside the bag is exactly what you see on the photo on the packaging. It literally has a whole cornish hen inside with the usual stuffing. We like that the whole bag can be just heated up in a pot of water according to the instruction. It's easy and mess free. After heating the bag according to the package instruction, season with salt and it's ready to serve. This soup tastes as good as the ones we get from the Korean restaurants. It tastes so authentic! We totally love it, particularly because it's made in the USA.