Sunday, July 29, 2007

Review: Bun Bo Hue An Nam

Armed with Wandering Chopstick's advice and the technology of Mapquest, I finally made it over to Bun Bo Hue An Nam. I came very close to giving up again, but pressed on to find this little gem. All the reviews on Yelp are correct. It's hidden in a ghettoish shopping center, but the inside of the restaurant was hip and posh. When I went in, a little cute old man greeted me to see if I wanted to eat in the restaurant. Instead I asked him where to get take-out. He directed me to the front counter where I found a really cool host. I told him I wanted to order take-out and they immediatly asked if I wanted Bun Bo Hue. Damn, that's the first sign that this place makes good spicy noodles. I nodded my head and the woman next to the host said it would be 5 minutes. The host said "Make it 3 minutes." Cool! I felt like I was getting special treatment. I paid the tab and had some change which I wanted to tip. The host said to not tip, since I wasn't eating at the restaurant. Haha... free money and he won't take it. I like this place a lot.

3 minutes rolled by and my order was ready. This place knows what they're doing. I drove home and scrambled for a soup bowl, spoon and chopsticks. I was excited to try this one due to the high praise from Yelp and Wandering Chopsticks. I dumped the noodles, meat and soup in the bowl and microwaved it for a couple minutes.

Oh.. my... God. This IS good! It was very unlike the version I had at Pho Vy and closer to what I had at Danh's Garden Restaurant. Except better. Now I know what everyone was talking about. Fresh greens, good braised beef, lovely deep flavored broth and perfectly cooked noodles. You really can't go wrong with this place. Great service and excellent food. I suppose if I had to make a complaint, it would be that they didn't have the pork knuckle like Danh's had, but I wasn't really missing it anyway. There was some thinly sliced pork along with the braised beef which made up for it.

My stomach's definitely growling for more. Thanks WC for the recommendation. Next up is Vung Tau which I hope to hit this week. I'll let Tigerfish and my loyal readers how it goes. Haha loyal readers. Really guys, thanks for checking in with my blog! I appreciate it!

Now tell me that doesn't look good. *droooool*

Cooking: Char Sui Sow & Luau Partay

I told Tigerfish that I'd make her char sui sow recipe for poker, but got lazy and made something else instead. I was invited to Tina & Dave's (a couple ex coworkers from a while back) Luau party yesterday and I had an itch to do something productive and cook. So, what better recipe to try out than Tigerfish's char sui sows right?

So here's what I started out with. Oyster sauce, sugar and pepper in one bowl. Corn starch and water in the other. To make things easier on myself, I chopped up store bought char sui, onion and garlic. My hand started to hurt from chopping up the meat, but you gotta start from somewhere to get chef muscles right?

Tigerfish's recipe says to throw everything in a pan to saute and incorporate all the ingrediants, but I decided to saute the onions first and then add the garlic and char sui.

After all the ingrediants are mixed well together, I added the cornstarch and let the mixture thicken up. Off the heat it goes to cool down.

Now the hard part. I let the puff pastry sheets (I used 3) thaw out so I could cut them up into squares. Then you wrap your cooled mixture in the puff pastry and seal the ends. The puff pastry was a little hard to work with since it was so finicky on a warm day. It was getting mushy, but not to the point where I couldn't make it work. Once they meat mixture is wrapped, I brushed it with an egg wash and poked holes on the tops. Into a 395 degree oven for 22 minutes.

Fresh outta the oven!

They looked kinda plain to me so I decided to drizzle the tops with honey and sprinkle black and white sesame seeds, and green onions on top for garnish. How do they look? Well, how did they taste? I really liked them although the meat on the inside was slightly salty. I had added the soy sauce stuff that comes with the char sui and that probably wasn't the best idea. But still pretty good.

I relaxed after baking and then decided to hit the road and join the party. I was really pleased that everyone enjoyed my "Chinese Baklava". They were gone within an hour or so! Here are some pictures from the party. Oh and in a couple of the pictures, they were playing tug of war with some Muscat because they couldn't get the cork out. Funny stuff...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Review: Bun Bo Hue @ Pho Vy

Alright, I'm not gonna lie. After I read Eat Drink & Be Merry's post on Bun Bo Hue, I was drooling. Literally drooling at work. My stomach was growling like crazy and I couldn't wait until Justyn took me to Vung Tau on Friday so I could finally try their verson of the spicy noodles. However, he's going to be at the San Jose Grand Prix volunteering for San Jose Search & Rescue. So today, I did a lot of research to see if I could find a pho place for lunch that had Bun Bo Hue. Nobody had it, except for Pho Vy. I had been there before and wasn't that impressed with their pho. I mean, it's not bad, but it's not the best either. It's decent.

So as 11:00am neared, my stomach was pretty much yelling for me to feed it some spicy noodle soup. I needed it to remedy my so far 3 day hangover. Actually, I don't even know what it was. My stomach was gurgling and I felt extremely dehydrated. OK, maybe it was a hangover. Damn that plum wine!!

Justyn was around the corner from work and picked me up and we were on our way! When we got to the restaurant there weren't a lot of patrons, but we were early for lunch as always. We sat down, ordered and got our drinks. Our food arrived very quickly which was good.

My Bun Bo Hue looked spicy. I mean I knew it was going to be hot, but damn. Little flecks of chili speckled the soup and there was a bunch of chili oil in it. I saw the pork knuckle or what I thought was knuckle. It wasn't a big chunk like ED&BM's. It thinly sliced which was weird. There was, however, the braised beef slices and the pork meatloaf. Then, a chunk of coagulated blood. I have tried it, and I'm not one that likes it, so I scooped that out and added some Thai basil and a squeeze of lime juice.

I slurped up my first spoonful of spicy goodness and nearly choked. Holy crap this stuff is spicy! Did I stop there? No way, with my nose full of snot, eyes watering and forehead sweating like crazy, I still trucked on. I loved the flavors in the soup and the noodles were perfect. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the amount of oil in the soup. It made everything very greasy. I also would have preferred it to be not as spicy as it was. I mean me choking on the first bite HURT like crazy. I added some plum sauce to each of the bites which cut the heat a bit but in the end, I finished it all.

Next, I'm definitely going to make an effort to try Vung Tau's version of this. And then maybe even go to Bun Bo Hue An Nam that Wandering Chopsticks recommended.

Addendum: I tried out a new pho place near my place after searching for Bun Bo Hue An Nam for what seemed like forever. I eventually gave up looking and pulled into a very VERY ghetto shopping center where I found Danh's Garden Restaurant. This place served both Vietnamese and Chinese Cuisine. To me, that didn't bode well. My expectations for restaurants are to focus on one thing and do it well. I was cranky and tired from work and all I wanted was some bun bo hue. At least better than Pho Vy.

I entered the ghetto restaurant and found two tables occupied. Mind you this is around dinner time so I expected more patrons. I flipped through their menu and carefully told the waiter what I wanted. I sat down at a table clutching my purse nervously waiting for my take-out order. There was no way I was going to eat there. I mean, the table of 8 guys that looked somewhat like triad gang members were scary enough. All my muscles were tensed for the entire wait. And by wait, I mean serious wait. I must've sat there for eternity. At least it seemed that way. I think I probably sat there for a good 15 minutes. At least the waiter was kind enough to bring me some iced water. It was pretty warm out afterall.

Eventually my food was packaged up neatly, I paid my tab and just about bolted out there. I found my car parked in the same spot which was good and drove off.

OK, my story's getting kinda long winded but I wanted you guys to get the full experience of how I felt and what I had to go through to acquire some bun bo hue.

Well? WELL? Come on! Spill the beans right?

OMFG these were so good. This is only my second bowl of this stuff and boy was I amazed. Sour, spicey, NOT oily at all. I even got the pork knuckle that ED&BM wrote about. The greens were all there including cabbage, basil, some purpley looking mint stuff, curly green and yellowish brown vegetation, jalapenos and bean sprouts. I added everything to my noodle soup except for the jalapenos and bean sprouts. Gosh you guys, I can't even tell you how good it was. Now I really can't wait to try the places that Wandering Chopsticks and Tigerfish recommended. Surely it must be much better than this place. Not to even say that Danh's Garden Restaurant wasn't good. Wow!

There you have it. My second review of Bun Bo Hue. And no.. there was no time to take a picture of it. Yeah, that's how good it was hehe.

Donkay Challenge Part V

Alright so this write up of Part V of the Donkay Challenge is probably going to be vague because I don't remember much of it, but I'll try my best!

This time it was John's turn to cook so it was held at his lovely home in Fremont.

And here's part of the reason why things will be somewhat vague. When I saw this I was shocked. I thought I was a boozer. God damn!!!

The ingrediants that were picked out for his myster box contained the following:

Flank steak
Red Onion
Hot Dogs
Lovely Purple Potatoes

Here's John cooking his stuff up and being an aboslutely lovely chef/host. He was cracking me up the entire time while we were having drinks. Even Timmys, Chef Jeff and Audrey also joined in on the fun!

Before he started the main and side dishes, he made us an appetizer of bruschetta which was very garlicky and I loved it.

He basically took the flank steak and rolled them up with what I recall is mushrooms and cream cheese.

The squash and purple potatoes were seasoned simply with salt, pepper and olive oil. He decided to roast them in his oven.

Although he tied the flank steak with string, they still fell apart after he cut them. I'm not sure why, but the meat was still pretty good. Tender and juicy. As for the potatoes and squash those were seasoned well and were delicious.

When things got fuzzy, we watched Hell's Kitchen in one of the rooms where I believe I fell asleep again! Augh, I really need to get more sleep the night before to be able to stay up longer. What really did me in was the plum wine that Justyn and I bought. Apparently, I started drinking that straight out of the bottle. Obviously, that was not a good idea because I ended up sick for the next three days. In fact, as I write this, I'm still not feeling 100%. It was a really good time and I'm really glad I got to meet John. He's a great guy and hilarious to hang out with! Good times guys!

Obon Festival - Mountain View

This past Saturday, Donoho, Justyn and I went over to the Obon Festival in Mountain View. Unfortunately, I realized that San Jose's Obon Festival was the week before and I was busy. Let me just say this after seeing Oishii Eat's post on their Obon Festival, I had very high expectations. Okinomiyaki, Tako Yaki (octopus balls), Udon, Sushi, Sashimi... you know, the works. Well, after driving around in circles trying to find parking, we finally made it.

As we approached the entrance I heard the lovely Taiko drums banging away in rhythm. That made me happy but my stomach was grumbling. I waited to eat lunch at the festival instead of snacking at home. So, what did we find?

No Okinomiyaki, no Udon, no Tako Yaki. WTF? Those were the three things I had been craving. Well, not the Udon since it was a nice warm summer day but come on. French fries and corndogs? Come on!!

So needless to say, I was disappointed. I dragged my feet on the ground not wanting to eat but Justyn took charge and said he was going to get some tempura, SPAM musubi & beer. Yes, at least they had some refreshment to end my depression.

Alright, I was feeling better after we ordered so we dug in. How was the tempura? Soggy and greasy. They didn't even have tempura dipping sauce! The SPAM musubi was nothing compared to my homemade version. It was bland and ugh.. I feel bad for dissing the festival since it was a buddhist temple that was throwing the thing but jeez..

Anyway, after our half assed lunch I decided to get more refreshments. Sake... in fact, I had two of them. Justyn spotted some shaved ice, so he got it with condensed milk and red bean paste. I tried a bit of it, which I didn't like.

Well, to give this festival a break, I did end up having a good time after drinks. Plus we left the festival early enough to get home so I could hang out with Donoho and Justyn while playing Grand Theft Auto III. So my Saturday wasn't entirely wasted on bad food!