Sunday Family Dinner


June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I know…it’s been a minute.

2018 was a blur—particularly the latter half. But I’ve received so many wonderful inquiries of what’s going on…..and if we’re still partaking in our monthly Family Dinner Foodventures.

We are most DEFINITELY still crafting and executing our Fam Dins…over 6.5 years later. ❤

So I’m doing my best to edit pics and recap what we’ve been up to for the past few months to catch you all up to speed. I hope to be up to date in the next few weeks–so they’ll be lots for you to see soon.

Let me rewind back to the summer where we somehow managed to get everyone’s schedule aligned and squeezed into a rental for the weekend. Let me tell you, this was quite the feat!

Even though we were only in Newport Beach (where I spent most of my college years lounging on the sand and frequenting the local watering holes….uh……I MEAN I WAS STUDYING!) my siblings and I have not been on “vacation” all together since maybe the early 90s? And even at that point, I can’t recall where we went. Camping? Maybe Yosemite?

So it was very special that we’d be spending the weekend together –less than a 100 feet away from the sand. What can I say? We’re beach people.

Because it was such an unusual Family Dinner (more like a Family Weekend getaway) this recap won’t feature what we cooked as much and the photos were mostly taken from our phones. But I hope you can get an idea of some of the shenanigans we had.

And it all started because of this one!

Yup, seester P hit the big 5-0…..and had wanted to do something memorable to celebrate. I’d say a beach getaway with her family fits that bill.


She looks more like 30-something. Good genes and great skincare will do that for you.

We also celebrated the other July babies that weekend too!

Seester N, Luna and B.I.L. R were also our special honorees.

When we arrived Friday afternoon, we spent some time getting situated into our digs and unpacking all of our groceries.

The house was super cute — 3 levels /4 bedrooms with an upstairs living space that opened up to the balcony. And my favorite beachy feature—an outdoor shower.

I think Brother V was pretty stoked about it all.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
As we settled in, Leo decided to head out to the beach and break in his kite…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

While S.I.L. L and Luna took a quick dip in the warm water.


Bella (never not “on duty”) took up a post to protect her family.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Of course there was some snacking. Essentials like chicken sausages, Cheetos and Sidecar Doughnuts.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
While I opted to take advantage of the deck and sunshine with some chilled Rosé with seester.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Why are all of the older munchkins towering over us?


But it is convenient for those times when I can’t reach things in the top cabinets.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Then it was time to start prepping Dinner #1 of the weekend.

K had some beautiful fresh ahi flown in from the islands and we put Nini to work on getting the Poke ready. Her knife skills are seriously on point.


Chunks of Ocean Love.

Good name for my next cook book.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Yup…even when it’s your birthday, we put you to work.

Here is P’s Peach and Kale Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since P and her clan live in SF, she really misses out when Brother randomly gets inspired and starts firing up his smoker. Since she was in SoCal, she wanted to take advantage of her visit (and her bday gal status!) and requested that he make his Smoked Tri Tip with Whipped Horseradish Cream.

Here he is searing the Tri Tip after it was smoked. Really one of my favs that he makes.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
By then Pops finally arrived so he took a tour of the house while drinking a glass of vino…like the G he is.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dad also brought us some tomatoes from his garden — beautiful little jewels!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dinner On!

Cocktails: Suntory Toki Whisky, Veuve Clicquot, Various Wines
Entrees: Smoked Tri Tip with Whipped Horseradish Cream, Smoked Duck (not pictured), Spicy Ahi Poke, Shoyu Poke
Sides: Peach and Kale Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts, Tomato and Basil Salad, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Dessert: La Bete Noire (“The Black Beast” Flourless Chocolate Cake)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Told ya that the pics aren’t 100%. But trust me….it was delicious.

I spy our fur babies in the background enjoying their dinners. ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Obligatory dinner pic!

Obligatory ginormous bottle of Justin Cabernet Sauvignon pic!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Those summer nights…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We loved this little patio.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
This is his “why are you taking pictures of me while I eat” look.

It’s what we do Dad…it’s what we do.

2018 Beach House Fam Din
I love Newport.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then it was time for P to blow out her birthday candles!

I made “La Bete Noire”… translation: The Black Beast.

It was a super decadent, flourless chocolate cake covered in a layer of chocolate ganache.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

And when there’s a French named cake, there must be French champagne!

It’s an undeniable rule…

that I just made up.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Pops and the Bday gal.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEA CH HOUSE
We like to drink Veuve Clicquot in cheap plastic cups….it keeps us honest.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION


At this point, I was fairly certain that one of us was going to have to buy this house so that we could keep it in the family.

As for Princess Leia, she was already exhausted.

She’s not used to all of those stairs!

T and I took that as a cue to change into our PJs.


You don’t have matching PJs with your siblings?

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEA CH HOUSE
That’s also about the point where the girls broke into the s’mores stash and the jigsaw puzzles.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Safe to say, Leo was a fan of the S’mores.

Kaelani opted to spend a little time with Paw Patrol before bed.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And that’s when T also decided to prep one of the desserts for Dinner #2 -a New York Cheesecake, per P’s request.

Look how focused my Lucas looks with that hand mixer.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

I have no idea what time it is at this point because I went to bed at around 2am.

But the girls were still up, steadily working on that puzzle.

In fact, Nini and Maya stayed up the ENTIRE night! Oh how it is to be young!

They ended up walking to the beach to watch the sun rise while the rest of the house was passed out!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

And lucky for us because that meant that we woke up to the smell of Nini frying SPAM! Oh the glorious aromas of SPAM frying in the morning cannot be beat!

And yes, that was a lot of SPAM.

But we were like a mini-army —so it was ok.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
P also really wanted Monkey Bread for breakfast — I know, she sure did have A LOT of requests!

So big seester N obliged and put together this 50,000 lb. dome of sugary, doughy goodness.

That glisten tho’!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
While breakfast was getting situated, an epic checkers match was going down.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

At that point, these two could wait no longer and dug into the Monkey Bread.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I paired mine with a glass of Rosé.

Hey-I was on vacay!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
If I hadn’t said it before, Kaelani LOVES being around her big cousins. Her face just lights up being around them.

In other news…

Someone was living her best life.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Then N jumped on the back of V and L’s Vespa to snap this pic. I swear that there’s a similar black/white pic of Mom back in Viet Nam on a scooter like this. I’ve got to find it.

It was also about this time when N declared that she wanted a birthday dessert of her own choosing. Luckily she chose a Key Lime Pie —not only one of my favorite desserts, but also fairly simple to make.

We realized that we needed to pick up a couple of essential ingredients at the store but if you’re familiar with beach towns in the summer– street parking is terrible! Which is exactly why V and L brought their Vespa that weekend–for quick errand runs and also for us to cruise around Newport and Balboa.

Those Smarties!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

Cue in Nina and L.

The eldest munchkin had never been on a scooter before so Brother plunked a helmet on her….

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
…and sent her zipping away with L!

Her peals of laughter as she zoomed away was hysterical. Also, Luna’s look of shock in the background while she was dutifully walking Leia was equally entertaining.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Don’t worry….the scooter wasn’t on when they took this.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

N also decided to take advantage of her bday gal status and requested that V sharpen her kitchen knives.

Yes…she brought her knives from home.

And yes….he brought a whetstone.

It may not be what your family does on vacay—but it’s what we do!

At this point, Nini started braiding Maya’s hair…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And ended up braiding Luna and Kaelani’s too!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

My girls…

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then I felt left out….so she braided my hair, too.


June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since we had planned to spend the entire day in the sand and water, N thought it would be a great idea to pack a picnic lunch so that we could enjoy it leisurely in between naps and swim time.

She made tons of Roast Chicken-Pesto Sandwiches on Ciabatta and Roast Beef Croissant Sammies. We also made some quick SPAM Fried Rice from the leftovers at breakfast and packed it up along with lots of chips, cold watermelon wedges and drinks.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

California Love ❤

Staking our claim to our little piece of paradise.


Look at these happy faces ❤

As much as I love my SoCal life, I’m still guilty for taking all of this for granted sometimes.

Watermelon break to cool down.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

Time to jump in!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION

Actually, I think Lucas maybe trying to throw Leo in here.

There were LOTS of sandcastle building.


And at some point, Nini caught a TON of sand crabs.

It makes me quite happy that our beach babies are not afraid to get all sandy.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION

Luna sure does love to dig sand pits….

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I wonder where she gets that from?

Sibbies! ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
I mean, someone’s got to get buried in the sand, right?


Maya was such a trooper.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And of course….

I love how much our munchkins love each other.

It makes this Auntie’s heart burst. ❤

Is Lucas trying to pilfer a sand crab here??

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
Obligatory peace sign pose.

About to frolic in the waves.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
I have to admit to you….about 1 minute after this pic was taken, I did a cartwheel.

And then totally crashed on my head.

Oh it was quite the scene!


Then I could not stop laughing.



June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
Oh well…….

And what is it about the beach that makes it the most perfect napping spot?

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
The sun? The snacks? The swimming?

Some of us napped for awhile and then at around 4pm, we decided to head back into the house to shower and clean up.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Ms. Kaelani decided she also needed a post beach manicure.

Amen, sister.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
T spent some QT with her fur nieces on the patio.

Bella seemed to be having the nap of her life while Leia was trying to figure out how she could squeeze in on that lap too.

The boys opted to catch up on an intense poker tournament on TV.

No clue people, no clue.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Leia finally gave up outside and opted for a quiet corner indoors.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And Maya, with that never ending youthful energy, decided to take a ride on the boardwalk with her dad.

Her shirt was totes appropriate.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We then decided to put out some snackies while folks mulled around.

Because being hangry is one thing BUT having a house FULL of hangry people is a natural disaster and should be avoided at all cost.

We sure do adore us some Charcuterie.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

We also thought it would be a good idea to take some fun family pics on the sand before it got too dark.

N and her clan had just gotten back from an epic trip to Thailand & Viet Nam and had brought us back souvenirs that we decided to wear in the photos. They gave the women/girls billowy pants that are worn when visiting the temples in Thailand. The men got knockoff/pun Patagonia tshirts that said “Saigonia”. For the two younger boys, they received bucket hats with fruit prints all over—apparently the rage in the coastal towns of VN.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Our July Babies!

Dad and his kiddos.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Grandpa with his grandchildren (including his fur grandchildren)….minus Kaelani. She was feeling a bit shy at that moment.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Nguyen Sibbies ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
The Dudes.


The Gals.


The Big Dudes.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And now EVERY ONE!

The Nguyen Kids.

So different and somehow, so alike.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Being the youngest had its ups and downs.

But my big seesters and brother… they sure do crack me up all the time.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
T and R.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I’ve got hundreds of pictures of us doing the exact same pose.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then it was time to get our last dinner on the table.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since P got to pick what she wanted for Friday’s dinner, our other July Babies got to dictate Dinner #2.

Luna LOVES pasta in red sauce so I fixed up big batches of slow cooked marinara.

R always wants lamb chops so T was tasked with grilling those.

As for N –her only request was pie and I was all about it.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Cocktails: Suntory Toki Whisky, Various Wines
Entrees: Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops, Farfalle with Marinara, Panko Crusted Ahi Patties
Sides: Mixed Fried Rice, Mustard Roasted Garlic Potatoes
Dessert: New York Style Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We train them young, we train them well.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dessert time!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
July is a poppin’ month for us when it comes to birthdays!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Luna’s birthday falls smack dab in between her two aunties.

P’s is on the 13th, N’s is on the 15th and Luna’s is on the 14th. Forever surrounded with love by her aunties. ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
The rest of the night was spent with moonlit bike/Vespa rides, more games and lots and lots of laughter.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Before we knew it…it was Sunday morning and it was time for us to go home.

None of us really wanted too….the beach casa was OUR home now after all, too.

So I gave the kiddos popsicles for breakfast to help ease the pain.

(Yes, they ate other stuff too.)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Once the house was clean and our cars were packed, we bade our beach house a final adieu!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
A certain puggle was REALLY not happy about it.

(Someone tell Bella that we live 1.5 miles away from the beach! #FirstPuggleProblems)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
But before we all parted our separate ways, we decided to grab one last meal together at a nearby restaurant  – Pitfire Pizza

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

As tired as we all were from a full weekend, it was bittersweet to end things. When you spend that much time with each other, you kind of get used to being around a crowd.

But at least we had one more meal together…

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
So we tucked into brunch and ordered dishes like:

Smashed Avocado Toast with Charred Corn and Chives

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
The Big Sur Pizza which had Gulf Shrimp, Tomato, Four Cheese, Mint, Chile –and we added on Prosciutto and Arugula.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
The Burrata Pizza – Caramelized Onion, Arugula, Pesto, Hazelnuts…and we added on La Quercia Prosciutto.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
And finally, the Sausage Party Pizza – Bacon, Sausage, Salami, Coppa, Tomato, Saba.

What a delicious way to end the weekend!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
Sure—barely 48 hours but what a blast we had! And we’re all hoping that it becomes a regular family tradition.

As B.I.L. C says – “Y’all come back now- ya hear!”

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE


Cooks Illustrated Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake

October 2017 Fam Din
We’re Chocoholics.

Every single one of us.

October 2017 Fam Din
From Ôn and Mệ (our paternal grandparents) that would give us Andes chocolates as goodies….

To our Folks…(particularly Dad these days…)

To all five Sibbies

and especially all of our Munchkins.

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
So when we discovered the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake from Porto’s Bakery –it became a staple at our celebrations!

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
A rich chocolate cake layer base….

Topped by a chocolatey mousse layer…

Then topped with another white chocolatey mousse layer.

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
A while back, seester asked me to make a version of our beloved cake. Which was perfect timing because I had just stumbled across a version by Cooks Illustrated that I really wanted to try out.

October 2017 Fam Din
Their recipes are very specific and detailed….but for this recipe, not difficult at all. Just takes some time. Trust the process, it’s so worth it.

Oh–and don’t skimp out on the quality chocolate peeps. Since it’s the star of the show, indulge a bit.

October 2017 Fam Din
The bottom layer is a flourless chocolate cake.

Decadent and delicious.

October 2017 Fam Din
The second layer, is a rich and scrumptious bittersweet chocolate mousse.

So velvety divine.

October 2017 Fam Din
Next is the fluffy white chocolate mousse layer — airy and dreamy.

And don’t forget the chocolate shavings to garnish!

October 2017 Fam Din
And now that I’m looking at these pictures — I’m wondering why the heckI haven’t made it recently again?! Must fix that soon!

Happy Chocolate Dreams!!! ❤


Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
Serves 12-16


6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
pinch table salt
⅓ cup packed (about 2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, crumbled with fingers to remove lumps

2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1½ cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt

¾ teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1½ cups cold heavy cream

Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for serving, optional


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 91/2-inch springform pan. Melt butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool mixture slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks; set aside.

In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down sides halfway through. Using whisk, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer batter to prepared springform pan, gently smoothing top with offset spatula.

Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft (center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (Cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove cake from pan.


Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.


In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Bring ½ cup cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly).

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip remaining cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon white chocolate mousse into pan over middle layer. Smooth top with offset spatula. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.


If using, garnish top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa. Run thin knife between cake and side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Run cleaned knife along outside of cake to smooth sides. Cut into slices and serve.


This recipe requires a springform pan at least 3 inches high. It is imperative that each layer is made in sequential order. Cool the base completely before topping it with the middle layer. We recommend Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar for the base and middle layers; our other recommended brand of chocolate, Callebaut Intense Dark L-60-40NV, may be used, but it will produce drier, slightly less sweet results. Our preferred brand of white chocolate is Guittard Choc-Au-Lait White Chips. For best results, chill the mixer bowl before whipping the heavy cream. The entire cake can be made through step 8 and refrigerated up to a day in advance; leave it out at room temperature for up to 45 minutes before releasing it from the cake pan and serving. For neater slices, use a cheese wire or dip your knife in hot water before cutting each slice.

Recipe: Cooks Illustrated. Instructional Video available here.


Appetizers/Small Plates · Seafood

Seafood with Chinese Chive Dumplings

April 2018 Fam Din
Remember these beauties?

They were one of the gajillion dumplings I had made for my Lucasaurus’ bday Fam Din.

It’s only fitting. He’s one of the generals in my Dumpling Army after all.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
Since the other dumplings were filled with either pork or chicken, it was a no-brainer that a seafood version had to join the party. I opted for a combo of shrimp and scallops but really, you can use anything you’d like.

And a perfect pairing to seafood are Chinese Chives — also known as Garlic Chives. Chinese Chives have a flavor that is a mix between scallions and onions –and they are HIGHLY aromatic.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
I use pre-packaged skins for these Seafood and Chinese Chives Dumplings and prefer the Shanghai style wrappers. I like their thinness and color once cooked.

Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings
I usually have a few packages tucked in my freezer for those times when I’m inspired to restock my dumplings stash.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings

Aren’t they adorable? Like little pouches?

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
Or like a roly poly?

Delicious — however you see them.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
When it’s time to cook them, just line a steamer with either cabbage leaves….

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
…or sheets of parchment paper with holes cut into them. The holes allow the steam to vent through the levels and cook the dumplings through.

April 2018 Fam Din
After about 8 minutes – voila!

April 2018 Fam Din
Super juicy, plump and perfect when dunked in the soy-vinegar-chili-sesame sauce I’ve included below.

April 2018 Fam Din
Hope you like them! ❤

Seafood with Chive Dumplings
Makes approximately 50-75 dumpings

2 cups Chinese chives, roughly chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 small shallot
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound scallops
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or other preferred rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce, more to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
50-75 Shanghai style dumpling skins
cabbage leaves for steaming (optional)
chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Dipping Sauce:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinkiang Black Vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoons homemade Sichuan Chili Oil (both the oil and flakes)

Place the chives, ginger, garlic and shallot in a food processor. Pulse several times until all of the ingredients have broken down and become roughly the same minced texture. Add the shrimp and scallops. Pulse until the seafood is chopped but not so much that it turns into a paste – you still want some pieces for texture. Add Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar and peppers. Pulse just until the ingredients have combined. Note: You can also due this all by hand but I love the convenience of using a food processor.

Test the filling for seasoning by taking a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side. Taste and if needed, add more soy sauce or fish sauce to the uncooked filling.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling skin on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of the dumpling skin. Next, choose one of the four following easy methods to seal the dumplings:

  1. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent shape and seal the entire edge by pinching the seam together. These dumplings will lay flat like my Sui Gao. -OR-
  2. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent. Starting from the left side, pleat – fold – and press the edges together, ensuring that you seal the entire dumpling tightly. These dumplings will lay flat but pleated like my Gyoza. -OR-
  3. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, make about 3-4 pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Repeat with the left side of the dumpling so that all the pleats point towards the center. This will create a flat bottom to allow the dumpling to sit upright and form a slight crescent shape like these Pan Fried Dumplings. -OR-
  4. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent shape and seal the entire edge by pinching the seam together. Next, create pleats from the left side all the way to the right side—pinching well to hold. *This is how the dumplings in these photos were folded.

Whichever method you choose, place the filled dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/skins have been used. Arrange the dumplings in a steamer (lined with cabbage leaves or parchment paper) and steam for 8-10 minutes.

While the dumplings steam, whisk all of the ingredients together for the dipping sauce and set aside.

Once the dumplings are steamed, transfer to a platter and sprinkle the scallions and sesame seeds on top. Serve immediately with sauce. ENJOY!

*If you would like to freeze the dumplings, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 4-5 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings have froze, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time when steaming the dumplings.*


Sunday Family Dinner

Kamayan Family Dinner – Masarap!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
At least one of the Family Dinners each year is truly epic. Sure, most months are delicious and we definitely put a lot of effort into them. But for these particular memorable dinners, we go EXTRA on the theme, make more dishes than usual and perhaps more shenanigans occur. Months like our Seafood Boil  or Lūʻau jump quickly to mind.

But so far, 2018 has had a few milestone dinners. The first of which was for my birth-month!

Okay more accurately, it was also L and Dad‘s birth-month celebration too!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Per usual, we started brainstorming the month before.

Right off the bat, Dad said he wanted Prime Rib and Chocolate Ice Cream. The man didn’t even take more than a few seconds to decide.

L said maybe sashimi? Maybe seafood? She was pretty open to things.

I thought maybe a sliders bar would be fun. A bunch of little burgers with a ton of different toppings to choose from?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

And then throughout the course of a couple of weeks and several text chains later, a theme out of left field emerged – a Kamayan Feast!

“Kamayan” is the Filipino traditional custom of eating solely with your hands that was prevalent prior to their Spanish colonization. These days, Kamayan occurs for holidays or celebrations and the sure telltale sign is a table covered with banana leaves and then piled high with a feast of customary Filipino foods. The usual suspects are roast pork, seafood, rice, lumpia, pancit, grilled vegetables and fresh fruit. Think family style–gone BIG!

For years now, folks (including B.I.L) have wondered why we haven’t chosen Filipino cuisine as one of our monthly themes. Sure, both B.I.L. R and S.I.L. L identify with their Filipino heritage (and thus a few of munchkins share that lineage) but it just never came to fruition.

Until now.

Let the Kamayan begin!!!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

And what made Fam Din extra special that month? It was the first time V and L hosted at their new digs!

Their clan relocated from NY about two years ago and officially moved into L’s childhood home. There’s been a lot of re-organizing and de-cluttering that’s been happening over the past several months but they were finally ready to welcome the tribe in! They’ve got lots of plans for remodeling and so forth – I love the place. It’s got a great vibe and let’s face it, the flow for a wonderful home to entertain in!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
The thing about Kamayan is that the feast happens all at once. There’s no multiple courses as it’s all served in one gigantic, delicious pile!

The “low fuss” approach gave R some time to sit down and relax with a cigar that he picked up when we were in NoLA the week before.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

And with all Fam Dins, it gave the munchkins LOTS of time to hang out and spend QT with each other. That’s my favorite part of it all.

And I mean, the tasty food isn’t bad motivation either.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Nina is a wonderful big cousie ❤

Did I tell you she’s 20 now?

Seriously, my heart hurts just thinking of it.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Approved Graffiti Activities.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I hope they look back on pictures like this years from now with their own little munckhins—remembering what a special family they are a part of. ❤

Ugh…there goes the heart hurting again….

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
V took this opportunity to try and shank T with a pair of tongs.

Big brothers will always be big brothers.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Speaking of T, she scored a bunch of homegrown blood oranges from a friend. So she busted out the electric citrus juicer (a serious game changer people, trust us) and was left with a quart of beautiful juice.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

We used up the juice for Mimosas and they were fantastic!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
And then it came time for me to put the munchkins to work.

In my opinion, if we’re doing Filipino cuisine, Lumpia Shanghai must be on the menu! It’s their take on eggrolls/fried spring rolls and that night I chose to make the filling with a combo of ground chicken and shrimp.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
We had quite the assembly line going!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Nini is quite skilled at meticulous tasks. Look at how perfect her lumpia turned out?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Yup, totally would hire her if we went pro.

And by “hire”, I mean she would be “volun-told”.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
She did so well that I gave her a break to snuggle with her fur cousin in the hammock while I fried the Lumpia.

Actually those two are often snuggle buddies ❤

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then R was up to bat with his mom’s recipe for Bistek Tagalog.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Bistek Tagalog are beef slices braised and browned in soy, garlic and either vinegar or calamansi juice. It’s then topped with thick slices of browned onions.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Quick Bistek break to take a pic with N!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
As you might’ve noticed above, we had deep friend Golden Pompano that L picked up. To keep it crispy, we kept it in the oven on a sheet pan on low heat.

And of course it’s got to be whole fish!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Dad never really knows what the theme of our family dinners are until he shows up. So you can imagine our surprise when he showed up with a ginormous 40lb Jackfruit – FRESH! It was perfect to have the distinct tropical fruit join the Kamayan table!

In the pic below you can see that he’s wearing latex gloves. It’s because the sap of the jackfruit is incredibly sticky that gloves are a must! It’s also a good tip to use some light vegetable oil to wipe the blade of your knife after every couple of slices. If not, you’re left with rather a big mess.

Jackfruit is delicious but highly laborious.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
T and Maya also introduced Dad to Snapchat filters that day. He was THOROUGHLY amused.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Nina was on produce duty! Fresh pineapple, mangoes, cucumbers and tomatoes.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
L got in on the action too!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then it was time for V to fire up the grill! Here he is charring up a bunch of Baby Bok Choy and Longanisa. Longanisa is a slightly sweet, Spanish influenced sausage that can often be found at Filipino breakfasts.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I admit it.

I didn’t make the longanisa – I picked it up at the Asian supermarket. I know, I know….but I didn’t have time and really wanted some on the table.


May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
V also grilled up the Eggplant that L sliced earlier.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then it was onto the seafood. Got to have LOTS of seafood at a Kamayan feast!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Did I mention that Dad loves it when we all cook for him? I mean, with five kids that love to cook, he’s in good hands.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Grilled Whole Shrimp and Squid – tasty!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
While the cooking was going down, Luna continued her training as Ollivander’s apprentice. Our niece has an affinity with the world of Harry Potter (much to her aunties’ delight!) and since she’s so crafty, she makes her own wands!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
For those that follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the Elder Wand she created for me. Incredible, right?

When T saw it, she declared she needed one too – so Luna went to work!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Auntie and niece casting spells … both of whom were sorted into Hufflepuff. Yours truly is a Ravenclaw.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
For the record, not all faces are happy all of the time at Fam Din.


May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then it was time to take my baby out of the oven – Oven Roasted Lechon Kawali.

Many Filipino feasts showcase whole roast pig. The pork is always so juicy and tender—and OH THAT CRACKLING!!!

To Die For!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
But as gluttonous as our Fam Dins can be, an entire pig seemed a bit much. Even for our standards!

Instead, I took a big ol’ slab of pork belly, brined it with a bunch of aromatics overnight and then rolled it up with some goodness inside. I then brushed the exterior with milk so that it would take on a beautiful color, roasted it (think of porchetta) and TA-DA!

The chicharrón was so crispy! It made me so happy that I did a little dance once it came out.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
With all the pieces done, it was finally time to assemble the table!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
First step was to cover our long table with banana leaves. Not only did it act as a decorative table “cloth” but once the hot food was piled on top, the heat released the natural oils from the leaves and left everything with a light fragrance and depth of flavor.

Note: If you use frozen banana leaves from the Asian grocery store like we did, be sure to rinse/wipe the leaves down before adding the food on top as there’s usually a bit of dirt remaining.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam DinNext, we made a long row of fresh steamed rice. Got to have a solid base right?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then everything was piled on top!

  • Dad’s Roast Beef (not traditional for a Kamayan but bday boy did request it!)
  • Oven Roasted Lechon Kawali
  • Bistek Tagalog
  • Grilled Longanisa
  • Crispy Fried Golden Pompano
  • Grilled Shrimp and Squid
  • Lumpia Shanghai
  • Charred Baby Bok Choy and Eggplant
  • Fresh Cucumber and Tomatoes
  • Fresh Jackfruit, Pineapple, Mango
  • Dipping Sauces: Prime Rib Au Jus, Suka (Filipino Cane Vinegar), Fish Sauce with Chiles

You want to dive right in, don’t you? I don’t blame you.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Nina’s doing her “low key” food photography.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
And so was Nini.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
When these two seesters aren’t bickering, they are quite adorable.

Hmmm…sound familiar?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
There was A LOT going on.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Bella was supervising.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
The Bulaons!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
The Les!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I have no idea why I don’t have a fam pic of the Nguyens. SORRY DUDES!

But I do have these of Dad and I!

It’s so blurry but I like both of the expressions on our faces. Dad is rather foodstruck and I am just giddy.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Say Kamayan!

ps. Please don’t give me crap about the Seahawks hat. He didn’t inherit that fanaticism from me. Go VIKES!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Everything was delicious. Each component hit a different note.

MASARAP! (Translation: Delicious!)

After the dinner, we needed to clean up and digest everything.


May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
You just know I had to get in on it.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Btw, this is Primo…the ceramic pug that protects the house.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
And last, there was my one request – Chocolate Marble Cake!

Growing up, it was my favorite — a dense yellow cake with swirls of chocolate. What could be better?

So seester N took up the dessert helm and made this beauty for us.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
That cake seriously weighed like 15lbs!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Making wishes!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Lovely layers!

She also made Chocolate Ice Cream (per Dad’s request) and Vietnamese Coffee Ice Creambecause we like options.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
More cuddles and QT in the sunken conversation pit.

As far as I’m concerned, every house needs a “conversation pit” that is connected to the fire place.

Having  a bar nearby doesn’t hurt either — refer to top left corner below.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Our Kamayan Feast was truly so epic. And it wasn’t just the caliber of the food–it was the entire day/night!

Nini ended up taking a ton of videos that day so I asked Nina to edit them together for a quick video. When you have a moment, check it below.

I should hire them for my marketing team. Thanks, Girls!

And that’s a wrap on our Kamayan Fam Din! It will definitely be in our memories for a long time to come!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Blood Orange Mimosas, Various Wines
Kamayan Table: Dad’s Roast Beef, Oven Roasted Lechon Kawali, Bistek Tagalog, Grilled Longanisa, Crispy Fried Golden Pompano, Grilled Shrimp and Squid, Lumpia Shanghai, Charred Baby Bok Choy and Eggplant, Fresh Cucumber and Tomatoes, Fresh Jackfruit, Pineapple, Mango
Dessert: Marble Cake, Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream, Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream


Sunday Family Dinner

Fam Din for the Best of Buds-Birthday Boys!

April 2018 Fam Din

Before I jump in, I must admit that my hiatus from posting was due to my endless birthday celebrations.

Yes, I realize my birthday was in May but it was a big milestone and I REALLY
C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E-D! I was living it up!

But I’m back now to share our Family Dinner where we celebrated these two best buds – Lucas and C! It’s always a bunch of fun to celebrate their birthmonth for Fam Din and it is ALWAYS delicious.

April 2018 Fam Din

It was even more eventful this time around because seester P came down from San Francisco with her crew. Which meant this little cutie-patootie was running around soaking up QT with her big cousins!

Oh Kaelani….you melt my heart ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

Whereas BIL C was pretty open for what he wanted on the menu, Lucas was VERY specific.

Hainanese Chicken and Rice.


Finally, Donuts and Mint Chip Ice Cream because he doesn’t like cake (I know…where did I go wrong?!?)

April 2018 Fam Din

Since P was in town we quickly assigned her dessert duty for Lucas’ requests. With Fam Din, we almost always have to start prepping dessert early since there’s often proofing, chilling, icing and decorating that needs to be done. So P got started on the dough the night before and used Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Glazed Doughnuts that can be found here.

April 2018 Fam Din

Although it was barely 3pm and too soon for dessert, she chose to fry them up. And you may be wondering “Why? Donuts are amazing fresh out the fryer.”

Well dear friends, it’s because the donuts were just a mere vessel to hold the bday boy’s beloved mint chip ice cream.

Oh yes, we’re talking Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches!!!

April 2018 Fam Din

We go the extra mile! Well, in this case, P went the extra mile.

Lucky Lucas

But that also didn’t stop us from trying 1 or 2 after she glazed them. Quality control after all.

April 2018 Fam Din

And what was I doing while seestrah was hard at work frying?

Doing what I often do when I’m in seester T’s backyard – sipping rosé of course! I had to do most of my prep work waayyyyy in advance for the dishes I was tasked with. You’ll see why in a bit.

Also – 5 pts if you can spot Leia in less than 2 seconds!

April 2018 Fam Din

At some point we discovered that T’s lemon tree FINALLY produced fruit…as in one.

One tiny, tiny lemon.

She was quite proud of it.

But I’ve got to admit how surprised we all were with how much juice the little bugger had!

April 2018 Fam Din

Wondering what’s going on here?

The girls decided to have a little beauty session and Nini gave Maya a little TLC on her eyebrows. Nini is basically the young Vietnamese version of Anastasia Soare – the celebrity brow specialist in Hollywood.

April 2018 Fam Din

These two ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

And while the human girls worked on their brows, the fur girls worked on their perfectly wrinkled-scrunchy faces.

Serious Princess Leia, you give Doug the Pug a run for his money.

April 2018 Fam Din

And what about this sun goddess? She loves running around in seester’s backyard exploring while trying to find ways to break out and escape to the neighborhood pathways.

That rebel.

April 2018 Fam Din

Bella was less than thrilled when I scooped her up to force her to take a pic with me. She really is more humanling than canine.

April 2018 Fam Din
Kaelani and her pops took advantage of the spa to get a little swim time in. Our munckins are quite the little fishies!

Kaelani adores her big cousin Lucas and he is very, very sweet with her.

I know you’re digging her Bowie shirt.

April 2018 Fam Din

And just like that, it was appetizer time and I was up to bat!

Birthday boy wanted dumplings for his Fam Din — ALL kinds of dumplings. With so many people to feed and the time needed to prepare different types, I ended up making them the week before and freezing them. It really was the only way to manage this time around.

First type of dumplings, my tried and true Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings.

April 2018 Fam Din

These beauties are always a favorite with folks. With so much fresh ginger, it perfumes the ground chicken and gives it a wonderful flavor. I served these with my standard soy-ginger-black vinegar-sesame oil dipping sauce.

April 2018 Fam Din
Using the same dumplings but slightly different cooking method, I made the below laced-bottom dumpling flower.

You start off with the same method as your standard potsticker by adding a bit of oil to a skillet. You then arange the dumplings, nestled together in the pan. After the bottoms become lightly browned, you pour in a slurry (water + cornstarch) instead of plain water and then cover the skillet with a lid.

Once the liquid steams the dumplings and then evaporates, the leftover starch and oil fry up and you’re left with a lacy pattern on the bottom after they are inverted onto a dish. The texture is incredibly crispy and satisfying. I highly suggest it!

April 2018 Fam Din

The second type I prepared were Seafood with Chinese Chives Dumplings which I chose to steam.

April 2018 Fam Din

The filling was a simple combination of minced shrimp and scallops, a few aromatics and a TON of minced Chinese chives. I chose to fold these with a double-sided straight pleat to try and get a maximum amount of filling in. We’re seafood freaks after all.

April 2018 Fam Din

After a few minutes in the bamboo steamer, I topped them with fresh scallions and served them with a choice of the same dipping sauce as above or my Sichuan Chili Oil Sauce.

April 2018 Fam Din

The last version was something I had never made before – Sheng Jian Bao which are a pan fried pork soup dumpling. They’re the cousin to the thin-skin souped dumplings that I’m also obsessed with.

April 2018 Fam Din
I need to do a little more work and practice on these guys. The wrapper should be much thicker than the previous two dumplings I made – and have a bit of leaven to them. I didn’t really get that so much but the flavor of the pork filling was tasty. I’d give myself a 5 on a scale from 1-10 with these but there’s always next time!

April 2018 Fam Din
Here’s BIL R with Dad. They’re both wondering when I’ll stop bringing dumplings out because they were getting dumpling-wasted.

And OF COURSE Dad said “dumpling wasted”….not.

April 2018 Fam Din

I’ll tell you that there was one soul who was on full dumpling watch, waiting for her gramps to give her some.

Side note: If there is an open lap, she will find it and sit on it.

April 2018 Fam Din

Since bellies were full of dumplings, it was time for a Candy Land break for Kaelani and Nina. Candy Land was MY JAM back in the day!

April 2018 Fam Din

And I know I just said that our bellies were full but this is also about time when brother V rolled out with his Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs. Brother is getting REALLY good with his smoker – his smoked tri-tip is my fav thus far. P and her clan were getting tired of seeing all of our posts of V’s creations that when they came down for this visit, he promised to make them a little something.

Spoiler Alert: They were BOMB!

April 2018 Fam Din
While we were noshing on ribs, seestrah T finished up the Hainanese Chicken. Can you believe that bright yellow hue of the broth? That’s totally naturally colored! It’s a result of the skin of the fresh free-ranged chickens she got in combination with some of the aromatics she threw in.

April 2018 Fam Din
Once the chickens were cool enough to handle, she passed them over to seester N to carve. We really do make her carve and slice everything.

April 2018 Fam Din

April 2018 Fam Din
T prepared three traditional sauces to accompany the Hainanese Chicken and Rice. The one closest to you is a Chili Sauce made from Holland chiies. The middle is a thick Sweet Dark Soy Sauce. The last is a Ginger-Garlic Sauce. The recipe for the chicken plus the sauces were adapted from The Woks of Life and can be found here.

April 2018 Fam Din
Look at the gorgeously glistening chicken and sauce!

I’m drooling.

April 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, Lucas was a fan!

April 2018 Fam Din
And what do you serve along Hainanese Chicken and Rice? Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs of course!!!

Ok, ok. It’s not traditional. Some may say it’s even gluttonous? Obviously not us but others may say so.

But it was one of the only items that BIL C had requested for dinner so we were definitely having them. Yeah remember the other birthday boy? Up until that point, Lucasarus was running the menu!

April 2018 Fam Din
We had consumed a crazy amount of food — even to our standards! So before we could even consider having dessert, we needed things to digest a bit.

And of course I took that opportunity to make the kids take pictures.

They’ll thank me someday…..SOME day.

Here I instructed them to give me serious faces. Kaelani totally dismissed that directive and Maya is JUST about to crack.

April 2018 Fam Din
Now this is MUCH more like them!

April 2018 Fam Din
Leo is killing it in this pic!

April 2018 Fam Din
Oh–and a little monkey managed to make it into the living room.

April 2018 Fam Din
The girls then cozied up to watch Beauty and the Beast.

Incidentally, I believe there may be a video of me out there barging into the room while belting out Belle’s opening number.

It’s what I do.

April 2018 Fam Din
And of course, the Nguyễn 5 had to snap a few pics with pops.

April 2018 Fam Din
So blurry but this pic cracks me up.

April 2018 Fam Din
And then the grand kids (minus K since it was past her bedtime) jumped in.

April 2018 Fam Din
What do we think Lucas is about to do to Nini’s head here?

April 2018 Fam Din
And then it was finally dessert time!

For LucasHomemade Glazed Donut Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich.

April 2018 Fam Din
Wait! Wasn’t this little elfling upstairs, asleep a minute ago!?

April 2018 Fam Din

And for CChocolate Matcha Lava Cake with Matcha Ice Cream.

April 2018 Fam Din

April 2018 Fam Din
And now for a collective nap…. ❤

April 2018 Fam Din


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings, Seafood with Chinese Chives Dumplings, Sheng Jian Bao, Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs
Entrees: Alaskan King Crab Legs, Hainanese Chicken and Rice
Dessert:  Homemade Glazed Donut Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich, Chocolate Matcha Lava Cake with Matcha Ice Cream


Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura

March 2018 Fam Din
There are some foods that after one bite, I find myself saying…

“Damn. That’s luxurious.”

And it doesn’t even mean having to use expensive ingredients – though, it definitely doesn’t hurt.

March 2018 Fam Din
A lot of times, that sentiment is evoked for me just based on texture.

Just think about how you feel when you take a bite of crème brûlée. Hopefully, if it is was prepared well, it should be thick and rich with a great mouthfeel. It should make you want to move your mouth around so that the creamy custard hits all of your taste buds and sensors.

March 2018 Fam Din
That’s exactly how I felt the first time I had chawanmushi – a traditional Japanese egg custard. I couldn’t even tell you the name of the restaurant I first had chawanmushi at. All I recall is that it was a tiny little spot we had stumbled into when we were in Osaka years ago. My friends and I didn’t speak a bit of Japanese but had somehow managed to order the most delicious bowls of soba. I guess we amused our host (and the fact that he was incredibly generous) because he brought out several dishes for us to try.

Chawanmushi was one of them.

I recall the bowl was simply adorned with fish cake slices and mushrooms but it was the custard itself that was surprising. It was incredibly light, beautifully silky while having a fresh sea flavor to it.

And that was it.

March 2018 Fam Din
Since then, I’ve enjoyed several variations of it—sometimes with chunks of seafood in the base, sometimes more veggie forward. But always oishi.

At our recent egg themed Fam Din, it was the perfect time make my own chawanmushi. The base of the custard is quite simple to assemble. All we did was combine eggs, seafood stock, dashi and bonito together. And because I’m obsessed with trying to use my sous vide device as much as possible, I put them in little mason jars.

After sealing the jars, I sous vide them at 176 degrees F for an hour. Before serving, we topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.

March 2018 Fam Din
Not only did the uni and ikura add to the decadence level and gentle seafood flavor but the little pops from the ikura were a fun little surprise. The Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura was then served with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture.

Next time I may add some big chunks of prawns and beech mushrooms to the custard, too. Or maybe even lobster or crab?

Options are endless.

March 2018 Fam Din
Perfect to serve at brunch or as a light appetizer, the beauties are sure to have you and your guests do a little happy food-shimmy.


Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
Serves 6


2 ounces dried bonito shavings
21⁄4 cups seafood stock
2 teaspoons dashi powder
3 large eggs
flaked salt
12 pieces fresh uni (sea urchin)
3-4 ounces fresh ikura (salmon roe)
sliced scallions/chives
serve with senbei (Japanese rice crackers)

In a small pot, combine the bonito shavings and seafood stock. Bring to a simmer and allow the shavings to simmer and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the stock in a bowl and discard the bonito flakes. Stir in the dashi. Allow to slightly cool.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs. You’ll want to ensure the yolks and whites have combined but do so gently as to not create too many bubbles. Pour in about one of cup of the heated broth while gently stirring to combine. Once incorporated and slightly tempered, add the rest of the stock and gently stir.

Divide the custard mixture, pouring through a fine mesh strainer, between six 4-ounce mason jars. Try not to shake or disturb the custard too much as you want to avoid air bubbles. Seal the jars tightly with their respective lids.

Submerge the jars in a secure container of water (pot, food safe bin, etc.)  that has been heated to 176 degrees F. Sous vide the custards at the 176 degrees F temperature for one hour. Once done, carefully remove the jars from the water bath allow to slightly cool. If you prefer not to sous vide, cover each dish/jar and steam for 15-20 minutes.

When it’s time to serve, remove the lids and sprinkle each with a few pinches of salt flakes (we like Maldon for the texture and flavor), 2 pieces of uni, a spoonful of ikura and some scallions/chives. Serve with your choice of senbei on the side.


Adapted from Nomiku blog

Pastas/Noodles · Poultry · Vietnamese

Phở Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup for My Soul

Phở Gà

Today is Mom’s Birthday.

And like every year on her birthday, I’ll fix up a big ol’ steak dinner in her honor. Our tiny giant was quite the carnivore after all. A trait that was definitely passed on to my sister and many of our munchkins.

In years past, I’d post some variation of a steak recipe for her birthday, but this year I thought I would share something comforting – Phở Gà. Because what’s more comforting than chicken noodle soup?

Phở Gà

When I was digging through old photos last night, I came upon the one below that I just love. Mom (second from the right) was barely in her mid-teens here and our Ông Ngoại, our maternal grandpa, was in the suit in the back row. There aren’t too many pictures of him so it always makes me smile when we do find one.

And what about our grand uncle seated in the middle? He’s definitely putting out some Vietnamese Colonel Sanders vibes, right?

I’m 100% for it.


I’m also rather obsessed with Mom’s look here. That hair…. those shades!

Very beach chic!

As time has passed, I often wonder what is it that I miss most of her.

Her eyes that somewhat twinkled when she smiled? Maya inherited those….

Her sharp-witted comments? She was not to be messed with.

Her constant rearranging of her plants and furniture? She used to love changing things up.

Phở Gà

Then a few months ago, I read an article from a woman who wrote:

“When I lost my mom, I also lost her food”.

And that hit me hard.

It’s exactly how my siblings and I feel.

Phở Gà
Of course it’s so much more than just her cooking—which until the day I leave this existence, I will tout that she was THE best.

Cooking was Mom’s way to show her love.

Phở Gà
Whether it be the time and painstaking details she would put into elaborate meals or even the quick cooking tips she would give us to prepare our own food. It was her medium of communication.

Phở Gà
Which, if you have been with me for the past few years, was the genesis of our monthly family dinners. At the root, we sibbies get together and cook a meal together. Sometimes it’s elaborate and I think that I would NEVER put so much effort into an appetizer or other dish if it wasn’t for my family. And sometimes it’s just comfort food that makes us want to do a little food-shimmy. But there’s never a month that occurs where I don’t think Mom would have loved it that we’ve created this tradition.

And of course, I always talk to her while I cook since I have her photo perched in my kitchen. Very fitting.

Phở Gà
One of the reasons why I wanted to share Phở Gà today was because I think this Vietnamese staple really does epitomize some of the cooking lessons Mom shared with us. Although fairly simple, every step and every ingredient counts.

You always have to scrub the chicken with salt and then parboil for a clean broth.

The onion and ginger must be charred for added depth of flavor.

Spices must be toasted — but she also wasn’t opposed to using pre-packaged spice packets.

Phở Gà

And of course, the whole thing must be simmered, low and slow. It takes time but every step has its purpose.

Love in bowl form.

Phở Gà

Happy, Happy Birthday Mom.

I know we’re keeping you amused with all of our cooking shenanigans.

We love and miss you, always. ❤

ps. How did you keep your waistline the same tiny diameter as that palm tree?!?


Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Makes approximately 6 bowls


1 4-5 lb. whole chicken
coarse salt
1 whole yellow onion
1 4-5 inch piece of fresh ginger
2 small cinnamon sticks
5 whole star anise pods
12 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
nước mắm – fish sauce
1 package bánh phở – rice noodles
cilantro and other fresh herbs of your choice
scallions, chopped and sliced into 1-inch pieces
bean sprouts
lime wedges
jalapeno slices
nước mắm gừng – ginger dipping sauce

Place the chicken in the sink and liberally sprinkle salt over it. Using the salt as an exfoliate, scrub the chicken well and rinse with cool water. Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set the heat to high and boil for about 10 minutes. At this point, a lot of the impurities and “scum” will have boiled out. Carefully dump out the water and rinse the chicken thoroughly to remove all the impurities. If you intend on using the same pot for the phở , wash it well before adding the chicken back in.

Pour in about 6-7 quarts of water over the cleaned chicken and bring it to a boil. Once the water has come a boil, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

While this happens, char your onion and ginger. If you have a gas burner, place the flame on medium heat. Hold the onion and garlic with metal tongs directly over the flame and rotate until they have charred all over. Alternately you can place them on a sheet a few inches under your oven broiler and broil for several minutes—flipping every so often. Once the yellow onion and ginger have been charred, place them into the pot with the chicken. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.

Carefully remove the whole chicken from the pot and place it on a shallow dish. Allow the contents of the pot to continue simmering. After the chicken has rested for about 10 minutes, carefully (it’ll be quite hot!) carve the chicken into slices and bite-sized pieces. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and set aside. Place the leftover chicken bones (I throw the wings in too) back into the pot. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered for about 1.5 hours. During that time, periodically skim and discard any impurities that may have formed on top of the broth. You’ll want a semi-dark but very clear broth like a consommé.

Meanwhile, take the dried spices and place them in a small skillet. Over low heat, toast the spices for a few minutes until they darken slightly and become fragrant. Remove them from the heat and place them in a sheet of cheesecloth. Tie the cloth up and place it into the pot with a 2 tablespoons of nước mắm. Simmer for another 45 minutes.

While the broth simmers, prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Usually if using fresh noodles, you’ll want to boil for a few seconds before draining well. If using dried, you’ll want to soak them before a quick boil.

After the broth has finished simmering, taste and add additional nước mắm if needed.

Assemble the phở gà by dividing the cooked noodles between the bowls. Top each bowl with chicken slices, scallions and cilantro. Pour the boiling broth over the noodles and serve with bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, lime and nước mắm gừng on the side.

Ăn ngon!




Classic Bourbon Sour

March 2018 Fam Din
It’s Maaaaaaayyyyy!!!!!

And I REALLY hope you read that using Oprah’s voice.

Since May is my most favorite month, I think it’s only right to share with you one of my favorite cocktails – the Classic Bourbon (or Whiskey) Sour. It’s simple, straight forward–and just makes me happy. But I don’t order these out too often because I find that many spots defer to using overly sweet sour mixes AND because they don’t use egg whites.

Yup, egg whites!

If you read my last Fam Din recap, you know that I fixed these beauties up not only because I’m a fan of them but also because the classic version uses eggs. And eggs were our theme after all.

March 2018 Fam Din
The egg white doesn’t affect the flavor but it creates the most beautiful foam and viscosity to the drink. Trust me, it makes a difference. You know what else makes a difference? Use fresh lemons! I know, I know…it sounds a bit particular but there are so few ingredients that every bit counts.

Make them now. Make them because now you know how.

Make them because it’s May. Make them every day.

Huh…I think I just had a Seuss moment there.

Just make them because they’re delicious! Aaaand  because it’s my birth-month so you have to!

Yes. I celebrate the entire month.

Yes. It’s the reason why it’s my favorite month.


Classic Bourbon Sour
Serves 1


2 ounces bourbon (or your choice of whiskey)
1-1½ ounces fresh lemon juice (I like mine more tart and lean towards the extra ½)
¾ ounce simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
1 large egg white (if you’re wary, be sure to used pasteurized eggs)
whiskey soaked cherry or maraschino cherry to garnish

Fill your cocktail shaker with ice. Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and the egg white. Place the cap on the shaker and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Remove cap, place strainer on top of the shaker and pour contents into a glass filled with ice.

Garnish with the cherry and cheers!

Sunday Family Dinner

A Most EGG-cellent Fam Din!

March 2018 Fam Din
Last month’s Fam Din was most EGG-cellent!

We’re talking Bill and Ted’s status.

Why so egg-cellent? Because it happened the day before Easter — so of course, it was all about EGGS!!

The eggs had to come in a few different forms. Not only with our menu but also with some fun! (Oh Leo….never one to conform for mundane things like photos.)

March 2018 Fam Din

First up– Rice Krispy “Nests” with Jelly Bean “Eggs”!


March 2018 Fam Din
And not only were they yummy to munch on (minus the jelly beans for me…they’re not my fav) but it was a fun activity for the kiddos, too!

March 2018 Fam Din
The older munchkins instructed and helped out their younger cuzzos.

Below you can see that Lucas’ face was full of concentration and determination.

Maya’s face was full of “hmmm…I wish we had jelly bellies instead”.

Me too, Maya. Me, too.

March 2018 Fam Din
So festive and colorful!

March 2018 Fam Din

And apparently, they were Leonidas approved!

March 2018 Fam Din

Since the kiddos had their treats, it was time for the adults to have one (or two), too! That’s right–it’s cocktail time!

As soon as we decided on the egg theme, I knew exactly what type of cocktail I would be shaking up that night. And you bet there were eggs in it-egg whites to be exact! Yes, my friends — we had Classic Bourbon Sours!

Now don’t freak out.

More times than not if you’ve been to an old school bar or better yet, a hipster one these days, you would have noticed a few cocktails with a decadent foam. Yes dear lovelies, that foam was most likely made by vigorously shaking a cocktail with egg whites in it!

March 2018 Fam Din

In a cocktail shaker with ice, I poured in bourbon (Bulleit Bourbon that day but use whichever you prefer), fresh lemon juice (it’s got to be fresh), simple syrup, a dash of bitters and an egg white (if you’re wary, be sure to used pasteurized eggs). Then shake what your Mama gave ya’ for a good 15-20 seconds and pour into a glass. I garnished mine with cherries that had been soaking in bourbon for the past several months and HOT DAMN did those cherries pack a punch!

The end cocktail was delightful. I could sip on them all day. But then I would need to sleep it off the entire next day. My aging, alas, has taken a toll on my cocktail-recovery time.

March 2018 Fam Din

By then, I had gotten my sibbies all boozy so the only responsible thing to do was give them something to nosh on.

I was up to bat for appetizers that night and after mulling over several different ideas with seester T, I settled on making chawanmushi – a light, Japanese egg custard. If you’ve ever had it at a restaurant before, you know how wonderfully smooth and creamy it can be. And guess what? It’s actually easy to make–when you sous vide it of course!

March 2018 Fam Din

Don’t be too surprise that I opted to sous vide –it has been, after all, a fam din or two since I last busted out my beloved Anova. It needed some love and the method not only provided a no-fuss process but its gentle cooking method resulted in the chawanmushi‘s luxurious texture.

I recruited both Nina and Nini to help out with it. Nini helped with the “custard” by whisking together eggs, seafood stock, dashi powder and bonito powder. After sealing the mixture in the little mason jars, we sous vide it at 176 degrees F for an hour. Then Nina gently topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.

I served the Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture. They turned out rather beautifully…didn’t they? And I’m happy to report, they were OISHI!

March 2018 Fam Din

With a little something in their tummies, the munchkins were ready for their other activity….


That Fam Din, our human-lings ranged from ages 6 through 19 so the over 200+ eggs were filled with not only candy but some lottery tix and money, too!

March 2018 Fam Din

Both B.I.L.s hid the eggs in the front and back of the house. And I’d be remiss not to mention that Leo requested that we hid at least 10 “obviously” so that he’d be sure to find them.

That kid cracks me up.

March 2018 Fam Din

We made the munchkins line up across the street before letting them loose–and WOWSERS! It was a mad dash!

Laughing, shrieking, rolling in the grass…….

But enough of what I did, let’s get back to the kiddos!

March 2018 Fam Din

They were scavenging fiends!

With all of those eggs scattered about, I was sure that it would have taken them longer to find them all. But nope!

Within a blink of the eye, they were done!

March 2018 Fam Din

Wait a second….why do the older ones have big bags whereas the littles have small baskets?

Ah…more years of experience—that’s why.

March 2018 Fam Din
Examing their loot!

March 2018 Fam Din

Somehow we were able to refocus and get back to meal prep.

V enlisted Nini to help out with their dish that we nominated he and L for.

March 2018 Fam Din

Can you guessed what they fixed up below?

Did you say Scotch Eggs?

But not just any Scotch Eggs!

March 2018 Fam Din

Traditionally, they are hard boiled eggs with a pork sausage wrapped around it. They’re then breaded and fried. What’s not to love about that?

V and L also took boiled eggs but instead of pork, they wrapped them in a seafood mixture that was made of shrimp, dungeness crab and diver scallops. Fancy, eh?

They then rolled them in panko and deep fried them into these golden torpedoes of decadent deliciousness!

March 2018 Fam Din

I have to admit that T and I helped out with boiling the eggs while they worked on fixing up the seafood mixture. We were aiming for a soft-boiled egg so that when it was deep fried and sliced into, the yolks would still be unctuous and jammy.

Though we blew it and overcooked them.

Eh, lesson learned.

But good grief, they still were awesome!

March 2018 Fam Din

T also made a Bacon-Onion Quiche and a Mushroom Quiche. Yup, TWO! We love options and we especially love leftovers!

Her homemade pastry dough was giving her a bit of trouble that day but gosh darn it, it was tasty!

March 2018 Fam Din

Then, we were near EGG DRUNK.

Don’t get me wrong, everything was delectable. But it was A LOT of eggs. We were sorely missing on a salad or other vegetable. I guess we could have made an egg salad–but I’m not sure that would have brought the type of levity that was much needed at that point.

We definitely needed a breather before dessert.

While the humans cleaned up, Leia took a nap. Well, right here she’s giving us stink-eye for making too much noise during her nap…but she napped nonetheless.

March 2018 Fam Din

And these two cuties cuddled.

Bella loves her human-lings.

March 2018 Fam Din

At this point, most people would say “Hey, my belly is way overfilled. I’m going to pass on dessert.”

Not this family.

We suck it up (or I guess “in”) and get down to dessert business.

To close out our egg-a-palooza, seestrah N made these cute Mini Lemon Meringue Pies.

March 2018 Fam Din

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t think I liked lemon meringue pies because the ones I’ve had before were really artificial tasting. The filling would be really thick and sticky in texture and the meringue would be overly sweet.


These little angels were the perfect close out to such a rich meal. The lemon filling was light and citrusy. The meringue was airy and not too sweet. The crust was flaky and buttery.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!

And it was perfect that they were little mini pies because honestly, I couldn’t fit much more in me.

March 2018 Fam Din
That’s a wrap on our EGG-stravaganza of a Family Dinner!

And as a wise Abraham Lincoln of Bill and Ted’s once said, “Be excellent to each other….and….PARTY ON, DUDES!”

March 2018 Fam Din


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Classic Bourbon Sours, Various Wine
Appetizers: Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
Entrees: Bacon-Onion Quiche, Mushroom Quiche, Seafood Scotch Egg
Dessert: Mini Lemon Meringue Pies, Rice Krispy “Nests” with Jelly Bean “Eggs”


Breakfast Risotto…Because Your Mornings Will Thank You

Breakfast Risotto
I was feeling a bit punky this week.

What’s punky?

It means that I was under the weather. Yeah…I got the saying (and likely the cooties) at the office.

But all of the sudden yesterday afternoon, I WAS BACK! Energy, spunk–and especially my appetite!!


So when I got home, I did a quick inventory of what I had in the pantry and about 30 minutes later — BOOM!

Breakfast Risotto was born!

Breakfast Risotto
I adore risottos. It’s rich, comforting and just darn tasty!

And I love breakfasts and brunch foods. Bacon and eggs, baby!

So really, it was only time that I combined the two to make this unctuous and satisfying dish. Oh! And since I had some asparagus on hand, I threw some in for some texture and brightness. Now I will say that I debated between a fried egg and a poached one. Let’s be honest, I’m a big fan of both. But in the end, I went with a crispy fried egg for some more texture—though I won’t be hurt if you go with a poached egg.

In the end, it was a winning dish! Perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner!

And here’s to not feeling punky anymore! ❤


Bacon Risotto
Serves 4


4 cups chicken stock
4 slices bacon, diced
1 cup diced white onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
1 cup chopped blanched asparagus
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to garnish
kosher salt
¼ chopped Italian parsley, more to garnish
4 fried eggs

Heat the chicken stock in a medium sized saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

In a heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat, slowly sauté the bacon until it becomes crispy and the fat has rendered down—about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the bacon bits to a plate covered with paper towels. Reserve two tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan and discard the rest. Sauté the onions over medium heat in the bacon drippings until translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme leaves, rice and stir quickly until the rice is well coated and opaque—about 1 minute.  Stir in the wine and cook until the liquid is nearly all evaporated.

Ladle in 1 cup of the chicken broth into the rice. Simmer and slowly stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to simmer and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy–approximately 25-30 minutes in total.

Gently fold in the asparagus, lemon zest and Parmesan. Check for seasonings and adjust with the kosher salt. Fold in the parsley.

Spoon the risotto into dishes and top each with the reserved crispy bacon. Grate additional Parmesan cheese over each dish. Top each with a fried egg and sprinkle parsley over each dish. Serve immediately.