My brief stint as a Hobbit…..and Green Juice

Green Juice

So here’s the thing….

A few weeks ago I went to NYC and well— went full blown Hobbit. Eating style that is.

In an effort to try and retry all the good eats the city has to offer, I had several meals a day including multiple snacks in between. 1st Breakfast, 2nd Breakfast, Elevenses, Luncheon, Tea, Dinner, Supper…….

Such goodness included…

Robataya NY

Dungeness Crab in Sticky Rice in Flushing………..

Robataya NY

A full blown traditional robatayaki style dinner at Robataya……

Robataya NY

Antipasti at Eataly, Crif Dog, Luke’s Lobster, Halal Cart goodness, Ippudo, Momofuku, Motorino, il laboratorio del gelato, smoked meat sammies, poutine, fried anchovies, organic-local popsicles, cannolis, Doughnut Plant..…..and the list goes on, and on. Did I mention I was there for barely 4 days?

NY Spring 2012 Foodventure

It was glorious dear friends, truly GLORIOUS! And I’m sure the folks from The Shire would have been proud.

But the truth is, somewhere towards the end of my trip I realized I needed to give my body a reprieve when I got home. More greens, less booze, and lighter eating. So, I kidnapped my sister’s juicer, stocked my fridge with tons of produce and got to juicing.

Fruits and Veggies

And let me tell you— it’s been delicious! Since I’ve been home I have knocked back a Green Juice everyday. Not too shabby considering I’ve been back for over 3 weeks.

Green Juice

Almost anything goes when it comes to my juices and the ingredients are usually dictated by what is on hand at my farmers market or what’s on sale at the grocery store. The recipe below happens to be one of my favorite combinations of late. They’re rough measurements but you can adjust and add depending on your preference.

I’m not sure how long I’ll stay on my juicing kick but one thing is certain…. my Hobbit-alter-ego will make a reappearance when I go back to NYC this fall.🙂



Nam’s Fav Green Juice (for now)
Serves 2


1 (Large) Bunch Kale
4 Cups Spinach
1 Cup Parsley
3 Apples (I like a mix of Fuji and Granny Smith)
4 Carrots with their tops on
1 Inch Fresh Ginger Root
Juice of 1 Lemon

Throw all the produce into your juicer and enjoy!

Tanaka Farms: Let me take you down to Strawberry Fields

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The best Foodventures are always the unexpected ones. Even more surprising was that my latest one was found around my old college stomping grounds of Irvine, California. (GO ANTEATERS!)

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Per my sister T‘s suggestion, we grabbed some of the kids and headed over to Tanaka Farms—a lush 30 acre farm nestled in Irvine that produces amazing fruits and vegetables.

Founded by Teruo Tanaka,  Tanaka Farms is family owned and operated and has been in existence for over 100 years. The farm “strives to provide quality produce and to educate the community on the values of healthy eating“. The family also practices organic farming methods.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The produce at Tanaka Farms are grown using a “companion planting” method. By this, different produce are planted together as the chemicals each of the varietals naturally produce allow each other to thrive. For example, strawberry plants are grown together with Maui onions. Guess this is a perfect (and natural) example of how opposites can attract🙂

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

In addition to having a produce stand filled with fresh products, Tanaka Farms offers farm tours. Tours typically include a 75 minute wagon ride around the land which is pulled by a tractor. Throughout the ride, the wagon stops and guests are able to try freshly picked vegetables!

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Our veggie “tasting menu” for the day included wax beans, green beans, celery, green onions, and carrots. Here is my sis, P, with a bundle of green onions.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The tour is an AMAZING way to educate kids about how produce is grown and to encourage them to eat their veggies. Check out Stephanie, Maya, and Nina showing off their tasty wax beans.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

The last portion of the tour was my favorite—STRAWBERRY TIME! Since we took the tour during Strawberry season, guests are allowed off the wagons to pick and enjoy delicious and gorgeous strawberries! We had 15 minutes to fill our 1-pound baskets and eat as many strawberries as we liked!

Not going to lie…..I’m pretty sure I inhaled almost a pound of strawberries myself in addition to packing my basket. And I don’t have the least bit of remorse as they were some of the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted! So sweet and juicy!

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Here is my sis, T, and nieces Maya and Nina feverishly filling their baskets.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Nina, Maya, and Stephanie with their prized Strawberries.

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Strawberry tours begin mid-March and run through June. Watermelon tours begin in July and end in late August. Pumpkin Patch tours start at the end of September and conclude on Halloween. For more information on tours and to find out about their Cookout Tours, click here.

We were incredibly lucky as it was a gorgeous, sunny California day. We had a fantastic time at Tanaka Farms and loved that it’s so conveniently accessible. The kids enjoyed trying out new produce, learning about crops, riding in the wagon, and of course—indulging in the amazing strawberries.

On top of all of those things, I loved that we were supporting a family owned operation of 4 generations of Japanese Americans. They run the farm on little government assistance but are committed, nonetheless,  to cultivating quality produce while educating the community. That, dear friends, is truly commendable.

But even if Tanaka Farms isn’t near you, I urge you to go out and find some farms near you—I am sure one is closer than you think!🙂

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

And if you haven’t guessed already, the next few posts will be ALL about strawberries. If you had tasted how exquisite they were, you would be whipping out all of your strawberry recipes, too!

Tanaka Farms: May 2011

Thanks for reading!

Tanaka Farms
5380 3/4 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
Office: (949)653-2100
Produce Stand: (949)653-2100  ext. 203
Reservations: (949)653-2100  ext. 204

And just because I was singing this the entire time we were there……

Sea Rocket Bistro: Local and Sustainable Dining

Sea Rocket Bistro

My sister P came down for a visit and while I was locked up all day at work, she was enjoying the gorgeous sunny day with Bella at the beach. Yep, I was jealous.

On Friday, we were going to Orange County to hang out with our family for the weekend but decided to grab dinner first to let the traffic die down before heading out. It is Southern California, after all. Our Traffic has a life of it’s own.

I decided dinner in North Park would be fantastic to show my sis around. North Park is an extremely delightful area of San Diego filled with tons of neighborhood restaurants, shops, and all the charm of a great community.

Sea Rocket Bistro was recommended to me by a co-worker as they are known for serving delectable local seafood that has been sustainably caught. Scrumptious food with a conscience? YES, PLEASE!

Sea Rocket Bistro: Sea Urchin Crostini

We started off dinner with a Sea Urchin Crostini. The Sea Urchin was harvested right in Point Loma and was served on grilled bread with lemon and smoked salt. A few bites of lightly dressed greens and onions were served on the side to accompany the unctuous sea urchin. The urchin was wonderful fresh and although I appreciated the texture contrast the smoked salt added, I thought it was not needed. Delish, nonetheless.

Sea Rocket Bistro: Grilled Halibut Street Tacos

We took advantage of one of their Happy Hour specials by ordering a plate Grilled Halibut Street Tacos. These were a pleasant surprise as the halibut was perfectly grilled—moist and the charred flavor from the grill was awesome. The corn tortillas were tender and light—and for only $3 a pair, these tacos are a must!

Sea Rocket Bistro: House Sangria

And what is a dinner without cocktails?? My choice of the night was their house sangria—colorful with a good amount of fresh fruit and basil. I thought the sangria was refreshing but a tad on the lighter side for my preference.

Sea Rocket Bistro: Mixed Seafood Stew

My sister ordered the Mixed Seafood Stew — a stew with clams, mussels, fish, piperade, leek, and fennel. The stew was served with warm ciabatta—which I was happy to polish off for my sister. I’m a sucker for fresh, warm bread.

Sea Rocket Bistro: Seared Scallops Special

I chose one of the specials for the night for my entree— Seared Scallops served on top of a corn puree with additional corn and English peas. The veggies were wonderfully al dente that featured the sweet flavors of the corn and peas. And as for the scallops—-perfectly seared! They were naturally sweet and were harmonious with the veggies.

The decor of the restaurant was funky yet modernly-minimal. As for the staff, they were quite friendly and helpful.

Sea Rocket Bistro is an establishment that leaves you feeling great after dining there. The seafood is well prepared and with a firm commitment to sustainable practices. And with that, you can be sure that both your tummies and conscience will be well taken care of.

Bánh Cuốn (Vietnamese Steamed Rice Flour Crepes)

Bánh Cuốn Đặc Biệt


When you’re a kid, you never realize how good you have it. I sure as heck didn’t.

Growing up in the mid-West, my mom somehow pulled together “Western” items with whatever “Asian ingredients” she could find to create delicious Vietnamese specialties. When necessity meets ingenuity…’s just what she did.

So when I look back and think how she was able to make Bánh Cuốn in our kitchen in Minnesota, I am pretty darn dumbfounded. It definitely makes me think twice next time I curse the fact that I only have course kosher salt on hand and not fine kosher salt. 🙂


Bánh Cuốn Đặc Biệt


If you’ve never had them before, Bánh Cuốn is a dish originating from northern Việt Nam. Essentially, they are steamed “crepes” made from rice flour and are filled with a savory ground pork and wood ear mushroom mixture. You can also find them with finely minced dried prawns or without any filling at all–though the latter is technically called bánh ướt. Bánh Cuốn are typically served with chả lụa (Vietnamese “ham”), bean sprouts, cucumbers, fried shallots, fresh herbs and nước chấm (dipping sauce).

You can judge the quality of Bánh Cuốn by how thin the “crepes” are. They should be extremely thin—practically see through. For all you bread makers out there, think of “window pane” thin.

One of the reasons why I love Bánh Cuốn so much is that I believe it truly exemplifies what makes Vietnamese cuisine so darn delicious. It’s a wonderful interplay between texture (soft crepes to the crispiness of the shallots and veggies), bright herbaceous notes from the mint and herbs, and complimentary sweet-salty-spicy tones from the nước chấm.

YUM. My mouth is watering just thinking of it!

And in this gal’s opinion, the BEST place to get Bánh Cuốn outside of Việt Nam is in Santa Ana, California from Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T.

Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. (Santa Ana, CA)


I know what you’re thinking. The BEST place to get Bánh Cuốn is from a Phở place?! And I unequivocal say—HECK YES!

My mom first took us to Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. years ago and since then, I cannot eat Bánh Cuốn anywhere else. Many restaurants these days purchase their Bánh Cuốn already made—or they make them in advance. BOO on that! But Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. pours/steams them to order. Sure, it makes your wait a little longer (especially since they’re usually PACKED) but trust me….it is so worth it.

A little while ago, we were at lunch with my sister and nieces at Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. when I  whipped out my camera to snap pictures of my beautiful plate of Bánh Cuốn Đặc Biệt – the house specialty. The next thing I knew it, my sister had convinced the staff to let me into their back kitchen to take photos of them making them! I grabbed my camera and rushed back with my sister before they had the chance to change their minds.

I slowly entered the small kitchen with utter eagerness and glee. The first thing I saw was a woman hand peeling buckets and buckets of fresh shallots to be fried. And there were a TON of shallots! No jarred stuff here–no wonder why it’s so good! I gave a silent “Thank Buddha!” for this woman because without those shallots, their Bánh Cuốn would be naked.

The Bánh Cuốn station was staffed by two aunties who moved quick as lighting! As a result, a lot of my photos were blurry because I could barely keep up with them. And let’s be honest, I was in no position to say “can you do that again??” Just more incentive to learn how to take better photos🙂


Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. (Santa Ana, CA)


On the top left you’ll see the steamer that is outfitted with an extremely fine mesh. This is the most important “tool” in creating Bánh Cuốn. An extremely thin layer of rice flour batter is poured and spread on top of the mesh (top right). Seconds later (bottom left), the auntie used a wooden stick to peel off the “crepe” and places it on the rolling station (bottom right).


Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. (Santa Ana, CA)


The auntie then quickly fills the Bánh Cuốn with the pork/wood ear mushroom mixture (top right) and then delicately rolls them up. She literally had an entire plate done within two or three minutes!  Who knows….it may be her Super Hero power.


Bánh Cuốn Đặc Biệt


VOILA! A beautiful plate of Bánh Cuốn Đặc Biệt. And this plate will only set you back 6 Bucks! Worth every penny!


Bánh Cuốn Đặc Biệt


To enjoy the dish, take a little bit of everything into a small bowl. Make sure to get some veggies/herbs, fried shallots, and Thịt Chà Bông (“cotton meat”—it tastes so much better than it sounds!) along with the Bánh Cuốn.  Pour some nước chấm and ớt (chili) over it and chow down!


Soda Chanh


My beverage of choice when I inhale (and I mean INHALE) a plate of Bánh Cuốn is a tall glass of Soda Chanh— a sugary, carbonated, limeade. MMM…so refreshing! Watch out for an upcoming post on my “adult” version of a Soda Chanh 🙂

And in case you missed it or your mouth isn’t watering enough yet, here’s another pic to get your tummy growling.🙂


Bánh Cuốn Đặc Biệt


So the next time you’re in Orange County and are looking for some authentic and delicious Vietnamese cuisine—you MUST stop by Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. to grab yourself a few plates of Bánh Cuốn. Heck—don’t wait, DRIVE there! You will not regret it. And in case you’re wondering, their Phở is darn tasty, too.

UGH….now I need to go and get me some!🙂

A HUGE Cảm ơn to the staff of Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T. for allowing me to see “where the magic happens“. And truly, their Bánh Cuốn is a magical thing.

Phở Tàu Bay L.T.T.
3610 West 1st Street
Santa Ana, CA 92703
(714) 531-6634
Tue-Sat 8 am – 8 pm, Sun 8 am – 4 pm (Closed on Mondays)


**This is my entry to Delicious Vietnam, which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of  Ravenous Couple. Much thanks to Mai of Flavor Boulevard for hosting this month!**


New City, New Digs….and The California Burrito

One thing is for certain….. You never know what life will throw at you.

Or where it will lead you for that sake.

So, as the new year rang in, I found myself moving to a new city to begin a new chapter.

The exciting thing about moving to a new area always entails things like finding new farmers markets, discovering local eats, searching for the perfect coffee spots, and most importantly— locating the closest Trader Joes.

Of course, the most difficult thing of moving is really just trying to adjust. Which can be a tough thing for a gal whose not fond of change. But luckily for me, I can console myself by gazing at this view each day.


Ocean Beach (San Diego, CA)

That’s right, Friends. I can now call gorgeous San Diego, California my home.🙂 Not a bad place to live, eh?

San Diego has quite the food scene with access to local farms, fresh seafood, neighborhood eateries, and benefits greatly from the multicultural community with its cuisine. But when I began thinking of the “quintessential San Diegan dish” to write about, only one thing came to mind.

And that was The California Burrito.

California Burrito


The California Burrito is indigenous to San Diego and has brought the area quite the fame.


California Burrito


In simplest terms, it’s a ginormous flour tortilla that is wrapped around chunks of Carne Asada, Cheese, French Fries, and Sour Cream. Oh yes—you read correctly. French Fries are INSIDE the burrito!


California Burrito


I like mine with some guacamole (hey–anyway to get some more fruits/veggies in my body), cilantro and doused with tons of salsa/hot sauce. SO GOOD!

I know what you may be thinking. But don’t judge it until you try it.🙂

And do yourself a favor, when you do try it—come hungry or split it with a buddy. Because no matter where you get your California Burrito, it will be huge.

As in, close to the weight of a puppy. True Story.


California Burrito


It’s been 10+ years since I’ve had a California Burrito. And I have to admit, it’s still darn good. But unless you have the metabolism of a 15 year old professional athlete, it’s not something you can eat every day.


Lolita's Taco Shop (San Diego, CA)


I grabbed my California Burrito at Lolita’s Taco Shop–a popular local joint. Their version of the Cali Burrito was well executed. They stuffed in a good amount of quality Carne Asada but next time I’ll add in pico de gallo and cilantro. With that much stuff going on inside the burrito, it needs a little bit of brightness to cut through it all.

And with that dear friends, here’s to my new city, new digs, and upcoming Foodventures in San Diego!


Lolita’s Taco Shop
7305-A Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 874-7983


They’ll Fry Anything in Texas….

Bánh Bao Chiên Giòn


I think many folks are familiar with the steamed buns originating from Northern China. Depending on where you’re from, they are known as Baozi, Xiaolongbao, Mantou, Manapua—or Bánh Bao if you’re Vietnamese.

Growing up, I have very vivid memories of my mom making Bánh Bao. In fact, she had each of my siblings in an assembly line for her own little Bánh Bao Factory—each of us being responsible for a certain component of the Bánh Bao. Cutting up the boiled eggs, creating little meatballs of the pork mixture, slicing the Lap Xuong (Chinese sausage), rolling out the Bánh Bao dough, and my very tough job—cutting little squares of paper to place the Bánh Bao on. Hey, without me, the Bánh Bao would stick to the steamer!🙂

Needless to say, I am quite familiar with Bánh Bao. That is, until a recent trip to Houston, Texas.

While hanging out with family in Bellaire (Houston’s version of Little Saigon), my cousin Bi wanted to pick up some Bánh Bao from T.P. Banh Bao in the Hong Kong City Mall. But not only did he want the traditional steamed buns, he wanted to try out T.P. Banh Bao’s specialty buns— Bánh Bao Chiên Giòn. Translation: Deep Fried Bánh Bao

EXCUSE ME?! Deep Fried Bánh Bao?! I was both grossed out and intrigued at the same time—and I love all things fried!

That was it, we needed to try them—despite being utterly stuffed from the Dim Sum we just inhaled.


Photo from Flavor Boulevard


Bi placed his order and a few minutes later, we had our little hands on a box of Bánh Bao Chiên Giòn that were fresh out of the fryer. After a few minutes of obligatory cooling down time, we cracked open a Bánh Bao and took a bite.


Bánh Bao Chiên Giòn


And you know what? They were really tasty! I was concerned that the dough would soak up all of the oil but it appeared that they used a different type of Bao dough that was both thinner and less dense. The dough had a nice crunch and was slightly sweet—like traditional Bao dough. The filling was quite flavorful and there was a lot of it.

I’m a convert now. Sure, this isn’t something you can eat all of the time but its uniqueness and taste is definitely worth eating again! And at $11 for a box of 9, it’s not too steep for a quick treat.

Those Texans…..What won’t they fry?🙂

T.P. Banh Bao
11209 Bellaire Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77072
(281) 988-7667

Why Hello, Sopapillas….

Sopapillas with Honey

Hello Dear Friends! My sincere apologies with being MIA but I was out of town for several days. A part of my adventures included a quick road trip with my big brother from Houston to Orange County—that’s 1,600+ driving miles we clocked in! And although the drive was done in 2 quick days, we did stop for some great eats on the road back to California.

One such memorable pit stop occurred in Las Cruces, Mexico. Nopalito Restaurant is a family owned establishment that features New Mexican cuisine at its greatest. I, of course, inhaled my delicious lunch that included a cheese enchilada, crispy taco, and a flauta—all smothered with their yummy chile verde. It was DARN GOOD! But as tasty as our entrees were, it was our dessert that had me.

My brother had insisted that wherever we ate for lunch while in New Mexico, we needed to order Sopapillas. I had never heard of Sopapillas, let alone try them before. But when he said it was a flat bread that was fried, I was ALL over it. Our awesome server brought over a basket of our freshly fried Sopapillas with a bottle of honey. It was SOOOOO good! The bread was crispy but not greasy and the dough was slightly sweet and further enhanced by the floral notes of the honey. And I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit that I had polished off my entire Sopapilla before my brother even had his second bite. Heheheh…. it was good.

Headed to Las Cruces anytime soon? You must stop by Nopalito Restaurant. Delicious food, friendly service, great prices…and of course, Sopapillas.

Nopalito Restaurant
310 South Mesquite Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001
(505) 524-0003