Sunday Family Dinner

What the Capricorns Want, the Capricorns Get

January 2019 Fam Din
At dinner in December, our January Babies (Seestrah T and Nini) were lamenting about how they felt like they get shortchanged for their bday Fam Din. Since their month comes right after the holidays where we are constantly feasting and living on the gluttonous side, they were under the belief that they “took one for the team” and only requested dishes that weren’t too laborious nor decadent when it came their turn.

We did have to quickly remind them that their previous dinners included dishes like Sous Vide Pork Belly Baos, Braised Short Ribs over Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi, Toasted Coconut Cake, French Onion Soup, Matcha Mille Crêpes Cake, Fresh Oysters and Dungeness Crab.

That doesn’t sound at all shabby! Am I right?

January 2019 Fam Din
But if the Capricorns wanted to go B-I-G for their 2019 dinner, it was our duty to acquiesce to their requests and get to work. And boy did they know exactly what they wanted!

So much so that little Luna rolled up her sleeves and got down to work.

January 2019 Fam Din
Big cousin Maya was so proud of her that she gave her a break to give her a quick back rub.

Um Maya….next month – you’re rubbing all of our feet!


January 2019 Fam Din
January Fam Din happened to fall on the same day of the NFC and AFC Championship games. Needless to say, we were never far away from a tv.

January 2019 Fam Din
After a quick update on the score and a selfie with Pops, I got to cooking Appetizer #1 requested by both Nini and T….

Duck Dumplings!

January 2019 Fam Din
I assumed that I would be tasked with this dish but I wanted to ask if either of them had even tried duck dumplings before – because I sure as heck hadn’t!

Nope. They hadn’t either.

January 2019 Fam Din
But the Capricorns felt that duck would be delicious inside a little dumpling so off to recipe testing I went. Lucky for me, we just had an epic Foodventure with Peking Duck – so I was feeling rather confident….sorta.

This was something that was going to take A LOT of time so I knew that I would have to prep everything before dinner and then cook the dumplings off that night.

January 2019 Fam Din
After mulling it over for awhile, I decided that I wanted to sous vide duck thighs so that the meat would be nice and tender.

I first marinated the duck thighs overnight in lots of garlic, ginger, five spice, soy, Shaoxing wine and pepper. Then, I sous vide them for 12 hours – yes, 12 HOURS! Thigh meat can be tough so it takes some time.

Oh the things we do for family….

January 2019 Fam Din
Okay…back to the dumplings.

After the duck was done, I shredded the meat and sauteed it with shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, shallots, scallions, garlic, ginger and a whole bunch of spices and aromatics.

January 2019 Fam Din
Then it was time to assemble the bunch!

I chose to fold them in these pretty little crescent shapes with a twisted braid. I have to admit, they were fun to make.

And since I knew that Appetizer #2 would be steamed (SPOILER ALERT – there were 2 different dumplings!), I opted to pan fry these for a different texture with Nini’s assistance.

January 2019 Fam Din
Pan Fried Duck Dumplings that we dunked in hot mustard, chili oil and black vinegar.

Yeah….I’ll be making these again.

January 2019 Fam Din
This is what happens when I ask the girls to get ME a glass of Rosé.

January 2019 Fam Din

Remember these little buggers I had suggested that y’all make for Lunar New Year?

Yup – they were developed for this Family Dinner.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Super decadent Steamed Crab Dumplings.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
They went SUPER FAST that it made me feel like one of those dim sum cart ladies.

And then V and L were up to prep one of two main dishes.

Steamed Crab Dumplings

Quick funny story.

A couple of days before dinner, V and L texted the group and asked for ideas of which dish should they make. It went something like this….

Us: Umm….V, you volunteered to make a crown roast of lamb.

V: Oh I did? Ok, cool.

January 2019 Fam Din
Moral of the Story: 

If you want one of your Sibbies to make a laborious dish for you, get them to agree to it after you’ve given them copious amounts of wine!

January 2019 Fam Din
Lamb chops or even a single rack of lamb isn’t too complicated. But a crown is an entirely different ball game! It’s quite an undertaking.

Especially if you’re V who got crazily fixated on getting the bones as clean as possible. They had watched several tutorials that advised on doing so to achieve the most optimal appearance after roasting. Brother took it to heart and spent over an hour with several different knives cleaning them. Something that I would’ve been waaaayyy too lazy to do.

Suffice it to say that when he was done cleaning the lamb he promptly told Seester T that she owed him TWO dinners in return.

January 2019 Fam Din

While V cleaned the racks, L took charge of grinding the dried porcini and spices that they used to rub on the lamb. She also made a bright and vibrant chimichurri to go along with it. My fav!

Once the lamb was rubbed down and seared, they used twine to tie the racks into the crown shape and threw them into the oven to roast.

January 2019 Fam Din
TA DA!!!

Isn’t it spectacular??? They did such an awesome job!

Good thing they didn’t task me with cleaning those bones….

January 2019 Fam Din
Crown Roast of Porcini-Crusted Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce.

January 2019 Fam Din

And while the lamb rested, Seestrah T got working on her dish – Garlic Crab Noodles with Lump Crab

This picture does not do justice to how much crab went into this dish. You’ll just have to trust me…or watch the video and see!

January 2019 Fam Din
We actually conspired to make this dish a few weeks back while we were enjoying a big ol’ plate of garlic noodles at EMC Restaurant. Yes….we think about food while consuming food. It’s called R&D.

Often we’ll have these buttery, umami-filled garlic noodles with jumbo shrimp or whole Dungeness Crabs. But we figured, why not with lump crab? Cuts out all of the messy work.

January 2019 Fam Din
I think these two approved.

January 2019 Fam Din

And of course we needed a pic of the Capricorns with the Crowns before V carved them into chops.

January 2019 Fam Din

If you’ve never tried lamb before or are worried about gaminess, try chops that have been marinated in lots of herbs (I love the classic rosemary/garlic/lemon combo) or rubbed in dried porcini like this. Both methods reduce the gamey notes without losing the wonderful flavor that lamb has. The addition of bright sauces (like chimichurri) also assist with this.

January 2019 Fam Din
How many photobombers can you count here?

January 2019 Fam Din
With everything ready, it was time to gather at the table.

As always, someone doesn’t need to be told twice that it’s dinner time.

That face though… ❤

January 2019 Fam Din
At this point, some of you may have started wondering —

“Wait! Rare lamb chops? What did they make for their munchkins to eat?”

January 2019 Fam Din

Worry not, Friends….as you can see, they were just fine.

January 2019 Fam Din
They INHALED the chops!


January 2019 Fam Din

No princess bites here – and we love it. ❤

January 2019 Fam Din
After we finished dinner we cleared the tables and cleaned up a bit. Considering all of the dumplings, lamb, noodles and crab, we definitely needed to chill out a bit before dessert was served.

There was some giant-jenga-madness.

January 2019 Fam Din
And puppy TLC.

We also went outside to try and catch the Super Blood Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse but just as it was supposed to occur, a huge bank of clouds rolled in and covered the sky. But it didn’t stop us from belting out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in our tone-deaf voices. Cooking is in our blood….well tuned singing is not.

January 2019 Fam Din

So we went back inside and couch potato’ed it for a bit and did a little Instagramming.

And then miraculously, our dessert stomachs were telling us IT WAS TIME!

January 2019 Fam Din
Big Seestrah N took the helm with both desserts that night.

January 2019 Fam Din

N made T a Chocolate Decadence Cake that weighed nearly the weight of Leo and Luna…combined.

T really enjoys a traditional chocolate cake that is moist and chocolatey –check and check!

January 2019 Fam Din
Nini surprisingly requested a Key Lime Pie —  it’s one of my faves so no complaints here.

Her rationale was that she was so full the last time we made it during our fam din at the beach house, that she didn’t get to have any. So her Mama Bear lovingly made up for it.

January 2019 Fam Din
And that was it!

Ok…so it was A LOT.

But we can undoubtedly say that the Capricorns were happy and full.

January 2019 Fam Din
And next time they say anything about not getting their way for their fam din, I will quickly show them to this video.

I repeat – the things we do for family ❤


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Steamed Crab Dumplings, Pan Fried Duck Dumplings
Entree: Garlic Noodles with Lump Crab, Crown Roast of Porcini-Crusted Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce 
Dessert: Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Decadence Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

And the Family Dinner Antics Continue….

July 2017 Family Dinner
How is it possibly Fall already with October just knocking on the door? Although, if you’re like SoCal these past few days, we’re still in a heat wave with the temps in mid-80s. The weather has been so strange lately that we actually got down to the low 60s last week (chilly for San Diego standards) and now we’re back in the thick of summer-like weather.

Speaking of summer, we had some brilliant Fam Dins over the past few months. The food is always great—even when it’s not dee best (flashbacks to my less than successful beef wellington or tarte tatin ). And there’s always more shenanigans than I can recount.

July 2017 Family Dinner
For this particular dinner, we were celebrating seester N and B.I.L. R’s birthmonth. But the day actually started early as we trekked down to Long Beach to cheer on Maya at her Hula/Tahitian performance at the Dragon Boat Races.

I mean, how freaking adorable is she?

After the festival and a quick bite of lunch, we headed back to Fullerton to get prepping on dinner. While we got to work in the kitchen, we sent the kiddos to the store to pick up a few extra items for us–just one of the perks of having munchkins that are of the driving age now.

July 2017 Family Dinner

For dinner, R wanted simply prepared dungeness crabs. But while at the store, seester ended up picking up some lobsters too.

I totally supported that decision.

July 2017 Family Dinner
The munchkins came back shortly after supplied with boba, slurpees (kids after my own heart) and a surprise they found at 7-11. More on that soon.

Nini saw the lobstahs and quickly picked them up and posed for a pic. I  have at least a dozen pictures of her mom doing the same thing over the past few years–same genes and all.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our boys…..

July 2017 Family Dinner
While the sibs were bustling away with prep, I turned my efforts to something extremely important.


Since it was so hot out and because the kiddos had picked up their own slurpees, I whipped up a batch of Tropical Fruit Wine Slushies. Adult slurpees in my opinion.

July 2017 Family Dinner
In a heavy duty blender, I filled the pitcher with frozen tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, papaya), a whole bottle of sauvignon blanc, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint leaves and a few splashes of vodka. Everything was quickly blended and that’s it!

Deliciously cold and refreshing. Another one of those summer-in-a-glass types of cocktails.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Remember that surprise I mentioned that the kiddos found at 7-11?

It was henna paste!

And the coincidence was that earlier that day, we were trying to get T’s friend over that night to do henna for us but things didn’t work out because she was out of the paste.

Why did we want her to come over and do henna for us?

Why not?

July 2017 Family Dinner
Henna is a temporary body art that is imprinted on the skin through a paste made from ground henna tree. The paste the munchkins found were premixed and sold in little conical tubes for ease of application. Kind of a random thing to find at a 7-11 in Orange County–but sometimes you just got to go with fate.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And with that–we went into full henna mode! The gals had a wonderful knack for it and did all of these beautiful designs by free hand.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Seestrah and I are thinking of hiring them out for parties.

Kidding–not kidding.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Check out this dragon Nini did for me–isn’t she so talented?

Apparently having an actual dragon tattoo wasn’t enough for me so I needed a henna one too.

Mother of Dragons and all….

Okay, I’m more like Mother of Puggle but Bella has the heart of a dragon.

Or more like an appetite of one.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then we all started getting a rumbly in our tummy. Apps time!

I made one of my go-to bites that I love having all summer long — Burrata Bruschetta with a Balsamic Reduction. Nina lent a hand by pan frying (yup PAN FRYING) the sourdough in olive oil and rubbed it down with garlic cloves. It was topped with chopped heirloom tomatoes, more fresh garlic, EVOO, red chili flakes, basil, ooey-gooey burrata and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.

These are great as apps but there are so many times that I whip this up for a quick light lunch when it’s warm out. Perfect.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then it was time to steam those crustaceans!

We love crabs, lobstahs, ‘shramps, crawdads….actually, we’re pretty much into all seafoods.

And riverfoods?


Are those even things?

July 2017 Family Dinner
T also picked up some ginormous giant clams (yes, I know that was redundant but they were HUGE!) so we threw those on the grill along with some romaine for a salad.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after the wine slushies were gone, there was just wine. Well, lots of wine.

The chardonnay from Starmont is the fuel T and I guzzle down every Black Friday to muster the energy to keep up with our other sibs’ shopping marathons. Without it, we would be passed out by 9am.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Speaking of passing out…

She had a VERY action packed day and was down for the count. But she still wanted to be in the midst of the action and decided to take her naps underneath us.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Here are those giant clams again. Once out of the grill, T spooned a butter-soy-garlic sauce into them and topped it with fresh cilantro. Those buggers were super meaty!

July 2017 Family Dinner
N made this rad salad with grilled romaine lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, and avocados which was topped with pickled red onions and a grilled flank steak that had an Asian inspired marinade. The salad had a light soy-sesame dressing and was delectable!

July 2017 Family Dinner
Since we went for a simple steamed prep for the crabs and lobsters, N upped the gluttony ante and made a big ol’ bowl of Garlic-Butter Noodles. YES PLEASE!

July 2017 Family Dinner
The terrible pic does not do the food its justice.

I had some dang impatience to eat so I couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with adjusting the camera.

Nope…I don’t regret it.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Happy Fam! (Yes, I used flash…cringe.)

I spy a glowing-eye Bella.

July 2017 Family Dinner
After gorging ourselves on savory, we turned to sweet.

Yin to yang, right?

July 2017 Family Dinner
For the birthday buddies, Maya helped me to make this Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Looking at it again, it kind of looks like an ice cream cake—doesn’t it?

Hmmm…there’s always next time.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after dinner, the antics continued because random henna sessions weren’t enough.  T busted out some new clay mask she got so we had to give it a spin, right?

What you don’t see is that we actually coerced R into letting us schmear that stuff on him too. He was less than thrilled so since it was his birthday dinner, I let him off the hook and decided not to post the pic I took of him. Plus he looked like we were rather torturing him so who wants that kind of stuff on-the-line?


July 2017 Family Dinner
And that was it! Dragon Boat races, Polynesian dance performances, henna, clay masks, cooking, eating, drinking and a passed out a puggle.

Just another average Fam Din down in the books. ❤

Happy Birthday N and R!

July 2017 Family Dinner


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Tropical Fruits Wine Slushies, Various Wine
Appetizers: Burrata Bruschetta with Balsamic Reduction
Entrees: Steamed Dungeness Crabs & Lobsters, Grilled Giant Clams with Soy-Garlic Sauce
Sides: Garlic Butter Noodles, Asian Flank Steak over Grilled Romaine Salad
Dessert: Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

A Late Family Dinner Recap….and Where I’m Currently At

September 2016
Ok gang, I know I’ve been MIA lately and I’m long overdue to recap our last Family Dinner.

The delay started with me misplacing the SD card with all the photos I took from dinner. Don’t ask….no clue where it is. But how does a food blogger publish a post without food pics?? Yes, between the sibs and I, we had snapped some on our phones but I was determined to find that freaking memory card. But—-I didn’t. So then I started drafting the post using the pics from our phones.

And then last Tuesday happened.

I generally haven’t used this space to discuss things other than food. But the truth of the matter is, I am shaken to my core. It wasn’t just an election. It’s that the outcomes have supported a movement to lead by instilling fear and panic, to further widen the gap between gender equity, to continue to target those of historically marginalized races and religions and to regress not progress. It’s not a question of political parties but of basic human decency. I’m heartbroken, angry, frustrated, tired–and quite frankly, I’m afraid. Why? Because I’m a person of color, daughter of refugee parents, advocate of marriage equality, non-Christian, and a woman who believes that I alone should be the one who should make decisions regarding my health and body. I am the embodiment of everything that the new majority “leadership” has fought against.

What now? So where do my beliefs and I belong come 2017? Where do we start again? How can we keep up the strength and fight?

It’s these questions that have me deeply troubled and walking in a daze this past 10 days. It’s been difficult to focus in the office and even harder to get things in order for the whirlwind of family activities I’m about to embark on for the next 9 days. 9 days that include my cousin’s wedding, 2 family dinners, Thanksgiving, and lots and LOTS of time with the nieces and nephews.

September 2016
Yes, you read correctly–that’s two family dinners that are scheduled. We wanted to take advantage of the time since all five siblings would be in town for our cousin’s wedding. As hectic and chaotic that I know it’ll be, I need it. I think that lots of time with my siblings and their fam while we cook will do us some good. And as much as I hurt, I need to still be me and do what I do–even if it’s a bit clunky for now.

So here’s that recap of our last Family Dinner I owe you.

September 2016
Thanks to R’s fresh yellowfin catch, we made Shoyu Poke and my niece–Nini, made her infamous Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls.

September 2016
Sis N took on the main course– Tamarind Dungeness Crab.

September 2016
L made stir-fried Garlic-Lemon Broccolini to give us some greens.

September 2016
T made Garlic Noodles and the Soju Cocktails.

September 2016
And lastly, for dessert, I made the Mango-Macadamia Nut Cheesecake.

September 2016
Gang, I know this isn’t my normal kind of post—far from it. But to write in my “normal” tone would feel disingenuous. And quite frankly, we need less of that in the world. So thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

And until next time, let me leave you with a picture of this fedorable face….she’s been my steadfast cuddler and best comfort of late.



This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Grapefruit Soju Cocktails
Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls, Shoyu Poke
Entrees: Tamarind Dungeness Crab
Sides: Garlic Noodles, Lemon Garlic Broccolini
Dessert: Mango-Macadamia Nut Cheesecake

Pastas/Noodles · Seafood · Side Dish · Vietnamese

Roasted Garlic Dungeness Crab with Garlic Noodles

Roasted Garlic Crab with Garlic Noodles

Well over 15 years ago when I was still living in LA, my family and I took a trip to San Francisco to visit my sister. Somehow or another we ended up at Thanh Long to try their infamous Roasted Garlic Crab…..and that was it for me. I was in “garlicky-finger licking-good” love.

I am fully aware that I’m not the only one. With throngs of followers, Thanh Long and their other Crustacean locations have been wooing people for over 3 decades with their roasted garlic crab, prawns, garlic noodles and even their shaking beef. Top that off with the knowledge of their “secret kitchen” (an enclosed area within the main kitchen that is off limits to all employees except An Family members) and who can resist?

But here’s the thing. A dinner for two will easily set you back 100 bucks–and that’s playing it minimal. And with the tough economy and this gal’s expensive food habits, I had to take matters into my own hands. Yes….I’m talking about a Roasted Garlic Dungeness Crab knock-off was in order…..fully equipped with Garlic Noodles. The method below is an adaptation of how my family prepares Cua Rang Me (Crab with Tamarind Sauce). However, with that particular preparation, I like to take the tamales from the crab and incorporate it into the sauce. So good.

Sure, I am well aware that I may be totally off base with this Garlic Crab –probably missing several key ingredients from the original. But since the chances of me getting into the An Family Secret Kitchen are slim to none—this will have to do. And “do”, it sure did! Utterly garlicky, buttery, decadent and fairly easy too. And at a fraction of the cost (dinner for two was way under $20), our bellies were completely happy with moola still left in our pockets.

And that dear friends, is a “Nguyen-Win Situation“.


Garlic Noodles

Ok–you caught me. I also made GINORMOUS Roasted Garlic Prawns, too.


Roasted Garlic Dungeness Crab with Garlic Noodles


Roasted Garlic Dungeness Crab (Serves 2)
¼ Cup Fresh Garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons Shallots, minced
1 Tablespoon Light Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
½ Tablespoon Cracked Black Pepper
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Fresh Dungeness Crab, about 2-3 pounds
Lemon Wedges and Chopped Scallions, optional

Garlic Noodles (Serves 6)
1 Pound Chow Mein Noodles*
2 Tablespoons Fresh Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1-2 Tablespoons Maggi Seasoning*
½ Tablespoon Light Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Crab: Carefully clean the live Dungeness Crab. Drop into a large pot of salted boiling water. Par cook for 5-6 minutes. Remove from the pot and let cool. Once the crab has cooled enough to handle, remove the top shell and quarter the body. Using a kitchen mallet, crack the legs and claws but do not remove the meat.

In a dutch oven, heat up the butter and olive oil. Once the butter has almost melted, add the garlic and shallots. Lightly sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add sugar, chili flakes, fish sauce, and black pepper and cook for an additional minutes. Add the crab to the pot and stir well so that the crab is fully covered with the mixture. Cook on medium heat for an additional 2 minutes. Shake the pot to even the crab into one layer and place in the oven on 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until crab is completely cooked. Be careful not to overcook or the crab meat will be very dry. Transfer to serving platter. Sprinkle scallions on top of the crab.

Noodles: Cook the noodles according to the direction on the package. Drain the noodles, reserving a few tablespoons of the starchy water. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic but not browned, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and Maggi. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly toss the noodles into the mixture. Add the cheese and toss the noodles ensuring that it is thoroughly covered. You may add a tablespoon of the pasta water as needed to loosen the pasta.

The noodles can be boiled before preparing the crab. However, I highly suggest waiting until the crab is roasting in the oven before staring the final steps of the garlic noodles.

Serve both the Garlic Noodles and Crab warm with lemon wedges.

*This recipe has been edited since its initial post. I now use chow mein noodles but in a pinch, you could substitute with spaghetti or linguine noodles.

**You will find that I use a lot of Maggi Seasoning in my recipes. Growing up, my family used it in lieu of traditional Soy Sauce. In fact, we grew up calling Maggi “Xì dầu” (soy sauce), although it technically is not and has a unique flavor of its own. If you don’t have Maggi on hand–run out and buy some! 🙂 But in the mean time, you can substitute with a light soy sauce–though I must reiterate that the flavor will not be the same.