Birth of a kimchi pancake

Birth of a kimchi pancake
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We were looking through old food photos and recounting the hot favorites at our weekly Korean restaurant. “Omg, that kimchi pancake looks so-oo yummy I wanna eat it right now,” Hip2bDaughter2 cries, threatening to print out the photo and eating it! No-oo-ooo!

Seems like we’ve all fallen in love with Korean pancakes at various points of our frequent Korean eat-outs. I mean, what’s not to love? They’re savory and crispy, very delicious, totally addictive. Problem is I have no freakin’ idea how to make a Korean pancake. I tried to once but that pancake fell apart on me and that was it, I said, no more homemade pancakes!

But here’s the thing, whenever my kids mention something they like to eat, I’d either take them out to eat it or I’ll cook it for them, even if it means having to learn how. That’s the kind of mom I am, and this is exactly what happened here.

Spurred on by those sad puppy eyes and the success of my homemade bibim-naengmyeon, I figured heck, I got this! Time to roll up those non-existent sleeves and dive straight into the batter. There’s no looking back now. And that’s how my first successful kimchi pancake came about.

Birth of a kimchi pancake

I wasn’t sure what to expect so I whispered to the pancake as it sizzled in the pan. “Don’t fall apart on me, don’t fall apart on me!” That apparently did the trick and my pancake turned out perfect and so delicious.

“Tastes just like the one we ate at …,” sings Hip2bDaughter2 happily. And that was the encore which got me making another kimchi pancake for dinner that night…

Birth of a kimchi pancake

… and another two more for lunch the next day which we gobbled up like savages while they were hot and crispy. Man, I gotta say this kimchi pancake was something else. It tasted authentic, is what I meant to say. It transported us right back to our weekly pa jeon sans the 700% markup. Score!

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl
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Our barbecue buffet lunch reminded me of how much I miss our almost weekly bibim-guksu which, by the way, isn’t guksu (noodle soup) but naengmyeon (cold spicy noodle). Anyhoo, I’ve been talking about it endlessly a-and well, it’s no use talking about it, let’s do it! *rolls up sleeves* (Oops, I’m wearing a tank top!)

Yup, I finally got down to cooking bibim-naengmyeon. This was after several blatant promotional campaigns to generate interest in this meal idea. You see, I was practically the only one who was crazy about that bibim-guksu while everyone else was just kinda meh. Yup, it took a while but I did eventually win them over.

I set to work creating my giant bowl of buckwheat noodles on a bed of white and purple cabbage piled high with cucumber and seaweed with the obligatory half-egg perched atop that fiery homemade sauce. I love how appetizing this looks.

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl

Yeah, I know, you diehard Korean food fans are probably shaking your heads and going, “You know, she was doing so well up until the cabbage. So what’s with the cabbage? It has no business being there”. And you’re right, that cabbage has no business being there at all. I really do try but I’m just not very good at following recipes!

I wanted to have a bit of fun with my bibim-naengmyeon – add a bit of color here, a bit more bite there and a bit more veggie never hurt anyone. And you gotta trust me, the cabbage didn’t taste weird at all. In fact, all the flavors blended into one huge fiery mouthful, neutralized nicely by the sweetness of the cabbage. Downright delicious.

Cold spicy buckwheat noodle bowl

In the end, this brainchild of mine worked out really well. It not only looked tasty, it was totally tasty. The same people who needed convincing are the ones now calling for an encore. Now that must mean something, right? Muax! I love you, guys!

Some bones to pick

Some bones to pick
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One fine Saturday morning, while on our grocery run, we had to appease some rumbling tummies and so unanimously agreed to forget the groceries for a while and hurry over to our regular Thai restaurant.

We ordered the fried fish curry (and one other dish but that’s not important right now). As the owner/chef was approaching with our order, I noticed she was holding a plate rather than a bowl. I thought that was a bit strange. Our order of fish curry usually comes in a bowl.

Turns out our dear server (her son, a stoic individual who has an MBA but obviously missed the class on customer service with a smile) didn’t ask, and we forgot to mention we wanted the fillet, not the fish. We-ell, we thought he knew but apparently he didn’t.

Anyways, the owner (she’s not the friendly lady I mentioned here) was quick to defend her son, “But you didn’t say fillet!” And we were like, it’s fine, we don’t have time to argue, our tummies need food, we’ll just go with this.

Some bones to pick

To be honest, I’m a little rusty where fish bones are concerned. I mean, isn’t life busy enough as it is? Who needs to bother with bones when you can have fillet instead, right?

Still it was a fun challenge picking our way through this obstacle course of bones, fins and gills. The fins and tail were the best parts, so crispy we chomped everything down to this. Please excuse the mess.

Some bones to pick

We did good, huh? I think we did. But I’m definitely more of a fillet person. I just want to enjoy my meal and not have bones to pick with a squeaky shoe, know what I mean? *winks*

First days of fall and living dangerously

First days of fall and living dangerously
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Our grocery cart was pretty empty this weekend. We’ve decided to live dangerously for a change. So here’s our two loaves of multigrain bread, a tray of chicken tenderloins, a bag of those fat, juicy shrimps we used to cook that delicious shrimp scampi pasta, and a box of Bartlett pears.

First days of fall and living dangerously

Seems like the price of strawberries is holding steadier than the exchange rate. So I guess we’re moving from a week of intense watermelon juicing to a week of strawberry-ing and grape-ing. Our goal is to eat as much of these amazing grapes before the season ends and so far, we seem to be doing grape *hick*!

First days of fall and living dangerously

Remember I said we’d go back and have that Vermicelli Bowl which I enjoyed so much. Well, we did. This time, we ordered two Beansprout Vermicelli Bowls, one with the works and the other with only grilled pork. They were delicious but could use way less beansprouts and more noodles. We think we might’ve stuffed ourselves and still had leftovers to take home. Are we such small eaters and didn’t know it?

First days of fall and living dangerously

Fall is making its presence felt but we’re still clinging on to summer. The sun is still unrelenting but temps are down and the wind is picking up. Still I refuse to give up my summer uniform – just yet! On grocery morning, I went out in my cap sleeves and shorts and it was like stepping out into nature’s air-conditioning with the fan blowing. This morning, it was 45F (8C) outside when I threw the windows open. Whoosh, that cold refreshing air. How delicious is this kind of weather.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner
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I don’t know why we picked a sizzler of a day for a Korean barbecue buffet lunch. Probably not a great idea to pile heat on heat. But considering the watermelons we’ve been gobbling and the fact that our regular buffet restaurant has opened up at a new location with some swanky new features, we figured that was reason enough.

Trust the early birds to be there at opening time in anticipation of a big Sunday lunch crowd. We were among the first and practically had the whole place to ourselves. Which was nice, of course because we’ve been to busy, noisy buffet and steamboat places where we were choking on our food the whole time, and it was impossible to talk without shouting.

This place is very spacious and everything is shiny and clean (love it), and even boasts a long banchan bar packed with side dishes and fresh accompaniments like mushrooms and lettuce. At the old location, we had to flag down servers to top up our side dishes and lettuce to the point of embarrassment. So this is good.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

We started looking through the lunch menu for raw meat to order but our server pointed us to the dinner menu instead because hey, what d’ya know, it’s dinner all day Sundays. What?! *scowls* Something’s not right about paying dinner prices for lunch. That kinda dampened the mood for us – but only for a while because we were hungry and all set to dig in.

As usual, we ordered two pajeon (pancakes), and tofu soup which I love. It’s sourish, gingery and piping hot with lots of tofu and mushrooms.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

For the first round of meat, we had the spicy and non-spicy pork bulgogi, and pork belly. Omg!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

Then we noticed there was seafood on the dinner menu (which is new to us since we’ve only ever been there for lunch) and decided to try the squid, octopus and shrimps. They tasted okay, a bit like eating erasers and I’m not real crazy about peeling those shrimps.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

For the third round of meat, we went with an encore of the 3 porks we had earlier. Mmm! I was having a ball with the lettuce wraps which I love, love, love.

I still have no idea though how to stuff the entire lettuce leaf plus filling into my mouth all in one go, not that I’m even going to try. Apparently that’s the right way to eat it. But I mean, I’m all dressed and prettied up with lipstick and everything, and I’m gonna jam the whole wrap into my mouth?? Um, NO!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

As you can see, between the meat and the trips to the banchan bar, we really didn’t eat that much! and we didn’t waste any food either. Of course, I was thrilled at how many side dishes a dinner plate can hold which meant fewer trips to the banchan bar.

But I quickly realized that banchan somehow tastes better in little plates than in a big old dinner plate. So maybe that’s why they’re traditionally served in little plates but I’d sure hate to be the one doing the dishes later, haha!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

So that was one lunch that cost us the price of a dinner. Our wallet wasn’t too happy but our tummies certainly were.

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi
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We’ve had shrimp scampi pasta three times in these two weeks. If something tastes good, just cook it again, and again, that’s how we roll. Nothing wrong with that. And it’s all because we recently started buying tail-on frozen shrimp that’s been cleaned and deveined instead of the cooked shrimp we usually buy.

These raw shrimps are great because they go straight from the freezer into the pot with very little thawing required. I usually soak them in a bowl of water for a few minutes to remove the icicles and to soften them just a little.

Cooked shrimps will shrink quite a bit when cooked. Lol I like that – when cooked shrimps are cooked!! What the heck am I saying? Anyhow since they’re already cooked, I can’t leave them in for too long or there’ll be nothing left to eat. But these raw shrimps don’t shrink all that much and still pack a mouthful when fully cooked.

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi

My experience with shrimp has left me completely unimpressed. I don’t eat live seafood and rarely cook shrimp at home. The only shrimps I eat are probably the ones in eat-out noodles, etc. and even then, those are always either minuscule or stale. So I’ve learned not to expect much. If I can see the shrimps without a magnifying glass and they don’t disintegrate when chewed on, I’m laughing!

This shrimp scampi pasta is Hip2bDaughter1’s creation tossed with love and cherry tomatoes. And those are not your regular wimpy skimpy shrimps. They’re plump, juicy and pack a crunch and a bounce. Three times in two weeks ain’t much *winks*. Keep it coming!

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi

Last days of summer and this week’s grocery cart

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart
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Here in Hipville, it’s the little things that are highly anticipated and become a big talking point. Like the season change, for instance. Last Thursday was the first day of fall and to make her point, Mother Nature dropped the temps to 75C from 99C the previous day. I guess she was just pranking us ‘cos the temps have since shot back up.

While I don’t like the blazing heat, I’m a little sad that the days are getting shorter. I feel like I can get so much more done when the days are longer. In summer, when I get up in the morning just before 6, the sun is already up and it’s bright outside. Somehow that makes me happy. And even after dinner, there’s still over an hour of sunlight left, and that too makes me feel like hey, I still have time to do the laundry or hang out at my computer. Anyhoo…

Foodwise, this week’s highlight was the big ol’ pot of seafood tomyam I cooked for dinner Friday night. Of late, our meals have been fairly lackluster. It’s basically too hot to cook or eat (although we did make a big batch of Korean roast chicken wings that lasted us 2 meals). I figured this appetizing one-pot meal would be perfect.

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

Admittedly, I cheated by using a tomyam mix, not that I’d be so inclined to concoct this from scratch, and frozen shrimp that came all cleaned and deveined. So basically all I did was cut up the carrots, red bell pepper, onion and eggplant, throw in the mix and finish off by adding 4 tilapia fillets and 12 shrimps. We ate half and froze the rest for next week.

Grocery day is a highly anticipated weekly event around here. To me, the best thing is not having to rush out of the house to beat the traffic and be at the mall promptly at 10:00 am to snag a parking spot.

This week, we didn’t buy much. Strawberries are still the same price as last week. Gotta grab a box.

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

We grabbed two bags of bagels, cinnamon and onion which we’ve never tried before but it’s really tasty. To add some music to our pasta, we got a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes. I hope they’ll make our pasta get up and dance. We also got some party wings, and omg, that pop-in-the-oven tempura that’s so crispy and delicious it beats even the eat-out version.

And yup, you see ’em, don’t you? Those two humongous bags of… junk food!! Ouch, you caught us red-handed!!! Imagine how many times we have to run around Planet Earth to rid ourselves of the guilt and calories yo!

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

Nah, don’t be silly, there’s no guilt in eating something you love once in a while. And that nonsense about exercising extra hard the next day to take off the guilt and calories you piled on today, surely you don’t believe that. We-ell, it’d be nice if we could put everything on our fat suit today, peel it off and be miraculously slim again tomorrow lol – but that’s not how it works. So stay calm while we eat ’em amazing potato chips!!!

Last days of summer and this week's grocery cart

We ate one whole bag of these chips last week and they were crazy tasty! We notice Costco sells these ‘limited edition goodies’ for a short while and then they’re gone. We would be sad, very sad if we never saw these again. So those two bags we just bought, we’ll be squirreling them away into deep winter storage and we won’t be touching them till we run out of almonds and walnuts. Promise! *chuckles*

Very Strawberry Week

Very Strawberry Week
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Who cares if Brangelina is breaking up? We’re having a Very Strawberry Week here! We saw strawberries at irresistible prices last weekend so we hogged two 2lb boxes of these babies at $2.99 per box. Ya, I had nothing better to do got curious and decided to count how many strawberries there are. There’s around 48 in each box Wooo!

Very Strawberry Week

So what does one do with like 100 strawberries? First off, we started chomping them. That’s obvious! But it was too much to eat since we have a lot of other fruits on the agenda.

These strawberries were sweet and firm but after a couple of days, I noticed a few, mostly the ones at the bottom, were getting a bit soft. Those are the sweetest ones, don’t throw them away! You can juice them like I did.

Very Strawberry Week

Then Hip2bDaughter1 had a brainwave and suggested baking a couple of batches of strawberry crumble muffins. Yeah, why not? After all, we have enough flour in the house to start a mini bakery. They were on sale for $1 per 2lb bag so yes sir, yes sir, Baa Baa Black Sheep hogged 3 bagfuls.

Very Strawberry Week

I won’t lie. I like seeing seasonal price changes where prices actually do come down every so often, so you won’t feel like your wallet got ripped and now there’s a huge hole in it. I mean, who doesn’t love a bargain? Well, I can’t speak for everyone but from the perspective of a mom with kids, I’m in for sure!

In-N-Out replay

In-N-Out replay
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The next morning, we were back at the stores at opening time. Right on the dot. There’s no time to waste now! Needless to say, we spent the entire morning doing what we do best.

Just for the heck of it, we decided to have lunch at the same outlet where we had our first taste of In-N-Out. From experience, we know this (and many other) In-N-Out’s are perpetually swarming with people, practically any time of day. There was just no way we could get a table inside, and even if we could get a table outside, we wouldn’t have wanted to sit in the sun.

So we took the drive-thru which if you’re thinking is much faster, it’s not. The line is like miles long but at least we get to karaoke and dance to k-pop in a/c comfort. On the way out of the drive-thru, we noticed a family having an In-and-Out picnic under their SUV hood out back.

So you see In-N-Out lovers can get pretty creative. We ate ours in the car too right there in the parking lot the first time we were here. Except this time, the parking lot was full, and so with our cheeseburgers, fries and free water…

In-N-Out replay

… we drove straight back to the stores, parked in the only spot we could find which happened to be in the semi-shade of a very skinny tree, wound down the windows (the sun may be blazing outside but the air is still pretty cool at 11:00am) and had a picnic in the car.

In-N-Out replay

Mmm mmm mmm! Tell me, how can a $2.35 cheeseburger taste this good? Oh man! I may not eat burgers very often but when I do, this is it! The only burger I’ll eat, no matter which side of the planet I’m on. ’nuff said.

In-N-Out replay

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3
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In the early evening, we took a break from an afternoon’s ‘hard work’ and headed out for dinner at Saigon 2 Siam, an Indochinese restaurant we’d discovered on our previous trip to Gilroy. Back then, we’d gone back there two nights in a row to savor their tasty fare, and this time, we’d been so looking forward to eating there again.

What we hadn’t anticipated though was how popular this place had become. It was the only restaurant on the strip with a crowd waiting outside. Bah humbug! and we thought WE were early! Man, it wasn’t even officially dinner time yet!

We asked the staff how long the wait time would be (because we needed to get back to ‘work” and didn’t want to waste any time lol) but he couldn’t tell us because there was no actual line. At any rate, we left our name and phone number for him to call us when a table became available.

Which obviously wasn’t gonna to happen since the staff were all so ultra busy no one was keeping track of who got there first. Usually people would be honest and not cut the line but since the crowd looked hungry and touristy, well, who knows?!!

A half hour later, we went back to check. Thankfully a family was slowly, ve-ry ve-r-ry slowly gathering up their reluctant kids to leave. And when they finally did leave, they left a table strewn with mountains of tissues and the floor littered with rice! And we had to wait some more for the staff to clean up their mess.

Outside the crowd was growing. The poor staff were trying hard to stay calm and serve while we were trying hard to tell our tummies to keep the noise down with tiny sips of the cucumber-infused water they’d served us. Yes, water is free and free flow, and it being cucumber-infused is a definite bonus.

We fell in love with their Drunken Noodles on our last visit. It was crazy delicious. So naturally we had to order it again. Sadly though, it didn’t taste quite the same. I’m guessing they’ve tuned it down. It’s now milder, much sweeter, and not fiery enough for us (should’ve asked them to up the fire index, darn!).

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Speaking of sweet, the Pad Thai was way sweet and not quite the expected tangy, savory taste. The color too was somewhat unexpected. We were fairly stuffed by the time we got to this plate and had to box the leftovers and find a way to finish it later.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Now after our recent Vermicelli Bowl discovery back at Hipville, we were thrilled to see it here on their menu and ordered it immediately. So glad we did. It was simply delicious. Love the presentation too.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

So with dinner out of the way, we sped back to the stores to continue our good work. Yes!

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