Asian Bakery Cake for a New Year Birthday

My dad’s birthday is 1/1/1958. His brother’s is on 1/1/1956. Both of their names end in yuan, meaning New Year.

The past few years, we’ve been apart for his birthday, so this time I decided to do something special for this guy who doesn’t want presents. Dad is a human dustbin, but my mom is very picky about food. She loves the slightly sweet cakes at Chinese bakeries so I found the best looking recipe online, and tried out my first birthday cake. It’s good, but not as soft and fragrant as the real deal (the price you pay for not using artificial flavors and emulsifiers) I have at least five other variations to try, so we probably won’t see this one again.

See the rough crumb? I was trying to avoid that.

Although they looked and smelled great fresh out of the oven.

Here's the very simple recipe I followed. Other than that, I just whipped some cream and sugar and pureed strawberries to top it.

Even though it wasn’t perfect, this cake is full of eggy flavor and sturdy enough to pair with anything from chocolate ganache to custard filling to shredded coconut. The best part is that I can control how much sugar goes in. The worst part is that there aren’t enough people around to eat it while it’s fresh. I might have to freeze some.

Happy New Year!


Holiday Eats

Having a decent cellphone camera is the best and worst thing to happen to this blog.The photos aren’t great but at least I can save all the meals that would otherwise fall through the cracks. Most places I have been going to are random or repeats, but soon I’ll feature some good vegetarian restaurants I’m really excited to try. Until then, these are the salvaged crumbs of the past two weeks, mostly from work lunches and my trip to Southern California.
imageVegan spring rolls with tofu and shrooms from Saba. Not amazing.

imageCarne asada fries from Filiberto’s, the only Mexican restaurant open Christmas day in Encinitas. Shockingly, fries and guacamole aren’t a good combo.

imageShabbat and Hannukah

imageKorean banchan in Torrance–finally an amazing meal!

imageBibimbap with crunchy rice bits.

imageChinese breakfast in Walnut, with vegetable sticky rice and soymilk. The Chinese can keep their breakfasts.

imageMondo German pretzel. Not my thang.

imageTofu banh mi from Saba. Yep I have the frequent buyer card now.

imageRed tofu curry from Lucky Thai House in Berkeley.

image Indian restaurants getting into the spirit.

Kabila Indian Restaurant

A full work week after a long weekend can feel like eternity. When Saturday rolled around I couldn’t wait to meet up with S and kick it like the old days. After a fun day in Berkeley, where every event (Cafe Med, Ici, Jeremy’s, the Lawrence Hall of science and Berkeley Bowl) felt like a journey down memory lane, we headed back to our abandoned neck of the woods for Indian food at Kabila. Indian and Mexican are the only good cuisines found around here, but I ain’t complaining.

Inside the warehouse building is a warmly decorated space with a case of Indian sweets, a buffet table, and a gang of attractive waiters waiting to usher you to a good meal. It’s not surprising that I was expecting heaven on earth.

A basket of papadum and dipping sauces while we waited for our main courses. Apparently I'm still queasy around these after my overdose in England years ago.

Kabila leans towards Northern Indian food with lots of meat options and heavy cream sauces, but I was excited to see a few thali (11) and combo options hailing from Southern regions. I chose a dal stew (medium hot, but I'd ask for spicy next time) which came with saag paneer, salad, rice, naan and chutney. S chose an individual entree of the same paneer and we both thought that everything was too salty--even the rice and yogurt. For those of you who are sick of hearing me complain about salty food, too bad. I found solace in the plain raw vegetables and amazing naan. Kibala has a massive bread menu so I doubt one can go wrong there.

As long as I can ask for less salt, I’ll be returning here. I liked that the waiter asked how our food was, which happens too rarely. Which reminds me, I should start referring to this blog on my receipts.

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The 42nd annual mushroom festival we dropped in on prior to dinner to whet our appetites.

Martin’s West Gastropub

The night after I filled up on pho at Saba Cafe, I met with A after work to have dinner at possibly the fanciest restaurant in Redwood City, Martin’s West. One of our beloved writing instructors at USF recommended the place, as does everyone in this one-horse town.

After a long work day (well, maybe not the last hour which consisted of beer and brownies), this restaurant was perfect place to decompress and wear off my buzz. A noted that it the noise level was just right and the tables weren't squashed right next to each other like they always are in the city.

There's no amount of good lighting in the world that could flatter a Scotch egg (6), but I tried. Martin's West make a unique version with quail eggs, and they're clearly a specialty since every table had a plate of these. I took photos of the cross-section and a perfectly gooey yolk, but the image would not amuse. You might also notice that I've been less than vegetarian lately...

Brussel sprouts (6) are always delicious but deep fry them and you get something that tastes akin to bacon.

I tried a bite of A's blue prawns with almond puree and pickled french pear and thought it had a strange aftertaste not unlike sewage. The almond puree was great, but of course, my pedestrian gob thought they were mashed potatoes.

My grilled octopus with butterball potatoes, French beans and salsa verde may be a popular dish because it ranks second on the menu. Seafood is so difficult to cook that I usually leave it to the experts and this was the best octopus experience I can recall. Sweet and tender, but a little too salty since octopus retains salt like mushrooms do. A little bread on the side, and I wouldn't be complaining now.

Happy that every restaurant I’ve tried in Redwood City has been a winner!

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Barely Working Lunch at Saba Cafe

I’m approaching my second month at my editorial job in Redwood City, and enjoying everything about it. The one feature our office lacks is a room to eat lunch, which results in many a meal eaten at my desk, in front of the computer. The upside is that it’s common practice to go out for lunch, which is what I did with some of editorial (we’re all girls) on Friday.

We chose a new Vietnamese place that's everyone's been recommending, just two steps from our building. Good call, since the rain was moving in. Saba's vision is modern and simple, guaranteeing fresh food that takes American tastes (and vegetarians) in mind. I usually have my best Asian food experiences at these places.

Saba gets packed after 12:30, like most of the business lunchy places in the 'hood. I will say this: it takes five girls a long time to decide on what to order, especially if everything on their menu looks good, from the appetizers to sandwiches to curries.

After thawing off and sipping some intensely flavored cucumber water, our food arrived. This vegetarian pho with bok choy, broccoli, enoki mushroom and tofu in a rich ginger broth (8) was perfect for a rainy day. I haven't had pho in about three years because some childhood conditioning instilled in me a distrust of noodles, but this was aight. The various types of faux meat were a nice surprise menu. Next time, I'm going for the vegan rolls and grilled salmon rolls.

It doesn’t get any better than good food with great coworkers.

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Bangkok Bay

After a fun but strange work week cut short by Veteran’s Day, I grabbed dinner in Redwood City with my coworker Y and her friends. This might have been my first meal out in the area, which is actually a hotbed of delicious ethnic food. Per Y’s recommendations we chose Bangkok Bay, a local Thai favorite.

I forgot my camera so I took this photo of the Meang Kum appetizer from their website. J, who's family owns an awesome Berkeley restaurant called Thai Basil, is the foodie I aspire to be. She insisted we try these spinach wraps of toasted coconut, dried shrimp and tons of Thai seasonings because it's hard to find even in Thailand. This crunchy, light mouthful will make anyone start drooling for the main meal.

At this point, the nicest server in the world offered to take photos of our food for me. We each ordered a special (13), which includes two made-to order dishes, rice, soup and salad. I got the calamari and Penang Tofu. The big and beautiful portions were made from impeccably fresh ingredients, and were not greasy like many places. The tofu I'd get again, anytime.

J took the server's recommendation on the mango chicken but was underwhelmed by lack of unique flavor. Her pumpkin curry was a beaut, however, as you can see.

Oh yeah, then we went to Chuck's Donuts, the best 24 hour donut shop in town, and picked up seven different kinds. I introduced them to the wonders of buttermilk donuts, while Y proved to me that custard-filled maple bars can be off the hook, when done right.

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