Magnificent Moo Shu

When I was a kid, my family used to go to the Twin Dragon restaurant — a mere mile from my home, it was the best gig in town, shy of driving all the way to Chinatown which we did on the weekends sometimes for dim sum.

Moo shu with support act, Mandarin chicken

Moo shu with support act, Mandarin tangerine chicken

By today’s Chinese restaurant standards of Szechuan vs. Cantonese vs. Fujian vs. Shandong, etc., Twin Dragon was pretty old school — sweet & sour pork, wor wonton soup, pressed duck. But back then, when most Chinese joints were serving chop suey and egg foo young, it was pretty special. They made a mean spicy kung pao chicken with whole blackened chilies, a rocking tangerine chicken with bits of chewy peel, a sublime three-flavor sizzling rice soup, as well as some unique specialties — I recall the chicken with pine nuts standing out, and remember my parents once ordering a big plate of jiggly jellyfish which they tried without success to get the kids to eat. More

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

My wife recently asked me to pick up some wasabi peas for her. Or more precisely, she said, “Put wasabi peas on your list.”

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

My list, of course, is the running grocery list I have going at all times. It’s a square post-it note that sits on my desk and which everyone knows not to touch lest the provisions and dining schedule be thrown into chaos. My list will usually have several categories: “Japanese market,” “TJs” (Trader Joe’s), “Grocery” (general), “Sprouts,” and sometimes the odd addition such as “Persian market” or “99 Ranch”. Lacking specificity, I put my wife’s request under “TJs”. More

Pattaya Pesto

Whilst shopping for my New Year’s Eve dinner at my favorite 99 Ranch Asian megamarket, I grabbed a big package of Thai basil.

I’m not sure why. I rarely use Thai basil. But I’ve been making vaguely Southeast Asian rice noodles lately as my wife takes one of her periodic breaks from gluten, and so I suppose the zeitgeist was right for the herb to capture my passing eye.

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Thai basil is different than Italian basil. When you hold it in your hands and then smell it on your fingers, it evokes not vineyards and villas but temples and tuk tuks. It’s scent is exotic and sultry. Because it is spicy and insistent, I find it less useful for the wide variety of applications appropriate to Italian basil. So I made noodles, I used a little for a sauce in my Asian-accented New Years Eve dinner. And still, the bulk of it was left on the bottom shelf in my fridge. More

Let it Roll, Baby, Roll

It was Nat’s idea, and a good one at that.

“Let’s make lobster rolls on Sunday,” he said on Wednesday over margaritas at our house. “Let’s invite ourselves over to the Glynn’s house and go swimming and do it there.” This was my kind of spontaneous inspiration!

Nat would buy the lobsters, I would do the cooking, and they would host. (Coincidentally, as it turned out, our friends, “the Glynn’s” — Aaron and Britt — had been planning on inviting us all over that very day, so they were amenable to the announcement that they would be hosting a party.)

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Nat got online to order the crustaceans, and I leapt from my chair. “Hold on, hot dog!” I said, “That’ll cost you $75 in shipping! Have you tried the 99 Ranch Market?” More