Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vung Tau Milpitas

Every Vietnamese person I know touts this restaurant as the place to experience real Vietnamese food. I can easily see where the illustrious reputation comes from. After repeated visits (and many more future visits planned), Vung Tau is hands-down my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

So it was with great excitement that I introduced my Japanese friends (the same ones who taught me to make temaki sushi) to the pleasures of Vung Tau. We started off with some spicy tofu, which was delightfully fresh, with just the right level of spiciness:

The seafood soup was equally good, with very fresh ingredients and a stimulating tang:

We tried the catfish stew, a dish enthusiastically recommended by a Vietnamese colleague whom I hold in high esteem. The dish did not disappoint, as the meat was tender, and the sauce rich and tasty:

For me however, the absolute star of the show was the grilled beef rolls stuffed with onions. This is the dish that keeps me coming back to Vung Tau. The thin slices of beef are grilled to a perfect crisp tastiness, with the onion strips adding a subtle kick:

The verdict from our Japanese friends? I got an email calling Vung Tau "the BEST Vietnamese restaurant!" (capitalization and exclamation point theirs)

I couldn't agree more.

Vung Tau II on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Temaki Sushi

One of the really cool things about living in the Bay Area is that one gets to meet people from many different parts of the world, and learn about their unique language, customs, culture, and of course... their food!

We are very fortunate to have some very good Japanese friends, who invited us to their home for a roll-your-own-sushi party. They taught us how to make temaki-sushi (hand-rolled sushi). It's easy, fun, and very delicious!

To start, we laid out all the ingredients on the dinner table. There were the mandatory thin sheets of nori (seaweed) which serves as the outer wrapping of the sushi. And then there was a wide assortment of fish, vegetables, egg, tofu, and rice to act as filling.

To create your own sushi, simply take a sheet of nori and add a little bit of rice plus your desired filling. It is very tempting at this point to really load up on the filling. But as we soon learned the hard way, this is not a good strategy...

The next step is to simply roll up the seaweed into a conical shape (or in my case, as close to a conical shape as I can get ;-) and presto! - you've got sushi! If one got too carried away in the previous step and used too much filling, then it will be very hard to roll the sushi without the contents spilling (maybe even squirting ;-) all over the place.

After a few embarrassing attempts I kinda got the hang of it:

From there it's simply a matter of chomping away at your creation until it's gone...

We also enjoyed some great home-made miso soup:

Our friends told us that kids in Japan love temaki sushi not only because it's delicious, but also because of the extra added fun factor of rolling one's own sushi. Judging from our own temaki sushi experience, looks like that statement holds true for us "big kids" as well.

(You can find more recipes using nori - the seaweed used to make sushi - at Just click on the image below:)

Nori on Foodista

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Jollibee Milpitas

It was with great excitement and anticipation that I awaited the opening of Jollibee right here in my town of Milpitas. So naturally, I was deliriously overjoyed when it finally opened in the Great Mall, which is very close to where I live. At last, I get to enjoy a taste of the Philippines' most popular and beloved fast food chain as often as I please!

I headed over there soon after the grand opening, and saw that their business was going briskly:

I was greeted by a familiar sight - the Jollibee mascot cheerfully welcoming customers:

The convenient location really comes in handy during times when I want some quick take-out food (which saves my lazy ass from having to cook ;-) On this particular occasion, I bought a mini-feast for myself comprised first and foremost, by the venerable Jollibee Yumburger:

The Yumburger is the product that skyrocketed Jollibee to the top of the Philippine restaurant food chain. It has a unique flavor that appeals to the Asian (and in particular, Filipino) palate. I remember many years ago Jollibee ran an ad campaign touting their burgers as "not bland like those other burgers" - a slogan that reflects the Filipino perception of foreign burgers like McDonald's. The ad campaign worked because it echoed the sentiments of Filipino consumers, and Jollibee went on to totally trounce all other burger chains in the Philippines.

In addition to the yummy Yumburger I got their tasty palabok (a Filipino noodle dish):

...and also their deep-fried Chicken Joy:

Happily, I found that everything tastes the same as it does in the good ol' Philippines. I'm happy now. My favorite Filipino fast food chain has come to my town, it tastes great, I get to enjoy it as much as I please, and all is right in the world...

Jollibees on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Thanksgiving in the Philippines - Part 3 (Conclusion)

(This is a continuation of my earlier post about our Thanksgiving holiday vacation in the Philippines)

For me, one of the great joys of visiting the Philippines is to eat at my favorite Filipino restaurants over there. And we certainly did that (a lot!) One of the most memorable such experiences was at the Krocodile Grille at the Trinoma Mall in Quezon City.

In keeping with their name, the Krocodile Grille has toy crocodiles of various shapes and sizes scattered throughout the premises. One branch that I've been to even had a live (baby) crocodile.

We feasted on goodies such as deep fried balut (duck egg):

...pinakbet (a vegetable stew seasoned with shrimp paste):

...inihaw na liempo (grilled pork belly):

...chicken sisig (finely chopped bits of chicken, fried and served on a sizzling plate):

...tinumok (fish wrapped in sweet potato leaves, seasoned with coconut milk):

...crispy tadyang (deep fried beef ribs):

Of course, for me, no trip to the Philippines is complete without a visit to Jollibee. We went to the one in Greenhills, San Juan...

... where I enjoyed their longganisa (Filipino sausage) breakfast:

...and their awesome peach mango pie with its thin, crispy crust and tender, creamy filling:

Another mandatory trip was to one of my favorite restaurants - Max's restaurant in the SM City Mall in Santa Mesa, Manila:

...where we enjoyed their great barbecued and fried chicken platters:

Well, there you have it. Those were the culinary highlights of our trip. It was great fun and I fondly look forward to our next visit to one of the loveliest and friendliest places in the world.