Category Archives: food

Juicy Dumpling Restaurant in San Gabriel (greater Los Angeles)

Juicy Dumpling restaurant San Gabriel, CA

Juicy Dumpling Long Xing Ji in San Gabriel, with viewing room to watch them form dumplings like origami

This will, no doubt, leave some people SMH and others will laugh outright, but one of the ways you can KNOW you are in a legit Chinese restaurant is you enter in-between hours and the staff is napping on the booth couch.

Yup, Chinese workers in a REAL Chinese restaurant — ones run by Mom and Pop — work long hours. They take a nap between meals.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 1

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 1

That’s how I knew Juicy Dumpling in San Gabriel, which has become a huge ethnoburb for hua qiao. Outside China, where are you going to find more Chinese? For more than two decades, the Chinese have been moving in to Alhambra, Arcadia, Rosemead, San Marino, San Gabriel, South Pasadena, and Temple City.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 2

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 2

Juicy Dumpling Restaurant is located in the 12-acre San Gabriel Square, known affectionately as the “Great Mall of China.” I expected to find authentic Chinese food here. Immediately cluing me in to success was a waiter napping because I got there at 4:00, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. I expected great Chinese food. I didn’t expect a viewing window through which you can spy into the kitchen, especially the dumpling maker. This is quite fascinating, since dumpling folding is on par with origami. It certainly gives you an appreciation for the labor of love they pour into your soup dumplings.

juicy dumpling san gabriel menu page 4

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 4

Andrew and I didn’t get dumplings. He wanted barbecue pork ribs with a hearty portion of meat hanging from them. They were fabulous. Since Andrew lives mostly in China, I let him order, and he also got shrimp fried rice. It was out of this world. As in, out of America and in China.

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 5

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 5

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 6

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 6

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 7

Juicy Dumpling San Gabriel menu page 7

One day I will try this Chinese cola:

Jia Dua Bao soda
Juicy Dumpling (Long Xing Ji)
140 W. Valley Suit 211
San Gabriel, CA 91776
626-307-1188
$

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Pink Pepper Thai food in Hollywood

Pink Pepper Restaurant HollywoodFamous for movies and music, Hollywood is great too for munchies. It turns out all those stars — and would-be celebrities — like foreign fare, evocative entrees, daring dainties.

Pink Pepper fits the bill. Its memorable moniker hails its Hollywood heritage.

Thai yellow curry Pink Pepper HollywoodThe Thai food eatery is aptly decorated with Thai Buddhas — thinner than the Chinese versions — and golden furbelow. The interior decorating is tasteful, the food even more so.

pad thai Pink Pepper HollywoodMy friend Andrew ordered and we shared yellow curry chicken and pad Thai noodles with ground peanuts. This is the sort of stuff you look for in a Thai restaurant — a clean break from meat and potatoes.

Pink Pepper beef entreeThere are entrees that beckon: Crying Tiger Angus ribeye  with spicy dipping sauce, Siamese Fish crispy fried in tamarind-chili sauce, Lamb Curry  stewed in Mussamum curry, Tom Yum spicy hot and sour lemongrass soup, Rot Paratha for dessert.

pink pepper entree 2It’s an intimate eatery on the west edge of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pink Pepper
1638 N La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323-461-2462
$$

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Pink Pepper entreePink Pepper Hollywood menu page 1Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 2Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 3Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 4Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 5Pink Pepper Hollywood menu page 6
bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

A mountaintop experience at Central Grille in Glendale, CA

Monster burger and tortilla soup Central Grille GlendaleAfter climbing Mount Watermen, we three men were hungry. “Monster” burgers were the order of the day.

As famished as we were, probably anything would have satisfied. But instead, we pulled into one of those destination restaurants that you drive miles for because it’s that good.

Monster Burger Central GrilleMy serendipitous discovery came as it usually does, by way of a local. Wanna find good grub without Yelp? Ask a local.

Andrew had lived nearby when the hipster joint was an oldster joint called Shakers. The owners smartly revamped it for the changing demographics of influx of professionals. Not only did they update the interior and exterior, they crafted a new menu that combines traditional classics with enticing twists: white America cheese on the burger with sweet caramelized onions to offset the salty burger and house aioli.

Central Grille Glendale hipster restaurantCrispy asparagus fries. Deviled eggs with bacon. Truffle fries. Fish and chips with jalapeño tartar. Chilled gazpacho. Burrato-tomato caprese. Sesame-almond crusted salmon. Short rib street tacos. Popcorn curry chicken.

Central-Grille-2-82(Whimper. I’m growing hungry as I write.)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Like heaven yeah! When can I get an excuse to jet over there again?

Central-Grille-2-15I’m normally a fries guy, but Nathan Williams was from Salt Lake City where soup is the thing, and he had a picture from the last time. He showed me. That was that. It looked more mouth-watering than the fries.

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Central-Grille-242Mercifully, the menu is one large page. Just one. If it were more, I would probably need to go this restaurant for the rest of my life to sample all the goodies.

central grill saladCentral Grille has one-upped the competition. They’ve shown that you need to do more than just an “e” to the end of “Grill” if you want first-timers to become faithful.

Central Grillle Glendale CA exteriorWaterman Mountain in the Angeles National Forest, about an hour north of Glendale, was an exhilarating hike with snow and ice. I won’t need to be a famished mountainman to seek the eatery again.

hike Mount Waterman

Nathan Williams on Mount Waterman (not the peak)

Final tip: Grab some zucchini bread on your way out at the cash register. Goes great with butter on it and a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Central Grille
801 N Central Ave
Glendale, CA 91203
818-246-4994
$$

Central Grille menu Glendale, California

After a mountaintop experience on top of the mounain, we had a mountaintop experience at the base of the mountain in the restaurant.

Central Grille Glendale dinner specials menu

bamboo steamers[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Brutal or bomb? A 17-year-old reviews Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City

dinah's chickenSeventeen-year-olds are merciless, so when I took my son with me to help review Dinah’s Family Restaurant, I knew he would cut through all the nonsense and deliver either a brutal or bomb grade.

Hosea didn’t like it. The chicken sandwich was overpriced and underflavored, according to him.

I thought my “monster burger” was stellar, and Kevin said his pulled pork sandwich did not disappoint. Perhaps we misfired. We arrived on the all-you-can eat Southern fried chicken night and didn’t.

chicken sandwich Dinah's Family Restaurant

The unimpressive chicken sandwich

Everybody agreed that the restaurant, which offers Southern comfort food, was overpriced, maybe banking on its historicity, old faithful clientele or its location in hipster Culver City. This restaurant has survived a 1000 remakes and trends in the restaurant business with the same menu from 1959 when it opened.

Dinah's Family Restaurant interior Culver CityIt even boasts that its bucket sign was the first of its type in Los Angeles. (Such was the trademark of Pioneer Chicken, which didn’t keep up with Kentucky Fried, which is struggling against an infinity of healthier options.)

Pulled Pork sandwich Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver CityThere’s not too much on the menu that borders on “ethnic” or “exotic.” The retro interior speaks throwback.

I’m a sucker for a burger called “monster,” so much so that I could distracted from the all-you-can-eat fried chicken.

Monster Burger from Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver Cityu

The Monster Burger (side view) at Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City.

Somehow or other, I didn’t notice from the menu that it had not one but two huge patties. When the bulky burger came, I couldn’t fit my mouth around it. I actually had to give one of the patties to my son; he plays football and consumes mega quantities.

Monster Burger Dinah's Family Restaurant Culver City

Monster burger (top view, open) from Dinah’s Family Restaurant in Culver City

It had two onion rings in it, bacon, lettuce tomato, and a huge slab of cheese. The size of the pickle even fit the descriptor: monster. I surrendered the raw onion to brother Eric, since pungent onions make my stomach acidic.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnailThe fries were impressively thick but otherwise nothing special.

[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Breakfast looks good.

There’s a same-logo Dinah’s Chicken in Glendale, but it appears they severed business relationship many years ago.

Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 1Since the restaurant has been opened, it has served a lot of food. Its website provides the accounting:

More than 20 million customers.
More than 1 billion pieces of  fried chicken.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 2More than 5 million apples to make apple pancakes.
45 million eggs to make breakfast.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 32 million pounds of bacon and sausage.
1.5 million pounds of fish.
Dinah's Family Restaurant menu page 48 millions pounds of potatoes.
20 million pancakes
500,000 pies
More than 2 million pounds of beef.
15 million cups of coffee.
27 million dinner rolls.

I don’t think I will come here again unless invited. The grub is good, but the prices are not.

Dinah’s Family Restaurant
6521 Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
310-645-0456
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Greek for lunch in Downtown LA at George’s

George's Greek Grill downtown Los Angeles

An Athens painting adorns the wall giving a cool feel to the hipster/professional lunch place.

The gyro made my tongue do cartwheels. It was that good. There’s nothing like Greek food to excite your tongue.

I met my wife for lunch in Downtown at George’s Greek Grill on Figueroa. This place is definitely the lunch spot for professionals.

chicken gyro at George's Greek Grill downtown los angeles

Chicken gryo

Greek food combines frequently with tzatziki — yogurt spiked with cucumber  — that provide an intriguing offset to the spicy and salty lamb and beef.

Roasted-Pepper-Hummus-2

Fried pita chips with roasted pepper hummus

I got the chicken. I wish I had gotten the beef and lamb, which my wife got.

lamb and beef gyro at George's Greek Grill in downtown Los Angeles

Lamb and beef gyro

George’s takes the traditional Greek and puts hipster twist on it. Hummus gets zipped up with jalapeño and cilantro. Fries come with feta cheese and protein.

Calamari_019

Calimari salad

There are salads and falafel. There are wraps and pita chips. The menu is pretty long for a mostly lunch place.

Kale-Salad-1280x1071-1

Kale salad with mango chunks and cranberries

George’s Greek Grill
735 S Figueroa St #131
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213-624-6542
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

 

The Emperor of Ice Cream at POPS in City of San Fernando

ice cream sundae in half coconut Pops Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoIce cream specialty shops abound. So when you find something special, it’s a rare gem.

spicey cucumber ice cream POPS Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoThis is POPS Artisanal Creamery in the City of San Fernando. They offer a sundae in a half coconut. They make their own ice cream with some rocking originals.

Yeah, I’m talking hibiscus (rosa de jamaica) ice cream. And spicy cucumber. Watermelon.

hibiscus ice cream rosa de jamaica Pops Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoThe exotic flavors are Latin variations. You don’t have as many options as competitors La Michoacana, but the ice creams are made to the American taste, not according to the Mexican formula. Which means, I like them better.

specialty ice creams POPS Artisanal Creamery City of San FernandoI learned a thing about exotic ice creams when I went to BAE, which offers unthinkable flavors like Coco Puffs Chocolate and Charcoal Cleanse. Only problem with BAE is that they don’t taste good.

Pops Creamery City of San FernandoTo be fair, I didn’t try the spicy cucumber, so it would be wrong for me to endorse it here. But I did the sweet cream corn ice cream, which Martin said was his grandfather’s recipe, and it was delicious.

Snapseed__4_The proprietor, Martin Ken, is a handsome guy with light eyes from Belize. He’s slightly chubby, proof that he is a connoisseur of creams. He gives an individual attention and care to every customers, talking freely, answering questions, giving samples.

Ample samples.

20190805-162405-COVER_3_0819As a matter of fact, it was me who called it quits on the sample porque me apené. (Sorry for the Spanish, but I thought it might be apropos given the Latin neighborhood and the Latin flavors.) I think I sampled four separate creams before deciding, with my wife, for the super nutty walnut and the sharp coffee. (I say “sharp” because the coffee flavor is quite strong and tastes like a legit cup of joe — way better than your average coffee ice cream.)

downloadMartin shaved the inside of half coconut and left the shavings in the bottom. Then he scooped in our two flavors, sprayed on whipped cream, gingerly applied chocolate syrup and topped it off with a mascherino cherry and a little parasol normal for cocktails. That parasol was a little bit of fun, an attractive, playful touch that shows signature caring.

It gave you the impression that he was executing a work of art and not just slapping the 104th order of the day to clock out. I thought to myself, Here is the Emperor of Ice Cream.)

IMG_6692-sidepopHe talks knowledgeably of creams from around the Caribbean. He talks about his family history with creams-making. He talks about his plans to open a second store in New Hall, to the North. He talks…. He talks friendly.

At Pops Artisanal Creamery, you are a friend.

We’ll be back.

POPS Artisanal Creamery
450 N. Maclay Ave.
San Fernando, CA 91340
818-371-3538
$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Hot! Hot! Hot!

bizmati rice Pakistani style Nihara House Arleta Los AngelesNihari House is pure fire — and it’s not a rap flow.

No, it’s spicy, spicy, spicy.

Nihari House ArletaIn my quest to try all the most exotic ethnic food in Los Angeles, I wound up in Nihari House in Arleta (in the Central Northern San Fernando Valley.)

Never having sampled Pakistani food before, I asked the waitress, who runs the joint with her husband, the chef. She was very personable and welcoming. Instantly, I felt part of the family.

Nihari in San Fernando ValleyBecause of her no-non sense recommendation, I tried the nihari, the house specialty. It is beef shank slow-simmered in chili oil for seven hours or so. The gravy is hot, hot, hot. There was no need to throw in the chopped jalapeño on the side. To squeeze in lemon juice would have pushed the acidic levels into radioactive. (Excuse the hyperbole, but I’m 52 and can’t take too much spicy anymore. Fortunately, there was a remedy.) It was delicious.

Lamb Karahi Pakistani food Nahari House ArletaMy wife got the lamb Lamb Karahi, which came in its own Pakastani wok (I didn’t know they had their own woks!). And that was just as hot. It wasn’t until the chef, an affable slightly overweight guy, came out to check if everything was up to our satisfaction. He explained that we could have ordered a less spicy version. It certainly gives me confidence in a restaurant if the chef himself comes out to check on our enjoyment.

mango yogurt Pakistani drink Nihara Arleta Los AngelesFortunately, there was an answer to the chili power. It was the mango yogurt drink to neutralize acids in the stomach. Even if you don’t need to chill the heat, this drink is absolutely worth the experiment. It’s delicious and different.

If you are tired of ho-hum meat and potatoes like me, then Nihari House is a hotspot to excite your palate.

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 2

Nihari House restaurant menu Arleta Los Angeles page 1

Here’s a big tip: try to hit the Sunday buffet 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. That way you can sample so many different flavors for one low price. Unfortunately, I missed the buffet because it didn’t coincide with date night with my wife.

nihari house Los Angeles pakistani foodI thought that Mexicans were the hot chili pepper-eating champions of the world. (I remember in Mexico City seeing a 4-year-old eating a jalapeño all by itself as if it were a banana. He didn’t cry until he accidentally wiped his eyes with his fingers.) Now I know that the Pakistanis are right up there competing.

pakistani buffet in LA

Nihari House
13920 Van Nuys Blvd.
Arleta, CA 91331
818-302-6291
$$

bamboo steamers Chinese thumbnail[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Want Indian food in Hollywood? India’s Tandoori Hollywood

green coconut curry chicken indias tandoori hollywoodRumor has it that the time to hit India’s Tandoori Hollywood is for lunch. That’s when the buffet goes for $12.00. So you can sample every taste of India for a paltry sum. I was told it was Punjabi food, from Northern India.

Indian food hollywoodMy friend and I came for dinner, so we only got one entry each. I got the Green Coconut Chicken with mild curry, and my buddy ordered Chicken Tikka Masala.

lentil paste bread Indias Tandoori HollywoodWhile we waited for the food, the waiter brought a super thin cracker-like bread made of lentils. Yep, lentils. I wasn’t expecting it to be salty. Perhaps because it was salty, it gave me the impression of being the Indian equivalent of Mexican chips as an appetizer.

Indian condimentsI was quick to try each of the condiments: mint (not sweet), diced carrots and chili (not too spicy) and plum sauce with sesame seeds (which looked like it was spicy but wasn’t).

indias tandoori hollywood inside restaurantThis is what you go to Indian food for: a slathering of thick gravy spiced up with the herbs that made the Indies the destination for traders in the Age of Exploration. There are curries, green sauces, red sauces, brown sauces, yummy sauces, hot sauces and ones that will send you to the bathroom.

chicken tikka indias tandoori hollywoodAhem. Excuse me. I shouldn’t talk about such an unappetizing topic while discussing the appetizing concerns of this restaurant.

bamboo steamer thumbnail sizIn any case, Indian food is my new Mexican food.

[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

indias tandoor hollywood interior decoratingBecause we ordered it a la carte, we didn’t get rice. We should’ve gotten rice to sop up the sauce with.

Indias Tandoori Hollywood set up insideBut the naan bread did not disappoint. As I have said previously, I don’t like bread. Period. But naan bread, I like. It is slightly crispy on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside. Mmmmmmm.

We could scoop up the extra sauce with that and revel in all the tastiness.

There was plenty of chicken in the entrees, and I left full enough.

Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 1Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 2Indias Tandoori Hollywood menu page 3
The restaurant is tastefully decorated. The fresco on the wall appears to be of India in rough brush paint strokes that is more in line with Hollywood than India. The servers appear to be Indian. On the whole, the night out was very enjoyable.

I’m just going to have hit this restaurant for the lunch buffet 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. next time so that I can sample more widely of the delicacies of India.

India’s Tandoori Hollywood
7300 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
323-874-6673
$

bamboo steamer thumbnail siz[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Hop Li in LA’s Chinatown, the hot spot for locals

Hop Li Chinatown LA

My lovely wife, at the restaurant she grew up most eating

Forget about the big fancy expensive Chinese food restaurants in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Locals get their authentic grub at Hop Li, an unpretentious eatery that would necessarily stand out as a hot spot.

Peking Duck Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Peking Duck in super-white flour buns with sprig onion, parsley and plum or hoisin sauce.

I was introduced to Hop Li, when in the 90s I was dating the lady who is now my wife. It was the most frequent place we went to.

spicy pepper beef Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

The pepper beef was my favorite of the day.

I’ve learned to ignore the worn-out red carpets that lead to the bathroom. They look like they were new in the 60s. I’ve learned to ignore the dust on the exit sign. People don’t

stocking stuffer mini

come to Hop Li for its immaculate interior. The decorating looks like it hasn’t updated

since the 70s.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

hot and sour soup Hop Li Chinese restaurant Los Angeles

Hot and sour soup is a traditional favorite.

Nobody cares about that. They only care about taste. When it comes to authentic Cantonese food, there’s nothing better in Downtown LA (Chinatown is just northeast of DT).

sweet and sour chicken Chinatown Los Angeles Hop Li restaurant

The kids always love sweet and sour chicken

Having married American-born Chinese, I learned you always start with soup. My in-laws used to honor me (many many years ago) by ordering shark’s fin soup, which cost $100 and tastes fibrous (nothing special for my American taste buds, or bitter melon soup (which they cherish but tasted to me like the name, bitter). But on my recent visit we were treated to the more American-friendly hot and sour soup.

Hop Li restaurant in Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s decor is traditional old style.

Next, if the meal is special, you get Peking Duck. I like the dunk meat best, but the true stocking stuffer miniChinese way, apparently, is to eat mostly fried duck skin with plum sauce, onion sprigs and parsley.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Chinese crab restaurant

Crabs in the fish tank assure you you’re getting really fresh seafood.

Then the entrees start coming out to be served on the white rice: honey garlic spare ribs, asparagus, baby Spinach, fish in black bean sauce, pepper chicken, spicy beef and bell peppers, noodles, sweet and sour chicken. There is more than we can finish, which is the Chinese way for a banquet.

Chinese asparagus Hop Li Restaurant Los Angeles Chinatown

Delicious asparagus, one of my favorites.

There are a lot of exotic items for the truer Chinese taste buds, deep fried squid in light crunchy batter, crab and fried tofu in creamy curry sauce, whole steamed fish (my in-laws, to honor me years ago, offered me the fish eyeball, which is a delicacy, and which I dutifully ate. It was mushy like a pea, though harder.)

Chinese noodles Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Chicken and vegetables in the noodles

Chinese like fresh, fresh, fresh food, so you can get the fish live and placed into the pot.  So Hop Li has tanks of living crabs for you to enjoy.

Chinese fish in black bean sauce

The black bean sauce is the bomb on the fish.

I always liked the orange pepper chicken but through the years of eating with my in-laws stocking stuffer minihave learned to go along with whatever they order. Another favorite of mine was kung-pao chicken.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

honey garlic spare rips Hop Li Chinese restaurant Chinatown LA

Honey garlic spare ribs

You can come here for a quick lunch, simple dinner or a full-on banquet.

At some point, Hop Li, which started in Chinatown, expanded with two restaurants on the West Side of Los Angeles, aiming to capture the well-heeled crowd. Reportedly, even the best chef moved there. But here in Chinatown is where the legend began, so I’m not following the best chef.

historical map of chinatown Los Angeles

A historic map of Chinatown

Hop Li is part of Chinatown’s history. They even have a historic map that traces the beginnings of the section in Los Angeles. Some of the history is a stain because racial violence against Chinese is why the Chinese moved out of Downtown and quartered up near Dodger Stadium (which, of course, wasn’t there at the time).
whoa

Hot mustard sauce to add some zing to vegetables. Alternatively, oyster sauce makes the veggies delicious.

Chinese spinach Hop Li restaurant Chinatown LA

Baby spinach, savored for being tender

The Chinese apparently appreciate the baby vegetables, such as the spinach above. They say they are more tender. Not hailing from Chinese descent, I grew up learning that stocking stuffer minitoughness was roughage, which was good for your digestion, so I don’t think I savor it quite like they do.

Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

The menu is extensive.

Hop Li menu page 1 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 1

Hop Li menu page 2 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 2

Hop Li menu page 3 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 4 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 3

Hop Li menu page 5 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 4

Hop Li menu page 6 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 5

Hop Li menu page 7 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 6

Hop Li menu page 8 Chinatown LA

Hop Li’s menu page 7

Hop Li Seafood Restaurant
526 Alpine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-680-3939
$$

stocking stuffer miniAdvert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

Urban Plates, a notch above prepare-in-front-of-you concept restaurants

urban plates sandwich makingsThe secret to Urban Plates, a new concept chain exploding in Los Angeles, is not the taste, the natural ingredients, the decor or the super friendly staff. The secret is the food’s preparation.

urban plates wild line caught ahi tuna sandwichLike pioneer of the concept, Tendergreens, Urban Plates has all the food out in front of the customers. There is no need for menus hardly, no need for pretty pictures or enticing words. The enticements are right there in front of your eyes.

urban plates sandwich menuYou get in line with your train and pick the most succulent, the most inviting items you see. It’s not prepared in the back. Right there, in front of your eyes, the foods are put together in what you order.

urban plates interiorYour hunger grows as you wait AND WATCH.

I went to the Urban Plates in Thousand Oaks. It’s a new concept restaurant like Tendergreens and Lemonade. But it transcends these in its depth of menu and attractive interior decorating.

urban plates grilled grass fed steak sandwichI ordered the “Grilled, grass-fed steak sandwich with slow-roasted tomatoes and chimichurri aioli.” I had loved chimichurri in Latin America as part of the parrilladas, but wondered how it might be added into a sandwich.

The menu items use all the right key words for health and woke culture (there is “anti-oxidant” salad and “line caught” ahi tuna, not farmed or fished in nets).

urban plates fruit juicesI was quite taken aback that the steak was cut into thick slices for my sandwich. It was steak, like it could have been served on a platter with asparagus and mashed potatoes for $19.95, and here generous slices were being cut before my eyes to go into the sandwich.

stocking stuffer mini[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

urban plates dinnersNo ordinary bread was used, but baked in their own oven.

urban plates soupsOnce you get your sandwich, salad, soup or entre, you pass by — and are inevitably tempted by — a display case of pastries and cookies. Nothing is ordinary or regular. Everything could have come from an expensive hotel or pricey restaurant for the well-heeled.

urban plates teasThere are exotic teas and wines. Forget about going to the local juicery. You will get natural juice mixtures here with no added sugar to pique your palette and keep you slim. I got the acai apple beet & carrot while my buddy got passion fruit coconut lime. His was too tart for me.

urban plates makings of dinnersUrban Plate Thousand Oaks took pains for their interior decorating. No corner cutting, everything is done by a pro, impressive and attractive.

urban plates acai apple beet carrot and passion fruit coconut limeBy the team we received our sandwiches, “Chef Rosendo” showed up at our table and chatted friendly about the decoration (he noticed I took pictures). “I will do anything to make sure your experience here is enjoyable,” he said.

urban plates cakes and pastriesOur eyebrows rose.

urban plates desserts cookies pastriesOf course we knew about Chik-Fil-A’s custom — and Wahoo’s Tacos’ — of sending personnel around to proactively make sure customers enjoyed their meal. But this was “the chef” — and he took the welcoming to a higher level.

urban plates thousand oaksWhich is Urban Plates does. It takes others’ successes to a higher level.

urban plates menuOn another date, I will have to try to the dinner platter, the soup, the salad and the tempting desserts.

urban plates saladsurban plates thousand oaksurban plates decor

Urban Plates
162 W. Hillcrest Dr #100
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
$$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Falafel Corner, an undiscovered gem in Koreatown

falafel
Falafel Corner has all the makings of an undiscovered sensation. It’a a tiny hole-in-the-wall hawking Lebanese food in Koreatown Los Angeles. It is so small and unassuming, hidden away in a not-so-prosperous corner mall, that people would be sure to overlook it.
beef kebab
But people discovered it and starting giving it great ratings on Yelp. The undiscovered restaurant gem had been discovered. Word got out, and so we came. It is good.
Falafel Corner Koreatown los angeles menu
Naturally, I ordered the falafel, since I hadn’t enjoyed that for quite some time and since it was the very name of the joint. This was a mistake because my daughter ordered the beef kebab, which was astonishingly tender and seasoned to perfection. Henceforth, I will stick with meat. The hummus was very good. We will be back.falafel corner korea town los angeles menu 2
And it is cheap. This is the place to get really good food at a really affordable price.

I also discovered why it is so good. It turns out the Armenian owner was neighbor in Lebanon and friend with the owners of Zankou Chicken, a veritable sensation in LA. They seem to bring with them a taste for deliciousness. I’m going to have to tell Trump to grant visas to all Armenians from Lebanon because they know how to cook!)

Falafel Corner
689 Irolo St. #103
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213-252-4435
$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

When in WeHo, do Joey’s Cafe

california burgerI have never been fuller with a hamburger than at Joey’s Cafe in West Hollywood.

I picked my buddy up from the airport, so he treated me. There’s nothing like a local to take you to the best spots.

joeys cafe west hollywoodJoey’s offers omelettes, burgers, salads, Mexican food. It’s continental casual cuisine. The setting is slightly upscale. The servers are friendly.

My California burger was super juicy. It had fresh avocado, bacon and cheddar and jack cheeses. Burgers should NOT be served with American cheese. There ought to be a rule that burgers should be served with cheddar, or some real cheese.

omelette avocado joeys cafeMy coffee was decent, and my buddy enjoyed his peppermint tea. The eggwhite omelette was great.

weho eateries

Joey’s Cafe
8301 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA  90069
323-822-0671
$$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Socorro’s Restaurant: Authentic Mexican in the San Fernando Valley

family mexican restaurant los angelesWhat are the signs of an authentic Mexican restaurant? For years, I graded them exclusively on their chips and salsa. If the chips were stale or mass-produced and thus bleh, the eatery got a low grade. Similarly, if it didn’t have a decent hot sauce (and I mean “hot” not “mild hot sauce,” which is an oxymoron), then it failed the test.

best cheese enchiladas san fernando valleyBut now that I can’t eat hot hot sauce (because I got old and my stomach turns with the fire), I have to look at other factors. Socorro’s Restaurant has the other factors. They make their tortillas by hand. The cheese on the enchiladas stretches three feet. They have frescos (or refrescos) of fruit in the clear plastic buckets. The menu above the cash register is ONLY in Spanish. Yeah, that’s real.

frescos de frutasOh man, this is authentic. The green one is spinach and pineapple juice. Mixed with lots of sugar, it’s very delicious — and somewhat healthy.  It’s actually the eatery’s most popular drink.

spinach pineapple refesco

My friend got the horchata. Of course, I went for the exotic and tasty spinach juice

Recently, I had a buddy from West Virginia over. In West Virginia, the waitresses in the “Mexican” restaurants don’t know what horchata is. The hot sauce is about as hot as ketchup. My friends, and their kids, were absolutely entusiasmados to savor the flavor.

mexican carne asada LAI was pretty pumped too. I had to get my favorite, cheesy cheese enchiladas. Forgive me for the redundancy, but they were redundant with cheese. If you are a cheese addict, I suggest you go no further. There was more cheese in those enchiladas than in a lasagna.

handmade tortillas mexican restaurant san fernando valleyOne of my sons ordered the carne asada, which he rated highly. My other son got flautas. Our friends got tacos, quesadillas. The rice and beans are very good. The vegetables and lettuce were fresh and crisp.

best tacos los angelesMan, those are big tortillas, patted out by hand by a lady in the back and cooked over a comal. It doesn’t get more authentic.

mexican tacos los angelesI just love the hole in the wall restaurants that serve good food under the radar from the snooty foodies.

birriria in van nuys

The birriria wasn’t my favorite though.

mexican food los angelesAnd of course, the kids loved it.

By the way, you can tell the authenticity of the Mexican food by the amount of sugar in the refrescos. There’s a lot. They’re sweet. Enjoy!

socorros restaurant los angelesSocorro’s Restaurant
14853 Sherman Way
stocking stuffer miniVan Nuys, CA  91405
818-785-0505
$

The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

The chicken and beef enchiladas were also outstanding.

beef and chicken enchiladas van nuys

 

But it was only $1!

cupcake heavenNeed a treat on a budget? Try Hansen’s Bakery in Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles.

They specialize in custom cakes and have a long list of celebrity clients whose birthday parties they have patronized. The workers are always in the back crafting their latest master works. Out front, they have unattractive tables and chairs with a very beckoning display of cupcakes.

cupcakes in LAI was surprised at the price — a buck each. The frosting was laid on thick.

At least the day I was there, the taste didn’t live up to the looks: it wasn’t moist and fresh, it didn’t taste as sweet and buttery as expected. But ok, it was only $1, so I’m not complaining.

chocolate cupcakeI’m thinking this spot makes a great place for anyone short of cash and wanting to have a little something to eat out. It’s good for people on a budget.

The pictures certainly are tempting.

IMG_3890 (1)IMG_3887 (1)
Hansen’s Bakery
1072 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 936-4332
$

stocking stuffer miniThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Frozen custard and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

what is the difference between frozen custard and ice creamFrozen custard, I learned, was slow-churned for a smoother, creamier-than-ice cream delight with no ice crystals because of the painstaking preparation. Custard, a virtually unknown quantity in L.A., was what brought me into Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers when I was visiting my daughter in Salt Lake City. The throwback eatery throttled me: Was there one in L.A.? Yes, but it is far. It is in Thousand Oaks.

It turns out that frozen custard is more than slow-churn. It has more egg white and less oxygen, which makes for a denser product that doesn’t melt as easily as ice cream (the science). In short, it is a significant step up from ice cream (the non-science). You can find it scarcely around L.A., but I’ll only vouch for the quality of Freddy’s. When I was inducted into the wonders of frozen custard with my relatives around East Rochester (who schooled me as to the advantages), I embarked on a quest to find it on the East Coast. I have found it.

freddy's steakburgersFreddy’s, as I discovered in Salt Lake, doesn’t specialize in dietary or healthy. While other burger joints have made strides to cut calories or limit trans fats, Freddy’s wallows in the goodness of the way things were cooked in the 50s. (Quantities of salt and sugar, I think, register on the Richter Scale.) So don’t make this splurge a regimen regular.

bamboo steamer best[The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]

I went for the custard but discovered Freddy’s has more than just custard. Originally from Wichita, Kansas. This is part of the swath of America that likes Fry Sauce.

what is fry sauce

Wichita Freddy's Frozen Custard

What is Fry Sauce?

I asked. When I was in Idaho visiting my brother.

Fry sauce? Fry Sauce is Fry Sauce.

I’m not kidding. That’s what they told me.

I suppose those Idahoans never imagined life without Fry Sauce. Nor had they ever imagined there might be a barbarian who had never tried or even heard of it.

It’s worth a try.

Freddy's Frozen Custard hamburger and hotdog combo

The hamburger and hot dog combo. The side sliced pickles.

I’ve been a straight ketchup-and-fries man myself. So the prospect of something new and exotic is tantalizing. Could there be something better — or at least equal to — ketchup with fries? Some people swear by it.

freddy-s-frozen-custard-amp-steakburgersFry Sauce is mostly mayonnaise with a touch of ketchup, vinegar, pepper and seasoned salt. Freddy’s has a variety with jalapeño. The wheel has been reinvented. Break out of boredom and give it a try.

deep fried cheese curds at Freddy's Frozen Custard

The steak burger with the deep-fried cheese curds

Freddy’s shoe-string fries, which give more surface area for salt to cling to, will force you to fire them fast into your mouth to fill up. There’s no slow-eating those shoe-string fries. If you are a cheese lover, as I am, then skip the fries altogether because they have a thing I didn’t even know existed: deep-fried cheese curds.

Oh my!

The steakburger, too, is a notable break from routine. The patty is squared and comes with charred edges. It seems to hold together more loosely, giving the perfect circle patties with uniform thickness of other restaurants the feel of rubber hockey pucks, by comparison. The pickles are sliced lengthwise (even that is different from the norm!)

freddys-front_750xx1500-844-0-77To complete the exotic experience, sprinkle on some Steakburger & Fry Seasoning, which is made of salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, turmeric, onion salt, and garlic salt.

After reveling in the diet-busting, throw all restraint to the wind and get what you came for: the frozen custard. Savor it. Admire it. Bite it. Look at the denseness of the cream. I got the chocolate, and my buddy got the vanilla. (He’s not close enough of a buddy for me to ask for a bite of his ice cream.) They have sundaes, shakes and malteds.

Freddy of Freddy'sFreddy soldier WW2 Freddy's Frozen CustardInitially, I thought that Freddy, a World War 2 veteran, was the founder of his throwback restaurant. It certainly adds mystique to the experience. But, as it turns out, it was his son, who named the restaurant after his dad. Pictures of dad and his farming and war hero life are featured on the walls of Freddy’s.

When I found out that the nearest Freddy’s to me (in L.A.) was Thousand Oaks, I despaired because that’s a bit far. I was told there are only three Freddy’s in California. When my buddy moved to Thousand Oaks, I began to plot my visit. I will be back with my family.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Westlake Village, CA
(805) 497-3344
$

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

Cheesecake Factory cheesecake

IMG_4144Special memories for my wife and me. The Cheesecake Factory is where I asked her to marry me — 29 years ago. Dianna and I went for our anniversary.

Don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory for Mexican Food. Or Chinese. Or Italian. Yeah, the food at the Cheesecake Factory is, at best, decent. But the ethnic food is meh.

IMG_4142Go to the Cheesecake Factory for cheesecake. Nobody does it better.

The great danger of the Cheesecake Factory is the calorie count. An entre usually is more than half you daily max, and the the cheesecake is at least half. If you order a soda and an appetizer, you blasting into the 4000 calorie range — IN JUST ONE MEAL! (The menu I saw said “2,000 calories is recommended daily, but intake may vary from person to person.” This is MISLEADING, meant to lull you into lowering your guard with the doubt that you might need more. If you play high school football, are a boy and a teenager, then you need more calories. If not, forget it.

IMG_4143

Looks healthy? It does. But HOW do they get more than 1,000 calories into a salad?

Anyhow, you can splurge once in a while. I skipped the fries because they weren’t fresh, and I saved calories.

But Dianna and I did good with the cheesecake. We ordered the mango key lime. It was mid-range calories — 1280. And it was sensational! The graham-cracker pie crust was laced with coconut. The tart lime was counter-balanced perfectly by sweet and creamy with sweet mango.

I have tried almost every cheesecake they offer. My favorites are the chocolate and raspberry ones.

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Savory Indian cuisine at Urban India Grill

Urban India Cafe North HollywoodHankering for some quick Indian food but can’t afford the plane ticket to India? Try Urban India Grill on Sherman Way in North Hollywood.

The favorite item on the 2-year-old restaurant is the Chicken Tikka Masala, which we ordered super mild because we’re — without mincing words — getting old and can’t stomach the hot, hot, hot fare we used to love. The thick, sweet tomato-based gravy in which the chicken chunks are generously bathed was so good that we were spreading it on our bread and into our basmati rice. My wife and I couldn’t get enough of that sauce. It is the kind of thing you look for in an Indian restaurant, that authentic Indian flavor.

chicken tikki masala san fernando valleyWe also delighted on the Mixed Tandoori, a smattering of lamb, chicken chunks of the tikka and tandoori style served on a sizzling iron skillet over a thin bed of sauced, grilled bell pepper and onion slivers. They served us two dipping sauces: one a sweet tamarind and the other mint with lemon.

nan prati indian breadThe bread really is something. Baked in house, you have choose either nan or prati, which is a little thinner. The flatbreads have the best of all worlds, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. You could go to this restaurant just for the bread.

vegetable samosa fried turnover IndiaShireen, the proprietor, works the restaurant with her whole family. An immigrant from Bangladesh, she met and married her husband from Indian in America. Their adult children were both working the night my wife and I visited. They are both working on master’s degrees, he in marketing, she in biology, but they’re making money to pay for their studies. The son has helped establish restaurants in Dubai and Oman for an uncle. With a husky voice, Shireen made us feel like we were in family.

indian food san fernando valley

Shireen prevailed on us to try, insisting we try the vegetable Samosa, which was a deep-fried turnover filled with a pureed paste of an assortment of vegetables, again with the red and green dipping sauces.

On top of all the pluses, Urban India is way affordable. Way affordable. Apparently, before Shireen and family purchased it, the eatery was a teriyaki joint, so they still serve some Asian fusion.

Urban India Grill
12907 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
$

bamboo steamer bestThe author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant

Ethiopian fare at Messob in Los Angeles

ethnic cuisine LAWhen I got to Messob restaurant in Little Ethiopia, I had no idea what to order, so I got the sampler plate, which I shared with my wife. It was the size of Captain America’s shield.

We sat at a basket weaved table with funny chairs because we wanted the authentic experience. My wife noticed that a few black couples (presumably, Ethiopians) didn’t bother with the hassle and sat at traditional American tables. Another white pair of ladies also opted for the funny table.

ethiopian cuisine los angelesThe platter had a dollop of this and a serving of that, all of it spread over a a thin round flatbread called injera the size of the plate. Except for the airholes in the bread, it tasted like a crepe. I wasn’t used to it with salty items.

The restaurant offers dulet, spicy country style ground beef, liver and tripe and bozena shiro, ground peas in beef seasoned with garlic, onions and ginger. There’s doro wot, chicken stewed in red pepper sauce with an assortment of spices, and yebeg siga alicha, a mild lamb stew delicately flavored with garlic, ginger and other spices.

messob little ethiopia LAThere are steamed peas, collard greens, split lentil and yatakilt alicha, steamed vegetables with onions and seasoning. The menu is mostly in English, but there is Ethiopian for immigrants (or to just assure you the food is authentic).

If you live in L.A., you have to try ethnic restaurants. Aside from making a memorable experience, such restaurants broaden your horizons and get you out of culinary boredom.

Messob Ethiopian Restaurant
1041 S. Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA  90019
$$

The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.

10 inch bamboo steamer

 

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #11

partea-boba-400x787Partea Boba –

15355 Sherman Way
Van Nuys
$

Get it? Party, but spelled All the drinks are good. The boba is never stale. My favorite is pineapple mango slushee with boba. It’s not overly sweet and is greatly refreshing for hot summer days. There’s also a great lychee slushee. Their milk tea is amazing.

This is my son’s favorite study spot.

And unlike so many boba joints, this one has wifi! (There are also board games like Jenga, Uno and Connect 4). The people attending our very nice, never rude. They get their drinks out fast.

Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants of the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #10

Weiler’s Nosh & Bakery –

9028 Balboa Blvd.
Northridge
$

witch's brew cold coffee weilers san fernando valley

I was going to present Gayle’s Perks, which offered “witch’s brew” cold coffee with coffee ice frozen into the bottom of the glass. It was novelty, dark and delicious. Tucked away into a corner of the corner mall, this homegrown coffee shop was the perfect hideaway for those burnt out on standardized, automated coffee shops.

avocado toast spanish olives sunny side up egg weilers san fernando valleySince then, the coffee shop merged with its parent restaurant Weiler’s, which lost its lease. The menu has diversified to include sandwiches, deli lunch and avocado toast with sunny-side-up eggs and ground Spanish olives in a paste. Weiler’s is not doing the Monte Cristo sandwich anymore. They made me a similar one. It had 58 layers of ham and 49 layers of chicken deli meat and with some provolone cheese. They covered in egg and fried it. I guess the authentic Monte Cristo is deep fried, and in their new, smaller space, they’ve done away the deep fryer. Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #8

papillonPapillon International Bakery –

17305 Roscoe Blvd.
Northridge
$

Somebody needs to explain the rudiments of publicity to these guys. They recently had billboards up saying “Best Ponchiks in Town.” No picture of a ponchik. No explanation. The picture was of some Armenian dude, I think. No idea.

They could have posted a picture of a ponchik, let’s say opened up and oozing out with Nutella. They could have publicized a picture of someone eating one and being transported to Seventh Heaven. No. They didn’t do that.

ponchikFortunately for me, somebody — bless his soul — tipped me off to this Armenian pastry. It is a dough ball stuffed with filling and deep fried. Think of a jelly donut that is deep fried like a churro, and your imagination still won’t scratch the exponential blast of sweet goodness.

What Papillon lacks in advertising savvy, they compensate for with sheer taste bud pleasure. If this is “comfort food,” then you just got one week’s worth of comfort in one mouthful. The effect is about the same as a cream filled chocolate Easter egg.

The only downside to these treats — and the reason why I don’t eat them more regularly — is they probably contain about 50 kabillion calories each. But once in a while… Read the rest of Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (secret) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #7

o (1)It’s all good House of Kebab –

6800 Reseda Blvd.
Reseda
$$

Want to visit Iran? You don’t need a visa. Don’t worry about the State Department’s travel ban. You can go to Iran simply by visiting It’s all good House of Kebab. The decor covering the wall of the small eatery comes from old Persia, such items as license plates, old style shoes and even some scourges used by fanatics to punish themselves to appease Allah (not exactly appetizing, but legit).

But what’s really good in this restaurant is the food. I had the The bread, or nun, is crisp on the outside and chewy and warm on the inside. Had it not been for some Iranians with me when we went, I never would have ordered the deezy, a stew of beans, lamb chunks, cinnamon, lemon, pepper, salt and who knows what else magic goes into it. The Persian have imported and toned down from Indian Beryani, an outstanding curry dish. The rice all comes with saffronRead the rest: Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #6

best pastrami sandwich in the San Fernando ValleyHoliday Burgers

15520 Devonshire St.
North Hills
$

Supposedly all the mom and pop restaurants have disappeared off the face of the planet, victims to the tsunami of multinational food franchises. The mom and pop joints can’t compete, we are told. They can’t maintain the consistency or keep prices down compared the economies-of-scale wholesale purchasing power of McDonald’s and crew.

Thank God, there’s Holiday Burgers to prove that Mom and Dad can find a niche and beat the big boys. Specifically, this joint offers a pastrami sandwich absolutely glutted with mouth-watering pastrami that causes competitors to pale. Holiday Burgers is a needle in a haystack. You probably wouldn’t pick it just driving by. No, this restaurant runs on word of mouth. That’s how I found it.

Just forget about the recommendations of other websites purporting the “best pastrami” in LA. Go to Holiday. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #5

soul food in the valleyLes Sisters Southern Kitchen & BBQ –

21818 Devonshire St.
Chatsworth
$$

You can find Cajun/Creole food far, far away from the South. Here’s New Orlean’s-style smothered chicken, catfish, fried chicken, jambalaya, hush puppies, hot links and corn bread. Their “Muddy Waters” is a house tea and lemonade.

muddy waters southern lemonade tea les sisters chatsworthThe restaurant was started by two friends who argued over everything and couldn’t agree on a name. Someone observed they argued like sisters, so he suggested the hook in a bit of French (since New Orleans has French origins), and the name has stuck for 30 years. Les Sister’s doesn’t have a huge sign or sit on a large parking lot. If you’re driving down Devonshire on the Northwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley, it’s easy to miss. I suggest you follow your nose — or your GPS.

The day my wife and I went here, the waitress sat down at the table with us to take our order. Far from being an “invasion of our space,” the gesture gave us a homey, family feel that took off the professional distance in almost every restaurant. It was a nice change of pace. Read the rest Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #4

oChio’s Peruvian Grill –

7755 Sepulveda Blvd.
Van Nuys
$$

To live in LA is to enjoy exotic food. Now that Mexican food has spread across the U.S., Angelinos are now in a quest for new tastes from the remotest parts of the globe. Apparently over a 1,000 Peruvians call Van Nuys their home, so you can find a cache of Andes-styled eateries. Among them, Chio’s stands out. The restaurant started on Sepulveda Blvd, the grubbery is opening restaurants elsewhere in the Valley.

I can see why they are expanding. I had the Lomo Saltado, which dares to put the French fries right in the savory beef slivers with liquidy sauce. There’s a healthy dollop of white rice too. I was impressed that the serving size was generous for the price — no leftover hunger. The inadequate parking reflects the humble immigrant beginnings of this gem. Let me assure you, it’s worth the trouble to get parking once you’re inside the cozy restaurant watching flames leap up in the kitchen grill. They have Peruvian beer, but being a teetotaler, I can’t opine on its craftsmanship.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #3

crave cafeCrave Cafe –

14505 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks
$$

Does your husband want a burger and you want sushi? No worries. There’s a place that caters to both.

No, I’m not kidding.

Crave is definitely pushing the outer limits of the envelope of “eclectic.”

There are actually two Craves because the owner sold them to two different buyers. I’m talking about the one at Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is the one that has the Crave sushi house right next to and with a door between the two so that you can order from. So it’s easy to savor both sushi and hamburgers at the same table (not in a Food Court).

As a kicker, Crave has gourmet coffees and pastries. I’ve spent a nice evening spooning in a smooth and creamy cheesecake while watching American Ninja with my wife. The ironies were not lost on me.

And it’s open 24 hours, which is good to know because your options for a late, late dinner are few and far between in the Valley. Read the rest of Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #2

korean mexican tacosCorner Grille –

8261 Sepulveda Blvd.
Panorama City
$

I had a hard time believing this store front eatery — in modest digs, and in not the best of neighborhoods — had 976 reviews on Yelp with a 4-and-a-half star rating. I wouldn’t say it looked from the outside like a dive. I just never would have ventured in had it not been for the ratings on Yelp. That caught my attention and made me want to give it a try.

Good thing.

The place features fusion Mexican tacos made with Korean barbecue beef. The exotic mix sounded enticing and the delectable morsel did not disappoint. You might expect such audacious fusion food from a Michelin-ranked chef at a five-star hotel. But no, it’s right here in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, at the crossroads of Nowhere and Anonymity. This is definitely a hidden gem. There’s also Korean barbecue beef fries to die for.

And it’s cheap.

The Corner Grille is now my go-to for a quick and cheap meal whenever I’m in the neighborhood and hungry. What’s more, it’s the place I surprise my Westside friends with when I take them. Read the rest of Best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

Best (non franchise) restaurants in the San Fernando Valley #1

Pita Pockets Northridge mediterranean foodPita’s Pockets –

9127 Reseda Blvd.
Northridge
$

Don’t be put off by the unpretentious name or the low price. For exotic Mediterranean, this joint’s the real deal. For starters, the proprietor Fatin Elmor is a friendly Palestinian Israeli. He speaks a half a dozen languages and combines cultures for some of the most audacious and tangiest fusion food creations.

You’ve got to try the feta fries, which are other-worldly delicious. The lamb gyro transported me to other side of the planet for a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. He bakes his own bread right there on the spot, which means it’s crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Try the dessert with Nutella, which is a Mediterranean approximation to a churro.

The joint is located to cater to the students of CSUN. College students are usually looking for good, cheap, exotic food — and Pita’s delivers on all three. The good news is you don’t have to be a college student go there and enjoy the concoctions dreamed up by Fatin.

Read the rest best restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.

God’s call. To cooking?

christian chefs internationalWhen God called Ira Krizo distinctly and undeniably to ministry, “there was no use waiting any longer,” he says.

So he immediately went to New York… to culinary school.

Yes, cooking.

Ira wasn’t called to the pastorate. He wasn’t called to the foreign field as a missionary. He wasn’t called into worship.

He was called to be a chef — a Christian chef. After all, God’s calling and gifting is to myriad areas of life, not just stereotypical “ministry.”

christian culinary academyToday, Ira is the president of Christian Chefs International, a network of believers who have almost as much gusto for gourmet cooking as the Gospel.

With 14 chapters active or pending in America and abroad, the Cannon Beach, Oregon-based non profit holds annual conferences and boasts a 1-year, non-denominational culinary school where they don’t throw knives at the students.

“In many secular kitchens I’ve worked in, I’ve seen the chef yelling and screaming all day long at people,” writes Ira in a devotional on CCI’s website. “I’ve seen chefs throw things; once even knives. Is that the best way?”

Ira recommends humbly confronting head chefs who abuse their authority. He suggests chefs use the Biblical model: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-18 (NKJV)

Even reality TV programs depict the outbursts of rage that occur under pressure when chefs are striving to meet the demands of their patrons.

Under the title “Christians in the Kitchen,” the CCI website offers devotions for cooks that include ethics in the kitchen, being content (restaurants typically experience a high turnover of staff) and being “prayed up” for the pressures of the job. One encourages disciples to be “sourdough Christians,” with analogies per ingredient. Read more about God’s calling to cooking.

The 3 unhealthiest dim sum

pexels-photo-1005374There’s a urban legend among the Chinese that the tea washes away all the excesses of Dim Sum. They call it a cleanse or a detergent.

The truth of the matter is that Dim Sum is a comfort food (Dim Sum means “touches your heart”), like seven-layer dip with potato chips or shoe fly pie. Indulging shouldn’t be a daily or even weekly experience.

Here are the three Dim Sum you should avoid — or if it’s absolutely you’re favorite, cut back on the intake per category on other baskets you order!

Three Dim Sum items to avoid:

  1. Chinese Pork Ribs: High calories

In terms of caloric intake for a single portion, nothing beats the Chinese pork ribs with sticky rice in black bean sauce. In 2005, the Public Health Branch of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of Hong Kong analyzed 71 Dim Sum items and found that a portion of this tasty treat has a whopping 820 calories. And that was for a serving size of 100 grams — about half a cup (rice and beef). Who eats only a half a cup of this deliciousness?

The average adult needs between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. One “portion” of this yummy food then is about one-third of your daily need for caloric energy. (If you don’t use up that energy, it gets stored as fat.)

2. Xiao Long Bao Soup: Too much fat

In the area of fat, there are many contenders. But the king is Xiao Long Bao Soup Dumpling with a staggering 80 grams of fat, according to My Fitness Pal’s ranking. These jellied meats inside of a flour dough wrapping are so bad that Men’s Health magazine in Singapore called on readers to “dump the dumpling.” Read the rest of unhealthiest dim sum.

Simple steamed fish Chinese style

simple steamed chinese fish filetsIngredients for 4 servings:

  • About 2 lbs white fish fillets
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 pinches sugar
  • 2 green onions, cut into slivers
  • 3 TB cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1 TB fresh ginger crushed
  • 2 TB cooking oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 TB soy sauce

Marinade ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1 TB sherry
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger cut into slivers

Visit our website for directions to Simple steamed fish Chinese style.

Bamboo steamer: be careful what you buy

jolie1Bad news for the unsuspecting bamboo steamer-purchaser who’s recently come under the illusion of tasty, healthy food:

Not all bamboo steamers are equal.

Some are rather flimsy, cheaply put together to be priced more competitively. Regrettably but understandably the poorer quality lasts a shorter time.

When you look to buy a steamer, make sure the outer rim is thick and round. Since the rim is the chief support of the steamer, it is the critical structural component for longevity:

jolie2When you buy a steamer, study gaps between the slats. The curved cuts provide maximized steaming AND support. This intricately assemblage takes longer than the flat slats with gaps between them. This is fine craftsmanship.

When you look to buy a steamer, look at the thickness of the slats. Obviously it’s cheaper to put thinner wood for the supporting slats. And yes, the thinner wood will work… for a while. But then it will break, and you’ll have to get another steamer. The thicker slats lasts longer. The snugly fitted assembly, not tied with flimsy strands (which some brands do), also contributes to the overall sturdiness and longevity of the steamer. For the rest of the useful tips for buying a bamboo steamer, click on the link. If you’re shopping for a bamboo steamer, check all the quality points.

Here’s a good one:

best bamboo steamer

Basics to start cooking Chinese at home

Everybody loves Chinese food. But can you do it at home? What special cookware and ingredients do you need? Is it too hard to set up for Chinese recipes at home?

Mike Ashcraft — aka The Klutzy Cook — shows you the basics you’ll need to get started. Get some quality recipes, these essentials to start, and you’re on you’re way. Cuisine Natural sells a killer 10″ steamer for $21.95 on Amazon click here.

I forgot to mention cooking sherry. Get cooking sherry also.

 

How to steam fish fillet in bamboo steamer

steamed fish bamboo steamerFor piping hot yet tender delicious fillets, a bamboo steamer is ideal! The trick is to line the basket trays with lettuce leaves (Romaine works well). I put lemon slices in with the lettuce so that the juices can saturate the fillet. Try 1 ½ lb of cod, halibut or salmon. Depending on the thickness of the filet, it will take 4 to 12 minutes; the flesh should whiten and lose its translucent appearance.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite herbs. Or try the Chinese way with sprinkled fresh ginger and scallions on top. Find out the basics for use of bamboo steamers, including steaming broccoli.

Steaming broccoli with a bamboo steamer

steamed broccoliIt’s easy to want to eat more broccoli because it’s a superfood packed with nutrients and fiber for digestion. But broccoli is either too tough raw or wilted if boiled. This is where a bamboo steamer comes to the rescue! The steaming takes off the tough edge of the broccoli and keeps in the nutrients you crave. The bamboo basket brings a subtle authentic touch from China and keeps molecules from the metal steamer baskets from contaminating your food.

IMG_9533Here the steps to perfect steamed broccoli:

  1. Cut into bite-size florets. I like to use pre-cut florets from Costco because they save me this time-consuming step. Most people prefer not to eat the stems anyway, but if you do eat the stems, that extra roughage is a windfall for your digestion.
    You can use wax paper liners or parchment sheets, which you can use by loosely wrapping around the vegetables.
  2. Bring water in wok to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Let the steam filter through the cracks between the bamboo slats for 3 to 4 minutes. If you like the broccoli crisper, steam for less time. If you prefer tender florets, then steam for a bit longer.
    Add some pizzazz by adding bullion into your boiling water. Alternatively, cook the broccoli on the top basket with fish or chicken on the bottom. NOTE: If you cook a protein on the bottom, it will take longer, so you may want to remove the broccoli sooner and place the bamboo lid on the bottom basket.
  3. A lot of people put butter or olive oil with herbs on their steamed broccoli. But I like the Chinese oyster sauce for a rich, appetizing flavor that will make you want more of this most healthy of vegetables.

Read about other tips for bamboo cooking.

Confessions of an ex-junk food junkie

junk foodI have a confession: I love junk food.

I would probably eat it everyday.

But I know that it will kill me. It’s loaded with calories, salt, fat, preservatives. It comes up short on nutrition. So I avoid it.

I’m not so much of a health freak to NEVER eat junk food. But I try to limit it to once a week. The rest of the time, I try to stay health.

Officially, weekends are “cheat days” to not live in dietary misery. I indulge an ice cream on Friday night. I don’t watch my calories.

Ashcraft family

I’m the tall guy in middle. I’m 51.

But Monday through Friday lunch, I’m pretty good about being intelligent about food selection. My tongue doesn’t feel good; my body does. I enjoy the benefits of feeling healthy depriving my tongue of daily delights (those are saved for weekends).

And the benefits I feel in my body are great. I have energy. I don’t get sick. I go to the gym and have strength. I enjoy walking up stairs without struggling. I don’t go to the doctor or the hospital. I do my work with zest and passion and don’t have to lie down and recover. My body delights in health (though my tongue gets deprived of the rush of emotion over super tasty foods).

Here’s what’s amazing and possible: I actually enjoy the healthy food now. I savor the broccoli, the asparagus, the not-fried chicken, the salads, the food without heavy cream sauces and cooking without grease and fat.

Yes, it’s possible.

My experience is that you can literally retrain your taste buds.

I think it takes years. It has taken me years. Right now, I’m actually grossed out by soda if I drink it. As hard as that may to believe.

nutrients flavor bamboo steamerMy journey towards healthful eating and healthfulness has led me to selling bamboo steamers on Amazon. People are absolutely fanatical about bamboo. They conserve nutrients better and absorb some of the steam so that Chinese buns come out right. I have discovered that steaming fish fillets to take into work with me is NOT slower than warming fish sticks in the toaster oven. If you want to buy one and try it for yourself, here’s the link.

Shed stress, shed pounds

Maybe your problem is not sugar after all.

It might be cortisol. It’s a useful hormone that helps you kick into “fight or flight” mode.

Your adrenal glands dump into your blood system during stress. Its purpose was to — occasionally — heighten blood pressure and heartbeat when in danger of a predator or war in ancient times.

stress and sugarNowadays, sabre tooth tigers, Black Plague or invading mongols are not a threat. No, your problems are worse- bills, deadlines, domestic friction, rejection, loneliness, competition, low self esteem, weight gain, sickness. Plus, the world is coming to an end (again)

We have more stress points than any civilization ever, and as a result our cortisol levels are puncturing the stratosphere. Excess cortisol cues hypertension, high blood sugar, inflammation, depression, insomnia, atherosclerosis and a bunch of other cools ways to die or live in misery before dying. This is serious! There’s even a full-blown academic journal dedicated to its study: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress.

We’re stressed about stress.

Of course, people develop coping mechanisms to lighten the overload. There are some that are escapist and some are counteractions: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, binge-watching, oversleeping, social isolation, scape-goating, gaming.

One more: dunking donuts.

Or candy, or soda.

Sugar gives an instant pleasure from a dopamine release in your bloodstream. Dopamine is the happy hormone. It counteracts the cortisol and offsets it, if temporarily. It’s an tangible relief.

Behold then!

Excessive obesity then is not just a product of the prevalence of added sugar in grocery store items. It’s not just a product an overly sedentary lifestyle. Lack of information about nutrition alone cannot be blamed — nor can the marketing fusillade of the food industry.

Our weight problem can be traced to unhealthy stress levels.

You don’t need to strengthen your willpower to resist that chocolate bar. You need to lower your stress levels. Read the rest of the article for practical tips to lower stress and thus shed pounds.

Step up your steaming game

asian-food-deliciousFor those who are looking to level up their kitchen skills, a bamboo steamer offers a more natural way to steam fish and vegetables — and it’s not just for Chinese cooking. Steaming conserves nutrients better than most other types of cooking. Of course, it reduces fat content because no oil is needed to keep the food from sticking to the pan.

I’m going to be honest: The bamboo steamer sounded pretty exotic to me, and I imagined it would more difficult to use. What I found was that it really isn’t difficult. Here’s the down and dirty truth: Because I’m addicted to “fast cooking,” I used to throw frozen fish sticks into the toaster oven. They took about 6 minutes. Now I place refrigerated fillets on Napa cabbage leaves in my steamer. It takes about 6 minutes.

The kicker: I’m moving away from processed food.

This is a huge bonus because prepared and package convenient food means “processed.” Every time you eat processed food, you’re taking a hit of salt, sugar and fat.

bamboo steamer with a bowl inside

You can use a bowl to keep the food from sticking to the bamboo. I prefer the Napa cabbage.

My favorite brand of fish sticks said on the label “lightly processed,” so I thought I was doing well. Then I checked the sodium content, and guess what: it was high. Salt is used to cover up a lot of mishaps in the processed food industry. It gets added to create craving and hook repeat customers. You don’t even realize it’s there, but it’s pulling you back to another purchase.

When I steam, I control the amount of salt, which is creating a heart disease epidemic in the United States.

the end of the fish stick

The end of the frozen fish stick

One more thing: washing. Is cleaning the bamboo steamer more difficult than the toaster over tray. I used to soak the toaster oven tray in water with dish soap and then scrub it with stainless steel scouring pad. It took a tool on my sensitive skin.

Now I use a soap-saturated sponge on the bamboo steamer, rinse thoroughly and let dry. The drying is the tricky point on the bamboo steamer. It has to dry thoroughly or mold or mildew and grow. I have found that if you leave the top off and store it on an open shelf after drying, it’s good.

The net time for cleaning? The bamboo steamer is quicker and easier.

This is my experience with the bamboo steamer. Why don’t you tell me your yours in the comments?

Would you like to buy a 10-inch bamboo steamer? I’m selling to supplement my ministry.

How to cut sugar without stress

sugar addictionBusiness Insider recently showed how sugar is becoming the #1 culprit (ahead of fatty foods) behind the current weight gain epidemic. Naturally.

So concerned diet experts are targeting sugar consumption. Unfortunately sugar already has been targeting you — usually with great success.

If you feel your own powerlessness, you’re not alone. Like starting a fitness routine, there are right ways and wrong ways to start a sugar-reduction plan.

Today. Right now.

Ready?

Here’s seven tips to slay sugar:

1. Your stomach doesn’t really care. Your brain does. Find alternative rewards for your brain: Sugar fires off dopamine production in your brain, a key component of addiction. Unlike a balanced meal (which can also trigger dopamine but tapers off if repeated), sugar keeps flooding the brain with warm fuzzies. It is this overactive reward system that creates craving.

Suggestion: Source the pleasure hormone elsewhere:

  • Consume large quantities of meat and other proteins, specifically Tyrosine which can be found in almonds, avocados, bananas, chocolate, coffee, eggs, green tea and watermelon.
  • Eat yogurt, kimchee, pickles, some cheeses or other foods rich in probiotics.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Enjoy music.
  • Meditate.
  • Get sunlight.
  • Consider supplements as curcumin, ginkgo biloba, L-theanine, acetyl-l-tyrosine
  • Get a massage. Hug your family. Get a pet.
  • Learn something new. Make new discoveries. Develop and satisfy your curiosity.
  • Divide your duties into small tasks and check them off as you go. A sense of accomplishment releases dopamine.

Other reward hormones: Other feel-good hormones also provide potent sugar substitutes:

  • Endorphins — from significant exercise. Go to the gym.
  • Serotonin — from feeling significant or important. Socialize.
  • Oxytocin — from feeling cherished, cuddled, intimate or trusted. Get support from family and friends. Cultivate relationships.
  • Adrenaline — from fear or competition. Ride a roller coaster, make a high risk investment, or watch a horror movie.

2. Rewire your brain. Neurobiologists are changing the way we see human weakness (addiction). A bad habit is not simply dusted away — or ridiculed by the strong. It’s actually rooted in your brain. It turns out that there are neural highways in your gray matter. The more you reinforce any behavior, the more electro-chemical pulses are fired along certain pathways. Dendrites are even added to the most used thoroughfares, and pulses are sped up.

Yikes! your brain literally aids and abets your addiction.

To forge a new path is to head off through brambles and crawlers; it will be slow go. You’re off the beaten path, so the walking is not easy. This is not only bad news because it’s not impossible, just hard. You can “re-wire” your brain, but you need to be realistic. It might takes weeks, months, even years.

Suggestion: Journal your progress. Set small goals towards a larger objective. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. If you “fall off the wagon,” get back immediately. Get a empathetic support group or accountability partner. Repetition is the key to forming both bad and good habits, so try to steer clear of sugar over and over.

3. Identify negative emotions. There’s a reason why they’re called “comfort foods.” The are a happy-reset button. What are the emotional storm clouds you escape from? Here are a few common factors inducing sugar addiction:

  • Stress — The inability to handle stress well is ripe fruit for escapism.
  • Fear/ anxiety — Ditto above.
  • Boredom — The dull lulls of life make you want to zest up your life with some tasty morsels.
  • Loneliness — Social isolation, anxiety and rejection bring a heavy emotional cost.
  • Frustration — Failure and setbacks bring depression, from which you naturally want to take a break.

Suggestions: Developing strategies for these and other negative emotions may require some outside help from a trusted counselor. You might get inspiration from a good book or some motivational videos on YouTube. Journaling can help you analyze, dissect and give you the objectivity to overcome these. Get a hobby, take up gaming, learn a new language or play the guitar. Read the four other tips for cutting sugar without stress.

bamboo steamer kitchen revolutionMr. Mustard Seed is selling 10″ bamboo steamers on Amazon as a way to help the health habit. Profits go to his ministry.

Yummy Cha: How a biracial couple shared what they learned about bamboo steamers

Dianna and MikeShe was a Chinese-American who studied to be an engineer at UCLA. He studied English literature and became a journalist. She flourished at designing the HVAC systems in skyscrapers in Los Angeles. He dropped out of journalism, a dying field, and became a teacher at a small private school in Santa Monica.

Dim Sum brunchShe loved Chinese food and taught him the finer things of Asian cuisine. He grew passionate about fitness and healthy eating. They enjoyed what the learned and ate together.

Then, Dianna and Mike decided to fuse their tastes and skills and help others discover what the secrets of the Ancient Orient can help Americans lose weight, get better nutrition and enjoy food!

nutrients flavor bamboo steamerCuisine Natural was born, with an initial 10-inch bamboo steamer on Amazon. They stayed in love and brought what they loved to others.  Read the rest about Yum Cha or Yummy Cha.

Bamboo steamers

dim sum 1In Guangzhou at the epicenter of dim sum, they don’t dare to use metal steamers even in restaurants.

But here in LA, they are drawn to cut corners. The metal steamers are industrial, useful for frequent use, easy cleaning. But you lose something in the cheapening process. You lose authenticity and flavor. Metal implements inevitably contaminate.

So the best option at home is the bamboo steamer. You’re not likely going to cook 10 varieties of Chinese buns all at once. You’re probably not going to steam everyday. (The bamboo steamer needs to be dried at least a day.)

As I go along in life, I’m learning more and more about health. I’ve cut soda out, cut down on sugar, increased gym exercise. Now, I’ve stumbled upon steaming with bamboo. Nice trick. My partner and I, wanting to find a source of income to help in ministry, are selling bamboo steamers on Amazon. Check us out.

Eating to die young. Here’s how.

eating to dieFor decades, Bible-believing Christians have been told and retold that one of God’s promises is they can live to a ripe old age, 80 years to be exact. This “promise” is based on Psalm 90:10 NIV: ” “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures…:” It was a mantra for decades.

There’s a problem with this thesis though. First off, this psalm was written by Moses, who lived to 120. Secondly, there’s another verse equally valid that seems to have been overlooked. It is Genesis 6:3 (NIV): humans’ “days will be be a hundred and twenty years.”

Why was the promise for Psalm preferred over Genesis? There is no exegetical reason.

So I adhered to 120 years. I started proclaiming in faith, as we Christians are wont to do, that I would live 120 years. “If you want to live only 80 years, that’s fine,” I would tell my friends. “But I’m believing the promise in Gen. 6:3 for 120 years.”

I was onto something. I mean, who wants to die?

But I also understood that I played a part in the fulfillment of that promise. I knew enough to understand that my body is “temple to the Holy Spirit,” as 1 Corinthians 3:16. I wouldn’t “trash” the temple. In Christian terms, I would “steward” by body as a precious gift from God, not to be abused.

Here’s what you need to do if you want to push the upper limits of the Bible’s longevity promises:

Exercise – So much good comes from a vigorous walk through the neighborhood or a trip to the gym! God didn’t design the body for today’s sedentary jobs; they were supposed to labor in the fields. The switch to desk jobs has been a death knell for health: obesity, heart disease, even cancer. Make time for exercise and it will make time lengthen in your life.

Cut down on fat – Nor did God intend for us to eat so much meat. In New Testament times, some sort of porridge was the everyday fare. Only on special occasions did the common man enjoy meat. Modern man has multiplied exponentially its consumption, and the the overload has clogged up our blood vessels and burdened the heart. Saturated fats are loaded into processed foods to improve taste. Is it any wonder that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America?

Read the rest of the tips for longevity.

How to use a bamboo steamer?

how to use a bamboo steamerBamboo steamers are all the rage for a reason. It turns out that the ancient Chinese knew a thing or two about keeping nutrients and flavor in their ingredients. The double-tier bamboo basket provides the additional benefit of allowing flavors to inter-mingle. But you can amp up your flavor by boiling broth in the bottom water!

Once you have your bamboo steamer from China, here’s the simple steps that are absolutely necessary for best results:

  • Line the bottom with lettuce or cabbage leaves. Alternatively, you can buy special wax paper liners that are easy to use. This step is important because the cooking food will otherwise stick to the bamboo slats that comprise the steamer and make a sticky mess. You can put your fish on the bottom tier and vegetables on the top one.
  • Place the interlocking tiers into a wok or other pot with approximately two inches of water. Make sure the level of the food doesn’t submerge in the water or you will have boiled food! Simmer on low heat for the allotted time. Make sure the water doesn’t boil off.
  • Serve and enjoy piping hot over rice!
  • Clean the bamboo steamer with a soft dish soap, never in the dishwasher. Make sure it is thoroughly dry before storing in the cupboard. The same bamboo that makes for healthy and natural food is also delicate and susceptible to mold!
  • The wok works best for the bamboo steamers, but an open skillet will work. Make sure the bamboo ring on the bottom is slightly submerged in the water to avoid burning (including slow burn).

These bamboo cooking baskets require a bit of learning curve, but once you get used to them, it’s easy to get addicted. The flavor and texture is superior to boiled vegetables! The fish comes out tender with no blackened burn marks or greasy oil Read more about how to use a bamboo steamer? 

Retaining vitamins – how a bamboo steamer helps

retaining vitamins with a bamboo steamerBoiling vegetables saps their nutrition. As does frying.

A better way is to steam. I prefer the bamboo steamer because it is more natural. The round-shaped two-tier basket sits snugly in your wok or rounded-edge fry pan. You bring the water to boil in the bottom and the hot vapor filters through the bamboo weave to caressingly cook, not torch nor drown, the natural goodness pulled from the earth. No butter, no oils, no fats are needed to bring them to tender and crisp perfection.

If we’ve learned anything in recent decades, it’s that processes bleach nutrition from the food. Early food scientists actually re-injected chemical nutrients into food (bleached white flour, for example) and thus “fortified” the food. Well, the early optimism about that option has fizzled. Now the focus is on less processes for healthier food to retain vitamins. But have you thought about your home?

My fav Chinese broccoli

chinesebroccoliSince marrying a Chinese girl, I have come to know and love many Chinese dishes, but none compares to the Chinese broccoli drizzled in hoisin or oyster sauce. There’s nothing better to get your dark greens packed with vitamins and roughage so important for cancer-free colon. Here’s a recipe from Free Recipe Network.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli), trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the Chinese broccoli and cook uncovered until just tender, about 4 minutes, or steam the Chinese broccoli in a bamboo steamer for 3 minutes.
  3. Drain and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, ginger, and garlic together in a small saucepan over medium heat until thickened and no longer cloudy, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Toss the broccoli in the sauce and serve.
Quote

The last remaining bamboo steamer maker in Hong Kong — Vincent Wong

It was a humid day. The moist air nourished everything. An overlooked store, located in the middle of Western Street in the district of Sai Ying Pun, is so low-profile that seems unlikely that it has been surviving through furious storms over the past decades. Its name is Tak Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Company. […]

via The last remaining bamboo steamer maker in Hong Kong — Vincent Wong

Trying is believing: https://www.amazon.com/Cuisine-Natural-Non-Toxic-Construction-Dumpling/dp/B07H9YCH5H/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1547687618&sr=8-8&keywords=10+inch+bamboo+steamer

Paunchy pastor changed eating habits, won’t have to squeeze thru Pearly Gates

steve reynolds before and after

Steve Reynolds

Is eating the area where Christians have trouble with self-control? There are fellowship dinners and snacks at Bible studies. We may not go to the bar to drain alcoholic beverages, but we go to the restaurant and knock back the extra fries and milkshakes. It’s not a beer belly; it’s a potluck paunch.

Extra pounds around the waist or on the thighs are more often carried to church than Bibles. In fact, one pastor in Guatemala teased a slim colleague, “Pastor sin panza no da confianza,” which translated means: A pastor without a paunch doesn’t inspire confidence (it’s mirthful in Spanish because it rhymes).

But while there is a disturbing trend in Christianity toward obesity, there is a new generation of shepherds who are saying no to the second helping of shepherd’s pie.

joel-osteen abs

Joel Olsteen

Take Steve Reynold for example. The way he sees it, he was “trashing” his temple of the Holy Spirit (his body), according to US News & World Report. The pastor of Capital Baptist Church in Annandale, Virginia weighed 340 pounds.

While Reynolds never pumped iron, he downed a tub of ice cream each night. While he circumvented cardio, he crammed carbs.

As a result, doctors ordered him to take eight separate medications to stave off diabetes and other disorders. At some point, Reynolds had an epiphany.

“I’m looking forward to heaven,” came the flash, “but I’m not ready to get there yet.”

church potluckReynolds had to upend some bad habits. He started an exercise regime and began a diet inspired by the Bible. It turns out the Holy Writ has much to say about healthy living, but he hadn’t noticed previously. By searching the word “body” in his concordance, he found some inspired guidance.

According to Reynolds, healthy diet and exercise “has been a kind of forsaken thing in churches.”

faithfully fitHealth Fitness Revolution unearthed stats to back up Reynolds’ claim: A 2006 Purdue study found that the fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups, led by the Baptists with a 30% obesity rate. A 2011 Northwestern University study tracking 3,433 men and women for 18 years found that young adults who attend church or a bible study once a week are 50% likelier be obese.

Jesus “could walk 40 miles, not in Reeboks but in leather sandals,” Reynolds wrote in his book. “Yet His followers on this planet are unhealthy, overweight, sedentary couch potatoes.”

As a result of the regimen developed by Reynolds, he dropped 100 pounds and no longer needed the medications. His findings and testimony were published in his book Bod4God.

“We believe our bodies are very important to our faith,” says Scott Roberts, head of William Jessup University’s kinesiology department, where faith-based fitness courses are offered.

chuck bernal before after

Pastor Chuck Bernal

If 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Bodily exercise profiteth little” to highlight spiritual health, nevertheless the verse does says that there is value in physical health. The purpose is not to counter pose bad/good, but to compare good/better.

In 2014, Health Fitness Revolution named the top 10 fittest pastors. Joel Olsteen topped the list for his enviable six pack.

Scott Bennefield was also featured as the “Iron Man Pastor.” Prior to 1991, he never gave much thought to fitness. But then he decided he’d better start running for exercise. He progressed and amplified his goals: at age 43, the pastor of the New Covenant Church in New Mexico competed in his first Iron Man competition and completed six more by time of publication.

Chuck Bernal, pastor of the LifePointe Church in Crowley, Texas, also earned an honorable mention. Through diet and exercise, he slimmed down from 367 pounds to a fit 226.

Mega-church Pastor Rick Warren joined the list. His introduction to health came by way of baptizing 858 people. Two-thirds of the way through dunking disciples, his arms grew tired. And he noticed the excess water displacement by the obese — including himself. Consequently, he lost 30 pounds.

Today, there are Christian diet plans, aps, tapes, exercise routines — all of which motivate through the Word of God for the goal of fitness. Exercising has become as important to some as healthy eating. Read the rest of Christian health.

Quote

Steaming and submersion cooking — Khushbu Singhal

I’ve launched into bamboo steamer business. I’m into healthy food and exercise, so this is perfect for me. Here are observations of an expert: Moist heat techniques – steaming, cooking en papillote, shallow poaching, deep poaching and simmering are liquid and or water vapor based cooking. Steaming Cooking is done by water vapor in a closed vessel. Steamed foods don’t lose much of their color. This method doesn’t impart their own flavor as the frying or roasting does. So […]

via Steaming and submersion cooking — Khushbu Singhal

They’re not feeding me enough in Guatemala

IMG_6501LOL!

Here’s our Guatemalan Christian school that I am visiting now, along with the church.

Overcoming overeating in Christ

michelle-aguilar-biggest-loserMichelle Aguilar was 18 when her mom told her she was leaving her dad. She was devastated. Wasn’t her life with Christian parents supposed to be perfect?

Michelle cut off communication with her mom and her insecurities grew. To internalize the rejection and depression, she turned to eating sweets to boost her spirits.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she says on an I am Second video. “I didn’t know how to deal with my pain or the confusion that I was going through. I think when you’re at a place where you’re kind of out of control with a lot of things, it’s an easy step to turn to food.”

michelle aguilar marriedShe gained weight steadily, always hiding behind a million dollar smile. She reached 242 pounds.

As a Christian, “I knew I couldn’t turn to drugs or alcohol,” Michelle says. “Food was acceptable and it gave me a sense of control. (But) it becomes a guilt thing. You realize that you’re eating, and you’re feeling bad while you’re eating, and it’s just making it worse.”

Mom remarried and took Michelle’s two siblings. Michelle was left alone with dad.

Then a co-worker told her about The Biggest Loser reality TV show, in which overweight contestants worked out to see who loses the most weight, and the “biggest loser” wins $250.000. Michelle auditioned and was rejected the first time, but producers called to include her in the new season.

michelle aguilar smileIt had been six years since she talked to her mom. Dad suggested she participate in the program with her mother, who had also gained substantial pounds. Perhaps their participation might break down the walls between them. In this edition of Biggest Loser it was teams, parent-child or husband-wife.

“I really felt like God was saying, I’m going to give you an opportunity to start over and change from the inside out, and this could be the option if you’re willing to do it.”

But there were mixed emotions. Re-connecting with mom appealed to her, but Michelle viewed her as “the source of my pain, the source of my weight gain.”

She charged into a rigorous physical regimen like a would-be winner. But then she chipped her tooth. Her smile had always been her shield. It projected an image of self-confidence even when she was crying on the inside. It was her only defense against shame, and now it was gone.

“I felt like somebody had stripped away that armor, and said, “No, look at you. You’re smile is gone now. What are you going to do?’” she says. Finish reading how to overcome overeating.