Monday, November 29, 2010
5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92618
A few weeks ago, I wrote about tasting the hand pulled noodles and beef noodle soup at Mama Liang’s House, a small popular chain in LA and the Bay Area that is known for its beef noodle soup, beef pancake rolls, and Juan cuisine. You can read more about Juan cuisine in my previous post.
When I tried their new location in the Bay Area, I left feeling satisfied but not overly impressed. However, after a few weeks of sitting around in San Diego, which is sadly devoid of hand pulled noodles and good beef noodle soup, I was craving Mama Liang’s hand pulled noodles like crazy.
So when we had some errands to run in Costa Mesa, I made plans to check out the Mama Liang’s in Irvine, called Liang’s Cuisine. To my surprise, when I looked it up, the reviews were mixed, whereas the one in the Bay Area had rave reviews.
It was cold and rainy when we arrived so I forgot take a picture of the front. This location was a tiny hole in the wall spot, which I also found surprising. We immediately spotted it though because despite the plaza being full of restaurants, it was the only one with a crowd outside waiting.
Luckily, we were able to get a table right away. A steaming bowl of beef noodle soup sounded perfect in the cold weather. BF decided to try something different and went with the beef dry noodles. We also ordered some spicy wontons.
One thing I noticed on this occasion is that there are a lot more dishes offered on the order sheet than are listed on the menu. I was afraid of trying one of the dishes on the order list though, thinking it likely isn’t very good if it’s not on the menu.
Our food arrived much more quickly than at the other location. The noodles were wide, thick and chewy like I remembered them. The broth though, was a lot saltier compared to the other place we had visited.
BF’s dry noodles were served with marinated beef slices. He thought the sauce was really really salty and he could barely eat it.
The spicy wontons were just okay in my opinion. Nothing special.
I was surprised at how different this location was. Overall, the food was too salty and I don’t think we will be back. I did think the servers were really nice and friendly though.
There was one amusing incident. At a lot of these small shops, the assumption is always that you speak chinese and so they will speak chinese to you when you walk in and only switch to English if it becomes apparent you don’t speak chinese. I’ve always thought it was amusing that they even speak chinese to BF. Usually it’s not an issue since I do all of the ordering.
On this particular night, while we were waiting for our food, BF had his sketch pad out and was sketching away. When the waitress came to give us our food she spotted the drawing pad and asked to see it, except she said it in chinese. Before I could translate, BF got the gist of her request and handed over his sketchbook. Since he had responded, she then began continuing to carry a conversation with him in chinese. To my great amazement/amusement, he seemed to be able to guess what she was saying by her gestures and he would respond in English and they carried on like that for quite a while before she finally switched to talking to him in English.
It was definitely the best part of the dinner experience. I’m disappointed that the food at this location is not as good as some of the others. Hopefully things will improve.
Monday, November 29, 2010
One of the things I find so fascinating about chocolate chip cookies is that even though each recipe requires the same basic ingredients, a different ratio of the ingredients and slight tweaks in the recipe can create such a different taste. With other recipes, I don’t often taste the different variations of similar recipes, but with chocolate chip cookies, a few slight variations can make such a difference.
A few months ago, I tried a nutella chocolate chip cookie that I absolutely loved. Since then I’ve been playing around with the recipe, trying to achieve my ultimate recipe. This weekend, playing around with the ratios led me to a soft and chewy version of these cookies.
The cookies were puffy, but were also soft and chewy. And they remained chewy for days due to the layer of nutella nestled inside. I decorated the tops with Nestle swirl chips. A few years ago, I found these swirl chips and completely fell in love with them. I loved the color. And then they took them away! I don’t know why. Apparently they weren’t selling well. I was devastated. I used the swirl chips for all my chocolate chip cookie recipes and couldn’t believe they were gone. (They also came out with green and red ones for Christmas, which also got discontinued.)
Recently, in an attempt to search for them again in the hopes Nestle would bring them back, I found out that Nestle has come back out with the regular swirl chocolate chips. But they are hard to get. I couldn’t find them at my local grocery stores, and using the store finder on the Nestle website, the nearest location that carried them was more than half an hour away and they were out of stuck. Luckily, Amazoncarries them. Unfortunately, they are in bulk. So I had to buy more than I wanted to, but I’d rather have more of these then none at all. I’ll just have to bake more chocolate chip cookies. =)
I prefer a more crunchy outside with a chewy inside, so these weren’t ideal for me. I like soft and chewy as well, and these make a great soft and chewy cookie, but I’ll continue to play around with this recipe.
Soft and chewy nutella chocolate chip cookies (adapted from this recipe)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp Nutella
1 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, the sugar and the brown sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla until combined.
3. Gradually add the flour mixture until the mixture is combined.
4. Mix in the nutella until it is combined with the dough. Then add in the chocolate chips. If you are working with swirl chips, I usually mix in 2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips into the batter and then save the swirl chips to put on top of the dough once I scoop the dough balls onto the parchment paper.
5. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop dough balls onto cookie sheets. I usually smooth them into round balls in my palm before placing them on the cookie sheet and flatten the balls slightly. Bake for approximately 8 minutes.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I had a delicious Thanksgiving and I hope everyone else did too.
A lot of people around me this year seemed to be celebrating Thanksgiving a little bit differently this year. I went home for Thanksgiving, as I always do. But my Thanksgiving was a little different as well.
Traditionally, I spend Thanksgiving with my immediate family as well as my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents that live in the Bay Area. It has been this way since we moved to California. But this year, a lot of my cousins didn’t come home. And a result, each family did their own thing for Thanksgiving.
It felt odd spending Thanksgiving with just my siblings and parents. In some ways, it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving, and instead felt like a regular meal with my family, except that we had turkey and some Thanksgiving sides. It was a more mellow experience, but I am still thankful I got to spend it with my family. I know quite a few people who weren’t able to make it home to spend Thanksgiving with their family, so it makes me even more grateful that I was lucky enough to still fly home and be with my family.
My parents originally suggested coming down to San Diego for Thanksgiving, but I insisted that we stay in the Bay Area. There’s something magical about going back home. In San Diego, I’m an adult with a job and responsibilities. When I’m home, I’m a kid again. My siblings are all in San Diego, so I see them all the time. But it’s different spending time with them at home. We sleep in our old rooms, in our old beds and just hang out on our beds like when we were little. At night, we knock on the adjoining walls of our rooms to communicate while lying in bed.
Normally I make a ton of different desserts for Thanksgiving. Since there was only my family this year, I didn’t need to make as many. But after spending two months testing out different recipes, I felt a little lost not being able to make so many desserts. Luckily, BF was still spending Thanksgiving with his large, extended family. So I made the crazy decision of volunteering to bake a bunch of desserts for him to share with his family.
I’ve never been a good baker under stress. And baking for Thanksgiving has always been stressful. Part of it is the number of desserts. Most of it is the stress of presenting desserts to other people to eat. I know I bake a lot, but I usually only share the desserts with only those really close to me. I always feel pretty shy about sharing my desserts with others and so I stress when I am baking for others.
So, as a result, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong when I was baking. I mean everything. I made a bread recipe using regular flour instead of bread flour. My premade pumpkin puree somehow froze over in the fridge. My sweet potato puree went flying across the kitchen when I tried to open the container it was in. I baked muffins putting only in the wet ingredients and completely forgetting to mix in the dry ingredients. My hand mixer fell off the counter and spilled batter all over the couch. Somehow, I managed to get it all together in the end…
I didn’t take pictures of our actual Thanksgiving dinner, but for those who are curious, here are the desserts I chose to bake this year for Thanksgiving:
Soft and fluffy milk toast
Pumpkin mochi cakes
Sweet potato cupcake roses
(I made these last year and they were a big hit. I didn’t have time to remake them again this year before Thanksgiving,but this post has a few shots of the ones I made this year before they were devoured. You can view the recipe by clicking on the above link)
Finally, I am doing a giveaway this weekend as well. In honor of this food holiday weekend, I was contacted by Foodzie. I met Foodzie when I attended the Foodbuzz festival last month. The company brings together artisan and small food companies from all across the US. You can shop for all kinds of food products on their site. They also have a monthly Tasting Box where they send out samples from five different companies. They contacted me and offered to provide two of my readers with a Tasting Box.
The contest is open to US readers only. Please leave a comment telling me your favorite Thanksgiving dessert this year (or any dessert if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving). I’ll use random.org to generate two random numbers to choose the winners. The contest ends at 5pm on Monday, November 29. Good luck! In addition, if you visit the website on November 29, Foodzie will be giving additional Tasting Boxes, so you can have another chance to win.