Thursday, June 4, 2009
I do a lot of grocery shopping at Ranch 99. Being from the Bay Area, I am often envious when I go back home to visit my parents and go to the asian grocery stores which are so much bigger than the Ranch 99 here, and offer so many more things. Better bread, better cooked foods, better dim sum items, etc.
However, there have been a few items that I have discovered at the Ranch 99 in San Diego, which I have not seen anywhere else. One of these things is the taro flavored chinese steamed rice cake. The chinese steamed rice cake is a traditional dessert that is normally white. You can usually find this dish during dim sum. It's one of my favorite desserts. It's not very sweet, and has a teeny bit of a sour taste also.
I once looked up how to make it, but seeing how complicated it was, I decided to forget it. You can find a recipe here and here. I don't know if they are any good. It's much easier just spending a few dollars and getting an order of it at dim sum. Sometimes, Ranch 99 will make and sell it. I never know when they do it. There doesn't seem to be a set schedule. Sometimes I see it there, sometimes I don't. I find that the traditional white one they make is too sweet.
A couple of months ago, while browsing the cooked food section, I noticed these beuatiful purple treats. Purple steamed rice cake?!? Who would have thought. Since I love the color purple, I had to buy some. The cake is pretty good. It is taro flavored, so it's not that they just decided to change the color. They changed the taste too. Not as sweet as the white one they make. If you enjoy taro flavored foods or you like steamed rice cake, I recommend trying this out sometime.
7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, #112
San Diego, CA
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
2730 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92614
I've been wanting to try Guppy House for a while. On my last Irvine visit, I got a glimpse of the interior with all of the fish tanks, a glance at enormous bowls of shaved ice, and a quick view of the menu. I finally got a chance to try Guppy House recently.
The chain does not exist in San Diego, but I would say it is very similar to the Tea Station chain we do have in San Diego. It's a small restaurant, featuring boba drinks, shaved ice, and some simple food dishes. However, unlike the food at Tea Station, which I find to be overpriced and not very good, the food at Guppy House is actually decent. Not amazing. But surprisingly decent, with huge quantities for a relatively inexpensive price.
When we were first seated, we were given a pitcher of ice water. I like this idea because I hate having empty water glasses, which seems to happen a lot when I go to restaurants.
Boyfriend and I saw some people with fried rice plates that looked really good, so we ordered the fried rice. There were so many options, we decided to just go for the just fried rice.
The plate of rice was huge. It was served with some pickled cucumbers. The rice had a strong flavor of soy sauce, but was pretty tasty. It could easily feed four people. I noticed that a lot of tables ordered the pineapple fried rice. Served in a pineapple shell, heaped very high with rice, I will try that one next time.
We also ordered the dine-in special combo. It's crispy chicken, coconut brick toast and a small shaved ice for $20. We asked for the brick toast and shaved ice to come after our main meal. The crispy chicken was bigger than I thought it would be. Definitely more chicken than in a crispy chicken meal from Tapioca Express.
I didn't particularly like the chicken though, and I usually like crispy chicken. I felt like I didn't really taste any chicken. Only batter.
We also ordered the fried taro balls.
These were not that impressive. It was taro paste, shaped into a ball, and deep fried.
Finally, dessert. First came the brick toast:
The presentation was beautiful. And the toast was so thick! I didn't care too much for the taste though. It was coconut flavored with chocolate sauce. And the combination just ended up being way too sweet. It didn't taste like bread anymore, but more like a very, very sweet cake.
And of course, the most anticipated dish of the night: the shaved ice. I noticed while we were eating, that virtually everyone got the shaved ice, no matter how big or small the group. Obviously, it's a popular item here. Our dinner combination came with a "small" shaved ice.
There is nothing small about this shaved ice. It is big enough for a group of about 6 people to share. Guppy House also offers larger sizes, and one super size with a ton of toppings. I can't even imagine what it looks like. We got ours with mango. There was so much mango on it! I saw others with bananas, strawberries. So much fresh fruit. I felt bad for the person in the back in charge of cutting up all this fresh fruit. The ice was flavored with lots of condensed milk instead of the sugar water that some places use. I love the condensed milk. Shaved ice just doesn't taste the same without it. I think next time maybe I'll add ice cream too. Boyfriend and I didn't even come close to finishing. In fact, we didn't even get level with the bowl.
I do wish that Guppy House would offer some of the traditional toppings you find in Taiwan for shaved ice like sweet rice balls, taro balls, grass jelly, etc. I can't seem to find that anywhere in the US. Most of the toppings were fresh fruit, red bean, taro paste, and I don't remember what else. I have learned to like the fresh fruit toppings. The ice was also good. Not too chunky and it did not melt fast. In fact, ours barely melted at all while we were eating it. And there was just enough condensed milk to flavor all of the ice. Definitely one of the better shaved ice experiences I've had in the US.
I was also impressed with the service. At Tea Station, the waiters are never around. At Guppy House, the waitresses checked on us often.
Overall: pretty good experience. If you are interested in eating at a tapioca place, I would recommend Guppy House.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I love matcha green tea flavored foods. I'm always choosing the green tea flavored cakes, ice cream, candy, cookies, drinks, etc. However, it wasn't until recently that I discovered how easily it is to bake with matcha green tea and make my own matcha green tea flavored desserts.
While browsing food pictures, I found this chocolate matcha bundt cake recipe from Bakerella. The recipe looked so simple, I had to try it.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-3 Tbsp matcha powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Grease and flour (or cocoa) a 10 or 12 cup Bundt pan.
- With a wire whisk, mix the dry ingredients for the chocolate mixture in a small bowl and set aside.
- In another small bowl, do the same for the matcha mixture.
- Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Divide the creamed mixture evenly in two separate bowls.
- Slowly add the chocolate mixture to one half of the creamed mixture and mix thoroughly.
- Then, add the matcha mixture to the other half of the creamed mixture and mix thoroughly.
- Drop alternating spoonfuls of each mixture into the bundt pan until it's about 3/4 full.
- For a marbled effect, gently run a knife through the two batters in a swirling motion. (Once or twice will do the trick.)
- Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
I followed this recipe exactly as written. The cake came out very pretty, though it was very dense, and hard to get out of the bundt mold. Usually I don't have a problem, but this time my cake stuck to the mold.
I think it still came out looking pretty though even though part of it stuck in the pan. If I were to present it, I would have needed some icing or something though. I love the swirls of dark green with the chocolate.
Taste-wise, the cake was just okay for me. Very dense and a little dry. I was also a little chewy, almost like a fudgy brownie. The green tea flavor definitely was there. Next time I will try another cake recipe. I've had a hard time finding a moist cake recipe made from scratch. But now that I know how easily it is to make things matcha flavored, the possibilities are endless! I plan on making matcha green tea cupcakes, cookies, mochi, etc! I don't know why I never thought to just add some matcha green tea powder to a baking mixture to give it the matcha green tea taste.