Home (bitter)Sweet Home

I’m home from my 2 week trip to Korea! It’s been a few days but I’m still in a hazy daze from the jet lag. Trying to snap back into “real life” is proving to be harder than expected. It’s nice to sleep in my own bed but I’m already thinking about my next vacation….

I’ve always been somewhat of a hater when it comes to the Motherland, mostly because my past trips to Korea have been, well.. less than enjoyable. But this trip flipped my opinions on Korea upside down, probably because it was my first time experiencing the place with close friends, and also because the country itself has changed so much since the last time I was there (7 years ago)– e.g. in terms of social norms, sanitation, style/fashion, etc. The country as a whole has become so open-minded compared to just a few years ago… it’s bizarre and refreshing.

I basically ate my way through Seoul, visited every major (shopping) area at least twice, saw each of my family members at least once, became an aunt (my cousin had a baby while I was there!), and completely forgot about life in LA. Vacation success.

I’ll be doing a shopping/’haul’ post soon but here’s a few highlights via pictures! Check out my Instagram for more. ūüôā

FRIENDS:

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L: Ice cream with Mitch & Renee in Myeongdong
R: Hanging out at the Leeum Museum in Itaewon on a rainy day

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L: At Ewha Womens University with Sunghee
R: Waiting for our patbingsoo at a cute cafe in Hongdae

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L: Delicious pseudo-pizza in Hongdae
R: Subway shenanigans. Surrounded by people obsessed with their phones. :X

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L: Ready to shop in Myeongdong!
R: Mitch with a creepy-ass girl at Garosugil. Why?!

FOOD:

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L: Ddukboki (rice cake), tempura, and odeng (fish cake) soup in Apgujeong
R: Stone-pot rice with beef + bean sprouts in Gangnam

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L: Lamb skewers in Insadong
R: Raw seasoned crab + tons and tons of banchan (side dishes) in Samchungdong

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L: Rappoki (ramen/ddukboki) with mussels and odeng in Hongdae
R: Brown sugar lattes with green tea custard cake in Samchungdong

FAMILY:

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L: My grandparents!
R: Uncle, aunt, and cousins

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I saved the best for last. My niece. ‚̧ ‚̧ ‚̧

Maccheroni Republic

[Note: This is a scheduled post while I’m away in Korea!]

Too many restaurants in DTLA. A good problem to have, I suppose. My friend Meesh celebrated her b-day last month at Maccheroni Republic, and the two of us went back the other night and ordered the same exact dish we both got the first time.

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Maccheroni Republic is an Italian restaurant tucked away on Broadway and has been open less than a year. You can choose to sit indoors or in the outdoor covered patio area (with white lights strung above!). The patio area is surrounded by greenery, hiding the (not so attractive) street view.

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The weather was perfect the evening we went, so we sat outside. ¬†We both ordered the spaghetti vongole (“spaghettini with Manila clams in a garlic white wine broth”).

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Left: A pretty wooden archway at the entrance of the restaurant. Right: More from the menu, boasting of daily homemade pastas.

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We ordered the calamari and devoured that (and the bread + oil/balsamic) as an appetizer, even though we had just talked about how we should be careful with our cholesterol levels. Oops.

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Left: A view of the DTLA buildings. Right: The spaghetti vongole, YUM! They give you SO many clams, which pleases me. While I was telling Meesh a story, she devoured 3/4 of her dish and I had to eat pretty much by myself the rest of the meal. Hahaa.

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Indoor decor– exposed brick, antiquey furniture. Also– this restaurant is BYOB, which is always an awesome perk.

Maccheroni Republic
332 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, 90013

Tina Made Beef Donburi

[Note: This is a scheduled post while I’m away in Korea!]

You guys. I have a recipe for beef donburi (rice bowl) that’s BETTER than the beef bowl at Yoshinoya. I know, I know. IMPOSSIBLE, you say. Dear reader, today I am going to blow your mind.

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Okay seriously though, I only eat it like once a year, but the beef bowl at Yoshinoya is one of my guilty pleasures. Admitting I go there at all ranks up there with the fact that I’ve watched every single episode of The Bachelor/Bachelorette in the last 7 (to 10) seasons, including… wait for it… Bachelor Pad. Also the fact that I like to dip my flaming hot cheetos in cream cheese. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

The recipe is from¬†Just One Cookbook¬†(tagline: “Quick and Easy Japanese Recipes”) and this dish was the first I’ve cooked from this site. I actually rarely cook any Asian dishes (in my mind they are all difficult) so this was my tentative foray into A Whole New World.

I stuck pretty close to the original recipe but made a couple modifications, noted below. I’m positive your dish will turn out yummy using either the original version or mine– but as always, tons of pictures below for you step-by-steppers.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. (1 pkg) thinly sliced beef for Shabu Shabu¬†(bought from Asian market)
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 shiitake mushroom heads¬†(increased x6 from original recipe)
  • 2 small yellow potatoes, peeled¬†(or 1 small russet potato)
  • cooking oil
  • 1 T sugar¬†(halved from original recipe)
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 3-4 servings of Japanese rice
  • red pickled ginger¬†(optional, added from original recipe,¬†bought from Asian market))
  • 3 T soy sauce*
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced*

*Substitute the soy sauce and garlic with this recipe for shiso garlic soy sauce, which is what the original recipe used

Seasoning Ingredients:

  • 1 T mirin¬†(substituted for sake in original recipe)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ¬ľ tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

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Cook rice. Wash potatoes and mushrooms. Peel skin of potatoes and break off stems of mushrooms and discard. Slice onions, potatoes, and mushrooms into strips. BTW,¬†if you’ve never learned how to properly/easily chop an onion, you need to read this right now– this is the best way.

UNPICTURED STEP (out of sequence, but do NOW): The original recipe uses shiso garlic soy sauce (recipe linked above) to add to this dish towards the end. Because I couldn’t find shiso leaves at the Asian market I went to (and also because you’re supposed to let it sit for at least 24 hours), I ended up combining just the soy sauce (3 T) with 2 cloves of minced garlic in a tupperware container, and shaking it vigorously. Do this step now, and set aside for later.

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In a MEDIUM sized bowl, make your seasoning by mixing together the sea salt, mirin/sake, pepper, and garlic powder. Cut meat into strips, or do what I did and just shred it with your hands (the shabu shabu meat is super thinly sliced). Add meat to the bowl of seasoning, and mix well with your hand(s).

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Add corn starch to the meat and continue to mix with your hands (do what Just One Cookbook did and sprinkle it, instead of dumping it like me -_-). Set aside. Heat cooking oil to medium high heat in a large non-stick pan/wok. Sauté potatoes and onions until they are soft.

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Add the meat and shiitake mushrooms and continue to saute until meat is cooked. Add sugar and (shiso) garlic soy sauce. BTW, though the first picture way above shows only 6 shiitake mushrooms (already tripled from the original recipe), as I was cooking this I added… more. And by more I mean I doubled them to 12. I love them, okay?! Geez.

I don’t know why I’m so sensitive about these shiitake mushrooms right now. Maybe because they remind me of the time in college my ear got severely infected after I pierced my cartilage. When I asked my roomie Sarah to take a look at it, she examined it and thoughtfully said, “It looks like a shiitake mushroom.” She’s also the one who told me about Just One Cookbook, so all is forgiven Sarah. All is forgiven.

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Scoop white rice into a bowl, and top with your beef + veggie mix. As an option, garnish with red pickled ginger. ENJOY.

PS-  My ear has since returned to normal appearance (sans cartilage earring). Thanks for caring.

Marugame Monzo

[Note: This is a scheduled post while I’m away in Korea!]

Added another Little Tokyo staple to my list of go-to restaurants in LA. Marugame Monzo, an udon restaurant with fresh noodles made right in front of you! Let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Choose an udon, and choose tempura toppings. The second to last picture is of tempura hard-boiled eggs. They make it with the yoke just slightly undercooked (like Daikokuya‘s eggs, if ya’ll know what I’m talking about– which happens to be next door). I got the most basic udon (Kake udon) and it was a solid 4 stars with perfectly chewy noodles. They also have a bunch of different udons beyond the basic (e.g. curry udon, uni cream udon, squid butter udon), as well as non-udon dishes (e.g. pork belly bowl, beef tataki).

Looking at these pictures makes me want to go again (and again). Anyone?!

Marugame Monzo
329 E 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Go Get Em Tiger!

The best is when you’re walking along and you stumble upon a cute coffee shop (or book store). In this case, a coffee shop.

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My girlfriends and I were walking around Larchmont last month and stopped when we saw this new sign– “Go Get Em Tiger.” None of us had seen it before, so curious, we walked in. Turned out to be a recently-opened coffee shop.

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I liked the minimalist decor– white walls, bright red fixtures, wooden stools (surprisingly comfortable). The set-up felt very wine-bar-ish rather than like a typical coffee shop. Several customers drank their coffee at the bar while chatting it up with the barista.

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There were lots of different succulents in built-in shelves along the wall. The coffee came in a cute glass jar with a swatch of fabric tied around it (it’s all about the details), and the espresso with a shot of sparkling white tea as a palette cleanser. The coffee was good, the espresso strong.

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Chalkboard menu. Definitely on the pricey side, though not surprising for this type of shop (and the location). Not sure if I would go out of my way to come here, considering I’m not a huge coffee drinker (I prefer tea), but definitely a cute place to check out if you are. Fun fact: Its sister store is G&B Coffee.

Go Get Em Tiger (GGET)
230 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004

PS- FYI umm I wrote this post a couple of months ago and forgot to post it, which means the coffee shop is no longer super new. And I am no longer super cool for discovering it early on. Life fail.

Tina Made Baked White Fish with Veggies

I love white fish. I also love fast recipes. And delicious food. So when one of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess, recently posted a fish recipe described as a “super quick and delicious meal,” I jumped on it.

Their tutorial (linked above) was pretty self-explanatory, but I documented the steps anyway, with just a few changes (addition/omission of a couple ingredients). Also, I added an ingredients list (with exact amounts, because remember… I’m neurotic/a step-by-step cook… and maybe you are too).

This meal is perfect to make even if you’re only cooking for one! Which is usually annoying, but it totally works for this dish because it’s so simple. I’ve already made it twice!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 white fish fillet (I used tilapia once and swai once– both good)
  • 1/2 bundle of asparagus (about half pound)
  • 1 zucchini (added to original recipe)
  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter (halved from original recipe)
  • salt & pepper
  • rectangular piece of parchment paper (1.5 feet is plenty)
  • omitted from original recipe: fresh dill

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Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice zucchini into rounds and chop off ends of asparagus.

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Slice ~3/4 of lemon into thin slices. Fold parchment paper in half, and lay out zucchini and asparagus on one side of  parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper. Lay lemon slices on top. Squeeze juice of remaining 1/4 lemon onto veggies.

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Using a knife, chop up garlic cloves and mash together with butter. Season fish fillet with salt and pepper, then lay on top of lemon slices. Spread butter-garlic mash over top of the fish.

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Fold the second half of the parchment paper over the fish & veggies, and fold closed (a bit trickier than it looks..!). Bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Everything will steam inside the parchment.

Voila! All done. I cannot emphasize how fast and easy this is. It’s literally ~10 minutes to prep, and while it cooks for ~10 minutes in the oven, you can clean up your kitchen, so when you’re finished eating, there will be minimal dishes to do. EXCITING.

Enjoy!

Blurred Mason Jar Lines

I know, I know. You’re over mason jars the same amount you’re over Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Me, too. [Ignore the fact that I just used them as vases for Grace’s bridal shower… cut me some slack, we were going budget-friendly, aiite?!]

And yet. If you go on Pinterest there are ONE MILLION IDEAS FOR MASON JARS. No seriously, that’s the name of one of the boards I found.

Out of those ONE MILLION IDEAS out there, here are the 5 that I find legitimately cool/useful/pretty. So basically the opposite of this. Here they are:

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With Lovely‘s mason jar flower shelf. Such an awesome idea! Her DIY tutorial here.

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Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body‘s mini pear tarts in mason jar lids. Usually the lids get no love. Genius. Recipe here.

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Healthy.Happy.Life‘s mason jar salads. Four (vegan) recipes¬†here. Also check out¬†The Daily Muse¬†for 4 more (non-vegan) recipes¬†here. I’m so doing this.

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Pegagadget‘s mason jar salt & pepper shakers. Adorbz! Buy here, $15.

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Free People blog‘s sun jars (solar powered lamps). Freaking cool. DIY tutorial here. Or buy for $40 here.

You can wade through the rest of the one million ideas on Pinterest. Promising myself to move away from mason jar vases… as soon as I finish listening to Blurred Lines. Sigh.

Rita’s Water Ice

Am I the only one who’s never heard of Rita’s? Apparently it’s an Italian ice/frozen custard franchise that’s allllll over the east coast, and is now popping up on the best coast as well (CA, NV, UT, AZ). When I heard a foodie friend talk about how it had opened in La Canada (which is nearby-ish), I wanted to check it out.

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The store had 12 flavors of Italian (water) ice, though the website boasts 40 (!) flavors, so perhaps they rotate out their flavors. It also had 6 flavors of frozen custardРvanilla, chocolate, vanilla-chocolate twist, strawberry, light vanilla, and strawberry-light vanilla twist. Once again, the website has more flavors. Check them out here.

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Rita’s is best known for the Gelati, which is a layering of frozen custard on the bottom of the cup, Italian ice in the middle, and topped with more frozen custard. You can read all the descriptions of their options above, but I got the Gelati with “Alex’s lemonade” Italian ice and vanilla custard. [[Read about who “Alex” is here—¬†Rita’s partners with a charity dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancers– pretty cool.]]

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I was actually surprised by how delicious it was. I’ve had both frozen custard and Italian ice in the past, but the combination was pretty ridic. The Italian ice was similar to shave ice (the legit kind, not an icy snow cone), and the vanilla frozen custard was kind of like a McDonald’s vanilla cone… but creamier. And better.

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La Canada is in the boonies (sorry to all my LC friends– I know ya’ll have crazy LC pride), but there’s also a few more locations in SoCal, including Santa Monica, listed on their website here. I’m definitely going back. Maybe tomorrow.

Tropicalia Brazilian Grill

Quick, Top 5 restaurants in LA!

Yeah. right. This question is pretty much impossible to answer. Anyone who’s lived in or visited LA knows the massively large selection and variety of food here. Skimming through Jonathan Gold’s 2013 list of 101 Best Restaurants gives you a good sense of that. “If you take into account Los Angeles‚Äô superb produce, its breathtaking diversity and its imagination, it can be one of the most pleasurable places to eat on Earth.” – L.A. Times.¬†

ON EARTH!! Indeed.

Regardless, if I absolutely HAD to make a Top 5 list, like someone was FORCING me (honestly, in what situation would this ever happen?! Just humor me -_-), I would probably choose not restaurants, but specific dishes. Likeeeeee the ‘Bife Tropicalia’ at Tropicalia Brazilian Grill in Los Feliz.

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It’s tucked away in a small space diagonally across the street from The Alcove (a better-recognized restaurant in Los Feliz), and has authentic (to my knowledge?) Brazilian dishes. Like the Bife Tropicalia, above ¬†(get it with rice & beans, not french fries!).

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A Korean-Brazilian friend first brought me here a few years ago (so there’s gotta be some level of legit-ness to the place), and I’ve come back over and over to order the same dish. I honestly can’t speak for the rest of the dishes, so¬†Yelp might be more helpful (a solid 4 stars). Oh, except for the sangria. The sangria is also dangerously delicious.

Cute place, nice ambience, and usually no problem getting seated. Top 5 fo’ sho.

Kayaks & Crabs

Last Wednesday, I cancelled all of my plans for the day to take a spontaneous day ‘trip’ (<1 hour away) with my girlfriends to Redondo Beach. On the agenda: kayaks + crabs (of the edible sort).

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The four of us rented 2 double kayaks from Rocky Point, a company in a secluded area of R.B. (away from the touristy pier). Rentals were $35 per double kayak for 2 hours, though the guy manning the store said “take your time” as if he didn’t really care (he didn’t). There was also an option to do stand-up paddleboarding, but we decided to save that for another time. For me, a time when I wouldn’t mind possibly falling in the water. -_-

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Though hot in L.A., the weather was PERFECT in the South Bay. As it was a weekday afternoon, we were the only ones on the water, sans a lone paddleboarder. I love that I have fellow unemployed/flexible-work-schedule friends. Yeee.

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I don’t think we even lasted the full two hours. Man, kayaking is a work-out. Our arms were super sore after an hour or so. The website says, “An hour’s workout will burn about 400 calories, builds upper body muscles including pects and lats.” Guess I better come more often…

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There were a bunch of seals we kayaked around. They were smelly. And very loud. They made sounds like… dying dinosaurs. Or what I would imagine dying dinosaurs to sound like. Still, pretty cute, in a weird not-objectively-cute-but-they’re-SEALS kind of way.

After kayaking, we headed over to the pier to have an early dinner at Pacific Fish Center & Restaurant. You know, that really famous Korean restaurant that serves ginormous crabs with mallets and paper plates and bibs. Okay, well if you’re Asian or have lived in a 50 mile vicinity of R.B., you know what I’m talking about. SO.RIDIC.DELICIOUS.

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Before we had our crab, we had these steamed baby octopi. I know what half of you are thinking. SO GROSS. The other half… SO GOOD.

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Left: A baby baby-octopus and potentially it’s mother. Or father. So tragic. Right: bottoms up! They taste a lot better than they look. Just close your eyes.

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YUM. So much deliciousness to be had. We devoured this. And then, we walked along the pier and had churros with caramel sauce, at a place that claimed to have the WORLD’S-BEST-CHURROS. They were not the world’s best. False advertising. But they were good. AND then we had mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream gelato. Fatties for the win!

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A perfect summer day! I love SoCal. ūüôā [[PS- My Cal hat was borrowed from Renee. Go Bruins. ;)]]