Posts tagged cooking

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I'll wake you up with some breakfast in bed
I'll bring you coffee
With a kiss on your head
- Excerpt from "Say You Won't Let Go" orginally by James Arthur

After a few attempts, I created a Croque Madame that I'm quite happy with. I improved on Croque-Madame by replacing the ham with slices of thinly cut pork belly that I cooked on a skillet. I, then, used all that pork fat to cook my eggs. For those that prefer exact recipies, I also used sourdough bread, 3/8 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp of ground nutmeg.

Also, I think the blog might give people the false idea that I'm pretty much good at everything. It's time to pull back the facade of perfection that social media projects. After many hours of practice on the guitar, I mustered this effort of singing "Say You Won't Let Go". Here's an excerpt. I hope you enjoy my embarassing myself.

One of the coolest benefits of working for Google is we have guitars lying around the office for impromptu jam sessions. This was filmed in the Seattle office, with a Google guitar, and a Google laptop. Now, I'm done being a shill for Google.

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It's been a long time since I posted anything. Mostly because I haven't been up to anything interesting, lately. I don't really cook anymore, but I did manage to bake these Double Chocolate Cookies. I love chocolate, but I think these were too much for me.

For Thanksgiving, I got to see my older cousin Daniel Pham. When I was younger, I thought that he was the coolest guy ever. He played high school football and went to Stanford. Still a pretty cool guy, but I guess through no fault of his own, he could never live up to the "colossal vitality of [my] illusion." Or I guess life just gets more boring once you have kids. By the way, recognize the quote?

I remade my Apple Pie for the holiday. It was definitely easier and came out better this time around. There's still some work that I could do to make the crust flakier. Maybe I really need the vodka? Given enough opportunities I hope to figure it out.

Apple Pie

Recently, I was back in Philly for the first time since I moved to Seattle. It was great to see family again. Amish and I don't really agree on foods very much, for he hates fish sauce, a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. However, we both like Mozzarella Sticks. I guess it might be a tradition to make these with him when I'm back in Philly

Mozzarella Sticks

Anyway, it's New Year's Eve. Given that I'm in a strange new city, instead of ringing in the new year with loved ones, I have a quiet night and extended weekend to reflect on this new chapter of my life in Seattle.

Since I moved here for work, perhaps it's no surprise that I spend most of my time here working, and admittedly, I quite enjoy my job. It seems that software engineering rather suits me. Given a problem, I often find myself obsessed with solving it and unable to put it aside. Then, there's that rush of dopamine when your code passes the tests and everything changes from red to green. Admittedly, most of these problems are rather meaningless, but living "with the bearing of one who was going to give his days and nights to Ecclesiastes for ever", these bugs and math problems have become a kind of escape for me.

We all imagine ourselves as heroes of our personal story. Lost in the abstract world of code and math, I seem to have forgotten that everyone else has a story, too, not just me. I read something of that sort in a book once, where we always expect everyone around us to stay as static characters while we, personally, plow on with our story and overcome many obstacles. Perhaps, this is why mothers cry when their children go to college, or every family gathering, we're shocked how old are nieces and nephews are. When I was in college, I remember we would joke about certain friends, saying "I could never see him/her married", or "could you imagine so-and-so as a doctor?" Not in a sexist or racist way, but they were such jokesters or so irresponsible, it was hard to imagine that scenario.

Seeing my cousin Daniel and visiting Philly, I've started to see this lack of imagination in myself. Everyone has rich and varied lives that proceed with or without me, and to be honest, I'm mostly a nonfactor in their stories. I guess there's a selfish part of me that makes it hard to accept changes that I wasn't directly part of. Buried under work, I've finally emerged into a new world where everyone is getting married, having kids, and moving to new cities.

We sort of imagine a life for ourselves evolving as a person by forming new relationships, getting new hobbies, or advancing our career, yet for some reason, we're often taken aback when others' lives evolve in the same way. I guess that's because we often describe our loved ones as our rocks that we rely on when times are tough. Unfotunately, these rocks are quite amorphous, and we can't exactly expect that person to fit into the neat little box that we made for them in our mind.

In some ways, this is a good thing. I'm continually amazed by what others accomplish. I might remember them as a struggling college student or socially awkward. It's great to see people exceed expectations. In other ways, it's disappointing. People that you thought were close friends will go ghost and disappear.

Anyway, I'm not sure if there's any point to this rambling. I don't really have any resolutions for 2017. I guess that I'm just becoming more cognizant of how little that I understand about the world around me.

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Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.

- Horace Greeley

Despite being said in 1865, there has never been so many people heeding Mr. Greeley's advice as there are now. Every week, I find that one of my college classmate's has decided to go West. And why not? There's riches to be made thanks to a booming tech industry, and the weather is good. Unlike the olden days, where you had to suffer the Oregon Trail, there's not much risk at all.

As it turns out, when your hobbies consist of math, reading, and picking heaving things up and putting them down, every city is virtually the same. Despite Seattle being colder and cloudier and having nice mountains like Mount Shuskan picture above, I don't feel markedly different than I did in Philadelphia.

The biggest change in my life has been going from living in a house with 6 guys to having my own bedroom with only 1 roommate. With the quiet, I definitely find myself getting more work done, but I'll miss having the guys around for sure.

Some mint chocolate chip ice cream that I made with Masato before I left. See The Only Ice Cream Recipe You’ll Ever Need for the recipe.

Now, that I've moved several times in my life (Hatfield, PA $\rightarrow$ Durham, NC $\rightarrow$ Cambridge, MA $\rightarrow$ Philadelphia, PA $\rightarrow$ Seattle, WA), I've started to reflect on any regrets and what I miss. Certainly, there are all those restaurants and eats that I forgot to try. I never did eat at Craigie on Main or try a cheesesteak from Pat's or Gino's. There are missed opportunities like never having gone to the top of the Chapel or taking a certain class. However, what always haunts me the most are the people that I wish that I had gotten to know better. It always seemed that so many connections were missed. People were just busy, feelings were misinterpreted, or the timing was just bad, and as a result, nothing ever happened. Of course, there's the very real possibility that the people that I wanted to get to know better had no interest in getting to know me, so maybe, I'm just talking nonsense.

There was some part of me that did want to stay in Philadelphia, but no opportunity ever came up to do so. It's probably best that I left, though. While I was comfortable, my life did seem to be stagnating in some respects. In the month leading up to my going away, I found myself mostly just watching Korean dramas with my brother. That is to say, I wasn't accomplishing much of anything useful with my time, and with the exception of the guys in the house, I didn't have much other community. Essentially, I was a ghost. Perhaps, moving to a new city will reinvigorate me.

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A couple of weeks ago, Michael Vo needed to cook for a Renewal College Fellowship (RCF) potluck, and I decided to help out a bit. Mike is mostly known for his famous chicken alfredo, so it was no surprise at all when his spaghetti and meatballs turned out to be the best spaghetti and meatballs ever according to my brother.

We based it off of the recipe Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs With Tomato Sauce. Now, there are a couple of modifications needed for this recipe. First to serve 4, you'll need at least 24 ounces of meat, not 12, and therefore, an extra egg. We also thought that it would be a good idea to use the scrapings from the bottom of the skillet and the oil from searing the meatballs and mix it into the sauce. Mike always goes big, and we ended up quadrupling the recipe and using 7 pounds of ground beef. Now, this massive quantity required special techniques to preserve the oil and scrapings at the bottom of the skillet. After every batch of meatballs, we needed to scrape the skillets and run the oil through a sieve.

Here is a picture of the second part, where we cooked the meatballs in the sauce.

The only complaint that some people had about the recipe was the mixing in of the cheese into the meatballs. It was a matter of opinion whether this tasted good or bad. I personally like it.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in the deserts of West Philly, you should do yourself a favor a stop by the BAD house to get some of Michael Vo's Spaghetti and Meatballs for nourishment.

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Before I left Philly, we took a short road trip down to Baltimore to visit Tim Wu. When we got there, the first thing we did was get some Korean BBQ at 1:30 AM at Honey Pig. We don't do so well with alcohol, so we only had 1 bottle of Soju between the 5 of us. Despite having to sleep on the floor with only substandard air conditioning, I ended up sleeping quite well that night.

The next day, we went fishing and crabbing. Unfortunately, this was not a success. With the exception of Dan Wu's fish, we did not catch anything despite spending nearly 5 hours.

Dan Wu's catch

As Tim and I took a walk around Fort Smallwood Park, we found a beach and an approximately 7-year-old kid that told us we could find clams by digging into the sand with our feet. Desperate to catch anything, I heeded his advice and waded into Chesapeake Bay and attuned myself to the sensations of my feet. At first, I thought that they were nothing more than smooth rocks, but after 5 minutes or so, I took a dive and had my first clam. Within the next half hour, I had about a dozen more.

As you can see in the title picture, I ended up steaming those clams and eating them with butter. They were a bit sandy, but otherwise, they were great. After descaling and cleaning the fish, I steamed him or her, too, for maybe 6 ounces of meat? All told, we got 1 solid meal for a single person for 5 hours of effort from 7 people. It's probably the most Paleo thing that I've ever made since I not only cooked but also caught those clams by hand. It doesn't look like we'd survive in Paleolithic times, though, with our fishing skills.

Steamed fish

Since we couldn't catch enough to eat, we ended our fishing trip with some crab cakes from G & M. Usually, I think of crab cakes as pretty poor value propositions since they tend to be small without much crab meat. Here, I was proven wrong as these crab cakes were huge and full of protein. I don't think any of us left hungry. Finally, we had a nice romantic walk along the harbor. Well, in my brother's case, it was more of a Poké Walk.

Friends at the harbor. Photo Credits: Masato Sugeno

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After my good friend Han Zhang introduced me Lion's Head meatballs at Yaso Tangbao in Downtown Brooklyn, I decided that I had to figure out how to cook these. It took me nearly a year before I got around to doing so, but I finally got the chance to make them with Liz Liang when visiting the Washington, D.C. area.

We used the recipe How to Make Shanghai Lion's Head Meatballs from Serious Eats. Fortunately, it doesn't take that long, so we didn't miss out on too many Pokémon.

Sizzling Lion's Head meatballs

Sizzling Lion's head meatballs

Overall, I found it to be a very good recipe, but the proportion of meat and noodles could be adjusted. The woman that made it lives in some strange world where 12 ounces of ground pork feeds 4. We ended up using a little over 2 pounds of ground pork, which resulted in 10 huge meatballs, each about 2.5 inches in diameter. You could double the vermicelli, too, but I like a high meat-to-noodle ratio. The water chestnuts were an interesting twist that might not be for everyone, but they add a nice crunchy texture to the meatballs.

For dessert, Liz was kind enough to make us some blueberry bread pudding, too!

I only helped make the custard. The recipe is blueberry bread and butter pudding. I thought it turned out great, and I like how it wasn't it all that sweet.

Anyway, there's only a week left until I move to Seattle. I'll be saying my goodbyes to Philly soon.

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Long time no post.

I am sharing the recipe I should not be sharing... the ramen recipe. Many Japanese chefs keep their own ramen recipe a secret from society. They guard it well, only sharing it to the inheritance of their resturant. Therefore, it is hard to find a legitimate one floating around the vast world of internet.Try looking ramen recipes up, you will only find about 5 types, which they differ very slightly.

Being in America, decent ramen was so hard to come by. I still remember the flavor, the texture, and the aroma of the ramen I had in Japan. It was around 2006 summer when my mom, sister, and I were walking back from visiting family graves. We were starving. We stumble across a small ramen shop underneath the bridge with about 5 seats. And that is still easliy the best ramen I ever had.

And yes, since then, I am picky with my ramen. Other ramen shops in Philly does not satisfy at all.

My journey began in January 2015, I made my ramen with the help of Phil. With countless trials and mistakes, I am 90% close to the ramen I dreamt of: the real shoyu ramen (soysauce ramen).

In Japan, most ramen shop only specialize in one of the four flavors; shoyu, tonkotsu, miso, and shio (salt). I use shoyu ramen as a basis of how good a ramen shop is. If a shop cannot make shoyu ramen, then they cannot make ramen. Period.

To make ramen, it consists of two types of broth. Dashi and Tare. Dashi is the stock broth you make without any salt content. Tare is the sauce that determines the flavor of the soup.

Let's get to it.


  • 5 old hens
  • 300 g Leek (white part)
  • 1 bunch of scallion (white part)
  • 15 g Katsuobushi*
  • 120 g Ginger with skin
  • 57 g Dried shiitake mushroom
  • 57 g Dried kelp (japanese grade)


  • 1 old hen
  • 2 cups Light soy sauce (NOT LOW SODIUM)
  • 1 cup sake
  • 1/2 mirin
  • 1 pack of bacon
  • 15 g Katsuobushi


  • 2 lbs of pork belly
  • 1 stalk of ginger
  • 1 leek and the green part that you cut off for the Dashi
  • 1 tbs of hondashi**
  • 1/2 of soy sauce dark**
  • Water


  • 1 cup of the chashu broth
  • Eggs


  • 300 g Bread flour
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon of Kansui (potassium carbonate and sodium bi carbonate solution)

*Katsuobushi is dried shaved mackerel. I use the dark shaved one which is only found in Japan as of now...

** This measurement is not finalized. I eye them out


  1. Fill about 80% of the 16 quart pot with water and heat it to 170 degrees
  2. Add the dried kelp and shiitake mushroom then turn off heat. Cover the pot
  3. Leave them in for 2 hours
  4. Discard the kelp, then add ginger, hens, leeks, scallions, katsuobushi. Cover the pot
  5. Simmer at the lowest heat your stove has for about 12 to 15 hours


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Roast the old hen in an oven safe sauce pan until it is brown and crisp
  3. Add the soy sauce, bacon, sake, mirin, and katsuobushi and simmer at the lowest heat setting on top of the stove. We are infusing the flavor, not cooking it
  4. Simmer for about 30 minutes then leave the ingredients for about 2 hours


  1. Tie the pork belly into a circle
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Sear the pork belly in a dutch oven until all sides are brown
  4. Add the leak and ginger, cook it for a bit, then add water until it covers the meat
  5. Add soy sauce and hondashi. Cover the pot and cook it in oven for 2 hours minimum, 5 hours max. We are infusing the flavor into the meat. Do not cook this too long or else the pork belly will not maintain it's shape


  1. Boil water until it is hard boiling
  2. Poke a hole on the bottom fat side of the egg. This will let the air out while cooking
  3. Add the egg all at once into the water and cook it for 6 minutes and 15 seconds FLAT
  4. Peal eggs in cold water immediately
  5. Use the broth you made from the chashu. Marinate the eggs, in a seperate bowl, covering the top with a paper towel, in fridge overnight


  1. Mix the kansui and water
  2. Add to flour and knead
  3. Use pasta maker

To combine: I use about 3:1 ratio of Dashi to Tare. I think I pour less Tare to reduce the sodium but that should be about right. I add the Tare first then dilute it with Dashi

Garnish: I use Japanese pickled bamboo, sweet corn, sauteed onions, scallion, and nori (dried seaweed)

Picture below is my Version 3.0. The picture on the top is my version 5.0.


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One of the things that I've always wanted to make is apple pie. My brother and I both love it, and it's about as American as it gets. Unfortunately, making your own crust and peeling all those apples is both difficult and laborious, so I never got around to it. However, in this bout of unemployment, I finally found some time to bake this Double Apple Pie.

I thought the recipe was pretty good, and I appreciated the video on making a pie crust. For some reason, our food processor didn't mix too well, so Michael Vo ended up just mixing with his hands. Also, I felt that I had too many apples and not enough dough. Next time, I'd probably multiply the dough by 4/3, that is, 400 grams of flour and scaling everything else appropriately. The apples shrink quite a bit in cooking so I probably could have stuffed the pie more aggressively. I used Gala apples, and that worked well. Other differences are that I ended up using 50 grams of lard instead of pure butter, and since I lacked apple butter, I just used normal butter.

All in all, I'd consider this first-time apple pie a success. Perhaps, I can focus on making it prettier next time with the crumpled crust. You can definitely tell that this pie is homemade. Here are some more pictures.


I've since made my apple pie again here in Welcoming 2017. It came out much better, but the crust wasn't as flakly as I would like. It seems that the vodka in the crust is a critical component.

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After a long hiatus from baking, I made these Lemon Bars with Mindy Au.

They turned out really well. You actually need all 6 lemons that the recipe calls for. Moreover, 300 grams of sugar is excessive. We found that around 200 grams produced a very tart lemon bar that I personally prefer. Mindy handled the shortbread crust that came out very well. Making the curd and watching it thicken was quite magical. Some things in this world still inspire wonder within me after all. It's definitely something that I would make again.

As for life, I've finished up my degree at Penn. Now, I'm unemployed and looking for work. Everything is up in the air at this point. Who knows where I'll end up? Lately, I've felt that I don't have too much control over my life, and it call comes down to chance.

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I am 27 today. Since my birthday falls at the end of the semester after everyone goes home, I hardly ever celebrate it. But even if I were to celebrate it, just what would I be celebrating?

Obstensibly, my 20s have been an unrelenting string of failures of unmet expectations. Just as the road to success zigs and zags, on the fall down, one catches glimmers of hope and leaves opportunities uncapitalized. It's hard to not let all the rejections from jobs, graduate schools, and girls get to you. People say, "it's not you, it's them," but then, is it everybody? Or some say, just be confident and optimistic, but surely, that confidence and optimism must have some basis in reality. I've mostly put all these rejections behind me, but I would be lying if I don't sometimes wake up in the middle of a night in a panic and reflect on these things.

If someone told my college or high school self, that this paradise was awaiting me in my 20s, I'm not sure if I would have kept on living. The promise of things getting better was often what kept me going. Now, I know that I sound like an entitled millenial, dare I say, a Bernie Sanders supporter (I donated \$5 to his campaign), griping, but this post ends in a happy note.

Despite the disappointment and the unfulfilled promise of something better, I actually find myself happier and more full of joy than I've ever been. While I'm not exactly the most social person, I have managed to cultivate a few strong friendships. Through their love and my family's, I've caught a glimpse of God's love, and that has been enough to sustain me. In light of recent tragedies, I've realized that these relationships are so much more meaningful than my desire for an interesting career and a beautiful marriage. And if this is what it has taken to come to this realization, I'm grateful to have suffered. And yes, I understand that calling my experiences suffering is a gross exaggeration to what real suffering is, but I hope that the reader can understand how one can become enveloped in his or her own thoughts and lose perspective.

Perhaps, some might say that this all just a euphemism for settling for less or an act of post hoc rationalization. Again, I would be lying if I don't acknowledge that at times, I still lapse into states of utter despair. I expect my 30s will be even more difficult, and that's okay if I never achieve that sense of worldly security that I desire. Knowing that I am loved, I can not only manage and scrape by but also find joy.

In any case, in the title picture, you can see some homemade oreos that I made a while back. They don't really have to do with anything that I just wrote. However, Michael Vo made them into my brother's initials. Without his and God's love, I just don't know where I would be now.