Friends and I decided to end the work week with Happy Hour at this upscale, fake Singaporean lounge/restaurant called Straits in Burlingame.  You may have heard of it? Skinny Eurasian girls in short white flowy dresses and legs that go ON serving drinks and rendering short, stubby girls like me speechless and a tiny bit jealous…Yeah, THAT Straits.  Anywhoo, I had to procure some shredded phyllo because I vowed never to feel that insecure about being 5’3″ and chubby again.  So I had to recreate this dessert we sampled, banana wrapped in shredded phyllo, if anything to not have to return to Straits and stand next to Leggy McCleavage.

One week-end, I did some research (Google) and found out that shredded phyllo was in fact called Kataifi and commonly used in Greek and Mediterranean desserts.  One of the reasons I love living in the Bay Area is the diversity in our communities, hence our food.  I found my magic ingredient at Crossroads World Market, this awesome ethnic market less than 7 miles from my house and stocked with jams, greek yogurts, a salad bar with a bounty of gold raisins, dates, dolmas and other beautiful and tasty Middle Eastern eats.

My fatty fat arse is in trouble.

imageAt $3/box for the kafaidi, and cheap for such an awesome find, I also got some Greek yogurt, puff pastry, almond cookies, dolmas and some Russian beer.   (Bet your thought bubble says, “No wonder’s she’s chubs!”)  There are aisles of fragrant teas, cookies, candies from parts I didn’t quite know because I don’t read ‘world’–they came from all over–and cheese and feta and wines and pita breads, lavash, jams and tahinis.image


imageAnd yes, we tried our hand at bananas wrapped in kataifi and it looked like this.

imageIt did not go well.  We had a great time though, perusing the aisles at Crossroads, buying up jams and candies, the ingredients of which were completely unknown to us so we basically didn’t know what we were eating.  And then breaking into uncontrollable fits of laughter when we finally fished out this sad mess of a banana that looked like a bald guy whose blonde toupee refused to stay on.

Go visit Crossroads.  Great market, with tons of variety and reasonable prices and friendly staff.  Pro tip: check out that fresh and insanely thick and rich Greek yogurt that you can turn into this




Panko Crusted Ahi


I am really jonesing for an island vacation right now.  We just got back from Disney World and as much as my son loved it, my feelings about it are decidedly, meh.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the magic and innovation and creativity Walt Disney imagined for this 48 square miles of swampland in South Florida.  And when I watched my son’s awe at the fireworks show in Epcot, my heart melted and I temporarily forgot about the exorbitant prices for extraordinarily mediocre food.  But it isn’t Maui or Oahu.  So here I am back home and missing the islands and the amazing sunsets,

IMG_3555stopping at roadside stands to sample fresh coconut juice, IMG_3784and perusing farms to sample their local fare, like the honey lavender and lavender scented scones and brownies from Kula Farms.


Last year, we visited Maui.  We have a tradition of going out for a special dinner on our last night and we chose Sansei located at the Kalakaua Resort.  We stayed in the area a few years ago and had wondered what all the fuss was about every time we passed by and saw a long line of people faithfully forming out the door of Sansei.  Last year, we found out why.  It was easily one of the best and most memorable meals I had while on Maui, almost as good but a fraction of the price at Mama’s Fish House and better than Hali’imaile General Store.  Service was excellent, the food creative and flavorful.  The location is a bit of a drive if you’re staying in Lahaina or along Kaanapali Beach, but well worth it to plan and make reservations. 

My favorites were the Shrimp Dynamite – think honey walnut prawns but not too rich or cloying, just nicely seasoned and crispy shrimp with a little bit of heat and the Yaki Maki, a California roll wrapped with smoked salmon and baked with their dynamite sauce, aka my sriracha aioli.   But the roll that spoke to me, the one that really wooed me into making it at home was the Panko Crusted Sashimi Roll–fresh sashimi wrapped in spinach and arugula and rolled in panko and awesome interplay of textures and flavors.  And no, I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy enjoying my food and I still can’t bring myself to taking pictures of my food while I’m in a restaurant.

True to form, I Googled this when I got home and searched for the video. Sure I bought the book but I had to see how it was done; the dish wasn’t just delicious it was also beautiful and I needed it to look just right.  Thanks to YouTube and Big Island TV, Chef D.K. Kodama owner of Sansei shows you himself.

Spread a small amount of rice at the top of the nori as this acts as glue when you’re ready to wrap your roll. Lay the arugula leaves and spinach on the bottom third of the nori.


Lay a strip of sashimi grade tuna on top of the bed of spinach and arugula.


Roll tight with a sushi rolling mat. Roll in flour, dip in tempura batter then roll in panko.


Deep fry that beautiful creation and lay it on top of your soy wasabi butter sauce.

Panko Crusted Ahi

Fried Maitake Mushrooms


I first had fried maitake mushrooms at RN 74, a chic lounge and restaurant at the base of the Millenium Tower in San Francisco and modeled after the Gare de Lyon station of the Paris metro.  The bar area reminds me of a very upscale Starbucks complete with retro style lounge sofas intended to be intimate seating areas for you and your friends to enjoy your French-imported beer Kronenbourg or the specialty cocktail Pims 74.  The Pims 74 is ginger beer served in a wine goblet with pomegranate seeds, cinnamon sticks and lemon slices in the glass–it looked a little like potpourri in a glass but was refreshing and sweet.

The restaurant area is surprisingly small but at a Michael Mina eatery, it’s all about the service that makes you feel as if you are the only patrons dining there.  Service was spot on, water glasses filled constantly, napkins folded upon return from the restroom and staff knowledgeable about the food and drink.

The tempura fried Maitake mushrooms were the high point of my meal.  We were trying to figure out how something like mushroom with such high moisture content could be fried so light and airy (like we were going to find maitake mushrooms at the corner Safeway); I’m guessing egg white and rice flour batter and deep fried for a couple of minutes at a really high temperature.

Years later, I found the recipe here and even better, I found the friggin’ Maitake mushroom!  No, not at Safeway but at a local Asian grocery store, Ranch 99.  Then Ranch 99 stopped carrying them and I again found them at another nearby market, Marina.  This dish cost $10 five years ago and it is $13 now, per Yelp.  The rice flour and three ounces of mushroom cost $2 each.  Do the math.  Or not.  Just know that it’s way cheaper.  And so good and easy to make!

Recipe adapted from sfgate.com


  •  4 to 6 ounces maitake mushrooms (also called Hen of the Woods; see Note)
  • Rice bran oil or canola oil, for frying
  • Batter:
  • 2 ounces white rice flour (about 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 ounce cornstarch (about 1/3 cup, less 4 teaspoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 1/2 to 4 ounces cold sparkling water + more if needed
  • Fine salt to taste (see Note)


  1. Trim maitakes if needed, then break them into 2-bite clusters; set aside. Fill a deep pot with about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil and preheat to 375 degrees-380 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. When the oil temperature reaches (or is very close to) 375 degrees, add the sparkling water all at once to the dry ingredients, lightly stirring with a rubber spatula until just combined. Do not overwork the batter, which should be the consistency of heavy cream. If you prefer a thinner batter, add another tablespoon of sparkling water. (A thinner batter will remain crisp for a longer time.) Immediately batter the mushrooms.
  3. As you lift the mushrooms out of the batter, lightly scrape them over the edge of the bowl to remove excess. Working in batches as needed, carefully place in the oil and fry until batter is crisp and mushrooms are lightly golden and cooked through, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to overload the oil with too many mushrooms all at once because the oil temperature can rapidly drop. Turn mushrooms over if needed to brown both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and drain briefly on paper towels before sprinkling with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Note: You can also use oyster, cremini or similar mushrooms – just be sure that they are about the size of an index finger so there is a good ratio of batter to mushroom. If you try chanterelles, select ones with thin caps, and be sure they are fairly dry. RN74 serves the tempura with flavored salts. To flavor salt, whir it with ingredients like tangerine/orange zest, which provide an aromatic lift. Truffle salt is also great.  I served mine with a side of ponzu sauce.

fried maitake

Rosemary’s (Dutch) Baby


The Dutch Baby is my Acchiles’ Heel.  I used to be able to make these puffy, beautiful clouds of breakfast goodness but recently they’ve begun to resemble rusty flat manholes.

IMG_1336This looks like the a volcano crater

IMG_1238This defies explanation

At least I got to enjoy some time with my son who enjoys my little experiments with his favorite breakfast

IMG_1328Admittedly, not the best parenting decision posing him in front of an open flame


But every now and again, magic happens and things work out.

perfect dutch babyI’ll have to re-experiment and try this again as this was taken a few months ago and I don’t remember how I got it to be this puffy and awesome.  It might have something to do with heating the pan before pouring the batter into it and putting the pan in the oven.  Serve this with powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

These guys may have figure it out because they always do, but strangely, theirs is as ugly as mine.

The God ‘Waffle’ Truth


It’s only July and I’m already thinking about Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday because it packs everything I love into one long week-end of family, food and shopping at ungodly hours.

And then last year, this happened:

rumbowlWe made up this game of shooting these really light balls that looked like wiffle balls into a small receptacle and then taking swigs of rum, chanting “Let’s get ready to rum-bowl!” everytime someone missed.

I rocked this game.  In my head.  In actuality I sucked really bad at it.

So the morning after, I needed some good hangover food and I came up with the waffle sandwich.  Truth be told, inventing the waffle sandwich is a little like Columbus finding America; I mean this isn’t really an invention as it is surfing Pinterest for ‘waffle iron uses’.

If this were art, and it is, I would call it ‘Leftovers Elevated.’

Mix one beaten egg with 2 cups of leftover stuffing.

Take the stuffing mixture and spread it in your waffle iron, making sure to fill in all the nooks and crannies to prevent holes in your waffle sandwich.  Don’t worry about overfilling the iron as this is not a liquid batter that will spill and overflow.


Every waffle iron has a signal to let you know when the waffle is done. As a general rule, a waffle is done when steam no longer escapes and you don’t feel resistance when trying to lift the top grid plate of the waffle iron.

Fold over cooked waffle and make a waffle sandwich of leftover slices of turkey or ham or both.  Serve with cranberry sauce and gravy on the side.



Spicy Thai Mussels, aka Thai them on!

I am a little ashamed to admit that I’ve turned into Martha Stewart–Manang Stewart to be more exact–in that I love planning theme parties.  Actually, I only really like planning one type of theme party and that is the luau.  Because of my love for everything Hawaiian– from the food to the aloha spirit and the beauty of the islands–the luau evokes all these things for me and my guests.  We go all out with lighted tiki torches and a menu of lomi lomi salmon and kalua pork, huli huli chicken and passion fruit mochi and POG juice to wash it down.  Once, I even made my own poke with fresh ahi tuna, limu and kukui nut procured from one of my all-time favorite markets Takahashi in San Mateo.


If I could dig up an imu in which to bury a whole pig wrapped in ti leaves the way kalua pork is traditionally made, I would.  Except Pru would have a problem with my doing that in our cemented backyard.

I’m planning to serve my spicy Thai mussels for a luau we’re having in August.  Yeah, yeah they’re not Hawaiian but they seafood braised in coconut milk so close enough.  This dish is so easy to make and will wow your guests with bold, spicy flavors from the Thai chiles and ginger.  They’ll also love sopping up the savory broth with a crusty baguette or over rice.  I tried using low fat coconut milk in this recipe but it didn’t come out as rich nor as flavorful as when I used the full fat variety.  So splurge on the extra calories, it will be worth it!

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence’s Steamed Mussels with Coconut Milk and Thai Chiles


4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped2 Thai chiles, thickly sliced

One 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup cilantro leaves

Finely grated zest of 1 lime

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Two 13 1/2-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk

Juice of 2 limes


One 11- to 12-ounce bottle lager

5 pounds mussels, scrubbed

  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, chiles, ginger, cilantro, lime zest and olive oil and process to a paste; transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the coconut milk and lime juice and season with salt.
  2. In a large soup pot, bring the lager to a boil over high heat. Boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Add the mussels, cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until the mussels just begin to open, about 4 minutes.
  3. Uncover the mussels and stir in the coconut milk mixture. Cover and cook, shaking the pot a few times, until all of the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Spoon the mussels and broth into bowls and serve.

The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight.


BAEbingka: Bibingka in Muffin Tins


Celebrating Christmas as a kid in the Philippines was very different than it is here.  My earliest memory was of my grandmother standing over baked hams and chickens hours before our midnight feast or ‘media noche’ as celebrated by many Filipinos, tending to them with love and careful attention.  My family didn’t have much, so it was not about counting the number of shopping days left, tons of presents under the tree, scanning the Black Friday ads. In short, it wasn’t about stuff.

What it was about was family, food and the ‘exchange gift’ or White Elephant but much kinder because there was no stealing involved. What I remember most about Christmas though is the bibingka, a Filipino rice cake baked in banana leaves and topped with cheese and salted egg. I believe Filipinos started combining the salt/savory thing before it even became en vogue and this is evidenced by our love for the bibingka.

My grandmothers made their own versions of bibingka and I no longer remember which was better but it was always this great combination of salty bites of duck egg and the sweet softness of the rice cake. It was the crowning glory of our media noche, which began with pork barbecue sticks, longanisa and lechon and ended with the bibingka.  Lechon by the way is roasted suckling pig and proclaimed by Anthony Bourdain as the best pork product ever. The Filipinos, we love our pork.

But I digress.

For portion control purposes, I decided I would make my bibingka in muffin tins.

Recipe adapted from Panlasang Pinoy


1 cup rice flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh milk
1 piece salted duck egg, sliced
1/2 cup grated cheese
3 pieces raw eggs
Pre-cut banana leaf


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine rice flour, baking powder, and salt then mix well. Set aside.
  3. Cream butter then gradually put-in sugar while whisking.
  4. Add the eggs then whisk until every ingredient is well incorporated.
  5. Gradually add the rice flour, salt, and baking powder mixture then continue mixing.
  6. Pour-in coconut milk and fresh milk then whisk some more for 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Use the bottom of a glass as a template to cut banana leaves in circles slightly larger than the  size of your muffin tin openings.  This allows for a nice overhang and ample size to hold the bibingka batter.
  8. Line muffin tins with your pre-cut banana leaves.
  9. Pour batter into lined muffin tins.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven then top with sliced salted egg and grated cheese (do not turn the oven off).
  12. Put back in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top turns a medium brown.
  13. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  14. Brush with butter and sprinkle some sugar on top. You can also top this with grated coconut.


If you’re thinking about omitting the banana leaf liner, don’t.  The banana leaves give your bibingka a fragrant and authentic look and smell.

If you’re thinking about omitting the salted egg, by all means do.  It’s an acquired taste and also hard to find outside Filipino groceries.  I would, however, include the grated cheese to balance out the sweet and savory.


Sriracha and Wasabi Aioli


I don’t care for Guy Fieri.  There’s this lounge lizard quality about him that no matter how legit he tries to be (game show host?  Really?) he’ll always be this lecherous character to me. But the one thing I learned from Guy is how useful and handy squeeze bottles are. You can control amounts of sauce, you can see what you’re using and they’re super cheap at about $1 a pop and found everywhere.

My favorite condiment right now is my own homemade sriracha and wasabi aoli and they are stored in my Guy Fieri-inspired squeeze bottles (I cringe at the thought of admitting that). I first saw them served at food trucks, usually found on side tables right next to napkins and the like. They were a great flavor boost to Korean tacos and burritos, waffle fries and anything else you care to jazz up. You can use regular mayonnaise but I prefer the Japanese Kewpie Mayo, as I find this to be sweeter and not as gloppy than its American cousin. You can find Kewpie at any Asian grocery.

Sriracha Aioli

1 cup Japanese Kewpie or Best Foods Mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Sriracha
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Whisk together the mayonnaise, Sriracha and sugar. Use more or less of the Sriracha to adjust the heat.

Wasabi Aioli

1 cup Japanese Kewpie or Best Foods Mayonnaise
3 teaspoons wasabi paste
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Whisk together the mayonnaise, wasabi paste and rice vinegar. Use more or less of the wasabi paste to adjust the heat.


These sauces have been wonderful additions to some of my creations:




Loco Moco


Vacations to Hawaii are my favorite.  About two weeks or so before leaving for any one of the islands–you can’t go wrong with any of them–I take out my suitcase from the closet, open it flat and lay it out.  I don’t pack–that would be crazy–instead, every time I come home from a really bad day at work, I go to my closet and toss in an article of clothing into the suitcase to remind me that I am mere weeks away from paradise and more importantly, away from the purgatory penance that work sometimes feels like.

There have been times when I am fully packed for vacation with the suitcase piled high with clothes, it’s that therapeutic.

This year, I got outvoted and we are going instead to Disney World.  I voted Oahu.  So because I lost, I requested that Pru make my favorite island lunch, the loco moco–a crazy unhealthy concoction of burger patty topped with an over easy egg and brown gravy, all over rice.

Shortcut pro tip: use Campbell’s Golden Mushroom canned soup for your gravy and thin it with water to your desired consistency.


  1. Fry a sunny side up egg.
  2. Lay fried egg atop a bowl of steamed rice.
  3. For burger patty: season with Lipton Onion Soup Mix and pan fry.  We used pre-formed patties.  Don’t judge.  Sometimes, short cuts are the only way to go.
  4. Place fried burger patty on top of egg and steamed rice.
  5. Enjoy your food coma and thank me for the shortcuts.
  6. Shut your eyes tight and dream of your island vacation and eating that loco moco while watching the gorgeous sunset  along the Waikiki beach coastline.

Loco Moco