Thursday, February 26, 2009

Restaurant Empire 2

My all time favorite game to date is this little game called Restaurant Empire. I saw it sitting in the bargain bin at Best Buy a few Christmases ago and knew I had to try it. Granted, it took me about a year to finish the game because in order for me to play it, I have to steal an hour here and there in the wee hours of the night. But those hours allow me to do something I would never do, and that is to run my very own restaurant(s). The game is addicting in that, not only do I get to design my restaurants, hire and fire staff, and pick and choose what items I place on my menus, but the plot is kind of fun too, and the graphics is not too shabby.

Now, the release of Restaurant Empire 2 is scheduled for sometime this April, and I need to find an excuse to buy it for myself or for someone to buy it for me. If you're interested in screenshots, GameSpy has tons of them. For those who love Cooking Mama because it's food related, give this game a try.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pan-Grilled Curried Pork Chops with Spicy Kumquat Chutney

Last week I posted a recipe for my kumquat chutney. I also inherited a dozen pork chops from my mother-in-law and thought it'd go well with the chutney, and it does. These pork chops are also pretty good on it's own, as the curry gives it a great flavor. I've experimented with many different methods to produce a great juicy pan-grilled pork chop and have gotten the best results from an adaptation of Simply Recipes, although I used a rub that I inherited from my mom, minus the ginger. I don't necessarily like ginger, but ginger powder makes meats so tender.

4 pork chops
3 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 tablespoon ginger powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teapoons salt
olive oil for frying
cast iron skillet

As suggested, choose thinner pork chops for best results for this method. I used 1/2 to 3/4 inch chops. As you can see from the photo above, they're thinner than the kumquats. If you use thicker chops, you can try covering the pan as suggested on Simply Recipes. I haven't tried this method without a cast iron skillet, and I have found that I do need to grill a little longer than the 2 minutes per side recommended on the Simply Recipes website.

Mix all the ingredients well and rub them into the chops front and back, dividing the rub evenly between the 4 chops. Let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes, then take them out to bring them back to room temperature just before grilling.

Heat some oil on a hot cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, turn the heat to medium and put the chops in to sear for 3 minutes on one side. Turn to the other side and turn off the heat. Let them sit there for another 3 minutes on the pan and promptly remove. Enjoy them on their own or spread the chutney on them and then enjoy them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spicy Kumquat Chutney

My mom has a kumquat tree in her backyard that produces tremendous amounts of fruit, and since she doesn't eat them, she ends up giving them away. I came home with a huge bag of these beautiful fruits a few weeks ago and decided that instead of making my usual jam, I'd try something different and make some chutney. The process of making chutney is quite similar to making jam or marmalade, except that spices are usually added.

Ingredients (Makes about a cup):
40 kumquats
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon coriander
chopped green peppers (optional)

Wash the kumquats and chop them, removing the seeds. This is the most time consuming part.

Place the kumquats in with just a bit of water to just cover the kumquats and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring every so often.

Now add in the vinegar, sugar, and coriander and bring back to a boil again. Turn the heat back down to medium and continue for another 30 minutes or so until the mixture has thickened. Make sure you keep stirring to prevent burning. You can then add in the chopped green peppers. Because of the kids, I left this out and added them individually to my serving.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Maxim Cafe in Rowland Heights

A bunch of girlfriends and I wanted to get some breakfast a few weeks ago. So one of the gals suggested either Garden Cafe or Maxim Cafe in the Rowland Heights area, and since I haven't tried Maxim yet, I kinda led them towards Maxim. Most of them didn't know I had a food blog yet, so they were cracking up when I pulled out my camera and snapped away.

Maxim Cafe is one of those typical restaurants that boast Western decor yet serve Hong Kong fare and is open until the wee hours of the morning. I usually never come to these types of places because I want to have awesome food. It's mostly because I can't think of anywhere else to go, or because nothing else is open, or because I just want a place to sit down and chat for a really, really long time. Maxim is located in the same plaza as Coconut Bay Bar and Grill, and since it was a weekday morning and everyone was at work, it was pretty empty.

I kept things simple and ordered their combination breakfast deals. For almost six dollars, I got a piping hot bowl of rice porridge, rice rolls with oyster sauce (I think), and a cup of tea. I liked the consistency of the porridge at Boston Kitchen more, but I liked how they added in some Chinese doughnuts into the porridge. I had ordered the Beef and Egg Porridge, but I didn't realize the egg was broken into the porridge still raw. I had assumed that there would be bits of cooked eggs chopped up already in the porridge. Next time I'd order a different porridge. You can also substitute coffee for the tea, and they give you condensed milk to add to either beverage. The rice rolls had a good chew to them and were alright for breakfast.

My friend ordered an American style breakfast that came with an omelette, hash browns, toast, and tea or coffee . Her mushroom omelette looked so good from the outside that my friend let me have a bite, and did I regret it. The filling was soggy and just tasted blah. Another friend ordered the same combo with a seafood omelette. I was curious to how that one tasted, and she did offer some to me, but I was just too lazy to walk over and taste it. She did say it was good, and I trust her judgment.

I thought the waitresses here were nice at first because they brought extra plates and utensils for our kids without us asking, but then after two hours, it seemed they were rushing us out when there was hardly anyone in the restaurant. Hey, girls need more than two hours to chat, so we took it outdoors and let the kids romp in their bushes.

I think I will have to try the dinner fare here to make a definitive assessment of their food. For now, I'd just say their breakfast is so-so, but this is a great place for socializing if you can keep it under two hours.

Maxim Cafe is located at 18904 Gale Ave. in Rowland Heights, CA (626) 913-7777

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kang Kang Food Court in Alhambra

The weather in Los Angeles has certainly been up and down lately. A few weeks ago on a warm, windy afternoon, Hubby and I took the kids to the park to fly their kite. We were scheduled to get some shaved ice at the Kang Kang Food Court in Alhambra, but truthfully, I was excited to meet my inspiration and fellow food blogger Wandering Chopsticks and taste test the Jing Dong Meat Pie she recommended there.

WC got a taste of the kids that day. Baby R was teething and being weaned simultaneously, so he was not a happy camper. But WC took to him immediately and graciously held him while I sampled the food. She didn't flinch a bit when R decided to go for his bowl of rice cereal, splashing milk all over poor WC's pretty dress and the floor. The other two for some reason decided to take turns going on long potty breaks with Hubby, but otherwise, they were fairly patient as Mom chatted with her Hubby-dubbed long, lost twin (because we have a lot eerily in common).

For a warm afternoon, the place was quite empty. I remember years ago before this place closed down for remodelling, and when we used to call it Shau May, it was always packed with people, but it was also a lot more grimey. The removal of the dirty carpet and a fresh coat of paint did wonders. Now the place seems roomier and cleaner.

I ordered some shaved ice for the kids at the shaved ice bar. Now, I don't know what the story is with this location and that of the Shau May in Monterey Park. Both locations offer the same stuff, so either it's a chain, or it's owned by the same people. The shaved ice bar offers the same stuff as the Monterey Park Shau May, but when I tasted the rice balls, they seemed harder than those at the Monterey Park location. Otherwise, it was all good.

On a sidenote, I want to demonstrate how sleepy and distracted I was that day. The girl at the counter who took my order asked me what table number I was at so that they could bring us our food later. I started telling her my phone number until WC stepped in with the correct info.

I decided to order two of the Jin Dong Meat Pies thinking one wouldn't be enough for all of us, but boy was I wrong. I had leftovers for the next day. WC pointed out the pretty layers in the pie, and when I bit into it, it was bursting with flavor. If you love ginger, you'll love this, because there was a lot of ginger mixed in with the pork. I didn't care much for the ginger, but I liked the texture of the pie itself and the flavor of the meat.

A few weeks later, I regretted not trying the Shanghai Pan-Fried Dumplings that they are also famous for, so I sent Hubby to order take out for dinner. The dumplings were noticeably juicier than that of the Monterey Park location, and my parents became a fan, even though the juice squirted all my mom's clothes before I had time to warn her. Yeah, they were that juicy. This photo just doesn't do them justice. We also ordered the meat pie again, and this time there was less ginger for some reason, but still yummy.

Kang Kang Food Court offers cafeteria style food for takeout also. So, Hubby also ordered some of their three item combinations.

The first combo consisted of steamed chicken with ginger and scallion, steamed shrimp, and steamed chinese brocolli. The chicken was not the usual steamed chicken I'm normally used to. The scallion/ginger dressing was not as salty, and the chicken felt soggy and actually grainy to me. I'm just used to firmer meat. The shrimp was also soggy, grainy, and not so fresh, but I liked the sweetness of the sauce. The chinese brocolli was just that, average.

The second combo had steamed cabbage with tofu, fish with black bean sauce, and soft tofu with meat and vegetables. Both tofu dishes were bland to me, but the silky texture of the soft tofu was nice. I did not like the fish at all. The sauce was overly salty, sour, and just plain strange. You also get some soup with the combos, but this "soup" is basically some broth with a bit of bean sprouts in it. Not even worth drinking.

Both Kang Kang Food Court and Shau May are comparable, but whenever I want the Pan Fried Dumplings, I'd come to this location. Just don't order them for takeout because it took them half an hour to fill our order. I think I will also stay away from their combination items, although it's a good deal for $4.25 for the three items. Parking is also tough here, but it's worth the trouble.

Kang Kang Food Court is located at 27 E. Valley Blvd in Alhambra, CA (626) 308-3898