Tuesday, June 30

Gardens Galore Tour

I had such a great weekend! The weather was very beautiful.. And besides discovering my new favorite sushi spot in town, I also had a nice time visiting some of beautiful gardens, with my friend, Lynne. We attended Greater Lansing Housing Coalition's Garden Galore Tour 2009.

The Gardens Galore Tour is a self-guided tour in greater Lansing, featuring exceptional gardens of different size, design, and character. There were garden "Experts" on site at some of the venues, to answer our questions.

The event featured beautiful and distinctive gardens located in East Lansing, Hassett, Okemos, Williamston, Lainsburg, and Perry - in Michigan. The owners of those gardens did a spectacular job of loving and working hard on their gardens. It was very generous of them to share their lovely, personal garden spaces with everyone.

One of the lakeside gardens we visited also had on display some of the owner's antique car collection. They were all in very good shape, and such a pleasant sight -- in the beautiful garden, and the amazing lake view.

Look at them..!

After we finished our tours, Lynne and I headed back home to do some work. She continued working on her lovely and well-maintained garden. For me, it's time to start pulling weeds, after all I've got so much inspiration from those gorgeous gardens I visited..

Might take a while until I can post the picture of my own :)

Sunday, June 28

Maru: Sushi & Grill

It's official now that I have another favorite sushi spot in town - besides Omi Sushi. Grand opening in Okemos about 2 months ago, Maru: Sushi and Grill, is located across the street from Meridian Mall on Marsh road. It was such a nice evening when I went there with my friends, Gary and Lynne, so we chose to sit outside. Our appetizer --Flash Fried Calamari -- had a different batter we usually find at other restaurants. It was lightly coated with spices and flash fried, therefore the freshness and the true flavor of the calamari presented themselves pretty well. The spicy aioli was a nice compliment to the dish.

Then, we had Spicy Magusake Salad. Tuna and salmon, mixed with green onion, sesame seeds, plated with greens, carrot, cucumber, and Gochujang dressing. The spiciness of red pepper paste dressing went really well with the freshness of tuna and salmon.

And for the main course, we ordered Omakase Platters - Chef's choice featuring today's special. A $50 menu item we had included 3 platters of sashimi, nigiri, and a chef's special rolls. We were served a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to the heaviest items. With Omakase style order, chef well-presented his innovative and artistic performance through his selection, as well as delivered to us an absolutely delicious meal.

We finished our dinner with an order of a Green Tea Creme Brulee. It was just wonderful!

Overall atmosphere at Maru features a contemporary mix of Japanese and American concept. The dramatic white backdrop makes the sushi bar a focal point once you walk in. The service is excellent, our server was very friendly and did a perfect job. The owner, Robert, came over to our table, as well as the others in the restaurant, getting to know his customers and making sure everything was up to our expectation. It was a great dining experience we had at Maru!

Update 6/28: I went back to Maru again, the day after, with my son. He really loves sushi, I just had to introduce him to my new-found favorite. We had Dragon Rolls: crab, cucumber, avocado, with eel and avocado on top, drizzled with eel sauce. We will definitely order that again next time. Since I am a big fan of soft shell crab, we also ordered Tarantula Rolls: deep-fried soft shell crab, cucumber, gobo, radish sprout topped with masago. It was very good as I expected. Another dish we ordered but was gone before I remembered to take picture was Crunchy Tuna Rolls: spicy tuna with tempura flakes. The crunch added another dimension to the soft and spicy tuna, yet a delectable combination.

5100 Marsh Rd.
Okemos, MI 48864
(517) 349-7500

Saturday, June 27

Drunken Noodle

A quick lunch I made today was a one-dish meal called drunken noodle. The wide rice noodle was stir-fried with garlic and fresh chili pepper, as well as soy sauce, pork, beansprout, green onion, jalapeno pepper, and fresh basil leaves. It was spicy, it was delicious, and it was filling -- you will love this dish. I will put together a recipe and post it up soon.

Then, I got to enjoy my afternoon !!

Green Papaya Sald: Som Tum

Som Tum - or Thai Green Papaya Salad - is one of my most favorite this dishes! It is healthy and very nutritious, and full of flavors. The dish is very easy to make once you have all the ingredients on hand. The main ingredient is the shredded green papaya. Tomato and long bean are also a must-have. I just didn't have any long bean today... The rest are garlic, chili peppers, fish sauce, fresh lime juice, and palm sugar. Roasted peanuts and dried shrimps are usually added as well. I didn't have those handy, but I used some salted crabs to make a Northeastern-style Som Tum, the way I like back at home. All the ingredients are pounded together in a mortar using pestle. This beautifully unique salad gives you all the flavor -- salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. I always enjoy it with sticky rice, and BBQ chicken or grilled steak.

Monday, June 22

Steak for "Dad"

There is nothing more perfect than Big Juicy Steak for a dad on Father's Day. And when it comes to choosing the cut of meat, rib eye is my favorite choice. Rib-eye cuts have beautiful marbling which adds deep beefy flavor and juiciness to steaks.

We had our Father's Day dinner at home. I grilled rib-eye steaks, asparagus, and garlic bread. I also caramelized yellow onions as another side dish to our meal. With a little bit of time and patience, the precesses of breaking down and browning natural sugar in the onion provide a melt-in-your-mouth texture and rich flavor caramelized onions.
To season a steak is really up to your own preference. To me a very good cut only need a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper - sea salt and freshlyground whole black pepper.. And in order to add another layer of flavor to a steak, I add some dried bold herbs. Store-bought mix would even do the job. My trick is to also add lots of fresh, minced garlic, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Let the steaks sit a little bit while you prepare something elses, and get the grill ready.
As for the asparagus, I marinated them for about an hour in the mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, minced shallot, salt and pepper. Grill until charred but still retained its bright-green color. When done I toss them back in the reserved marinade before serving.

To cook, I preheated the grill to high heat for 15-20 minutes. I grilled the steaks over direct heat, about 5-7 minutes on each side (depends on the thinckness of your meat). Turning only once, and never use knife, fork, or even thermometer, to pierce steaks to check for doneness. You don't want to drain the juice and the goodness of the steak into the grill. Just try to "feel" it by pressing on the steak. When done and removed from the heat, the steaks need to rest for about 5-7 minutes so that the juice would redistribute into the entire piece of steaks.

Sunday, June 21

Soccer & Cookout Picnic

It was a great day for lots of soccer games and a cookout we had on Saturday. When your kid(s) participates in a soccer tournament, parents and siblings are pretty much "there" all day - watching the games, waiting for the next game, eating, or hanging out.. My son and his buddies had 3 games altogether, it was a 4x4 shootout, short games. it was pure fun. Hopefully, it was also all fun for our friend, C - the boys' coach - whose wife, son, and daughter were in the tourney. He had in total 8 games to coach, and to support, I salute you, C!

Everyone brought food to share. L and G's Zingerman's bread and brownies were out of the world. Those scrumptious brownies were finished even before the cookout started! Then, D and M magically made the "grill fest" happened by the soccer field sideline :) Once again, D had proved himself a true grill master -- he and his portable grill did a wonderful job feeding all of us. The marinated flank steak was a real treat!

The boys had fun, and parents enjoys one another's company. Thank you, my friends for another great day of the summer, the love of soccer, togetherness, friendship, and delicious food.

Summer Solstice Jazz Festival

" The Summer Solstice Jazz Festival is a two-day festival attended by more than 6,000 people. The event, staged under a big tent in downtown East Lansing, takes place in Lot 1 on the corner of Abbot Road and Albert Avenue each year. The festival began to bring in national acts beginning in 2008 with headliner Sophie Milman. This year, the festival will feature headliners Esperanza Spalding and the Allen/Whitaker Project. The ultimate goal of the festival is to grow each year to one day become a major Michigan festival with statewide and national exposure."

Besides local and national jazz performers, we got to enjoy a performance by MSU Community Music School's Jazz Camp attendees. They were a group of middle and high school students from greater Lansing and metro Detroit who had participated in a weeklong jazz camp June 14-19 on the Michigan State University campus led by the MSU Professors of Jazz. Though there was pouring rain for a moment, the crowd could still enjoyed this popular jazzy event...
(Way to go Kaleb!)

Friday, June 19

Oriental Market's Friday Arrivals

Kabocha Squash (top left): Also known as Japanese Squash, or Japanese Pumpkin. It has an exceptional naturally sweet flavor, even sweeter than butternut squash. Its texture and flavor are similar to a pumpkin and a sweet potato combined. It is a common ingredient in vegetable tempura, and also makes a great soup.
Chinese Okra (top right): Also called Angled Luffa, or Sponge Gourd. It is a good squash to add to soup or stir-fried dishes. Since the meat of this squash is very absorbent, it takes on the flavors of other ingredients as it cooks. Peel and cut into small piece to use.
Fuzzy Squash (bottom left): Also called Hairy Gourd, or Hairy Squash. Mild flavor. Great for stir fry.
Lychee (bottom right): (Litchi, Lichee, Lychee Nuts, Lichee Fruit) When the skin is peeled off, inside is the Lychee's crisp juicy flesh in white or pinkish color -- translucent and glossy like the consistency of a grape, but the taste is sweeter. Lychee is high in the antioxidant Vitamin C and the essential mineral Potassium.

Wednesday, June 17

Green Curry: Tofu & Enoki Mushroom

Green curry is a very popular Thai curry dish you can find at almost every Thai restaurant. This one is a vegetarian version, with fried tofu and Enoki mushroom as main ingredients. The rest is pretty much the basic ingredients for Thai Green Curry. You can find my quick post of its different version - Pork Green Curry with Thai Eggplant - here.

This dish is usually served with rice. Some other varieties are to serve with rice vermicelli (Bun), or with Indian flat bread (Roti). Regular (soft or firm) tofu, or fried tofu can be used in this curry, or any curry, actually. It's all about your preference!

Enoki mushrooms -- also called Enokitake, Winter Mushroom, Snow Puff Mushroom, Velvet Stem Mushroom, or Golden Needle Mushroom -- have a mild but delightful flavor and a pleasantly crunchy texture. To use, you need to cut off and discard the bottom of the cluster of mushrooms (up to the point where individual mushroom stems can be separated). Traditionally, Enoki is lightly cooked, and served in soups or in stir-fries with vegetables and meat. Too much cooking can make the stems tough and stringy.

You will need:

  • 1 can (4 oz.) Green Curry paste (I prefer Mae Sri brand)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk (Chao Kao or Aroy-D brand)
  • 16 oz. fried tofu, cut in triangles or cubes
  • 1 TBSP palm sugar
  • 2 TBSP Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)
  • 1-2 cups water, or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 package Enoki mushroom, trim & discard the bottom cluster. Rinsed clean.
  • 1 cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves


  1. Fry Green curry paste in 1/2 cup coconut milk in a pot until fragrant, using medium-high heat. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn - until it is fragrant and becomes oily, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add tofu chunks and fry until mixed well with curry sauce.
  3. Add the rest of coconut milk. Then, add 1 cup (or more) of water (or stock) then bring it to a boil. The sauce shouldn't be runny, nor too thick.
  4. Then, lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add palm sugar and fish sauce. Stir well. Adjust the flavor to your taste.
  6. Add bell pepper and Enoki mushroom. Stir to mix all ingredients in curry sauce. The mushroom shouldn't be cooked long at all.
  7. Finally, add Thai basil leaves, and turn the heat off right away. That way the leaves still maintain their bright green color. Serve with rice, noodle, or flat bread - your choice..

Tuesday, June 16

Beef Panang Curry

I made Beef Panang curry for dinner tonight. The dish went so great with steamed rice. As I mentioned in previous post of this Panang Curry, here, you can use just any kind of meat you prefer. Fried tofu makes a wonderful vegetarian version of this curry! And for seafood lover, you will find shrimp in the panang curry sauce is just so divine.. Try making with different variety of meat if you like - to find your favorite, or simply just to be adventurous.

Saturday, June 13

Zingerman's Roadhouse

Waiting for table for forty in front of the restaurant. The staff was very friendly and accommodating.

Live music on its outdoor patio. The atmosphere was very comfortable and enjoyable.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

Grilled Sardines served with mashed potatoes and sauteed' spinach
Appetizer Sampler
Wild Mushroom & Roasted New Mexico Green Chile Enchiladas
Really Wild-Wild Rice Roast

Sampler of Macaroni, Smoked Chicken & Monterey Jack
Arugula & Red Oak Salad
Sea Islands Sweet Potato Fries w/ spicy Mayo
Warm Spinach & Wild Mushroom Salad

Inside of the restaurant, featuring its full bar.

Overall, I had a great dining experience at Zingerman's Roadhouse. The food was fantastic, and the service was outstanding. The wait staff was very prompt, attentive, and fun! This is a place to be, and definitely a restaurant for foodies.. I am going back soon!

Zingerman's Roadhouse:
2501 Jackson Rd.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
(734) 663-FOOD

Thursday, June 11

Thai Fried Rice: The Basic

Fried rice is considered fast food in Thailand. It's quick and you can make it with mostly any ingredient you like for the variation. Everyone makes fried rice a little differently, you can always experiment, once you know the basic technique.

As quick and easy this dish is, there are essential tips needed to keep in mind if you want to make "good fried rice". As some say, fried rice is more of a formula than a single recipe.
  • Leftover cooked rice: The best rice to use is leftover rice that's been lying in the fridge for at least a day. You cannot make fried rice with freshly cooked rice! The grains of leftover rice is firmer and have no excess moisture, which makes it much easier to separate. You would only get "fried mush" instead of fried rice if you made with freshly-cooked rice. However, if you can't wait a day, you can at least let the rice cool for a few hours in an airy spot. Break loose the rice with your wet fingers.
  • Hot wok or large skillet: The reasons that restaurant-made fried rice has that smoky flavour is the high temperatures and the seasoned carbon steel woks that they use. The hot wok will caramelize rice with the soy sauce, and keep rice from sticking to the wok. It's all about high heat, and movement (from constant stirring)!
  • Basic ingredients: Cold rice, eggs, soy sauce, and green onions are my foundation of basic fried rice. However, with the more adventurous versions, this would differently applies according to recipes.
  • Add-on ingredients: You can use any kind of meats and seafood (shrimps, crab meat) you like, or leftover cooked meat in your fridge, or anything handy (ham, Chinese sausage, BBQ pork, or even Spam!) And for vegetables - peas, carrots, corn, tomato, bell pepper, Chinese broccoli, pineapple, raisin - any of these, and more, will do. Experiment with what you like.
I cook fried rice quite often, it's a quick one-dish meal, and a good way to clean out my refrigerator, or use up any leftover. You can be creative here, just use your judgement.. Normally, I don't have "a recipe" for cooking this dish. There is quite a variety of different versions of fried rice. I add seasonings while cooking, taste it, and adjust the flavor to my taste. I really had to take the time figuring the following recipe out, and I did test the final recipe a few time. So, here it is -- the basic recipe of Thai fried rice.

Chicken Fried Rice

You will need:
(for 3-4 servings)

  • 4 cups refrigerated cooked rice
  • 2 cups bite-size sliced or cubed chicken breast
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable, or other cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (I like Golden Mountain brand, or Mushroom flavor light soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp black/dark soy sauce (optional - for color)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • White pepper powder (black pepper will do just fine)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedge and cucumber slices (authentic Thai style)
  1. Heat the wok over high heat. Add half of the oil. Once the oil heated up, add eggs, scramble until almost cooked through, then push it to the one side of the wok.
  2. Add the rest of the oil. Then add garlics, onions, and chicken. Stir quickly, until chicken is cooked and onion is soft.
  3. Add rice and give it a good stir. Keep moving and gently press the rice with the back of spatula to loosen and mix in the ingredients. Stir and scrape - add a little more oil if you have to.
  4. Add soy sauce, black soy sauce, and sugar. Stir to mix thoroughly.
  5. Add green onion and white pepper powder. Stir just a little bit more to mix well.
  6. Garnished with chopped cilantro. And serve with lime wedge (squeeze juice on top of rice before eating), then eat with the cucumber slides as a side. Enjoy!

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