Saturday, November 3, 2012

Uni Shooters - Arigato Sushi, Santa Barbara, CA

One of my favorite places in Santa Barbara, CA is Arigato Sushi. They don't always have these gems (they run out quickly) but when they do, I make sure to get a bunch of these decadent uni shooters and oysters on the half shell. At first I was wary - why would this place be any better than any LA sushi joint? Well, it is. 

These uni shooters come with raw quail yolk, salmon roe, and uni. So decadent.

The beautiful oyster.

They also have quail and uni sushi, and the albacore was amazingly fresh, clean, and the soft shell crab roll was freakin awesome.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Santa Monica Farmer's Market + Recipe for Low Carb Squash Blossom

I've never been to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market before.
(/ducks hurled insults and flying shoe).

I live East of the 405!! Besides, I live walking distance to a permanent farmer's market (even though I've never been impressed with their selections). I've always been dying to go but never managed to make the effort.

Anyway, yesterday was a good time as any to check out the Santa Monica Farmer's Market especially since I was being guided by a film professor and advisor of mine who is a long-time veteran of local food shopping and farmers market connoisseur.

I got there a little early so I had time to drive close to the beach to get my yearly dose of some waves. It was so hazy and gray though - the beach was barely visible.

My professor was saying that it's the beginning of apple season! What? I thought you could get apples year round! See, this is the kind of thinking someone does when they only shop at supermarkets that have fruits flown in from different countries.

There were little crab apples which I have no idea why they were so cute and delicious looking. This stall had over 6 different varieties of apples - ones I've never heard of before. My professor bought a bunch of fruits and veggies at this stall. They even had carrots of different colors and sizes.

Next we stopped by the sprouts stall. OMFG they had things sprouting that I never knew about. Thankfully because of working on The Raw Truth, I already knew you could sprout beans, seeds, rice, etc., but I didn't know people ate onion sprouts or broccoli sprouts. I got a handful of each. The onion sprouts had the essence of onion without the overpowering flavor of onions if you just need a hint of it in cooking. My professor busted out her German in speaking to the man - they seemed to know each other. When was the last time I talked to someone about where the food I was buying came from or what to do with it?

Next, after unsuccessfully looking for blueberries (the season is over) we headed over to the peach farm. Wow. They had at least 5 different varieties and they were SWEET. I'm currently on a low-carb diet so I only managed to taste a tiny piece. But, as we turned the corner, there was one berry farm that still had a few blueberries. I scored a container of it. They were so plump, huge, and sweet, unlike most blueberries I've been eating all summer (and I thought those were sweet and good before trying these).

Next, I found some squash blossoms that I never cooked with before and got so excited that it was only $2 so I bought a bunch. I had my own conversation with the lady selling it to me about how to prepare it. This was so much fun! I also got a handful of shishito peppers, some giant green beans, and some cute baby eggplants. There were a few things that I've never seen and if I had more time to cook this week, would have gotten to get creative in the kitchen (like cranberry peas? WTF is that). Sorry for not taking a final picture of my loot. I was too busy talking life/career with my professor. Hey, sometimes there is more to life than just food.

After a rewarding day at the Farmer's Market, I drove to meet my mom to give her the cute baby eggplants. They reminded me of her. She took me to Kobawoo House where we ate bulgogi and squid. I had leftovers to take home so I decided that for dinner, I would make stuffed squash blossoms with Korean beef and squid! I had to be creative because we were about to leave for vacation and we had to eat everything in the fridge lest they spoil.

First, I gently washed the squash blossoms. They weren't too bloom-y because I was carrying them around all over town before refrigerating them when I got home. I took the stems off and it's a little prickly where the stem is attached to the flower.

All I would use for this is 1-2 eggs, beaten (also got this at the Farmer's Market. They're delicious!!), squash blossoms (washed and kind of dry), and a whole tray full of leftover Korean food.

As you can see, I had about 1/3 squid, and 2/3 bulgogi complete with onions and scallions. The lettuce will be used as ssam (wrap). I cut up all the meat into little tiny pieces.

Then, I dipped it in the egg batter and fried it in my cast iron in delicious butter.

I have a habit of drenching leftover egg batter over the food. I don't know why I do this. They always come out a little too eggy for me, but I can't waste egg.

They stayed nice and stuffed though, without any spillage. While that fried, I washed the shishito peppers to try to grill these on my stove top. The lady selling these to me said that once in a while, they would be hot. I'm glad she warned me.


I skewered the shishito peppers and put it on open fire over the stove top (on top of a grill rack). They definitely flared up fast and if not careful, this could be pretty dangerous. I can't wait to have a house with a backyard so I can grill everything outdoors!!!

I decided to try the onion sprouts I got as well so I made an arugula salad with onion sprouts, sweet peppers, parmesan cheese, and some lemon juice.

I also made sriracha with kewpie mayo dip for the shishito peppers. I didn't taste a single hot shishito pepper so I should consider myself lucky! The squash blossoms were definitely a little eggier than needed but the egg was so delicious that I didn't mind.

My hubby loved the dinner. He's also trying to refrain from eating too much carbs. He thinks he's fat, which is hilarious to me.

The dinner was delish! Obviously, I'm not quite suffering on this low carb diet. It helps too, when you have amazing ingredients. Farmer's Market for life!

Low Carb Korean Meats-Stuffed Squash Blossom Recipe:

The Egg Batter:
2 eggs, beaten

The stuffing:
Honestly, anything you want. I had already cooked leftover Korean meats so I used that instead. You can use 1/4 cup ricotta cheese with herbs, spices, mozarella, or any variation of what you think sounds good. I think this is where you can get creative.
A bundle of Squash Blossoms, washed

Butter, for frying.

  1. Prep the batter first. Crack two eggs and beat them with a whisk. They do not have to be whisked too much. Just blended.
  2. Prep the stuffing. In my case, I just minced all the meats together into tiny pieces for easy stuffing. 
  3. Open the blossoms gently. They're very fragile. Mine were all men so I had to cut out their stamens with my bare fingertips. Make sure you don't pull too hard or you will rupture the petals.
  4. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the stuffing mixture into each blossom. Avoid overfilling the blossoms. You want the petal part to be nice and crispy when you fry it. Twist the top of each blossom together. 
  5. Butter up the cast iron skillet or any frying pan you have. I use my cast iron for everything. Heat over medium high heat until butter melts completely.
  6. Dip each stuffed blossom into the egg batter and carefully slip it into the buttered skillet. Do this with each blossom and cook on this side without turning for 1-2 minutes. Turn. another 1-2 minutes. Don't mess with it! It's done when they're golden. 
  7. Transfer fried squash blossoms to a paper toweled plate to soak up a little of that butter.
  8. Serve immediately.
Santa Monica Farmer's Market
Wednesday Edition

Arizona Ave & 2nd St
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Neighborhood: Santa Monica
(310) 458-8712
8:30 am - 1:30 pm
Cash Only
Street or Structure Parking

Saturday, July 7, 2012

La Sierra Restaurant (Pato/Duck)

In Santa Cruz, Bolivia, you grow up knowing about certain places and they become mainstays. There is less competition since the population is so small and little communities form to help each other out and their businesses. For example, the Korean community in Santa Cruz is so tight-knit that it's easy to identify them based on which church they go to and if they don't go to church, which church they are affiliated with (where most of their friends and family attend). This idea stretches to other types of communities of people who live in Santa Cruz.

On our last day in Bolivia, we went to our church to say goodbye to our community and an unexpected trip to eat duck was devised by a few family friends. "¿Quieres comer pato?" - "Do you want to eat duck?" exclaimed Mrs. Yoon.  We were about to head out to Cotoca, a neighboring city so we turned her down. Have you ever tried turning down an adamant Korean lady? Needless to say, five minutes later we were caravaning down a really long road to eat duck with three Korean families.

Traffic on the way to eat duck. Street Vendor selling corn.

In the parking lot of La Sierra Restaurant, there is a cage filled with monkeys.

I'm pretty sure there was a sign that said not to feed the monkeys.

 It was one of the most crowded restaurants we visited in Bolivia. 
This place was the place to be on that particular Sunday.
The restaurant staff knew Mr. and Mrs. Yoon (I guess they come here a lot)
so we got seated pretty fast and had attentive service all throughout the meal.

 The salad is simple and yet delicious because of all the fresh ingredients.
Tomato slices, big lettuce pieces, sliced onions, salt, vinegar.
You bring it to your plate and cut it into bite-size pieces before eating. 
Don't be a caveman and eat a whole lettuce.

 I don't know what kind of crack Bolivians put in their rice but it's to die for.
Moist, buttery, diced veggies and just enough salt. 
I can eat a whole bowl of this.

We ordered the Carnes a la parilla, which basically means grilled meat.
Sausage, tomatoes, beef. Smoky and delicious. 
My favorite part of the skewer is always the juicy tomatoes.

 Finally, what we came here for - the Fried Duck.
The skin is so crispy it just crackles inside your mouth.
It comes with fried plantains and fried yucca.

 Check out the duck - see how crispy it is? The inside meat is still juicy.

 The dessert was this cornflour consistency cookie/candy. 
It kind of reminds me of Necco wafers + Tums. 
Not the most appetizing dessert but who had room after all that amazing duck?

Our favorite non-alcoholic drink in Bolivia is SIMBA,
the best tasting Guarana ever.

When it comes to restaurants, you can ask any local where the best place for ____ is and they can rattle off the handful of restaurants that specialize in it. It's a totally different feel from the LA restaurant scene, where many restaurants open and shutter within a year. In fact, when I went back this time, not only did I see most of the familiar restaurants still thriving, but many of them have now become franchises. Even when trying to write this review, a simple question on facebook about the name of the restaurant had four of my ex-classmates chiming in to identify the restaurant.

If you're ever in Santa Cruz, this place is a MUST VISIT. You won't regret it. I still have yet to have better duck than this place in the last five years and I've eaten at some pretty swank places before.


Especialidad en Patos, carnes a la parrilla 

(Specializes in Duck and Grilled Meat)
Km. 23 Doble Vía la Guardia

Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Tel: 384- 0009

Friday, February 3, 2012

Son of a Gun

(Clockwise from top left: Shrimp Toast, Lobster roll, Fried Oyster sandwich)

(Left to Right: Chicken Sandwich, Fish and Chips)

Son of a Gun!
I love Animal (Vinny and Jon's first outpost in LA) and when I heard Son of a Gun, their Seafood-centric new joint opened, I knew I had to pay a visit.

Since they're open for lunch now and miraculously, the lines are still not long yet, we decided to go before more people would hear about it. The three of us walked in a little earlier than LA lunch time, around 12pm sharp. We were able to get the communal table but you can make reservations ahead of time for the tables if you need your own space. 

The decor was fabulous and the vibe was chill. My kind of place. The food is seafood centric but definitely the kind that goes better with beer since a lot of the food is fried.

We ordered the shrimp toast, the lobster roll, the fried oyster sandwich, the chicken sandwich, and the fish and chips. They were all so fried and fatty and good. The shrimp toast is off the hook. I'm definitely going back for that. The fried oyster sandwich was also amazing. The lobster roll was mayonaisey but still good.

The chicken sandwich was actually a good portion, unlike the other three "appetizers" but we still split it three ways so I didn't get a good feel for what the sandwich was like since I only got a little of the chicken. However, the breading was crispy and the chicken meat was super high quality, awesome chicken. The fish and chips, though awesome, veered on the greasy side. If that was the only thing I was eating, it would have been fine but with all the other fried bread-like items, it was a little too much.

Next time, I want to go for dinner but lunch is definitely a chill time.

Son of a Gun Restaurant

(323) 782-9033

8370 W. 3rd Street Map.656a974
Los AngelesCA 90048

Son of a Gun Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quinoa Soup

It took me nearly ten years to see Bolivia again. In my mind, I built up Bolivia to be this magical place where not only my childhood took place, but a place untouched by the evilness of industrialization, mass production, and globalization.

(Lomas de Arena: Sand Dunes, Santa Cruz, Bolivia)

Of course, a lot of things have changed.

(La Paz, Bolivia)

When I lived in Bolivia, I barely left my city, Santa Cruz. The cuisine of the altiplano (or the high altitude regions) is pretty different from the cuisine of the lowlands. La Paz, the capital, is dry, cold in the shade, hot in the sun, and you're basically living amongst the clouds. People here eat a lot more quinoa than they do in Santa Cruz. Most of the quinoa comes from the altiplano because quinoa is hardy and it can grow in high altitudes. The andes are the perfect place for quinoa to grow. During our trip to La Paz and the Salar de Uyuni, we had a lot of quinoa soup and cooked quinoa instead of rice. European backpackers rejoiced.

Quinoa has been cultivated since the Incan times and they believed the crop was sacred. Quinoa means "mother of all grains" but when the Spanish conquered Bolivia, they scorned quinoa as "food for Indians." How ironic that now, in 2011, quinoa is recognized for what it is - a superfood, and people all over the world are shelling out the big bucks to get some quinoa in their diet.

In most of the world that now sells quinoa, it is usually sold in boxes or pre-packaged containers and it has already been pre-rinsed for convenience cuz let me tell you, rinsing organic, uncleaned quinoa is a step and a half!

The quinoa that I brought back from Bolivia is not pre-rinsed so the first step is to remove the saponins (natural laxative) by either soaking the quinoa in water for a few hours, then changing the water and resoaking, or rinsing the quinoa in ample running water for several minutes in a fine strainer. There's also small stones that I have to sift through, which is definitely easier to do when it's not cooked yet.

One of the things I love doing is making things ahead of time. Since quinoa can be eaten hot or cold, I like making them in batches to last throughout the week. My favorite dish though, has to be the Quinoa Soup. The European backpackers were gushing over it the entire tour of the Salar and when we got to our salt hotels and the lady brought us over some Quinoa Soup, we all felt this intense connection with the land, the people, the history, and the community.

This is my rendition of the Quinoa Soup that I had at Salar de Uyuni, the highest and largest salt bed in the entire world, containing more than 50-70% of the world's lithium.

Those little dots are people, not dirt on your computer screen. If you ever have a chance to visit the Salar de Uyuni, it's a once in a lifetime experience. Mostly because after seeing the beautiful landscape once, you probably won't want to go back again because the altitude sickness is no joke and riding around in an SUV for a few days in unpredictable terrain is nerve-wracking and not for the easily nauseous. But, pictures can do no justice to the immense beauty that you will experience when you see it with your own eyes.

Coming back home, one of the first things I knew I had to make was quinoa soup. I might be able to (or want to) go back to the Salar de Uyuni again but I sure as hell will miss having quinoa soup, the cute European cafe's hearty breakfast, and the coca tea that was the only saving grace when my altitude headaches were at its peak.

Quinoa Soup Recipe


2 tablespoon butter
1 cup diced onions (I use sweet yellow onions)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika (or just paprika)
1 teaspoon of Ancho Chile Pepper
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
.5 teaspoon of white pepper
1 teaspoon of 21 seasoning salute (Trader Joe's)
1 pound of beef
10 cups of water
2 cups peas (I used frozen)
2 cups cooked quinoa
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
4 tablespoon chopped parsley or cilantro if you have it on hand
salt to taste

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot. This is where the rest of the soup will go in so make sure you get a big enough pot.
2. Add the onions, garlic, tomatoes, seasoning, cook for 5 min, stirring often.
3. Add the beef and cook until meat is browned.

4. Add the water, increase the heat and bring it to a boil.
5. Then, lower the heat to medium low and cook for around 40 minutes to an hour, until meat is tender.
6. Add the potatoes, peas, carrots, cooked quinoa, and bring to boil again.
7. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 min until the potatoes are tender.

8. Add herbs and salt (Unfortunately I didn't have any herbs on hand but it was still awesome).

9. Serve piping hot! 

I love Quinoa Soup. This soup keeps really well but it won't last long, I promise!

In Bolivia, I discovered quinoa in many forms and in many different types of food. From quinoa flour to pasta, it was everywhere. But, the most fascinating form was popped quinoa, which they call Quinoa Pop. This kind of quinoa can be eaten like cereal, or combined with cereal, as well as a topping on ice cream, yogurt, and it even reminds me of rice krispies in chocolates.

So far, I haven't seen this form of quinoa in the U.S. so I'm savoring each bag of Quinoa Pop!