Thursday, May 27, 2021

LA Times/TimesOC New Ghost Kitchens Story

If you’re seeing a lot more ghost kitchens on the online delivery sites lately, you might not have noticed that some aren’t actually “ghosts”. 
These are the brick-and-mortar restaurant chains who list themselves under a different name on the apps in the hopes of “catfishing” you into ordering rearrangements of their existing menu items. 

So in my latest piece for TimesOC story, I decided to hunt down three of the newest real “ghosts” and tell their stories. 

They include the first foray into entrepreneurship for an amateur Cajun seafood cook, a seasoned Korean food executive looking to start his own brand, and an established Central American fried chicken chain discovering an opportunity to penetrate more markets. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Lechon Kawale from Kiko's - Artesia

The auntie who took my order at Kiko’s misheard me. 

“Tita,” I told her, pointing at my receipt. “I actually wanted only a half pound of lechon kawale, not a pound.” 

But as she squinted at my credit card slip, I saw a sad look on her face. 

“You know what, that’s okay,” I said. “I’ll take the full pound, but please give me extra sauce.” 

She brightened instantly. 

As she packed an extra container of sauce and handed me the order, she said, “Don’t worry, you’ll finish it all.”

“That’s exactly the problem,” I thought to myself.

Kiko's Lechon Manok
18915 Norwalk Blvd. 
Artesia, CA 90701

Sunday, April 18, 2021

LA Times/TimesOC OC's Best Bento Boxes Story

Who makes the best bento boxes in OC? What are bento boxes? These are questions I answer in my latest piece for TimesOC/LA Times. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

LA Times/TimesOC International Foods in OC Story

It’s been a year since the pandemic started. Air travel is still fraught with uncertainty and risk.

So in my latest story for LA Times/TimesOC, I write about where you can discover cuisines from far-flung destinations without getting on an airplane or even leaving the county line.


Monday, January 18, 2021

LA Times/TimesOC Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich Story

Click this link to read my story on the seven new Nashville hot chicken sandwich shops that opened during the pandemic

They include:

Monday, December 21, 2020

Take-Out Review: Handel's Ice Cream - Lake Forest

I discovered something amazing at Handel’s Ice Cream in Lake Forest.

It’s not that this enormous tower is what they consider a “single”.

It’s not that the flavor I tried, called Monkey Business—banana ice cream with a caramel ripple and brownie pieces—was wonderful, like something out of a county fair. 

It’s not even that I got another cone just like this for free using their Buy-One-Get-One deal, which continues until the end of the year. 

No, the amazing thing I discovered about Handel’s Ice Cream is that with its freshly-made, soft-serve-like texture—scooped to order from bins in a storeroom dedicated to ice cream—it’s the closest I’ve gotten to Strickland’s, which I still sorely miss. 

Handel's Ice Cream
23615 El Toro Rd
Lake Forest, CA 92630

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Take-Out Review: Yummy Banh Bao - Westminster

Ah, steamed buns. Fluffy like pillows, sweetly fragrant of yeast, hiding fillings of savory meat or something sugary like red bean paste. 

I love the stuff--everything from the Chinese original, called bao, to Japan’s nikuman, to Korea’s wang mandoo, to The Philippines' siopao. They’re all wonderful, each one more comforting than mother’s milk, especially when they’re hot and fresh, and the weather is cold. 

Lately I’ve been eating a lot of the Vietnamese variant, called bánh bao. It’s primarily because Yummy Bánh Bao, a bánh bao specialist located in the heart of LIttle Saigon, makes it so darn easy and cheap to buy enough to last almost an entire week. 

$10 gets you a box of 9 bánh baos stuffed with a quartered half-boiled egg and piece of Chinese sausage embedded in a pork-and-chicken mousse. 

Yummy Bánh Bao offers six other fillings, but the one I just described is #1, literally and figuratively. There’s something about how the combination of hard boiled egg yolk, chewy sausage, and meat works together. 

Eating them fresh is ideal, but I’ve kept these buns under refrigeration for a few days without any loss in quality. They reheat well in the microwave when wrapped in a damp paper towel. 

But if you want to revive it to its optimum fluffiness, you should trot out your steamer basket and do it properly. All you need after that is a bottle of Sriracha at your side.

Yummy Banh Bao 
15041 Moran St #106
Westminster, CA 92683