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

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Take-Out Review: 4-Course Thanksgiving Dinner from Norms - Santa Ana

This year’s Thanksgiving dinner was from Norms. 

But so was last year’s, and the year before that. 

So other than getting it to-go, a slight increase in price, and a pandemic that’s curtailed all other plans and adversely affected all our lives, nothing’s changed.

102 17th St.
Santa Ana, CA 92706

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Check Out My Latest TimesOC/LA Times Story!

Read my latest story for TimesOC on how, what, and where I ate out these past eight months. 

Click the link below! 

TimesOC: How an OC food critic navigates takeout and drive-throughs during the pandemic

Monday, November 02, 2020

Take-Out Review: Kiko's Lechon Manok - Artesia

THUNK THUNK THUNK. It’s the sound of a cleaver chopping a big hunk of crispy pork belly into smaller hunks. I find comfort in its rhythm. It’s my idea of ASMR. Whenever I hear it, I know I’m in the kind of place where the thing to order is cha siu, siu yuk, or a mahogany-skinned duck hanging in the window. 

But this, my friends, is not a Chinese BBQ joint (there’s no duck or cha siu). It is a lechon manok specialist, the Filipino analog. But that same comforting chopping sound and the promise of a good meal is also here. 

The specialty of the house is a beautiful rotisserie chicken that gives Costco’s a run for its money. But the purpose of my visit to this walk-up window is the lechon kawale, deep-fried pork belly with luscious layers of meat and fat, and a noisy, crunchy skin that rattles my skull when I chew—CRACKLE CRACKLE CRACKLE. 

It’s an even better ASMR sound than that chopping cleaver. 

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