Monday, October 22, 2012

Japanese Curry

Why spend 10 bucks at a place like Curry House to satisfy your Japanese Curry craving when you can make enough to feed 12 people with the same amount of money? This recipe is super simple and easy on the wallet. Japanese curry was one of my go to dishes when I was still going to school because it can be made in one pot and tastes even better the next day. This dish is also one of my favorite warm comfort foods perfect for this time of year.

Ingredients (12 servings )

2 lbs chicken (or any other type of meat, pork or beef would work well)
4  medium sized potatoes
2 carrots
1/2 onion
1 bell pepper
6 cups water
1 package of curry mix

Serve with cooked rice

Each curry sauce mix box comes with two individual packages of curry bricks. You can easily half the recipe and save one of the packages in the fridge for a later time. This recipe is highly customizable, I just use what I have on hand. You can change up the type of veggies and meat you put in. You can also make this vegetarian by adding only veggies and tofu.

For this recipe you will need to buy a box of Japanese curry mix, commonly found in most Asian supermarkets. I believe the price ranges from $2-3 dollars per box, which makes 12 servings of curry. This is my favorite brand, I can't say much about other brands because I haven't tried them. You can pick the spiciness level from mild to hot.


1. Start by rinsing the chicken and cutting it into small bite sized pieces. Put it in a bowl and season with a little bit of salt and pepper.

2. Prep the vegetables. Peel and dice the carrots and potatoes. You can put them in a pot of boiling water until tender. My secret trick is to put them in a bowl with water and microwave for 10 minutes. I feel that this cuts down my cooking time and I only have to use one pot for the whole cooking process.

3. Dice the onion.

4. Warm up a stockpot or large wok and drizzle a little bit of oil in it. Add the onion and stir fry for about 3 minutes.

5. Add the chicken and stir fry until all the pinkness is gone and the meat looks done, about 7-9 minutes.

6. Drain and add the carrots and potatoes to the wok. Add the bell peppers. Stirfry for about 5 minutes.

7. Add 6 cups of water (follow the curry package instructions for accurate amount of water). Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes and meat are tender.

9. Turn off the stove and add the curry bricks into the wok. Stir well until all the bricks have dissolved.
8. Serve on top of rice. I like to also add some thinly sliced cucumbers for some freshness.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Lessons learned from used car shopping

Great news! My boyfriend, Minh, finally bought a car yesterday after about about a month of looking. Helping look for this car was one of the most stressful and difficult things I've done. Minh has never done this before so he didn't know where to start. I also know next to nothing about cars because I'm super spoiled by my Daddy, who takes care of all our auto affairs. We also needed to find a car fast because he and his sister needed the car to get to school and work. 

As the weeks went by with no luck, I quickly became very antsy and stressed about the whole situation. We decided to sacrifice precious time so we could find a good car to invest in that was safe, reliable, and within our budget of $6000-$7500. The time riding the bus paid off because the car we got was a steal! I am, by no means, an expert but I just wanted to share some things I've learned from this whole ordeal, hopefully it will help someone else in the same situation.

Consumer Reports sample
  • Patience.You'll need it, lots of it. It takes a long time to search for deals and research cars. We really didn't want to rush into anything and make a mistake. Sometimes you find a good deal but can't make it out to see the car and it gets sold to someone else so you're back to square one. And sometimes you find a good car but look it up on Carfax and find out that the seller was lying to you. If you have time and patience, you'll likely end up with finding a good car.
  • Decide what cars you want. I went to a local Barnes and Nobles and looked at the consumer reports magazine to see what cars were the safest and most reliable. There's a used car reliability chart towards the back that looks like the image on the right.I was only looking at cars from 2000 onwards. My top picks for reliability and price are the Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Accord. 
  • Meet my new friends, Mr. Carfax and Ms. Kelley Blue Book (KBB). Before going to see a car, I always look at the KBB values and the Carfax report if the car's license plate number is available.
    • I paid about $60 bucks for a Carfax subscription, which allowed me to search an unlimited number of cars within a month time frame. 
    • This allows me to search the history for all the cars I was interested in. I look for reported mileage, ownership history, and if the car has been in any accidents or if the car is in salvage condition. This research is very important to ensure that you are not being lied to.We were about to buy a very nice Honda Accord with only about 70,000 miles on the odometer however, the Carfax report said the last reported odometer reading for this car was over 200,000 miles...!
  • Look for deals in your local newspaper. I religiously perused the classified section of Vietnamese newspapers because they had a lot of ads. We found our car in the Người Việt newspaper. I preferred this method because the cars are mostly from private owners. I felt this was less stressful for me because I don't enjoy working with dealers. This method was also convenient because most of the cars are located in Orange County, which made going to see the cars much easier. Be cautious of sellers who routinely buy cars from the auction to fix up and resell, they tend to do a crappy job because they care more about making a profit. I preferred to look for people who were selling personal cars because they tend to take better care of it.
  • Check out local bulletin boards. I found a great car looking at the bulletin board of a local grocery never know.
  • Scan Craigslist cautiously. I was a little weary with looking for cars on Craigslist because my parents had a bad experience where they were almost robbed when shopping for our last car. However, there are lots of cars on here and it's in English :)  My recommendation is to get a Carfax account and look up the cars before you go. Many sellers post pictures of their cars with the license plate and I would look up cars first before I set up an appointment to go see the car. 
  • Ask a person who knows cars to go look at cars with you. We were lucky to have my dad help with the whole process. I would look up everything initially but he's the one to tell us if it's worth checking out or not. He also came with us and inspected all the cars.
  • Paperwork business. Let me tell you, I did not know the paperwork would take so long to go through. This was mainly because they were a first time seller and we were a first time buyer.
    • If you are buying a car from a private seller in California, visit this link for all the paper work information. 
    • I learned yesterday that you can still buy a car if the title or pink slip is missing. You just need to fill out this form.

Oh the joys of becoming an adult! I'm so glad it's over and done with but I'm also glad that I've learned so much because of this experience. I now know what to do when we're shopping for our next car! I hope someone out there finds this blog post helpful. Happy hunting! 

Foodie 100 Challenge: Vietnamese

I was looking for cooking inspiration this morning and stumbled upon Wandering Chopstick's "100 Vietnamese Foods to Try" post. I invite you to visit her original post for links to recipes for each dish at Wandering Chopsticks.

I'm surprised I have already tried a lot of the dishes on this list. How many have you tried? 

I would add these 5 items to the list:

101. Banh Bot Chien (Vietnamese fried rice flour cake), this dish popped into my head because I remember vividly having this freshly cooked in Vietnam
102. Banh Tam Bi (Rice noodles with coconut milk and shredded pork, one of my favorite comfort foods)
103. Bap Nuong Mo Hanh (Grilled corn with scallion oil)
104. Bun Thang (Vermicelli Soup with chicken, egg, and pork)
105. Chao Ca or Ga (Fish or Chicken porridge)
106. Mit (Jackfruit)
107. Nhan (Logan)
108. Sau Rieng (Durian)
109.Thanh Long (Dragon fruit)
110.Thach Dua (Vietnamese jello with coconut)

I highlighted the dishes I have tried. 8 out of 100? Not bad :)

1. Banh Bao (Steamed Bun)
2. Banh Beo (Rice Flour Discs with Dried Shrimp)
3. Banh Bot Loc/Banh Quai Vac (Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp or just Shrimp)
4. Banh Canh Cua (Udon-like Noodles with Crab)
5. Banh Chung/Banh Tet (Lunar New Year Sticky Rice Cakes)
6. Banh Cuon (Rice Noodle Rolls)
7. Banh Gio (Steamed Triangular Rice Dumplings)
8. Banh Hoi (Rice Vermicelli Sheets)
9. Banh It La Gai (Nettle Leaf Dumplings)
10. Banh It Tran (Round Rice Dumplings with Pork, Shrimp, and Mung Beans)
11. Banh Khot/Banh Cang (Mini Savory Pancakes)
12. Banh La/Banh Nam (Steamed Flat Rice Dumplings with Pork and Shrimp)
13. Banh Mi Hot Ga Op La (French Bread with Sunnyside-Up Eggs)
14. Banh Mi (Sandwiches)
15. Banh Pa Te So (Pate Chaud)
16. Banh Tieu (Fry Bread)

17. Banh Tom (Shrimp and Yam Fritters)
18. Banh Trang (Rice Paper) Bonus points for eating soaked, no-soak, and toasted varieties.
19. Banh Uot ("Wet" Rice Noodle Sheets)
20. Banh Xeo (Sizzling Crepes) Bonus points if you've eaten both the palm-sized Central-style ones, and the wok-sized Southern-style ones with turmeric and coconut milk.
21. Be Thui (Beef with Roasted Rice Powder and Fermented Bean Curd)
22. Bo Bia (Spring Rolls with Chinese Sausage, Dried Shrimp, and Jicama)
23. Bo Kho (Beef Stew)
24. Bo Luc Lac (Shaking Beef)

25. Bo Ne ("Stand Back" Steak and Eggs)
26. Bo Nhung Dam (Beef Dipped in Vinegar)
27. Bo Nuong La Lot (Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves)
28. Bo Tai Chanh (Beef Carpaccio with Lemon)
29. Bo Xao voi Khoai Tay Chien (Beef Stir-fry with French Fries)
30. Bo Xao Xa (Beef Sauteed with Lemongrass)
31. Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)
32. Bun Cha Hanoi (Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork Patties)

33. Bun Nuoc Leo Soc Trang (Soc Trang-Style Noodle Soup with Fish, Pork, and Shrimp) Bonus points for its more pungent cousin Bun Mam (Noodle Soup with Fermented Fish Broth)
34. Bun Rieu (Vermicelli Rice Noodle Soup with Crab Paste)
35. Bun Thit Heo Nuong (Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork)
36. Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh (Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil)
37. Ca Kho To (Braised Catfish in a Claypot)
38. Ca Phe Sua Da Phin (Iced Drip Coffee with Milk)
39. Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup)
40. Canh Chua Ca (Sour Fish Soup)
41. Ca Ri Ga (Chicken Curry)

42. Cao Lau (Noodle Soup with Pork from Hoi An)
43. Cha Ca Thang Long (Hanoi-Style Fish with Dill and Turmeric)
44. Cha Gio/Nem Ran (Spring/Egg Rolls) You only get points if you've eaten the Vietnamese egg rolls wrapped in rice paper, not the version with Chinese wheat egg roll wrappers. Bonus points if you've also eaten Central-style Cha Ram (Shrimp Egg Rolls) and Cha Gio Bap/Ram Bap (Corn Egg Rolls).
45. Cha Lua (Steamed Pork Loaf)
46. Chanh Muoi (Salty Lemonade)
47. Chao Tom (Grilled Shrimp Paste Wrapped Around Sugarcane)
48. Che Bap (Corn and Tapioca Pudding with Coconut Milk) or any other coconut milk-based che such as Che Chuoi (Banana Tapioca Pudding) and Che Ba Mau (Three Color Pudding).
49. Che Sam Bo Luong (Dessert Soup with Dried Dates, Dried Longans, Lotus Seeds, and Seaweed)
50. Che Troi Nuoc (Dough Balls in Ginger Syrup)
51. Chuoi Chien (Fried Bananas)

52. Chuot Dong (Southern Field Rats)- I don't think I'll ever be able to check this off o_o
53. Com Ga Hai Nam (Hainanese Chicken Rice) must be eaten with #82.
54. Com Hen (Clam Rice)

55. Com Lam (Sticky Rice Steamed in Bamboo)
56. Com Tam (Broken Rice)
57. Com Ruou (Fermented Rice Wine)
58. Cua Rang Muoi Tieu (Salt and Pepper Crab)
59. Dau Phong Luoc (Boiled Peanuts)

60. De (Goat)
61. Dia Rau Song (Raw Herb Platter)
62. Do Chua (Pickled Stuff ie. Carrots and Daikon)
63. Ga Nuong Xa (Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass)
64. Gio Thu (Head Cheese with Pig Ears and Tree Ear Fungus)
65. Goi Du Du Kho Bo (Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky)
66. Goi Cuon (Salad/Spring/Summer Rolls)
67. Goi Ga (Chicken Salad)
68. Goi Mit Ngo Sen (Young Jackfruit and Lotus Root Salad)
69. Hot Vit Lon (Fetal Duck Eggs)
70. Hu Tieu (Tapioca Noodles with Pork and Shrimp) Bonus points for both Saigon, with barbecued pork and shrimp, and Nam Vang (Phnom Penh) style with liver and ground pork.

71. Kem Flan
72. Lau (Hot Pot)
73. Mam Nem (Fermented Anchovy Sauce)
74. Mam Ruoc (Fermented Shrimp Paste)
75. Mi Hoanh Thanh (Wonton Noodle Soup)
76. Mi Quang (Turmeric Noodles with Pork and Shrimp)
77. Mi Vit Tiem (Egg Noodles with Duck and Chinese Herbs)
78. Mi Xao Don (Crispy Chow Mein)
79. Muop Tom Xao (Loofah and Shrimp Stir-fry)
80. Nem Chua (Pickled Pork Sausage with Shredded Pork Skin)
81. Nem Nuong (Grilled Pork Patties)
82. Nuoc Mam Gung (Ginger Fish Sauce)
83. Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane Juice)
84. Oc Buou (Apple Snails) or any other sea snails
85. Pho Ap Chao Bo (Pan-Fried Rice Noodles Sauteed with Beef)
86. Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) bonus points if you've eaten filet mignon pho and for Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)
87. Rau Ma (Pennywort Juice)
88. Rau Muong Xao (Water Spinach Stir-fried)
89. Soda Xi Muoi (Salty Preserved Plum Drink)
90. Sinh To Bo (Avocado Shake)

91. Sinh To Ca Chua (Tomato Shake)
92. Sinh To Dam (Aloe Vera Shake)
93. Sup Mang Tay Cua (Asparagus and Crab Soup)
94. Tiet Canh (Blood Pudding)
95. Thit Heo Kho Voi Trung (Braised Pork with Eggs)
96. Tom Tau Hu Ky (Shrimp Paste Wrapped in Bean Curd Skin)
97. Tra Atiso (Artichoke Tea)
98. Tuong Ot (Chili Sauce) bonus points for Vietnamese American Huy Fong Sriracha Chili Sauce and extra bonus points if you use it to make Sriracha Buffalo Wings
99. Xiu Mai (Meatballs)
100. Xoi (Sticky Rice)

Read more:

Monday, October 8, 2012

September 2012 Favorites

Inspired by the Youtube beauty guru monthly favorites videos, I bring you my own favorites this past month. I have really been enjoying watching the videos that come out because I learn of new products and get inspired to try new things. Included will be beauty, food, and other random favorites.


1. Revlon lip butter and Just bitten lip stains! 
I have been obsessed with both of these products for a long time! They have been a viral trend since they first came out. I remember going to multiple stores to hunt for them and they would always be out of stock. Luckily, they are much easier to find now. Never buy these when they are not on sale! They often have coupons you can use in addition to the sale. The best deal I have found yet was at CVS, where I paid about $6.50 for one and got $4 CVS extra bucks, which I often used to purchase another lipstick. You can usually do this multiple times at CVS, which is awesome.

I've collected about 7-8 lip butters...that's how obsessed I am! The packaging is so cute and the product is really great. It's moisturizing and fun. The colors are more on the sheer side but some of the berry and red color lip butters have good color payoff. My favorite this past month was Sweet Tart. It's a bright in-your-face pink and I fought with myself for weeks before just giving into buying it and I'm glad I did. It turns out to be a fun wearable color. I only hesitated in buying this color because I typically don't wear bold colors...until I decided to just go for it.

My favorite Just Bitten Lip Stains are Honey and Sweetheart. The Just Bitten Lip Stain in Honey is a really nice "your lip but better" shade and the Sweetheart color is lot more pigmented and bright. The premise behind this wonderful product is that it is a lip balm as well as a lip stain. It goes on glossy and is pretty hydrating but when the initial sheen is worn off, you still have nice color left on the lips. I am a big fan of this because I hate reapplying lipstick and worrying about where my lipstick goes after I eat something.

2. Revlon PhotoReady concealer
I don't know what happened this month but I had a bad breakout during that time of month. I usually don't have blemish issues but when I do, my photoready concealer is my best friend. It blends really well and does a great job of concealing my trouble areas and under eye circles.

3. Suave Dry Shampoo
I learned about dry shampoo from several people on Youtube and decided to give it a try. The first time I tried it, I thought the texture felt weird and it wasn't working. However, after a few tries, I started to really like it. It helps absorb oils in your hair between washes and this particular one also gives me some volume...which is a big plus because my hair is naturally fine and flat. This dry shampoo also smells like citrus heaven, a major plus! 

4. Makeshift makeup bag from Ikea
I honestly don't know the intended use of this bag but I use it for my makeup now. I really like it because it's a structured bag so it's easy to see all my stuff and it's such a nice hot pink color.


My coworker introduced to me these individual snack size hummus packages from Costco. I love these because it makes me eat more veggies and very portable. I enjoy these with cucumbers, carrots, sweet bell peppers, or crackers.

Current song obsessions

1. This cute cover of "Good Time" by Luke Conard and Missglamorazzi. I love the filming!

2. LK Con Song Yeu Thuong by Dan Truong. This is a medley of Dan Truong's hit songs. I didn't hear this song before I saw him perform it live. Ever since that night, I've been addicted to this song. The beginning is slow and a bit different but the middle is so upbeat and cute. I'll be writing about my concert experience in a later post.