Feed on

Since moving to San Francisco and starting my gig as one of the marketing managers at VIZ Media, I have been lucky enough to have been introduced to many great manga titles, like Barrage, One Piece, Pluto, and Train_Man to name a few. [1]

However, I immediately felt a strong connection to Oishinbo written by Tetsu Kariya and drawn by Akira Hanasaki.  The Oishinbo series drew me in because it is a manga and anime about cooking and eating.  Translated into English it means “the gourmet.”  Apparently in the 1980s there was a “gurume” movement, “gourmet boom,” going on in Japan, which made the series increasingly popular. [2]


The story centers on Yamaoka and his friends at the Tozai News trying to create the Ultimate Menu by tasting different foods from around the country.  However, his father and rival, Kaibara, decides to work with the Tozai News’ main competitor, the Teito Times, to create the Supreme Menu.  The ongoing series follows their various competitions and foodventures.

What is most notable is the focus on the responsibility to the environment, respect for cultural cuisine, usage of quality ingredients, expertise of cooking methods, and the remarkable experience each meal evokes out of the characters.  Food is both the journey and the destination, best enjoyed by those who respect every element of it.

As a tribute to Oishinbo, Mrs. Chaiger and I would like to take a stab at creating our own version of the Ultimate Menu.  Similar to our previous posts, we will be writing about the various foods and restaurants we try, but at the end of each post, we’ll add what dishes, if any, make it onto the Chaiger Ultimate Menu.  Our Ultimate Menu will have multiple categories and we will rank our top dishes in each category.

Join us for the “Oishinbo” food journey and feel free to comment.  Let us know whether you agree, disagree, or have suggestions for us to try!


[1] All these titles and more are avaiable at RightStuf.com

[2] Courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oishinbo

So when you first met us we moved to the LA South Bay city of Redondo Beach. Before our “almost move” to Amarillo, we moved to Rancho Palos Verdes. It was more like an extended vacation, though we still went to work every day. We spent seven months in the resort-like community along the coastal cliffs of the Pacific, right next door to the Terranea Resort, before we packed our boxes again.


As of January 2013, we’re officially city dwellers. We’ve replaced our beachfront living for the hills and foghorns of our new neighborhood. Much like the feral parrots transplanted from their warm southern home, we have made our way to San Francisco and are now perched on one of the 44 hills that comprise the city. We ditched the big furniture to cram ourselves into 350 square feet, for the crisp cool air that wafts through “Loma Alta,” commonly known as Telegraph Hill.

We are adjusting to wearing jackets year-round, worrying about where to park if we decide to drive somewhere, playing “spot the tourists” at Fishermen’s Wharf and most importantly, sitting in cafes writing about the food we love to eat. Right now we’re wearing our jackets writing from 901 Columbus Café in North Beach, enjoying the melodic sounds of the foreign tourists with the jazzy tunes playing through the speakers, combined with the cacophony of the Giants playing the Padres on the TV in the corner with the zoom of mopeds, buses and cable cars that pass outside.


San Francisco is a remarkable city – a new favorite for the both us – we are smitten with our new home. We even find ourselves saying “hella” a little more. However, one thing that remains the same about the Chaigers….we still hella say “Dude” a ton. You can take a Chaiger out of SoCal but you can’t take the SoCal out of a Chaiger.


We’re prospectors searching for the new Gold Rush: the search for amazing food. Be ready for our culinary safari through San Francisco, especially our wonderful neighborhood of North Beach, the bites we take in places we travel and the adventures in the kitchen of our humble abode. We hope you’ll share with us ideas of where we should go, what we should eat, and recipes to try.

It’s been a long time coming. We’re sorry we haven’t updated you but we’re still alive and we’re officially back.

P.S. Nothing says local like a MacBook Pro. If you want to stick out like a sore thumb at one of the cafes here, bring a non-Mac to type behind. May we suggest a typewriter?

So it’s been some time since we did a post.  Sad, we know.  That whole work-life balance thing we were aiming for wasn’t going exactly as planned.  To get you up to speed, we moved twice and now we’re trying to get ourselves back on track.  We’re sorry.  Please forgive us by reading about our new favorites.  We might even throw in a few goodies along the way.

So about the moving…we almost moved to Amarillo, Texas…and believe us when we tell you that the food posts would have been even less.  You’re probably thinking, “Well, Austin is a great city!”  Time for a geography lesson about the “Yellow Rose of Texas”:


Amarillo is in the panhandle of Texas whose two closest “cities” are four-hour drives away: Albuquerque, New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to the east.  According to Google Maps, Austin is an eight-hour drive away.  For self-proclaimed Road Warriors, that’s just too damn far.


We took a couple trips out to Amarillo.  We drove out to Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in United States.  We visited the legendary Route 66 stop, Big Texan Steak Ranch, “Home of the World Famous FREE 72oz. Steak!”  We know our limits and we couldn’t fathom going for that challenge (finishing it in an hour) before a flight.  Overall, it was definitely a different pace and we could possibly see ourselves trying it out later on in life, just not now.  So enough about the Lone Star State, let’s go back to Cali Cali.


Find out about where we’ve moved in Part 2: Gold Rush

Mad Men + Magnolia Pudding

Combine a Mad Men theme and Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding and you have the recipe for a successful bridal shower!

As a bridesmaid for Miss Jina, I helped plan and prep a fun retro-themed bridal shower.  Though everyone was late (from being stuck in traffic due to the heavy rain), we enjoyed a little bit of wine, games and the company of swell ladies. The best part?  Everyone in attendance LOVED this pudding.  A favorite of the bride after I made it for her birthday a few years ago, I was asked for the recipe by all the guests at the shower.  Even Mrs. Crissy emailed me the next day to remind me to send it her way.

Though it is fairly easy to find this recipe online, I thought I should share and stick with the theme.  I hope you enjoy the fluffy, creamy heaven combined with the sweetness of bananas, sandwiched between cake-like wafers in this famous banana pudding. S’marvelous!


Here’s the recipe card:

The pudding served in a trifle bowl.

Bride-to-Be, Miss Jina and Mrs. Chaiger.

P.S. I found this recipe after a visit to New York and the original Magnolia Bakery Location with the lovely, Miss Sunshine.  No joke, this recipe is spot-on just like the actual one at the bakery! Try it…you’ll like it!


1550 Church Street
San Francisco, CA 94131

Mr. Chai says:

There are only 3 people I know that like pork more than me: Thunder (Mr. Vita), Anthony Bordain, and Chris Cosentino. I highly respect all 3.

Note: Restaurants used to have to watch out for Mr. Vita (Thunder) and Mr. Chai (Lighting) because Thunder brings the noise and Lightning dishes out the damage, but…

Due to my recent checkup that said I had high cholesterol, I have been cutting back on “the other white meat,” but as soon as the trip to San Francisco was booked, I had to put Incanto down on the itinerary. Incanto is best known for Chris Cosentino’s masterpiece, the “Leg of Beast” as seen on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate (Aaron Sanchez’ choice on the Meat-Fest episode). The Leg of Beast is a special dining option for 6-8 people that, “features a braised beef shank as the centerpiece of a 3-course menu, served family style, with antipasto, sides and dessert.”[courtesy of incanto.biz] This includes a bone cut in half for easy access to the seasoned marrow that is referred to as “god’s butter.”

Unfortunately, we were only joined by Ms. Jackie and Mr. Devin so we did not have the headcount to go “Beasting” but fortunately, there were still a ton of options on the menu that sounded delicious.

We started with a pancetta piana with Asian pears and ancho cress to share. This appetizer was delectable. The thinly sliced pancetta was the salty component that paired perfectly with the sweetness of the pears and the mild bitterness of the ancho cress. Every bite was just right.

The greatest thing about being married is that Mrs. Chai and I decided that she would order a pasta and I would get an entrée so that we could try both. She ordered the paccheri with prosciutto, beans, mustard greens, and parmesan in a light broth. All medical concerns put aside for this meal, I ordered the pork belly with yellow chard, and Umbrian lentils also served in a broth.

The paccheri was a wide flat pasta that was cooked al dente. The broth was light and the addition of prosciutto gave the dish unbelievable flavor while still being delicate and not heavy or greasy at all. I didn’t know that was possible with prosciutto. The generous slab of pork belly was roasted/seared wonderfully with an outstanding crunch on the skin. It sat on top of a lentil stew that was well seasoned and paired great with the pork belly.

We finished the meal late enough that Bi-Rite Creamery (highly recommended by Ms. Jackie and Mr. Devin) was closed so we decided to try the burnt honey panna cotta with pistachio and pomegranate. We were all stuffed but the panna cotta was an excellent palate cleanser it was gone in no time. I probably could have done without the pomegranate but either way it highly satisflying.

The exceptional meal was finished, but something felt like it was missing…watch your back Leg of Beast – I’ll be back for you!


Mrs. Chai says:

“Encanto” in the Philippines is a term for enchanted creatures. There are Sirena (mermaids), Tikbalang (demonic centaurs) and Kapre (cigar-smoking yeti). Funny thing, I don’t recall any “encanto” being pigs…maybe because they are thought of so highly in Filipino culture that many people think of pork dishes as dominant in the national cuisine.

Chris Cosentino’s relationship with the pig makes me think that the naming of his restaurant is aptly entitled Incanto, as the pig is the mystical beast of the tasty meals made here! The wall art pays homage to the hog with oversized images of that curly-tailed creature. I mean really, the guy’s logo for Boccalone is a pig with wings (enchanted or what?!).

Never have I been both happy and sad to be reunited with my friend Ms. Jackie, an SF local who joined us for dinner with her boyfriend, Mr. Devin. Why the emotion? The company was fantastic and we were able to sample a bit of the food they ordered, however with only four of us dining we couldn’t take part in the “Leg of Beast” or “Whole Pig” menu! Darn! Truthfully, we can’t complain…the meal was delightfully delectable!

Our meal began with a mystery flight of three wines and a shared appetizer of the Pancetta Piana with Asian Pears and Ancho Cress. The dish was reminds me of the standing bow pose performed in the beginning of a Bikram Yoga class. Salty, sweet and succulent, the appetizer stretches the taste buds while keeping and overall balance, with the “mystery” white wine as a great accompaniment to the start of our meal.

The entrée becomes the game-changer. Mr. Chai indulged (have you heard about his cholesterol?!) on the Pork Belly floating angelically above sautéed yellow chard and Umbrian lentils, while I feasted on Paccheri, Prosciutto, Mustard Greens and Beans. Like the cherry on top of a sundae or the star that sparkles on the tip of the Christmas tree, the Pork Belly commands attention and is the headliner in this show! Wonderfully seasoned for flavor and with the crispy perfection that any great fried/roasted pork dish requires, we know that Chef Cosentino’s love shines through. Meanwhile, the Paccheri (an oversized—and here an overly oversized—rigatoni) is al dente and served in a shallow bowl due to the soup-like nature of this dish. While the dish included thinly sliced prosciutto and bulkiness of pasta, the Paccheri entrée remained light without feeling greasy or like I was carbo-loading.

With a flight of wine, appetizer and two pork dishes down, who would have thought we could have room for dessert? We were torn between the polenta cake and the panna cotta, so our helpful and attentive server made the decision for us. We completed the luscious (yet somewhat light…in a way) meal with the Burnt Honey Panna Cotta with Pistachio and Pomegranate. Perfect for palate cleansing, we closed with soft, light and calming dessert. A great way to say, “Peace out, piggies.”

We were about to have “second dessert” with our SFFs at Bi-Rite, but our meal lasted about 2 hours and we missed our chance. Miss Jackie and Mr. Devin, please be ready for our next visit where we won’t miss out – Leg of Beast / Whole Pig Dining and Bi-Rite are on the itinerary. We’re ready for another enchanted evening. I will end with the notable last words famously uttered by the former Golden State Governator, “I’ll be bock.”

Peter Luger Steak House

Peter Luger Steak House
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Mrs. Chai says:

At Peter Luger they call me “James”

Fellow carnivores always talk about this place. After 4 or 5 trips to New York and never having it, Chaigers had to get a piece of this (meat!).  On a Friday morning, calling for a reservation wasn’t the best plan for a Friday night dinner.  What’d we get?  10:45PM!  It’s New York, late dinners are totally normal.

After a day of going out and about AND an afternoon nap we made the journey to Brooklyn to the restaurant next to the Williamsburg bridge.  Having been around since 1887, it isn’t the most impressive “New York” restaurant by décor alone.  No floor to ceiling glass, no indoor water features, no frills.  We check in at the host stand and tell them our name and reservation info.  No one by that name listed.  Umm…how about I give you my phone number?  Oh, there it is.  For some reason it says here your name is James.  Really? Well, at least they got us a seat earlier than 10:45! Not to mention, the host and I got a good laugh out of it.

We started off with the slabs of bacon with tomato.  Everyone loves to get dressed up, including this bacon and tomato!  We put the special “Peter Luger Old Fashioned Sauce” on top and it’s insane how great it tastes.  Never would have thought of such a combo but it is unbelievably good.  This is a meal! But tonight, it’s not.

The porterhouse for two, a side of creamed spinach and a side of German fried potatoes.  The waiter asks, “How do you want your steak? Medium rare?”  He tells us how to order but we ask for “Medium.”  His answer to our choice is, “that’ll do.”

When our food arrives he serves 3 huge pieces of the cut steak, spoonfuls of the creamed spinach and a whole bunch of potatoes.  WHOA!  The steak is cooked with a nice crisp on the outside and covered in the juicy excellence from the plate it was served on.  I can only imagine what kind of disgusting charcoal a “well done” steak would look like here, no wonder he recommends medium rare or medium.  Alone, it’s a pretty good bite of steak.  Paired with their special “Old Fashioned Sauce” it makes for an amazing bite of perfection!  The potatoes are okay, but it’s just a carb to accompany the meaty goodness…more like an afterthought.  The creamed spinach, on the other hand, offers buttery brilliance to a superfood, making it super good.

Will I eat here again? YES!  I’d like to go there for lunch to try their burger, served only during lunch, and again for dinner, for another stab at the steak.  😉  After all, this is the place where they know me by name…sorta.

Mr. Chai says:

To be honest, I was a little hesitant to make the trip out of the city.  We had a really late reservation, I was worried that a cab wouldn’t want to drive outside of Manhattan, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find a cab in the area after eating to take us back, and the place did not take credit cards.  However, Mrs. Chai was not to be denied.  Never needing too much convincing to dine at a steak house, it was a matter of when, not if, we would go.

I have to say that everything worked out and the trip was more than worth it.  The cabbie didn’t know how to get there but we found it without problems.  We got there an hour earlier than our reservation time and they were able to seat us immediately.  This was going to be a good day.

For our appetizer, we got the Beef Steak Tomatoes and 2 strips of the Luger’s Extra Thick Sizzling Bacon recommended by Mr. Vita.  He also told us to, “Drench that sh!t with Luger’s sauce,” so we did.  WOW, this combination was heavenly!  This may be the best sauce I have ever tasted in my life.

Ms. Siy also recommended Luger’s and told us that she doesn’t like steak but even she thought the steak at Luger’s was excellent.  Going off that recommendation, we ordered the Luger Porterhouse Steak for Two.  The porterhouse serving comes with cuts of filet mignon and strip steak.  The beef is dry aged for a more intense flavor.  The steak is broiled so it has a crispy, seared texture on the outside and is juicy and moist on the inside.  Not the best steak I’ve ever had but it is definitely top 5.  Anything with the delicious Peter Luger Sauce will probably be top 5.

For our sides, we got the Luger’s Special German Fried Potatoes which were pretty good but nothing more spectacular than breakfast potatoes at a nice restaurant.  The creamed spinach, however, was extremely tasty and savory.  I could have probably eaten the whole portion for two by myself.

The meal ended there because we couldn’t eat anymore and didn’t have any more cash.  Those of you that know me know that I LOVE to eat.  So it means something when I say this may be the best meal I have ever had.  If it is not the best, it is in the top 3 for sure.

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Somewhere off Kamehameha Hwy on the North Shore of Oahu…
Kahuku, HI 96731

Sorry for the long layoff.  It has been a busy few months.  So, without further ado…

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is one of the great treasures on the North Shore of Oahu.  Mrs. Chai and I went in January 2010 after getting married on the North Shore.

We invite our guests Mr. Vita, Ms. Nacion, and Mr. and Mrs. Sato to share their experiences with How to Feed a Chaiger for our first roundtable discussion.

Participant Background Information

Mr. Vita – This will be his second appearance on How to Feed a Chaiger.  He enjoys Japanese, Italian, and Hawaiian cuisine along with anything fried.  The last of the group to try Giovanni’s, Mr. Vita is also the most recent visitor.

Ms. Nacion – The future Mrs. Vita or possibly Mrs. Nacion-Vita.  She had Giovanni’s for the first time this past October.  The engagement was made official over a hearty serving of garlic shrimp scampi at Giovanni’s.   She likes all cuisines but mostly enjoys Japanese and the occasional Thai.

Mr. Sato – He may be know for his animation skills, but he should be known for his man-skills and his expertise in Hawaiian food.  His first trip to Giovanni’s was in the mid-nineties.  He used to cruise Oahu on his motorcycle and was introduced to Giovanni’s by his friend.  His latest trip to Giovanni’s was this past August when he had a break between projects.  Mr. Sato enjoys Hawaiian cuisine, both traditional and ‘local’ style foods.

Mrs. Sato – Every official tournament store fears this lady.  She anecdotally throws down the PERMABAN hammer on their methodology.  She had Giovanni’s for the first time in December 2009 and had it twice with Mr. Sato their last trip back in August.  Mrs. Sato likes local-style Hawaiian grinds (ono kine li’dat), Italian, and Japanese food.

Who recommended Giovanni’s to you?

Mr. Vita: Giovanni’s was recommended to me by several people, notably friends at work (Mrs. Sato and Mr. Chai). My fiancée’s brother was also a strong advocate for the popular food truck.

Ms. Nacion: Big Bro Dee. He used to fly out to Hawaii 5x a year and visit friends. He surfs and after hitting the waves they crave Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. He swears that it’s THE BEST. He actually requested and begged me to take some to-go and fly it back to the mainland. That was just not possible.

Mr. Sato: Best friend in Hawaii.

Mrs. Sato: Pretty much everyone I talked to who’s been there!  There’s a few shrimp trucks around, and I’ve driven up to the North Shore before, but for a long time it was just this tiny little truck on the side of the road.  It’s got the nice roof and eating area now, but it was a lot smaller before.  I think I would just pass it because I either wasn’t hungry at the time, or I just didn’t realize that was THE Giovanni’s truck!

Mr. Chai: I heard about Giovanni’s from the Satos.  Since Mrs. Chai and I were getting married at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, Giovanni’s was less than 10 minutes away.

Mrs. Chai: Yelp!

What did you order at Giovanni’s?

Mr. Vita: I ordered two plates: the number 1 (traditional shrimp scampi with two scoops of rice) and the number 4 (garlic fried wiener with rice).  What an investment.  Microsoft could finally catch up to Apple with this acquisition.

Ms. Nacion: The scampi plate and the garlic hot dog to share between me and my man.

Mr. Sato: Garlic butter shrimp.  Never ordered anything else since.

Mrs. Sato: The lemon butter shrimp.  Mr. Sato usually gets the scampi, so if I feel like garlic-y goodness, I’ll just steal some off his plate.

Mr. Chai: We went twice, and between the two trips, we tried everything on their simple menu.  The garlic shrimp scampi, the lemon butter shrimp, the spicy shrimp, and the garlic hot dog with a bun and with rice.


How does the shrimp at Giovanni’s compare to others that you have had?

Mr. Vita: Completely incomparable.  Aside from Mom’s (which is free, making it infinitely better) Giovanni’s is well beyond any other shrimp scampi dish I’ve tried.  The shrimp is fresh, perfectly cooked and not overly seasoned.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Ms. Nacion: Giovanni’s sauce is what makes their plate.  Lots of heavy garlic and butter.  Ingredients were simple but flavorful.  The rice was cooked perfectly, nice and fluffy.  It went well with the garlicky-lemon butter sauce. A freshly squeezed lemon wedge adds a touch of freshness while cutting through all that yummy grease.

The garlic hot dog was OK.  It was basically a garlic flavored hot dog over rice.  Then again, I prefer hot dogs in buns rather than with rice.  I was satisfied with the shrimp.


Mr. Sato: Honestly, haven’t tried the ‘other’ trucks or shrimp shacks.  Maybe just knowing Giovanni’s was the original, made me think there was no comparison and everyone else would be just copies.

Mrs. Sato: It pretty much blows everyone else away.  😉

Mr. Chai: Unlike Mr. Vita and Ms. Nacion, I did not taint my Hawaiian shrimp truck legacy by eating at Macky’s.  Giovanni’s is the only shrimp truck that I have been to and it will be the only one I go to.

Mrs. Chai: Da best eva, brah.

What do you love about Giovanni’s?

Mr. Vita: It’s rare that something so highly recommended can actually meet, let alone exceed expectations, but that is exactly what Giovanni’s has done.  I came in expecting tons, and left with a much higher opinion of this icon.  That’s probably what I love most about Giovanni’s.

Ms. Nacion: Their sauce!!!  Garlic and butter in every bite.

Mr. Sato: Tasty shrimp dishes out the back of a beat up truck in the country side of Oahu?  Simple pleasures.

Mrs. Sato: Aside from the shrimp itself, which is a no-brainer… it’s nice to just go out there to that side of the island and hang out for a while, enjoying a good plate (or two) of fresh shrimp.  It’s on the side of the road, open-air, and feels like a family potluck.  My kind of lunch!!

Mr. Chai: The way the truck looks, Giovanni’s is everything my mom would hate.  Fortunately, she went with all her less high-maintenance relatives and could not back out after she saw the truck.  She usually prejudges meals based on appearance but even she came back with high reviews for Giovanni’s.  Also, where else can you get a hot dog cooked in garlic butter served hot with rice?

Mrs. Chai: How ghetto is that truck?!  Don’t judge a shrimp by the truck.

Any advice or recommendations for someone about to try Giovanni’s for the first time?

Mr. Vita: Two things: 1) bring a water bottle, or a bunch of wet naps.  You’re going to get dirty.  2) Try another shrimp truck before going to Giovanni’s.  A frame of reference always helps, and there are plenty of shrimp trucks along Kamehameha Hwy (the route to Giovanni’s).  I’m sure they are all good, but you will see why Giovanni’s is THE best.

Ms. Nacion: One can enjoy a trip to Giovanni’s as long as you love shrimp and garlic and you’re not on a diet. There are two locations.  The first and original truck is located in Kahuku.  It is a bit of a drive from the cousin Truck in Hale’iwa.  We trekked out to the original location because hey, it is the ORIGINAL.

Order their shrimp scampi.  It’s what was recommended to me by the majority of Yelpers and past Giovanni Truck goers.

There is also a spicy version.  From what I heard it’s seasoned with tabasco and very spicy.  I like some heat too, but I’m more of Siracha girl and not so much a Tabasco fan so I didn’t try the spicy scampi.  It’s nice if you have a friend to go with so you can share plates and taste the flavor of both the spicy and regular scampi.

Go early and go hungry!  Go for a swim or surf up the state beaches on the North Shore then head out to the shrimp trucks.  Definitely get there before it starts to get dark, because come sunset, they’re closed.  It’s messy to eat since the shrimp is not peeled so grab lots of napkins and bring wet naps to battle the butter-garlic-fingers.  Bring some gum/breath mints to calm the intense garlic breath!  For those of you with GI (gastro-intestinal) aka stomach sensitivity to Garlic, I suggest you pre-medicate with Beano or take Tums afterwards.

Mr. Sato: Relatively hard to find if you don’t have a gps, I guess.  You keep driving and driving, thinking you probably missed it.  Once you see the shrimp farm and other shrimp stands, you know you’re getting close.  Don’t panic, you can’t miss the truck.

Take a good dump or long pee before going.  The two miserable looking outhouse-like bathrooms they have were locked and out of service on our last trip there.  Either that or make sure you know the nearby Haleiwa town well, so you can drive there afterwards to relieve yourself.

Handwipes, sanitizer and papertowels; bring one form of these as eating shrimp is messy.  I see people going up to the truck to ask for more napkins all the time, since they don’t leave a dispenser for self service.  Pain in the butt.   If the afforementioned bathrooms are broken, don’t count on being able to wash your hands.  Tables get all nasty after a while with people spiling shrimp juice all over, so you’ll need those same papertowels/napkins to wipe up the mess the previous pricks left behind.

Sharpie.  The truck is one big billboard for customers to write their names.  When we went, the sharpie they had for use was either missing or near-dried.  BYOS(Bring Your Own Sharpie) if you want to make your mark.

Mrs. Sato: Don’t fall out of your seat when you taste how incredibly awesome the shrimp is!!  😉  Oh yeah, and bring Wet Naps or something to wipe your hands with.  Unpeeled shrimp + butter/garlic sauce = MESSY BUT OH SO DELICIOUS TIMES!

Mr. Chai: The truck gets extremely crowded on the weekends and during lunchtime.  Plan your trip carefully to arrive before or after the lunch rush during the weekdays.

Mrs. Chai: I tink dem oder trucks no mo’!

And there you have it.  Everything you need to know about the wonders of Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck from 6 eating experts.  Now go and try it for yourself!

Kare Kare

This dish was a true labor of love.  Whoever said that Filipino cooking is easy straight lied.  Anyway, Kare Kare is usually a favorite among Filipino dishes because it is typically reserved for holidays and birthdays.  It conjures up memories of family time and the joy in sharing great meals with those you love.  I now know why it is saved for such occasions…the process is hardly the throw it all in the pot and wait for it to stew one might expect.  It was a 2-day process and did not involve the jarred peanut butter most people have adapted their recipes to include.  This is the recipe my mom uses and extremely similar to this one featured on Rasa Malaysia.

Day One

Ingredients for Oxtail Prep

Olive Oil

1 ½ to 2 lbs of oxtail

4 ½ cups of water

Splash of Maggi seasoning (optional)

Heat oil in a dutch oven or casserole (kawali), then season oxtail pieces with salt and pepper.  Brown the oxtail in the kawali and make sure all sides get a nice color.  You may add a splash of the Maggi seasoning onto the meat for extra flavoring.  Add 4 cups of water (or enough to cover the meat).  Bring the water to a boil then lower the heat and cover the pot.  Allow the meat to cook for approximately 3 hours (or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone).  Let the meat and the broth cool and place in the refrigerator overnight.  On day two, skim the fat that has risen to the top of the meat with broth and warm on the stove to a gentle simmer.

Day Two

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce

1 ½ to 2 cups of peanuts (unsalted)

1/4 cup of rice

1-2 tbs of hot broth

Toast the peanuts in a pan to a nice golden brown.  Immediately place the peanuts in a food processor. Place the ground peanuts in a bowl.  Place the uncooked rice into a food processor.  Toast the ground rice in a pan and add to the bowl of ground peanuts.  Add a tablespoon or so of the hot oxtail broth into the bowl to create a peanut paste.

Ingredients for Coloring

1 tsp Annatto Powder (atsuete)

1 tbsp of hot broth

Put annatto powder in a ramekin or small bowl and add a teaspoon of the hot broth.  Allow the annatto powder to dissolve.  This mixture will be used to enhance the coloring of the Kare Kare.

Ingredients for Kare Kare

Oxtail and Broth (from Day One)

Annatto mixture

Peanut-Rice mixture

1 cup of chopped onions

1 bunch of string beans (sitaw) cut into 2” pieces

3-4 bunches of bokchoy (pechay)

2 eggplants (talong) halves and cut in 2” pieces

Warm up the oxtail and broth from Day One in a pot (make sure you have skimmed off the fat that rose to the top before you heat it up). In a dutch oven or casserole, heat a tablespoon of oil.  Add the chopped onions to the hot oil.  Once the onions are cooked add the simmering oxtail broth and stir.  Slowly add in the Peanut-Rice mixture into the hot broth followed by the atsuete mixture.  Once it has combined and the lumps are out let the sauce boil.  Gently add the oxtail into it and allow the meat to simmer and tender even further for about 10-15 minutes.  You may stir gently and begin adding the string beans and bokchoy, then allow it to cook for about 5 minutes.  Add in the eggplant for another 5 minutes.  Serve over hot rice with a side of fermented shrimp paste (bagoong).


  • For service, you can cook all the vegetables separately for a nicer presentation.  Ladle the sauce into your dish, followed by the vegetables and the meat for your desired “look.”
  • Instead of a 2-day process, you can opt to put the seasoned oxtail into a slow cooker with water to cook in the morning and begin cooking in the afternoon for your dinner.  I’ve never tried this, but the process is similar to the braising recipes I’ve seen before.
  • Plan ahead tip: Perhaps keep ground peanuts and rice in a jar for future use.   Make sure they are dry and without the broth.  Also, I cannot guarantee the freshness level of this.
  • We actually did not have eggplant and Mr. Chai doesn’t really eat them so our photo only shows the sitaw and pechay.  If you have other vegetables that you like in Kare Kare you can add them in as well, but make sure it is added towards the end to avoid overcooking.  Banana buds or (puso ng saging) are also commonly used, however I am unsure how easily these can be found in regular markets.
  • Use unsalted or lightly salted peanuts so that you have better control over the flavor.  Also, you want to make sure the Kare Kare isn’t too salty, as the bagoong served with it is what balances it out perfectly.
  • Peanut butter is helpful if you plan to make this dish on a weeknight.  However, my mother advises against using it because you lack the ability to control the flavor, consistency and oil.  If you opt for it, choose a high quality peanut butter with less salt and oils.  You will see the difference in the grease level from the Kare Kare made with actual ground peanuts from the one with peanut butter.
  • If oxtail is not your choice of cut, you can use a sirloin that is sliced in strips.  When my brother got older and saw that the meat packaging said “Oxtail,” he vowed not to eat Kare Kare again.  In turn, my mom started using sirloin.  Another common addition is tripe.  We don’t really like it so I didn’t list it in the recipe.

Filipino Cooking

This LA Times article shows Filipino food, plain and simple.  Depicted as comfort food and rarely considered “gourmet,”  with hope that one day it’ll find it’s place in the sun:

Filipino Food: Off the Menu

I came across the article in my attempt to find additional tips for our upcoming kare kare endeavor.  I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful source for the tools to start me out, my mom.  The only thing is, I need a little bit of extra help to make sure the in-house items we have on hand will suffice (like getting the meat just right without the use of a pressure cooker).

For starters, no peanut butter–like the article said, “just like mom”  (seriously, who better to trust than the person who cooked it for you since you were a wee little baby?).  Mom says, “You can’t control the flavor of some peanut butter in a jar.”  She’s right, I doubt Impo (her lola or grandma) used Jif?  So I’m going to Skippy using the jarred version of the recipe altogether and follow her words of wisdom.

We’ll begin tonight for a 2-day cooking process.  Tuesday Night: Operation TLOC (Tender Loving Oxtail Care).  Wish us luck!

oxox(tail), Mrs. Chai

P.S. In case you didn’t already know, the White House Executive Chef is Filipina!

P.P.S. I was also thinking, we need a really good Chinese cookbook too.  Also quite difficult to come by for several reasons: 1. The good ones are probably in Chinese, 2. There are several regions that must be encompassed within one publication, and 3. Would we have the proper supplies to make the Chinese dishes we love?

Porto’s Bakery

Porto’s Bakery
315 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203

Mr. Chai says:

Porto’s is a Cuban bakery that has been drawing crowds for a very long time.  It is a rather recent discovery for us and now we’re hooked.  The lines rival those seen at Space Mountain at Disneyland.  You can easily wait up to 45 minutes to place an order.  Luckily, they have developed quite a system.  They have a cake line, phone order line, full service line, express line, and a coffee/drink line to name a few.  I have learned to always use the express line.

For lunch, we ordered a Ropa Vieja, which is a sandwich containing Cuban style shredded beef with bell peppers, onions, and tomato sauce on Cuban bread served with fried plantain chips.  This sandwich was very good and brought a lot of flavor.

We also ordered a meat pie, chicken empanada, and a ham croquette.  We did not get any potato balls even though we heard it is a must-have (there is always next time!).  The meat pie is a puff pastry filled with seasoned ground beef.  This was delicious.  The beef was seasoned perfectly and the pastry shell had a sweet glaze that brought all the flavors together (side-note: anything with the name “meat pie” must be good).  The chicken empanada is a flaky Spanish style empanada filled with shredded chicken and vegetables.  It was extremely tasty.  Last but not least, the ham croquette is mashed potatoes filled with ground ham, seasoned with spices, breaded, and fried.  I imagine this is similar to the potato balls with a splash of ham instead of the ground beef.  Needless to say, it was delicious.

The cakes, tarts, and pastries are the real stars at Porto’s.  You can’t leave without the cheese rolls.  The famous cheese rolls can be boxed and ordered by the dozen (we brought back 2 dozen).  This is one of the best pastries I have ever had in my life.  You have to try it to understand.

Porto’s will forever be on my list of favorite destinations for baked goods.

Mrs. Chai says:

The line is long and people always talk about this place.  Is there really much more to say?

I’ve got an addiction to pastries; always have and always will.  My French teachers would treat us with buttery, flaky pastries for post-test movie day parties.  I look back fondly.  Though Porto’s isn’t a French bakery their pastries evoke the same warm emotions of relaxation and comfort through baked goods – just as it did when I was 15 and watching L’Argent de Poche with that yummy pain au chocolat.

It’s nice to know that this is a family business and they’ve been baking for decades.  Nothing says lovin’ like something fresh from the oven.  Just ask everyone else who is in line for cheese rolls and they’ll agree.   But really, the disturbing thing about coming here is that I feel like I’m about to enter a Black Friday or Sample Sale.  You queue up and wait your turn.  There are countless options but you have a limited time to make them.  The staff behind the counters are ready to help but I just can’t take the pressure.  There are people all around you ordering away, yellow boxes whirling around, English spoken here, Spanish spoken there, fresh bread comes from the back, cupcakes and cookies make their way to the trays in the glass case, and someone’s fruit tart whizzes by.  Did I just see eclairs?  Are those mini carrot cakes?  What do I want?!  I want it all!

Inevitably, it all comes down to the cheese rolls and flauta bread.  Everyone and their mamas know about the cheese rolls, but have you had the flauta bread?  It’s great.  Yeah, it’s a long loaf of bread that looks like a French baguette.   I like baguettes for their crispy quality, but the flauta is different.  It’s the soft pillowy cousin to the baguette.  It’s the bread for the tasty Cuban sandwiches on the menu (like the pan con lechon).  We take this Cuban bread home for making a softer version of bruschetta or hot sandwiches coated with olive oil, seared on a skillet to get the insides all toasty and the cheese melting like a warm blanket on prosciutto, lettuce and tomato slices.  Good right?!  We freeze it until we run out and make our next trip to Porto’s.

It’s like a gift that keeps on giving.  Enjoy the sandwich (with fried plantain chips on the side!) and a pastry while you’re at Porto’s and take goodies home for later. Mmmm!


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