About Food Blogging

Blogging Community

It’s been a while since our last post, and although the writing has become less frequent, the presence of great food in our lives is constant. Want proof? Just follow my personal account on Instagram!

But can I be honest for just a moment? It’s no secret that I am now working in a professional kitchen, and I have to admit that, in my line of work, I don’t openly advertise that I am a food blogger. I made the “mistake” of mentioning it once and was immediately barraged by rants about the food blog scene as a whole and its double-edged effects on the restaurant industry. So, in all honesty, it’s been difficult to motivate myself to sit down and write.

I love food and I love people who love food. Julia Child once said, “People who love to eat are always the best people” and I wholeheartedly agree. Sadly, gone is the era of the prestigious food writers and critics whose insightful articles were respected the world over; now it is all about smartphone-wielding online reviewers and everyone seems to have an opinion… often not the most educated or informed one.

No one has summed up my feelings about online review sites better than Anton Ego from the Pixar film Ratatouille.

anton-ego.-ratatouille-critics-quote

Luckily, the purpose of Nom Nom Cat has always been simply to share our love for food, by inviting you to visit our favorite local restaurants or by inspiring you to try our moms’ classic recipes in your own kitchens. I enjoy writing about food, with no pretension, no judgment, and I hope to continue providing content of which we can all be proud.

Thanks for letting me rant, and stay tuned for some new posts coming soon!

Thai Green Curry Coconut Mussels [Cooking Demo]

Blogging Community, Food Adventures, Los Angeles, Main Dishes, Recipes

So yesterday I was invited to do a cooking demonstration on the main stage at the 626 Night Market and I am excited to announce that it was a great success! I was nervous as this was my first demo experience (I soon learned that it was a first for 626 Night Market as well!), and I would be following a cooking-on-camera veteran Marina Chung of The Taste. I knew I would only have a 30-minute time slot, but I was feeling ambitious and really wanted to show off a dish that could be done from start to finish. I racked my brain for ideas when it hit me — steamed mussels.

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

We have done moules marinieres at home many times, even making a 5-pound batch for a party with our dear friends Brian and Patricia, both of whom play major roles on the 626 Night Market planning team and were influential in getting me this gig. This time, though, I wanted to do a special twist with a Thai green curry based broth; the first time I ate a similar dish, it was a red curry broth at Waterloo & City and the flavor combination really stuck with me. It also perfectly fit our blog’s mission of finding easy ways to replicate gourmet food at home. I knew I would be able to execute the dish in the amount of time given and most importantly, I was confident that it looked and tasted good enough that my audience would (hopefully) be inspired to make it at home too!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

I am so happy to share the recipe with our readers. Unfortunately I do not have step-by-step photos, but somewhere out there exists film footage of my demo. When I have access to it, I’ll update this post with a link so you can watch the clip at home and follow along. Scroll down to read the recipe or click here to download the PDF file that was handed out at the event. I also thought I’d share what I learned about doing cooking demonstrations – they are super fun but I feel they also require a good amount of planning and organization in order to be done well.

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

ingredients:

2 pounds live mussels, cleaned and carefully stored

2 stalks fresh lemongrass

1-inch piece of galangal, sliced (optional)

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1.5 tablespoons thai green curry paste

14 fluid ounces coconut milk OR 7 fluid ounces coconut cream plus 1/2 cup of water or chicken broth

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons thai basil, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)

1 fresno chili, sliced OR 1 thai chili, crushed (optional)

loaf of crusty bread for serving (french baguette works well)

 

directions:

clean the mussels, scrubbing off debris and removing the beards. discard any that are chipped, cracked, or remain open despite gentle tapping (it’s called a percussion test!).

dice only the lower, golden-colored portion of the lemongrass stalk. discard the green stems or save for later use (they’re great for soups!).

in a hot skillet, briefly sauté the lemongrass, galangal, and curry paste until aromatic. add the coconut milk (or coconut cream + water) and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a simmer.

turn the heat to high and add the mussels, double-checking to discard any that may be unsafe to consume. cover with a tight-fitting lid and let the mussels steam. within five to seven minutes, all of the mussels should have opened.

with a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a serving bowl.

add two tablespoons of thai basil to the broth along with the chili, if using. taste and adjust for saltiness by adding fish sauce (you may not need the full tablespoon, depending on the brininess of the mussels). if the broth is too watery, reduce the liquid by simmering for a few more minutes.

ladle over the mussels and sprinkle with the remaining thai basil for garnish. serve with a loaf of crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

bon appetit!

Voila!

Voila!

I learned so much about doing a cooking demo, both in researching before the event and from the feedback I received after the event. Here are a few tips that I hope will come in handy if you ever have the opportunity to show off your cooking prowess and love for food:

1. Research your ingredients: I looked up every single item on my ingredients list to see if there were any fun facts I could provide the audience. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about and to anticipate potential questions, so I researched topics like possible recipe substitutions (galangal vs. ginger, coconut milk vs. coconut cream), health benefits of any ingredients, proper handling and techniques, the best ways to describe certain methods (like de-bearding mussels). I was told later that the audience found it helpful that I took the time to describe each item and make “exotic” ingredients seem less daunting.

2. Plan your time: I did a run-through of preparing the recipe from start to finish in my own home first, especially since I would be using a portable burner and wanted to ensure the equipment would cooperate. This also gave me the opportunity to adjust my game plan so that I would fill in any “blank” time between waiting for things to heat or cook. For example, the instructions above mention cleaning the mussels first before starting the broth, but since I knew I would have to wait for the cream to come to a simmer, I started that first and used the wait time to talk about the mussels. I also had to make sure I added in some time for mishaps or answering questions and, in my case, subtract some time in case I speak too quickly (as often happens when I give presentations… it’s the nerves!).

3. Speak with personality: Speaking of speaking, before my demo I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of live cooking demos. I ran the gamut from my favorite cooking personalities (Martin Yan still has GREAT showmanship long after his Yan Can Cook days!) to small-town county fairs, and I tried to glean some do’s and don’ts based on my preferences. The main thing I noticed is that cooking and talking simultaneously is not as easy as it looks! Also, I enjoyed most when the presenter sounded like they were talking to a crowd of peers. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to imagine the friends (but more on that below).

4. Make checklists: I was working with the bare minimum for my demo — tables, a 6-outlet surge protector with extension cord, and a headset/microphone. That’s it. I had to check and double-check my lists as I was packing my non-perishables: cutting board, towels, water, portable burner, skillet & lid, knives, spoons, prep bowls, decorative props… then I had to make sure my list for last-minute ingredients was up to snuff as well! I’m the type to get that odd feeling that I forgot to pack something so lists galore work best for me.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: When the guys in the kitchen spot me (or anyone really) carrying something too heavy or bulky to be comfortable, they always say “Don’t be a hero!” I had to ask for some help getting my supplies to and from the stage, and that is A-OK. Also, I did not end up doing this because of the nature of the venue and stage setup, but you can invite audience members to come up and assist with the prep! It helps get them more engaged in the process, especially if you are able to provide samples at the end.

Family Photo

Family Photo

And last but certainly not least, I wanted to say thank you to 626 Night Market and to all of my friends and family who came out to support me in doing my first cooking demo! I wish I had been able to take a photo from where I was standing up on stage, but when I looked down to the audience, I saw so many familiar faces sitting in the crowd and it made my heart melt. I already knew some people would be there; my best friend Calvin and his girlfriend Pollyanna were visiting from out of town and we had caravaned to the event together, our friends Lilia and Wilson had just met up with us at Popping Fish Balls, and Brian even sneaked away from his event duties to watch. Of course, my dear Martin was grinning from ear to ear to finally see the results after enduring my recipe tweaking, the hot hot heat, the traffic, and my constant asking of “what if this happens?” “what if I forget something?” “what if I curse in front of all those people?”. I am so thankful for his endless support, acting as my guinea pig, offering suggestions, carrying my equipment, patiently waiting as I got checked in and set up with the sound people, and just quelling my anxiety in general. AND as you can see in the photo above, my parents came out to the event as well! I was so excited since many of the ingredients were grown in their own backyard, and it meant so much for them to see me in my natural element. And then I saw even more friends had come out to surprise me — Grace and Andrew, Curtis, Edmund, Vicky and Will… before I knew it, I had my very own entourage there to cheer me on, laugh at my lame jokes, ask questions during Q&A when there was awkward silence (“Why IS a dead mussel a bad mussel?”), and sample my dish at the end. I felt so loved.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

———————

our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and you can bet that a first-time cooking demo is the perfect entry! Though I am not new to cooking mussels, it was my first time cooking in front of a large audience. Large being defined as more people than would fit in my living room while I cook in the comfort of my own kitchen. ;)

This month is hosted by Lindsey at Sneaks and Sweets.

Cheers!

Dave & Buster’s Comes to West Los Angeles [Media Preview Event]

Blogging Community, Food Adventures, Los Angeles

[Sponsored] Billards. Draft beer. Giant LED TVs playing the popular sports game of the evening. Fried food. Burgers. Oh, and arcade games. While food and booze are awesome, Dave & Buster’s offers a unique experience previously unavailable on the Westside — namely, skee ball for adults 21+ only. And they found a great spot for their first Los Angeles location — the expansive ground floor suite at The Promenade At Howard Hughes Center in Westchester. The hype has been building since last year, but just yesterday, we were invited to attend a media preview event, joined by hundreds of their Facebook fans to fill the place and make it truly bumpin’ even before the big grand opening on Wednesday, February 19th.

Dave & Buster's Westchester / Culver City

Dave & Buster’s Westchester / Culver City

Conveniently situated between both entrances to the parking structure, Dave & Buster’s is hard to miss with its huge “Eat. Drink. Play.” slogans livening up an otherwise ordinary shopping plaza. We were surprised to see a very long line of eager fans waiting to get a sneak peek of the shiny new location. Luckily, we found the media check-in and were ushered inside expeditiously. We wove through the venue, jamming to More Than a Feeling, and managed to score prime seats at the impressively large bar counter. Michael, our friendly bartender, greeted us and pointed out his favorites on the menu as he poured our drinks — a 22 ounce Blue Moon draft for Martin and a 16 ounce Sam Adams Seasonal (Cold Snap) for me.

Our selections (of the nine available beers on draft)

Our selections (of the nine available beers on draft)

We went with Michael’s suggestion and ordered the Mountain O’Nachos. A mountain, indeed! This was the menu description: Fresh tortilla chips piled high and smothered with spicy ground beef and melted queso, topped with black beans, jalapeños, tomatoes, lettuce, fresh guacamole and sour cream. Serves three to four.

Mountain O'Nachos!

Mountain O’Nachos!

While every point was deliciously accurate, perhaps the most precise statement was the last line. It was WAY too much food for just two people, even ravenous eaters like us. Still, I couldn’t help but continue picking at the crispy chips slathered in cheesy, meaty sauce and scooping up bites of the refreshing guac.

Mountain O'Nachos!

Mountain O’Nachos!

The bar was quickly filling as the patient fans started trickling in. While I admired the twenty plus TVs that surrounded us, Martin counted the number of bartenders (12) all rushing to fill orders and greet guests. The service was surprisingly attentive despite the chaos. Before I knew it, our entrees had arrived. Martin selected the fried shrimp platter – a dozen crispy butterflied shrimp served with a chipotle honey sauce and fries. He was very pleased; I believe the sentiment was, “Fried shrimp and beer? Can’t beat that!”

Fried Shrimp Platter

Fried Shrimp Platter

I decided to go simple with the Buster’s Cheeseburger, rare. The half pound monster arrived topped generously with American cheese on a glistening bun. Sadly, it was definitely overcooked (medium-well to well done) but it was surprisingly juicy in the middle. Their burger meat has a great fat ratio, making for a super satisfying sandwich.

Buster's Cheeseburger

Buster’s Cheeseburger

Martin ordered another Blue Moon while I opted for a colorful cocktail I had spotted on the drinks menu — the watermelon snow cone. A stemless martini glass filled with shaved ice and layered with two different colored mixes (naturally, red and green in the watermelon’s case). The red layer was a mix of watermelon-flavored Smirnoff and sour watermelon mixer (DeKuyper, I believe), while the top was a blend of Midori and Sprite. Super pretty. Super girly. Super tasty.

Watermelon Snow Cone

Watermelon Snow Cone

Our bellies happy, we decided to wander the venue. After all, the best part about Dave & Buster’s (arguably) is playing arcade games without kids running around.

Onward!

Onward!

Skee ball, air hockey, even a giant digitized version of Connect Four. Of course, we looked for one of my favorites, Deal or No Deal, modeled after the game show. And we played a lot of those coin pushing games that had planted themselves firmly in Martin’s fond memories of childhood.

Giant Connect 4 Board Game!

Giant Connect 4 Board Game!

And then fate happened. We noticed free credits on the Pump It Up machine. For those not savvy to the dance (dance) revolution of the early 2000s, Pump It Up is essentially Korea’s answer to DDR. The most notable difference is that the arrows are in the NW, NE, SW, SE, and center positions in Pump It Up, making it exponentially more difficult. We had a great time making fools of ourselves to K-Pop tunes at 130 BPM. But that’s okay. I want nobody nobody but you!

The shiny, shiny coins!

The shiny, shiny coins!

By the end of the night, we gathered up our accumulated tickets and headed to the redemption area. I was suddenly brought back to my childhood visits to Chuck E Cheese and other similar play-and-redeem arcades. Through teamwork, we had earned enough for a big prize. Martin, being the gentleman that he is, let me choose. Of course, this meant that he had to share the passenger seat with a big fat Minion plush.

Our Cuddly Souvenir

Our Cuddly Souvenir

The conclusion? Dave & Buster’s Westchester / Culver City location infuses new life into the Howard Hughes Center. Now we Westsiders don’t have to drive all the way to Arcadia or Orange County or elsewhere to Power Up our D&B fix. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post; however, we did receive free food, beverages, and game credits at the event for the purposes of our review. All opinions are our own and were not influenced in any way.

———————

Check out Dave & Buster’s: daveandbusters.com

6081 Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045

See their Yelp reviews here!

NomNomCat’s Top 13 of 2013

Blogging Community

Here at Nom Nom Cat, we certainly don’t have triskaidekaphobia because ’13 was a great year for us! We had plenty of nom adventures — in our shiny new kitchen, out and about in our beloved City of Angels, and during our trips to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and California’s Central Coast. Now in our third year (we turned 2 this June), we have reached a larger audience than ever before and dedicated ourselves to bringing quality recipes and restaurant recaps to you, our dear readers.

Here is a round-up of the highlights – the top 13 posts of 2013:

13. Sticky USA – Hollywood, CA: A unique opportunity arrived in my inbox this May — an invitation for us to visit the new storefront for Aussie-based Sticky for a candy-making lesson with its friendly founder David King.

13 Sticky USA Kiwi Candy

12. Vietnamese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes (Ca Chua Nhoi Thit): One of many comfort dishes that we wrote about this year, stuffed tomatoes is one of Martin’s personal favorites. This post is our rendition which combines his mom’s recipe, my mom’s recipe, and years of experience eating.

12 Viet Stuffed Tomatoes

11. Friday Fun: Vodka Gummy Bears: We tried a new (sporadic) series this year called “Friday Fun” to showcase cocktail recipes and other party favorites. One big hit this year was our vodka gummy bears – they taste as fun as they look.

11 Vodka Gummy Bears

10. Mommie’s Blueberry Muffins with Streusel: In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this is my mom’s recipe. It is also an excellent version of Starbucks’ Bountiful Blueberry muffin, close enough to satisfy Gold Card carriers.

10 Blueberry Muffins

9. Copycat Recipe: The Office Burger: We love Father’s Office. While we’re no Sang Yoon, we did put a lot of love into that caramelized onion jam and Worcestershire-seasoned burger patty to replicate a delicious FO-inspired burger at home.

09 Copycat Office Burger

8. Kanom Jeen Nam Ya (Thai Fish Curry Soup): Just one of the many wonderful soups in my dad’s repertoire, namya is one of my personal favorites. With the help of Costco’s frozen catfish fillets, this recipe just can’t get any easier!

08 Namya

7. Limoncello & Semolina Cookies: A bright ray of sunshine, these cookies incorporate my favorite Italian liqueur to yield a crunchy-but-soft sweet treat worthy of mailing off in a care package.

07 Limoncello Cookies

6. Friday Fun: Soju Watermelon: What started as a curiosity after seeing a friend’s photo on Facebook turned into the perfect summer party cocktail. We like to keep some extra Chamisul on hand so guests can boost the booze level to their liking.

06 Soju Watermelon

5. Battle of the Cannoli: Mike’s vs. Maria’s – Boston, MA: When we visited Boston, we spent the majority of our time in the North End enjoying awesome Italian food, and the most important meal of the day, dessert, was not to be missed!

05 Mikes Pastry Cannoli

4. Meatless Monday: Remy’s Ratatouille (Version I): My first attempt of Thomas Keller’s confit byaldi definitely surprised me with how much it resembled the ratatouille from the movie Ratatouille and perhaps most importantly, how delicious it tasted. Bonus — it’s not only vegetarian, it’s vegan!

04 Ratatouille

3. 626 Night Market – July 2013: One of our favorite summer nights (well, afternoon) was the 626 Night Market at the Santa Anita Racetrack. We sampled many of the food offerings and couldn’t wait to share our experience.

03 626 Night Market

2. Vietnamese Stir-Fried Rice Noodles (Banh Lot Xao): Though the rice pin noodles are difficult to find here on the Westside, I love to pick up some fresh banh lot so I can make this at home. With the flavors of egg, “brown” sauce, and rice noodle, this dish is similar in taste and texture to pad see ew.

02 Banh Lot Xao

1. Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork (Thit Kho / Suon Kho): *fanfare* I was surprised to see that this was the most viewed post of the year! It seems that English language recipes of Vietnamese dishes are in high demand, and we are happy to deliver, so long as our parents continue to share the family secrets.

01 Thit Kho

From the bottom of our hearts, we’d like to thank you all for your support, and we wish you all a very happy holiday season. Here’s to a fabulous 2014!

Diced!: Alice – Corny Canapés: Corn Fritter, Corned Beef, Roasted Red Pepper Relish and Garlicky Corn Flake Crumble

Blogging Community, Uncategorized

Hello Nom Nom Cat readers! If you’ve ever spent your “me time” watching Food Network, you may have heard of a nifty little show called Chopped! Well, friends, I’m competing in a similar culinary event on our friend The Ranting Chef’s blog. It’s called Diced! (see the resemblance?) and Round 1 just started today with my Corny Canapes. Voting will start next week based on the number of “likes” on the post, so please check it out and, if you have a WordPress account, vote for me! Many thanks for your support :)

Rantings of an Amateur Chef

Today we have an entrant for the first course of the Diced! competition. Contestants were instructed to create or find a recipe for an appetizer, soup or salad containing the following ingredients: Corned Beef, Canned Corn, and Corn Flakes. They were instructed to make their dish and create a blog post about it, including pictures. You can help determine who advances to the next round. After the last post, I will post a poll where you can vote for contestants to move on. Vote for the post you like the best. You can vote because of the inventiveness, the yummyness, the use of ingredients, the quality of the writing and pictures or for any other reason. The poll will be active for one week only. Check back and vote. In the event of a tie, the Ranting Chef will choose who advances. More information about Diced! can be found 

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