When I met my friend Rebecca a couple of years ago, I learned almost immediately that she was an excellent cook. I could never run into her without her saying she had to run home to check something on the stove, or that she was off to a specialty food market for a specific ingredient she couldn’t get anywhere else.
Since meeting, Rebecca and I have gotten to know each other a lot better, and let me just tell you that this super mom of three, has a full day of dozens of other tasks she gets done, too.
A few months ago, when I told Rebecca that I’d gone on a great food tour of Little India here in Los Angeles, she instantly offered to take me on a food tour of her favorite Chinese food spots in the San Gabriel Valley.
First Rebecca took me for an unbelievable Tawianese breakfast at Si Hai Restaurant (Four Sea Restaurant in English.) We had several dishes, but what really stood out was a small hand pie called Ngau Yuk Sau Ban (that’s Beef Hand Pie in English). The Ngau Yuk Sau Ban is made with pickled vegetables and very thinly sliced marinated beef all wrapped into a super, flaky and light pastry — similar to puff pastry, only made with pork fat instead of butter. Sounds more like lunch, right? Frankly, I’d eat this hand pie anytime of the day any day!
Next, a quick stop at VP Tofu where Rebecca picked up a delicious dessert for her family, Do Fu Fa, which means soybean custard — it’s served with a lovely, light ginger syrup. I followed suit, of course!
From VP Tofu, we headed to the Half & Half Tea House, where I got one of the most delicious, delightful beverages I’ve ever had — Coffee & Milk Tea with Boba! Boba, or “Bubble,” are the small, semi-sweet balls that fall to the bottom of the drink. These somewhat big, chewy balls are made from cassava, a type of sweet potato, rolled into black tapioca-like balls. These drinks are always served with an extra wide straw to accommodate these yummy treats! And treats they are!
For our last stop we traveled to Arcadia to Din Tai Fun, where Rebecca ordered Juicy Pork Dumplings — hands down, the most delicious dumplings I’ve ever had. Ever! Each small dumpling was like having a bite of warm, comforting, hearty soup. To complement the dumplings, Rebecca also ordered a wonderful, refreshing and spicy, pickled cucumber dish, which was a highlight that I’ve recreated for you today!
This was a most memorable food day with a very sweet friend!
If you’re in Southern California, I highly urge you to make your way to these places to eat . . . and eat. . . and eat! (If I haven’t linked the places to their addresses, I’ve listed them below.)
And of course, if I were you, I’d get started on these Spicy Pickled Cucumbers. Add them to your weekend recipes — or use them as a yummy side dish!
237 S. Garfield Avenue, Monterey Park
- 1-pound small pickling cucumbers (Persian are great), washed and dried
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ cup grape seed oil
- 1 tablespoon chili paste (Sambal Oelek is perfect)
- Cut the cucumbers into approximately ½-inch rounds and place them in a mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle the cucumbers with the salt and gently mix. Let them site for about 20 minutes.
- Pour the salted cucumbers into a strainer and drain and rinse them with cold water. Dry them with paper towels and place them in a new mixing bowl.
- In a small sauté pan, heat the sugar with the vinegar only until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Pour this over the cucumbers and gently mix. Let them marinate in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
- You can use the same small sauté pan to heat the oil with the chili paste. Cook only until it's sizzling, about 2 minutes. Let this cool to room temperature.
- Remove the marinating cucumbers from the refrigerator and drain almost, but not quite all of the liquid. Carefully stir in the chili oil and serve.