Friday, April 30, 2010

La Sen Vietnamese Restaurant - Fremont, CA

One of our friends recommended this restaurant which just opened for a few months ago. I went there with a few friends for lunch last week.  We first ordered this spring rolls as appetizer.  It was wrapped around shrimp, mint leave, lettuce and dipped in hoisin sauce. It was just fresh and so good.

This is a mango salad.  It tasted sweet and sour and very refreshing.

We all loved the eggplant with fried tofu.  It came with a small bowl of soup.

This is seafood noodle.  The noodle was deep fried.
We also ordered the grilled pork from the lunch menu.  It came with cold rice noodles, some chopped noodles, cold salad and some fish sauce on the side.   I believe you are supposed to mix everything together and pour the fish sauce over it.

This is grilled beef.  It was served with the same ingredients on the plate. The beef was also a little dry.

The average price on the menu was about $6 to $7 per dish.  The food tasted great with great prices. The place was clean in a very nice setting.  Overall, we liked the fancy plating and food.  I will definitely go back there again.  Here's the address of this newly open restaurant:

La Sen
181 Fremont Hub Courtyard
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 494-8300

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Low Fat Chicken Pot Pie

I saw this recipe from a local TV show "View from the Bay" and made it on the day I was too busy to cook It's different from the usual way I make my bake-a-meal dish.  I added more vegetable, and it looked and tasted like a chicken pot pie but with less than half of the calories.


1 Sweet potato
1 Leek
4 Carrots
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
3 Cloves of garlic
2 Cups low sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 Cups chopped chicken breast
1 Red bell pepper1 Cup frozen peas
1 Cup Portobello mushrooms, rinsed and peeled
1 Cup half & half (fat free)*
1 Premade crust
1 Tbsp Dill
1 Tbsp Italian Parsley
1 Tbsp Canola Oil

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degree Fahrenheit.
  2. Rinsed and dice all vegetables and chicken.
  3. Heat pan with canola oil.
  4. Add potatoes, leek, and carrots and stir for 5-6 minutes.
  5. Stir in flour and minced garlic.
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 15 minutes.
  7. Pour into a baking ware when it's done.
  8. Roll out the crust and flatten it.  Cut into a few strips.
  9. Place the cut strips on top of the cooked mixture.
  10. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

I added more vegetables than the original recipe had called for.  I used non-fat milk instead of half and half.
It's a little sweet for our taste to use sweet potato.  Next time I would use potatoes instead and maybe add some curry powder for a different taste.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Japanese Chicken Salad - Ban Ban Ji 棒棒雞

We like to buy roasted chicken from Costco.  We always have left over chicken breasts.  I usually use it to make chicken salad.  This is the recipe I saw from a Japanese cooking show. This is a little different than the oriental chicken salad I made but it is very good.


1 Cooked chicken breasts (see note), sliced
1 Cucumber
1 Tomatoes

Mixed sauce: (These are just estimate, adjust sauce to your prefer taste)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 green onion
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp minced ginger
Some hot sauce

  1. Shred or cut cucumber into thin slices.
  2. Cut tomatoes in half first then thin slice it.  Place around the plate.
  3. Put shredded cucumber in the middle.
  4. Place sliced chicken breasts on top.
  5. Pour sauce on top of chicken and serve.
Note:  If you don't have left over cooked chicken breasts, here is the original recipe from the show on how to prepare in advance:

Place 2 pieces of raw chicken breasts in cold water.
Add a few of pepper corn.
Boil for 20 minutes in medium heat
Let cool off, slice chicken breasts.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Morning at Santana Row

My friend wanted to go the Crate and Barrel to shop.  The closest one to where where we live is at Santana Row in San Jose.  We got there early in the morning when there weren't many people there.  Santana Row is an upscale shopping plaza where all the brand name stores such as Gucci, and Burberry are located. It's not a big plaza but I do enjoy the outdoor walk here once in a while when the weather is sunny and breezy.

Santana Row
There are also many nice restaurants here:

After we left Crate and Barrel, we went to this Sur La Table which sells a lot of housewares and kitchen gadgets.
I finally found what I was looking for at Sur La Table.  It's called a "mobile tea press", where you can put your favorite loose leaves and enjoy the tea anytime while traveling.

I also got to enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee made fresh from this expensive coffee maker.  The sales lady from the store was nice enough to do a demo for me.   It costs $1,700 and it does everything automatic to create every kind of coffee from espresso to cappuccino.   The thermos-looking pot is actually a small refrigerator to keep the cream or milk cold.  It automatic sends the milk to the coffee when you have finished giving the instructions to the machine on what to make. I was in awe of this amazing machine.

We passed by my favorite place, Cocola, where you can enjoy some nice pastries and coffee here.
This place is worth mentioning.  It's a store that sells only paper products, like card stocks or wrapping papers.
What is unique about it is it has rolls of beautiful papers just like a fabric store:

I like this tree where they displayed leaves and flowers that were made from paper:

We were rushed to get back home to pick up the kids from school so we decided not to have lunch there.  It was a nice and wonderful area to spend some leisure time. If you are in the neighborhood, here's the address:

Santana Row
3055 Olin Ave
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 551-4611

Monday, April 26, 2010

Falafel, etc. - Fremont, CA

On days that the kids are let out early from school, I always enjoyed eating out and trying different kinds of food in town with them. I was craving Middle Eastern food last week.  I checked on Yelp and found great reviews for this restaurant in town.  We went there even when it was still raining outside.  Of all the years I have been living here, I have never noticed this place at all.

Falafel, etc.

39200 Fremont Blvd. 
Fremont, CA  94538

The place was very clean and very quiet.  I guess it might have been because it's raining outside and already after lunch hour.

Little courtyard
I believe I had spoken to the owner of the restaurant since he was so nice and explained the name of  the foods we were interested to order. We tried the falafel for the first time.  They are basically fried chickpeas.
 It was very crunchy outside, warm and moist inside, and very delicious.
We also liked the Lamb Sharwama Plate which was served with basmati rice, green salad, and pita bread. I think the lamb was a little dry and I added the pepper onion and other sauce to eat with it.  The balsmati rice and green salad, which had feta cheese on top were just excellent.
Lamb sharwama
Dipping Sauce: Tahini for Falafel, yogurt sauce and chili sauce.
They actually have a self serve condiments area:

The owner brought our dessert when we were half way done with our meal since the dessert is supposed to be served warm.  It's made with melted sweet cheese inside filo dough and shredded on phyllo dough and  Arabic syrup.
There was too much syrup in this dessert. Otherwise, I would say it was very good.  If you want to try the restaurant, you can find check out their website:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Italian Sausage Penne

This is a quick and simple meal to prepare if you have unexpected guests and only have a short amount of time. Last night, I only had about forty-five minutes to prepare and had to send the kids out to their school functions after dinner.  With a couple of their friends suddenly showed up, I had to come up with something quick.  I saw this dish from TV not too long ago and tried it for the first time.  We all loved it.


2 TBSP Olive oil
5 Fresh Italian sausages
2 Plum tomatoes, peeled and slice to cubes
1 Bunch arugula, rinsed and spun dry
1/2 cup White wine
1/2 to 1 cup Pasta water
1 TBSP Butter dip in flour
1 Box (14 oz.) Penne or other tubular pasta
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. Bring a pot of water to boiling.
  2. Cook penne according to package instruction with salt until al dante.
  3. Drain and transfer the cooked penne into a serving bowl.
  4. Heat oil in medium saute pan, saute sausage for 2 to 3 minuter or until partially cooked.
  5. Add arugula and saute until wilted.
  6. Add tomatoes, wine and enough pasta water to make a sauce, stirring to combine.
  7. Add butter and flour and stir to thicken sauce.
  8. Pour the mixture on top of cooked penne.
  9. Sprinkle some pasmesan cheese and serve warm.


I found the dish tasted better when you let the pasta sit a little longer in the sauce and serve with hot sauce.  You can use mild flavor of Italian sausage if you don't like hot and spicy food.

For more healthier meal, I use multigrain pasta with ALA  Omega-3. You can also skip the butter.  I didn't have arugula at home. I chopped up a bunch of romaine lettuce instead. I would add more lettuce next time.

The pasta water helped thicken the sauce. When adding flour, be sure to constantly stir the sauce to thicken it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Places for Fish and Chips

I was running some errands in the neighborhood of Newark today.  I couldn't help stopping by this Fish and Chips place for lunch.  They have the best British style Fish and Chips I have ever had in the area.  The price was great.  I ordered this combo for $7.99, and it came with 2 big pieces of  fish, 4 jumbo shrimps and some french fries.  The batter was thin but crunchy.  It was just so delicious and addicting.  I didn't finish the whole thing and took them home for my kids as their snack.

I stumbled upon this place years ago, and the owner had told me that they changed their frying oil daily.  That is what made the food so fresh and crunchy.  The place was decorated with British newspaper he had purposely bought from England years ago.   I took these pictures with the permission of the new owner.  I hope the new owner will continue frying with fresh oil daily as the previous did.

101 Fish & Chips

If you're ever in the neighborhood of Newark, California, here's the address:
101 Fish and Chips
36700 Cedar Blvd. 
Newark, CA 94560
(510) 792-7272

There is also another  Fish and Chips place in Las Vegas that I stumbled upon on years ago. It was located  inside the food court of Caesar Palace's casino.  The price was reasonable considering it was inside Caesar Palace.  The size of the shrimps and fish were big.  The shrimps were for around $11, and the fish was around $10.

Both places are great, but I am  glad that I don't have to travel all the way to Las Vegas to get some delicious Fish and Chips. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Southern California - San Diego (Part 2)

After touring the college in San Diego, we started our sightseeing.  A woman told us there were Chinese restaurants up and down the Convoy street. When we got there, we found many Korean restaurants and only a few Chinese ones.  We assumed it must be a little Korean town, we decided to try the Korean food since there were many to choose from.  We took a glance of a few restaurants in one of the plazas, and decided to go into this cute restaurant, called "Friend's Korean House".  Its home rustic ambiance and aesthetic looks like something out of Seoul Korea. The food was so good and the price was great.  We ordered a Bibimbap which is liked a mixed vegetable rice bowl, a Korean beef lunch special and a bowl of crab noodle soup.  I have to specially point out the crab noodle soup actually came with 2 half pieces of small crabs, not imitation crab meat, and it was only $6.99.

Friend's Korean House
 Friend's Korean House
4647 Convoy St,,#101A
San Diego, CA 92111

After lunch, we headed to one of the famous tourist areas, Coronado Island,  where all the cruiseships docked.  The Hotel Del Coronado is the main attraction on the island. It occupies 28 acres of Pacific coastline property In San Diego.  It is only five miles from downtown San Diego. It has hosted the twentieth century's most famous and infamous, from Marilyn Monroe to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  The weather was at 65 degree Fahrenheit and not windy at all. There were many tourists there on that day.  Last time when I visited, it was so windy, and there weren't many people there.  We enjoyed the nice walk inside and outside the hotel. The white, sandy beaches are ranked as one of top ten beaches in the U.S.

Main Entrance of the Hotel

Other Entrance into Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel Lobby Restaurant and cafe are located here.  You can browse through some shops, historic exhibits and photographs downstairs, or enjoy a meal on the terrace with a spectacular ocean view.
 Dining Hall

Crossing the bridge
View from the bridge
After crossing the bridge back to San Diego, we stopped at Old Town.  We were not able to find a parking space and decided to just drive around for a short tour in the car.

We originally wanted to go to  Gaslamp Quarter to shop but instead walked at Horton Plaza before dinner.  Horton Plaza is an outdoor mall, but we were not really interested shopping in those stores where you can find them in common mall.

Gaslamp Quarter

We left the mall about an hour later about 7 o'clock, and we headed to Little Italy.  This is the first time I've visited there.

View of Little Italy at Night
We walked around to find a restaurant and seeing so many people lined up for this restaurant called "Buon Appetito".  We decided to wait for a table there.  It didn't take us too long to get a table on the patio outside the restaurant where it was more of a street cafe feel.

Buon Appetito
1609 India St.
San  Diego, CA 92101

The food at this restaurant was so good with reasonable prices.   We ordered these dishes from their dinner menu, Linguine Allo Scoglio in white sauce, Capesante Ai Porcini , Salmone Alla Griglia , and my favorite, Cioppino.  Our waiter provided good service by telling us the kind of sauces that were used in the dishes so that we would not be surprised.  We also ordered their seafood soup of the day. There were a lot of seafood in the soup and dishes. The house-baked fresh bread was warm and exceptional, especially dipped in accompanying garlic-tomato salsa.   The food was fresh and in good portion.  I don't think I have ever eaten something that fresh and with so much seafood in the dish.  Since the food was so good, we figured the Tiramisu had to be good.  Sure enough, it was very light and not sweet.  We took our time to enjoy the wonderful meal, and by the time we finished it was after 9:30.

Overall,  the food and the service were just superb at this place.  It was no wonder that when we walked down the rest of the street, Buon Apetito was the only place still lined up with customers. I am glad we found a very nice restaurant.

As we were strolling along the street in Little Italy, we went into this grocery store, Filippi's Cash and Carry. The store looks like a Mom and Pop store.  You can find all the Italian local goodies in here. They carry so many brands of Olive oil just like how we Chinese have many different brands of soy sauce.

The sausage, pasta, olives are Italian. They sell these salty fish just like the Chinese do .

I bought these cookies on the way out, and I regret that we didn't buy more.

They were just totally different from the Italian cookies you buy in a box from other grocery stores.  These were so fresh, not too sweet, and just excellent cookies to have.   Since I didn't know what kind of cookies they were, I just got one from each of the small containers,  and I got a total of 8 cookies for less than $5.  That was so cheap compared to the bakery shop I go to in my own town, and these just can't be compared. My kids told me that the next time we come here, we have to buy more cookies.  The only cookies we won't get again are the wedding cookies and amaretto, because it was too sweet for our taste.

In the back of this shop, there is a restaurant with a lot of customers.  It was so cute that I had to take a picture of the restaurant.

There were many customers inside the restaurant. I later learned that this is a good and popular restaurant for pizzas. The next time we come here, we have to try this restaurant for sure.
1747 India Street
San Diego, California 92101

We will definitely revisit Little Italy for their food and shops.  I was all awe of the food and shops.  We could only see so many things in such a short time.  This trip was just wonderful but unfortunately we had to head home the next day.  It's good to know that we have found some new places to visit in the future.