I took a week-long vacation from work and went home to spend it with my family. We spent a few days at home and then went to Cape Cod for a few days during what was probably the hottest and most humid week of the summer. Perfect timing! I had a lot of fun but I got terribly sunburned, ouch! Here are some highlights:
The first day I returned home my mom had a delicious meal of homecooked food waiting for me. This dish was one of her new recipes that she learned from a co-worker, and it's called cola chicken. It's deceptively easy: place raw chicken chunks in a pressure cooker, add 1 can of Coke, add a dash of soy sauce, and cook until chicken is tender. I know the recipe sounds weird, but I swear the chicken was really good! There were no weird sweet or sour flavors from the soda, it tasted a lot like chicken teriyaki instead, and the chicken was so tender it was practically falling off the bone. Who knew a little can of soda could do all that?
For my dad's 51st birthday, I bought him a mango mousse cake from one of the trendy new bakeries in Chinatown called Bao Bao Bakery. They make some very pretty and intricate cakes, so I thought I would try one and see what the hype was all about. Unfortunately the day I went it was a Friday afternoon and they did not have many cakes left, so I went with a mango mousse cake, which sounded pretty good to me. My dad helped me carry the cake home on the train, but he was not too careful and all the toppings toppled off! We had to reassemble it, but clearly the cake looks a bit disheveled now. The taste was okay, I thought the mango mousse was a bit sour and the sponge cake layers were somewhat dry for a Chinese cake (they're usually super moist). Still, the color was beautiful and the texture of the mango mousse was very smooth and velvety. It wasn't a total flop, so I decided I'd give Bao Bao Bakery another chance the next time I needed a cake…
Okay, so my mom's birthday happens to be just 3 days after my dad's birthday. So I went back to Bao Bao and got a different cake. This time I had them make it fresh on the spot, and it was a chestnut paste cake, which is my absolute favorite kind of cake. What is it? Well it has the normal layers of sponge cake, but instead of cream in between the layers, there is a sweetened creamy paste made from roasted chestnuts. It's a wonderful nutty flavor that is very smooth and goes well with cakes. I've liked chestnut paste cake ever since I was a small child, and coming to America it was difficult to find it anywhere except in Chinatown. The cake from Bao Bao looked pretty good, but I have to say that their chestnut paste was too dry and chunky:
I think they purposely left it chunky to give texture, but roasted chestnuts in and of themselves are a bit too dry to begin with. I much prefer the chestnut paste cake from one of the bakeries down the street, called Eldo's Cake House. I think I've given Bao Bao enough chances (they did have some really cool cakes like a pig shaped cake and a blowfish shaped cake), and I will stick with Eldo's.
In Chinatown there is a hole in the wall Vietnamese sandwich shop called New Saigon Sandwich, where you can get these fabulous Vietnamese subs (called Banh Mi) for only $2.50 each. Yes, only $2.50!!! My favorite sub is their VN cold cuts sub, which has ham, Vietnamese meatloaf, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon radish, cilantro, onions, scallions, mayo, and pate spread, all sandwiched in a crispy toasted 6" sub roll. The flavors in a Banh Mi are amazing, it's so different from any other sandwich you've ever tried and it's so much more exciting to eat. Plus, it's seriously dirt cheap. There are also many other variations that you can choose from, but the cold cuts sub is a great sandwich for people who are just trying a Banh Mi for the first time. My one and only complaint is that the bread is sometime too crunchy… it kind of scratches the roof of my mouth and gets crumbs everywhere. But you just can't beat the flavor for a cheap and filling lunch. I bought this one to eat on the train from Chinatown to my house, and it was a little embarrassing having to dust off the crumbs every few seconds, but boy was it tasty :)
More to come later… time for bed!