Just Phở You

Waiting4dinner.com – review #14


Once a month, my family volunteers at Northwest Harvest, a non-profit organization in Washington State that supports local food banks. A warehousing system enables purchase and donation of food in bulk. Volunteers are used to sort and package staple foods for pennies a serving. While there, we have meet old friends, and worked alongside citizens from diverse backgrounds. I have meet meat packers, bankers, lawyers, teachers, students, and a lot of kids.

Since I write a lot about food, it seems responsible and heart felt to speak about the Mission of Northwest Harvest to provide nutritious food for our hungry neighbors while respecting their dignity.

Northwest Harvest weighs in my thoughts today, having spent last Saturday packing frozen sugar snap peas. As fall envelops our mood and the holidays approach, consider the power of what you can give and do.

About a mile north of the Kent warehouse is a Pho house that does a really great job. The broth is flavorful and sweet. After working in a refrigerated warehouse, it’s a great place to warm up and consider how lucky I am.

Address of Just Phở You: 20038 68th Avenue, Kent
Hours: M-Tu 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM, Wed,Thur,Fri 9:30 AM – 7:30 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Sunday -Closed

Address of Northwest Harvest Kent Warehouse: 22220 68th Avenue, Kent, WA 98032
Website: : northwestharvest,org
Consider: Volunteering and donating

Boneless Black Bean “Spareribs”

Fermented salted black beans, known in Cantonese cooking as “Dau Si” smells very strong and funky when one firsts opens the bag. But it adds a unique flavor and was a staple ingredient in my Mom’s cooking. My favorite is “Back Bean Spareribs”


With the scare of Chinese produced food products of recent decades, I have shied away from Dau Si for many years and substituted US produced Chinese Black Bean sauce. The results have never produced the same “Mom” taste, though the funky smell has been avoided. In my quest to capture Taishan Home Cooking, I have started using the fermented beans again (which are actually soybeans).

Steamed Black Bean Spareribs are a favorite home cooked and Dim Sum dish. My family loves it over rolled rice noodles (Honey Court Seafood Restaurant – 516 Maynard Avenue South, Seattle). Although everyone loves the deep meaty flavor, we all find the gristly texture of ribs off-putting. I have re-created the same flavor – minus a little fat and all the gristle and bone.

Boneless Blackbean “Spareribs”  – Recipe
1 1/4 lb. pork shoulder steak – debone and cut into 1/4″ chunks (about the size of the tip of one’s pinky finger)
1 1/2 Tablespoon oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons fermented Chinese back beans – soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and the rinsed thoroughly, drain well
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (I know it’s not gourmet, but I stick it in a garlic press)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon white wine (rice wine or sake is way better, but I never have that around)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake ( I would use 1/2 t. but my family does not do spice)
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
Serve over rice.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce. white wine, minced ginger, salt, corn starch, black pepper, and red pepper flake.

In a non-stick pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add black beans and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Take pan off heat and add soy sauce/wine sauce and meat. Mix and combine thoroughly. Transfer to a covered dish and let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes (you can also refrigerate this up to 24 hours – no kidding). Transfer meat mixture into a dish that will fit into the steamer (9″ pyrex pie pan works great). Add one Tablespoon water.

Put water into a wok or stockpot and place bamboo steamer on top, making sure water does not touch the bottom of the steamer. When the water boils, place plate of meat in the steamer and cover. Cook for 45 minutes, until meat is cooked thoroughly.

Add green onions and serve over rice.

Kan’s Scrambled Eggs with Chinese Sausage

My parents immigrated from villages in Taishan, a coastal area outside of Guangzhou (Canton), in Southern China.  Growing up, they made some very delicious home-styled meals that I have been slowly re-creating.

On weekends, Dad was the breakfast cook and he made everything from Chinese food to Fancy Omelettes.  A favorite is Scrambled Eggs with Chinese Sausage, which Paul made for Lia when she was young and brother Bryan says he has been making for Kenny.  Lia took a break from Hot Pockets this morning and enjoyed a family favorite.

Scrambled Eggs with Chinese Sausage

Scrambled Eggs with Chinese Sausage  – Recipe
1 large egg
1 teaspoon milk
1/2 teaspoon oil for the pan
1/4 to 1/3 Lap Cheong (Chinese Sausage) diced
sprinkle of green onion (optional)
Salt, Pepper, Soy Sauce to taste
serve over rice or toast

Beat egg and milk until very well incorporated.  Beating vigorously adds more air, which is supposed to make fluffier eggs.

Place oil and sausage in a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Move meat around until it turns from grayish-red to bright red, about 1 minute.  Add eggs and scramble until done, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Serve on top of rice or toast, add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with green onions.

serves 1

Phở Cyclo

Phở  Review #15  – waiting4dinner.com

collage of Pho Cyclo

Phở Cyclo located, in SODO, across the street from Starbuck’s Corporate office on 1st Avenue is probably the prettiest place to eat Phở in Seattle (except for the other four locations – I am guessing) .  The light streaming down from the skylights and the tromp l’oeil style murals create an atmosphere that is what I imagine a street eatery in Saigon might actually feel like.  We went on a rainy summer day and the ceiling fans moved the warm humid air around in a way that felt like being outdoors – breezy but still dry. It may be the fans, it may be the murals, and it may be my pining for escape and adventure to far away lands, but it did feel like we were eating in a sidewalk cafe.

The Spring Rolls are accompanied by a rich thick peanut sauce that I really would have happily eaten with a spoon. Rene was impressed with the size of the small bowl. “It is so big for a small,” she practically screamed. This is one of Paul’s favorite Phở places. He appreciates the simple, fresh ingredients and good cooking – “it’s not trying to be gourmet.”

We ordered: Spring Rolls, Small Phở Tai, Small Phở Gan – $21.68
Overall: We have, individually, and as a family eaten here many times. The Vermicelli bowl is excellent and they tofu dishes are satisfying (for vegetarian fare). Living in Burien, this is the perfect stop off location to and from Seattle – it is easy and convenient. And I realized I need to visit the other locations to experience the full effect.
Rene’s Rating: 4 stars -very good soup and a magical place to sit.

2414 First Ave S  – Seattle, WA
Hours: M-F 10AM-5:30PM, Saturday 10AM-3PM

Zucchini Everywhere

wholeZucchini is everywhere!  I have to admit the mole family in my garden has made an all too big impression and I shied from planting this year.  In a way, I am happy to be freed from the pressure of trying to figure out what to do with the bushels of zucchini that came out of the garden.  I literally ran around trying to keep up with picking the squash  And I would miss!  They would miraculously get too big in a matter of hours.  At 8 in the morning they were cute 3″ puppies and by 5 PM they were too big and woody for a saute.

Instead, I’ve leisurely visited local farmer’s markets and got to choose from many different  summer squashes, picking from an abundantly varied choice of colors and shapes.

As I have been learning more about Chinese cooking – especially in thinking about ways to use Chinese sausage, I have come up with a working theory that any recipe that uses bacon or pancetta can work with Lap Cheong.  It makes sense – sweet, fatty, cured meat. . .  tastes good with everything. Right?

My Mother taught me to cut squash in circles and then later in life I tried chunks.  A couple of weeks ago, I had ribbons at Café Campagne in Seattle’s Post Alley and I loved the way the shape carried the taste of the salty capers and creamy butter.  My family are not capers fans, so I got the idea to use them lightly and add Chinese sausage (because that is the ingredient that lures them to eat anything).

sliced zuchinni

Sauteed Zucchini with Chinese Sausage  – Recipe
4 medium sized Zucchini – washed and cut in half crosswise and then thinly sliced (I used a mandolin) lengthwise
1 Chinese Sausage, chopped finely
1/4 red onion, sliced very thin (I used the mandolin again) then chopped a few times to create rather small thin pieces
1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon capers
1 Tablespoon Butter
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a 10-12 inch flat-bottom fry pan, heat oil over medium-high eat until it sizzles when splashed with a drop of water.  Add the onions to oil and cook until they start to become tender, about 4 minutes.  Add the Chinese Sausage and continue cooking (and stirring) until cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Add the zucchini, capers, and sprinkle with sugar.  Continue cooking over medium high, and stir constantly  until zucchini is done, about 7 minutes more. Move the vegetables around gently to cook evenly and to keep the “ribbons” from breaking.   Using a silicon spatula works well. Turn off heat and add the butter, stirring until melted.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

7 minute prep, 15 minute cook time, serves 4





Phở Tai, Burien – Then & Now

Waiting4Dinner.com Phở Review #14

girl eating noodles

This past Friday, I came home from an annual all school retreat at Black Lakes camp with 498 high school students, staff, and parent volunteers.  It was a beautiful sunny three days, and the mood was brightened by my colleagues including their small children.  Watching all the toddlers transported me back to the days when my own kids went with me to camp and when they, too, needed constant entertaining.

Those days of hanging out with three year old Lia were filled with little adventures slipped between naps and reading and snacks and playing. I remember how fun it was to entertain her.  Of course one of the easiest things about Lia is that she would eat just about anything. Sitting still for too long was a problem, but eat was was not.  We ate Dim Sum and Sushi and Fresh Crab.  She was just as comfortable eating out of a taco truck as she was choosing from an Indian buffet. She liked eating so much that I often combined lunch with other errands.  This is when we started eating Phở.  Next to the Burien Safeway is a Phở shop always filled with customers.  In 2001, it was the only Phở in Burien.  I was curious and Lia was hungry.

Back when she was three, Phở Tai was Phở Hoa and nestled between a discount clothing store and a Boehm’s candy counter. After sharing a large bowl for $8 (tip included), we would walk next door and she would pick out a foil wrapped chocolate  – the kind that were formed into shapes of animals, insects, cars, and hearts.  Eat yummy Phở and get candy after.  If that wasn’t magical enough, she fell asleep on the way home – this was an arrangement we both really liked.

Eating Phở became a regularly asked for lunch.  Getting chocolate was also part of this regular routine.  When Rene, her sister, came home in 2002, it was one of the first things Lia wanted to show her.  And she loved it.

Rene and I ate there again just last week.  The shop changed from Phở Hoa to Phở Tai seamlessly somewhere along these years. The decor changed slightly and the waitresses stayed on.  The broth is exactly the same but the candy counter closed five or so years ago.  We will always love coming here because separating memory from meal isn’t possible.

photo collage of Pho Tai

We ordered: Three Small Phở Tai last month – $20.96
Overall: This is the first place I had Phở, this is the first place Lia had Phở, this is the first place Rene had Phở, this is the place I first heard of Phở’s affect on making Paul sleepy
Rene’s Rating: 4 1/2 stars for the broth and the memories

1521 SW 98th Street – Seattle, WA
Hours: daily 9 AM – 9 PM




Sticky Rice Without the Sticky Rice

sticky rice ingredients

Sticky Rice, Nuo Mai Fan, is made with glutinous rice, a short grain sweet rice that is often used for making Sushi or Thai Sticky Rice. When I was a kid, my Mom and Dad mostly made See Ew Fan (Soy Sauce Rice) with long grain rice. We ate this a lot – well, okay, every morning. Every evening after washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen from dinner, my Mother stood in the corner of the kitchen, defatting and chopping meat and washing rice for the next mornings See Ew Fan, which was a simple pilaf-like dish made on top of the stove with rice, chopped meat, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. In the morning, my Father turned it on and went running. When I was in high school, I scooped a bowl and ate it while blow-drying my gorgeous locks.

On special occasions – Thanksgiving, Family Gatherings, and on Weekends – they would make Nuo Mai Fan, which in our home was a much fancier version of what we ate on a daily basis.

Nuo Mai Fan has a stickier consistency than plain rice and contains Chinese Sausage, which was, for me and my brothers, the defining feature of the dish. The stickiness is determined by the proportion of glutinous sweet rice to “regular” rice. Recipes range from 100% glutinous sweet rice (typical of Dim Sum dishes) to half sweet rice and half long or medium grain rice. When I was just out of college and short on funds, I used one part sweet to two parts “regular” rice just to save money.

After my brother said, ” You can make Sticky Rice without sticky rice, but you can’t make it without Chinese Sausage,” I started making the dish with Calrose, a medium grain rice. The recipe I share is neither Nuo Mai Fan nor Fried Rice. Instead, it’s a Chinese flavor inspired rice pilaf.

fried rice and egg

Sticky Rice

Chinese Sausage and Rice Pilaf – Recipe
1/4 lb. ground pork (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce, divided
3 cups Calrose rice (if you are using the cups that come with a rice cooker, use 4)
1/2 cup chopped shallot or red onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 slices ginger, about 2″ in diameter, use and discard before eating
1 cup shredded carrots (it much easier if you buy it already shredded)
2 cups frozen corn (or one 15 oz can, drained)
4 Chinese Sausages – 2 chopped fine, and 2 chopped course (this is my preference for texture – all the same size is fine too)
2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
1 Tablespoon Oyster Sauce (or Chinese Mushroom Sauce, or Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 bunch green onion, chopped
8 large eggs – poached or fried (optional, but this is my favorite part)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Mix 1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce with the pork and let sit for about 10- 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.

Wash and cook the rice according to package instructions.

Prep ingredients – chop and ready.

While the rice is cooking, heat oil (medium high heat) in a wok or large sauté pan until a drop of water sizzles and sauté shallots until tender, about 2 minutes.

Add pork and ginger, garlic to onions and sauté until cooked, about 3 minutes. Move the meat around while cooking so it crumbles.

Add carrots, corn, sausage, Hoisin Sauce, Oyster Sauce, 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce, black pepper. Mix and lower heat to medium. Sauté until carrots are soft and all ingredients are mixed together and hot.

Lower heat to medium low and add Sesame Oil and stir to combine. Add cooked rice and mix all the ingredients together. The meat sauce should be integrated into the rice and the color of the rice will turn tan. Pull out the ginger and discard.  Add the green onion and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Top each serving with a poached or fried egg and drizzle Sriracha over egg as desired.

15 minute prep, 35 minute cook time, serves 6- 8

chopped sausage