Orange Door Review #16


Tacoma is a culturally diverse city and hosts many great eats, including Vietnamese restaurants and Pho shops. On a recent rainy afternoon, Rene and I took a short stroll along Pacific Avenue – just four blocks north of the main offices of the Tacoma School of the Arts, where I currently work. It’s nice to have Pho places in the downtown corridor where it is convenient to lunch.

The high ceilings and big windows inside the Orange Door give it a light and airy feeling. Even tough the menu lists Pho by the Vietnamese names along with an English translation, the food tastes authentic anyway.

One is met at the door by a bar to the right and my friends say the restaurants does a great happy hour. The dining tables spread along a very narrow and deep space. A curtain separates the kitchen from the dining area and the food seems appear as if by magic transport from another location.

At $6.95 for a small and $8.95 for a large bowl, the soup is a deal. Rene says the broth is about average (good- not amazing). But it comes very hot and very fast and the meat and tendon is tasty. On two separate occasions, I ordered the Banh Mi sandwich (pork and chicken) – they are very good, but heavier on the meat than I usually like. At $5.49, it seemed rather pricy compared to other establishments.

The Orange Door has good solid food at fair prices. I will certainly lunch there again soon, but would probably not go out of my way to eat there.

Address: 701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma WA
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Rene’s rating 3 1/2 because it is really nice place to sit, but the food is good, not great.

momofuku noodle bar & slowly cooked poached eggs Review #15

I do really love to eat. My husband, Paul, says I am an eating machine. I think this offends me a little; but I do love to eat. And I do like trying new foods and restaurants. But. . . I’m not one to be overly fancy or to overly keep up with trends. And while Momofuku has been around for over a decade, it is still a very popular place. On a recent trip to New York to see the Whitney’s last show (Jeff Koons) before it closes and moves downtown, we just so happened to rent an apartment literally across the street from Momofuku.

If I am going to stay across the street from Momofuku, I’m going to try it – right? So after an amazing day with my family – riding bikes in Central Park on a perfect fall day, gazing at the heart and career of Jeff Koons, and seeing the Big Apple from the top of the Metropolitan Museum, I was going to crown it with something hot and salty and chewy and creamy and full of umami. I was going to try Momofuku ramen.

At mid-night (9PM west-coast time) I knew recruiting a companion would be difficult. I admit to appealing to Rene’s weakness; I told her that this would be the best ramen she had ever eaten. You should know that Rene eats a lot of noodles – Pho of course. But she likes Udon, and spaghetti, and especially RAMEN! So she was in. And as you can see from the photo, serious. (note: it was so good that we went there for lunch the next day — the whole family plus my cousin, Sheldon).

Yes. The ramen was amazing. But when I got back to the apartment and opened the Momofuku cookbook on the self of the airbnb, I noticed the broth was made with a lot of meat, including whole chickens and a pound of bacon. Well no wonder it tastes so good!

But what I loved the most was the perfect nature of the noodles – salty and chewy and soft all at once. AND the EGG! I REALLY liked the egg. I dream of that egg, I love eggs, especially poached, and the Momofuku poached egg white is creamy instead of hard. The cookbook reveals the secret and I gave it at try. . .


cold cooked egg on spoon

Slow-cooked poached egg – recipe
Cook whole eggs in 140 degree fahrenheit water for about 45 minutes. Keep the water as close to 140 as possible. Us a colander or similar device at the bottom of the pot so that the eggs are not too close to the heat source (and over cook accidentally).

I used a pasta pot (the kind with a strainer) and a meat thermometer inserted into a hole of the strainer. I brought my water (on a gas burner) up to 140 and added 6 eggs from the refrigerator. I put the pot on a simmer burner at a little higher than the lowest setting with a loose lid and it seemed to stay at a constant 140 degrees farinheit. 45 minutes later – warm but still raw egg. 10 more minutes – pretty much the same. 25 more minutes – WOW! The results are amazing!

The white is really soft and creamy in contrast to hard whites when one drops and egg into water or soup the traditional way. I sprinkled sea salt and ground fresh pepper. It was the single best thing I ate that day. The recipe says you can keep these eggs in the refrigerator for future use (up to a week – I think).

I added an egg to soup the next day. And as Paul says, “when the egg breaks and it hits the broth it is money.”  Either way, it is unusual and good.

My guess is that the 45 minute cook time applies if the eggs are at room temperature. –  if the eggs come out of a 40 degree refrigerator, it takes 80 minutes.


Just Phở You – 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  –

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