Qing Ming 清明 – Tomb Sweeping Day

cemetery panorama
In the center is my Great Grandmother’s site.

This entry really doesn’t have too much to do with food except that  A) sometimes you bring food to the cemetery as an offering and, of course, you eat it, and B) after visiting our ancestors this year, we ended up at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village Restaurant in San Gabriel and ate beautiful dumplings.

Each spring,  Chinese celebrate with the Qing Ming Festival and we visit our ancestors at their grave sites.  It is situated 15 days after the Spring Equinox – or for my family, anywhere near Easter.  As it happens, I decided to take a trip to Los Angeles during this time and Mom says, “Do you want to visit GrandMa and GrandPa’s grave on Friday?”

I say, “Yes, what are the details?”

She says, “I don’t know, I’ll call your Uncle George.”

A day passes and no details are forthcoming.  I decide to take matters into my own hands and I text him.  This is how it goes:



“Let’s meet at Chinese cemetery at 1100.”   So I am thinking, “hummm, am I supposed to naturally know where this is?  I text back


I don’t hear back for some good number of minutes (15 or so) – really an eternity if you think you are having a text “conversation.”  My Uncle is hip and all, but still, being an Uncle, he is of the older generation and I am suspicious of his texting protocols.  So I decide to Google “Chinese Cemetery” just to see what happens.  To my surprise, there is a Wiki site for it
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Cemetery_of_Los_Angeles; and second there is a Yelp map.

This cemetery was established in 1922.  Prior to that, due to discrimination, persons of Chinese ancestry in Los Angeles were only allowed to be buried in indigent graveyards or “Potters Fields.”  Even in death, institutionalized racism denied citizens of common civil rights.

Yelp map of Chinese Cemetary

If you were reading the text messages carefully, you might have caught the phrase, “walk the mountain.”  This is the literal translation of  “haung shan.”   In China, the burial sites in Southern China are on near by mountains that face the village and “haung shan” is customary to pay our ancestors respect.  Each year, in early Spring, there is the Qing Ming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day).  I’m not sure what chore is actually performed in China, but what we do is trim the grass around the head stones and bring flowers.

If you wander around, you notice many offerings of food left from other families – fruits, meats, incenses, and candles.  I remember we used to bring food when my Grandma Wong was alive.  As a kid, I seemed to always be hungry (not a surprise, if you know me now) and I liked that we brought dim sum with use because it meant I could eat before we went out to eat.


greatGrandmaheadstone     greatGrandpa
Mom’s, Mom’s, Mom                                                                          Mom’s, Dad’s, Dad

This year, Shanghai No. 1 was the choice and my Uncle can order good food.  The stone pot fried rice was a perfect blend of Chinese ham and many greens, including ‘lots of Chinese scallions.  The soup dumplings, xiao long bao, are flavorful,  and the pan-fried pork buns, sheng jian bao, has a crunchy bottom and very soupy center. I am not normally a fan of steamed bao filled with egg centers, but the salted duck egg bun was unbelievable – when I opened it, the egg yolk like center was warm and sweet and savory.  And the “special dumpling,”  is a fist sized dumpling filled with whole pieces of seafood, floating in a chicken based broth with slivers of winter melon.  From mid-city, San Gabriel feels like it is several towns over.  But for this kind of food, I will happily take this cross town excursion again.  My Aunt and Uncle say they sometimes drive from Culver City just to eat at Shanghai No. 1 and I know exactly why.

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel, California
Monday – Saturday 10AM-10:30PM, Sunday 10 AM-9:30PM

Eat and be happy.


King Noodle

Asian Noodle Soup review #20

After sitting down, customers are handed a two sided menu. Each diner gets to pick from six soup bases, six different types of noodles, and over two dozen toppings that include beef, fish, duck, and free range chicken. Once a month or so, I sneak a “personal noodle meal” – this is one of two places I might go.

On a recent wet night, I ordered the Hot Spicy broth, flat rice noodle, BBQ duck, pickled cabbage, cabbage, and mushrooms. It came in about 5 minutes and cost $6.99. It hit the spot and I felt really good after.

The choices are endless and there is something for everyone. The Chicken Broth is mild and flavorful. Both the Hot Spicy and Szechuan Spicy broths have nice heat. The vermicelli noodle is also rice based, and one can even order instant ramen noodles as an option. They also serve Congee (rice porridge) with ‘lots of toppings and a variety of appetizers and rice dishes.

615 S King Street
Seattle, WA 98104
Hours: Sun – Thurs 10 AM – 10 PM, Fri-Sat 10 AM – 12 mid-night

Chowking – a fast food chain from the Philippines

Noodle Soup Review #19

Wonton Noodle Soup

Sometimes it rains and sometimes happiness is found in a styrofoam cup (or bowl).  I don’t even like malls, but I found this bowl of soup calling out to me and I ate it all up.

1379 Southcenter Mall
Tukwila, WA 98188

HOURS daily 8am-10pm

Beef Wonton Noodle Soup – $6.01 (includes tax)

Almond Edged Butter Cookies

Happy New Years!

“You cannot go back and make a new start, but you can start now and make a new ending”                ― Michelle Cohen Corasanti, The Almond Tree


The sweetness of cookies and cakes symbolizes a rich, sweet life in Chinese lore.  And the round shape signifies family reunion.

I do not think of myself as a baker.  But the holidays compel me.  Cookies are satisfying.  We share them and they bring us together in a common, simple cooking language of care –  expressing nuisance, finesse, and patience.

This is my interpretation of a New Year’s Almond cookie. The almond edges remind me of my Mother’s amazing layered birthday cakes that were slathered in sweetened whipped cream then finished off with toasted sliced almonds.

Almond Edged Butter Cookie  – Recipe
1 stick salted butter, room temperature, cut into 8 piece (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 egg, room temperature, separated
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds, chopped lightly

With a fork, cream the butter, sugar, and almond extract.  Add the egg yolk and beat until blended thoroughly.

Add flour and incorporate.

Roll into a 8″ log.  Brush with egg white and roll in almonds to coat well.  Place log in an airtight plastic container (or wrap in plastic wrap) for 2 – 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Slice cookies into 1/8″ disks and arrange on a cookie sheet 1″ apart.  Bake one sheet at a time in the center rack until edges just begin to brown, about 10 minutes total (I turn the sheet at 5 minutes).  Cool on the sheet for 2 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

variation:  substitute almond extract with pure vanilla extract and roll log in 1/4 cup of coarse sugar.


The family album is littered with photo after photo of us behind the same almond covered layer cake.  This is my brother, Bryan at age 1.

Hue Ky Mi Gia | Chinese Noodle House

Noodle Soup Review #1820150110-121635-44195260.jpg

If you love ramen and pho, you’ll likely find happiness in a bowl of Chinese Egg Noodle soup too.  Like ramen noodles, Chinese Egg Noodles are made with alkaline, producing a chewy, slippery texture.  In fact, the Japanese ramen noodle is a descendant of the Chinese alkaline noodle.   Chinese soups, like pho, tend to have a light clean, refreshing nature. A good fast Chinese dinner trick is to make a broth and then add store bought fresh noodles and a pre-cooked duck as toppings.  Add green onion, a marinated egg and some greens into the bowl and you’re good to go.

Or, you can go to Hu Ky Mi Gia, it’s inside the Great Wall Mall in Kent and is a great place to stop on one’s way to Southcenter or Ikea.  It’s worth the drive as a destination too.  I love duck, so the braised or roasted duck egg noodle soup are the only things I have ever ordered and I love them to death – and though I can’t really eat too much of the noodles due to my gluten intolerance, I return again and again and force my stomach into knots.  The steaming sweet and savory chicken broth is topped with a leg-thigh section of braised duck, noodles, shiitake mushrooms, baby bok choy, and green onions.  Typical of Chinese noodle houses, you have a choice of noodles –  I like the super thin ones, probably because that is what I ate when I was a kid, but the thick ones are good too.

The menu is extensive and there is enough variety to please everyone.  On a recent trip, Rene ordered Beef Chow Fun (dry): It was also very good. In addition to Kent, there are two other locations – Seattle’s International District and Tacoma’s Lincoln Area.

18230 E Valley Highway, Ste 152
(Inside Great Wall Shopping Mall)
Kent, WA 98032

HOURS Wednesday-Monday 10am-9pm

Braised Duck Egg Noodle Soup and Beef Chow Fun – $15.50

Arashi Ramen

Noodle Soup Review #17

It’s frightening to think about, and I cannot shake the worry that I am not doing a good job as a Mom, but my kids eat a lot of ramen. Not “real” ramen, but the stuff that comes out of a package or that comes with it’s own styrofoam cup/bowl. Then there is the worry that the MSG might make them overly hyper, or even worse, unhealthy in unmentionable ways. I try to offer other morning fare but so far, frozen breakfast burritos and hot-pockets have been incorporated in our early morning frenzy.

I myself have eaten a lot of ramen. And I unscientifically attribute my gluten intolerance to having eaten so much bad stuff that my system just said “stop.” In spite of the fact that eating wheat noodles makes me feel kinda sick, I have been taste testing ramen shops along with the search for great and good Pho.

During an art pilgrimage to see the Jeff Koons exhibit this fall at the Whitney Museum, we added ramen to our noodle soup search. It was nearing mid-night and we wandered into Momofuku, bypassing the legendary line around the block. Upon first slurp, I became intrigued (well, maybe obsessed) with ramen – not the packaged stuff but the stuff that has moved from Japanese fast food to New York gourmet.

The first thing I did was watch Tampopo, the second thing I did was read Ivan Ramen, and the third thing I did was start eating at ramen restaurants. Then, I started eating more Asian noodle soups of all kinds, especially the Seui (water) Mein of my childhood.

Ramen places in Seattle are far and fewer between than Pho shops. Arashi Ramen had been getting some press and notoriety and it is relatively near my house. Rene and I were eager to try it and weaved it into holiday shopping. Arashi sits in the corner of a strip mall across the street from Southcenter Mall and what it lacks in atmosphere, it makes up in a simple menu made up of Tonkostu-based broths (a milky rich pork soup) and good service.

Our Shio ($8.95) bowls were rich and the meal slipped easily into our bellies, filling us with pork, marinated egg, noodles, red ginger, green onions, bean sprouts, and a hearty broth.

Address: 17046 South-center Pkwy, Tukwilla, Washington
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 AM-3 PM and 5-10 PM

Orange Door

waiting4dinner.com 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.