Dec 31, 2012

Cancún Dining - Crab House Cancún

Happy new year everyone! I am going to complete my 2012 blog posts today with one of my favorite dining moments during a recent trip to Cancún, Mexico.

Crab House Cancún (all pictures taken with my iphone 4) -

I tried to search the internet to see where to eat around the Hotel Zone in Cancún. Somewhere for a nice, relaxing, and maybe romantic dinner. Unfortunately, not much trust-worthy information was found, which further strengthen my determination to share my personal dining experience here with you.

We've turned to the locals for dinner suggestions. Hotel receptionist, door man, and taxi drivers, they all mentioned one name - Crab House. What a confidence boost, so there we were for our 2nd fine dining night before flying back to the states.

View from the outdoor seating area -

Always get the outdoor seating when dining in Cancún. The weather and the view are just too good to pass on.

Bread -

Served with garlic flavored butter spread.

My favorite server in Cancún, courteous and professional. He was showing us the live lobster they have along with other seafood such as stone crabs and oysters -

Complimentary crab cakes -

You really get to taste lumps of crab meat even though it was just a complimentary dish.

By the way, I remember ladies also get to pick a complimentary drink, margarita or piña colada. 

Seafood platter for two $580 pesos - 

Stone crab claws, jumbo shrimps, and fresh oysters. Served with cocktail sauce and horseradish. Clarified butter is available upon request.

We were thinking about ordering larger stone crab claws instead of the whole seafood platter. However, the price for this combo platter was just too good to let go compared to ordering one type of seafood on its own. In addition, the claw size was actually decent and we were happy that we got to try a little bit of everything.

Perfect bite! -

Grilled octopus Cajun style $260 pesos -

Served with baked potato and sour cream. The octopus was very tender and packed with southern flavors. Highly recommended. However, the generous portion was a little bit too much for just two people. Octopus-coma indeed.

Pasta a la Arrabiatta with crab $280 pesos -

Supposedly served with penne pasta but we switched to linguine. The sauce was seasoned well with lots of tomatoes and garlic. I scraped and finished the sauce with some bread.

Something sweet to end the night -

We were too full to get real dessert. I know it might not look like a lot of food, even I thought we toned down on the portions. However, after finished all the seafood, I was full, so full that I can felt food floating near my throat. I guess all that seafood and buttery sauce did the trick. My wise suggestion, don't get too greedy and just order a few dishes at a time. Otherwise you might get seafood-coma and spend the rest of the night passing out the on bed just like my boyfriend did. 

We tried Savio's Bistro by La Dolce Vita the first night. Atmosphere-wise, Savio's is better. However, the food is definitely tastier at the Crab House.

Cindy's Rating: 7

Crab House Cancún
Boulevard Kukulcan, KM 14.7 Hotel Zone
Cancún, Mexico
(Next to Sunrise Marina, in front of J.W.Marriott)

Phone: +52 (998) 193-0350 or 0351
Operation Hours: Opens daily from 12 noon to 11 p.m.

Other Cancún related posts:
Savio's Bistro by La Dolce Vita
Cancun Mercado 28 - Where's My Boba?

Dec 22, 2012

Grilled Steak wtih Punchy Asian Sauce

We all survived!! No more the end of the world theories and what's even more exciting? Christmas is just few days away! This year, I gonna spend this lovely holiday in Singapore and hopefully there will be some delicious local food posts after the trip. Meanwhile, let's have a pre-celebration with....steak!

Grilled steak with punchy Asian sauce - 

Ingredients (for 1, you can double the ingredients for larger portions)?

7 ounces/200 grams of steak
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Some seal salt
Some freshly ground black pepper

Sauce - 
3 garlic cloves
3 fresh red chilies
1 stalk of scallion
1 tablespoon of katsuo (skipjack tuna) flavored soy sauce
1 tablespoon of black vinegar
1 tablespoon of hot water
1 teaspoon of fish sauce


Remove the steak from the fridge and let it sit in room temperature for at least 10 minutes before cooking.

Season both sides of the steak with a thin layer of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto an iron skillet and turn to medium high heat. Wait till the oil turns very hot, you can tell by seeing tiny bubbles near the surface. Add in the steak. 

Try to get some nice grill marks on the steak during the searing process. To achieve that, do not peek or flip the meat too early. It takes about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. However, it might take a little bit longer depending on the thickness of the meat. If you're concerned about burning the surface, try to sear the steak same side but flip to a different direction. That way you can avoid cooking the same spots too long and get delicious-looking checkered marks instead.

Once done, transfer the steak onto a plate and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, let's make the sauce.

Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves, discard the scallion stem and finely chop the remaining parts. Mix these two with all the other sauce ingredients.

Generously pour the sauce all over the steak right before serving.

Be careful, this sauce can be really spicy with these tiny red chili pieces. My recommendation is to serve it with rice. The rice will absorb all the flavors from the sauce and become very delicious.

**I'll see you after Christmas!

Other steak recipes:
Seared steak with spicy sacha sauce
Foie gras and steak

Dec 18, 2012

Cabbage and Dried Shrimp Skin Rice - 高麗蝦皮菜飯

My family has been feeding me too well since the first day I arrived in Taiwan. Over the past week, I haven't really cooked anything besides blanching some local green veggies. When I'm hungry, there're always some kind of stewed meat, a big pot of soup, and stir fry vegetables in the kitchen or in the fridge that's always overfilled with fresh ingredients and delicious homemade food.

As a result, I'm running out of my own recipe to share because mommy and daddy took over the cooking work. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind having this "tasty issue" for the rest of my trip. Solution? How about my mom's recipe? I guarantee the food will be at least 10 times yummier than my own!

Cabbage and dried shrimp skin rice 高麗蝦皮菜飯 -

Ingredients (about 6 to 8 portion)?

3 1/2 cups of uncooked white rice
1 big handful of dried shrimp skin
1 small cabbage
Some olive oil
Some ground pork
Some soy sauce
Some freshly ground black pepper
Some rock salt


You can find dried shrimp skin at a Chinese supermarket -

It's not the same as "dried shrimp." Dried shrimps are meatier and tougher in texture. Dried shrimp skin is small and flat. Be careful not to be fooled when you see dried shrimp skin with vibrant orange color especially some sellers tend to add chemical coloring to get a better looking product.

Remove and discard the very outer layer of the cabbage leaves. Thoroughly rinse the remaining, drain well, and chop into smaller bite size pieces.

Drizzle some olive oil into a big pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in the dried shrimp skin and cook till the aroma comes out, about 2 minutes. Add in ground pork along with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

My mom doesn't use any measurement while cooking, everything is done by gut feeling. That's actually the way I cook, I only jot down the amount of seasonings used when preparing for a blog post.

"Use a lot of black pepper," she noted.

Pour in some good quality soy sauce along the sides of the pan, that way the heat will bring out the aroma and adds more flavor to the ingredients. The amount of soy sauce? Enough to darken but not "browning" the meat.

You can also substitute ground pork with already cooked ones. In that case, perhaps reduced the amount of soy sauce to prevent over-seasoning. When the pork is fully cooked through and just slightly browned on the edges, add in chopped cabbage.

Just a quick stir, about 1 minute then turn off the heat.

My mom used long grain white rice and short grain white rice mixture, about 3:1 ratio. Wash the rice and transfer to a rice cooker. Pour in a little bit of water, just a little bit under the surface of the rice. Lastly, pour in previously cooked cabbage and pork mixture, close the lid and press the button to start cooking.

It might seem like there's not enough water added for the rice. However, cabbage contains lots of water and it'll all be released during the steaming process. That naturally sweet flavor will then absorbed by the grains.

Once done, gently mix the stir fried ingredients with the rice. Remember to close the lid again and leave the rice cooker on for about 10 more minutes. That way you'll get a thin layer of darkened crispy edges to munch on!

We usually serve it with other small dishes such as spicy sausages, stir fry shirasu, etc.

Some small dish recommendations:

Shirasu and vegetable pancakes
Spicy garlic chives and ground pork stir fry
Seared steak with spicy sacha sauce
Oven baked Matsuzaka pork marinated in red vinasse and white miso

Dec 11, 2012

Stewed Chicken with Sausages and Leek

The cold weather has been making me drowsy lately, especially in the morning when I believe everybody is having a hard time getting off the warm, cozy blanket. Unfortunately sleepy is not the only side effect. I tend to cook less when the temperature drops, perhaps my internal clock is telling me it's time to hibernate instead of running around in the kitchen.

As a solution, I've decided to make a pot of stewed chicken with sausages and leek, which should last me a few meals. No more cooking until I can see the bottom of the pot again. In the meantime, sofa and remote control will be my best friends, we'll get through the winter together!

Stewed chicken with sausages and leek -


1 lb of chicken thigh
1 stalk of leek
1 zucchini
15 button mushrooms
3 Roman tomatoes
3 spicy chicken sausages
6 garlic cloves
1/2 large onion
1 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Some sea salt
Some flat leaf parsley or cilantro
2/3 cup of low sodium chicken stock
2/3 cup of dry white wine


Chop the chicken into large bite sizes and the sausages into small cubes. Remove the stems and quartered the mushrooms. Chop the tomatoes into regular bite sizes. Chop the onion into large chunks.

Remove the very tip stem from the zucchini and peel thoroughly. Halve the zucchini length-wise then chop into bite sizes.  Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves.

Remove the stem from the leek, about 1 inch in length. Thoroughly rinse each layer and pat dry. Also chop into bite size pieces.

Drizzle some olive oil into a deep pan or a deep pot. Add in chopped onion along with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till the onion starts to burn slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add in chopped garlic and some chili flakes. Cook a little bit longer to release the aroma from the garlic, but pay attention not to burn the garlic.

Add in the leek then stir, cook for about 2 more minutes.

Transfer the chicken and sausage pieces into the pan, sear for about 5 minutes. Add in the mushrooms, zucchini, and some more salt to flavor the ingredients. Cook till the zucchini softens then add in the tomatoes and a small pinch of dried Italian seasoning. Stir the mixture and cook about 2 more minutes.

Pour in both the white wine and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then lower the heat a little bit to keep it simmer. Cook till the sauce has been reduced by about 1/3 or half. Takes approximately 30 minutes.

Sprinkle or garnish the stew with some chopped parsley or cilantro right before serving.

This stew can be enjoyed with both rice and noodles. If serving with pasta, just heat up the stew with a small pot, maybe at a little bit more seasoning such as Tabasco and grated cheese. Pour over the pasta and sprinkle some chopped parsley or cilantro to freshen up the flavor.

Other stew recipes:
My version of langue de boeuf a la bourguignonne
Beef stew Vietnamese style

Dec 5, 2012

Cancun Dining - Savio's Bistro by La Dolce Vita

We started our Cancun trip with a 6:40 a.m. flight from LAX (CA), layovered in Dallas then headed directly to Mexico.

The before-the-dawn traveling time is definitely worth every struggling on the bed, perhaps with the alarm clock also. We were able to land in Cancun around 3:30 p.m., which still left us plenty of time to take a 30 minutes transit to the Hotel Zone. There were no rush at all, we took time setting up our luggages, had a quick shower, and most importantly, enjoyed the blue ocean view before our first "elegant" dining experience in this tropical city.

There's one other flight which you leave few hours later during the day. In that case, you will arrive in Cancun around 11 p.m.. But who wants to sacrifice the entire afternoon by the beach just for that few additional hours of sleep?
I actually did some research about where to go for a nice dinner before the trip. Unfortunately, not much trust-worthy information was found. To be a wise tourist, the best way is to ask the locals. After weighing in some pros and cons, we got our choice for the night - Savio's Bistro by La Dolce Vita -

Great ambience, great outdoor seating area
Great service

Food is ok. Don't get me wrong, it's on the tasty side but just not jaw dropping good

As for our first night in Cancun, we can be careless about the flavor. What matters to us the most was finding a great spot where we can quietly have a sip or two tropical drinks and listen to the waves colliding on the rocks.

Menu -

Prices are shown in Mexican pesos. $1 U.S. is about $12~$13 pesos as of the date of this blog post.

Here's what I'm talking about, great outdoor seating -

Picture above is for larger parties. However, if just for one or two people, you can sit somewhere even closer to the water. Just walk along the deck -

And here it is -

There were actually two solitary customers sitting at the tables behind us. Who said you can enjoy a nice meal at a great ambience restaurant all by yourself?

Ceviches with octopus, onion, cilantro, tomato, and chile habanero $140 pesos -

Sauteed cepes mushrooms Provencal style with garlic and tomato sauce $125 pesos -

Yummy. The waiter also brought us some flat bread, which tastes very good with this garlicky sauce.

Rigatoni Viva Mexico: Short pasta, chorizo, mushrooms and jalapeno chile. Main course size $190 pesos -  

Fettuccine neptuno: Black pasta, shrimp and scallops in oyster sauce. Main source size $260 pesos -

Our bodies (especially tummies) and minds were deeply satisfied. What a way to start off a great vacation!

Savio's Bistro by La Dolce Via
Blvd. Kukulcan KM 15
Cancun Zona Hotelera, Quintana Roo
Mexico 77500

Phone Number: 885 01 61 or 885 0150
Dial 011 52 first if dialing from the U.S. or Canada

*There's is also another branch called La Dolce Vita Centro located in downtown Cancun. However, I do suggest going to this one in Hotel Zone not only just for the view, but also for safety reasons. 

Other Cancun related posts:
Cancun Mercado 28 - Where's My Boba?
Cancun Dining - Crab House Cancun

Nov 29, 2012

Cancun Mercado 28 - Where's My Boba?

How's your Thanksgiving? Turkey and stuffing overload?

In my case, it's ceviche and piña colada overload since I was enjoying my holiday break somewhere warmer - Cancun, Mexico. I'll be sharing some local restaurant reviews and vacation tips during the next few posts. As for now, since there are still tons of pictures need to be organized, let me share my little food stand encounter while visiting a local market - Mercado 28.

There are a few local markets in Cancun such as Mercado 23 and Mercado 28. Mercado 23 has more of a local affair, selling groceries to people who actually live in Cancun. Mercado 28 on the other hand, is a total tourist trap. You'll only find tons of souvenirs, perhaps overpriced souvenirs there.

Recent travel advisory warning visitors not to stray too far away from the Hotel Zone. As a result, we've decided to visit Mercado 28, which is not too far off from the so called "safe area."

On the way to the main market place, my partner and I found this hole in the wall drink/snack shop with pictures of tapioca throughout. Being a Taiwanese who can't live without boba, especially boba tea, finding this store brought much joy to this adventure.

We crossed the busy road with an unwanted help from a local guy holding up a STOP sign. His purpose was not to prevent us from accident but only to receive tips. Either way, we made it to the store safely.

Then we realized..there's no boba tea here, only syrup infused drinks with options of adding boba, jelly, or other chewy stuff inside the drink.

Well, since we're already here, might as well pick something unheard of, but something that looks safe enough to try. So it is, agua de Jamaica -

The lady went ahead to prepare the drink for us. I noticed she had cactus lying on the back counter with some blended liquid in green color..hmm..maybe next time -

So here it is, agua de Jamaica -

It's actually a hibiscus tea! I never knew that "Jamaica water" is the same as the hibiscus tea we have in the states. Well, it was a pleasant surprise that the drink was in fact pretty refreshing and delicious. At least something different than the usual things we tend to get at the Hotel Zone. You know, bottled water, beer, and all that tropical fruity drinks.

My Cancun food adventure to be continued (as soon as I get all the pictures adjusted).

Later on....

Cancun related posts:
Cancun Dining - Savio's Bistro by La Dolce Vita
Cancun Dining - Crab House Cancun

Nov 20, 2012

Southeast Asian Inspired Stir Fry Banh Pho with Chicken and Shrimps

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you guys can munch on juicy turkey with wonderful homemade cranberry sauce this year. As for me, I'll be off to Cancun for a fun and relaxing trip. So I guess tacos will on my Thanksgiving night menu? But don't worry, I'll try to order some chicken to make up my turkey lost.

Southeast Asian inspired stir fry banh pho with chicken and shrimps -

Ingredients (3 to 4 people)?

Marinade -
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice cooking wine or sake

1 large pack of dried banh pho
1 lb of chicken thigh
1/2 lb of shrimps (peeled and deveined)
2 eggs
2 cups of green bean sprouts
6 stalks of bak choy
1 small carrot
1 medium shallot
1 stalk of scallion
1 small bundle of cilantro
1/2 large onion
5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of shrimp paste
1 tablespoon of Sriracha
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1/2 cup of hot water
1 lime
Some olive oil
Some sea salt
Some freshly ground black pepper


I know it's a long list of ingredients but trust me, the end result is mouth-watering.

Remove excess fat from the chicken thighs and cut into bite size pieces. Mix 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of rice cooking wine. Add in the chicken and marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Here's the large pack of banh pho found at a local Ranch 99 market -

Package instruction states that you can either soak the noodles for 15 minutes or cook them in hot water for 2 minutes before stir frying. I tried to follow the lead but ended up with still very chewy banh pho. So here's what you should do to prepare the noodles: Bring a big pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles till al dente in texture, about 3 to 5 minutes. Once done, drain well and set aside for later use. Mix in a little bit of olive oil can prevent clumping.

Beat two eggs together with a tiny pinch of salt. Drizzle some oil in the pan, just enough to coat the surface. Bring to medium high heat and pour in the eggs once the oil gets hot. Scramble the eggs till the edges of each little pieces turned slightly brown. Scoop it out and set aside for later use.

Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Chop half of the scallion into 2 inch pieces and the remaining into tiny bits. Peel and slice the onion into thin strips. Peel and slice the shallot.

Remove the very bottom stems for the bok choy and cut into thin strips. Peel and julienne the carrot. Remove the very bottom stems from the cilantro and give the rest a rough chop.

Take a big pan, add in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes or more if you like it spicy. Also add in the onion and shallot. Give it a quick stir and turn to medium high heat.

Cook till the shallot slices start to get slightly burned on the edges, about 3 minutes. Add in chopped garlic, grated ginger, and scallion strips. Cook for another minute.

Pour in the chicken along with its marinade, cook till the chicken is about 70% done then add in the carrot. Cook till the carrot softens.

Add in bean sprouts and bok choy. Also add in our main seasonings here: 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of shrimp paste, 1 tablespoon of Sriracha, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of chili sauce, and juice of 1/2 lime. Mix well and let it cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, till all the flavors soaked into the ingredients.

Add the shrimps, scrambled eggs, and 1/2 of the chopped cilantro to the mixture. Once the shrimps start to turn pinkish color, pour in the noodles along with some hot water. Mix well and cook till the noodles have fully absorbed the seasonings. I just left it till the noodles reached my desired texture, about 6 minutes.

Serve with some of the chopped scallion and cilantro we reserved earlier along with one wedge of lime. Perhaps more chili sauce for spicy lovers (like me!).

See you after Thanksgiving break!

Other recipe using shrimp paste:
Stir fry ongchoy with shrimp paste and fish sauce 蝦醬空心菜

Other Asian noodles recipes:
Taiwanese ruo gen soup noodles 酸辣肉羹麵 
Japanese style dan dan noodles

Nov 15, 2012

ink by Michael Voltaggio and Cole Dickinson

If you are a fan of Bravo's TV show Top Chef, you'll know who Michael Voltaggio is. He is the winner from season six, but he's definitely more than just a renowned title. You'll see by looking at all these mouth watering pictures below.

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when these words are actually coming from my rambling. Just a few details and conclusions here and I'll leave you with food pictures to dig in. 

There is "ink," where the fine dining happens during dinner hours. And there is "ink sack" for a more casual bite, offering both lunch and dinner.

For the upcoming food and beverage pictures, I'll just add the descriptions straight from the menu. Also I'll put up a * sign and "highly recommended" on the bottom of the picture for the ones I'm deeply in love with. Less of my rambling remember?

The overall dining experience was wonderful. Very good service, clean and trendy ambience, great food, just one little glitch - the restroom flooded. Luckily ink sack is just few stores down the street where all the guests can take a detour to mind their own businesses.

On top of individual dishes, ink also offers tasting menu for $85, $50 more if paired with wines.

For a party of six, we've decided to skip the tasting menu and ordered everything on the menu instead. Well..except the carrot.

Our waiter did warn us that it might be a daunting task due to large amount of food. Frankly speaking, we OC people rarely drive that far to dine in LA, especially with our ages hiking up, we just got lazier and lazier. So just bring it on! The more the merrier!

Cocktails, beers, non-alcoholic -

Spirits -

Old school specialties, new school sparkling, sakes -

*Cocktail - Pisco -

Pineapple, coconut water, falernum, lime.

See the large rectangular ice cube inside? I would love to order this drink again. Not overpowering and definitely refreshing.

Japanese whisky (on the left) -

Dinnerware -

Sparkling water -

Still water -

Wine -

Barnstable oysters $18 -

Burrata, bottarga, little gems, lemon dressing $14 -

Cuttlefish, green papaya, peanut-coconut cream, black lime $15 -

Shishito peppers, almond-bonito sand, tofu mustard $9 -

Hamachi, caesar dressing tempura, breakfast radish $18 -

Duck rillette, waffle, mustard, griddled pear, banyuis vinegar $14 -

Beef tartare, hearts of palm, sea beam chimichurri, horseradish, rye $15 -

La quercia berkshire ham, manchego biscuit, marcona almond butter $16 -

Pei mussels, sourdough sabayon, egg, mussel jus $12 -

Revealed -

*Corn porridge, miso, chanterelles, house-made doritos $10 -

Highly recommended!

*Potato charcoal, house-made sour cream, black vinegar $10 -

Highly recommended!

Basically you eat it just like baked potatoes. A spread of sour cream and spray some of that black vinegar to highlight the flavors -

*Brussels sprouts, pig ear, lardo, apple $13 -

Looks like fried gobo root at first sight. Goes very well with alcohol,
Highly recommended!

*Baja scallops, egg yolk gnocchi, mushroom hay $17 -

Highly recommended! Hands down my top three favorite gnocchi.

My round two beverage, house made hibiscus citrus flavored soda $4 -

Octopus, ink, shells, young fennel, pimenton $20 -

*Halibut, buckwheat noodles, tomato fumet, yuba $27 -

Highly recommended!

Poutine, chickpea fries, yogurt curds, lamb neck gravy $15 -

*Pork belly, charcoal oil, bbq flavor, petrified yams $24 -

Highly recommended!

Lamb shoulder, beets, vadouvan, yogurt $23 -

Beef short rib, carrots, tendon, horseradish tofu $28 -

Other view -

Sadly no more room for dessert..

Our bill came in an envelope -

Moment of truth -

About $100 per person, not bad at all considering we ordered food for sure can feed at least 8 people, perhaps 10. On top of that, we all got one or two beverages accompanying our meals. I suppose if you don't go as crazy as we do, you'll probably end up with around $60~$80 per person. With these amount of details and works that go into our food, I think ink is definitely worth to pay a visit with a few $20 bills.

8360 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90069
*Between North La Cienega Blvd and North Fairfax Ave

323-651-5866 (ink)
323-655-7225 (ink sack)

Twitter: mvinkla

Cindy's Rating: 8