Jan 28, 2015

Quick Bite (and Pretty) Recipe - Grilled Pear and Mozzarella Balls Crostini

This quick bite recipe can be served as an afternoon treat or party finger food. You can substitute the pear with peach if desired. 


  • 1 good quality fig bread
  • 1 pack of mini mozzarella balls
  • 1 pear
  • Small bundle of fresh mint
  • Some balsamic vinegar


Slice the fig bread into about 1/2 inch thickness and transfer to a baking sheet. Toast the bread in the oven with medium high heat till slightly crunchy on the edges.

When biting into the bread, the fig seeds have that crystallized sugar texture with condensed fruity sweetness, which matches perfectly with mint. 

Peel and slice the pear. Lay them onto a grill and sear both sides till you get that pretty grill marks -

Arrange one grilled pear slice on each bread slice. Add 2 to 3 mini mozzarella balls and drizzle some balsamic vinegar. Lastly, garnish with some fresh mint leaves.

Fig bread is hard to come by especially during off seasons. You can always buy them when available and store in the freezer. Wrap the bread with couple layers of cling foil and put into a Ziploc bag. The bread can be stored in the freezer away from raw stuff for a while. Just heat it up with medium temperature in the oven before serving, no defrosting needed.

Jan 21, 2015

Decent, Clean, and Friendly Neighborhood Restaurant - Sabroso! Mexican Grill

I had no idea that Sabroso was featured on Food Networks Diners Drive-Ins and Drives until finishing the meal and seeing this signed picture on the wall -

The show was premiered on July 11th, 2014 with the host Guy Fieri cruising down southern California. Well, I was already happy with the service and decent food even without the celebrity halo. The TV show only further proved that Sabroso was indeed a nice neighborhood joint whenever you feel like some Mexican grill dishes.

A typical exterior for a simple SoCal restaurant sitting inside the plaza -

Clean and bright settings -

Happy hours available Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. -

Other alcoholic beverages -

Sabroso opens at 9 on Saturdays and Sundays, so if you are a huevos rancheros or breakfast burrito lover, here's a pretty decent place to start out the weekend -

Click on the image for an enlarged view -

Couldn't quite guessed some of the Spanish words, but our waitress was very friendly and answered all my questions with a bright smile on her face.

Mexican beer Modelo Especial $3.95 -

Light and slightly tangy, a good choice to accompany the day time meal.

Compliment salsa and chips -

The green colored salsa is the mild one. The red salsa on the other hand, is the devil kind carrying some heat. In fact, it has an aftertaste similar to Chinese spicy hot pot, pretty interesting.

Menudo soup, served with either fried taquitos or handmade tortillas $8.95 -

Think beef stock with a touch of Mexican flare. The flavors are not as strong and spicy as expected, not a bad thing though. 

The freshly chopped onion brightens up the flavor -

Sabroso also uses hominy in their menudo soup (basically dried maize kernels) -

Picked fried taquitos for the soup, but personally I love to eat it with salsa instead -

House specialty comes with salad, handmade tortillas, rice, and beans (black or Peruano). You can choose one of the following dressings for the salad: ranch, Caesar, balsamic, thousand island, Italian. Decided to go with Italian -

House specialty: pork chile Colorado $10.95 -

You can choose between smoky red sauce or the much milder and slightly tangy verde option. 

Tender pork with all the seasonings absorbed within the meat. I'm usually not a big fan of black beans because sometimes it gets a floury and mushy texture, but not for Sabroso. I think 1/3 of the beans went down to my tummy, might sound little but that's a milestone for me.

Antojitos with enchiladas, tinga (shredded chicken), no beans but doubled the rice, both red and verde sauce $8.95 -

See, never a big fan of beans so I got double rice instead, also asked for extra salsa to pour all over the rice. 

The food here is decent. You won't find the hardcore local stuff at Sabroso, but similar flavors are definitely there. The nice staff and clean environment are pluses for this place. I would love to revisit over and over again if Sabroso is close to home or work - a good neighborhood Mexican grill restaurant. 

Cindy's Rating: 6 (leaning towards 7 because of its wonderful staff)

Sabroso! Mexican Grill
13129 Harbor Blvd,
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 537-7080

Business Hours: 
Mon to Thurs 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. - 9 a.m.

Jan 14, 2015

A Totally Doable Fancy Appetizer - Scallops Sashimi with Kumquat Juice, Shiso, and Fleur De Sel

Fancy but easy sushi-like appetizer to jazz up the night.

Scallops sashimi with kumquat juice, shiso, and fleur de sel - 


  • 2 big sashimi grade scallops
  • 1 shiso leaf
  • 2 kumquats
  • 1 tablespoon of ikura
  • Some grade seed oil
  • Small pinch of fleur de sel or other good quality sea salt


Carefully halve the scallop so its round shape still holds. Thinly slice the scallop halves again. So for each big scallop, you'll get 4 thinly sliced scallops. Roll up the shiso leaf and finely chop it.

Plate the scallop slices, if the shape slightly falls apart, just gently push them back to round shape position.

Drizzle a little bit of grape seed oil and squeeze 2 kumquats throughout. Evenly arrange the ikura around the scallops and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Finish plating with some finely chopped shiso.

You can slice the scallops and finely chop the shiso leaves ahead of time and store them in the fridge. Just assemble the remaining ingredients right before serving. Its refreshing and light taste can wake up the palate and smoothly lead to the heavier entree selections. Take it up a notch? Try serving this dish with a glass of brut champagne or trocken riesling.

Other fancy appetizer recipe:

Jan 8, 2015

Kimchi and Shirasu Fried Rice with a Hint of Shiso, and Of Course the Sinful Egg Yolk

Earlier last week I was making a sashimi appetizer and got a small pack of Japanese shiso leaves, which usually comes in 6 to 10 leaves. These leaves carry a distinct and almost perfume-like scent. Therefore, using one or two leaves usually go a long way for a simple dish. But what to do with the remaining leafy greens? 

You can use shiso as a wrap for barbecued meat, mix in onigiri (Japanese rice ball), and even add to creamy salmon spaghetti. However, this time, I'm going to pair the fragrant plant with one other pungent veggie - Korean napa cabbage kimchi. As expected, these two strong flavors actually complement each other quite well. You get that spicy kick at first bite but soon follow aromatic scent from the shiso leaves. Don't even mention the sinful sensation from the runny egg yolk.

Kimchi and shirasu fried rice with a hint of shiso -

Ingredients (for 3 to 4 portions)?

  • 2 1/2 cups of steamed white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups of napa cabbage kimchi
  • 1 1/2 cups of shirasu
  • 3 to 4 eggs
  • 8 shiso leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 to 4 red chilies
  • 1 string of scallion
  • 1 tablespoons of toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • Some olive oil
  • Few dashes of sesame oil


Freshly made or leftover steamed white rice are both fine for this recipe. I prefer using freshly steamed rice because it's easier to mix with the fried rice ingredients. Just remember to use less water when cooking the rice if intended to use it for fried rice right away. Otherwise too much liquid might left you with a smooshy mess in the end. 

Cut the scallion into thin strips diagonally, as thin and long as you can. Soak in icy cold water till they curl up then drain well. Pat dry and set aside for later use. 

Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Roll up the shiso leaves and finely chop them. Discard the chili stems and finely chop the remaining. Chop the kimchi into bite size pieces.

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and turn to medium heat, add in chopped garlic. Cool till the aroma comes out but not burning the garlic, quickly add in the kimchi and chilies, cook for about 1 minute.

Turn to medium high heat. Add in shirasu and give it a quick stir. Pour in soy sauce from the sides of the pan, so the direct heat can further release the soy sauce aroma. Also add in the fish sauce. Cook for another minute.

Add the shiso and toasted white sesame seeds, mix with all the ingredients. Blend in the rice in two batches. Make sure no lumps or white grains present before plating. 

Use a non-stick pan, drizzle enough olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Turn to medium high heat. Wait till the oil gets hotter then break in one egg. Try to make a sunny side up egg with the yolk still runny in the center. Transfer the egg on top of the fried rice and serve with curled scallion strings. 

You can substitute shirasu with small pieces of chicken or fatty pork, both giving you comforting result. 

Other fried rice recipes:

Jan 2, 2015

Discover the Benefit of Buying Whole Shrimp - Lemony Shrimp Risotto Using Homemade Shrimp Stock

It's convenient and hassle free when buying already peeled and deveined shrimp from the grocery store. However, the shells are not just merely rubbish. When used properly, they can enhance the flavor of your seafood dishes, doesn't matter western or Asian cuisine. 

Keep reading this recipe below, you'll see how I store and utilize the shrimp heads. Perhaps you can give it a try next time. Instead of buying prepared seafood, maybe pick up some fresh whole shrimp at the market in the future.

Lemony shrimp risotto with homemade shrimp stock -

Ingredients (for 2 to 3 portions)?

  • 1 cup of Acquerello, Arborio, or other high starch white rice
  • 3 cups of homemade shrimp stock
  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 12 shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • Some grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Some parsley (optional) 

Shrimp stock:

  • 20 shrimp heads
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 big carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 7 cups of water


When I buy whole shrimp, if not cooking them with shells intact, I'd like to peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp then store in the freezer for future use. Most of the times the shells are discarded but the heads are kept for making stock. Just be sure to use a scissor and cut away the pointy thing sticking out the head called "rostrum." Even though the shrimp are dead, but their body armor remains feisty. 

Let's start with the stock, which can be made ahead and stored in the freezer up to one month.

Drizzle some olive oil to a big non-stick pot and add in peeled, cubed onion along with some salt. Turn to medium high heat and cook till the onion turns translucent.

Peel and chop the carrot into large cubes, also chop the celery into same sized pieces. Toss both into the pot and give it a quick stir, cook about 2 minutes. 

Add in defrosted shrimp heads and crush them with a spatula, so the flavors can get released more easily to the stock. 

Pour in 7 cups of water, bring to a boil then keep it at a slight simmer for about one hour. Skim off the foam floating on the surface during the process. In the end, the liquid should be reduced by at least half, leaving you condensed and aromatic stock. Drain and even sift the stock if needed. Cool down before storing in the freezer. 

As for the risotto, peel and chop half of the onion into small cubes. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a nonstick pot and turn to medium high heat. Add in cubed onion along with 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Give it a quick stir and cook till the onion turns translucent. 

Add in about a dozen peeled and deveined shrimp and cook till half way through. Scoop it out and set aside for later use.

In the same pot, add in 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Once it melts a little, pour in one cup of rice and stir gently, make sure every grain has been coated with butter. About one minute.

Pour in 1 cup of shrimp stock and 1/3 cup of white wine. Cook till the liquid has almost been absorbed by the rice then add in a few ladles of stock again. The key here is to add in the liquid a little bit at a time instead of pouring everything into the pot all at once. Check the texture of the grains towards the end, cook till your preferred consistency. However, the recipe here yields al dente textured rice.

Zest and juice one lemon. Add both to the pot when the risotto is almost ready. Mix well and pour the previously stir fried shrimp back to the pot. Quick stir and turn off the heat, the shrimp should be just cooked through when the risotto is ready to serve.

Plate the risotto and grate some Parmigiano Reggiano all over for extra savory flavor. Garnish with finely chopped parsley if desired. 

On a side note, Riesling kabinett pairs well with lemony shrimp risotto in case you want to dress up this semi-fancy meal.