Monday, December 17, 2007

Shuei- Do Manju Shop: San Jose, CA


Japantown in San Jose has always played a rather prominent role in my childhood. My parents own a laundromat which is practically around the corner from this community. Often times after school or on the weekends, my siblings and I would wander around Japantown and browse the gift shops, buy bento box lunches or treats at one of the several shops. One shop that I always fondly visited was Shuei-do Manju shop. Shuei-do was honored with having the priviledge of serving their manju to the Emperor of Japan on his last visit to the U.S. It is a quaint little shop with a lot of charm. They sell manju all year round and shaved ice during the warm summer months. The little old ladies are extremely helpful and can help arrange a box according to your taste or for that someone special if you are giving it as a gift. There is also complementary gift wrapping so don’t be shy to ask for it if you intend to give one of their lovely box of sweets as a gift.


Most of the manjus go for $1.10 /piece with a few going for more. I had been craving manju from this bakery for quite some time but my family doesn’t quite appreciate these subtle delicacies so I waited till my last day in town to bring back a box of 10 pieces to share with my guy. The ladies were helpful as usual with arranging a box they thought I would like and wrapped it with care. I was off on my way and in a few short hours I was in San Diego. I showed the box to Ernie but at first sight I don’t think he really thought he would enjoy it. However, like many things that I’ve introduced him to it only took the first taste to totally convert him. Instantly he became a lover and I had someone to share my love of manju with. Our favorite were the the pink mochi with smooth lima bean filling and the green one also filled with smooth lima bean and rolled in a thin layer of ground peanuts.

What isn’t to love about fresh manju? The mochi is so iresistably soft and tender. The bean filling is at just the right level of sweetness. There’s no preservatives! So you are just eatting honest to goodness manju meant to be eatten fresh and not left on the store shelves.

Shuei-Do Manju Shop
217 Jackson St.
San Jose, CA 95112
 Tu: 11am-5pm
W-Sa: 9am- 5pm

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hoffman's Bakery: Santa Cruz, CA

So my sister and I arrived home fairly early and decided to drive out to Santa Cruz to pick up my brother since it was only a 40 min drive South West on the 17. I also wanted to check out this bakery that my family has been raving about out there. So we drive out there and hit the usual commuter traffic since a fair amount of people do live off the 17 and drive to work in Silicon Valley. It turned out to be a longish drive and I was not a happy camper to arrive at my brother’s place which he shared with 2 spoiled brats. My brother is a pretty clean dude considering he is a second year and an only boy in my family. Oh geez but the one of the guys left this gargantuan 50 gallon sized hamper of dirty laundry behind for the holiday weekend and I really need not say more since I’m sure you all can imagine. I’m so glad I’m a girl and left dorm living behind 3 years ago.

I was oh so glad to be leaving his dorm to head to Downtown Santa Cruz. I had never walked around downtown even though I had attended numerous summer programs at UC Santa Cruz but I was instantly jealous. This was a pretty chic downtown area which serviced quite a few socio-economic classes other than the ultra wealthy like Del Mar and La Jolla seems to cater to. It was also quite accessible and parking was not outrageous like Downtown San Diego. I spotted a night market… Santa Cruz residents are truly spoiled. I would love it if there were an easily accessible regular night time farmers market where I live. Well we finally arrived at Hoffman’s and start to salivate as I usually do when I see lovely baked goods. We discovered that this is actually a German bakery and has been around for many years. There was that distinct bakery - yeasty smell that lingered in the air… quite common with well established bakeries. Quite a few patrons were dining in the general dining area that night and perusing the show case to see what sweet delectable they would delight in at the end of their meals. The woman that helped us was quite friendly and helpful with suggestions. We ended up walking out with a Princess torte, some German spice breads, a few single slices of their other signature tortes and a chocolate meringue. I only took a picture of the Princess Torte because it survived the devastation otherwise known as my baby sis the next morning.

I convinced my parents to save the cake for Thanksgiving dinner which was only the next day and we did. We had dinner at Little Fat Sheep in Fremont since the kitchen is still going through a major overhaul. Dinner was so good that my parents asked for to-go cups to take the soup home. However, the cake was the true star of the show that night. Everybody, the people siting around us and the waiters couldn’t help but keep on admiring how beautiful the cake looked. If only they knew that this cake tasted as great as it looks. I have never been a fan of marzipan, suppose its because I’ve only tasted store bought marzipan and the one that covers the princess torte is made in-house. The marzipan was soft and lightly flavored, the genoise was airy and fragrant with vanilla. Mmm… there was just a right amount of cream and raspberry jam filling.

If I ever end up having my wedding in the Bay Area I will probably order my cake from here. It was decently priced at $18 for a 6inch, tasted great and looked gorgeous.

1102 Pacific Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 420-0135
M-F: 8am- 9pm
Sa-Su: 8am-2pm, 5pm-10pm

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pho 909: Milpitas, CA

There are a minuscule number of Vietnamese restaurants in San Diego compared to San Jose/the Bay Area. I just wanted to point out a peculiar thing… many Vietnamese restaurants up there like to incorporate numbers into their name such as the place I visited, Pho 909.

Anyways, I’m such Vietnamese food nut. Growing up at home I ate A LOT of home cooked Vietnamese food so I was sorely disappointed by the what was available in San Diego when I came down for school. There are two particular dishes that I really love and brings back found memories of childhood on lazy weekended when my mom would prepare feasts to eat the day away. One of these is the beloved bahn xeo.
My mom does some home care of elderly folks as a side job and one of her clients raved about this pho house that nobody goes to for the pho but for the bahn xeo and it turned out she instantly loved it too. You’ll find that since there are so many Vietnamese restaurants in the Bay Area that several places tend to develop a specialty and often patrons will only come for that even though there may be several other items on the menu.
On my last trip back to visit the family for Thanksgiving, my parents took me and and one of my sisters for lunch to try the yummy bahn xeo. They made it so perfectly! The crepe wasn’t too oily and was very crispy and the meat wasn’t cooked into the crepe so it wasn’t dried out. There was a pretty fair proportion of meat to bean sprouts. The mung beans still looked like mung beans and not some ground up paste. All the accompanying herbs and veggies were quite fresh and the dipping sauce tasted just right - not too fishy, salty, garlicky etc. A filling meal for $6.90!

I can see why one would come to this place for the bahn xeo alone. Making bahn xeo is such a labor of love because of the way the mung beans are traditionally prepared and also because of the dipping sauce. The beans should be soaked overnight and steamed so that they’ll be soft but still keep their original shape. Many restaurants will take a short cut on this as it is very time consuming considering the end product and just soak for a little while followed by boiling it down till it is a paste. I suppose that is why I really appreciate and fall into a childlike giddiness when I eat a scrumptious one.
Pho 909
72 South Park Victoria
Milpitas CA

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