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One of the most inspirational people in my mind once said, “you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”

Too Long ; Didn’t Read: I’m providing context to this project because I need you to know that I wasn’t always curious about cooking, and I never paid attention. BUT I started to read more, write down recipes, and forc—encourage my mom to cook, to let me watch and to tell me measurements (because AZN moms/gmas don’t do that, ever). It’s never too late and it’s scary but JUST DO IT, OK? It will be worth it.
(Scroll down if you’d like to get to the recipe.)

Both sides of my family love food. They love eating food, and more importantly, they love cooking food (especially my mom + aunts). I have a lot of memories of my grandma pounding pork with a mortar and pestle to make ruoc, my brother shaping banh bao (with photo evidence somewhere), and big crawfish boils (or is it broils, tell me guys!!!). But honestly, I never paid attention. Step-by-step visuals are vague, but I can tell you exactly how certain dishes should taste (or not taste). I know what pho should taste like or thit kho or mi xao don…but I can’t tell you exactly how to make it. Are you still with me? 

So, the time is college, the place is Austin, Texas — as an Asian American kid, I think when you’re away from your mom’s cooking and Asian food…you develop withdrawals. I wanted some com bo luc lac (aka shaking beef), some pho ap chao (pan fried rice noodle with veg and protein), some banh mi thit nuong…but I had never made it by myself. Of course buying/going out was an option, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Fast forward to present time, the place is San Antonio, Texas. I’ve thankfully had a handful (or two) of people who have encouraged me, inspired me to learn how to cook Vietnamese food…including/especially my mom. My stomach inspires me. Strangers’ comments about how much they love Viet food inspires me. Seeing and eating Viet food inspires me. I hope it inspires you, especially my AZN friends out there. We’re missing out on so much when we walk away from the kitchen while our parents are cooking. Like I mentioned above, you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal and I believe that includes the preparation of the meal.

If you’re reached this part of my post, thanks for sticking around.

Enter “Project Nam Noms,” the beginning of posts like stories from growing up as a Vietnamese American kid, my mom’s voodoo and ultimately recipes that I’ve tried/tested out/loved/maybe hated.

There are a lot of recipes I wanted to start with, but I’m basing this purely on the fact that I have a picture of it. I made this for the first time…a little over a year ago. It’s easy, balanced and a crowd-pleaser. You’ve definitely seen this on a Vietnamese Restaurant menu and I’m picky about how it tastes.

vietnamese shaking beef com bo luc lac

Recipe: Com Bo Luc Lac (AKA Shaking Beef)

Adapted from The Ravenous Couple (which is a GREAT food blog btw!!)

Feeds: 2 people generously, but 4 people realistically
Prep Time: 1 to 2 hours (including marinade time)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Family style meal, but what Vietnamese dish isn’t?

Note: Please bear with my recipe writing skills…I try to be as thorough as possible but it’s friggin’ hard!

Main Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs beef sirloin (or skirt steak), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small to medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of watercress, keep stems but cut into bite size
  • 2 tomatoes, halved & thinly sliced
  • Cooked white rice

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic (Note: I guess and use 2 to 3 cloves)
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (Note: the Red Boat brand is pretty solid, but I grew up with squid one. AZN FRIENDS: tell me what you use!!)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp thick soy sauce
    • To make thick soy sauce (which is essentially a sweet, thick soy sauce and great for many things such as fried rice):
      ¼ cup of water, 1 cup of dark brown sugar, ½ cup of soy sauce
      Bring water to a boil, add your ingredients and stir. Then, stop stirring completely — cook on medium to low heat. Watch it bubble until it gets dark and thick. Then, you done!

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
  • ½ tbsp salt

Dipping Sauce(s):
Option 1: Juice of lime, ½ tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp fresh cracked pepper
Option 2 (my personal preference): Leftover vinaigrette in a dipping sauce dish + cracked pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare by combining your marinade ingredients – garlic, sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, thick soy sauce with beef.
  2. Let marinate for ½ hour to 2 hours.
  3. Prepare quick red onion pickle for salad — thinly slice red onion and 3 to 4 tbsp of vinaigrette, set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Cook rice. I advise you to get a rice cooker.
  5. Prepare your bed of salad — watercress, thinly sliced tomatoes (red onion pickle comes in later) — on a serving platter.
  6. IT’S GONNA GET SMOKY. Heat your pan (we use a large cast iron) over high heat. Add 2 tbsp of cooking oil and when it begins to smoke (KEY: IT’S HOT), add an even layer of beef — allow to sear for ~2 minutes before “shaking” or turning/flipping to cook the other sides. This may take an additional 1 to 2 minutes, it goes pretty fast. Do this in batches if necessary, overcrowding is a no-no.
  7. Transfer beef to bed your salad of watercress and tomatoes. Drizzle 3 to 4 tbsp of your vinaigrette and add your pickled red onions!
  8. Lastly, make your dipping sauce of choice.
  9. La table: serving platter + bowl of rice + dipping sauce = voilà!
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haymaker austin texas

Day-drinking @ Haymaker with the bestie

I’m going to say it: I do Austin day trips pretty well. I’ve only taken one, but…
If there was an award for “Best Austin Day Tripper,” I’m 100% a nominee.
I lived in Austin for 4 years and if I learned anything: Austin knows how to do Austin best.

If I were to write in an application that further detailed my day trip, it would go something like this:

Day-Tripping in Austin, TX 101:

  1. Head to Pieous for lunch. You’ll never go wrong with a pizza and a plate-sized cookie. Why am I even telling you guys, this place is the best and I don’t want it to get huge and have to wait 3 hours for bbq–I mean pizza. No, I’m okay with sharing this gem with you guys because I want other people to support them like I do.
  2. Go down 2nd St. District for a specific shopping mission. Don’t go to dilly-dally, that’s dumb. Our shopping mission? Flash Tattoos. I planted the seed for the tattoos and before we knew it, we weren’t going to walk away until we found some. We went to Luxe, Hemline, Langford Market, UO, Toy Joy– we came up empty, but we made a commitment and were going to stick to it. Finally, we found some at maya* (bless maya*).
    Sidebar: by this time, I was DYING at the fact at how much I missed this dumb city.
  3. Get caffeinated with LOCAL coffee. You can’t miss this opportunity and if you go to a Starbucks, you’re going to have to give me a damn good reason as to why you went. Caroline is a Starbucks Gold Member…and I made her go local. This time, we headed to Jo’s on 2nd St. because we were in the neighborhood.
    Fact: They now roast Stumptown (and not Cuvée *tear* both are great roasters though)!
  4. Day-drink. Since it was a Tuesday, Haymaker had $3 Texas Pints and Texas Liquor. This included ABW Pearlsnap and I was a happy girl. More missing, more nostalgia, more pints. Haymaker is in a good neighborhood, has a good crew, and good design.
  5. Go to a show…we are the World’s Music Capital after all. This time around, I didn’t come for a music show. I came for the No Filter Show ft. Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart, & Grace Helbig (+ Chester See). If you don’t watch YouTube, you’re missing out. If you do, well…bless you. It was a fantastic show. If you have an inkling to go, take your YT-watching best friend and go.
  6. NEXT MORNING: Have breakfast. At Cherrywood Coffeehouse. Breakfast is the best and spending time with friends is cool too. Cherrywood Coffeehouse allows you to have both.

And there you have it, my day in Austin. Holy guacamole, I’ve missed this place. I had to blog about it, because who knows when I’ll be back? (Spoiler alert: next week and hopefully forever [again].)

Now that I’ve told you all my secrets, the least you could do is Follow me on this blog, right? Share your favorite place in your city? This is my call-to-action, I’m not very good at it. BUT WORKING ON IT.

 

#NoFilterShow, get yourselves educated.

#NoFilterShow, get yourselves educated. They are my heroes.

Today in the Camp Damata agenda: Adventure Time.

breakfast burrito thutexas

Bacon Breakfast Burrito from Taco Rey, YUM.

balboa park

Balboa Park. Yeah. That’s real.

MOPA thuexas

Ansel Adams is pretty cool

thutexas coffee and tea collective

Drink Cold Brew at Coffee & Tea Collective

thutexas acai bowl

Swami Cafe’s Acai Bowl (to-go) in La Mesa. Nix the bee pollen- it’s too green.

I turned into the girl that takes selfies in front of public parks. Yeah, sometimes I’m too scared to ask other people to take a photo of me…but I know I’ll get over it because I’ve got a long way to go on this trip. I’m also that girl who takes voluntarily takes surveys in a park to help a research assistant. I’ve been in his shoes, it’s not fun. You have to help out people, you know?

Okay. I’m trying to make this brief, but I may or may not go back and add in the details. I get it now, travel bloggers. I get it when people travel and say they don’t have time to blog. Sometimes I feel like blogging gets in the way just like how I feel that taking photos can get in the way.

And here’s something: I miss Texas. No, I actually just miss Austin. A lot. Like more than I thought I ever would. A lot of the things I see around here are very different from Texas, even down to the trees (I’ll have to include a picture of those “bizarre-looking” trees later). I love being here, I love San Diego, but I know it- I love Austin, Texas. Or maybe I’m just scared and wanting the comfortable and familiar (San Diego also has a lot of highways). Why am I having these deep thoughts at 11PM? Oh yeah, that’s just me on the reg. Until tomorrow, I leave you with this: we talked a lot about barf today.*

*Because I feel like I have to leave this post on a light note.
Not pictured: Sushi dinner, post-card writing, couch-lounging, and girl talk.

thutexas collage

Today was good. Look at that spread.
Yowza. And yeah, I’m gonna leave this in two days…I’m okay with it (because it’s not like this every day).
But not everyday is sunshine and rainbows right?

But again, today was good. I actually “networked” successfully today. Not to say that anything is guaranteed, but you know- have hope and such. Good food, good hangs- I can’t for more than that. #blessed (Do y’all hate it when people hashtag that?) I really do feel that way, especially today. I should feel that way more often, huh? And I probably shouldn’t penalize people for their #blessed days, hmm?

Two more days…and then Thu Goes West.

Speed-reading. It’s an interesting concept…not really, but it’s relative, right?

I could read at a much slower pace than you, vice versa.
What I can say (with pride) is that I’m about 80% done with The Fault In Our Stars and I started reading Monday.
Did I cry this time? Not externally, but every line destroyed me as much as it did the first time, internally.

This could be a pre-mature book review, but I’ve read it once before.
It’s heart-breaking.
It’s riddled with profanity (okay, not really but I wanted to use that word, profanity is used sparingly and appropriately.)
It’s written with such cleverness and eloquence.
John Green- I love the way you write. And I think it goes without saying, you’re definitely not Peter Van Houten. Or are you? I’ve never met you and like Hazel, I could be completely surprised by who you are as a real person. But then again, Vlogbrothers.
This book is not for everyone. I say this because as a sensitive person, it broke me…but in the best way. If you’re not ready for it, the feels might just come and punch you in the face.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely, without a doubt, yes.

What a slut time is. She screws everybody.

Boom. Did that just shake you? If you don’t know, it’s a quote from the book. When I read that (and several lines before), I was sold. I cannot wait for the film to come out this Friday. HOWEVER, I’m afraid I screwed myself over because if I see it on Friday- I KNOW I’m going to be harsh and critical of the film. But, if John Green likes it, I will give it the benefit of the doubt. Not to mention, the film harnessed some pretty great artists for the soundtrack. If Joel P West wrote the score though…woof. Have y’all heard of Joel P West? Educate yourself.

Today I went to the grocery store for the first time since I’ve been home. I bought: brie, coffee filters, ice cream, chocolate almond milk, and HEB BBQ Ripples. It’s how one survives their stay at home. I’m praying that mom will pay for it. It’s food, which is part of the packaged deal of “living at home” right?