…tasty bites to stimulate your taste buds..

To all my readers,

Vu and I have decided to start a new blog together, www.beyondsweetandsavory.com.  Please redirect your bookmark to the new page.

Hi everyone! I apologize for my long absence.  It has been a whirlwind since we came back from Chicago.  In June, my husband and I decided to expand our family, so we got a puppy. Our maltipoo, Betsy, has been an absolutely joy.  Potty training has been difficult and continues to be a challenge but we are getting the hang of it.  So is Betsy.  For all you pet parents out there, we understand your pain.  Then my residency ended in July, and it was time to start a new job!  We also moved to a new place.  Before we even had a chance to breathe, summer is over.  To celebrate the end of summer, I am whipping up a salad highlighting some of my favorite ingredients: scallops, mango, and avocado.  So simple, yet absolutely refreshing! If you love scallops, mango, and avocado, you are in for a treat!


3 cups mixed green salad
1 mango
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
9 sea scallops
Sea salt and pepper
½ cup of fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ cup of olive oil
Green onion for garnish


1. To make the vinaigrette, combine the orange juice and olive oil in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.

2. Cut the mango and avocado into ½ inch cubes.

3. Heat a grill pan and brush with a little olive oil.  Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. When very hot, place the scallops on the grill pan and cook for 2 minutes, then flip them over and cook for another minute until lightly golden.

4. In a bowl, toss the salad greens with the vinaigrette and put them on chilled plates.  Scatter the mango and avocado cubes among the greens.  Add the scallops to the plates and garnish with green onions and serve.

And of course, I could not resist sharing a picture of Betsy with you!

May has been the busiest month of my residency as I am wrapping up my research project.  After many hours of data crunching, presenting my research at Western States Conference in Monterey Bay, and celebrating with a trip to Chicago, I am excited to blog again and share with you my culinary adventure in Chicago.  We flew into Chicago last Friday and hit up The Purple Pig for dinner, located conveniently on the Magnificent Mile.  Recommended by a friend for its lively atmosphere and creative menu, we could not pass up the opportunity.  With a group of seven, we ordered practically everything on the menu.  I will tell you my 4 favorites of the night: Razor Clams with Oregano and Lemon & Olive Oil, Mussels with Pancetta and Crème Fraiche & Marjoram, Pork Blade Steak with ‘Nduja & Honey, and last but not least, Steak and Mushrooms.  The razor clams were grilled to perfection, flavorful, and left me wanting more even though my stomach was ready to explode.  The mussels, on the other had, were the best mussels I have ever tasted in my life.  They were tender, moist, and and delicious.  Who would have thought a restaurant specializing in pork would have such amazing mussels!  The pork blade was Vu’s favorite.  According to him, it was the best piece of grilled pork he has ever had in his life, and I concur.  The thickness was just right.  You can taste a hint of sweetness from the honey mixed in with the char.  The steak was seasoned perfectly and so juicy.  It beats David Burke’s Primehouse famous 55 day aged ribeye and Ruth’s Chris steakhouse in my book.  There were so many other amazing plates that we ordered but those four stood out the most.  The Purple Pig was my favorite restaurant from this trip, beating out L2O and David Burke’s Primehouse with regard to taste and price.  I would go back to this restaurant again and again.

Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese & Pistachio Vinaigrette

Charred Cauliflower, Toasted Breadcrumbs, Cornichons & Parsley

Asparagus & Hazelnuts with Arugula & Treviso

Octopus with Favette, Celery & Radishes

Purple Pig Platter

Pork Liver Pate

Eggplant Caponata with Goat Cheese

Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes

Mussels with Pancetta, Crème Fraiche & Marjoram

Razor Clams with Oregano, Lemon & Olive Oil

Pork Blade Steak with ‘Nduja & Honey

Steak and Mushrooms

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vu has been craving for chocolate chip cookies so I decided to take on the cookie challenge.  Let’s just say that cookies are not my forte.  When I was still in pharmacy school, I failed miserably trying to bake chocolate chip cookies for a potluck.  A classmate of mine, O, took a bite of my cookies and said he felt sorry for whoever would marry their creator.  Then he kept on going without realizing that I had heard the entire commentary.  When O was done, I quietly took ownership of those cookies.  All of our friends roared with laughter as O’s face turned beet red and he started apologizing profusely for his comments.  I laughed it off and admitted that I was not born a baker.  Ever since, I am still intimidated by cookies.  Today, I am using a bit of help from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home.  I altered the recipe a bit, using less butter and sugar to cut down on the calories.  They turned out quite delicious, one of the best chocolate chip cookies ever!  Quite moist and chewy! Too bad O is not around to taste them.


2 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, cut into small cubes
¾ cup of brown sugar
½ cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz of chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.

Add both sugars and beat until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time and then mix in the vanilla, scraping the bowl as necessary to blend everything.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.

Mix in the chocolate chip.

Use an ice cream scooper, take about 2 tablespoons per cookie and transfer the dough onto a baking sheet.  Leave about 2 inches between the dough because it will spread.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking to ensure even cooking. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes.  Enjoy them with a glass of milk.

Take a bite of this!

Inspired by an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay with a lobster mac and cheese challenge, I decided to test out my own recipe for dinner.  With Vu’s love of mac and cheese and my craving for lobster, it was a perfect combination.  I went the unconventional route and added mascarpone cheese to my recipe.  Yes, mascarpone cheese!  Who says you can only use mascarpone cheese for desserts!  The sauce was creamy and delightful!  The lobster meat was tender and sweet, elevating the dish to a new level.  I would proudly serve this dish at a dinner party.


1 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 lb lobster, should yield 1-1 ½ lb of meat
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 ½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cup half and half
2 bay leaves
1/2 yellow onion, cut into fourths
a pinch of nutmeg
1 cup of mascarpone cheese
a pinch of salt
a pinch of pepper
½ pound of Barilla medium shells conchiglie
½ cup of panko (Japanese bread crumb)
½ cup of butter
½ cup of shredded Gruyere cheese
Chives for garnish


In a large stockpot, add 1 cup of water, and steam the lobster for 5 minutes.  Let the lobster cool down before you separate the meat from the shell.  Cut the lobster meat into small pieces.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add in the garlic.  Sautee the lobster meat and season with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper for 5 minutes on medium heat.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.  In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the shell pasta until al dente, 6-8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

For the béchamel sauce, in a small saucepan, melt the butter on low heat and whisk in the flour, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, half and half, bay leaves, onion, and nutmeg and bring the mixture to a simmer over 10 minutes.  Strain and discard the solids.

Return the cream mixture to the sauce pan and gently stir in the mascarpone cheese until everything is well blended.  Whisk in the butter and flour mixture and continue cooking for 10 minutes on low heat.  Add in the pasta and lobster meat and season to taste.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter and stir to moisten evenly.

In a casserole dish or individual cocotte, add the pasta mixture, top with Gruyere and bread crumbs, then bake for 10 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and the cheese has completely melted.

Remove from the oven and let it cool.  Garnish with chives before serving.


I have been MIA from the blogging world for a while.  It feels good to be back!  Today, I am making brown sugar glazed pork spareribs, one of Vu’s favorite dishes.  This dish brings me back to my undergraduate days at UC Davis when I was living with two other girls, Kc and L.  We would cook together, then gathered around the dinner table and enjoyed our creations while chatting about classes, college drama, and everything in between.  Kc, one of my closest friends, showed me how to make this dish.  It is definitely one of the simpler Vietnamese dishes but incredibly delicious.  The meat falls off the bone with a hint of sweetness while your olfactory bulb picks up the scent of the sesame oil.  Every since Kc taught me how to make this dish, I have cooked it on a monthly basis, if not more often. I hope you find these pork spareribs as satisfying as I did.


1 lb pork spareribs
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp of brown sugar
Green onions for garnish


Cut the pork into bite size pieces and boil on medium high heat for 20 minutes to soften the meat and remove any excess fat.

In a frying pan, add the sesame oil and turn on medium high heat.  Add the strained pork pieces and let them brown for about 5 minutes.  Add in the fish sauce and let the meat cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and let the meat caramelize for 10 minutes taking care not to burn them.

When ready to serve, garnish with green onions and enjoy it with rice.

The French introduced coffee to Vietnam in the 19th century, and it has become an essential morning ritual of many Vietnamese.  Since then, you can find a coffee shop at every street corner in Saigon.  Early in the morning, men would fill up the coffee shops to get their morning fix before heading to work.  Some read their newspaper while other people enjoy coffee over a game of Chinese chess.  Today, coffee shops have become more modern, where young people can hang out and listen to the latest musicians.  Unlike my husband and mom, who are addicted to coffee, I like to drink mine on the weekend.  My favorite brand of coffe is Café Du Monde.  Using a metal filter, the coffee is extracted with hot water, slowly dripping until the last drop.  The sweetness of the condensed milk when mixed with the black coffee creates an unbelievable flavor.  I slowly sip it, savoring every drop.  If you are coffee lover, you will fall in love with Vietnamese coffee.


2 tbsps of coffee (Café Du Monde)
2 tbsps of condensed milk (Parrot)
½ cup of hot water
½ cup of ice


Pour the condensed milk in a cup.  Remove the filter’s top screen and fill with coffee.  Put the screen back on and turn until you feel a bit of resistance.  Pour the hot water into the filter and put the lid over the top.

Let the coffee drip for about 15 minutes.  When the dripping stops, mix the coffee and condensed milk together.

Let it cool before adding ice.

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