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Grocery stores

For day-to-day perishable items, I like to go to Whole Foods. I do go to Market District Giant Eagle too for more extensive selection and their weekly sale. Now that Aldi's is open a block from that Giant Eagle, I might start going there too, namely for the chocolate hazelnut spread.

I go to Bombay Mart (on Centre and Craig) every a couple of months for Brown Basmathi Rice (10lb ) and Frozen Paratha. They do have nice selection of Indian produce like curry leaves and fenugreek leaves.

On top of that, I do go to the Strip once or twice a month. I get my meat from Salem's; Flour Tortilla from Reyna; Ram Leaves & Wira Palm Sugar/Palm Candy from this Asian Store that only accepts cash ( I cannot think what it is called, Asian Market maybe?) . And Fresh tofu from Lotus, along with other items for Asian food.

So yeah, I go everywhere for groceries. Some people like Trader Joe's, but I'm not a big fan of prepackaged produce. Oh, if you're in Bloomfield, they do have nice Italian Grocery stores (one on Liberty and another one on the side street).

May 21, 2013
tsl_saga in Pennsylvania

food items that were NOT in your kitchen as a kid?!?

Chocolate Chips. We never had those growing up. Now, I never not have it, even when not making Chocolate Chip cookies. It's one of those items that can go into anything. Especially straight to my mouth and still justifying it as 'baking item'.

Another item that I never had growing up in a Malaysian household was mustards and horseradish. Also no curry paste, we only used curry powder back then.

Jul 03, 2012
tsl_saga in General Topics

Other than Nutella, do you have a favorite, "go-to" Chocolate-Hazelnut spread?

I used to live off Aldi's knock-off Nutella when I was in college. But I thought they stop selling those a few years back. At least at Aldi's around here.

Jun 19, 2012
tsl_saga in General Topics

Simple things you can't get right

I can never thicken any savory dishes with cornstarch. It's either still soupy or it would turn custardy (yuck). I have no idea why, I see other people do it easily, but it never worked for me.

Jan 13, 2012
tsl_saga in Home Cooking

The use of sugar in Asian dishes [moved from Manhattan board]

Growing up in Malaysia, I was told to balance between, sour (tamarind, usually), sweet (sugar or palm sugar), salty (salt or soy sauce) and hot (chilli pepper). At the same time, the dish should not be too sour, too sweet, too salty, or too hot. It was confusing, believe me; especially being 12 with no real recipes to refer to since everything was just to taste.

But, for most cooking I would sprinkle the sugar the way I would sprinkle the salt. That's how it's done with my family anyway. The only time, I've seen sugar is used in large quantity in Malay cooking is when making Sambal. Sugar is used to tone down the heat. I still haven't mastered making that, so I typically cheat by adding some tomato paste in toning down the heat. From trial and error, I learned that sometimes using less of something would take care of the flavor balance issue.

That said, the main complain I heard from my family when they come to the States is that everything is too sweet and not spicy enough.

Jan 12, 2012
tsl_saga in General Topics

Is it better to make it from scratch or buy it?

I try to make my own bread as much as possible, but on a lot of times I always end up buying them. I also always have store-bought paratha in my freezer. It's for the night I don't feel like cooking or if I have strong craving for bread in the middle of the night.

Other things I always buy include dairy products, jelly, nuttella, peanut butter, tom yum paste and condiments like mustard, mayonnaise, and Sambal Oelek.

I don't buy salad dressing though. One, because I'm not a big fan of salad. Two, because we would end up with 20 bottles of salad dressing in the fridge by year-end, and no one would eat it.

Jan 08, 2012
tsl_saga in General Topics

Is it better to make it from scratch or buy it?

When I was in college, my good friend bought me a crepe mix because she liked my crepes so much. I had to laugh when I got it. And when I looked at the instruction, it still required milk and eggs added to it. So, the Crepe mix was basically flour in a fancy box.

Jan 08, 2012
tsl_saga in General Topics

American food used globally--

I actually have no idea where I picked that up.

But you should see how "Pizza" are interpreted too. In Malaysia, those that I know, cannot imagine eating plain cheese pizza. For them the more toppings the better. I don't even think their Pizza Hut & Domino even sell plain Pizza. Also, on top of delivery, Pizza Hut is also set-up as a sit down restaurant with real plates and silverwares. That's actually how a lot of Malaysian are exposed to Pizza. They even have pizza with Satay Sauce as the base.

Also, other American Fast-Food chains actually have delivery services, not just Pizza Hut & Dominos. Even KFC & McDonald delivers. Too bad, their local businesses don't pick-up on that.

Dec 29, 2011
tsl_saga in General Topics

American food used globally--

In Malaysia, they have "Nasi Goreng USA" which literally means "USA (American) Fried Rice." It's a fried rice dish served with fried egg and fried hot dog franks.

Just like a lot of American just group some food as "Asian" without being specific to which country or origins; I've seen food categorized as "Western Food" when I was in Malaysia. It's just their interpretation of Western Food, be it American or European (French, Italian, British, etc). People everywhere are always fascinated of what other people are eating. Yummy...

Dec 29, 2011
tsl_saga in General Topics

What is your "go to" meal when there is too much month left at the end of the paycheque - past or present

When I was in college, I ate a lot of eggs, canned tuna, frozen veggies, pasta & rice. You can actually make a lot with these. For example, for the eggs alone, I could turn it into, scrambled eggs with toast, egg curries with rice, egg purgatory, fried egg on rice with some soy sauce (my comfort food), eggs with pasta, fritata, and omelet. Oh, I always just throw some frozen veggies in whatever I cooked.

After I graduated from college and got married, I was unemployed for more than a year. During this period my cooking skills sky rocketed by necessity. Since I was home all days, I learned to make a lot of stuff from scratch. Before that, I had never made cake or cookies from scratch, but during my "domestic engineering" days, I even made bread from scratch. I also learned to make other foods that I never even tried before like Stuffed Cabbage, Saag Paneer, Pierogies, and many more. For two of us, the monthly food budget back then was less than $160 so we really had to stretch out. We didn't go out at all, even McDonald seemed too expensive. It was a really really hard period of my life, and cooking was my solace.

Now, I have a job, but it doesn't mean we have a lot of money at our disposal. However, I don't have all the time in the world anymore. I embrace leftover now more than ever. For example if I were to make a pot of chicken soup, on day one, I would eat it with rice and some stir-fried veggies. On the second day, I would boil some pasta, and steamed some veggies to eat with the soup. On the third day, I would make some sandwich and maybe eat the soup as a side. On the fourth day, I would add tom-yum paste to make it taste differently and eat it with rice noodles, spinach, and other herbs. On the fifth day, when there is not so much soup left, I would try to thicken the soup with mashed potatoes or tomato paste and add more veggies to it and tossed some pasta to it and call it a dinner. I know, the idea of evolving leftovers used to make me gag, but now that's how I live. heh.

I also embrace lunch food for dinners. The way I think of it is, it is still cheaper for me to make the sandwich or wraps at home than to buy it at Subway, etc. And it doesn't take that long either to make it, so why not? One of our favorite is grilled cheese. If you're making at home, you can jazz it up however you want it. I usually use Muenster cheese, with pesto sauce spread on one side of the bread, and a layer of sliced tomatoes added in the between the cheeses with red pepper flakes sprinkled on top. yumm..

I rarely freeze ready-to-eat leftover because we have a fairly small fridge. Instead, I would freeze some cooked items like rice, broth, and sauces. I also have a lot of store-bought frozen veggies (spinach, peas, corn). With some preps, these could easily turn into any meal on any given days. My freezer is full of ready-to-cook, rather than ready-to-eat food. But with these "shortcut," cooking on a typical weekdays really doesn't take too long.

Dec 28, 2011
tsl_saga in General Topics

ALDI dutch oven can't be used in oven

That's a good idea to replace it with a metal knob.

Mine is not metal, but so far I don't have any issues. I usually used it in 350F-400F oven.

Dec 17, 2011
tsl_saga in Cookware

ALDI dutch oven can't be used in oven

I bought one from Aldi's a few years back. I've been using it with no issue in the oven. Mine said that the lid's knob could be used up to certain temperature (350, maybe?). It hasn't melted yet, so I guess I'm still good.

Dec 16, 2011
tsl_saga in Cookware

Good British Food - is there such a thing?

I've never been back to Great Britain since I was two. That said, my experience with British food has been entirely outside of the country. But I actually like all the so-called British food I've tried. I love pasties, rock cake, and baked beans to name a few. I really prefer the imported Heinz baked beans compared to local Bush's baked beans (too sweet!).

Dec 16, 2011
tsl_saga in General Topics

No oven/stove-top for a week... what can I cook??

Salad and sandwiches comes to mind. Those require no cooking. You can try Pan Bagnat which is like salad in a sandwich. I like the recipe from food 52.

You can also steam your veggies and squashes in microwave too. I even make steamed fish in microwave.

Dec 10, 2011
tsl_saga in Home Cooking

Vegetarian sausage?

I love making sausage gravy using Field Roast - Mexican Chipotle sausage. I also love them in pasta sauce. However, I only like vegetarian sausage crumbled. They texture is a little put of for me when trying to eat them as a whole.

Dec 10, 2011
tsl_saga in General Topics

Dinner guests who are chronically late and/or early...what to do?

It's all about having a good time, and enjoying good foods. Most of my friends tend to be late, and while waiting for them I usually have the time and to shower and nap. I also snacks on the appetizers before the guests arrived so I wouldn't be too hungry and too cranky when they got here. I try not to sweat over late comers. If some people already arrive first, I would serve them first. Then, if the really late comers decided to come while the rest are enjoying their dessert, I would let the late comer decides whether he/she wants to eat the main course or just skip to dessert. No pressure, just enjoy their company. Luckily, none of my late-comer friends were ever offended that I never waited for them to start the dinner.

I was so used to having people coming late, I was actually surprised that in our last dinner party with my husband's friends, all of them decided to be on time. That was the first time where I didn't get my nap. So I did yawned a bit that night, I hope they didn't think I thought they were boring. Oh well, it was a good dinner nonetheless.

Dec 04, 2011
tsl_saga in Not About Food

Adopting - or not - foreign eating customs in the US

I just think that most people don't share their meals at restaurant because their meals were prepared as single servings, so why would anyone wanna share their shares. On the other hand, foods like appetizers, pizza, and wings are prepared so that they can be shared, so people do share that among friends and family (not strangers though).

The only place that I know where strangers "share" dishes are at salad bars or buffet restaurants.

Oct 25, 2011
tsl_saga in Not About Food

Brunch in Pittsburgh

I love Paris66 for lunch, dinner, or just because.

Oct 23, 2011
tsl_saga in Pennsylvania

PGH Restaurant -Parents Weekend

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto is up on Mt. Washington, so you will get a nice to the city. To bring a freshman up here would be a nice change of view. The seafood is not bad, not that memorable either, but this being Pittsburgh and not exactly close to the sea, it's one of the best places to have seafood.

Edit: I just realized that there are two Monterey Bay restaurants, one on Mt Washington, another one in Monroeville. The one in Mt Washington is definitely closer and has a nicer view.

As for Soba, I have never been there. But it's in Shadyside, a neighborhood where young professionals & college kids tend to cluster. There are actually a lot of nice restaurants around that area too-- with nice mixture of ethnic food from Ethiopian to Pan Asian to French.

Oct 23, 2011
tsl_saga in Pennsylvania

I'm scared of...

I'm scared of Yorkshire Pudding. I am intrigued by it, but the whole really hot oils and lotsa smoke just push me away from trying it. I'm just scared that it would set the sprinkler off, and yes, one of the sprinkler is right above my stove.

Oct 03, 2011
tsl_saga in Home Cooking