Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hot Pot Sauce Recipes

Let's make some sauces for the hot pot dinner. Sauce is essential to the meal. What would you want it to taste? Spicy, Savory. Sweet. Mild. You name it. I collected these simple recipes from few websites in China and translated to English especially made for the Chinatown Crawl UYE at 75 BBQ & Hot Pot Buffet.

These are just for looks. 2 out of 5 sauces are below my expectations.

Look at the sauce bar first. These are on the line for you to choose from. But you must know how they taste first. Here are the hints.

Left side of sauce bar

  • Shrimp flavored chips - not sauce, just snacks
  • Soy bean paste - deep fermented beans base
  • Oyster sauce - sweet savory
  • Seafood sauce - sweet savory
  • Soy sauce - salty liquid
  • Chili pepper - spicy condiment
  • Crushed peanuts - nutty condiment
  • Cilantro - savory condiment
  • Cumin - savory condiment
  • Chopped green onions - savory condiment
  • Sesame - savory condiment
  • Fermented bean curd - light salty base
Right side of sauce bar
  • Sesame oil - fragrant oil
  • Leek flower - salty condiment
  • Garlic - savory condiment
  • Sesame sauce - thick base
  • Spicy sauce - spicy base
  • Shacha sauce - savory sweet base (has fish)
  • Chili Oil - spicy oil
  • Korean BBQ sauce - sweet salty sauce
  • Dry seasoning - for BBQ as dry rub
  • Peanut butter sauce - sweet thick base
  • Sugar - good with everything
  • Fish sauce - use sparingly, very salty

Bottles on the side:
  • MSG - flavor enhancer could cause headache
  • Salt, Vinegar
  • Prickly ash oil - numbing sensation like mala Sichuan condiment
  • Sriracha hot sauce - spicy condiment
  • American BBQ sauces

Try these 9 Simple Recipes:

Sweet Based - This is a combination of sweet and mild sauces.
Sesame oil, hoisin sauce, toasted peppers, cilantro, sugar, sesame seeds

Spicy Mouth - All peppers can give you great spicy taste in the mouth. It might give you tearing eyes.
Hot oil, prickly ash oil, ground pepper, toasted pepper, cilantro, green onions.

Hot Pot Basic - This is for hot pot rookies. You can adjust saltiness with salt.
Oyster sauce, toasted peppers, oil, minced garlic, green onions, sesame seeds.

Mildly Spiced - It has no soy sauce and no salt. Perfect for folks don't like heavily sauces but loves spiciness.
Hot sauce, minced garlic, crushed peanuts, cilantro

Seafood Special - This mixture can lift savory and freshness. Good with seafood variety.
Peanut paste, hoisin sauce, minced garlic, dried shrimps, crushed peanuts, cilantro

Northern Style - Focus on spicy hot. This mixture is perfect for vegetables and meat eaters.
Sesame sauce, hot sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, green onion, minced ginger

Southern Style - It has resemblance of bean sauce for dry noodles. It can be the seasoning for cellophane noodles.
Shacha sauce, minced preserved vegetables, minced garlic, sweet bean paste

Sweet Hot Flavor - Combine sweet, spicy and savory to compliment red meats.
Sesame sauce, chili bean paste, beef paste, sesame oil, sugar, crushed peanuts.

Fermented Tofu Flavor - Combine sweet, salty and spicy flavors to compliment with seafood.
Sesame sauce, fermented tofu sauce, cilantro, red chili oil.

Watch the Sauce Bar Instruction video on YouTube

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Let's Eat Hot Pot

Let me explain hot pot in one sentence. Hot pot is a traditional meal with a group of people seating at a table equipped with a bowl of boiling soup.
I started my hot pot UYE since last Winter Olympic Games.
It's not difficult to prepare. But it can be humbug to shop and expensive to make it at home. Thanks to 75 BBQ & Hot Pot Buffet in Houston Chinatown. They made it easier for people like you and me to indulge a feast without costing a fortune.

When you arrive at my Year of the Dog UYE @ 75+85 ChinatownCrawl Sequel, let me find your table. Tell wait staff what you would like to drink and proceed to the buffet line. If this is your first time to this restaurant, be sure to watch the videos on the items at the buffet line and sauce bar

Sauce Bar
It can be crowded when everyone is at the buffet line. You can start with a bowl to mix your dipping sauce at the sauce bar. There will be some prepared sauce recipes at the event. Watch a video on YouTube

Hot Pot Experience
This is a communal eating. Work with folks sitting at your table. During the first round, you can have everyone pick up different ingredients: vegetables, seafood and sliced lamb or beef at the first cooler. To eat the food you selected, first throw vegetables into the soup. Then, use tong to put meats into the soup. It only takes 5 seconds to cook. Use strainer ladle to fish them out and dunk into your sauce bowl.
Regular broth is made of pork bones and herbs

For those guests don't eat pork, drop a couple of snow crabs into the specially prepared vegetarian broth before your first trip to buffet line. Crabs will enhance flavor to the vegetables. Don't attempt to eat crab legs without cooking. Because it can be saltier than usual.
Grilling takes time
BBQ Experience
You'll notice there is grill at the table. You get to cook on top of smokeless paper. You put meats on the grill while eating hot pot. By the time you are done with your first round, grilled meat will be ready. You can find seafood and marinated meats in the middle of buffet line; as well as sliced beef or pork at the 2nd cooler.
Most tables are for 4 or 6 people 
Because it's a communal meal, please be courteous to others by using communal utensils. There are soup ladles, strainer ladles, tongs and scissors at each table. It's not recommended to dip your chopsticks into the boiling soup or touch grilling meats.

Please check-in, post photos/videos and write a review at the biz page on Yelp and/or Facebook. If you post your photos or videos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, please use hashtag #ChinatownCrawl. For future Chinatown Crawl events, please follow my Google+ community page.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My favorites of 2017

I have my favorites in 2017. I divided them into different categories.

Outside of Chinatown
Favorite Asian Restaurant - Pho Hoa Noodle Soup & Jazen Tea
Favorite Non-Asian Restaurant  - Gumbo Jeaux's Northwest
Favorite Grocery Store - Trader Joe's Westchase
Favorite Bakery - EatWell Bakery Cafe

Inside of Chinatown
Favorite Asian Restaurant - 75 BBQ & Hot Pot Buffet
Favorite Non-Asian Restaurant - Tamales Dona Tere
Favorite Grocery Store - Great Wall Supermarket
Favorite Bakery - Olympics Chinese Bakery

Year in Review 2017

2017 was a thrilling year for me. I spent a lot of time on taking better photos and sharing more with the communities. Not just Yelp, I also Google a lot. 

Funky YES!

  • Completed 111 reviews in 2017
  • Updated 14 reviews in 2017
  • Uploaded total of 8025 media files (7549 photos & 476 videos) since the day I started Yelping, March 2011.  
  • As of December 30th, I had 6 Baronies. Somehow, it's no longer visible in 2018 (Android).

I could never broke my record of 300 reviews from 2016. Due to reviews disappearance, I've included a counter at the end of each review. I also saved the direct link to each published review with my archive. This process was extremely time consuming. I completed my 111 reviews in 2017. You can only see 110 reviews because 13th review was removed. Here is my story
As of January 2, 2018, before I added more stuff.

As for Google, I joined Local Guides sometime last year. I am currently Level 8.
Just Google. Nothing special about it.
  • I have surpassed 15,000,000 views on my 2,887 photos/videos in 678 places.
  • Reviewed 474 places, which contain more than 200 characters in 186 reviews. 
  • Received 85 helpful votes. 

Nothing spectacular about Google. There is no standard no quality like Yelp, no community manager no meetup and everyone can be anything as bad it can be. Therefore, I don't plan to be as active with Google in 2018. I will just maintain what I have.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Save Now Save Later - Kohl's

This is my 3rd of several blogs on merchants that offer cash back. I would buy certain items at Kohl's, Targets Stores, Amazon or elsewhere, only if I can get a bigger return based on their rewards program.

Kohl's Cash
First of all, beware. Don't use Kohl's Cash with discount. The value will be discounted. When you return an item purchased with Kohl's Cash will be deducted for the face value.
My biggest complaint about Kohl's practice on the refund policy
Do the math:
25% off = need $66.67 prior to discount to reach $50 than get a $10 Kohl's Cash
40% off = need $83.33 prior to discount to reach $50 than get a $10 Kohl's Cash
Formula is $50 divided by (100%-40%) to get desired require amount.

Here is my complaint:
A pair of pants selling for $14.99. After applied $10 Kohl's Cash and 25% off coupon, it came to $3.74 before tax. Here is the calculation: (14.99 - 10.00) x 0.75 = $3.74. If just using the coupon, it's $11.24. The difference of $2.50 from Kohl's Cash for something else. In other words, they treat reward cash as my hard earned cash. No fair.
Surprise coupon.

Kohl's Reward
Program says, "earn 1 point for every dollar spent (no matter how you pay!), and get a $5 reward for every 100 points. Plus, you’ll get eight savings offers every year, guaranteed, plus a special birthday gift, opportunities to earn bonus points and so much more. We'll even have some surprises for you along the way."

Problem is those merchandise are not the cheapest. I only buy discounted items. Yeah. I frequent clearance racks. Some items like Crocs are not in stores. Just pay hefty shipping charge.
$1 per year. Keep going

Watch me Yelping around: deep discounted shirt and Kohl's Cash Blues, and $10 off coupon.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Save Now Save Later - Best Buys

This is my 2nd blog about merchants that offer cash back from reward points. Whenever I want electronics, I start my research on Best Buys' website. After analyzing the value on this blog, I realized its true value at the end of this page.
One review gets 10% closer to earn $5 or 50 cents per review

Best Buys Rewards - free to enroll. You earn 1 point per dollar spent after discount before tax. It will rounded off to full dollar. So you get only 1 point for $1.99 item. I will get a $5 off coupon for every 250 reward points.
I'm getting closer to earn that $5. Buy Buy Buy.

Bonus Points - "Review your purchase and get 25 My Best Buy bonus points" - after each purchase, I get invitations to write a review on the product. This encourages me to share my experience. This opportunity doesn't expire but the email link will. I would recommend write a review quickly because the item could be sold out or deleted from the list. That would be a waste of time. Another problem, my profile is empty after an update. What a waste.

I wasted 2 hour to find something to buy.
Mystery Certiļ¬cate - once a year around Black Friday. I receive an email invitation to buy something and I won't know my saving until cashier tells me. I had received double reward points to 50% off of something costs $10.
Surprise is in the email.
Anniversary Bonus - It's always a surprise. Because I don't know when that is.
Nothing I need. Nice try.
Happy Birthday -  On the first day of your birth month, you'll get an email for 10% off one select item.

On top of those, I use airline rewards. I get half mile for each dollar spent.

Bottom line: Not worth to buy something for the purpose of earning points at Best Buys. In order to make this work, each dollar I spend equates to 2 pennies toward $5 off coupon. After all, I normally shop around on Amazon, Walmart and Micro Center before making my final selection.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Save Now Save Later - Walgreens

I would buy certain items at Walgreens, but only if I can get a bigger return. Buyer beware, some items are more expensive here. So, shop around before making the final purchase. This blog is meant to help me to calculate its value and if it's worth to get out of my way to shop at Walgreens.

Question: How much do my Walgreen's Balance Reward points worth?

Walgreen's has a very strict earning bracket
How to earn the points: 
"With Everyday Points, you'll get 10 points per $1 on almost everything," according to the Balance Rewards page.

Earn more points and perks:
  • Prescriptions get 100 points per 30-day and 300 points per 90-day.
  • Bonus points on featured products
  • 20 points per mile when you link to a healthy behavior app, like Fitbit.
  • AARP members get 50 points per $1 spent (Did you know I redeemed my annual membership fee for 3 years already?) 
  • Coupons from emails and mails.
Coming back with more coupons

To redeem:
  1. You can only redeem the subtotal amount before tax.
  2. It has to be the whole amount of $1, $2, $3, $5, $10 etc, see image above. 
  3. Every 1,000 points equals to $1 from $1 to $10 and  $20 with 18,000 points, $35 with 30,000 and $50 with 40,000. 
My experience:
This can be very confusing. For example, my charge was $25.99 before tax. I can only redeem $20 or $5, not both. Sometimes, I could get a surprise discount after I carefully calculated the total. My purchase became a waste of time, after finding out the savings at the cash register. 

Bottom Line:
I can accumulate the points, easily. But when it comes to redeem them, I can only buy something with solid assurance on the price.

This is my first of several blogs on how to get money back. Next one is...