Saturday, January 1, 2022

Paradise Dynasty Is So Much More Than Xiao Long Bao


A few months ago I heard about the opening of a branch of the famed Paradise Dynasty Chinese restaurant chain out of Singapore in Costa Mesa's South Coast Plaza super regional shopping mall.  Since South Coast Plaza is  not exactly in my normal geographic territory I didn't have an opportunity to stop by until recently.  Their slogan is "Legend Of Xiao Long Bao", and while the XLB is excellent, what caught me unaware was how good the rest of their menu was.

I don't think you will ever get a consensus on the best XLB around simply because different diners look for different things.  Some diners prefer thin skins, some prefer thick, and no restaurant will do it both ways.  Similarly some people prefer lots of soup, others more moderate.  And these days, the varieties of XLB go in all directions.  With the famed Din Tai Fung also operating in South Coast Plaza, it is inevitable that people will compare the restaurants, and largely based on the XLB.   And I don't think a consensus as to which is better for basic varieties will be found.  However, for specialty varieties, Paradise Dynasty clearly is the place to go.

For sure, Paradise Dynasty's black truffle XLB is the most flavorful single examplar of XLB I have ever had. Nor have I had one with so much truffle flavor.

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The prawn and Kurobuta pork dumpling in chili vinaigrette may be the best spicy won ton you’ll find anywhere, including the place at the other end of the mall.

 

Yes, this is sweet and sour fish, and you can get it anywhere. But not like this. Excellent batter, but that’s not unique. What distinguishes this dish is the fact that while there’s the crunchy exterior, the fish is soft and juicy. I have no idea how they pull that off. Oh, and there’s a touch of plum in the sweet and sour sauce.

 

Another best in class dish is the pork chop fried rice.  It looks just like the same dish at Din Tai Fung, but even if it is a copycat dish I'd rather have this one.   How do they make the pork so soft and juicy? You can order the pork chop as a separate stand alone dish.


The black sesame peanut topped glutinous rice ball is great, hot out of the oven.


 
Pan fried pumpkin cakes are so good.


And the chilled snow fungus in peach resin.


Paradise Dynasty is a significant addition to the local Chinese dining scene.  A lot of people may assume it's some kind of Din Tai Fung wannabe, but it is certainly much more than that with a broader array on their menu of outstanding Chinese dishes.  Special thanks to the head chef and the head dim sum chef!




Monday, December 6, 2021

If Georgia Plays Alabama In The BCS Championship John Wooden Predicts Win For Georgia

Of course not really, since John Wooden passed away in 2010.  However this blog has posted predictions several times based on the principles of John Wooden which have in fact come to pass.  John Wooden has articulated a truism of sports which strangely has never been acknowledged by the sporting public, yet keeps proving itself over and over again.  That truism is that a long winning streak can turn into a heavy and potentially insurmountable burden.  Time and time again there have been stunning upsets in sports, with the only common denominator being the fact that the losing team was undefeated.  In this regard, Wooden stated that a loss at the right time can be a good thing that actually insures a team's success.  

So with last week's victory by Alabama over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship game, Alabama unmasked Georgia as not a superteam, but one vulnerable to a sophisticated passing attack.  That may well have been the story of that game, but in John Wooden's world, Georgia was the only unbeaten team left in the country and was ripe for a loss, with the details of how that loss occurred being of little importance.  And that could have been a good loss for Georgia, since it removed the burden of a winning streak and lets them reset and refresh going forward, in which case they'll revert to form and handle Alabama should they meet again.  And on top of that, one truism which has been widely accepted is that it's difficult to beat the same team twice in a season, which adds to the expectation that Georgia would beat Alabama in a rematch.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

BBC Calling!

When  I was in high school, one of my hobbies was DXing (no, nothing sport or vehicle related) which rather involved tuning in on radio broadcasts from distant localities.  There was broadcast band DXing (i.e., AM radio) and shortwave broadcasting.  On AM radio DXing, this usually entailed looking for radio stations on frequencies between those used by local radio stations, except there was an opportunity to find hidden stations in other time zones after midnight on Sunday night when the local station went off the air for a couple of hours for weekly maintenance.  Then there was short wave DXing, which was less exciting because unless you had a powerful antenna (which I didn't have) you could only pick up a few stations with a powerful signal.  One of these was BBC and their BBC Calling program.

Little did I know that over 50 years later BBC would be calling me and providing me an unexpected additional 15 minutes of fame, in an episode a bit different from the previous ones.  It all started innocuously enough back in May when I received a message from Zhaoyin Feng of BBC's Washington DC bureau that she would like to write a Chinese language article about me.   She had seen Clarissa Wei's Goldthread video as well as my Instagram posts, and we had a nice Zoom meeting.  It took a month, but the Chinese language article did hit the BBC website, though I wouldn't consider it that impactful.  Indeed the only thing noteworthy was that a month later, Zhaoyin did an English language interview on BBC radio's Fifth Floor program where she spoke about the story she had written about me.

I thought that was the end of the BBC episode, but in September, Zhaoyin sent a message saying that her editors had approved an English language version of the article.  However I did not hear anything until two weeks ago, when Zhaoyin said she finally would be able to finish the English language article, but first wanted to do a brief update telephone conversation.  Then on Monday of last week I received an email with a few follow-up questions, resulting in a string of back and forth messages on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Right after I sent my last reply I found a message from one of my followers congratulating me on the BBC article.  They had already posted the article without my last response, and also without telling me that the article was up.  I guess for some reason they wanted to tie my interview in with Thanksgiving and posted it as is!

For a short while I didn't think anything was extraordinary about this article, but it quickly became clear that this was something different, as large numbers of new Instagram followers appeared in  continuous stream.  By the time I turned in for the evening I had added 900 new followers, raising my total from 3700 to 4600.  And when I woke up at 2am I decided to check for the latest count, finding it had jumped to 5000.  When I woke up Thanksgiving morning I saw a message from BBC asking whether I could possibly do a live interview on BBC World News that afternoon, but understanding I might not be available because of the holiday.  Fortunately due to conflicts, our Thanksgiving celebration was set on Friday instead, so it was no problem for me.

What I only discovered later was that overnight my interview had become the most popular item on the BBC website, explaining the haste in wanting to schedule a TV interview so quickly on a holiday, to further promote the web article.  Meanwhile, I needed to make sure that there wouldn't be any technical problems in doing a live Zoom television interview.  It had been so long since I had engaged in a two way Zoom dialog that I wasn't sure if my Zoom account was active, whether the program would run properly, and whether I still had my virtual background picture in working order.  That was a time consuming process, so I didn't even have time to worry about the vagaries of live broadcasting, which I haven't had to concern myself about much since most of my video appearances have been pre-recorded.   A number of email exchanges with Sara Monetta at BBC in the UK provided a general idea of the line of questioning, as well as useful technical information.  She also indicated that I would go on the air around 3:14pm, for a period of three minutes, which would necessitate brief responses on my part.  I was told to sign on around 3pm to make sure technical things were in order.

I have to say that I signed on with great trepidation because I've had occasional connectivity issues while watching webcasts and Zoom broadcasts.   So I was very pleased that I seemed to connect with what looked like the correct host, though still slightly doubtful since it looked quite a bit different from my last interactive Zoom interview.  And I was relieved when the voice of the BBC technician started to come through.  Until he said that he could hear me but couldn't see me.  However, he quickly figured out that I just needed to press a Start Video button at my end.  He also said there was a change in interviewers, but since I didn't know who the first interviewer was, that made no difference.  We had to fiddle with the lighting and my sitting position..  The technician told me I would need to stay fairly still because moving my head would cause distracting video effects.  He then connected me with an audio feed of the show as it was progressing.  However, while waiting for my time slot to arrive I noticed that the setting sun was starting to shine through the window above my computer, throwing my video feed off kilter.  I tried fooling with two of my windows, a desk light, and overhead lights before getting back to a semblance of normal lighting.

As 3:14pm was approaching it was clear that I wasn't going to be interviewed as scheduled.  My interview ended up being seven or eight minutes late.  I had no idea who was doing the interviewing, as there was only a one way Zoom screen, i.e., I could only see myself.  The interview ran four minutes, and the questions were essential what they told me in advance, the first time that I can recall that ever happening.  Meanwhile I was curious if I would get to see the program.  I don't get BBC World News in my cable package, but I did discover that KCET does carry two nightly 30 minute telecasts of BBC World News, the US-Canada edition and a world edition.  However while they carried some of the same content that I had listened to while waiting to be interviewed, there was a clear difference in some of the stories, and neither KCET version had my interview.  I also tried to figure out who was interviewing me, but couldn't come up with any likely names.  

Fortunately a few hours later the interviewer, Mariko Oi, posted the interview on her Twitter account.  

https://twitter.com/i/status/1464073116280229890

It was neat to see a split screen showing the interview as if we were looking at each other.  Of course, Twitter is not a video hosting site, so theoretically there's no way to download a video that is posted to Twitter.  However third party sites, like Twitter Video Downloader, let you enter the URL of the video and spits out a video file, so I got a copy that way.

By the end of the day on Thanksgiving the follower count had jumped to 7,000, aided not only by the BBC article, but also a cover article by the Daily Mail, which also included a direct Instagram link.  The follower total was 8,000 by Friday, and 9,000 by Sunday, at which point in time the Instagram follower flurry appeared to finally subside.   Getting so many new followers so quickly was actually annoying at one point, because Instagram only permits a few dozen combined likes, new followers and comment notifications  to be displayed at any time.  If the amount exceeds the limit, then the oldest notification drops off.  While I tried to check for notifications as often as possible, there were time periods (e.g., overnight sleeping) where I missed many notifications and therefore could not reply to people making comments and who expected a response.

But wait, there's more.  On Tuesday afternoon the Instagram follower count started to surge again.  By the end of the day the count was almost 13,000, which means there was a new follower every 10 seconds during that time period, a rate even faster right after the BBC article hit. An internet search traced the surge to the Asian American news website Nextshark.  In a way it was puzzling though, since some internet searches didn't even pull up the Nextshark article, and the article was very brief.  However that was clarified the next day when I discovered that most of the traffic was generated from the Nextshark Instagram page, and what they had posted was a six frame article. Nextshark has 500,000 followers and the posting pulled 20,000 likes, so one could see the size of their audience.

By the next afternoon the Nextshark surge had tapered off.  But late in the evening there was another surge, at about the same rate as the Nextshark surge.  An internet search showed no cause for the increased activity.  By the end of the evening the count was 15,000.   I was truly puzzled by this renewed activity, so much so when I woke up at 1am, I decided to message a couple of new followers to see how they found me.   The only response to those inquiries were the previous BBC and Nextshark articles.  The count continued to rise this morning so I messaged more new followers, and one provided the answer.  The Asian American apparel purveyor Asians Never Dies has an Instagram account with 500,000 followers in which they link stories related to Asian culture, and they linked the Nextshark story, which got them 10,000 likes.  So now the Instagram follower count is 16,500.

In a way I'm not totally surprised about having gone viral again almost 10 years after Clarissa Wei's LA Weekly article got picked up around the world back in 2012.  True I received a lot of attention from that and other articles, and yes, Clarissa Wei's 2019 Goldthread video has received over a million views.  But still, only a small fraction of the public happened to be exposed to the media in which I have been featured, and if my story was so captivating back then, one would think it could happen again if exposed to an entirely different audience.  So this is what has happened again.

It's also interesting to see the differences in how the exposure now and back then have played out.  I think Clarissa's original story, and then Frank Shyong's subsequent Los Angeles Times story was more widely disseminated by various media outlets around the world.  But where the difference lies is in today's social media.  I'm not sure if Instagram existed back then, and I certainly didn't have an Instagram account.  I did have a Twitter account, and did pick up several hundred followers.  However, the current articles have embedded links to my Instagram account and I would imagine most of the followers came via smartphone rather than computer, such that it made it easy for me to add 13,000 new followers in scarcely more than a week.




Sunday, November 21, 2021

Los Angeles Coliseum Adventures

Yesterday was an exciting day for us at the Los Angeles Coliseum as UCLA drubbed crosstown rival USC by the unprecedented score of 62-33.  Even though both teams were mediocre this year, for Bruin fans any victory over the Trojans is a treasure.  I have been to around 50 of these games, including the past 45 UCLA-USC games, except of course for last year's fanless game.  Overall, I'm a little under .500 in these games, so there have been both many happy and unhappy moments since my first in-person attendance in the early 1960s.  

For most UCLA fans, going to the Coliseum to play USC every other year is not a desirable thing, since the neighborhood is unfamiliar to most of them, so they don't bother to attend.  That hasn't been a problem for me since I attended dozens of UCLA football games in the years where the Coliseum also served as UCLA's home stadium.  In addition for many years I lived only 15 minutes away from the Coliseum so getting there was convenient.

However particularly after moving further away from the Coliseum, getting to the Coliseum on Big Game day became problematical due both to traffic and parking issues.  In my younger years I was willing to put up with it, but I became less tolerant with the hassle.  It did help that Metro Line construction did provide an alternate method to get to the game, though still troublesome, which allowed me to continue my streak of attendance at UCLA-USC games.  But with the COVID 2020 season where fans were not allowed at any of the games, breaking my attendance streak, I felt no compulsion to attend yesterday's game.  I had no intention of attending yesterday's game until my son said last week that he wanted to take my grandson to his first football game.   So Mrs. Chandavkl and I decided to tag along and make it a family outing.  And obviously it was well worth it with such a big and satisfying victory.

But there was one sour moment for me before the game started.  In attending all of the UCLA home games at the Rose Bowl this year, while a smartphone ticket was the default option, there was the option of printing out a scanable ticket.  However when we bought 4 tickets for the USC game, the mobile phone ticket was the only option.  I had no idea how that worked since, while I had used mobile airline boarding passes before, the mobile football tickets required a download to a smartphone wallet, which was a totally foreign concept for me.  However my son told me how to download one ticket to my wallet, one ticket to Mrs. Chandavkl's wallet, and send the remaining tickets to him.  

When we got to the Coliseum things went smoothly at first, with no problem passing vaccine inspection, and at the entrance gate itself with the first three entry attempts being successful.  But with everybody else making it through the entrance, my ticket failed to work, generating a "Ticket Unknown" message, leaving three already inside the gates and me outside.  The gate attendant tried various things to no avail, telling me I had to go to the nearby customer service window.  While the line was short, it did take a while for my turn to come.  And when I showed them my mobile phone, after fiddling around with a bunch of things, they told me that because I had bought the tickets through UCLA, that even though these were USC tickets I would have to go to the UCLA customer service booth, which while completely on the other side of the Coliseum, was essentially where I was sitting.  So I messaged my family to go to their seats while I tried to gain entry.

Of course, kickoff time was approaching, so I literally ran half the circumference of the Coliseum and found the UCLA customer service booth.  After explaining what had happened, the clerk went to some kind of machine and came back with a physical ticket to get me into the Coliseum.  Of course I then had to go back through vaccination check, and my physical ticket scanned fine.  I then ran over towards my seat, Section 202, row 11, seat 35.  An usher pointed me to take the steps down from Tunnel 2 to row 11.  Except that there was no row 11.  I grabbed another usher who told me I was in Section 102, and that Section 202 was up from Tunnel 2.  However when I got to row 11, I didn't see my family at first.  I finally realized that the seat by the stairway was seat 1, such that seat 35 was, well, 35 seats away at the other end.   Fortunately I was able to cross over a walkway around row 8, and made it to my seat at the same time as the opening kickoff. c

I also need to comment on how trouble free getting to the Coliseum was from my son's house in Culver City, though obviously aided by the small crowd going to see two mediocre teams clash.  It was a five minute drive from my son's house to the Culver City Expo Line Station with ample underground parking and few other passengers waiting to board.  15 minutes later we alighted at the Vermont Ave. stop.  The trip back after the game is typically difficult since fans leave the game in a more compressed time frame than arriving, but it helped that many USC fans bailed out early.  And though it was a crowded hike back to the Exposition Park station, we were all able to squeeze onto the first train back to Culver City.


 





Monday, November 1, 2021

On The Road Again For Chinese Food

There was nothing unusual about our trip up to San Francisco in September of 2019, my 90th trip to the Bay Area.   Who knew it would be more than two years before I made my 91st trip last month?  And not only did the pandemic keep us at home, and for a while almost completely away from Chinese restaurants, but also left us in the dark as to what Chinese restaurants may have closed, and what new ones might have opened up in the Bay Area.  Arriving after dark on a Monday, I was fortunate to find the bright, newly opened Taishanese Cuisine on Broadway.  It was so busy we had to wait for them to clear a table before we could sit down.  Looking at the menu, Taishanese Cuisine was something new under the sun, with modern Taishanese food including Cantonese hot pot dishes, seldom if ever seen before in the United States.  Unfortunately, these and other dishes were all family sized, and indeed looking at the table setup the restaurant was clearly designed for large family gatherings, so we were stuck with the relatively small a la carte entree portion of the menu.  

The curry chicken was a real surprise, as it was the first time I had ever seen that dish with fried, breaded chicken. 

 

We also had a large dish of white ong choy.