Dining on a Budget: Vietnamese Sandwiches

I love Vietnamese Sandwiches so much that my first taste of those French baguettes topped with meat and pickled Asian vegetables is a warm memory. Probably just as good as the satisfying taste is their insanely cheap prices — most of these sandwiches run in the $2 range! You can always find a decent Vietnamese sandwich, or banhh mi, at Lee’s Sandwiches, the McDonald’s of Vietnamese sandwiches. With a wide selection from grilled chicken, barbeque pork to ham, these surprisingly filling meals run as low as $1.95 to $2.75. You can also buy spring rolls or fried egg rolls as appetizers for just as cheap.

Lee’s locations in the Valley:

Alhambra
1289 East Valley Boulevard @ Valley Supermarket Center
Alhambra, CA 91801
Phone: (626) 282-5589

Rosemead
8779 East Valley Boulevard @ Muscatel Avenue
Rosemead, CA 91770
Phone: (626) 291-2688

Rowland Heights       
18194 Colima Road
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

There are few other places in Orange County, especially in OC’s Little Saigon, that I actually prefer over Lee’s (their baguettes are not as fresh as I have tasted elsewhere), so I am always on the look out for other places in the Valley serving my favorite sandwich.

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I recently discovered Mr. Baguette in Rosemead, a Vietnamese sandwich shop just down the street from a Lee’s Sandwiches. While the place boasts a pleasant outdoor patio area, I was immediately disappointed as soon as I stepped to the counter to order. The cheapest sandwich — the Special with ham and salami — was $3.35, almost a dollar more than most Vietnamese sandwiches! I certainly hoped that the extra dollar made the sandwich far superior than any other sandwich I had before. To my dismay, the bread was not as fresh as I had hoped and the portions of meat and toppings were a bit skimpy. So, for Vietnamese sandwiches in the Valley, I’m sticking to Lee’s.

Pakistani Lunch in Diamond Bar

Aashiana Hala Tandoori Restaurant

2020 S. Brea Canyon Road
Diamond Bar, CA

(909) 396-0176
 
You can call my culinary approach adventurous. If I’ve never had it, I’ll try it. Often times, I’m pleasantly surprised at what foods I’ve actually enjoyed. But, yes, there are times that within of few hours of consumption, I’m heading to the nearest bathroom!
 
This time my culinary curiosity took me to Aashiana Halal Tandoori Restaurant in Diamond Bar. Drive into a compact business complex on Brea Canyon Road and you’ll see a small restaurant bearing the word Aashiana above its doorway. The sight alone doesn’t reveal much of what to expect inside, but if you’re in the mood for something different a stop at Aashiana might just be the place. The interior looks like any other small, sit-down restaurant with a few decorative pieces that give hints of what ethnic cuisine to expect. If those don’t give it away, then the large plasma TV playing Pakistani soap operas should.
 
If you’re familiar with the curries, masalas and tandoori cuisine of India, then the food of Pakistan might not be such a stretch. Known for its aromatic spices and rich flavor, Pakistani dishes are heavily influenced by South Asian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Yet, unlike most Indian dishes, meat plays a more dominant role in Pakistani cuisine. The owners of Aashiana are muslim and their food is takes on the no-pork criteria of muslim food.I tried the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, served every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For $7.50 you get a very filling meal of your choice of almost every kind of beef, lamb, chicken and vegetable curry. Rich in heavy sauces, the entres are best eaten with flat, fluffy naan or basmati rise (or both)! You can also choose between plain or garlic naan.
 
The food overall was tasty and the buffet offered a good selection. However, Aashiana’s purchasing requirements seemed a bit peculiar. Be sure to bring a good amount of cash as there is a $20 minimum for credit cards! Also, one entree per customer must be ordered otherwise they’ll charge you an extra $7!

Hey it’s Yogi!

So during my camping trip at Yosemite, our campsite got a visit from Yogi Bear – smarter than the average bear – in the middle of the night.

The campgrounds have bear boxes where you put all your food or anything that has a scent that would draw a bear to your site. So after dinner and after the long-awaited melty gooey goodness of s’mores, we put everything away in the boxes and went around our site twice to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Well, we did. It was some time past midnight when I heard rustling near our tent and heard commotion. My wild-sleeper of a sister, was asleep on my right shoulder and as soon as I knew it was a bear, I pushed her off of me and sat up in one swift motion.

Another tent-mate of ours woke up too, and began searching for the zipper to open the tent door to blow the whistle she had wrapped around her neck the entire weekend. She got the window open instead and blew three quick whistles, but we could still hear the bear.

There were a few guys outside making noises and flashing their lights trying to scare fuzzy wuzzy away but he wouldn’t until he got what he came for – marshmallows.

Yup, Yogi is a fans of s’mores too.

Apparently there was an ice chest, (believed to be empty), left outside under a table that had a bag of marshmallows in it.

Well the bear definitely smelled it from miles away and knew exactly where to go. It slid, yes slid, open the ice chest without damaging it, tore through a paper towel roll to get to the marshmallows, and would not scare off easily with whistles, lights or hollering until it headed back to it’s cave with the full bag.

I didn’t get to see it, but from the look of the tear on the paper towel roll, it was still a youngin’.

Of course, the next day, the kids that slept through the bear commotion, wanted to leave a little bait for the bear to come back again so they could take a picture of it.

 

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I told them they already knew what it looks like. He wears a green ranger hat and tie with a

white collar and says “Ey, Boo Boo!”

Who doesn’t love camping?

Yes, I was one of the many crazies who went out of town this holiday weekend. High gas prices, traffic and all.

Me and about 40+ friends and family headed up north to Yosemite for some good old-fashioned camping.

I love camping and I was so excited to go back to Yosemite, which I’ve only visited once, when I was about 13. I was also excited to take my 13-year-old sister for her first sleeping bag and tent camping trip.

She’s stayed at a cabin in Big Bear with my brother before, but it was a full-furnished cabin and I don’t think they saw any bears.

That was great and all, because it was still family, and my nephews were too young to be outdoors in a tent.

But she’s old enough to handle the great outdoors now. (Maybe I should have made her watch some John Candy movies in preparation.)

And she’s never roasted marshmallows out on a real fire!

What kind of kid would you be, if you’ve never had the chance to roast marshmallows to black melty-death on a piece of stick or twig you picked up off the floor?!

 

11736-smores2-thumb-200x298.jpgYup. I’m talking about good old gooey-marshmallow-chocolatey-graham-cracker goodness. S’mores.

When I think back on the many camping trips I’ve taken, I think – Man, all we do is eat!

Hot dogs, hamburgers, pork and beans, sandwiches, scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, granola bars, cheez-its, chips, s’mores of course, and if we had the money, some good carne asada and tortillas. 

But it’s a great challenge to try to cook and eat in the outdoors, especially with bugs flying all around. I always feel vindicated when I’m able to finish my meal before the bugs can even touch it. Take that bug!

So while some of you are enjoying your weekend in the bug-free, AC, comfy-couch/chair/bed, home indoors, I’ll be roughing it on a rock, with some bears, swatting the flies off my s’mores.

And loving every minute of it. 

 

Free pizza! For us….

Working in a big office like I do, and sitting right next to the lunch room, I feel like I am always getting hungry.

People warming up their food, popcorn, or organizing pot lucks in the next department over, bring so many smells that even if I just ate, I could snack a little on popcorn, or grab a hot dog from the pot luck if it’s offered me.

No it’s not good for any diet, but luckily I don’t believe in them. I believe in moderation, so I try to just eat small meals and snacks a few times throughout the day and use water to hold me over between meals.

Today, though, really tested my strength. First, because of a department meeting, we were being treated to lunch. But at the same time, a ‘roast’ pot luck was being held in the department next door as a ‘going awa’ for someone.

So while I waited until lunch time for the free pizza, (can’t pass that up!), the smell of hot dogs ‘roasting’ on a grill roller wafted through our section of the news room hours before our pizza would arrive.

Oh, but when it did – mm mm mm mm. It was worth it. I love pizza, but I can be picky at times. I don’t like really thick greasy crust, despise black olives, so over pepperoni, and absolutely love mushrooms!

I am more partial to the little family-owned pizza houses than the ‘fast-food’ type, but if they meet the above standards, they’ll do as well.

Rio’s pizza in Montebello is one of those family-owned places that I grew up with and is my absolute favorite pizza. Freshly made pizzas, no skimping on toppings and a good price, especially on Sundays.

But today, I must say I found a close second to Rio’s – Michelangelo’s Pizza in Covina.

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Thanks to a fellow reporter recommending this local eatery to our editor, we were treated to a fresh, warm, soft, cheesy pizza.

We had a cheese, a pepperoni, a sausage and a vegetarian pizza. Something for everyone.

I had the sausage and vegetarian pizzas, despite the vegetarian having black olives I had to pick off.

I have to start with the crust. It wasn’t a thin crust that’s for sure, but it was more airy than greasy. I usually don’t care to eat the leftover crust end, but i couldn’t help myself because it was just that tasty.

The sauce and cheese were just enough to cover each slice well and perfectly seasoned, not bland and not too much. The sausage was not too salty either, too much salt just kills every other flavor.

The vegetarian had the usual suspects – mushroom (yay!), green bell pepper, onion, black olives (yuck!) – but it also had slices of tomato that I thought were perfect, they weren’t soggy and added more flavor. There was plenty of mushroom, too, that more than made up for the black olives.

I am curious to see what the rest of their menu offerings taste like.

Michelangelo’s has two locations – on Citrus in Covina and Arrow Hwy. in San Dimas – and offer sandwiches, salad and pasta as well as pizzas, of course.

You can order online as well as by phone.