Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kuala Lumpur Streets

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I really enjoyed my trip to Malaysia and have a bunch of random pictures to upload so here is the first set.

In general, I found Malaysians to be friendly and opinionated, the food flavorful and the overall atmosphere warm and welcoming.  Both KL and Penang were overrun with tourists (like me!), but only Penang forcefully presented its character and gave a strong impression of self.  KL felt like any major metropolis, albeit one built up in the middle of the jungle and filled with Malay, Chinese and Indian people.  However, I don't think this is necessarily bad.  There is a reason why KL is such a popular vacation destination.  Did you know that KL was the world's 4th most visited city in 2009?  I think part of the reason is that, for many tourists, a favorable exchange rate makes it a nice place to shop.  Additionally, many KL residents speak English so Western/Australian tourists don't find it terribly intimidating.  It is both different and similar at the same time.  Anyhow, don't go to KL expecting to find a totally exotic experience but do expect to see a ton of hotels.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Indonesian Fried Chicken

If you hired a cheap maid or babysitter back home you probably ended up with a Mexican or Central American.  In Taiwan, those roles are filled by Filipinos, Thais and, to a lesser extent, Indonesians.  Ethnic restaurants are a powerful way for displaced foreigners to stay connected to their homelands and I am always excited when I discover the janky ethnic eateries working-class laborers frequent.  Good enough for the members of the ethnic minority, good enough for me!

Anyhow, Indonesian fried chicken.  I don't know much about Indonesian food so I am going by what I saw and tasted.  A marinated chicken leg was brought out and, given its color, turmeric was clearly involved.  Also, ginger and maybe some coriander seed.  Maybe a touch of coconut milk to loosen the marinade?  At any rate, throw the chicken leg into some hot oil and fry.  This is what you end up with:

Crazy delicious stuff and it was fun watching what appeared to be a small, tight-knit Indonesian community greet each other.  I have a general rule that if you eat alongside ethnic laborers, you will generally eat very well. This meal was no exception.

Definitely on my short list of places to return given how delicious it is and how different the flavors are from my usual Taiwanese fare.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Clams V1.0

Uhhh, so if you have been following this at all you will have noticed that I love stir-fried clams. Given that they are about 150-225NT per plate here in Taiwan, I decided that I needed to learn how to do it myself.

1. Buy clams. My morning market has a ton of clam vendors so finding clams is easy. However, deciding on WHICH type of clam to buy is a challenge because there are so many options. In the U.S. you primarily see Manila and razor clams but Taiwan has a bounty of bivalves. I basically settled on the first clams I saw squirting water and the vendor with the widest smile.  100NT for a large bag of clams...maybe about a pound of clams.  The other cool thing is that when you buy groceries here in Taiwan, vendors will often throw in some freebies like cilantro, green onions or, in this case, some basil leaves.  Wonderfully thoughtful.  She also gave me her advice on how to cook the clams: basil, chili, a touch of soy, water but no garlic.  Yes ma'am!

2. How to cook the clams? Well, this was easy, stir-fry. How do I flavor them? I used a combination of what I had on hand (Chinese celery) and what I have seen at local restaurants (chili, basil and Chinese BBQ sauce) along with the seafood vendor's recommendation.

3. Cook clams.  Easy.  Clams have little built in timers.  When they pop open, they are done!

Anyhow, some pictures:

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Friday, July 16, 2010

June and (most of) July

I will get some words up when I have the time.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

"American" Food

My buddy asked me if there is an imported food section at the local grocery store. It's an interesting question: What do Taiwanese people think are typically "American" foods? Watch the video for the answer!

As an aside, I am still alive and well here in Taichung.  I am starting to make some headway on my list of goals:  I am reading a chapter a night, am spending more time studying poker (and, consequently, less time playing), am sticking to my food budget and will start doing push-ups tomorrow.  Always tomorrow, those push-ups.  :p

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brief Rant

Not a real update because I haven't done much of note.  Teaching, grading, lesson planning, eating, sleeping, and pokering have kept me plenty busy.  I really need to get out and experience Taiwan because I am nearly 1/6 of the way through my contract.

Two things.  I finally got my hair cut.  Get this: I spent 1,000 NT (about 30 USD) but ended up going to a fancy-shmancy Aveda salon (on advice of a co-worker) and received a pretty freaking nice experience. Neck/shoulder massage, hand massage, nice ambiance, a fine haircut, I will definitely be going back.  I still can't believe it was only 30 USD.  What a bargain.

The other thing, my mini rant.  Before getting my haircut, I went to the local electronics emporium.  I am shopping around for a cell phone (any advice?) and wanted to see what was available.  I was at the HTC vendor and a few black people were also there.  While I was fiddling around with some phones, the black folk concluded their business and left.  Soon afterwards, I heard one of the salespeople refer to the black customers as "n*****s."  In the moment, I was shocked because, in the US, you just don't hear that word bandied about. I was even a little angry.  Was there any malicious intent?  I dunno.  If not, I don't think I can hold it against the Taiwanese person:
  1. Taiwan is (understandably) ignorant as to what the word means because black slavery isn't a part of its cultural history/identity.  They lack historical knowledge.  I highly doubt many of them know about cotton plantations, the Civil War, segregation, MLK etc.
  2. Second, Western (read: American) culture influences Taiwanese culture to a large degree and hip-hop music's use of the "N" word has probably played a role.  Taiwanese people hear hip-hop's incessant use of the word and probably assume that it is a part of American everyday vernacular but don't understand that it is actually incredibly rare to hear the word.  Furthermore, Taiwanese people wrongly assume that hip-hop culture represents ALL of black, American culture.  They might be shocked to learn that many Black Americans want the "N" word banned from any sort of use.  In other words, they see the slice of American culture which habitually (over?)uses the word but lack the understanding that black people (and black people alone) possess the cultural currency to use the word and, even then, it is contentiously used.  

I feel sorta weird about this because the "N" word is so loaded back home in America.  People die over the word.  Is it okay for Taiwanese people to use the word given their ignorance and lack of black history?  If so, how should I feel about it?  Should I try to exercise some degree of understanding and flexibility or should I remain rigidly indignant about its use?  Given how hateful the word is, I am sorta coming down on the side that I don't think it is appropriate.

End rant.

I will post some pics and vids when I have something of interest.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I just finished my first 4 days of teaching and I am bushed.  Going into this, I anticipated that teaching would be difficult but I did not imagine that it would be THIS hard.  Why is it so hard?
  1. When you are in front of a group of kids, you need to be on 100%.  I don't like half-assing it because it would be doing the kids a disservice.  And, if you ever met these kids, you would understand why I don't want to let them down....they are adorable, earnest and, in general, striving to master English to the best of their ability.  I feel like I should reciprocate! 
  2. I teach 10 classes per week.  Every class is on a different level so I have different teaching objectives to achieve.  Also, given the wide age range (anywhere from 5-14) I need to consider how to best teach to different ages.  This is harder than you might think.  
  3. Classes are 2 hours.  So, 20 hours of teaching, piece of cake you might say.  However, I spend a LOT of time working on my lesson plans.  I can plan a class in about an hour if I really run through it, 2 hours if I take my time and mentally rehearse everything.  This adds quite a bit of time to the work week.  
  4. In addition, re-learning English grammar has been challenging but fun.  I don't think I ever learned about the various verb tenses etc. so it has been interesting teaching myself English's wacky rules.
Anyhow, it is tough but I really like it.  I've always enjoyed teaching and working with kids (I used to teach violin lessons) so the work itself is quite fulfilling.  For those who are interested, here is my regular M-F schedule:
Wake up around 8
Goof off/eat breakfast/drink coffee until 10
Plan one lesson 10-12
Eat lunch/take a break12-1
1-3 Plan lesson 2
Shower, walk to work, arrive around 3:45
3:45-4:45 Grade homework, odds and ends
4:50-6:40, Teach Lesson 1
6:40-7 relax, run over Lesson plan 2
7-8:50 Teach lesson 2
8:50-9 Relax
9-9:30 Grade homework
Walk home, get home around 10
Eat dinner
Goof off until midnight
Head to bed
Wake up and do it all over again!

Like I said, once I get better at lesson planning I think I can get it down to around 1 hour total which will open up a huge block of time in the morning.  I am looking into a gym membership to help fill some of that time!

What else, what else.  I am finally getting set up in my bedroom.  Bed will be here tomorrow or Tuesday, air conditioning unit is in.  Oh!  And I am doing some cooking!  I am finally settled enough to do stuff like that and it feels great!   Adios!

Random usual, hover over "notes" for captions

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Assorted Taipei Randoms

Random junk from Taipei.  Lots of pics and videos.  For the pics, hover over "notes" for captions:

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Ximending at night.  Ximending is a hip cool area where lots of Taipei's youngsters hangout.

Taipei Main Station. The hub for High Speed Rail and the MRT.

Iridescent fish at the National Taiwan Museum.

228 Peace Memorial Park.  It's super pretty.

People practicing tai chi in the park.  They are gifted.

Feeding the squirrels in 228 Peace Park.

Longshan Temple front gate.

Longshan Temple interior.  Very busy.  Lots of worshippers.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and the National Concert Hall.

Why I Love the MRT part 1

Why I love the MRT part 2

Let's go for a ride on the MRT.  Looking east from Yuanshan station to Jiantan station.

Danshui. A small, touristy town accessible by MRT where Taiwanese families go for day trips.  I really's all about food, walking around, enjoying the Danshui river etc.

The Danshui River.  Not the prettiest river I've ever seen.

Chinese musician at Danshui.  There were also performances from other the guy I nicknamed the Taiwanese John Mayer.

Whew! What a post!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taipei Food

(I am back from Taipei and will try to resume a semi-regular blogging schedule.  Here is a set of pics detailing some Taipei eats.)

As usual, hover over "notes" for captions.

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And one video...hear Ludacris?  Yes, it is that Justin Bieber song...Bibermania for life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Super Busy In Taipei

Hi hi.

I have been HELLA (<3 Bay Area) busy with work and training so I haven't had time to write an update. However, this doesn't mean that I haven't been eating! Food here in Taipei is consistently good. Everyone, from the smallest street vendor to the mom-and-pop owned restaurant, takes real pride in their product. Again, my usual rule of follow-the-local-crowds has been a winner. I found some stunningly good boiled dumplings last night on a shady looking alley because I followed a 10 person deep line.

The only disappointment so far has been last night's beef noodle real flavor in the soup, just sorta salty. Nice beefy pieces of beef but, for me, niu rou mian is all about the broth.

Off to spend the day exploring Taipei. No real destinations (either food or otherwise)...we'll see where my feet (and nose!) take me.

I will post pictures ASAP.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

This Little Piggy...

...went to market.  I have done it every single day thus far and I don't foresee stopping anytime soon.

Anyhow, yesterday (5.9.10).  Did the usual morning market-grind-read thing but spent a lot of time at a local air conditioned coffee shop.  Rather nice.  I can see myself going there on a semi-regular basis to read and grade homework.  What else was new...Oh!  I did laundry for the first time!  Well, I didn't so much do it myself but I brought it to a laundry shop and they did it for me!  About two hours turnover and 3 bucks.  Not a bad deal although I think I will consider doing my own at the apartment.  We have a washer but no dryer....I usually hate the stiff, starchy feel of air-dried clothes but will revisit this at a later date.

Oh yah!  I also met my brother's girlfriend, Corinne.  Nice gal and she, somehow, seems to like my brother.  Go figure.  :P

Grabbed dinner with Daryl, his wife Anita, their ADORABLE 4 year old daughter Andrea, my bro, his gf and a friend of Anita's.  The original plan was to get hot pot but the restaurant screwed up the reservation.  We ended up at a Taiwanese steakhouse restaurant which I have been to in the past.  It's all right, not my favorite experience of all time especially given 550NT (about $18) price.  In America this would be a crazy bargain but I usually buy a $1 night-market dinner and the steakhouse was not worth 18x the price.  I suppose it's a once in a while thing for my bro's b-day so I guess it's okay.  The world doesn't revolve around me.  Although it should, it should.  :)

Pictures.  As usual, hover over "notes" for captions:
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A few videos. The first is the interior of the chao fan shop I go to. Stark and utilitarian but it does the trick:

The second vid is the interior of the coffee shop:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sleep Sweet Sleep!

So I finally slept an entire night! I rolled into bed around 11pm and didn't wake up until 6am! It took nearly an entire week but I am officially over jetlag! Hurrah!

Yesterday was one of the muggiest days yet. I went to Noobburger for my brother's birthday lunch and, after 5 minutes, was sweating buckets. Given it's outdoor location, lack of air conditioning and hot food it's understandable. I wish I could've taken pictures of the restaurant but I left my memory card in my computer.  It's kind of neat.  They played Muse and Miyazaki soundtracks for music, the menus are amazingly cute and popcorn is served as an amuse.  It's also interesting to see the Taiwanese take on a hamburger so I'll just have to go back at a later date!

Other than that, I did nothing extraordinary. The usual morning market, eat, grind, read, eat, tiny bit of wandering, eat, grind, read, TV schedule I've been vigorously keeping.

Hopefully something interesting for tomorrow's post.

As usual, hover over "notes" for captions:
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

More of the Same

Nothing really extraordinary occurred yesterday. I simply did the eating, grinding, sleeping and exploring thing.

Here are some pics. As always, hover over the word "notes" for captions:
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I won't lie.  Leaving the house is kinda exhausting.  It's not so much physical as I am adjusting to the weather and the humidity.  It's more the mental aspect of it, knowing that leaving my house entails complicated, mentally challenging, possibly embarrassing moments when trying to execute simple tasks such as buying breakfast.  Oh well, I guess the good thing is that this will become less of an issue the more I get out there and practice/learn Mandarin, right?  I will say one thing for any of you would-be Asian travelers.  Learning how to say "I'm sorry but I can't speak your language" in the local tongue is sure to elicit laughs and works as an ice breaker.  There's your pro tip for the day.  :)

And I thought my sleep schedule was getting better but yesterday (5.6.2010) was the weirdest day of sleep yet.  Woke up at 6:00am, napped from 8:00pm to 9:30pm and then fell asleep again at 5:30am,  Bizarre.

Anyhoo, yesterday was a great food day.  I discovered the most delicious bowl of noodles.  Just phenomenal.  A bowl of boiled noodles with greens and a bit of pork topping infused with dried shrimps.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  In addition, I ate the best egg custard tart I have ever eaten.  Perfect flaky crust.  I must eat more.  Once I am done here I think I am going to go out for noodles and the custard tart.

What else, what else.  I took care of my medical examination.  As a fully sponsored employee, I am entitled to state-run health care.  It costs around 15 bucks per month and is, from most accounts, very good.  The U.S. really needs to get its s*** together and provide this service.  The hospital itself was sleek and modern.  My brother informed me that it was recently built.  Oh, and another example of random Taiwan kindness:  Some random, I-just-ended-my-shift dude was flirting with a hospital receptionist but, as soon as he learned that I needed directions to the International Health office, he escorted me to my destination.  It was NOT a short walk but he was super nice and we had a conversation in my signature Chinese/English dialect.  Thanks a lot, random dude!

Other than that, it was a fairly average day.  Morning market, morning exploration, poker/reading, afternoon exploration, more poker/reading, nap, meet with brother for night market eats, late night TV with him and then bed.  Not terrible, as far as I am concerned. always, hover over "notes" for captions:

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And I made a few videos so you can see what it is like to ride on a scooter in Taiwan:



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jungle Foot


I spent much of yesterday with really itchy feet.  I asked my brother what the heck was going on and he laughed and said, "Jungle foot, man.  You're in the tropics.  All sorts of weird bacteria grow here."  O rly?  Is "jungle foot" the medical term?  :P Anyhow, things seem to be better today so wish me continued luck.

I feel like I am starting to settle into a routine.  Let me tell you about it:
6:00-7:00  Wake up
???- 8:30  Write blog post, reply to e-mails, play poker, surf web, read....lots of random things happens here.
8:30-10:00  Head to morning market and grab breakfast.  Explore a little before it gets too hot.  I bring back breakfast for my brother 'cause he sleeps in a lot.
10:00-13:30  Go home and grind, read, surf some more.  I'm starting to adjust to the temperature but still find it too warm to do much outdoors.
13:30-14:00  Go grab lunch at afternoon market.
14:00-16:00  Grind some more, read, chill around the apartment.
16:00-18:00  By now, it is cool enough for me to explore the city.  Yesterday, I just picked a road and walked for an hour.
18:00-18:30  Check e-mail again, read, maybe grind a bit more.
18:30-21:00  Take a nap.
21:00-21:30  Grind a bit.
21:30-3:00  Grab dinner at night market, hang out with my big brother, visit his friends, etc.  Lots of young people out and about because it's not oppressively hot.
3:00 Sleep. 

 My sleep schedule is gradually adjusting and I can't wait for the day when I sleep a full 8 hours.

Anyhow, let's talk specifics from yesterday:
I picked yesterday's breakfast joint based on how busy it was.  This strategy has not yet led me astray.  I ate at the stall and had a nice conversation with two middle aged Taiwanese ladies.  I have my own special blend of Mandarin/Taiwanese/English/Wild Gesticulations.  It kinda sorta works and, in fact, I learned the name of the dish I was eating.  I think it's "mee suah" although this is the Taiwanese name.  I have no idea what the Mandarin pinyin is.  This might be a good time to discuss Taiwanese.  Yes, it is a language.  It is also completely different from Mandarin.  From what I know, it is a derivative of Hokkien.  Most Taiwanese folks speak both Mandarin and Taiwanese and the further south you travel the more likely it is that you'll hear Taiwanese.  Anyhow, the ladies explained to me that mee suah is a very, very common dish.  Thin wheat-based noodles in a broth with pork, oysters and assorted garnish.  I can't say I loved it because I like distinct, chewy noodles and these were too thin to be readily distinguishable.

Afterwards, grind grind grind.  Lunch consisted of a local joint for a rice plate.  A little birdie reminded me to eat veggies so I ordered three vegetable side dishes to go with the poor interpretation of lu rou fan.  No fat or lusciousness,  just dry ground meat.  Poor.  Veggies were great though.

Afterwards, more grinding and then I decided to explore the city.  I headed to Wuquan Road, a semi-major thoroughfare near my brother's apartment.  Pick a direction and walk.  I gotta tell you, people look at me a lot. I'm already slighty paranoid about people watching me when I cross a crosswalk and it's even worse here.  Heads turn.  I guess I will get used to it.  Now that I am gradually adjusting to the weather I will definitely be spending more time outdoors.

Went home and slept.  Woke up, headed to my brother's friend's house, watched some TV and grabbed niu rou mian (niu rou= beef, mian= noodle) for dinner.  Went home, ate, watched two episodes of Star Trek Voyager with my bro and then passed out.  And here I am again.  :) always hover over the word "notes" for captions:
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Monday, May 3, 2010

Gotta Fix My Mandarin

Yesterday morning, I walked to my brother's local morning market and ate a few bowls of deliciousness. The first, noodles and fish meatballs in a white pepper flecked broth, really hit the spot. Screw breakfast cereal, this is the way to go.  It is pictured below. The second, kong rou fan, is very similar to lu rou fan in that it is soy braised pork over rice but the meat is cut much bigger and you get a large wank of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth fat.  Anyhow, at the second breakfast, it was evident just how much of a local curiosity I am.  4 elderly, VERY talkative Taiwanese dudes tried to engage me in conversation the entire time I was eating.  I'm not complaining and, in fact, really liked it and tried to keep up as best I could.  After I finished the kong rou fan, I  explored the market.  At every stall, I was greeted with an inquisitive smile and an offer to sell me something.  Too bad I can't understand what they are saying.  Taiwanese people are so nice, so friendly that they can't help but talk to you.  I need to fix my Mandarin so I can respond accordingly.  In addition, the morning market is amazing.  Easily the best fish I have ever seen and the squid positively glows.  I will dedicate a full post to the morning market in the near future.

For lunch, niu rou chao fan.  Yep, beef fried rice.  There wasn't much else open near here given that I went out at 3:30.  Nothing too special but it was fast and filling.  And about a $1.00.  I also met the most adorable little girl.  She walked up to me and asked, "Ni shi meiguo ren, ma?" which translates to "Are you American?"  I think she was the street vendor's daughter.  Sweet girl.  Too bad her mom's fried rice lacked flavor.   Speaking of prices, things here are kinda strange.  For instance, shaving cream cost 4 bucks but nearly everything I've eaten has been around a dollar.  It's kinda the opposite of what I am used to.

Back to the night market for dinner.  No, not the morning market.  It's kinda awesome that there is a market open only until noon, one which is open only in the afternoon and then one only open at night.  We wandered around and settled on vegetarian food.  I had noodle soup (tang mian) and my brother ordered some veggies and bean curd.  We also went back to the arcade and I watched him get his ass handed to him at Street Fighter IV.  For the curious, he was E.Honda (how appropriate) and his opponent was M. Bison.

After dinner, we headed to a store to buy my toiletries, clothes hamper etc.  The kinds of things you need when setting up in a new place.  It was a blast. I really like checking out the local brands and how they've taken Western brands and adapted them for local tastes.  Potato chips are a great example...anyone up for seaweed flavor?

And I need to join a gym.  Food is too delicious to not eat but it is too hot to run outdoors.  I think I will do more exploring tomorrow.  I am going to give myself a chance to gradually adjust to the humidity.

Get the flash player here:

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I'm gonna blog my time in Taiwan.

I've been here for 10 hours. It's currently 6:30am and I just woke up from a 3 hour nap.  As expected, I've got fierce jet lag.  It's nice to be here though and nothing has changed except for my brother's weight.  Hahaha.  It is crazy humid and hot over here.  Pictures...I've set it up so you can hover over the word "notes" and see the captions:

Get the flash player here:

Also, two brief videos.

This is just so you can see how shiny clean the Taoyuan High Speed Rail station is.

Just a random arcade. These two men were gifted at Street Fighter IV.

That is it for now.  Laters!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tripe Soup

In Soviet Russia, hangovers cure YOU!  Hahahaha, but seriously, here's something I found fascinating.  Lots of people already know that menudo, the Mexican bubbling broth of tripe and chili paste, is used as a traditional hangover cure.  However, did you know that tripe soup is also a traditional hangover cure in Turkey?  And Romania? 

I went to this Turkish restaurant last night and this how they serve their İşkembe çorbası:
First, a condiment tray with paprika, minced garlic, sumac, mint and vinegar is delivered to your table.

Then the soup itself:
It tasted like it was nothing more than boiled tripe.  The soup itself was lightly thickened and a brief Google search indicates that it was probably flour.   I asked the Turkish waiter how he liked his soup and he said that he preferred only vinegar and garlic.  I went that route and it's not bad, not bad at all but I also liked some paprika thrown in there as well as a few pinches of the green herbs.  The sumac didn't do much for me.

All in all, I love days when I tie together things like this: Mexico and Turkey both prescribe tripe soup as hangover cures.  I'm such a food geek it's not even funny.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Niu Rou Mian 牛肉麵 v.1

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Long time readers already know that I love love love love love noodle soup.  (For past entries, see here, here and here.)  Here is another version.  The goal was to make a bowl of Taiwanese niu rou mian (niu rou=beef, mian=noodle) but I didn't get the aromatics quite right.  Instead, I ended up with a very nice bowl of soy-braised beef noodle soup.  Not a bad compromise.  :)  I asked my mom for her spice proportions and she explained that most Taiwanese cooks use pre-bagged spice blends so I'm going to head to my local Chinatown and see if I can't find one of these magic bags of goodness. 

2 lbs braising beef cut into chunks (you can use beef chuck, beef short ribs, etc.)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 green onions cut into 1 inch pieces

Mix all of the ingredients.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

2 green onions cut into 1 inch pieces
1 inch piece of ginger peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon EACH of sichuan peppercorns and 5-spice powder
1 tablespoon EACH of fermented black beans and black bean/garlic sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
a few dried red chiles
1/2 cup of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce

Blanched Greens (I used broccoli rabe)
Minced Green Onions
Whatever else you like

(Very basic instructions)
1. Brown green onions and and ginger.  Brown marinated beef.  Deglaze with rice wine.  Add everything else from the "AROMATICS AND SOUP" section.  Bring to a simmer.  Skim broth to remove impurities.  Simmer until beef is tender.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning with soy and water.  Cool and refrigerate over night.

2. There should be a semi-solid fat cap on top of the soup.  Remove the fat cap.  Remove the pieces of beef and set aside.  Strain the remaining liquid.  Combine strained liquid with beef.  Set aside.

3. Prepare garnishes.  Boil noodles.  Add a touch of sesame oil to soup bowl.  Add cooked noodles.  Add garnishes and beef.  EAT.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

BTTR Gourmet Garden and Sprouts!

Man alive (no pun intended), it is SO much fun watching something come to life. 

Exhibit #1.  Remember that mushroom box I picked up about a week ago?  Here's what it looks like today:  

Check it out!  Amazing!  I am so excited for this.  I am already dreaming about a big steaming bowl of Thai Tom Yum soup!

Exhibit #2: Sprouts!
Some of the seeds worked, some not.  Most notably, the yellow mustard seed went absolutely nuts, the fenugreek seeds look good and, I think with a bit more time, the black mustard seeds will look like their paler counterpart.  Nothing from the cumin, caraway and coriander.  Still, very exciting! 

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ike Jime

If you want to geek out for 15 minutes, read this.  It's about a Japanese fish slaughter technique where they ram a metal rod through the fish's spine.  Seriously, it's fascinating!

Friday, January 29, 2010


If it's Friday night, I'm probably doing something pointless and inane wickedly awesome with food!  Tonight's experiment:  Can the BCC sprout seeds?  We'll find out in a few days!

Step 1. Two layers of moist paper towels on a baking sheet:


Step 2. Sprinkle with seeds:
From left to right: fennel, caraway, cumin, black mustard, fenugreek, yellow mustard and coriander.  I've seen fenugreek sprouts in a restaurant I used to work at but, as for the rest, your guess is as good as mine regarding sproutability.  

Step 3. More damp paper towels and saran wrap:

I'll check every couple of hours starting tomorrow.  I'm hoping this works because I've been eating a lot of salad lately and am looking for a cheap, cost effective way of spicing them up. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Enhanced Stock and Coffee Filter Sieve

Instead of the usual crap I've been serving up lately, I decided to post something useful and informative.

First, enhanced stock.  Have you ever wanted something better than store bought stock but were too lazy to start from scratch?  Easy: enhanced stock.  Just take stock/broth from the store and throw in some onions, carrots, peppercorns, whatever.  Let it simmer and, in 30 minutes to an hour, you've got something infinitely better than plain ole store bought. 

For my stock, I threw in half of an onion, sage, chopped onion and serrano ham bones.  There might be some garlic hidden somewhere in there. 

Cover with your store bought stuff and bring to a simmer.  If you're simply using vegetables and herbs, give it 30 minutes and you're good to go.  If you decide to really kick things up and use some chicken bones, give it an hour.  If you decide to use beef bones, well, you're an idiot and SHOULD be making beef stock from scratch.

What to do once your broth is done simmering?  How about a coffee filter sieve?
Uhhh, it doesn't take a genius to figure this one out.  Strain your stock of the veggies and big chunks.  Let it cool a bit.  Ladle the liquid into the filter and let 'er rip!  See that nice, clear, clean liquid?

Coffee filters...not just for coffee anymore.  :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Greatest Pork Chop Ever

Remember the pork chop from the previous post?  Here's what became of it:

Nicely golden brown, right?  I'm going to teach you a useful technique which can be applied to steaks, pork chops, seared chicken breasts, whatever.  Very useful.  Start by cooking your meat until it's nearly done.  When it's about a minute from completion, throw in a knob of butter and a few springs of herbs, some sage leaves, a sprig of rosemary, whatever.  Herbs.  I used sage leaves with my pork:

The herbs will flavor the oil so use a spoon and baste your meat with the herby butter.  Careful, it'll be hot.  This technique is great because your meat gets great color, the herby butter adds great flavor and, above all, it's easy.

Random: This ladybug has been living in my room for a month now.  I don't see it very often but I am always happy when it reappears. 

And, very exciting:

Mmmm, fresh mushrooms!  I am curious about this for a couple of reasons.  1. How many mushrooms will I harvest?  I ask because the mushroom box was $25 bucks.  Oyster mushrooms are about $5.00/lb.  If I harvest, say, 4 lbs, I will call it a success.  Additionally, I want to see if I can screw this up because, thus far, I haven't demonstrated much of a green thumb.

A REAL post coming in the next couple of days.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Random Stuff from the Past Few Weeks

Hi Bahar!!!  :)

Just a collection of random things.


Most everyone loves Bakesale Betty but not me.  Its claim to fame is a fried chicken sandwich--breaded, fried chicken breast with a vinegar and oil slaw on a fluffy torpedo roll.  In theory, it sounds fine.  In execution, it fails because it is DRY.  D-R-Y.  The breast is overcooked and dry.  Combine it with bread and you've got a starchy mess.  I also find the chicken somewhat flavorless.  The kitchen needs a heavier hand with the seasoning.  Even the excellent slaw isn't enough to bring this sandwich back from the dead. Maybe slather some mayo or slaw juice on the bread?  I've had it four times over the past few months always wondering about the raving masses and whether or not my tastebuds are off but I've come to the conclusion that the sandwich is not all that.  Besides, at $8.50, that sandwich better scale some spectacular heights.  Sorry Betty, but I'm over your sandwich.

However, I feel like an ungrateful ass bad writing this because the staff at Bakesale Betty is AWESOMELY GENEROUS.  They are some of the nicest people I've ever met.  They hand out free cookies and brownies like Santa hands out presents.  And the baked goods aren't just free, they're delicious!  Pumpkin pie with a perfect flaky crust?  Yes please, no matter what season it is!

In short, this is a joint I really, really WANT to love but just can't.  I'll return for the baked goods but not for the (overhyped) sandwich. 

Bakesale Betty
5098 Telegraph Ave
(between 49th St & 51st St)
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 985-1213

How to Supreme an Orange (or any other citrus fruit)

Get the flash player here:

1.  Find where the stem used to be.  Cut through the orange to level it.  Level the other side.  You should have two smooth sides.

2. Cut the peel off.  Just follow the flesh.

3. You will have an orange with mostly pulp.  Trim off any leftover bits of pith.

4. Find where the orange naturally segments itself.  Cut in between these segment lines.

5.  Done!


I've eaten here a few times over the past week because I love Vietnamese food and I love noodle soup.  The first time I went, I was lured in by the sign for Bun Bo Hue. Bun Bo Hue is a lemongrass scented Viet noodle soup from the city of Hue.  If done well, it is spectacularly delicious.  What brought me back for subsequent visits is 1. the quality of the food and 2. the owner.  The food is pretty good here, not mind blowingly good but pretty good.  The owner is the most loquacious noodle shop owner I have ever met.  He has a real passion for Vietnamese food and he loves what he does.  He wants to make everyone who walks into his restaurant happy.  He is also very specific about certain things.  For Bun Bo Hue, he puts rau ram (a Vietnamese herb), shredded cabbage and bean sprouts on the side plate.  For Pho, he puts Thai basil and bean sprouts only.  When I asked him why, he simply said that it's for matters of taste.  Gotta admire that.

His wife, the restaurant's cook, makes a delicious crab dish which isn't featured on the menu.  You have to order it a day ahead of time but it's well worth it.  It's a bit pricey ($25) but makes a fine meal for two people with a bit of rice.  Fresh crab, butter, garlic, salt and can you go wrong?

Get the flash player here:

If you are in Oakland Chinatown and find yourself craving noodle soup, I encourage you to give this place a try.  

Kim Huong
304 10th Street
(between Harrison St & Webster St)
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 836-3139

I walked 3 freaking miles in the pouring rain for this pork chop:

Sure is a beaut, isn't she?  Look at that layer of external fat.  Look at that intramuscular fat.  Look at that deep rich color.  Man oh man oh man.  And this isn't just ANY pork.  This is Becker Lane Pork.  Becker Lane is an organic farm which supplies many of the better restaurants in the area with their swine.   Just check out the marbling: 

I have delicious, delicious plans for this little piggy.  :) The pork was purchased at Cafe Rouge in Berkeley.

One last thing.  I purchased two slices of bacon at my local butcher today and this is what they wrapped it in:

It just strikes me as egregiously wasteful.  Anyone have any ideas on how I can solve this problem?  Ask them to use less paper?  Incidentally, the bacon was wonderful.  It is from Vande Rose Farms and is made from heirloom Duroc pigs.  This was my first experience with their product but I was very impressed.  Nice fat to meat ratio, a pronounced smokiness and delicious swine flavor.  I sliced it, crisped it up and threw it into a wilted green salad with chicken livers and sherry vinaigrette.  I will absolutely buy more of this stuff.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Last Meal: Not Eating Out in New York

(I am asking other bloggers for their perfect "last meal."  See this post for additional details.)

Today's participant is Cathy, author of Not Eating Out In New York.  Because there are so many take-out restaurants in NYC, quality is high and prices are low and, consequently, people eat out a lot.  However, there ARE a few residents who try to cook at home and some, like Cathy, do a good job of it!  Check out her site and see what she's been cheffing up!

1. Who would you dine with? My family, or can I bring only one member? This is like Sophie's choice!

2. Where would you dine? I think an outdoor picnic would be a fine setting... midsummer dusk, orchard trees, doesn't matter too much where, as long as it's quiet and peaceful.

3. What would you eat? Probably not something fancy. I'd have my mom's soy sauce chicken stew, cooked so long the bones and bloated skin fall from the meat and fat ginger slices are stained brown and tough as leather.

Mmmm, I also love soy sauce chicken.  Thanks, Cathy!

To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Last Meal: Quick Indian Cooking

(I am asking other bloggers for their perfect "last meal."  See this post for additional details.)

Today's participant is Mallika, author of Quick Indian Cooking.  Her blog is about Indian food and fast, easy dishes that can be successfully integrated into a busy lifestyle.  I find her recipes for dal (lentils) to be especially comprehensive so gogogogogogo learn a thing or two about Indian cuisine!

1. Who would you dine with? Has everyone said family? I'm going to be pretty boring... I suppose it would have to be my husband, baby, mum and little sister.

2. Where would you dine? At the family home in Calcutta. Our German Shepherd will be salivating by the side of the table, while the cook brings sizzling hot buttered rotis to the table. My mother will shout at my sister, she will shout back and next everyone will shout at each other. Then the phones will go off. Perfect!

3. What would you eat? The last supper are you kidding? What wouldn't we eat? We'd start with a thick yellow dal, with a spicy tadka, vegetable pulao rice and an aubergine stir fry. Then go on to goat meat curry cooked in dark whole spices and deep fried plain flour puris, while dipping into lemony mixed salad and three different pickles. To finish off, I'd have mishti doi, yoghurt sweetened with raw cane sugar, and anything deep fried and bright orange in colour. Now that would be the perfect way to go.

Mallika, thanks!  I can't possibly imagine how hot Calcutta must feel for your German Shepherd, lol!

To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

More on Zongzi

After yesterday's slapdash, slipshod, and sloppy (ha!) post on zongzi, I wouldn't at all be surprised if you readers were still confused as to what exactly a zongzi is.  So, because I love all of you so much, here's a little more on zongzi.

Zongzi, clothed in bamboo leaves:

Zongzi, naked.  They are mostly composed of sticky rice:

Zongzi, slain (I swear this isn't a metaphor for how I treat my women hahahahahahahah):

See the peanuts and the chunk of pork?  There's also a salted egg yolk hidden in there.

Zongzi are traditionally consumed on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival...aka 端午節.  The festival originates from the attempted rescue of an ancient Chinese poet named Quan Yu.  Poet Yu drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month which explains why the festival is celebrated on that day.  In 2010, the festival will be celebrated on June 16th.  To tie it all together rice, the main ingredient in zongzi, is traditionally thrown into the river in which Quan Yu died to prevent the fish from nibbling on his body.  Then again, Chinese mythology and history is filled with all sorts of symbolism so who knows what REALLY happened.

In truth, I wish I had done a better job documenting yesterday's zongzi because it was far superior to today's specimen in that the rice had better texture and the fillings were more ample.  Oh well, maybe I'll just have to get a third and dissect it in a future post.  :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tonight's Supper:

Salad with balsamic dressing and feta crumbles and a Chinese zongzi (粽子).  

Maybe this strange mix is just part of being half-Asian.  :)  I love zongzi aka Chinese tamales.  Tonight's version came studded with peanuts and stuffed with pork products and a salted egg yolk.  You can't see it from the picture but they are wrapped and steamed in bamboo leaves.  Yummmy! 

A real post is in the works.  A belated Happy New Years to all of my readers!