Archive for the 'essays/tutorial' Category

08
Feb
14

Cigarettes, Mangos, and Poop.

Who needs air fresheners?

Who needs air fresheners?

I’ve eaten so much fruit here. I’ve basically consumed an orchard worth of fruit and I’m not complaining at all.  It’s still winter here in Taiwan, so my access to fruit has just begun. When I was little, I never really understood the concept of seasons or regional fruits. Growing up in Southern California, I never really needed to know the gestation period of an orange tree or how it was possible to produce strawberries year around. Or even, why bananas couldn’t grow in the states, but we still had them year around.

Here, it’s different. Here, they understand the weather and the fruit that comes with the seasons. There isn’t a farmer

Wax apples only exist on roadside stands when there is a chill in the air and families start gearing up for New Year’s celebrations.

Wax apples only exist on roadside stands when there is a chill in the air and families start gearing up for New Year’s celebrations.

who is creating guavas out of season just to please a consumer from a first world country. Mangos aren’t showing up in the markets during the winter time, and wax apples only exist on roadside stands when there is a chill in the air and families start gearing up for New Year’s celebrations.

I’ve discovered that there is an integral role that fruit plays in Taiwanese culture. Without fruit, there is no aid in digestion after a filling meal. Some generations believe a meal isn’t complete without it, and some even travel to the south to ensure that they get the ripest and freshest of fruits. People buy it in bulk, specially packaged in gift boxes to send to family and friends. Whereas fruit baskets in the states are more of a novelty, here they are truly appreciated.

He was so proud of the mangos that he was growing.

He was so proud of the mangos that he was growing.

About a week ago I had the chance to visit southern Taiwan. My cousin graciously drove me and his family the six-hour trek to the southernmost tip of the island, and on the way home, we stopped by a vendor on the side of the road selling wax apples (莲雾). I was intrigued by his farm, and I noticed behind the steel shed that he and his wife sold fruit from, there was a field of mango trees. The owner offered to show me around. He was so proud of the mangos that he was growing. As he was showing me around, he began to tell me the story of his fields.

He planted his first tree 20 years ago. It was a wax apple tree. Then, about five years later, came the mango trees, with many more to follow. With my camera ready, we walked around and the farmer started pointing at various trees; he had a story for each.

“That one was the first one. I took it from a friend’s plot.  He let me have a few sprouts to start growing mangos because there was an opportunity for income, but also because my son likes them.”

*click*

“This one was planted with eight others.  For some reason, there was some tree rot going around that almost killed all of them, this was the only one that survived.”

*click*

"Do you smell that? That is the smell of real animal poop.

“Do you smell that? That is the smell of real animal poop.

“Do you smell that?  That is the smell of real animal poop.  It’s good for the trees, doesn’t have any of those weird chemicals.  That’s why my mangos are the best and are already growing. There’s the pile of poop over there, it also makes the mangos smell better.  Smell the air, take a big whiff.”

*sniff*

*cough*

*click*

I felt like I was on a tour of the Amazon, and the farmer was my naturalist guide

You can see the pride that he had in his trees and the fruit that came from it.  It was an insight into the business that many of us, or at least myself, take for granted.  I don’t think about the story of the fruit, the tree it comes from and the care taken into making it.  Mango season doesn’t start for another three months, so I didn’t really think about getting the chance to see the fruit, but my guide wanted to make sure that I got photographs of his prized possessions. So with cigarette dangling off his lips and the ashes curling down ready to blow off with the slightest gust of wind, he removed the wrapping around each mango and looked so proud of his accomplishment.

So with cigarette dangling off his lips and the ashes curling down ready to blow off with the slightest gust of wind, he removed the wrapping around each mango and looked so proud of his accomplishment.

So with cigarette dangling off his lips, he removed the wrapping around each mango and looked so proud of his accomplishment.

 From his off-yellow grin to the wrinkles in his face, you could see how happy he was to share his creation with us. It was something magical to witness.  Even more amazing, was when he let my cousins take some of his mangos, still early in the season, home.

He offered to sell us a few of the mangos, but they weren’t quite ripe yet.  Again, mango season isn’t until May and there was no way he was going to give us unripe fruit like what we get in the states.  He made a point to tell us that and looked straight at me, as if he had a sixth sense about where I came from.  So, with the mangos, he gave us explicit directions.  “Don’t let it out of the box.  I’m wrapping it with some blankets to keep it warm.  Once you get to Taipei, because it is so cold, find the warmest place in your house.  You have a heater?  Stick it there.  After 6 days, open the box and then let it breath for a few hours, then stick it back in the box and keep it warm for another day.  Then open it up and let it sit out to finish ripening.  Don’t let it near any cold or it won’t ever be ready. “

It was clear through his specific directions that he loved his work so much that he didn’t want us to not enjoy his products.  We then packed up the mangos and waved goodbye from the car, as he continued to remind us about the directions through the closed window of the car as we drove off.

I'm wrapping it with some blankets to keep it warm.

I’m wrapping it with some blankets to keep it warm.

We followed his direction to the T.  We had those mangos wrapped, re-wrapped, and heated.  We even added some extra heat just in case.  When it came time to finally cut into a mango,something was wrong.  It had completely turned black on the inside.  The mango hit too much heat and had spoiled on the inside.  From what I hear from my cousin’s kid, what she was able to taste (the two bites) were delicious.  I guess I’ll just have to wait until May.

I noticed behind the steel shed that he and his wife sold fruit from, there was a field of mango trees

I noticed behind the steel shed that he and his wife sold fruit from, there was a field of mango trees

But it’s ok.  If having to buy fruit from the side of the road will give me the chance to randomly meet a farmer again and hear his story and see the love and pride he has in the work he does, I’ll accept a few spoiled mangos.

If buying fruit from the side of the road will give me the chance to randomly meet a farmer and hear his story, I'll accept a few spoiled mangos.

If buying fruit from the side of the road will give me the chance to randomly meet a farmer and hear his story, I’ll accept a few spoiled mangos.

01
Dec
13

Mom’s Gravy and the Start of a new Journey

IMG_4417

Perfect Thanksgiving combo: Stuffing and Gravy.

Today, I start a new chapter in my life.  I begin a 6 month trip that has been 10 years in the making.  Since graduating from college, I have always told myself that my back-up plan in life would be to pick up everything, get on a plane, and move to Taiwan.  If I didn’t get into grad school, I would pack all my things; if I didn’t get the job I wanted, I would find some stinky tofu; if I didn’t have the right house, I would work on the family pig farm.  But the thing is, I always found a reason to not use my back-up option.  I never admitted to myself that the back-up option was actually the dream that I wanted to have come true.  I always came up with excuses to convince myself that I wasn’t going to be able to make the trip. That I would fail. That I didn’t have enough money. That I would ruin something good that was happening in NYC, DC, or Oregon.

I’ve decided though, enough with the excuses.  I had to make a decision, and that decision was to have everything else be a back-up, and to just buy a ticket and go.  So, thanks to the people who reminded that I was turning 30, the visa requirements in Taiwan,  the understanding and support of my family, friends, and colleagues, and a drunken night, I will embark on a six-month personal adventure to discover food, family, and myself.  I’m scared shitless.

I don’t have many goals for this trip; I’ve been trying to convince myself to not worry about that.  It’s a challenge

Passport?  Check.  Vaccines? Check.

Passport? Check. Vaccines? Check.

that I want to try to succeed at.  Goals are not necessary for me right now.  I’m about to take a journey and I want to be as spontaneous as I can, without feeling overwhelmed.  So, as I write this, I am preparing for the first leg of my trip.  I’ll have limited internet access, but will post as often as I can, but I’ll be starting in South America.  I’ll be going up  to a lost city of the Incas, hanging out with pink dolphins, and checking out some blue footed boobys. But first, a trip home to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family.  This is the first time having Thanksgiving with my family in four years and it’s a great way to start a journey of a new chapter.  A return to something so familiar and so delicious: my Dad’s sticky rice and my Mom’s mushroom gravy.

 

~stuff

1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (10.5 oz)

½ c turkey fat from drippings (or any animal fat)

1 c cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

½ c  scallions, minced

~steps

combine soup, fat, and mushrooms in a medium saucepan over medium high heat

stir until combined and heated through (about ten minutes)

turn heat on low and stir in scallions and cook for about two minutes

remove from heat and serve, especially over my dad’s stuffing

-serves 6 or 7-

 

17
Jan
13

Day 15: [video post] Durian and My Momma

Day 15 has arrived. The top of the hill is here and now, for the rest of the month, I can see the finish line. I’ve reached that point in my posting that I realize that everything is last minute. I’m reminded of every paper I wrote in college.

There would be times that I would spend 24 hours in the library trying to finish three books in order to write a comparative paper on the presence of the color red in the clothes of the dominant characters in the story line. Sound like bs? It was most times. But I always had an end goal and I always accomplished it.

This year, it’s the dragon list. I must, no, I will accomplish at least half of the list by the deadline. Procrastination and resistance will only win partially and I will finish the year with more knowledge, skills, and experiences than last year. I’m excited to move forward and I can’t wait for the day when I get to look back at my lists, my posts, my life and evaluate where I have been and where I will be going. It’s been a great journey and there will be more to come, I know.

So as I do a mini halftime celebration of this marathon, I wanted to share with you one of the pivotal moment of my blog and me coming out of my comfort zone. I started doing video posts, I tried durian, and I involved my parents in this part of my world.

Now, I want to challenge my readers. Who wants to join me in a lunar New Years list? It’s coming up in a month and we should start planning the accomplishments we want to achieve next year. Maybe you could add durian to your list?

11
Jan
13

Day 9: Garlic Chive and Bean Sprout Stir-Fry

Please accept this stir fry as my apology.

Please accept this stir fry as my apology.

Hi friends,

 

I’m going to apologize to you all for today’s post.  There is no funny story, no memory from the past, or some interesting research that I have done.  Instead it is a recipe, that my Mom did teach me, and a letter of apology.

 

When I started this journey to blog three years ago, it was solely for the purpose to document recipes that I would want to revisit in the future.  Stories, anecdotes, and essays where more of an afterthought when it came to posting on brb…eating and wasn’t a priority of mine.  However, a few years have gone by and I realized that I found joy in sharing the stories with everyone about my memories, experiences, and connection that I have with food.

 

I did a food blog marathon a few years ago as a challenge to myself to continue writing and follow through on projects.  I, like many people, start things with excitement, joy, and determination to finish but soon fall into the comforting embrace of laziness and procrastination.  So, in 2010, I challenged myself and completed my first 30 posts in 30 days marathon.  I was excited to accomplish something as challenging as a marathon.  However, in all honesty, I was not proud of the posts.  They felt rushed, forced, and shallow at times because my focus was on the recipe and not on the story.
This time around, with a slightly improved writing style, I’ve set out to do a marathon that I am proud of.  Instead of focusing on the food, I would focus on the story and find out what dish that inspires from it.  From that I have been able to share spills in ice water, the history of Chinese restaurants, and my mom and dad trying to force me into a life of crime.  But, today, I’ve hit a block.  The first time I did a marathon, posts took an average of 3 hours to create, cook, and write.  Now, I work 8 to 9 hour days and in addition spend 4 to 5 hours developing and creating the recipe, photographing the completed dish, and then writing the post to share with everyone.  At the end of the day, doing this on a daily basis is rough and something I didn’t plan.  But, I’m not letting it deter me from completing.

 

Since I made the rules for this blogging marathon, I feel like it will be ok to add one more rule.  I’m here by stating that it’s ok for me to not have a “traditional brb…eating” post once during the marathon process.  This will give me a chance to recharge, reboot, and be re-invigorated to continue on in the rest of the marathon.  So, I’m using that rule today as I share with you a recipe that my mom made when I was young.  It’s a stir-fry recipe so it’s quick, easy, and fresh.   It is the perfect post on a day where I am suffering from a loss of words.

 

I also now understand, why some of the bloggers that I admire write on a weekly basis.  And the ones that write more than once a week, I admire you even more.

 

~slu

 

~stuff

1 tsp oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 c garlic chives, one inch pieces

2 c mung bean sprouts

1 tbs rice wine

1 tsp salt

 

~steps

heat  oil in a wok or pan on high heat until it begins to shimmer

stir fry  garlic until it begins to change color

add chives and bean sprouts and stir for a few minutes

season with rice wine and salt and stir

serve as a side

 

-serves 3-

08
Jan
13

day 6: Chop Suey

Chop Suey

Chop Suey

I went to Palm Springs a few weeks ago and was reminded about the glamour of the 50’s and 60’s and how magical it was.  I love how Palm Springs and the people who have settled there never forgot that Hollywood and the celebrities of the mid century made it their get away spot.  My last trip made me realize how inspiring everything was during that time and how much of an influence that it had on culture, food, and people.  So, naturally, I started to do some research on the 50’s to learn more about the dishes, beverages, and designs that started or died in such an important moment in history.  And, because I’m always interested in food, ingredients, and ethnic cuisines and how they get their start in certain areas, I learned some cool facts about the history of Chinese restaurants.

In the late 1800’s, Chinese restaurants began to spring up in mining and railroad towns of the West Coast to accommodate workers who where primarily Chinese immigrants and mine workers from Toison or the Canton region.  Because of this, Chinese restaurants where filled with recipes from these regions like Egg Foo Young, and Moo Goo Gai Pan.  However, in the early 20’s restaurants began to cater more to American non-Chinese guests with the increased interest by White Americans to the non White (Jazz, the Jazz Singer, and now Chop Suey).  Egg Foo Young and Moo Goo Gai Pan became bland versions of Cantonese food to appeal to the American tastes of the time.  With this and the lack of access to authentic ingredients, dishes became something else and turned into egg omelets or stir-fries covered in brown gravy.

However, it was in the 50’s (to take it back to Palm Springs) that Chinese food began to become a dinner spot for American families to participate.  “Going for Chinese” became a phrase as common as going for Italian or going for French. Eventually in the 50’s, with the development of Hollywood culture, the industrial revolution, and the development of our Social Class system, the idea of eating out began to grow and was a weekly activity.  With this, Chinese restaurants began to create more formal and family dining experiences.  The dishes that where created in the 20’s have now become a staple in American culture and everyone knew of Chinese food the way many people know of it today.

It wasn’t until the 60’s when immigration policy began to shift to allow more Chinese immigrants into the US.  With the growing number of people from these communities, flavors and ingredients from Hunan and Szechuan began to make their way into the restaurant industry.  More spices and textures began to dominate the market as communities began to develop across the country.  Diners began to see American versions of Chinese food have flavor, spice, and texture to accommodate more of an “authentic” quality for the growing communities.  Americans began to start seeing the appearances of dishes like Hunan Beef, Orange Chicken, and Sweet and Sour Pork.  The rest was history.  Well, the rest was…Panda Express?

One of the things that sucks about Chinese American food is that it tastes so bland or one note.  It’s either really salty with some un-identifiable brown sauce, or is a plate of steamed broccoli, carrots, and bell pepper that is over cooked and raw at the same time.  But, I have a solution!  This version of Chop Suey comes from my sister in law’s mother.    She made it for Christmas two years ago and I realized then that Chop Suey can be flavorful, delicious, fresh, and fantastic. The sauce is made with vinegar, broth, and preserved vegetables to help highlight the fresh ingredients rather than a salty gravy to counter act any health benefits this could provide.

Researching the 50’s has inspired and interested me to cook the dishes the way that they where always intended.  You may find a recipe for Moo Goo Gai Pan or Egg Foo Young in the near future.  But I promise, I won’t touch Panda Express’ Orange Chicken.  That stuff is way too good and when one reaches perfection in a recipe, why would you change it?

~stuff

2 tbs vegetable, canola, peanut oil

1/2 c pickled vegetable

1/4 c shallots, diced

1 c carrots, julienne

4 stalks celery, 1/4 inch slices at an angle

1 c shitake mushroom, sliced (about 4 large caps)

1 c bamboo shoots, sliced

4 c sliced mixed vegetables [cabbage, bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, edamame…]

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs rice wine or cooking sherry

2 tbs black vinegar or 1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 c broth or water

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

~steps

heat a oil in a wok on high heat until screaming hot

sauté pickled vegetables and shallots in wok

add carrots, celery, mushroom and bamboo until carrots turn tender and celery turns a bright green color

add the rest of the vegetables and stir fry until slightly tender

season the dish with the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat down to medium

stir until the sauce is well incorporated into the vegetables and the greens are all slightly tender

-serves 8-

03
Jan
13

My 100th Post and a Blogging Marathon: 30 in 30 days

A new look for the new year?

A new look for the new year?

It’s a new year, and lucky for me, means I don’t have to make any resolutions for another month.  On the flip side, I now only have a month to get my Dragon List completed before the snake rears it’s head on the 10th of February.  I will then discover what I have accomplished, what was a lack of judgement on my part, and what was just me losing perspective. (Did I really say that I would read a book in Chinese?)  Once the new year hits, I get to start the cycle all over again and create another list of 29 goals for my 29th year.  Holy. Shit.Because my lists where always private, I would find some way to use a loophole, excuse, or exaggeration as to why I didn’t, couldn’t, or sort of complete a task and be satisfied with the answer.  However, this year I decided to go public with my list, and have already been reminded through emails, calls and conversations of the many things on my list that I still need to do.  It’s like everyone has become my Aunt Martha, hovering over me and piercing a hole in every excuse I throw at her as to why I didn’t want to go to Yoga to do an intense side stretch.  (Note to my friends, I don’t have an Aunt Martha.  It’s not a common Taiwanese name).

However, because of the accountability, I’ve decided to attempt most of the list.  One of my goals this lunar year was to write 54 posts.  There is no excuse why I have not done this, I couldn’t blame a person, the internet, a third party, or my brother’s cat.  (All which would have failed the test of my Aunt Martha if I had one).  So, in order to get close to crossing this one off my list, I’m doing a blogging marathon.  If folks remember a couple of years back I did 30 posts in 30 days.  It was a fun and challenging experience that ended in a well stocked refrigerator, a full roomate, and a bank account that was slightly higher than usual because of the amount of money I was saving from not going out to eat lunch.

So, in honor of the new year, the dragon list, my procrastination, and my 100th post;  I will commit to writing 30 posts in 30 days.

——-

This is my 100th post.  When I first started this blog a few years ago, I was looking for a way to best document the dishes that have been so important to me.  I wanted to have a place where I could keep a list of recipes that are significant; Each one holds a cherished story or memory from my childhood.  I had no idea how much of an impact food would have on me, my childhood, my discoveries, my growth, or my relationships.  Writing for brb…eating has  been an amazing journey; One that I thought would have been finished in a year or so, but it’s clearly developed into a longer adventure that I now consider to me very much a part of who I am.  I’m so glad that I’ve been able to share it with all of you and I look forward to many more to come.  To commemorate my 100th post, I’m revisiting my first blog post, “Chicken Adobo.”  I’ve edited it (my writing has improved so much in the last 100 posts) and updated the recipe (It’s taken me a few years, but I now understand why ingredients are listed in a specific order.) I hope you enjoy and thank you for following me on this journey.

Chicken adobo; not the witch's brew version.

Chicken adobo; not the witch’s brew version.

“I’m not sure it’s suppose to look like that…”

My brother and I stared at the pot of chicken bones bubbling in a tan, creamy, gravy like sauce with bits of chicken pieces floating about.  We had spent over an hour on this dish and had no idea how or what it had turned into.

“It doesn’t look like the Filipino Chicken Adobo we get at the restaurant. It’s suppose to have the look of braised chicken.”  Instead it looked like something only mentioned in fairy tales when describing the witch’s brew.  We tried it, and I continued to question the tough, rubbery texture and flavor of the sauce.  It was a “first time cooking Chicken Adobo” failure, it was also one of the first times that my brother and I cooked together.  Before this, it was rare for my brother and I to ever be able to cook together.  We are 7 years apart which translates to me being home as a kid while he is in college and then us being in separate parts of the country while I was in college and he was being an adult.  Luckily I found my way to New York which has made the two of us even closer as well as many more days of cooking together and more successful attempts.

A few days after the adobo attempt, my brother figured out that what we had made was basically soy mayo with chicken in it.  If it sounds gross, you are right.  It  looked gross too.  The vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar mixed with the protein from the rendered chicken was basically the foundation of a mayonnaise or aioli.  At the time of attempting this dish, my culinary techniques where a little lacking.  I thought that turning something on high meant you where hungry and it would cook faster and that braising was for people with patience.  However, the rolling boil of the liquid  was enough to agitate the protein and fat and essentially mimicked the whisking or shaking that produces mayonnaise.  Oh, so that’s one of the reasons we braise things.

A couple of years later, I asked my friend Holly how her mom made the dish.   She gave me the list of ingredients and the family secret.  Her mom finishes the chicken off in the oven to ensure that it develops a crispy skin and slight glaze.   So with my knowledge of braising and the importance of a slow low heat and now with some insider secret from new Tita, I was able to recreate the Chicken Adobo with my brother.   The flavor was sweet, salty, and tangy.  The vinegar and slow braise allowed the chicken to become extremely tender and juicy.  The best part was the crisp skin that came from the few minutes that chicken was  in the oven.  To add more sauce, you can reduce the braising liquid down to give it a thicker consistency while the chicken is finishing, or you can skip the oven step all together.

If you have access to cane vinegar, I recommend it.  You can get it from most Asian stores.  It has a slightly sweet quality to it, but white vinegar is a good substitute.

~stuff

2 lb chicken (I like to mix wings and drumsticks)

1 tbs vegetable, peanut, or canola oil

4 large garlic cloves

2 dried chili crushed, or 1 tsp red chili flakes (to taste)

2 bay leaves

3/4 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup white vinegar

1/8 cup sugar

1 stalk of scallions, minced

~steps

sear chicken on high in a large dutch oven or heavy based pot with oil and remove chicken

add chili flakes, bay leaves, and garlic to the pot and sauté until garlic is fragrant and slightly toasted

return chicken and pour soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar and stir to coat

turn down heat to medium low and let simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

remove chicken, put onto baking dish and broil on high until chicken is slightly crispy (4-5 minutes)

reduce the braising liquid and pour over the chicken

garnish with green onions (optional)

-serves 6-

 

01
Nov
12

Hurricane Sandy Update/Request for Support and a Drink Recipe

Hey Folks,

First of all, I’m ok.  Sandy came and went to my household only leaving a few leaky windows.  We were lucky.  Second, I’ve been really busy the last couple of months playing with foams, powders, floats, and ice at work so I’ve neglected a lot of my blogging duties.  For that, I apologize.  I did however want to share an email I sent out a day after the storm.  It’s attached below.

Also, I wanted to make sure I had a recipe at least to make up for some of the silence.  So, pasted below is “The Sazerac”.  It’s my drink of choice on these cold fall days.  Enjoy.

Damage in Chinatown

Hello Friends,

I write this email to update you about my status in NYC after the hurricane.  My brother and housemates are safe and we only suffered a few leaks and anxiety attacks from watching “The Walking Dead” during the howling wind. However, these are all fixable minor problems in comparison to the damages to our communities and I write to you for help.  As many of you know, I have been working with an amazing organization called CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities for the past 15 years.  CAAAV works to build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in New York City. Now, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, they have stepped up to be an important space for those affected the hurricane

Currently, residents in Chinatown are facing a lack of power, water, and information.  While much of the focus in the news is surrounding the Financial District and coastal towns, hundreds of residents are without basic necessities in buildings that were already in poor conditions.  Some areas of Chinatown have tenants filling water bottles through broke hydrants along the streets and without any form of heat or hot water.  Also, as of now, no materials have been translated into Chinese, which leaves many families, children, and elders scared and without access to important information.  Many of these people are living day to day without the knowledge of evacuation centers, support centers, or other services nor do they know about any health dangers within their environment.

CAAAV is leading the effort in Chinatown by providing flashlights, batteries, drinking water, and translated information for those without power in the city.  In just one day after the hurricane, CAAAV had over 500 residents and members come to the offices for help, clean water, and a warm place to spend a few hour.  In addition to this, volunteers and staff members went door to door to inform people of the current conditions and translate information to ensure that all understood what was happening.  The local evacuation center in the community was so un-prepared that they where reaching out to CAAAV for supplies.  The 7th Precinct Police Station was also directing community members to the CAAAV office while also trying to shut them down at the same time.

As many of you can imagine, this is an extremely expensive endeavor. Staff, members, and volunteers have spent hundreds of dollars of their own funds in order to ensure the safety of the community and that folks receive the support that they need during these hard times. Being on the board, there is no way to ever plan on an event like Sandy and budget the necessary funds to support this important work.  And as a board member, it’s extremely frustrating to have to ask volunteers and community members to spend their own money on supplies and services that should be available to them by our elected officials.  So, please join me in supporting CAAAV and its work to build power for these immigrant and refugee communities.  I am setting a personal goal of raising $1,000.  With this money CAAAV will be able to provide enough water, flashlights, and materials and information to over 400 residents. 

Please join me in supporting this important work.  Just $20 can buy around 40 bottles of water.  If you would like to donate please email me with a pledge or you can go donate here.  For more information about CAAAV, please visit www.caaav.org.

Thank you all for your support,

~slu

——

The Sazerac

~stuff

2 rocks glasses

ice

1 sugar cube

6 dashes of creole bitter or peychaud’s bitter

2 oz rye whiskey

absinthe

lemon peel

~steps

fill one rocks glass with ice and set aside

saturate sugar cube with bitters and muddle until a paste in the other glass

add rye whiskey and stir with ice until cold

 

dump out ice in other glass and rinse with absinthe (coat the inside with absinthe) and dump out excess liquor

 

strain whiskey into coated glass and twist lemon over the drink

-serves 1-

19
Jan
12

28 things to do with the Dragon

the dragon welcomes you

I do resolutions. Well, let me correct myself. I make resolutions. “Doing” a resolution would imply that I actually have completed and crossed off said resolution. So, although I don’t do resolutions, I enjoy making them [I know, it’s a conundrum]. Every year, while the rest of the world is joining a gym or starting a diet at the beginning of January, I am creating a list for lunar new year with new and old resolutions. It’s a private tradition I do every year where I make goals, plans, and dreams for the year. Some I reach, many I don’t. But I still love to do it. Something about sitting down and evaluating the past year, and then figuring what I want to do in the year to come is exciting for me. It feels like growth, new adventures and discovery, and I love that.

This year, I’ve decided to do something different and share my list with you all. I’ve been inspired to do this by one of my friends, who is an amazing writer and has a travel blog called Flip Flop Caravan. At the end of the year, she talks about her goals for the past year and the ones that she has crossed off. She calls it her life list. Her journey is amazing to read and her ability to meet so many of the things on her bucket list are inspiring. So, because of her work, I’m making a list of 28 things that I want to accomplish this year.

This post was a little difficult for me to write. I’m not a person who is comfortable to be public about things, which is strange for a blogger. This is especially the case with a list of resolutions. I usually write the list on some scrap of paper that I hide in my dresser drawer so I see it randomly throughout the year. No one has ever seen my lists. They usually range anywhere from something that has to do with a personality or private matter to cooking a dish or having a travel/food show. So clearly, some goals are lofty, some more realistic and some that only belong in my underwear drawer while others can be shouted from the top of the world. But they help me see the direction that I want to take my life for the year and how I have grown as a person in interest, profession, and personality.

I’ve rewritten the post different ways and different times. I’m not entirely sure I’m settling on this format, or even the way it looks. But the problem is, I will never be happy with this post because it will always be changing. But here it goes.

My resolutions for the Year of the Dragon:

  1. Be able to do Parshvottanasana “intense side stretch”
  2. Make Zhong Zi (Taiwanese Tamales)
  3. Travel to Taiwan
  4. Complete the Run4Kelly
  5. Star in a travel show/cooking show
  6. Start a successful sake program at work
  7. Write 54 posts
  8. Make pizza from scratch
  9. Make kimchee
  10. Learn to shuck an oyster
  11. Snorkel in Australia or Hawaii
  12. Build a garden on the roof
  13. Buy a plant and keep it alive
  14. Build a home bar
  15. Visit a winery
  16. Read and understand a Chinese version of Doraemon
  17. Make Fu Qi Fei Pian
  18. Make white sugar cake
  19. Create a video post for www.brb-eating.com
  20. Make Taiwanese sausage
  21. Visit the food network offices
  22. Try Durian
  23. Host a dumpling making party
  24. Buy a new tv
  25. Enjoy a bottle of rare wine
  26. Eat a meal at ABC Kitchen
  27. Send 6 postcards from 6 different places
  28. Take a knife skills class
05
May
11

feliz cinco de mayo

It’s Cinco De Mayo.   Time for Americans all across the country to come together at their local “Mexican” restaurant/bar and do tequila shot, drink lots of margaritas, and eat chips and salsa to celebrate a holiday they know little about.

Some people seem to think that Cinco De Mayo is to celebrate Mexican independence.  Not so.  Instead it is the day that the Mexican army had successfully fought the French army in the Battle of Puebla.  So, while everyone is taking shots of Tequila to Mexican independence, which is September 16th by the way, I will be doing a shot of tequila (drinking a michelada) in honor of the infamous day that the city of Puebla was not conquered by the French.

In honor of the Americanized holiday, I have put together some of my past posts that I feel are fitting for today.  Enjoy and salud!

roasted jalapeno guacamole

smokey black beans

enchiladas con salsa verde

mango salsa

calamansi margarita

13
Jan
11

soy braised daikon

 

...see all that umami deliciousness floating around in there...

I’m not the best person when it comes to explanations.  Ask most of my friends and family.  I tend to start to explain something, but then I start to trail off onto another tangent or I am vague enough to force my audience to be confused even more . Sometimes I’m both, which really infuriates my family and friends.  It’s usually the most obscure concepts that are the most confusing for me to explain.  Usually I understand it crystal clear, however putting it into words is usually difficult.  Umami is one of those concepts.

I love umami.  It’s a pretty amazing flavor. For folks who aren’t familiar with umami:  no, it is not a new concept and no, it is not Japanese for “delicious” as the Kikkoman commericial implies.  Umami has been classified as the fifth taste.  It is a taste that goes beyond the four tastes.  Now, I’m going to try my hardest to break it down for you in this post, but please bear with me if I lose you.  And if I do lose you, just go down to the recipe…it’s Kikkoman’s definition of “umami”, delicious.

So we have our four tastes that we all learned in grade school: sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.  Right?  All of them exists in almost every dish we eat now either on its own or in some sort of combination.  Now, there is a fifth taste that we were never taught as children and it is “umami”.  Essentially what umami is trying to describe is “savory”.  We all have been taught that if something is not sweet than it is savory.  However, this is not true.  If something is not sweet, then it just isn’t sweet.  Savory/umami is a layer of taste that is slight salty, with a tinge of bitterness and a lasting flavor in the back of the tongue.  All right, I lost you right?

Imagine you are about dine on some amazing beef stew.  The meat has been marrying and melting and infusing with the broth, root vegetables, onions, and herbs for almost the whole day. Now you sit down and take a huge whiff of the amazing warm meal you are about to partake in.  The first spoonful is put in your mouth and you chew the morsels and mix the flavors around in your mouth.  The sweetness of the vegetables is marrying well with the flavors of the herbs.  You swallow that first bite, regretfully wanting more.  You look down to scoop the next bite and the bowl of stew is gone.  Someone has taken it and you realize that the flavor is your mouth still exists and will not go away.  Unfortunately you want more because you can still taste a flavor on your tongue.  It’s not a distinct herb or vegetable taste.  But it’s something amazing.  That lingering taste that is in the back of your tongue and almost in your throat.  That is “umami”.

My mom always cooked with umami before I think she knew what umami was.  She, like many Asian folks, used MSG to achieve that taste.  Not knowing what the affects where, it was sold as a flavor enhancer.  Essentially it created the umami flavor we where all looking for.  For our household, it always came naturally to the cooking process:  stir fry or braise, add salt, and then add MSG.  After my mom realized what the health dangers to MSG were, she stopped using MSG and the umami flavor disappeared.  Sometimes she would use dashi powder for vegetable stir fries, but that was it.  I miss those MSG induced comas and throat swelling days.  Only a small price for awesome flavor.

I’ve learned since then that cooking with some ingredients provides great umami flavor.  A small look into that list are things like shitake mushrooms, soy sauce, ripe tomatoes, fish, and beef.  The recipe that follows is the most umami filled thing that I have ever made.  Besides the ginger and the daikon, everything in this will create the umami flavor.  Enjoy it and savor the flavor and realize that you have always tasted the fifth taste.  It’s probably easier than me trying to explain it.

~stuff

6 1 inch pieces dried kombu

3 cups water (3¼  cup if using regular sodium soy sauce)

1/3 cup mirin

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce (1/4 cup if regular sodium)

¼ cup bonito flakes

1 tsp grated ginger

3 whole dried shitake (don’t need to soak)

1 large daikon peeled and cut into 1 ½ to 2 inch coins

~steps

combine the first seven ingredients in a large sauce pan and bring to simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.

remove all ginger and bonito flakes from the broth and discard

add daikon to the broth and cover and simmer on low until daikon is fork tender, about 30 minutes

-serves 4-6-




…me…


i hunger...i cook...i eat...i come back...i reminisce...i blog...enjoy.

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