Archive for the 'fruit' 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.

09
May
13

Japanese Curry with Ground Pork and Apples

Japanese Kare

Japanese Kare

“Did you put apples in that?”

 

“Yes, the image on the box has a picture of an apple, so I figured I would put some of it in the curry.”

 

“Wait, is that a pear you just put in, too?”

 

“I had an extra Asian pear lying around and thought it would be a good idea.”

 

This is how my mom cooks.  She is always inspired by whatever seems logical to her at the time, and then it is a crapshoot as to how the dish actually tastes.  The above conversation took place while she was cooking Japanese curry.  Our Japanese curry always came from a pre-packaged spice mix.  It was the additional ingredients that made it my Mom’s “special recipe.”  To me, she was the original Sandra Lee (but Taiwanese and less intense when it came to “tablescapes”).

 

IMG_4534

Is that the fruit section from the grocery store in the curry?

“I think you put too many apples in this, I can’t tell if I’m eating a potato or an apple.  Wait, is this a salted plum?”

 

My mom’s cooking style is an adventure and a journey.  She starts at a certain idea, picks up characters and ingredients along the way, and finishes with a complete story with a happy ending.  I’ve learned to appreciate her creative focus and now use it myself when I come up with the recipes for this blog. This in-the-moment creativity that defines my mother and my own cooking style is one of the things that my brother always criticizes me for.

 

For him, if it’s the first time that he is cooking a dish for friends or family, he will research a recipe and measure everything out with precision.  It makes sense.  Me, however, I will look at a recipe or two for inspiration and ideas.  I then grab ingredients that I think would taste good and run with it.  My brother gives me crap for it all the time, until he takes his first bite. The complaining then ceases.

 

I’m glad my mom taught me how to cook.  I credit my creativity to her.  If there was an ingredient she liked, something she wanted to try, or a dish she enjoyed from a meal out with the family, she would attempt making it at home.  Even today, she’ll still call me to chat about a dish she just made and how proud she is of the final outcome.   She’ll go into detail about it and I’m usually caught off guard from one or two ingredients.  But in the end, she is happy with result and it sounds like it would work.

 

I now make my Japanese curry with apples in it.  It gives it a subtle, sweet flavor without tasting too sweet.  The blend of spice and smoke go well with the apple.  But, you won’t see me putting a salted plum or pear in it.

I need more curry.

I need more curry.

 

Notes on the dish:  This is Japanese curry or “Kare”.  It was introduced to Japan by the British because of their colonial rule over India.  It’s much milder compared to Indian curry, and delicious with rice.  I made this from scratch, but you can make it with pre-packaged Kare.  I like both versions of the curry.  It’s kind of how I feel about homemade mac and cheese and the Kraft version.  Sometimes the packaged stuff is just as good in its own way.

~stuff

 

2 tbs butter

1 tbs garam masala or a milder curry powder (if you want less hot)

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 c onion, chopped

1 lb ground meat of your choice

1/2 c carrot, chopped

1 c vegetables, chopped (mix it up with squash, celery, chayote…)

1 medium potato, chopped

1 medium apple, chopped

1 c broth, vegetable or meat

½ c water

salt to taste

 

~steps

 

heat butter with curry powder, tumeric, garlic powder, cumin, and coriander and slightly toast the spices on high heat

 

add onion, ginger, and meat and stir until cooked through

 

stir in all the vegetables and fruit, add broth and water, and turn heat down to medium heat

 

simmer  on medium heat until fully incorporated and curry begins to thicken, about 30 to 45 minutes

 

season to taste and serve over rice

 

-serves 4-

 

27
Mar
13

Blueberry, Ginger, Pomegranate, Thyme Ice Cream Sundae

I assure you, this is not a candle.

I assure you, this is not a candle.

When I was little, I was a curious child.  I’ve definitely tasted my fair share of things that were either unsanitary, unhealthy, or toxic; playdough is salty, silly putty does not taste like the taffy it looks like, and scented markers don’t taste the way they smell.  You can blame things like my stupidity, curiosity, or simply my lack of self control; if something seemed edible, or even resembled something edible, I would put it in my mouth to see if I could learn from the experience and use it in some dish in the future. Or, at least, I would try to remember what it was so I could get my mom to cook it again.

I remember a distinct moment from my youth when I ran out of my room in a one piece footed pajamas after growing tired of my Teddy Ruxpin toy.  I had gone out to see what the rest of the world was up to (more so how I can get my brother in trouble from my antics) and  high above my head on the bar countertop was a beautiful sight.  A sight so beautiful I forgot about all the things I was going to do to my brother.  A light was beaming down with glitter over a clear parfait glass, through it the beautiful colors mirroring only a world that could be imagined by a child filled with neon trees, crystal waters, and sparkle covered animals.  A mountain on top of the glass was in perfect spiral as it fluffed up to the ceiling of our living room, topped with a perfect ruby orb of a cherry, and pierced with a bright purple straw.  I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and quickly grabbed it.

“I must have this beautiful thing to myself and no one must know it exists.” I looked around and noticed that my parents were in the backyard entertaining the guests, who I could only imagine were the messengers of such a great gift.  I turned my gaze back to the sundae.

“Quickly!  You must take a sip.  Once you put your mouth on the straw, coodie law dictates all.  And in that law if you touch it with your germs, then  you get to claim ownership.”  I grabbed the glass and to my surprise, it wasn’t cold to the touch.  It turns out that it was not ice cream.  However, because of the bright colors and the easy access to it (come to think of it, I had to grab my step stool to get to it), I thought it must be some sort of amazing Asian candy.  My mom would always come back from trips with candy in the shape of other treats.  This was just an elaborate one.  As I pursed my lips towards the straw, I began to fantasize the sugary sweetness that was about to cover my taste buds.

 

I finally leaned in to take my first sip of what I imagined was going to be strawberry flavored because of the aroma. With my first sip, an immediate sharpness hit my tongue and I run to the sink to spit everything out.  A deep red waxy liquid mixed with my saliva is sprayed all over the white porcelain as I try to get rid of whatever evil has taken over my mouth.  It had the taste of camphor, lightly braised in dish soap, with some strawberry scented markers, and a pinch of eraser shavings.

 

“What is this mad trick that these adults are trying to play on me?!”  I inspected this malicious and foul item in my hand and realized that what I thought was the stem of the cherry was in fact a wick;  I had just tasted a strawberry scented candle.  I returned the candle to the bar top as quickly as I could – I wanted to avoid any concerns that my parents would have when they realized I had eaten chemicals and I also was afraid of being humiliated if my brother saw what I had done. I then ran back to my Teddy Ruxpin and began a therapy session with him, confessing to him my new found fear of candles, strawberry scented things, and sundaes.

 

~stuff

 

16 oz pomegranate juice

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1/2 c orange juice,

2 tbs honey

1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 c blueberry, fresh or frozen

2 tsp butter, optional

vanilla ice cream

toasted nuts (I like almonds and walnuts)

 

~steps

 

Simmer all ingredients except for butter in saucepan on medium to high heat

 

Reduce sauce until half, about 40 minutes and turn off heat

 

Mix butter in if you want a creamier and shinier sauce

 

Serve over ice cream with a sprinkle of nuts.

 

-serves about 4-

24
Feb
11

orange popsicle crush

orange popsicle crush

This blog is starting to become a vessel for my food addictions.  I’m not sure if I should congratulate myself on doing some internal growth and development by taking the plunge of admitting my addiction in such a public way or if I should go hide in shame in a corner with a big bowl of lard rice.  I think I may choose the latter.  If you also notice, I don’t usually do anything to change the addiction.  This is mainly because of two reasons:  1) my addictions are not deadly (in the short term) and 2) I like food and drinks way too much to be picky about it.  So, after much random tangents, I will now admit my addiction.  Let me poise myself, look down in shame, and take a deep breath.  Here it is, I am Scott Lu and I am addicted to popsicles.

Now, I love my popsicles.  Something about the refreshing coolness combined with sweet fruity awesomeness is a great combination.  (yes, that sentence was mundane and remedial at it’s best).  I’ll eat any type of popsicles.  My favorites do have to be the kind that I grew up with when I was young: Big Sticks, original, and  Firecrackers.  Awesome.  Although the real fruit popsicles are great, and I love chomping down on piece of frozen strawberry, but something about the neon colored, “artificially flavored with real fruit juice” ice on a stick just makes me so happy inside.

Popsicles are simple.  When I was little I would pour some juice in an ice cube tray and then freeze it.  That’s not exciting enough and worth a post.  So, why not challenge myself to create a post that reminds me of popsicles and yet seems exciting to create?

The answer? I revert to my lemonade cleanse days, and make it deliciously alcoholic.  Working as a bartender allows me the opportunity to make new creations and play around with ingredients that my home bar doesn’t have.  There has been this recent trend, not sure where it comes from, to have orange vodka and sprite.  I tried it, and liked it, but it felt like it was missing another layer of flavor.  I grabbed a few slices of orange, muddled it up, and the citrus oils gave it an extra layer of flavor.  I felt like I was drinking a cup of orange popsicles.  It was amazing.

Who knew that adding natural fruit to flavored vodka would make it taste like unnaturally flavored popsicles?  The natural oils in the citrus zest and pith create an awesome flavor that lingers as you take each sip.  Although this may seem like a summer drink (the citrus), do it in the wintertime.  Oranges are in season and the sweetest and most fragrant.  Also, don’t use orange juice as a substitute.  That’s not the point, it’s the peels that are key in this drink.

Oh, and I’m glad that I have found a way to combine two of my addictions: Popsicle and alcohol.  One step closer to attaining perfection?

~stuff

orange slices

1 ½ oz Orange flavored vodka (Stoli Oranj, Absolut Mandarin)

ice

lemon/lime soda (sprite or 7 up)

~steps

muddle (smash up) a couple of slices of orange in a glass

fill glass with ice and vodka

shake glass with shaker or stir with spoon

top with soda

garnish with orange slice if you like

enjoy

-serves 1-

28
Jan
11

calamansi margarita

Happy Birthday brb-eating.com (and mom).  Let’s celebrate with a drink.

“]

...calamansi margarita...BK hipster style...

I don’t like tequila. I’ve had many bad experiences with it. Whenever I have a whiff of that liquid, I’ve found myself reverting myself to a place of fear, pain, and confusion. I’m forced back to college mornings where I, of legal drinking age, am crouching in an upright fetal position asking myself why oh why would I do such a thing to my head, stomach, and morals. It wasn’t until a few years later when I was living in DC that I challenged myself to try tequila again. I soon learned that it still had the same adverse reactions and I found myself, again, in the same position that I was in college. Except this time it was at a friend’s house, which was slightly more embarrassing.

My attempt to refine my palette and enjoy all liquor again is becoming a fun adventurous roller coaster ride. Well, actually less of an adventure but more of a game of “hit and miss”. It’s been a game of “hm, I remember when this made me feel neausous and I used to have a bad experience when I smell this, but let’s try it anyways” and then see what the result is. It’s like how I handled science experiments in high school.  Except the science experiments didn’t explode the way that the cheap tequila sometimes does for my body.  This “game” has been surprisingly easy for me. This is mainly because I had been putting my nemesis on my list as the last obstacle to encounter: Tequila. I’m not going to lie: it still hurts me. The smell slightly pains my head, stomach and throat. I’ve learned to appreciate certain things about tequila though: the smokiness, the warm bite, and the happiness that can happen when you have good tequila. There are moments, especially with cheap tequila, that I still revert to fetal position memories, but I find that it helps when you hide the taste in some citrusy Filipino syrup that you you convince your roommate to buy for you.

If you aren’t familiar with calamansi, it’s wonderful. It’s a small citrus that is similar to a Kumquat in size and taste. The flesh is extremely sour and the skin is sweet.  You commonly find this fruit in Filipino places. You can find it in concentrated form through the frozen juice cans, frozen whole fruit, or in syrup form. Mix it with tea, hot water, cold water, ginge ale, whatever you want it and it takes your beverage to a whole new level. I use to make a lot of beverages with it during my short stint at a Filipino restaurant. Whenever I made some juice, or something else, for myself, I kept on thinking to myself how great tequila would taste in this. When I finally had a chance to try it, it was great! The smokiness of the tequila mixes well with the floral fragrance of the fruit as well as the tartness of the syrup. Also, I recommend rimming the glass with salt. It helps cut down on the sweetness of the syrup, plus it gives it some explosive flavor for your taste buds. Chili salt ( salt mixed with cayenne) would be even better.

~stuff

2 oz GOOD tequila

.5 oz triple sec

.5 oz calamansi syrup

1 medium lime, in wedges

kosher salt (to rim…can mix with cayenne pepper)

~steps

fill shaker with ice and combine tequila, triple sec, and calamnsi syrup.

squeeze two lime wedges and shake until completely incorporated

rim glass with salt by rubbing lime on the rim of a glass and then dipping in salt and garnish with a lime wedge

pour contents of shaker in glass

enjoy

-serves 1-

28
Jun
10

mango salsa

mango salsa

The first time I went to the emergency room was when I was about 10.  I woke up really late in the night with horrible cramps/stomach pains in my abdomen.  I was in major pain and ran to my parents’ room crying out for help.  I must of scared them, because they quickly picked me up and had me lie down in the back of the car as they drove quickly to the emergency room.  I don’t really remember much from the car drive, but I remember lying in the back crying in pain.  I even remember explaining to my parents that it felt like someone was playing ping-pong inside me. [I was picturing a tiny man that looked much like a tiny hamburgular wreaking havoc in my body…] The pain was in what I now know as my lower abdomen.  My mom was reaching back from the front passenger seat and clenching my hand really tight and my dad kept on assuring me that I will be alright and we where almost there.

I don’t remember much after that.  I don’t even remember getting to the emergency room.  The next thing I remember was a curtain surrounding me and I was on a bed in the ER.  There was a nurse taking my blood for tests and through out all the pain and fear, I do remember being proud of myself for not crying when the nurse took my blood.  I felt like a man.  Hey, the crying from the internal ping pong match doesn’t count as a marker of my manlihood or lack there of.  It comes from blood being drawn.  Give me a break, I was 10.

The doctor and my dad talked for a bit and then after what was about 15 minutes in my head, but in reality probably a couple of hours, I went home and had a huge plate of mangos.  Awesome.  Go to emergency room and dad preps you a big plate of mangos.  Turns out I didn’t have enough vitamin C in my system and the doctor told me to take eat some fruit and he will contact my parents with the results from the test.  I assume the results where good, because I never returned to the hospital.  However, I did learn a huge lesson.  Mangos are still good and full of vitamin c.

I always loved mangos.  They are tart and sweet at the same time with a refreshing creamy juiciness to add.  It’s amazing.  Growing up, I only ate it as a fruit on it’s own.  Sometimes it would be dried, but always just on it’s own.  I was never into sweet salsas so when I heard of mango salsa, I was hesitant.  I made some for the first time in DC when I bought some mangos that where quickly about to spoil.  I served it with a simple grilled fish, and was sold then and there.  I’ve since served it with all kinds of seafood.  My favorite is marinating salmon in the harissa/sriracha and tequila lime marinade. The sweetness balances really well with the lime and tequila/rum and cools the heat from the chili.  Perfect for the summer grill.

Come to think of it, my parents could have just poured me a glass of orange juice.  I’m glad that in all the panic and excitement, it slipped their mind.

~stuff

1 cup diced ripe mango, ¼ to ½ inch

¼ cup minced cilantro

¼ cup minced shallots

½ tsp salt

1 minced medium jalapeno or serrano chili pepper (seeded if you don’t want too spicy)

1 medium lime

~steps

mix all ingredients with the juice of the lime

set in refrigerator covered for at least 10 minutes

serve chilled or at room temperature

-serves 4-




…me…


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

…contact…

(e) info@brb-eating.com follow me @brbeating

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 78 other followers

…categories…

…tweet…