Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: food

Cooking Frenzy

I’ve been cooking a lot in anticipation of starting a new job, which means I won’t have much time for cooking anymore.  Unfortunately, I haven’t taken a lot of pics because I’m increasingly feeling a bit foolish and self-conscious taking photos of food.  What happened to the simple joys of cooking, enjoying the process, and then eating with friends and family?  Well, then again, we weren’t blogging, Instagram-ing, Facebook-ing back in the day.  We’ve become such a visual culture.

But enough on that.  Here are some of my cooking adventures with links to recipes I used.

Mom’s Kimchee

I’ve made this and posted about it before.  It’s always a wonderful feeling to make some kimchee, jar it up, and then wait a few days for it to ripen.  This time I think I didn’t use enough salt.  I shared some with friends (though I worry about that a bit because it wasn’t the best batch I’ve made).  Already, I’m waiting to make another batch.  But I’ll need to wait for another free day.  kimchee copy

Homemade Pizza

This was one of my cooking highlights.  I’ve been hunting for a good pizza dough recipe for years.  I’ve tried all kinds.  For awhile, I was using Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe, but one thing I always found lacking was a yeasty, springy texture.  It was more cracker than dough.  Good for thin crust, but not great.  I finally came up on this recipe.  Easy to make.  You just have to make it a few days in advance (or make it way in advance and freeze it).  But it’s so worth the wait.  Soooo good.  And so easy to make the pizzas once they’re ready.  Something about the slow-yeast-rise adds amazing flavor.  This is definitely going to be my go-to.  And I hope the next I make it, it’s just as good.

The other part of the amazing pizzas were the toppings I chose.  I was cooking for my cousin and his wife who are big foodies (especially my cousin).  So I knew I wanted to do something simple, classy, and super-tasty.  I bought all my groceries at my beloved Berkeley Bowl for under $30!  That included fancy mushrooms (including chanterelles), arugula, bacon, buffalo mozzarella…

I chose not to use a red sauce or any kind of sauce for the pizzas.  I feel that sauces tend to drown out the flavor of the dough and the toppings.  So here were my combos, in order of deliciousness (top listed first):

  • brussel sprout leaves (not pre-cooked), caramelized red onions, bacon (chopped and pre cooked), dollops of buffalo mozzarella, scattered roasted garlic (roasted in whole cloves), dusting of grated parmesan cheese on top.  I drizzled the pizza dough with some olive oil before putting on the toppings.  And the brussel sprout leaves crisped up so nicely.  This was heavenly!
  • mushrooms (three types – portobello, shiitake, and chanterelles– all sauteed with some garlic and a squeeze of lemon), bacon, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and a heaping of arugula (kept fresh, tossed with some olive oil and salt, spread on the pizza right after coming out of the oven).  Oh so good.
  • prosciutto, roasted garlic, mozzarella (dry form, grated), caramelized onion, ripped fresh basil.
  • heirloom tomatoes (thinly sliced), basil, mozzarella.

I didn’t take any photos, but trust me that each pizza was delicious!  I’ll be making this again for sure!

Butternut Squash Soup

I don’t really use a recipe for this, I just throw things together and it usually turns out great.

  1. Roast butternut (or any kind of squash) squash along with some garlic cloves and other root vegetables like potatoes and carrots.  Use your favorite method– with herbs or not, with olive oil, cut up in cubes or not…
  2. Make chicken stock.  (Or use pre-made stock that you have in your freezer.  Or use store-bought stock.)
  3. In a big pot, saute some leeks until nice and fragrant.   You can saute them in butter or olive oil or both!
  4. Throw the roasted vegetables into the pot.  Toss that around with the oil and leeks a bit.
  5. Pour in stock.  Whatever amount you would like to make a soup.  I’d say err on less at first in case you want a thicker soup.
  6. Add a bay leaf or two or three.
  7. Cook it up.  Since the vegetables are roasted, this shouldn’t take long.
  8. You can add some nice warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, curry, turmeric, ginger, paprika, black pepper…  Any or all of these!
  9. Using an immersion blender, a potato masher, or a fork, mash up the vegetables when they’re soft enough.  (Take out the bay leaf(ves) first.)
  10. Puree, mash until the soup is the texture you want.  You can add some cream if you want at the end to cream-ify it.  Or just leave as is.
  11. Add salt and pepper to season.  This can be done earlier on.
  12. Serve with some nice crusty bread.

butternut squash

OK, that’s enough for this post.  I don’t want to overwhelm you!  And now I’m back to being a working girl.  And I’ll just be eating stuff like this (haha, no really, this was the simplest thing ever to make):pork belly

Pork belly (pre-sliced, bought from the Korean market), marinated in red pepper paste + sesame oil + sugar + mirin, with a sesame leaf wrap, homemade kimchee (see above), and Chinese broccoli (see previous post).


Happiness is a Well-Stocked Kitchen

I should be writing cover letters right now, but I just came back from running errands, which is so much more fun.  I feel so accomplished after getting items ticked off my mental checklist.

My refrigerator and pantry are now stocked with more fun things (mind you, both were already pretty well-stocked, but there’s always something more that I am looking to add.  The food world is a treasure trove of endless gems!):

  • fenugreek and thyme – dried spices that I don’t use a lot but have been wanting to use more, along with a bunch of other spices I have acquired.
  • carrots, onions, and potatoes – I always like to have a ready supply of those root veggies.  That way, I’m always ready to make a chicken or beef stock, some homefries on a lazy weekend morning, or the base of a stir-fry.
  • dried shiitake mushrooms – great as additions to various dishes – Korean noodles (jahpchae), Chinese stir fry…  I’m hoping to make a Chinese sticky rice thing with these mushrooms soon.
  • a cantaloupe – I think it’s peak time for cantaloupes and melons out here.  So I’m trying to eat as many as I can before it’s over.  I love eating seasonally– it’s kind of like a fun race against the produce, and sometimes I try to find new ways to work with that ingredient.  But it’s also great just eating it as is.  And of course it tastes soo much better to eat things when they’re in season and grown locally.
  • two kinds of Chinese egg noodles – I love noodles in all forms, and I like making simple noodle dishes for dinner–  stir fried, in a soup, just mixed with a good sauce.

fridgeAnd in addition to stocking my fridge and pantry, I’m also doing some prep work for future cooking.  That’s always fun, too.  My mom says she feels rich after she’s done a lot of food prep to offset future slaving in the kitchen.  I would agree.  Like making a big batch of kimchee or making and freezing a trayful of dumplings or pickling beets or making stock!

I bought some pork rib meat and put it in a Chinese char siu sauce (a reddish, sweet and tangy sauce used for roast pork, especially).  I’ll let it sit overnight and roast it tomorrow or the next day.  Yum!

charsiu pork

I’m also making a beef stock out of bones and stew beef that I got from the meat counter at Berkeley Bowl.  I tossed all that in my stainless steel Dutch oven with water, a few carrots, celery, and an onion to make the stock.  And every so often, I skim off any fat and gunky stuff.  I’ll use the stock in the future to make my favorite Korean soups– yookaejang (a spicy beef soup with lots of scallions), mandu gook (dumpling soup), and seaweed soup.  After I started making my own stock years ago, I couldn’t go back to store bought stock.  It just tastes so much better!

beef stock

And just like that, it’s already 4:30pm. Life is good.  I think I’ll make some egg noodles with oyster sauce and Chinese broccoli for dinner.   I set out some shrimp to thaw, and that can go on top!  Oh wait, that might have to wait till tomorrow– I forgot that in my prepping frenzy, I also put some rice in the rice cooker to be ready by 6:30pm.  Change in plans.  Rice with shrimp and Chinese broccoli!

This is the life of an unemployed food lover!

Another City, Another Library

I'm back in one of my favorite places, a public library. Berkeley Public Library to be exact. It's a nice open library. And, of course, they have free wi-fi!

I love the democratic nature of libraries. Everyone is welcome. No one is turned away. And all kinds of people are here for all reasons:

  • looking for jobs online
  • using the free internet
  • waiting between appointments (like me)
  • hanging out
  • tutoring or getting tutored
  • looking for or at books

Anyone can “belong” and anyone can access the free resources. How amazing is that? And everyone comes here– young and old, rich and poor, English proficient and not. It doesn't matter who you are, what your background is, you can come in and not feel out of place.

Despite the fact that physical books are seemingly growing extinct, I hope that public libraries will continue to exist.

That's my ode to libraries.

My parasite cleanse is plodding along. And I must say it's been difficult to adhere to. There isn't a manual that goes with this cleanse, just very vague instructions such as “take capsule three times a day, before meals. Avoid sugars and starches. Eat raw vegetables and fruits.” And with me and my love of food and the fact that the only way I know how to socialize with people is through food, I have had to choose between stopping my social life and eating what I love OR be loosey-goosey with the cleanse. And with my low willpower when it comes to food, I've chosen the latter course of action.

Because of this approach, I have not really felt any difference in my mind, body, or spirit. Well, check that, I have noticed that my eating habits are much more present at the front of my mind. I didn't realize how much I like to have a sweet ending to my meals– a cookie, ice cream, a baked good. I've been somewhat successful at curbing that tendency.

Also, I didn't realize how much of my meals consist of starch of some sort– rice and noodles mainly. It's been virtually impossible to cut that out of my diet, so I just haven't. I've merely cut back.

My general attitude toward this cleanse is that I'm aiming to eat a little healthier, be more conscious about what I ingest, and also continue to enjoy eating and live my life. This is probably not helping the goals of the parasite cleanse, especially since I haven't noticed any changes in my body or bodily functions.

Well, life is too short, I say. And I'm not going to give up my social life.

And here's a sample of some of what I've been eating while still on my cleanse:

Fresh corn, kale salad with sundry veggies, sourdough bread, asparagus

Not too shabby.


Scrumptious-ness Abounds in Melaka!

When I was in Indonesia, I met a German traveler who had been in Malaysia. I asked her some places to check out and I asked her about the food. She didn't seem all that impressed by the food, which surprised me because I thought the food was famous here… I must say with no reservations that she was totally wrong. Or I should rephrase that, we must have completely different palates. The food in Malaysia is AMAZING! I have to say that pretty much everywhere I've eaten, both places I did research on and places I just ended up at have been really tasty. I have not had one disappointing meal.

Melaka has been a highlight of my Malaysian food pilgrimage. So much to try, and I think I was able to try all that I wanted. Sorry if you're not as into food as I am, but I'm going to do a meal by meal documentation here. Get ready for the ride!

I got into Melaka in the early evening on Monday, and after checking into my guesthouse, I headed straight to Jonker Dessert 88, a popular joint for cendol (a Malaysian ice dessert) and other dishes. I'd been craving laksa, so I got their signature baba laksa, which is noodles in a coconut soup base with fish cakes and a few veggies. So tasty. A great first meal in Melaka and it cost me 6 MYR ($2). Woohoo!

The next morning, I was up early and went to Low Yong Moh for dim sum. I ordered a bunch of things, but I had no idea what I was eating. I really wish I could read and speak Chinese! The roast pork bao was delicious. The other dishes were good, but I think I've had better dim sum. I spent 13 MYR ($4.30) on this spread!

For lunch I went to Poh Piah Lwee for poh piah (a Malaysian crepe-spring roll with some mix of veggies. I thought it was onions, but I think it's turnips and/ or jicama (according to Wikipedia!). So delicious. Light, savory and a bit tangy. I've never had anything like it. This place specializes in it. The cendol I had for dessert was ok… Someone had reviewed that this place's cendol was great. I'm not sure if I agree. But the poh piah was definitely worth it. And all together, 6 MYR ($2).

I had a snack later of a Nyonya dumpling from Poh Piah Lwee. The cute lady of the shop told me to come back that afternoon for their dumplings. She was too cute, so I came back to give her my business, and I was not disappointed. It was sooo good. And I ordered two more for takeaway. There were people driving by and buying up bags of these dumplings! Glad I got the two extra. I had them in my hotel in KL! Each dumpling was 4 MYR (a little over $1).

The dumpling was just a snack, so I went to Calanthe Art Cafe for dinner. I had passed it several times and it had a really cute exterior, so I went in for some coffee and more baba laksa! The waitstaff were really friendly, and I had a nice chat with one while getting bitten up by mosquitoes, as I found out when I got back to my guesthouse. These Malaysian mosquitoes are vicious! The interesting thing about this cafe is they have gone to all 13 Malaysian states and come back to sell all those types of coffees under one roof. They also have other kinds of coffee drinks and various Malaysian and Western dishes. They were setting up their Christmas decorations and playing Christmas music while I was eating; it was a really nice holiday environment, and the coffee and laksa were yummy. All together for 16 MYR (about $5.30).

Thursday was my last day in Melaka, with an early evening bus ride back to Kuala Lumpur. I had some Nyonya kuih and a nasi lemak at a small little eatery, Dans Dapur Ekspres. The owner, Danny, was a nice guy and chatted with me and two other visitors, two guys from Singapore. The kuih were good. They reminded me of Vietnamese rice flour desserts or Japanese mochi or Korean 떡 (rice cake). The lemak was ok. That's a very traditional Malaysian rice dish that usually has some dried fish.

An assortment of Nyonya kuih on top. Nasi lemak below.

Nyonya food is the traditional fusion food of the Malay women who married Chinese babas. My understanding is that Nyonya food has developed in its own vein, and it's a unique blend of various cultures. In any case, all the dishes I has were delicious!

My last meal in Melaka was at Nancy's Kitchen, known for their good Nyonya food. And it did not disappoint. I got Kueh Pie Tee, which is basically the poh piah filling in these little pastry shells shaped like top hats. Great hors d'oeuvres type snack. Then I had the chicken candlenut with rice for my main dish. Candlenut looks like a macadamia nut and it's used in sauces. This dish reminded me of a curry of sorts, very flavorful, lemongrass, ginger, and other Southeast Asian flavors. Really rich and tasty.

Kueh Pie Tee

Chicken candlenut

Thus ended my eating travels in Melaka. Very enjoyable and scrumptious! There are lots more places and foods to try, so if you end up going, just do some research and approach it all with an open mind and empty stomach!!

Kuala Lumpur, Part One

I'm liking Malaysia so far, mainly because the food is so tasty and so cheap. I've eaten solely at hawker centers since arriving Friday afternoon, and I haven't spent more than 8 MYR (about $2.75 USD) per meal. That's a dish and a drink, like tea. And I don't think I've even eaten at the best hawker stalls, but every meal has been really good.

Lots of things on sticks to dip. I didn't try this, but it looked yummy. At a stall in KL's Chinatown.

My favorite meal so far was my first meal. I stumbled upon a laksa stall. I'd been told by many travelers to make sure to eat laksa, so when I found this little tiny stall in Chinatown, behind some electronics and clothes vendors (I went back the next day to look for the stall and couldn't find it– did it disappear only to reappear in the evening?? I will try to find it again when I come back to KL at the end of my stay here.), I was excited. I ordered off the homemade sign on the wall (asam laksa– fish soup broth), got the bowl, took a first slurp, and I was so happy. It was like a mix of sour, salty, a touch of sweet…all with some good noodles and some fish. So good.

Since I'm only in Malaysia for about ten days, I've limited myself to just visiting three towns/ cities: Pulau Pangkor, Melaka, and Kuala Lumpur. So I'm starting in KL and ending in KL.

I spent my first evening (after that delicious bowl of asam laksa) walking around Chinatown, Jalan Petaling (the main drag with all the vendors). It was kind of like New York Chinatown on drugs. So crowded, so busy, sooo many stalls selling the same things– cell phone cases, bags, t-shirts, various knock offs. And in between some of the vendors there were hawker centers tempting me with their bowls of noodles, plates of rice and noodles… I just wanted to keep eating, but I was full and needed to control myself. 🙂

The trademark Chinatown gate in KL. My hostel was right down the street from here!

I'm staying at The Explorers Guesthouse, a nice hostel right on the outskirts of Chinatown. It's in a great location (a few steps away from the Chinatown gate, so I've mainly been eating there), and it got great reviews on TripAdvisor. I have my own room and have to share the bathroom with the rest of the floor, but it's all clean and fresh (a fairly new place). And the main lobby also serves as a hang out area with free wi-fi.

Main lobby of The Explorers Guesthouse in KL.

For my full day (before heading up the west coast), I bought a ticket with the KL Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour bus. It cost 38 MYR ($12 USD). I think it was a great way to see the whole of the main city this way, at the beginning of my stay. Now I'll know what things look like above ground, and I was able to take a lot of surface photos of landmarks. When I come back to KL, I'll most likely walk a lot or take the underground. The only cons about bus travel are that it takes a long time (two and a half hours for the whole loop), so if you're in a rush or impatient to get places, this is not for you. But I wanted to have a day of leisurely travel, so this was perfect.

After a nice breakfast of pork congee for 5 MYR, I got on at the Central Market stop after an hour wait (that was way longer than usual) and then just sat on the bus for the whole loop. It was like a long tour bus because there is running commentary about landmarks along the way.

The Petronas towers and KL Tower in the distance, viewed from the tour bus.

After doing the whole loop, I came back to Chinatown for lunch– some noodles and a deliciously fresh roti canai, both of which cost me a total of about 8 MYR or $2.60-ish (along with a drink). I love this place!

With my stomach filled (the good thing about portion size here in KL, or at least the hawker stalls in particular, is that they're pretty small, not like American portions. So I'll be plenty full but then I want to eat again in another 3-4 hours. Works great for trying different snacks and eats all throughout the day!), I ran some errands:

  • Got a simcard and internet plan for my phone. It wasn't totally necessary, but I thought it would make travel in Malaysia a ilttle easier– to be able to do research and use the maps anywhere, not just in my hotels where there is free wi-fi. And it was pretty cheap, so I went with it: through DiGi, 30 MYR got me a sim card and 20 MYR credit to use for data. I chose a daily data plan of 100MB each day for 3 MYR. Not bad, I must say.
  • Got a travel adapter from one of the Chinatown vendors. I thought I brought all the ones I needed. I bought a pack of them from Amazon– a great deal. But it ends up that I didn't bring the right one, so I bought one for 8 MYR. Cheap.

I got back on the tour bus and headed to the National Visual Arts Gallery, one of the stops on the loop. I saw that admission was free, and it seemed like an interesting museum. Plus it started pouring rain while I was on the bus, so I figured it would be a good place to spend a few hours in the midst of the storm, which I thought would just last a few hours.

It was a great stop. I spent about two hours there, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were some really cool exhibits, mostly showing Malaysian artists. It seemed like a new venue; everything was spotlessly clean. And I was the only visitor in the whole place– so I got five gallery spaces all to myself. Here's one piece I really liked, a big charcoal wall piece. I'm not sure if I wasn't supposed to take a photo of this; in other galleries, there were signs about not taking photos…

Made it back to the Central Market in time for dinner at an Indian cafeteria-type restaurant. It was a roti with a chicken and egg omelet type thing. It was tasty, but I think the plain roti canai was better. It was pouring rain all evening, so I just went back to the hostel and hung out in the lobby.


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