Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas food?

Hey! I know it's been a while since I've last posted on this and prior to this post it wasn't even about food. WTF was that about? But if you are interested in non-food related blog posts I've started up another blog for that. It's at Anyways, look what happened for Christmas?!

I made hot pot! Of course I was sharing with friends and my Dutch "family". For those of you who don't know, hot pot is a popular dish all around Asia and some of you might know it as shabu-shabu or Chinese fondue. What it is, is super tasty. It's basically a bubbling broth or soup that you cook your food in. Often times for hot pot you have thinly sliced meats, vegetables, tofu products and noodles which you cook, almost instantly in the hot broth. So for my Christmas hot pot we had a spicy Szechuan broth that we bought at an Asian market and added Szechuan peppers, scallion and ginger to and a mushroom broth for those who didn't like spicy. You can buy these pre-made stocks in Asian markets or make your own pretty easily. Or do what I did and vamp up a pre-made stock. And if you're afraid that your broth doesn't taste too great don't worry, by the time you swish all your sides into the broth to cook, it'll taste amazing. Also there's a load of dipping sauces that you can make to dip the assortment of meats, dumplings and veg in once they're cooked. For this dinner I made 4 dipping sauces which I made by taste. Mainly consisting of soy sauce, chili oil, balsamic vinegar and some sugar.  If you really want recipes for them I'll devote some time to it later. 

For the sides, which are treated much like fondue sides, we used thinly sliced ribeye beef, pork wontons, button, Chinese and shiitake mushrooms, rice noodles, bean thread noodles, bok choy, thinly sliced chicken, whole shrimp, fried tofu, regular tofu, and bean curd.

The bulk of the time preparing for hot pot is actually preparing the side dishes. Otherwise the cooking time is a snap because you cook every piece individually like a fondue. This is a great party dinner. It's fun and messy and there's always a ton of food!

Anyways, after dinner we had a stunning panda cake which was a complete surprise to me, was made for me as a belated birthday present.
Bit wonky in some places but it is probably the best birthday present I've ever received. So much sweat, blood and panda tears went into this cake. Was very tasty too. Almond cake with marzipan. I have no idea how it was made but it made me happy. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My feminist opinion post

This is a reactionary piece which relates to feminism and the rhetoric of feminists. This is not meant to be offensive or mean. This is just my reaction to things I read and how I feel about it. This topic primarily came up after reading my good friend's blog. But it really pertains to all feminist opinion based articles. 

I believe in fairness and equity and I am for the most part a strong feminist. I would say with my introduction into queer theory that I'm a bit queerer than some and less queer than others but that's hardly the point. I want to discuss the state of feminism and the way that people frame their life stories to become an issue of feminism. Many of my friends would label themselves as feminists, and with so many branches of feminism it's a fair label and it's a noble cause. They believe in equal treatment of women and they oppose patriarchy which has throughout history dismissed women as either being fully human or being treated fairly based off of their own merits.

However, this is one of the issues I see feminists that I know get into. The frame of the argument being within their merits, they often disregard intersectionality and the affects of their own arguments in replicating and regulating what they see as injustice. Many of my friends are indeed white, middle class, feminists and the arguments are often framed in a light which promotes the ideal of how women should be treated as well as how women should act with the perspective from that standpoint. This limitation of seeing women from only their social space. 

Side note: Many feminists that I know project their expectations of how women ought to behave when they have feminist debates which reenforces a discourse of what women ought to be, which is funnily the thing we try to oppose.  This often comes in the form of opinions about how women ought to act and rebuking behavior, I see this often with slut shaming. Which often happens off handedly by saying I dressed slutty and did XYZ, or that girl's slutty and has a lot of boyfriends. This regulates behavior and suggests that there is a right way of being a woman. 

Although opinions are a fair assessment of your personal experience it does not reflect an intersectional perspective nor does it denote that this is a limited scope due to your own privilege or position.
I know I'm just poking at a pet peeve of mine but feminism must have context and assess the privilege of the speaker. The idea that everyone in the world who is a woman receives this reaction because they are women is absurd. Think of women who don't have the same privileges. The women you call sluts, the women you think have too many children, the women you would label as unmarriable due to their social position, age, how able their body is, their gender, their physical appearance or their mental handicaps. Do they also fit into this limited view? Do people also reflect onto them the same “disadvantage” or annoyance that you deal with? Probably not. 

A woman who is disabled or who is not in a monogamous heterosexual relationship probably won't be asked the same questions. So please, please keep your feminist perspective in focus and within context. Please view things with your own privileges in mind before you put out an opinion piece about how people generally behave towards women. It is true that romantic relationships are the focus of people's conversation, mainly that have to do with the heterosexual matrix of it being monogamous and heterosexual. It is true that mostly women's worth is derived from their relationship with men, especially in third world countries where you're worth is in relation with your family which in turn reflects on the patriarch of the family. But can you really generalize? 

Are women really treated this way? And if they are, deconstruct why it happens. Or who it doesn't happen to? And why you find the exceptions ask why they are exceptional and what structures make it so they fall beyond the norm. Why is it that you think/ or people think that way? What norms are they transgressing? Why is it that you are regulating their life by suggesting or thinking of them as non-normative?

I suppose my take away message of this is that opinions are one thing. But please do not generalize and if you do, back it up. Feminism is not just a reflection of your life and the disadvantages you see, although that maybe a part of it. Rather, think of your own privileges, analyze why things are the way they are and do not assume that because it happens to you it must happen to everyone or that people were blind to this injustice before you pointed it out. Often times the people who are dismissed from the discourse entirely are the ones with the most to say. Your rhetoric and your anger over injustices reflects how you see the world and also exemplifies where you see people and your expectations of behavior. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Basic Stir Fry Guide - Everyday Cooking.

After a long awaited request to do a basic guide to Asian cooking I've finally found the time and the patience to give this a try. Yes, I do requests but it doesn't mean it'll happen in a timely manner.

Today I will be showing you how to make dishes like this:
(Pictured is Char Sui [roasted pork] fried rice and "Szechuan" Beef.)
These are quick and basic Chinese stir fry techniques that can be used with a variety of ingredients. Think of it as a template for basic stir fry. 
Firstly, a wok is the only way to stir fry properly because it distributes the heat evenly as quickly. Also it allows for you to make a small well in the dish so that a corn starch slurry can be added in so flat bottom woks aren't really that useful. But as many of you know you can make Chinese food perfectly fine without a wok. It's just a preference and makes cooking much easier. 

Basic steps of stir fry:

It is best to have all the ingredients for your stir fry chopped, cut and prepped before you start a stir fry. Even though I don't always have it done...Also if you use meat for your stir fry sprinkle it with corn starch before use. This often "seals" in the juices, tenderize the meat and make it crisper when you stir fry.
Step 1: Heat wok
Step 2: Pour oil in the wok - wait until the oil smokes
Step 3: Add aromatics (garlic, ginger, chili peppers, Szechuan peppers) 
Step 4: Once you really smell the aromatics add in the meat or the hearty vegetables. 
Step 5: When the meat or the vegetables are cooked add in the rest of the vegetables that you will be using.
Step 6: Add in the sauces you will be using. Usually soy sauce and oyster sauce. This is the seasoning stage. 
Step 7: Once the food is almost completely cooked move the ingredients away from the middle of the wok to create a small well. Water can be added at this stage if there isn't enough sauce in the stir fry as well. 
Step 8: Add a corn starch slurry (later explained) into the well. Stir well
Step 9: Finish/Eat

First the go to ingredients that are commonly found in a Chinese Kitchen:
Light Soy Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Corn Starch
Black Bean Sauce
Chili Oil
Sesame Oil
Rice Vinegar
5 Spice Powder
White Pepper
Szechuan Peppers
Xiaoxing/ Shaoxing Wine

My brief introduction to the ingredients

Garlic is one of the most commonly used ingredients in a Chinese kitchen. It's often crushed with the side of the clever and just tossed into to any stir fry after adding the oil. In my family garlic was never minced for dishes. Rather, 2 cloves would be crushed until flat to release the garlic flavor and then tossed into a wok with hot oil. 

Ginger unlike garlic is not used in every stir fry dish but it does add a deeper and slightly fresh flavor to dishes. It often goes into richer dishes such as beef stir fry or with fish. You can use it to marinade meat, especially if you're doing a BBQ dish, julinne with rounds of green onion over steamed fish with hot oil poured over and of course, you can take a small piece - smash it and toss it in with garlic for a stir fry. There are a lot of oil sauces which include ginger. Very versatile and very tasty. 

Soy Sauce there are many varieties of soy sauce, for stir fry use light soy sauce. Light soy sauce has a lighter look, like the name implies is salty in flavor and light. It is used in almost all Chinese stir fry dishes. Dark soy sauce, is thicker and stronger than light soy sauce. It's fermented longer and has a very unique and sometimes overwhelming flavor. This is why it is only used for a handful of dishes and often as a marinade rather than a sauce. 

Of course there are different soy sauces for different countries and different brands so it's a bit overwhelming. I stick to Pearl River Bridge as my brand for light soy sauce however, dark soy sauce I'm not as picky with. Kikkoman and Lee Kum Kee are also popular brands in the industry but the flavor always seemed off with those brands. Light soy sauce is primarily used in stir frying, sauces and dips. The only time I've  used or seen dark soy sauce used has been for marinading for BBQs and a dish called Tau Yu Bak, which is braised pork belly with eggs - my mom makes it the best.

Oyster Sauce is made of oyster essence or concentrate. Unlike fish sauce which smells strongly of fish, oyster sauce has a mild oyster smell and is a rich mild flavor. Although not a necessity for stir fry it gives dishes a deeper flavor, "meatier" flavor. If you are a vegetarian, it's no real loss to forgo the oyster sauce. But it's common to put oyster sauce into beef dishes as well as vegetable dishes like Chinese broccoli to give the dish a deeper flavor. The sauce itself is salty, rich and sweet. I've even been able to caramelize beef and mushrooms with just oyster sauce. Tasty, tasty oyster sauce. 

Corn Starch this is the ingredient that makes a Chinese stir fry sauce the consistency that you recognize most. Corn starch is the thickening agent, that is put into Chinese dishes to make the sauce a silky coat rather than just salty water. In order to keep the corn starch from clumping up a slurry is made. To do this you mix corn starch with water until it's a white liquid and then you pour it into the middle of your stir fry in order to make a thick and delicious sauce. This is the key ingredient for making stir fry look lovely.  

So these are the key ingredients for most dishes! You can make almost any stir fry with those basic ingredients. Now for a few less common but also useful tools. 

Hoisin Sauce is a sweet and salty sauce. It's often confused with plum sauce because it is so sweet. This is sauce is often used as a dip for moo shu or peking duck. It can also be used while cooking but should be used sparingly because it is so sweet. It's also a nice sauce for marinades especially for BBQ.  
Black Bean Sauce now this sauce is very unique. It's fermented black beans...yeah, not everyone's taste. But it is a very nice thing if you like fermented black beans. If you've never had anything with black bean sauce, I suggest you smell it first and decide if it is for you. It's a very strong flavor. I for one love black bean sauce but it an acquired taste. It's very different than mexican black beans.  You can use black bean sauce for any stir fry but I think beef can stand the strong black bean flavor the most or sturdy vegetables too. Like bell peppers or green beans. 

Chili Oil is exactly what it sounds like. It's chili infused oil. I'm a huge fan of spice, so I add chili oil to my stir fry all the time or use it as a dip. The best time to add chili oil if you want spice is right before the dish is finished. If you don't the oil may burn and smoke so it's a smart idea to wait until the dish is almost complete or just put it on top as a condiment. I also use chili oil for dips, especially for dumplings. Also, if you like spice, you can add crushed dried chili peppers once you heat up the oil in the wok. 
Sesame Oil I'm not the biggest fan of sesame oil because it is such a strong flavor. But it is a nice addition to a pantry. It is used in stir fry, especially with chicken. I don't advise using it in stir fry because it's so easy for it to over power all the flavors but it's nice in dips. 

Rice Vinegar is a great addition to the pantry. It's not often used in regular stir fry unless you like things like sweet and sour or garlic sauces. This is the ingredient that is used to make dishes have a bit of a punch. I often use rice vinegar in stir fry with a sweet sauce. But this is a great addition if you like dipping sauces. I love dim sum so I love dipping sauces. 
Chinese 5 Spice Powder is a great addition. However, this is not used in stir fry. This is used as a marinade for meats primarily. Usually fatty meats like pork or duck.

White Pepper is a great addition! Also not often used in stir fry, white pepper has a great flavor that is less bitting than black pepper. You use it the same way as black pepper and flavoring. It's great to flavor dumplings especially or minced meat. 
Szechuan Peppers are used in Szechuan cooking mainly, which is often considered very spicy food. Unlike white pepper or black pepper it's not very spicy. Rather it has a tangy taste to it. It's great in stir fry but don't go over board. It has a strong flavor to it and the tangy taste can easily overwhelm a dish. 

Xiaoxing Wine is a great addition. Like most wine in cooking it gives a more complex flavor. Xiaoxing wine should be cooked into a dish so that the alcohol melds into the dish. It has a nice sweet and fruity flavor that is great for dishes. It has a stronger flavor than regular rice wine. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In the summer of 2011, I did the obligatory European trip. One of my friends was studying in Regensburg, Germany. The home of the previous Pope. It was an exciting year. I made it to 5 or 6 different countries with my Eurorail pass. I was happy that I was under 25 and could still travel with a youth pass. Luckily, I had a few friends dotted all over Europe due to my experience in Japan and was able to meet with a few people in Europe even though I was traveling primarily by myself. 

If I can remember correctly, my travels began in London and parts of the UK, mainly Hereford. It was fun, met some friends. Drank a lot of beer and cider. Was gleeful when I found out that there was something called half-pints and went through a maze. We had ice cream too!
This is the hedge maze. One of the great wonders of (Edit) England...It actually was very pretty and I had a great time. And there's a lovely Welsh man in the middle of the maze taking a photo. 

Next I went to the Netherlands, primarily Amsterdam. It was nice. Lots of canals, a lot of coffee shops. I never knew how prolific the amount of weed in Amsterdam was until I actually went there. All in all it was neat. The beaches were lovely and I saw a lot of miniature figurines, went to probably the most awesome zoo ever called Burgers Zoo. Saw snakes in jars...Which really just reminded me of Chinese liquor. Food wasn't (isn't) great in the Netherlands. Got confirmation from a Japanese girl who lives in Amsterdam today. I'm not imagining that the food is crap. But they do have some awesome Turkish foods. 

Next came Germany, Regensburg and Munich to be exact. I met up with my dear friend who I've known since I was 12 or 13 years old. We had awesome ice cream and chocolates in Germany. It was also the first time I've ever had schnitzel. Very exciting experience.

 Als my first döner. Which was also tasty and nice. Not my last döner by the way. I've had a lot more since then.
 Potato, meat and beer at the Hofbräuhaus in München. Was great fun. I got drunk off a stein of beer. Ate a lot while in Germany. 
 Had tasty dessert cakes and coffee with my lovely friend. And wonderful frolicking was done in Germany woods. 
 Also had my first real German bratwurst. 

Great time hiking in Müchen.
Copenhagen was beautiful.

 Next real food experience was of a Danish pastry with my favorite Dane. We had an awesome time with delicious pastries and the beauty that is Copenhagen. 
Back to Hamburg, Köln, Amsterdam, Limburg to Belgium. Had delicious belgian waffles. This particular one had apples stuffed inside. Was very, very tasty. Can't get enough of them waffles. 
After catching a flight from Belgium my Danish friend and I met up again in Ireland. Yes, I do end up in Ireland and London a lot. We travelled around Dublin, Killarney, Kilkenny, Limerick and Cork together. It was wonderful. We had delicious food, with delicious meaty goodness and also some rather in expensive sushi. It was nice. We also met a few characters. Notably an old gentle man that gave us a ride back to our hostel and took us to his garden. He gave us fruit there. It could've been very scary because of all my Korean horror movie watching ways. But it was nice, he had cute dogs. 

The hikes in Ireland were really breath taking. Later I travelled to Belfast myself and saw Giant's Causeway and had some delicious curry while I was in Belfast. Belfast was really, really nice. I enjoyed every minute of it. Had a real nice feeling for the city and there shops, restaurants and even hostel were really welcoming. I loved it.

If you can't tell by now, I'm a real big fan of Ireland and it's nature. It's BEAUTIFUL. Too bad the food's not great. But I had a fantastic chicken Vindaloo. 

Next I met up again with my old friend in London and we went to see Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate and then to the Doctor Who Experience in London. It was a once and a life time experience...and so concludes my travel experience of 2011. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Past Food Travel - Japan 2010

Summer 2010 - Japan
So in 2010, I went on a cultural exchange (NPO) called World Campus International (WCI). It was a great experience. I spent 2 month traveling to various cities in Japan, living with LOVELY host families and meeting dear friends from around the world. While I was there I stayed with multiple host families who were quite frankly some of the best people I've met in my entire life. They were all willing to help and share with me. I really loved the experience of living with host families and would highly, highly recommend it. I got along great with all my host families and I love all of them dearly.  Didn't hurt that they cooked for me and took me to amazing places either. :P All the food was oishii! I miss the experience so much. 
It was an amazing experience to meet so many different people. This is a picture of my first host family who farmed their own land and had an organic bakery/ restaurant and taught Japanese and English classes to children in Omura, Japan. 

 This is in Ueda, Nagano with my host sister Raruka-chan making me pancakes. She was so sweet. Of couse I was taking advantage of child labor but she was an amazing and insistant cook.
 These are my Beautiful host sister from Ueda. Let's see if I can still remember names, there was Ayana, Lilica and Raruka, and there was also Haruna that isn't pictured. They were so sweet and lived in a rural area that you could imagine Totoro living in. Lot of fun, lots of giggles, lots of plants. By the way, I used to share a twin bed with all 3 of the girls! Baby feet in the face, always fun.
Lots of beautiful wild life and vegetation there too. 

I didn't always force my families to cook for me. I also cooked for them. This is my host family in Tama. Ahh, they were so sweet to me and I miss them a bunch. Tama is the city that Hello Kitty comes from. I made my host family some fried rice and Szechuan beef. It was fun. First time I watched Avatar was with my Host brother and I got to meet some interesting birds and go to Mount Fuji with these lovely people even through 4 hours of traffic! I miss them too!

We also experienced food together as an exchange group. This is our WCI meeting were me and these lovely girls made soba noodles on our own. It was fun! We also were a part of wonderful events the entire time. Including being dressed as ninjas and climbing Castle walls. 
We enjoyed many outings, that included the largest, most famous fish market in the world. Tsukiji. I enjoyed the best fish here. Was so much fun, there are so many out door markets and food vendors outside and freshest fish around.
 A lot of eating and drinking was done that summer.

Although I met new friends in Japan, I also met one of my oldest friends there too! We had a lot of Korean and Japanese BBQs while we were there (because my buddy is allergic to fish!). It was so tasty and loads of fun! Restaurants weren't expensive, around $10 USD at the time per meal and sometimes we even had our own personal room with a TV!!! 
Although my friend wasn't impressed all the time. I think it was because the people next to us were smoking and flirting annoyingly with the waiter.
But she also took my first McD in Japan. They have shrimp burgers and stuff. However, if you're in Japan and want fast food you ought to try:
  • Moss Burger
  • First Kitchen (shortened by the Japanese to Fah-King *giggle*)
  • curry places (Curry House CoCo)
  • beef bowl places
  • ramen places
  • bento boxes from connivence stores (surprisingly delicious)
  • The bottom floor of department stores have restaurants and grocery stores that sell everything on the cheap after 8pm 
  • vending machine restaurants! Those are fun. 
Desserts were also plentiful and decadent with mochi ice cream, chocolate cakes round every corner, and crepes with cheese cake, ice cream, fruit and whip cream all in one go and a chocolate sauce on top....Man I miss Japan a lot.

Ramen is exceptionally good in Japan. Try areas like Kyoto for some spectacular ramen. I also was able to meet another amazing person from Simplysyn in Japan. We had some ramen and karaoke through the night. Oooh and had dinner at Jonathan's an American style restaurant in Japan that has a bitch come button. I love those.

I also had my fair share of odd Japanese food. For instance, bread in a can. There was boobie pudding, natto (fermented slimy bean thing), raw squid...I can't seem to think of anything else but I'm sure there was!
Sashimi horse meat. My first experience with horse meat. It wasn't the best, I would've preferred tuna. It really just tasted like raw beef.

We also enjoyed some fruit. Although fruit in Japan is SUPER expensive. Super dooper expensive. Water melons can go for close to 100 bucks sometimes and it's common to see a vine of grapes for 5000 yen (50 USD) at the department store. It really is a bit insane but the fruit is quite delicious. I can still remember the peach (momo) my host family bought for me. Tasty, tasty. 
Of couse I was (am) known for foraging for food and plucking fruit when I see it. Japan was not an exception. I saw persimmons growing! First time ever so I had to pluck it even if it wasn't ripe. I also got raspberries from walks, blueberries and a huge pummeloes.

There were some interesting drinks as well including loads of sake and a milky soda called calpis, a lot of sake and green tea.
I even had the luxury of learning how to make green tea thanks to my beautiful host family in Toyota city.

BTW, you ought to also go to a maid cafe, a strange and niche thing in Japan where you a served by cute girls that act as maids. They also have little sister cafes were the girls act like your little sister. It's strange and fantasy filling.
This is one in Nagoya. It was nice, they girl even decorated our drinks with cute pictures!

All in all Japan was one of the best experiences of my life. I would highly recommend going for anyone BUT especially if you love food like I do. It was great fun, it was an amazing learning experience and I still miss it. The people, the place, everything but the heat! Do try everything that occurs though, Kabuki theaters, ninja shows, and go to an Onsens, one of the most relaxing things ever even if you are naked.