Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hello! Sorry I’ve disappeared off the Earth surface for a while. June is HECTIC! So much on my plate but there’s so much I want to share with you all. I need some real peace to sit down and write something, but for the mean time I just want to drop a note here and say I miss you (and the space to write and blab). Stay tuned for more travel goodies!

Two quotes that highlights my month (and I hope strikes home for you too):

You can’t teach experience.
Your greatness is given to you. 

Taken in Burano, Italy (June 2012)

Wish y’all a beaaautiful June evening!

Until then,



My toes are freezing and it’s June. Not just June, but two full weeks into this reputedly summer month. I sarcastically Google today’s weather forecast in Siberia:

Wow. This is a really cruel joke. If the Brits are reputed for their endurance (Keep Calm and Carry On), this is why — it takes real grit to put up with 8 months (and counting) of winter… and to be bested by one of the coldest populated sinkholes on the planet. The Brits are also very polite and don’t fight back. Fortunately I am neither polite nor patient so I went with this primordial craving for a hot, rich, heart-warming tummy-padding mushroomy mushroom soup. I wanted it to be hearty but still light — loads of vegetables, no cream — because we are not (supposed to be) in hibernation mode.

Below, you can see the process: stir-frying the thickly sliced chestnut mushrooms, diced and sliced white onions, carrots and celery. Shaking on lots of mixed aromatic herbs, garlic powder (which is not an inferior version of the fresh stuff — just different, with its own mild pungence), hot smoked paprika, and a dash of toasty nutmeg. Adding in some red kidney beans for some needed heft, stirring in lots of organic beef broth cubes and finally, serving with steamed brown rice.

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Voila — a hot soup to cradle in the crutches of my icy fingers and warm me from the inside out. It’s made about 8 portions so I have a batch in the fridge and one in the freezer to last me a week.

Next in the pipeline — Chinese cooking by Jamie Penaloza! Make that “by 蔡佳颖”. I’ve just received my order of Fuchsia Dunlop’s brand spanking new cookbook “Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking”. Seems like a horrible thing to do to learn the fundamentals of Chinese cookery from a British woman rather than from your own Chinese mother (who is an excellent Chinese cook too)! But it does make sense; I relate to Fuchsia’s wide-eyed reverence to Chinese food and culinary culture since I also feel like I’m approaching it from the outside, having grown up in the West. She also guides on how to cook authentic Chinese with what’s available to us in the UK.

I’m inspired, after much foodie-wandering far and wide, to reconnect with my culinary heritage and really get it right. I’m also inspired to eat better, more varied, yet still simple. I also like to wow people. I may start a separate blog to log the beginning of this project; stay posted.

I had my London shpiel all thought out. As excited as I was to hit beloved, but now strange, American soil for the first time in two long years, I was fairly confident that London and I had chosen each other, and I would be comfortably defending our mutual love.

London, I would say, has got historic charm; grand Georgian, Edwardian an Victorian buildings nestled around Norman Foster’s Gherkin building; just as many innovative/simple/chic/hipster-paradise food joints around town; and maybe even friendlier people.

Totally abandoned the shpiel on day three. First, New Yorkers are friendly! I never needed to do anything but look lost, and someone would approach me to ask if I needed help. If you’re in an elevator, it’s actually considered weird NOT to say hi to your temporary claustrophobia buddies.

More on culture later… what I want to give you a tour on today is the food. Why do New Yorkers get it so, so right? You can’t find Italian food as good in London, only a two hour flight from the motherland… but fly farther afield and several more hours  over to NYC and it’s the real deal. Nothing disappointed and I managed to knock a few (of the dizzyingly many) off my eat-before-I-die (or eat-UNTIL-I-die) list.

Exhibit A: Shake Shack


Humble concept with a smart execution and high quality. You could compare it in theory to McDonald’s, but in practice it is almost on another planet. Quality burgers and milkshakes and root beer floats. I went rogue and got the hot dog — I always go for the underdog, anyway. Feast your eyes on the “Shack-ago” dog — Chicago style “dragged through the garden” with all the toppins’ — onions, relish, mustard. I love the “flat-top” grill technique — rather than roll the cylindrical dog around the grill, it’s split and pressed flat on the grill to get an even char. Simply delicious. To chase I had a nostalgic favourite — the purple cow, a root beer float but with artificially purple grape soda and the requisite vanilla ice cream. Blissful park bench eating on a fine, hot and sunny day.


Exhibit B: The Dutch




Another hugely anticipated visit. It’s the chef Andrew Carmellini’s new joing — Carmellini of Locanda Verde fame, known for sumptuous, rich and fresh flavours. It’s nouveau American, illustrated above — an amazing oyster slider — think adorable mini burger bun, onto which a lovingly battered and deep-fried oyster has been coaxed into and bathed in a mayo-based sauce and topped with a bit of fresh shredded lettuce. Worth the $5 per mini burger; I’d have ordered 4 and made it my dinner. But I ventured to try the tripe stew — brightly garnished with avocado and red onions, and irreverently served with a heap of Fritos — yes, the cheap corn chips of white trash repute. Simple, good grub done professionally and with the best ingredients. Their pies are also famous; I’ve heard rave reviews about their missus pastry chef, Kieran Baldwin. Her banana cream pie did not disappoint. It was chunky mashed, just-ripe bananas with fresh whipped cream on a graham cracker base, kept crisp with a layer of dark chocolate. Served cold, it was a serendipitous finish to our meal.



I’ll leave it here for you to digest… stay posted for more goodies..