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I Made My Mother's Chicken Soup and Also, Stop Being Racist About Wet Markets

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For the last couple of days I've been feeling a... tingle in my throat. Maybe imagined? I don't know. I can't tell. So anyway, the thing I want to head off a cold is always my mom's chicken soup.

I'm in Taiwan, and I'm also finally out of mandatory two week quarantine. That doesn't mean that I'm wandering around a lot for fun, though. To be frank, I find the outside world incredibly frightening, even though Taiwan supposedly has it under control and contained right now. But who knows?? It only takes ONE person to spread it around because they want to eat at the buffet, right? So I've been going out minimally, mostly for groceries that I hose down with alcohol spray as soon as I get home.

Anyway, yesterday I went out to Nanmen Market which is one of two wet markets near my apartment. Yes, I have TWO. One that is a traditional open air market that is crammed in the maze of alleys behind a bunch of store fronts and is only bustling early in the mornin…

Grief Eating: Spamsilog

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Last Tuesday, a friend died unexpectedly. On Wednesday I sat in bed until noon. When I finally got up, I opened my fridge, surveyed its contents, and seeing the container of leftover white rice, I decided to make Spamsilog.
First, I smashed some garlic cloves and chopped them, then heated the pieces in olive oil. When the garlic turned fragrant, I dumped the old rice into the pan, breaking up chunks to make garlic rice, similar to the way Brian blogged about it. With a wooden spatula, I turned the rice over and over, pressing down on it sometimes. The longer you wait, the crispier the rice becomes — a reward for patience. A ways into the frying, I thought to add some green onions and hastily snipped a length of some that had been re-growing in a jar.


As the rice cooked, I asked my spouse H to slice Spam. I always keep a can of Spam in the pantry, though I don’t eat it much these days. It’s there for emergencies. Now it felt like an emergency. As I browned the slices of Spam in a cast i…

A TRUE pantry lunch: Chickpea lemon-y Pasta

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What a privilege it is to go to the grocery store whenever you want. To pop in just for the one or two things you need to get to execute a recipe perfectly. To have the money to do so, as well!

In any case, it has been a creative puzzle to try to find adequate substitutes in my own kitchen and pantry for a meal, especially at the last dregs before you do have to make that one big grocery haul a week (or two).

As I was scrounging around my kitchen, I came upon one can of chickpeas and one lemon. I knew I had some dried pasta left (although I only had one serving of gemelli and one serving of rigatoni) and the last few stems of parsley that I was able to stretch out for three weeks.

Then, I remembered a Melissa Clark recipe that included all of these ingredients, and a wave of excitement rushed through me. We can make a very delicious, very easy lunch!

Yes, I had to substitute fresh rosemary for dried thyme and basil. Yes, I had a bowl with two different types of pasta shapes. But was …

Despairadilla

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It was my third year in college and I had just experienced the most painful, hurtful breakup of my young life. I had been dating a girl for just under a year when I learned from her roommate that she had been cheating on me for almost the entire time we had been together. I had my suspicions, of course, but never any proof, not really, at least not proof I was willing to examine with any kind of depth. My heart has always been a fragile thing.

Her roommate told me the last straw for her was when I had dropped by with some banh mi from the Lee's Sandwiches next to campus. It was an unplanned visit, and my girlfriend had the guy she was cheating on me with hide under the bed in her room while she took the sandwiches from me and then made an excuse as to why I needed to leave.

The next day her roommate came to my place and told me what had happened. I called my girlfriend and broke up with her, and then went for one of those aimless walks reserved for those in deep pain. It was a co…

Meera Sodha's Paneer Butter Masala

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(I was supposed to artfully drizzle some cream at the end but it looks like a disaster, which is fine because we don't have to rely so heavily on aesthetics around here!)
There is something soothing about making, cultivating, or growing an ingredient to use for several recipes--especially during this time. My boyfriend has already used some of the scallion we have been growing in my kitchen to make soft scrambled eggs! And right on time, on day five, my basil has finally sprouted!

And for the Paneer Butter Masala, Meera Sodha's recipe from Fresh India, we decided to make our own paneer! We used the same recipe that Cale blogged about but since we are not blessed with a tofu press, we used a colander, cheese cloth, and a 2-quart dutch oven to press. Still VERY easy!

What I also love about this recipe is that you can find a lot of things in your pantry already: canned tomatoes, frozen peas, lots of spices, the herbs you've been storing properly, etc. 

I didn't make any b…

Toast Three Ways

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Look, my toasts aren't Sqirl levels of attractive, but then again, even Sqirl's toast—now relegated to delivery only—doesn't even look all that sexy these days. But who even cares about sexy food right now? NOT I.

Anyway, I made toast three different ways for breakfast this morning (I kept saying "toast three ways!" and Kristen was like "it sounds like you're talking about threeways"), using random things I had in my fridge. If you really want to take your loaded toasts to the next level, pan fry the bread in a cast iron instead of using a toaster. 


Pretty much anything can be a toast spread and, just like mini sandwiches seem fancy for no reason, mini toasts are also delightful and faux-fancy.Having three or more different kinds of toast spreads is an easy way to trick yourself into thinking you're having a stylish breakfast even though it's literally just throwing stuff on top of bread. You could absolutely get even fancier than I did and th…

Storing/growing fresh herbs

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I am writing this after taking a little break from washing my clothes in my (luckily large farmhouse) sink because the laundromat closest to my apartment closed up for the foreseeable future last week. I *could* venture out further to find an open laundromat but since I am trying to limit my time outside/around people as much as possible, walking a further distance with a bulky bag just doesn't seem like a great choice right now if I can avoid it. 
Limiting my grocery runs/hauls is also another way to limit my time around folks, which means a lot of leftovers. Leftovers can be, I WILL SAY IT, boring after a day or two but I feel like throwing in some fresh herbs really helps liven it up a bit, and makes the dish feel like new. 
How do you keep fresh herbs around for a long time? I am glad you asked! Here are some tips I have leaned on for many years and, if it's all new to you, you can use now, too! 
Herbs can be divided into tender and hardy types. Anything with a soft stem …

Tiny Kitchen: Sushi

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Several years ago, I stumbled upon a Youtube video of someone making tiny candy foods and was immediately obsessed. I realized that the Youtuber was using some candy kits that they make in Japan and knew immediately that I had to have them for myself. So when, a few years later, I went to Japan, on my list of things I *had* to buy were those damn kits. I came back with like, twenty boxes, and gave away a few to my friends' kids, and then hoarded a bunch for myself for some rainy day.

WELL IT APPEARS THAT RAINY DAY HAS COME AT LAST.

Yesterday I decided to break out one of these kits and spent a long time making tiny sushi. It was delightful. It involved a lot of water and mixing of powders and watching jellies set. The best part? Using a small dropper to make tiny "salmon roe."
Here is a video that I spent too long editing!


Did I spend a ton of time on making these sushi? Yes. Did I spend more time on this than ACTUAL cooking yesterday? Maybbbeeeee.
I am winning at quaran…

Mom's Spaghetti = Chai

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In the movie 8 Mile, Eminem yearns for mom's spaghetti as he prepares for his life as a rapper.



In my movie, my mom's spaghetti is chai.



It's ready.





My mom made us chai on a stovetop with the smell making its way into my room and preparing me for a lifetime of needing chai all the time. All the time. Unhealthy amounts. Apparently I drank chai in my bottle instead of milk sometimes. Explains a lot.

You need five ingredients: loose Assam tea leaves (chai patthi), milk, cardamom (elaichi) and time.





After a lifetime of watching my mom make it without measuring a single thing, I've nailed down a measurement:

240g of water : 10g chai patthi

That's all you need, folks. Boil the water. Crack the elaichi (cardamom). Add the patthi.




Yo
His chai is sweaty
Knees week, pot is heavy
There's a smell in the kitchen
Mom's chai-ghetti




Nervous to make it but on the surface the chai's lookin calm and ready





Add milk-ghetti.


Do not miss the chance to boil.
This opportunity c…

Free to Be...Banana Bread and Me

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As a "food professional" (lol), I usually lack the time and energy to cook when I'm at home. For the first time in a loooong time, I'm home for a week and living my best life cooking at home. I don't need to be in my clogs, apron, have my hair tied up with a bandana, or keep my work station clean (okay, okay I still do that). Cooking at home for me = pajamas & slippers, rewatching The Office (again) on my iPad or listening to 2000s party jams on Spotify (this song slaps).

The first thing I made was Smitten Kitchen's double chocolate banana bread. I love Deb's recipes because they work and are perfect for cooks in a small kitchen.

Here's how my process went down:

-   Spend 5 minutes looking for my loaf pan, only to realize I don't actually have one. Curse myself and settle for a deep square brownie pan lined in spray & parchment. (Pro tip: start buying parchment paper! It's by the far the best for lining baking pans and also great for sav…

Bowling for Beers

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Hello again!

Have you drank all your boxed wine yet? If you have - that's understandable. It goes pretty quick once you realize you can't leave the house and there's nothing left for you to do but wait for the next episode of Vanderpump Rules to air. Lisa Vanderpump would understand. She'd probably put some wine in a saucer for her dog. Same!

Maybe you've got some beer? I hope? A surplus of beer, perhaps, or even a surplus of empty cans?

That's where beer can bowling comes in!


This game is great because all you need are those empty cans and then a fruit of your choice. I chose an orange because that's what we had in the apartment (today we used it to make margaritas, look at us, repurposing everything). Also we're preventing scurvy! Two birds, etc.



Here is a video of me absolutely killing it with my bowling. Just straight up murdering those beer cans. If you need a confidence boost in this time of being stuck in your house, I highly recommend throwing a…

Random Acts of Hubris: Popping By the Jalapenos on a Rainy Evening

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"Hey, I pretty much have everything I need to make jalapeno poppers."

Narrator: She did not. 

The very nature of forced solitude allows for strange things to brew inside us. Boredom, combined with the comfort of a satiated belly and a mind unready to surrender to sleep come up with wild ideas that stretch logic. Thoughts like "Fuck it let's have a snack" and "oh crap I didn't buy any snacks" and "Hey I could probably basically make jalapeno poppers rn"

Then perhaps one realizes, that actually, no, they cannot, because they lack one central ingredient: cheese. But, hark!

Inspiration strikes! Jalapeno Bottle Caps are the true spicy purists' obsession, and there's always a way to make those!

Except, one realizes they no longer have the bread crumbs they thought they had in their pantry, and certainly no eggs.

Welp, you'd suppose such a scenario would be the end of our journey, but of course it isn't. Lacking the right tools a…

Spill the Tea: A Right and Proper Cuppa

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For Americans with no ties to the Commonwealth, this debate is probably best likened to the "milk first or cereal first" question. Naturally, for any reasonable and sane person there is only ONE true option. (Cereal first, you absolute jags). But what exactly makes a good cup of tea? George Orwell's take on a proper cup of tea, is honestly still the correctest opinion. The base notes are timeless:

-creamy teas are sickly,
-in the interest of an impact-laden cup, forgo sugar;
-flat, shallow vessels make your tea quickly cold and detestable, a cylindrical drinking vessel shape is paramount.
-start with dark, black teas if you are a caffeine hound seeking stimulation (that's me!)
-tea first, milk second
-an extra ration of tea should be afforded to old-age pensioners*

Basically, you can say, I like my men how I like my tea: complicated, full of depth, history, and flavor**

When I make chai at home, I skip the heavily masala-ed, labor intensive stove top variety. The pr…

I Make Meatballs Because I'm Lazy

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Upon my return to Taipei a few days ago, I was immediately put into mandatory, super-serious 14-day quarantine. Like so serious I can't leave my studio apartment to throw out my trash. So serious that if my phone runs out of battery or loses signal, the police will show up at my apartment. So serious that if I break quarantine, I'll be fined $30,000 USD.

Okay, so yeah, I'm not leaving my apartment.

Luckily, I have very good people in my life who stocked up my fridge for me ahead of time with a spare key I'd left. The one thing I asked for, beside a lot of instant noodles? Ground pork. Why? Because I wanted to make a huge batch of meatballs.



Meatballs are sort of my default go-to keep-in-the-freezer food. It's weird because I did not grow up with meatballs. My mother was more of the keep-dumplings-in-the-freezer type. But when I started to cook for myself, I discovered that meatballs were the easiest thing to make and great to keep on hand for whenever I was lazy. …

Repeat After Me: Home Made Cheese

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I do not know how to produce (cook? curdle?) gouda or jarlsburg, but I did make paneer last night so there's that. And it looked pretty good? Paneer is one of those things that, because it's not ubiquitous in non-South Asian cooking, it's stupidly expensive to buy. If I remember correctly, I once spent over $5 for a fist-sized brick. Yet, the tofu-like cheese is actually extremely cheap and easy to make. Like, I am shocked that I don't do this all the time—that is, when I'm not trapped inside my apartment because of an ever-spreading viral pandemic.

The recipe is simple (I got it from Meera Sodha's wonderful book Fresh India): Dump some milk in a pot, heat it up, throw in some lemon juice to curdle it, then strain it all out. Here is my ingredient breakdown:

 - 1 gallon of whole milk
 - 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (two lemons' worth)

There you go, that's it.

This is how I went about it: I brought the milk to a boil, stirring constantly to make su…