Chasing dimsum

Chasing dimsum
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The weekend took us on a long drive to a suburb far away. It’s not something I’m too crazy about, chasing food to the ends of the earth but sadly, we can’t find anything better in the ‘hood. Well, okay, there is a chain nearby but I mean, room temperature dimsum – seriously?!

Our ancestors would be horrified! The taste too is, well, not quite up to our standard at all, I’m afraid, though you prolly couldn’t tell from the long lines outside every weekend. Then again, that’s why we’re the picky eaters while others are, well, not!

For these very reasons, we’ve had to get our butts out the house early Sunday morning and venture into unfamiliar territory. That’s not to say the lines ain’t long there but at least they’re justified. You know you’re getting steaming hot dimsum and your tastebuds are gonna go giddy in anticipation. That’s what we’re paying for.

At this point, I have to confess we’re not real adventure seekers when it comes to dimsum. Better stick with what we know and love; in other words, go with the standard fare and go easy on the fancy variations they introduce every so often.

Chasing dimsum

This time, I happened to be standing in line just outside a side door where the servers were bringing out tray after tray of dimsum from the kitchen. Hungry and impatient, I eyed every tray with interest. There are many varieties I know I wouldn’t eat but then my eyes fell on something very interesting, something I’m sure I would like.

Chasing dimsum

Can you guess which one it was? No, not the sesame balls (top) or the stir-fried radish cake (right) though they were both good. It was the deep-fried spring rolls that attracted my attention.

Chasing dimsum

I suppose I should call them egg rolls because that’s literally what they are – 3 types of eggs (hard-boiled, century and salted egg yolk) occupying 3 of the 4 quadrants. The idea itself is genius but eating it without breaking the roll apart was quite a challenge for me.

It’s too big of a fit for one mouthful and I had to bite into it which meant not getting the taste of the combined flavors and textures all at once. Which I think is a shame. But still, just because I chose not to embarrass myself by cramming the whole roll into my mouth doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy eating this hohoho. This was so delicious!

Hashtag adding this to my dimsum favorites.

Of dancers and right angles 1

Of dancers and right angles
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Remember how surprised I was to discover I had bird’s eye chilies growing in my garden and what a shame it was that they were green, not red? Well, imagine my surprise (again!) when I noticed this. Yes, they turned red. Now take a closer look! Do you see what I see?

Of dancers and right angles

Well, I see a pair of chilies dancing… the waltz, it looks like. What’s even more interesting is if you look just a little to the back there, there seems to be another chili that looks like it’s bending itself into a right angle? Hmmm!

Here’s another shot from a different angle. That right angle is so distinct and prominent I honestly don’t know what to make of it.

Of dancers and right angles

The only logical explanation I can think of right now straight out of my Biology textbook in high school is that they’re bending in the direction of the sun. Which is what plants are known to do in an attempt to get more sun. What’s strange though is that this is an open area where there’s no shade to block the sun. So I’m not really sure.

My other question is, of course, why this almost perfect right angle posture seems to be apparent only in just this one chili plant and not the rest. Could this be due to an abnormal DNA? And I don’t mean this in a negative way because I think this right angled chili is both unique and pretty. Any experts out there who might have the answer to this?

Finally, roast pork with dry wantan noodles

Finally, roast pork with dry wantan noodles
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I’ve been hankering after that siu yoke (crispy skin roasted pork) ever since our dinner at that obscure restaurant in the swanky part of town whose siu yoke was all sold out for the day. Now one thing’s for sure. Nothing and no one stands in the way of me and my siu yoke, okay? Got it? 알았어요? Hence as soon as I arrived at our weekend haunt, I ordered this.

Finally, roast pork with dry wantan noodles

Ah yes, wantan noodles with siu yoke! Finally!

The “uncle” (commonly used to refer to older men) who runs this joint always makes sure my siu yoke is extra lean lol. The older folks especially swear that siu yoke is not the same without that layer of fat. But I jokingly remind him anyways, and he says “but of course, if I give you the fat, you’ll just cut it out and leave it behind, what’s the point in that?” Can’t argue with that. The man makes perfect sense.

Since the early days when he started noticing us there almost every weekend, he would come to our table whenever he could get away from the kitchen and personally take our orders. He is so customer-friendly and attentive I’m pretty sure he belongs in a world with a different number lol.

Look at how many pieces of siu yoke he gave me and how lean it is. Apparently his son roasts all the meat at the shop itself. That’s some mean crispy skin, I tell ya.

Finally, roast pork with dry wantan noodles

Everything here is perfection including the wantan (little meat dumplings) except I keep forgetting to get him to “chop up those tree trunks”.

Finally, roast pork with dry wantan noodles

So if you’re planning to try wantan noodles (and I hope you do), here are some quick tips for you. Wantan noodles are thin egg noodles traditionally served with char siu (barbecue pork). These days, you have the option of ordering it with the roast meat of your choice – either char siu, siu yoke or roast duck, or combinations thereof.

You can have the wantan noodles with soup or dry (mixed in flavored soy sauce). The dry version comes with the wantans in a separate bowl of the same soup the noodles come in if you order the soup version. Hope this makes sense ;).

The day I went carb-less, sorta

The day I went carb-less, sorta
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Some days the heat and humidity gets to me so much that I just want to get drunk on water and have nothing to do with food. But eat, I must! but to save myself the trouble of assembling a sandwich, I thought I’d take the easy way and go carb-less instead. Not that I’m some health freak. Not because I even believe in cutting out carbs. But out of plain old laziness.

Thrilled that I’d come up with such a brilliant idea, I danced downstairs and peeked in the fridge. Saw a tall glass of fruit juice and drank it between popping almonds and cashews. Spied a banana lying around and ate it. Dug around and found an avocado, ate half and donated the other half to an unworthy cause. And that’s it, I decided to call it a meal.

The day I went carb-less, sorta

Cynical me was laughing inside as I started upstairs wondering how long this so-called meal would last me. Pretty soon, I got engrossed in work and apparently 3 hours had slipped by unnoticed when I first heard my tummy growling. Thing is when you’re busy, you don’t hear these things. But the minute you slam on the brakes, bam!

… it jolts your brains into the sudden realization that your tummy’s been grinding on air. And by now, what must’ve started as a subtle throbbing in your temples is beginning to resemble the pounding of a drum. Yup, I know only too well the signs of an upcoming migraine.

Reluctantly I dragged myself downstairs – again – in search of food. Dang! Rummaging around for food is not something I relish, to be honest. I’m not normally a snacker so it’s hard to think of what to eat. If I could avoid it altogether, I wouldn’t even eat. But I didn’t have a choice. So suffer me some oatmeal, it is! And some watermelon I found in the fridge.

Up the stairs I skipped, happy in the knowledge that having fueled my tummy, I could now jump back to work. I had no idea how much time had gone by but heck, the pounding in my head had returned with a vengeance. I glanced at the clock and what do you know? It’s been 45 minutes since my oatmeal run.

Arrrgh, this can’t be happening!!! Now I have to find more food!!!

I dragged myself back down to the kitchen again!! Frankly, I had no idea what else to eat. But I had to find a way to stop the drum from turning into a battering ram, fast. Then I thought of the giant bottle of Skippy’s peanut butter from Costco, busted it out and spread it thick on 2 slices of cold bread from the fridge. Aah, that’s much better. Carbs, doncha just lurve ’em?!!

So yeah, I did go carb-less, or try to, sorta but it wasn’t pretty. To save myself the trouble of one meal, I ended up having to eat 3 meals! It wasn’t even like I went completely without. I just traded in the refined carbs for the good carbs and look what happened. I don’t think I was meant to go carb-less. Do you?

That #herbal noodle #soup

That #herbal noodle #soup
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I love it when menus come with photos of the food. At least it gives me some idea of what I’m getting. But photos can be misleading at best. A photo could look really good, leading you to false expectations when in reality, the portions will be smaller, items may be missing or replaced with inferior items and the serving nothing like the picture.

Or, and this almost never happens, the photo could look so meh that your eyes lose interest and simply skip over it in pursuit of other better-looking items in the menu. This is why I never thought to order this herbal chicken noodle soup.

While the word herbal typically sends my taste buds into overdrive, there’s always that teeny-tiny sliver of doubt creeping into my final decision. What kind of herbal is this – bitter, sweet, robust? Or fake, as in chucking a few measly bits of herbs into a huge big pot of salt water and passing it off as herbal?

That herbal noodle soup

One day, Hip2bDaughter ordered this herbal noodle. I had a sip of the soup and that was it! There was no turning back. This was, hands down, one of the best, if not the best, herbal noodle soup I’ve ever tasted, stat! I rarely use superlatives in my food descriptions because let’s face it, my standards are pretty high lol. But I’m making an exception here.

So how would I describe this bowl of noodles in one word? Well, for someone who loves words as much as I do, there’s simply no boiling any kind of description down to one word. But I’ll try. Dabomb. Genius. Stupendous. Out of this world (oops, there you go, that was 4 words). Well, okay, I tried.

Hmm, how about symphony? This herbal soup is a symphony of sweet, herbal and spicy (I threw in a bunch of raw Vietnamese bird’s eye chilies). There are sticks and slices of herbs, goji berries, a ton of enoki mushrooms and shredded roast chicken with skin on, and as for those skinny wanton noodles, they could be a little more al dente but at this point, who cares?

That herbal noodle soup

Well, words are just that – words. If only they could exude smell and taste as well, now wouldn’t that be something? Because I could go on and on if you don’t stop me now hohoho.

On an obstacle course to a great dinner

On an obstacle course to a great dinner
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Weekend dinners can be exciting especially when you don’t know where you’re going and the anticipation is driving you crazy. Seems like we’ve been speeding along for miles before entering a dungeon of a parking lot in a not-so-happening part of the swanky part of town. Up and down elevators, escalators and flights of stairs. Traversing a mall indoors and out. What a way to work up an appetite!

Finally, we arrive at an unfamiliar but highly popular restaurant, by the looks of it. Don’t ask me where we are, I honestly haven’t the foggiest. But who cares? So long as there’s good food to be had at the end of the obstacle course. Because truly good food is so very hard to find these days.

Apparently the specialty here is their siu yoke (barbecued pork with crispy skin on) so we’ve come to judge for ourselves. We’re there so early, around 6pm, and already their siu yoke is sold out for the day. Bummer.

So we have to make do with their char siu (barbecued pork) and roast duck which come with the two customary sauces – plum and chili. What I like about their char siu is that it isn’t overly caramelized and every piece is entirely edible. The roast duck too is meaty without being tough. So far so good!

On an obstacle course to a great dinner

We also order what is Szechuan chicken to me (but they call it by a different name) which is chicken meat stir-fried with dried chilies, cashew nuts and onions. Oh man, the nostalgia! This is one of the first Chinese dishes I ever taught myself to cook back in college and I haven’t cooked or eaten this in ages.

On an obstacle course to a great dinner

We order the sweet and spicy Thai-style tofu because passion fruit sauce sounds too exotic to be ignored. And we’re spot on, this is indeed delicious.

On an obstacle course to a great dinner

And to round things up with a perennial favorite of ours, a simple kailan (Chinese kale) stir-fry topped with garlic oil.

On an obstacle course to a great dinner

So there you go, a delicious dinner for 5 with 4 bowls of rice to share and there’s always that last bit of rice left that gets passed round and round until one of us eventually settles so as not to waste food.

The most endearing thing about this restaurant is that each dish comes with a serving spoon. Which means if you’re eating with outsiders, you’re not inadvertently signing yourself up for one of those dreaded saliva swapping deals.

Meeting Briyani for the second time

Meeting Briyani for the second time
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Twas a Sunday morning after a quick errand that we went in search of an early lunch. At 9:30 in the morning! What are you talking about? you ask, shouldn’t that be breakfast? Well, we’re known to do crazy stuff like this *shrugs*. Our 7.00am breakfast had long been digested by then and since we were out early, why not have lunch?

Long story short, we drove to 2 different eateries (an Indian and a Chinese eatery) but couldn’t find a parking spot at either of them. Well, such is life in the city where parking has become a headache even on a hazy, lazy Sunday morning! Bah humbug!

Finally, we went to a third one – another of our favorite Indian eateries. Soon as I turned the corner, we all held our collective breaths. Nyet, it didn’t look like there was any parking spot left but! wait a minute, what have we here?!! Some guy was just driving off! YES!

After our needless 1.5-hour tour of 3 suburbs, we couldn’t wait to chow down. The place was jam-packed and we feared there was no way we’d find a table but! wait a minute, what have we here?!! Every table was occupied save one last empty table waiting for us! YES!

By now, I was all gungho and adventurous and ready to eat a horse. Everyone else ordered the standard stuff. Me? I had to be different and went for something I’ve only eaten once before in my life, something I have very misty memories of. Hello again, Briyani!

Meeting Briyani for the second time

Tick tock tick tock. Briyani was the first to arrive along with Curry and Pickles and a long glass of iced coffee. Well, let me just say this, if anyone of us had been wearing socks (err, *looks at feet* sockless in sports shoes, oh well), that aroma would’ve knocked ’em socks right off!

Meeting Briyani for the second time

It’s a little deceiving because it looks like only rice and a few cashews and green chilies. But I’ll tell you now, don’t ever judge Briyani by her looks alone. Her beauty is skin deep ’cause hiding underneath that innocent saffron-colored basmati rice was a meaty chicken leg and a whole hard-boiled egg.

Meeting Briyani for the second time

The rice was very spicy even before the curry was added and the chicken was tasty on its own. That’s why I love Indian food. Those incredible spices and the intensity of those flavors just take over all your senses and leave your head spinning.

Being the generous person that I am, I let everyone have a taste (no way I could’ve finished that serving). Big mistake! Once they were done gobbling their boring standard stuff, they all started diving into my claypot for seconds. What the heck!! Shoo! Get off my briyani before I drill holes in your hands with my fork!! I’m serious. Go away!

‘Em lil hotties

'Em lil hotties
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Ever noticed the random, sometimes partially hidden plates of hotties peeking out at you from my food photos?

'Em lil hotties

Red, green, jalapeno, serrano, bird’s eye. Raw, fresh cut, sauced, blended, curried, pickled. You name it, it’s all good! I mean, what’s a meal without some zing, eh?

'Em lil hotties

Growing up, I was trained at the prestigious Academy of Chili Kungfu high up in a hill above the city. Never mind which hill, just know that I lived and trained there for many years under the tutelage of the best fire-breathing chili gurus (aka my family elders). There I learned to eat and enjoy spicy food, growing from strength to strength and gradually becoming a guru myself (to my kids, that is).

So yeah, we’re a family of chili chompers. I eat chilies with everything. Even my kids have graduated to chomping on raw bird’s eye chilies (notorious for their killer heat) without batting an eyelid since their early teens. So then, how do you think I felt when I recently noticed this in my garden?

'Em lil hotties

Don’t look at me. I swear I don’t have the green thumbs for this. But apparently my Garden Elf has decided to surprise me with this prolific gift 😉 . Aren’t these the most beautiful little things you’ve seen? I don’t even mind that they’re green though I’m partial to the red ones simply because of their bright color. I’m shallow like that 😆 .

And now I’ll let you guys in on a little secret. The next time you’re having the sniffles and you’re looking for a way to arrest those a-chhoo’s and stop that drip, drip, drip, forget the flu meds.

Have some bird’s eye chilies instead. They’re packed with Vitamin C to kill those nasty sniffles dead in their tracks. This is from my own experience. I don’t know if it’ll work on everyone but I’d say it’s worth a try. Just be sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby. And don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Apparently you CAN win

Apparently you CAN win
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Just when it seems you simply can’t win, apparently you can. As the story goes, I was hankering after an elusive meal of fried rice which the Food Gods were determined I shouldn’t have and I was left standing there wondering what to eat at the end of yet another boring grocery run.

That fried rice yo, I must have it now!

But even before I could utter the words “fried rice!”, my feet had shifted into gear and were headed in the direction of… yes, that same cafe where I was ignored and subsequently walked out of. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have gone back there but what can I do? I really dig their cave-like coolness and simple food.

So I walked in and parked myself at a table right underneath the air-conditioner going full blast. Tis another cool day of 80+F outside. Aah, bliss! In less than 2 nanoseconds, the server was standing beside me, the same one who’d ignored me the last time.

As I settled into my seat, he patiently waited to take my order, refusing to blink or budge. I’m even more convinced now that he had indeed been the server who’d seen me get up and leave the last time and probably, possibly didn’t want to lose me again. I could be wrong, of course. He could just be plain conscientious about his job lol.

It took a while but aaah, here’s my fried rice at last! This sure looks a lot better than 4 pieces of playdoh. A fried rice hill on a banana leaf island with crashing waves of shrimp fritters. There’s definitely a tropical feel to this. Good job!

Apparently you can win

Its flavor is way different from my homecooked winter version, not that that’s necessarily bad. Of course, no other fried rice can beat mine bwahaha, says the picky eater, but this does the job. I even found hidden treasure on the island aka 3 large shrimps embedded in that hill.

Apparently you can win

It doesn’t look like a big serving but believe me, it is. I ate the entire portion aka I unashamedly rolled out the door like a carb ball lol. Thank you, Food Gods, I finally got what I wanted. Hmm, the satisfaction of a plate of fried rice washed down with a long glass of iced coffee and a good book! Burp!

You just can’t win

You just can't win
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Do you ever get the feeling that some days, you just can’t win with the Food Gods? I swear this is what happened to me on the day I was walking around seeing mirages of fried rice with an omelet on top. This is weird. What’s goin’ on?

Yeah, I know. It’s so out of character for me to eat restaurant fried rice when it’s something I can always cook at home. Maybe it was because the weather had been kinda cool that day (if you can even call 80F cool *slaps forehead*) and I was reminded of the winter version I used to make and eat straight out of a big common bowl.

Now if I could just step into a time machine and go back to those grey days of hugging my bowl at the kitchen table and savoring every spoonful of that piping hot fried rice. And it’s a gorgeous 40 degrees out! Yeah, that must be it. That explains the mirages.

And here were my feet beginning to take me to that nearby cafe where I often go to relax and read a book. I seated myself and waited for someone to take my order. Ten minutes passed, then 15. The place wasn’t that busy, it was still early and I swear that at least one of the servers had seen me. Was I being ignored?

I looked around and all the servers seemed to have disappeared. Okay, if I ain’t gettin’ served, then I’m outta here! So I got up and walked out. No big deal. This is not new. It’s been done before. Walking out, I mean.

But dang it, I got to have that fried rice now! I wandered a few doors down to another restaurant whose miles-long menu I’ve browsed before but found nothing that tempted me. I figured I’d give their menu another look. Flipping page. Scanning page. Aha, fried rice!

I stepped inside and was pleased their air-conditioning was on full blast. Woohoo! Maybe this place ain’t half bad, eh? That was me trying to convince myself that I was making the right choice. They have a long list under Fried Rice too. Super hungry, I picked the one with the pork chop and omelet.

Now what could possibly go wrong with that, right? Wrong! Look at this. This was what they served me.

You just can't win

Ouch, what’s this? This can’t be my order. I don’t see any fried rice!! WHERE’S MY FRIED RICE???? I signaled the server over. “I ordered fried rice. This is not fried rice.” Silence. The standard 2-minute processing time it takes to mentally translate English to Mandarin. She disappeared and came back with the menu. Because sometimes it’s easier to just point than articulate.

Another 2 minutes of silence later, I finally figured out that the item I ordered said ‘rice’, not ‘fried rice’ but it was listed under the title page ‘Fried Rice’. If that even makes any sense at all!?!?! Obviously not to me. Because if I’d been the person creating the menu, this would never have happened. The horror and disappointment!

I stared at my plate for a lo-oong time. I have no idea how I’m going to eat this. First off, there’s this layer of thick sweet black sauce on the pork chop which I absolutely will not eat. So I scraped it all off. Every bit of it.

Second, everything on the plate is dry and disconnected. Something is missing here. Usually there would be an accompanying soup or gravy (even on the veggies) or something to pull everything together and make it presentable. Nothing! This just looks like something a kindergartener might’ve made out of playdough. Ugh!

*Big groan* Dear Food Gods, I hope you guys are having fun playing with me. First, no service. Now this. I just can’t win today, can I? You just won’t let me. Not only am I not getting my fried rice, I got this. Just look at it. How do I eat this? Seriously!

I’m not sure what I was more sore about – the fact that I didn’t get my fried rice or the fact that my order turned out to be these four arid, standalone things on a plate. Looking on the positive side, maybe their fried rice could’ve tasted worse than this, who knows? Now wouldn’t that be hilarious!!

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