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8th Annual Spice of Life Festival

17 Oct

On my way home from church, I briefly stopped by the 8th Annual Spice of Life Festival, located in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto.

Two pictures below are of Paul’s Paella. In the first bite, I could distinctly taste the chorizo, bell peppers, and lemon. However, I thought the rice was too mushy.

The next two photos are of Carolyn Tillie‘s remarkable food jewelry.

I gave Carolyn some of my paella. In return, she gave me a small slice of her okonomiyaki.

Braised Green Beans [Day 23]

2 Oct

Sijidou 四季豆, or Chinese-style braised green beans, is an easy dish to make.

  1. Set oiled pan on high heat. Once hot, add green beans.
  2. Remove green beans when their surface begins to ‘blister.’ Set on a plate, temporarily.
  3. Sauté minced garlic, ginger. Optional: red chilis, preserved vegetables, and dried shrimp.
  4. Reincorporate green beans, stir. Salt to taste. Turn off heat, set on a plate.

For a more detailed recipe, see Diana Kuan’s excellent Appetite for China.

Washing green beans in a colander. As you can see, these are old green beans — no matter! They will be soon be braised, and so inconspicuously old.

Chop off the ends, then cut into 2-inch pieces.

This is one of my favorite things in the fridge: ginger in a tube. Do not hate.

The finished product!

I also made eggplant with tomato and mushroom. No recipe, sorry.

Making Di San Xian 地三鲜: Sautéed Eggplant with Potatoes and Green Bell Pepper [Day 16]

25 Sep

Since my favorite vegetarian foods are fairly easy to make, I’ve been cooking a lot more often. One of my favorite foods is di san xian, or 地三鲜, a northeastern Chinese home-style dish (东北家常菜). The first time I had it was one year ago, when my friend Vishal serendipitously pointed at the ‘di san xian’ photo in the restaurant menu.

Transliterated, ‘di san xian’ means ‘earth three fresh,’ no doubt because it incorporates 3 fresh elements: eggplant, potato, and green pepper.

I’m notoriously wacky — er, okay, bad — at giving cooking instructions, so I hope the following recipe will be fairly comprehensible.

Di San Xian: Sautéed Eggplant with Potatoes and Green Pepper

3/4 medium Chinese eggplant
80% Russet potato, or 2 small potatoes “borrowed” from your roommate
1/2 green bell pepper
3/4 green onion
2 cloves diced garlic
1 smidgen of minced ginger
1.5 Tb-ish of soy sauce
Corn starch

  1. Peel the potato, then slice it and the eggplant into thin chunks. (See 1:14 of this video for an example, or see the slices below.)
  2. Place the eggplant pieces in a bowl, sprinkle with salt to get rid of excess water. Wait for 10 minutes or so, then pat dry with a paper towel. (See Photo 1)
  3. Put some oil in a pan. Once it gets hot, carefully put in the potato pieces. I recommend using a slotted spoon (see Photo 3) to avoid crazy oil/water splash catastrophes. Start the heat on low, and once the potato starts looking cooked, turn up the heat.1 Remove the potatoes, place on a plate with a paper towel to absorb oil.
  4. While you’re waiting for the potatoes to fry, you might want to make a slurry of soy sauce, corn starch, and water. I can’t really tell you the proportions. But you’ll get it right. Also, I added a few drops of sesame oil the last time around. I’m not sure if it made a difference or not.
  5. Shallow fry the eggplant on medium heat. Look at how vibrant the purple is! Once the eggplant chunks starts looking translucent, transfer them to the same paper-towel lined plate.
  6. Chop the green onion, dice the garlic, mince the ginger, cut the green bell pepper into whatever shape you’d like. I recommend chunks about the same size as 2/3 of your index finger, assuming you have normal hands. Also, don’t chop off your finger while thinking of my size referent.
  7. Get rid of most of the oil in the pan, and use what remains to sauté the green onion, garlic, and ginger. Once it starts to get fragrant, add eggplant and potato on medium to high heat.
  8. Add the slurry, stir it around. You’re done! (See Photo 5). Serves 1.3 people as a main dish, 2 as a side dish.

1 Low heat will cook the potatoes, high heat will give it a nice browned exterior. This method, as well as the double-fry (one pan on low heat, another already on high heat), is also the key to good french fries. (See Photo 4 for the beginning of the process)

Antediluvian Cell Phone Pics

5 Sep

Signs of the times:

Cool limestone formation:

North Berkeley: (1) detour with Harmony, (2) a small dog sighting

There’s a journal for everyone:

Well, whaddya know:

Housewarming flowers from Dit:


18 Aug

Dispatches from the Capitol: Baseball and Local Natives; Food: Comfort Food (Part of a Series)

6 May

In DC, paupers can thrive as cheap — sometimes free! — events abound in this area. I also went to a Bach cantata performance, but didn’t take any pictures. All together, these events cost under $20.

I’m very excited about this Saturday, when I’ll get to listen to a presentation by Jennifer 8. Lee, a (former?) journalist known well for her writings on Chinese-American food.

On a related note, it’s been some time since I’ve last written about one of my favorite topics,* American comfort foods. I’m hoping to pick that up again, soon. In the meantime, I’m continuing my morbid fascination with KFC, revived by the recent unveiling of the Double Down.

A review of the sandwich, in the Boston Globe:

KFC’s newest offering has redefined the American sandwich landscape. The Double Down sandwich consists of two fried chicken breasts, bacon, cheese, and special sauce. “This product is so meaty,’’ reports KFC’s website with the sort of pride usually reserved for a child’s flawless piano recital, “there’s no room for a bun!’’

Maybe not, but there is room for criticism. If the American public is serious about rejecting all sensible dietary guidelines, KFC completely fails to deliver. The Double Down poses as the atomic bomb of artery-clogging, but it’s really just a grenade. Many people would have to wait years for a heart attack, even if they ate one every day.

Americans have long mastered double-, triple-, and quadruple-decker sandwiches. And yet this ostensibly innovative new sandwich features just one story — a design that is outdated and ill-suited to sate the average American gullet. And it contains merely two types of meat. Would it have killed KFC to add ground beef? Some pork? And, to wash the whole thing down a bit, a bucket of nacho cheese for dipping? If there’s one thing Americans are qualified to do, it’s judge fast-food sandwiches, and they are likely to punish KFC for not going nearly far enough. The Double Down is just a 540-calorie disappointment.

*Actually, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything substantive, period.

Dispatches from the Capitol: Embassy Row

1 May

Onward to some photos!

My name written in Arabic at the Iraq embassy. Written in full (not pictured), it reads as “Boolina.” Tight.

Embassy of Nepal.

Listening to a performance at the Indonesian embassy.

As an aside: I have found that I’d like to improve in post-production photo editing. Is there a good equivalent to Light Room for Linux?