Monday, July 27, 2009

Birthday Lunch

Where to go on my birthday? Better yet, where to bring my mom since she's the one who went through intense labor to bring me into this world. Yes, trying to be altruistic here. I wanted to bring her to someplace special, but not too pricey. Somewhere not traditional, yet not too fusion-ish. Somewhere unique, but not too difficult to travel to. Hey, how about that new restaurant invested by this famous actor? So, I made a reservation at Locanda Verde, a recently opened restaurant in Tribeca, NY.

With an Italian-influenced menu, I was surprised there aren't much vegetarian options and the chef declined to make substitutions. Why no love for vegetarians? :( So I had a salad that only had two ingredients (arugla and fresh black figs), but the figs were really fresh and sweet, which paired well with the bitter rocket greens. Unfortunately, my camera's memory card was corrupted, so I couldn't take any picture, but I found this photo of my salad taken by another eater, but just minus the asiago and specks.

But sometimes, dining out is more than the food because it's always nice to be served and cared for. The staff was attentive (perhaps a bit over-attentive) and the atomsphere was rustic yet inviting. What do you look for when you're dining out (besides the good food)?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Black Fungus (Chinese Fungus)

When we hear "fungus", this innocent plant is often related to something that's grown on one's feet (yes, sounds gross, but admit it, that's the first image that comes into mind), but fungus as an edible product is quite healthy and nutritious! I'm not a big Chinese mushroom person, but I do love me some Chinese fungus, also can be directly translated to cloud ear or wood ear.

Black fungus has a reputation in Chinese herbal medicine for increasing and improving blood circulation and you can purchase it at any Chinese supermarket or dried goods stores.
You need to reconstitute the black fungus before cooking it. Just soak it in some warm water and it'll expand 5-6 times! Like magic! Then what do you do with it? Because it has a very bland or practically no taste, you just slice it up and add it to any stir-fry you desire. I like to add it with some squash, water chestnuts, carrots, and celery. Its quite versatile and very low in calories as well!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dim Sum

When it comes to lunch, Chinese often prefer a dim sum restaurant, especially when there's a big group of diners. "Dim sum" literally translates to "a piece of one's heart", meaning the food is presented with love and care. The origin of dim sum (as I've learned from my elementary school teacher, so not sure how authentic the story is) came from the old China. At that time, there was a war going on, but the empress wanted to show her gratitude to the soldiers, so she asked the chef to create small pieces of food to treat them as these delicate concoctions were a special thanks from her heart. And ever since, Chinese people have been enjoying this delicacy and now dim sum has even spread throughout the world, enjoyed by people of different nationalities.

There are savory dim sum and sweet dim sum. When it comes to the sweet kinds, this steamed cake is my default of choice. Moist, eggy, spongy, and not to mention, quite adorable, it's unlike its counterpart of a fried exterior or a dense filling. It's quite light and delicate and a perfect dish to finish off a dim sum experience.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dragon Ball Tea

Of all the tea out there, if I really, REALLY have to choose one, it'd have to be the dragon ball tea. I still love me some Lipton with lemon (well, that's all they serve on the plane anyway) and genmaicha in Japanese restaurant, but when it comes to comfort tea (like comfort food), nothing beats a cup of hot dragon ball tea. It's usually sold by the bulk in Chinese grocery stores or tea shops and it may seem a little expensive, but a little goes a long way, so don't be afraid to splurge a little. The dormant nestled shape is like a baby in a womb and then each tea ball expands into a long thin stripe of tea once it hits hot water. It's like those "condensed towels" that you've to soak in order to use them. So this tea is like a butterfly that morphs into a different species in a way. Tricky little plant.
Oh, and here are the benefits of green tea.

Do you have a favorite tea as well?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cultural Event - Thingyan Water Festival

I love all cultural activities (except for parades), so whenever I have the time during the weekend, I try to attend some cultural festivities not only to educate myself on other traditions and to get some Vitamin D from the sun. Today, I attended the Burmese Water Festival. The Thingyan Water Festival marks the start of the Burmese lunar calendar New Year and they celebrate through declicious foods, dance, and of course, water splashing. I didn't stay long enough for the H2O part, but I did witness some of the good eats. There were many families there, with young children enjoying delicacies from their background. It's always great to know there are still family-oriented events available around town for kids to have fun and learn at the same time. I also love taking portraits and documentary, but I was so afraid my subjects would yell at me for taking their photos, but I needed spontaneous posts. Luckily, the children were too busy slurping the syrupy drink filled with sago and consuming cold rice noodles. I bought a slice of banana cake, Burmese style. For $2, not too shabby.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I'm often faced with a dilemma in the afternoon -

Part of me wants to take an afternoon nap to rejuvenate a bit until my official bedtime, but another part wants to have a mid-afternoon meal (for some reasons, I get immense cravings even with a substantial lunch).

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can cause hunger (the need for food to stay awake), that's why it's important to get a good night sleep. But when the cravings come, it's hard to fall asleep.

So what's your choice - nap or food?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cha-An - A gorgeous teahouse oasis in the midst of NYC

Last year, my good friend wanted to treat me to a beautiful Japanese teahouse as a birthday present. But nature played a trick on me with a thunderstorm, so I never got a chance to try this place until today.

Cha-An is a beautiful Japanese teahouse in Soho, New York. You've to walk up a narrow, wooden staircase in order to enter into this calm, bamboo-decorated room on the second floor of a building. As a teahouse, of course its specialty would be tea. All the teas are brewed from fresh tea leaves, so you know you're getting the real deal. Additionally, there's a dessert chef in the house and it's also famous for its Japanese-Western fusion desserts, such as black sesame brulee, early grey mochi, and chocolate roll cake, which was what we had today.

The roll cake is the special of the day and it was so beautifully plated and mastered. Not too sweet and a great balance of cream and cake. The portion is just perfect - you get to indulge in something sweet without giving you an over the top fullness.

But the top reason I love this place because it makes me feel like I'm back in Japan again. The serenity of the atmosphere, the great customer service, and the wooden furniture all give me an escape from the busting city life. The menu items aren't cheap per se, but whenever I need some 'me' time or want to have a nice conversation with a friend, I'll definitely return again.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stress Management

In addition to diet, our mental health is just as important. Being under stress not only can affect your diet (overly hungry or lost of appetite), but can also promote diseases and create tension between you and the people around you.

Stress can be a good thing too because it keeps us in a fight-or-flight mode in case of emergency and we tend to produce better results when we work under pressure. But like anything, too much is not healthy. Our mind is like a rubber band. If you stretch it too much, it will eventually snap.

We stress about many different things; but lately, it's probably related to work, finance, or school. Recently, I have been undergoing some major stress issues, so I am trying hard to create a balance in life. Some would advice exercising, breathing activities, taking a vacation, or hanging out with friends.

How do you de-stress and would you care to teach me a few tricks? :)