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Garden Update: November 21

22 Nov

It was raining pretty hard earlier in the morning around 7 AM, so when I went to check on the garden, it was already decently soaked and moist. The garden is still looking good, although there are now many more holes in leaves than last time I had seen the garden. The radishes have been quite obviously harvested, as there is now a large gap of soil in the area where my group’s radishes had once over-populated.


Harvested Radish Patch



Pumpkin plant is really taking over the garden.

Lots of holes in leaves.

Micky D’s

9 Nov

I looked in wonder at the small, mostly-red box with my 8-year old eyes. What is this? My parents tell me the contents of this box are not only delicious, but also only cost 50 cents. I pick it up and slowly sniff the subtle apple aroma wafting from the holes on the side of the box. This is even better than the dollar menu!

Even as a young elementary school child, I knew something that cost only 50 cents and smelled that good had to be good. My parents didn’t need to tell me twice: cheap + delicious = buy again! And again. And again.

I take the McDonald’s apple pie out of the red box and marvel at how substantial it looks for its price. I am still disbelieving of how good it looks and smells. I know McDonald’s chicken nuggets and fries are good, but…but this! How can this be! I take my very first bite and warm, melt-in-my-mouth apple pie goodness engulfs my taste buds. This is so yummy!

Throughout the coming years and into the present, I always like to get the 2-for-a-dollar apple pies from McDonald’s. Although the size of the apple pies has shrunk noticeably, somehow the price for apple pies has not changed, and somehow, that makes it still a good deal in my eyes 10 years later. Forget Supersize Me, I have apple pie.

Daddy, can we get some more apple pies to take home? I want them for breakfast and snacks tomorrow!

Garden Update: Oct 24

25 Oct

The weather has been bipolar lately, but the garden looks like it’s doing very well. Even the plants on the bottom left corner of the plot (near the house) looked greener and seemed to be doing better than last week.


Daikon are looking good.



The pumpkin plant seems to be taking over the garden slowly.


Monk Pig Swallows the Ginseng Fruit

19 Oct

In the Chinese myth of the Monkey King, there is another type of fruit other than the Immortal Peaches called the Ginseng Fruit. The literally baby-like fruit supposedly gives its consumer the gift of eternal youth. While at the Wu Zhang Temple where they discovered the Ginseng tree, the Monkey King and hog conspire to steal the fruit, since only one fruit is produced from the tree every many thousands of years. In the end, the greedy hog takes the fruit and swallows it in one go. He does acquire eternal youth, but, because he swallowed the Ginseng fruit so quickly, nobody in the myth will ever know the taste of such a fruit in their lifetime.

I believe this is, sadly, quite representative of modern-day eating. People today want to get so much out of their food,such as taste, nutrition, and freshness, yet, people are eating so quickly that they sometimes cannot recall the flavor or texture of the food even one minute after consumption. People are demanding much out of their food while, at the same time, demanding that it be eaten in the shortest time possible. Such is the creation of “fast food”, its popular demand, and the growth of the fast food industry. When people eat fast food, for the most part, they will eat it because it is convenient, not because they are searching for a particular place. (Think: How many times have you settled for whatever fast food chain was in the nearby surrounding area, rather than look for a particular, preferred fast food restaurant to eat at?) If people today were faced with the mysterious Ginseng fruit of eternal youth, I am quite sure that, even then, most people would act like the hog and eat the fruit as quickly as possible to get to the results, forgoing the taste and flavor altogether. Growing up with this myth, I have learned to appreciate my food more.

Garden Update: October 17

17 Oct

I went to water today around 3:30 PM. Oddly, both gates were locked, so I had to circle around and ended up hopping the front gate. Overall, the garden seems to be doing very well. It had apparently been raining throughout the morning/early afternoon so I checked to see how moist the soil was before attempting to water. It was very, very moist and the air was a nicely cool and crisp, so I decided to leave the garden unwatered so as to not over-water.

Easter Egg Radish

Crimson Giant Radish

The radishes are doing especially well, as everyone else has been saying.






However, the plants on the left corners of the plot don’t seem to be doing too well in comparison with the other plants… They are more droopy and yellow, rather than the healthy green we see from the other plants.

Bottom Left Corner

Upper Left Corner

Edit: I got the pictures working, but had to use a really roundabout method… Hooray for

Soba Class Notes

12 Oct

Apologies for the late posting from the soba class! If there’s anything I missed or noted incorrectly, please do comment and let me know! I’ll correct it promptly.

Cutting the soba noodles

What we saw Inouge-san make during the soba class was apparently only about 39% of the total amount of flour he usually makes. He used

  • 800 g of buckwheat
  • 390 g of water
  • 200g of flour
  • mirin (does anyone remember the amount?)
  1. Smooth the surface of the dough with your palms
  2. Use rolling pin(s) to flatten the dough to 5 mm **keep turning the soba dough to flatten evenly and in a circular shape!**
  3. Create 2 corners in the dough by rolling the dough around the pin, rather than just under
  4. Unroll the dough sideways to create the other 2 corners **make sure to flour the board, dough, and rolling pin thoroughly**
  5. Unroll the dough at a 45 degree angle to create an almost rectangular shape
  6. Correct the shape to more rectangular slowly with a short pin to the final 1.5 mm thickness
  7. Roll over pin once, turn around, and unroll the dough halfway
  8. Put a thin layer of flour over the unrolled half
  9. Unroll the rest over and put a layer of flour over that too
  10. Fold the second half over the first half and flour half of the top of the folded dough
  11. Repeat until the dough has been folded into a good cutting size for the length of your knife
  12. Put a thin layer of flour over cutting board and layer over top of flour
  13. Use a board over the flour to cut in straight lines **a 1.3 mm width cut is the most traditional size**
  14. Cook the noodles, drain the water, and eat

This is Inouge-san’s own recipe, which uses less water than usual. This keeps the ingredients’ characteristics, creates a stronger taste, and keeps the noodles not too soft.

Condiments used with the soba noodles were:

  • Okinawa brown sugar syrup (dessert style)
  • Sliced green onion
  • Wasabi
  • Daikon oroshi (grated daikon)
  • Soy sauce
  • Tosa joyu (seasoned with bonito)

The broth was made from: a soy sauce base, granulated sugar, bonito dashi, and mirin.

The softer soba dumplings that were made after the soba noodles were made with 2.5x water by weight with the buckwheat flour. To make these, just stir while heating on stovetop until the water and buckwheat mixture has a dough-y consistency!

According to Inouge-san, since soba has 92% more protein than eggs, eating soba with foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium is the perfect meal.

Rediscovering “Authentic Chinese”

28 Sep

When I hear of the words “magic” and “meal” together, I think of the Great Hall in the Harry Potter world, and how the dishes literally appear magically in front of the students’ eyes. However, Tanizaki’s “The Gourmet Club” focuses on the magic of Chinese food and a Chinese meal’s menu. It is not necessarily the presentation of the food itself that is magical, but how the food affects ones senses. A Chinese menu satisfies the eater’s sense of taste, sight, and smell all at once, all the while maintaining another sense of mystery.

Growing up as part of a very traditional Chinese family with first-generation parents has spoiled me. It was hard for me to get Chinese food at American restaurants; I could only be satisfied with what was “authentic Chinese food.” The many-course Chinese restaurant meal that was such a new experience for Count G was all too familiar to me. When I went to Hong Kong for the first time, as expected, most of the food tasted the same to me. It was only when I went to a small and hidden away dessert shop that I discovered a new magical “authentic Chinese” experience.

We found the dessert shop by luck, lured in by its cheap prices, cute mascots, and my huge sweet tooth. The shop served only dessert soups, like those commonly found at the end of the many-course Chinese restaurant meals. However, the desserts were not the usual red bean soup or tapioca milk. To give an idea, the one I ordered was a “simple” mango milk dessert. When I received my order, I was first hit by the smell of sweet mango. Upon my first spoonful, I experienced not just the taste of that mango, but a wonderful mixture of texture created by the mango chunks, milk, jelly, and tapioca that was in the soup that just melted together in my mouth. The oddest part was the aftertaste–it tasted of almonds. Suddenly, my “simple” order was not so simple anymore. I have long since forgotten the name of the shop, but someday I want to go back and try to “reverse engineer” that dessert. I wonder if that is even possible with this type of Chinese dessert.

Frog and Turtle, Anyone?

16 Sep

My mom’s cooking is very traditional. She cooks all the “real Chinese food” everyone longs for in restaurants, and all her recipes come from watching my grandmother cook. I did not realize how traditional her meals were until the day she served frog fried rice and turtle soup. That was also the meal during which I experienced firsthand for the first time that Chinese people really can eat anything.

Frog fried rice and turtle soup are essentially made without any preservatives or chemicals. My mom bought the frog and turtle fresh(?), and whole,  from the Chinese market. I think Fukuoka would be proud. Not only is the food natural, but they are also very nutritious, according to my mom. Fukuoka critiques the “foodie” because they value taste over all else when eating a meal or dish, while he thinks that nutrition should be a consumer’s first priority.

The uniqueness of frog fried rice and turtle soup may appeal to a “foodie” searching for something new to try. A very adventurous “foodie” might give these dishes a shot if they were not at first turned off by the thought of eating frog or turtle. However, I cannot imagine the average “foodie” enjoying these foods, because the taste is nothing too special. Frog almost tastes like chicken, as “chicken” happens to be part of a frog’s name in Chinese, while turtle has no specific or special flavor and just adds a more fresh or seafood-like quality to the soup.

The meal was certainly interesting and healthy with these two dishes, but I do not think Fukuoka would approve of our next course of actions–the main dishes the next night was porkchops and Costco salmon.

A Different Kind of Pancake

7 Sep

When I was about five years old, my aunt came to visit from Beijing, China. Sometime after that, my dad started making onion pancakes using the recipe he had learned from my aunt. At this point, anyone who is not very familiar with Chinese food is probably thinking something along the lines of, “Chinese people put what on their pancakes?” But really, it is a most delicious dish, not eaten for breakfast.

The usual onion pancake recipe calls for salt, chopped green onions, and sesame oil in addition to the obvious flour and water that makes it a “pancake”. This in itself is amazingly tasty, but, as the years went on, it seems my dad and I had a similar idea–what if we made a dessert pancake?

One weekend, my dad and I brought out the sesame paste and sugar in addition to the usual ingredients for onion pancakes. We replaced the green onion with sesame paste and the salt for sugar, leaving only the sesame oil for flavoring and frying. Three hours later, a sesame dessert pancake was born and we had enough onion and sesame pancakes made for lunch and enough left over for a later snack.

What surprises me now is that we had created essentially an entire meal out of these pancakes, from the entrée to dessert, and by using almost the same recipe for both types of pancakes. Not only that, but our entire meal had been completed with no rice involved. Who would have thought? Asians don’t have to eat rice with every meal after all.