Monday, August 2, 2010

My Wild Ass Plan

It began a long time ago while I was hiking the Inca trail. Well ok, 5 years ago, really.
I was trying to "find" myself after surviving the shards of a broken relationship, and a completely shattered ego. Instead, I found a pretty amusing boy who was a struggling writer and a delightful wine drinker. That began a series of profound but unfruitful relationships with men which I shall name: post traumatic boyfriends. PTBs are often people who you share a great deal of unhealthy intimacy with. They see the most insecure side of you, and they failingly try not to provoke you to cry over that broken heart of yours, which you bandaided with their affections. But my PTBs are also people who I had tons of fun with, loved with abandon, and in essence, learned a great deal about myself and relationships.

Anyhow, during one of my many deep, philosophical conversations with A. over candles and glasses of beautiful Napa wines, he asked me what my Wild Ass plans are, you know- your bucket list. I told him a bunch of stuff, mostly travelling to exotic places and eating coveted culinary treasures. Look, I was in no shape to fantasize- my life was a mess, and it would have been nice just to survive a day without wondering how I was going to get my joy back :(

Right, so fast forward 6 years and I finally got my shit together. I am living in another country, enjoying the life I want, and already been to most of those exotic places I listed for my wild ass plans. My life is in order: I have my health, my career is good, and my friends and family are blessed. In comfortable circumstances like that, I was inevitably doomed to ponder the question reserved only for the privileged: what are my dreams and how to make them come true?

So, what are my dreams?

1.) Be with someone I love and who adores me back. Who is he? He must be my partner in crime, my shoulder to rest on, my coolest friend. He would actually want to go through the ordeal of getting a reservation at El Bulli, buying plane tickets to get there, and close his eyes and sigh- as I feed him a spoonful of Ferran Adria's masterpiece. Or he must be so smart, so amusing, and so good looking that I am willing to forgo the opportunity of ever meeting someone who matches the above description.

2.) Go to Paris for a month and attend the Pastry course at the Cordon Bleu. I envision a beautiful month of sweat and tears over perfecting croissants and brioches. Morning coffees at the local cafe, and lots of wine and luxurious dinners with friends :)

3.) Owning a business that I can have fun with and makes enough money to take my family on vacations without struggling to pay for the plane tickets.

I just read a section in Paulo Coelho's The Pilgrimage, in which he envisioned his death during a meditation exercise. He wrote:

I remembered also the number of times I had failed to do what I wanted to do, thinking I could always do it later. I felt very sorry for myself, not only because I was about to be buried alive but also because I had been afraid to live... ... My wife is going to forget all about me and will marry someone else and spend the money we have struggled to save for all these years! But who cares about that. I want to be with her now, because I'm alive!

How profound is that? We are always afraid of consequences, thinking about what may happen. Like John Lennon once said, "life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." It finally occurred to me one night at dinner with my cousin when he asked me the age old question: what would you do if you win the lottery? And I told him about plan no. 2. Then I was like, wait a minute, I don't need to win the lottery to do that do I?!

Oh, and one p.s. to my W.A.P.s. To write a book. Any life worth living is worth the self centered act of writing a memoir.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cooking at Home

I love the privilege of working in a big kitchen, and I mean anything bigger than the 90?! square feet one I have in my HK home. So on the eve before going to the land of scarcity (in space), I prepared my darling sister an early birthday dinner and feasted with my extended family. On the menu:

1.) Maple biscuits with Smoked Salmon tartare
2.) Deviled curry eggs
3.) Organic greens with pears, walnuts and dressed in blue cheese
4.) Maple glazed Salmon with oranges
5.) Baked gnocchi with Asiago cheese

And finished off with chocolate cake that is wholly decorated with skills learned from my latest escapade: Wilton's decorating courses 1 and 2.

I love cooking for my big skinny Chinese family. We show love by feeding and we reciprocate love by eating more. Almost every Chinese kid has the memory of their tiny eighty- two year old grandmother shoving something with her chopsticks into your rice bowl. May it be her famous dumplings, or store bought char siu.

Tonight, as I see my family around the dining table, listening to my cousin embellish her misadventures in Korea, I get that warm and fuzzy feeling of home. The laughs that cause a little spitting, the uncensored second helpings, the wine in whatever mismatched whiskey unsophisticated, so real, and so loved :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nothing like HOME cooking!

So I am spending ONLY one month vacation home...and hoping to keep weight gain at a minimum :) Food highlights so far...

1.) My mom made a bouillabaisse of sorts from the Cooking Light cookbook she purchased in honor of my arrival. It isn't the best or most original french fish soup ever, but it was DELICIOUS! I suppose 'cause my mommy made it and the whole family was there, chowing it down. And of course, we paired it with the family favorites- Little Caesar's pizza, crazy bread, and a bottle of revered Chardonnay that we bought from our wine tour last year.

2.) Now that I have friends who own gigantic homes, bbq and wine on the patio is one of my favorite things to do on hot summer days here in Vancity. Better yet, on a trip to Whistler at a friend's cabin, it truly felt like I was in a movie. You know, sitting around a HUGE dining table in a luxurious log cabin- eating, drinking and being merry with friends.

3.) I make a yearly pilgrimage to the Raincity grill with my good friend Brandy. The food is notoriously well prepared, the service delightful, and the atmosphere exquisite. However, given what is out there in Vancouver for the price point, the reason that I keep coming back is really the tradition of my annual date of catching up, drinking good wine and having a great laugh with Brandy;)

4.) Yes, I almost always across the border whenever I am home- to shop, to eat, and to be merry.
This year, for our annual family fun excursion, my sister suggested Seaside Oregon. I love eating in the US, there is something giddy about being served a gigantic portion of food and having the option of supersizing it. And when quality matches the quantity, that is when it gets dangerous :/

Friday, June 25, 2010


Ahh...summer break.

Time for lazy mornings and long lunches. I don't indulge nearly as much as I used to given the latest obsession with body sculpting and general well being. However, I am totally getting into the holiday spirit and once again, indulging in my gluttony delights...

Hmm... Some highlights:

1.) A Real American Burger

One of the best burgers around HK is at the American Club. It is juicy and flavorful...and for $80, you can have whatever toppings you desire. I had it with the mushrooms, grilled onion, and of course, good ole American cheddar cheese. Also, I cannot eat a burger without a beer, kinda like how I cannot eat dessert without coffee. So upon my friend's suggestion, got a Samuel Adams. Let me just tell you, there is this power from food- this lingering pleasure from just having indulged in one of the best burgers ever, that just keeps me satiated. Side note: my excitement could also be due to the fact that I have lived in Asia for far too long now that I oogle over a good burger.

2.) Leisure lunch at Lucy's.

I live in Stanley where the view is good and the restaurants are not. Ok, to be fair, they are not that bad, just not the kind of places where I EVER have a craving for. The one exception is probably Lucy's. I don't think the food there is exceptional, but it is very good, and I always feel like it is a treat going there because it is the best restaurant in Stanley, and atrocious to get a reservation at night. So my indulgent friend P. and I spent three hours having a divine noon time meal of velvety broccoli soup, risotto with plump chunks of salmon, and the most decadent toffee pudding (he had this delicious pavlova with cream and berries). The best part: catching up and not caring about the time :)

3.) Posh Cafe Gray

So amidst all this kerfuffle with moving and doing my Master's paper, I direly need to indulge and pamper a bit. So my two dear friends, J. and V. and I got decked out and enjoyed an early bird dinner at Cafe Gray. It has been far too long since I shove the diet, budget and other practical matters aside and just purely enjoyed a delicious meal with good friends. We drank loads of wine, nibbled on chocolates and, horror of horrors, emptied one bread basket after another. By the way, they make the most divine yoghurt dip to go with the bread. We all ate pretty much the same things: scallop on cold noodles, barramundi in Lavendar sauce, and the girls had the apricot tart while I lapped up the panna cotta. We all agreed that the scallops were nothing to write up about, but the barramundi was a sensuous dance of complex flavors on the palate. I normally don't like things like lavender in food items, but it really worked with the other spices to bring out the delicate flavors of the fish. We did what all great girlfriends gather to do: chat, laugh, eat and walked out of the restaurant 4 hours later :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Risky Behaviour

I understand why Hongers love to jet off to Thailand every chance they get. It is the only place I've been to so far that boosts both cheap eats and clean toilets pretty much everywhere. There were many memorable meals in the land of smiles. My friends and I ate our way through Koh Samui (nothing to write home about), cooked at a farm in Chiangmai, and treated ourselves in Bangkok :)

However, one of the most memorable nights was when we went through the Sunday market in Chiangmai, and ate horror of horrors: street food!!!

I am adventurous, and LOVE the amusing selection of street vendors everywhere in Asia. But I have also gotten food poisoning before, and vowed to do anything I can to avoid it, especially when I am a flight away from home. I try to avoid eating things off the street whenever I can, but I am weak. I am easily tempted and somewhat of a glutton, so I end up breaking this rule pretty much every trip I go on, except maybe when I was in India...

Anyhow you weigh your risks and figure whether it is worth it to you to indulge in this incredible looking seafood pancake that everyone seems to be buying. Of course they were Thai, and seafood is probably the most popular breeding ground for nasty microbes. But it smells so good, and looks so fresh...Wait, the people cooking don't seem to ever clean their hands, and what is that puddle the vegetables seemed to be resting on?

There are those of us who figure: heck, you only live once, and being able to taste one of the most glorious pancakes at a food fair in some temple in Chiangmai is worth getting sick after. Of course, we forget that it is the most gut retchingly terrible kind of sickness...

Then, there are those who, even tempted, will remain steadfast and resist. They care about consequences, and would rather risk not getting ill, thank you very much...

Guess what kind of person I am?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thai Cooking!

I think for each of us, there are always hidden agendas when going on vacations. Architectural buffs like to visit monumental buildings, fashionistas love to visit shopping areas, and of course, a foodie like myself is all about the restaurants and food markets. As my travel companion noted, "C. likes to talk to cute boys, and J.(me) likes to talk to farmers :)" Yes, I am curious to know the difference between white vs. purple vs. miniscule Thai eggplants.

As an inquisitive glutton, I go one step further, and look for educational cookery opportunities whenever I explore a new country. On my recent trip to Chiangmai, I convinced my travel companions to join me for a class at the Thai Farm Cookery School. Excellent choice, it was!

The farm is run by a Dutch lady Nathalie and her Thai husband Sawat. Nathalie is the one to chase us for payment while Sawat tells us jokes while teaching us how to cook. Their farm is beautiful, and their hospitality is exceptional. We made a four course meal that was enjoyed for an outdoor lunch overlooking the picturesque papaya and banana trees.

But what I enjoy most when I take these classes is the people you meet and the stories you hear. I met a boyfriend/girlfriend couple from France who are in their fifties. His English was sparse, but we chatted about Thai and French food and really, you don't need to speak the same language to communicate. I learned about this "sacred" water from the spa she works in French that dispels your hunger and makes you look years younger. So maybe she is actually in her sixties?? I also met people from Brit, the usual Aussies, but the most intriguing story is from Sawat about how he, a boy from rice farming family grew up to become a trekking guide, and how that path eventually led him to his wife and his life now.

His story makes me think about the choices we make and the destiny we are given. How every step and every gesture contributes to this moment where we meet. I think about the tears that propelled me to a trip in Peru where I had a 3 hour conversation during a layover with a missionary worker and a Peruvian man who hasn't seen his family for three years since he began working in the States as a laborer. That conversation probably contributed partly to my perspectives now, and led me to travel around, taking cooking classes and meeting more people whose words have the power to enlighten me to do more interesting things in the future...