My family takes dumplings very seriously. Two skins, two fillings, cooked two ways. For spinach skins, add a cup of finely diced spinach leaves into flour before mixing water into the dough :)
Long weekend food recap:
- Rou jia mo with cilantro
- Lunch spread with green beans & potatoes, baby bok choy, peppers, lotus root, mapo tofu, and red bean porridge
- Braised pork belly (BEST)
- Freshly-baked bread loaves (plain and cranberry)
- Peppers drying in the sun for homemade ground red pepper / paste
- Mashi (classic Shaanxi comfort food) + fusion mashi for my brother (because he still won’t eat most vegetables)
- Mom felt like roasting a turkey just in the ~spirit of Thanksgiving
Spent the break eating a lot, catching up on sleep, and seeing decade-old family friends. Watched Catching Fire in IMAX, loved it. Having @cmao with me the whole weekend shamelessly fed my sister complex; I wanted an older sister when I was younger and now I just collect a brigade of 妹妹s. Thankful that Clare didn’t give up on me when I mistreated her circa 2007, thankful that my taste in azn girls vastly improved since then. (▰˘︿˘▰)
Friendsgiving potluck appetizers (green bean casserole with fried onions, beef and cheese lasagna, cornbread, pumpkin bread) & the only deep dish pizza worth eating in Chicago @ Pequod’s. Last day before a long weekend, and is it bad I’m already dreading Monday? Clients that pretend a “by end of year” deadline doesn’t actually mean December 20 (is anyone productive from 12/23 - 1/1?) … … … I’ve also made 3 attempts to see Ender’s Game in theaters and was foiled every time — starting to think the universe is not-so-gently telling me to just let it go (likely for good moral reason).
Customized a chocolate blondie box mix with this recipe to add a pumpkin puree swirl, and the bars came out perfect. Autumn means all the pumpkin, all the time!
Bye October! Some leftover food & drink:
- Easy weekday dinner: throw sliced chicken into a boiling pot with dry pasta, add kale 3-4min before pasta finishes cooking, drain and serve with sauce + shredded cheese (I used swiss). Takes 15min tops.
- Buffalo chicken & pepperoni mozzarella pizza @ Seven Ten in Lincoln Park
- Salmon bento @ Hatsu Hana in Lakeview
- Northern City that played kpop on overhead speakers during our feast
- Wild orange oolong that steeps into a beautiful pink
- Beer of choice for Halloween weekend
Went home for the weekend, so time for Xi’an / Shaanxi food spam! What I ate:
- Steamed buns with meat and vegetable (sliced pork, radish, green peppers, chinese broccoli/gai lan)
- Hand-pulled noodles with minced beef, peppers, tomatoes, and egg
- Pumpkin soup! Best cold-weather comfort food
- Cabbage, diced lotus root, tofu, and bok choy
- Pork belly, red pepper, and black soybeans (eaten over noodles)
When I went to Mitsuwa a couple months back, I picked up a few packets of GreeNoodle “ramen” made from Moroheiya plant to try out, which purportedly has more fiber and vitamins than spinach or broccoli. The consistency is less starchy than regular ramen, and there’s a mild after-taste, but I liked the flavored options enough that afterward I bought a 12-pack of the yakisoba flavor off Amazon. Obviously can’t compare to gourmet ramen, though now I actually prefer GreeNoodle to Shin Ramyun at home - doesn’t feel as heavy after eating and pairs better with vegetables. I recommending checking out the brand for anyone looking to curb ramen intake~
October! Some last lingering September shots before the full onset of pumpkin season and cashmere weather:
- My mom made pork buns for the first meal in my old Boston studio; this time she made roast duck soup. Once a tiger mother, etc
- Pork gorditas @ Cultivate Food & Music festival in Lincoln Park
- Pulled pork with mac ‘n cheese @ Blackwood BBQ in the Loop
- Caramelized apple and pecan crepes @ Eggsperience in River North
- Emergency cafe break with @baseln starring a sachertorte & yogurt fruit bowl @ Austrian Bakery in Lincoln Park
Goals for October: earlier bedtimes, more leisure reading, better discipline on weekends. Get at least an hour of fresh air a day!
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! My mom is incredible and spent a~ll day Saturday making mooncakes for me. ㅜㅜ White bean, red bean, green pea, black sesame & egg yolk, ground pork, and purple sweet potato. What’s most inspiring to me is that my mom never had much interest in cooking when growing up but after we moved to the U.S. (first Texas, then Indiana), she realized that the only way to eat our familiar foods was if she learned to make them. Immigrant nation, the original dreamer generation. ♥
Weekend food recap:
- braised pig knuckles
- won ton seaweed soup (using homemade won ton skins, of course)
- scallion eggs, tomato squash, bok choy, lotus root, mapo tofu, cumin-spiced beef & green peppers, green beans
- simmer-seared fish
Home is a controversial place. I love going back and soaking up the familiarity and comfort of childhood books, photo albums, the way my old bedroom has smelled the same for over 10 years now. But it’s always a time bomb. I never know if I’ll leave each visit unscathed. In a way, it’s my choice. Will I take that bait? Do I really want to pick a fight? Is it worth it to replay the same arguments over and over, like actors forced to put on the same show every night?
There’s an 8-year age gap between me and my brother, and we grew up in starkly different financial environments. That, plus the gender difference, gave us totally different childhoods. But when I’m home, the fights are still the same. The words are the same, the voices are the same. Watching them play out, even as a spectator, is exhausting and triggering. PSATs this year, college applications next year. I’m done. I was done years ago. But when I retreat, I feel like I’m failing everyone. Isn’t this why I came back? I thought I was ready, that enough time had passed. Don’t fall into that trap. Cherry picking good memories is a coping mechanism, nothing more. Go back to anywhere long enough, and everything you never wanted to remember catches up with you.
Labor Day barbecue potluck starring homemade peach & blueberry pies, hand-churned ice-cream, and ALL THE GRILLED MEAT with a girl I met off Craigslist who was looking for a roommate — the room didn’t work out, but I was more interested in her than in her apartment, anyway. I’m aggressive when it comes to friendships; when I see someone I like, pretty much anything is fair game. Sometimes I can’t tell whether social exertion is exhausting because I treat everything in life as a continuous interview or whether putting on that face is necessary because social maneuvering consumes so much energy.
My family is unapologetically southern Chinese: we don’t make noodles by hand, we eat rice at almost every meal, and when we make dumplings, we buy the wrappers pre-made. When I was in high school, I marveled at the weirdness of cherrylet's kitchen. She had a board dedicated to making 面食! She didn't eat rice more than two or three times a week! Her family ate almost everything with spice + vinegar + lots of salt?! But perhaps the strongest memory is of the one time her mother sent me home with a tupperware full of homemade dumplings, with vegetable-infused wrappers. I still rave about them and, this summer, I made Bing invite me over for a playdate of kpop videos, make-up tutorials, and, of course, homemade dumplings.
Since the last time I ate her family’s dumplings, a lot has changed about the kind of Chinese food I eat. I can eat a lot more spice than I used to, which surprised her mother, who remembered high school me and specially tossed some of the 凉皮 without spice. I’ve attempted making my own dumplings (though not the wrappers, which I still leave to others). I’ve also fallen in love with Sichuan food, and Hunnan food, and Yunnan food, and all the regional foods of China I never ate much of when I was younger. I mean, I’ll still default back on my trusty southern China favorites: Cantonese stir-fried noodles, Hangzhou pork belly, 小笼包, steamed fish with just ginger and green onion and soy sauce. But it’s nice to sit with Bing’s family and pour hot oil all over my noodles and scarf it down with them. Even if I was judging Bing’s brother the whole time for eating peas in his dumplings.
My week in food: ma shi (麻食 / also known as cats’ ears), hand-pulled noodles (手拉面), stuffed griddle bread (烙饼), sesame flower buns (花卷), vegetable dumplings, pork buns (肉包子). I don’t want to start any fights, but you haven’t had the best of what Chinese food has to offer until you’ve been to Xi’an, sorry.
Moving to Chicago tomorrow! Just in time for the Kendrick Lamar after party (y)
Growing up, we’d make dumplings once a week and it was always a full-family effort - someone to cut and roll the dough, someone to fill the skins, someone to boil the batches as they get made. My mom’s a rockstar and used to make three different kinds of filling - one heavy on Chinese chives (韭菜) for my dad, one heavier on the meat for me, one exclusively with meat and peas (…) for my brother. Dumplings were served this time with chilled starch noodles (凉皮) tossed in cucumber and chili oil!